Monday, December 17, 2007
Deb and I are on vacation this week, so you would think we can take it easy, rest and fit a couple of naps into the schedule. Ha! Fat chance of that happening.
Well, as usual we did it to our selves. Lots of little things to keep us busy all week.
Deb started radiation last Thursday. She got zapped on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and today. While they had marked her with a sharpie pen, today they injected ink into the half dozen points in her torso (upper) where they plan to aim the radiation. This will form a permanent mark so there will be no possibility of a mark washing off, as can happen with the pen.
So today, Deb has radiation at 8:15am followed by an appointment with the doctor. We then met with Jackie Smith, the program coordinator for the Senior Services Associates of McHenry County. This is a program that matches volunteers, such as me, with seniors who would like a visit and conversation once a week for an hour or so. We had a good meeting and after they check me out, they will try and match me with a senior. This is something I've been looking at for some time. It would be a terrific church ministry, as there are lots of seniors that would really like to share a cup of coffee and some conversation once in a while. The world can be a lonely place, or as I typed first, a loony place. Take your pick.
Deb is now at the physical therapist to determine the appropriate therapy to prevent lymphedema, a swelling of the arm due to the removal of lymph nodes.
Later she will join some friends for dinner, but I'm betting that a nap is in there somewhere.
Christmas is coming ready or not, so we have the usual last minute fire drill to find just that right something for someone, as I'm sure most of you do too.
Radiation should last until the beginning of February. Then I'm sure the doctors will do some tests to see if any cancer remains.
In March, Deb and I will cast our cares to the wind, as we go on our first cruise together. We plan to fly into San Juan and take a seven night cruise to Aruba, St. Thomas and St. Kits, as I recall. We will be the two pasty white people slathered in sun screen and only going out in the dark. This is my first cruise.
Please keep Danny in your prayers, and also the Cagles and the Morans who both lost a loved one recently.
It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.
Emmet Fox American Unity Minister, Metaphysician
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. [John 13:35]
This can be the time of year of piercing loneliness, smothering depression and deep hopelessness. You can make a difference to someone with just a smile and a nod. Whether in the grocery store, the gas station or a restaurant, remember to give the best gift the season has to offer; Love.
And so, as Christmas draws nigh, Deb and I want to wish each one of you all the good things this season has to offer. Abundant health, clear minds, and the riches of God's blessings all the new year.
Dan and Deb
Sunday, December 9, 2007
The past two weeks since my last post have seen little medical development, but lots of emotional turmoil. After all, the Bears are out of the playoffs.
Deb went for the scheduled appointment with the radiation oncologist and had her body marked and measured. The marks will make sure the radiation hits the same spots every time.
She will start radiation next week, and while it is scheduled for all of January, it may go into the beginning of February too. We know that there may be some issues with her skin from the repeated radiation, but we have prepared for that as well as we can do so, with advice from several sources and a skin cream to help healing.
There will be testing to check the status after the end of radiation and the ideal report would be no evidence of cancer.
The other, more difficult part of this, is continuing depression and physical battles with weight gain and image. Deb's hair is coming in gray and is still short. It is too short to do much of anything with and after all the stories we heard about this before, who would have thought her blond hair would come back gray? The side effects of the chemo linger on, with the discoloration under her finger nails and the nails deformed, but growing out. Then there is the weight gain that makes it impossible to feel a positive self image. Image is mostly how we feel about ourselves, and right now Deb isn't happy with herself.
I'd like to say we have given all this to God and because of our strong faith, we are peaceful and accepting. But the reality is there is a gap between where we would like to be and who we are, and the gap is a fluid thing, some days very narrow and other days like the Grand Canyon. Yes, we believe that there is a plan and that whatever happens, God is in control, and further that Deb doesn't have to worry about where she will spend eternity, but we struggle day by day with uncertainty, and selfishness. Where will this all end. We want to be whole again.
We know many people have fought this battle before us and survived, and we know we lack perspective, so Deb is going to make a strong effort to find a breast cancer or just a cancer support group to join. If she can find one for couples, so much the better, because being the support giver isn't a day at the park most days either.
Deb and I love Christmas. The good cheer and music, being with friends and family, and the great memories from all the past years. We have received some wonderful Christmas cards, some with photos (we keep them all) and others with letters that bridge the gap between friends so far away.
We embrace the meaning of this season, a Child born to die for us on a cross, so that we may be reconciled with God and spend eternity with Him.
Please pray for Danny, who is still fighting cancer. My daughter Kathi will be helping her husband Jim Moran, bury his father tomorrow and they and the entire Moran family could use your prayers. My buddy Bobby G. Cagle was buried last week, so please remember his family in your prayers too. Then there is the twins, Amanda and Andy Kattner, who were born three months premature, but have survived six weeks and are growing stronger every day. Please pray for Heidi and Ron so they may have continued strength and hope and that the twins will come home well and soon. Our friends the Mariks were at Mayo Clinic last week. It appears that Chuck's back pain and leg pain isn't a candidate for surgical repair, so pray for peace for them. And my mom continues to live on the edge of life with my sister Diane and her wonderful husband Ken providing 24/7 care, as they have for two years. Pray for their continued strength and faith.
We all get so caught up in our lives that we forget to live. Someone you know would love to hear your voice. Call now. Someone you know could use a kind word or a hug. Don't wait. Someone you love needs to hear "I love you". Say it now.
Thank you for allowing me to share our feelings with you and for your love and prayers, which on most days are the difference between being sane or not!
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Deb and I went to the surgeon, Dr. Compagnoni on Wednesday. She removed the rest of the steri strips and said the healing is progressing well, except for the range of motion of her left arm. Deb will have to work on that before radiation therapy begins as her left arm will be in the fully extended and raised position for each session. We also learned that five, not three, of the fifteen lymph nodes were cancerous. Deb returns to Dr. C. on December 12th.
Dr. Smoron (can that be correct??) will meet with Deb on November 26th to plan the radiation sessions at Centegra, or if you prefer, NIMC. He is with the Sage Cancer Center there.
Deb will meet again with Dr. Weyburn, the oncologist, on January 10th. Deb will most likely take Tamoxifen after the radiation therapy. Here is the link for Tamoxifen.
Tamoxifen is the oldest of all the SERMs (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators). Tamoxifen is prescribed for women with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer before and after menopause. While tamoxifen is the hormonal treatment of choice for pre-menopausal women, research suggests that tamoxifen is not quite as effective as the aromatase inhibitors for post-menopausal women.
If Deb is in menopause, she may take a different drug.
Deb plans to return to work next Thursday, November 29th.
We bought a new fake Christmas tree that stands about four feet tall. We couldn't get all the normal Christmas stuff from the crawl space in the basement and drag it up the stairs this year. Deb did a great job decorating it and it looks wonderful on a card table in the living room.
We still belive this is a beatable disease, but the deeper we go into treatment and the longer it goes, we see our feelings change to thinking of our journey as a marathon instead of a sprint. We haven't gotten into the whole percentages thing, knowing as we do, that anyone can be on the short end of survival regardless of the odds.
So we try to stay focused on the goal and remain positive. Our gratitude for all the prayers and love continues unabated. Where would we be without our friends and family? God alone knows.
God Bless everyone and happy Thanksgiving.
Deb and Dan
Friday, November 16, 2007
You know you're in trouble when you remember a time in your life when your shirt had more wrinkles than your face has now. The march of time. And we are just a pencil dot on the fabric of time. Our lives all too brief.
The start of the holiday season always make me think of the end of one year and the start of another. I remember watching a tiny black and white television set when the year changed from 1949 to 1950. I was not yet five, but at a New Years party with my parents and their friends. They probably couldn't get a babysitter. How rare it was for anyone to have a television then.
Our 2007 has been amazing, looking back at it. I had a cancer scare in March, Deb was diagnosed in April, my mom continues in hospice and our little church divided and overcame many obstacles to reopen and start over.
Just when our spirits found a low point, another Spirit touched hearts to send angels to minister to us with food, hugs and prayers.
Deb went to the oncologist yesterday for an exam. She made an appointment with the radiologist to discuss treatment. Our understanding is that she will have around 30 treatments over a six week period.
She is doing very well, considering all she has endured. Her spirits are good, she is more active, with the lone problem area her left arm, which is weak and painful to use.
Deb and I are so very thankful for everyone who has prayed for us and comforted us with phone calls, food and many hugs. My co-employees at Metra and those I report to there, have been especially kind and considerate to me. The Kemper folks have gone to great lengths to show Deb she is more than just an employee, she is a friend. Our friends, family and neighbors have helped in ways too numerable to mention.
This time of year prompts us to be thankful, but remember to tell your mate and children how much you appreciate them for who and what they are to you. Be of good cheer and thank God, from whom all blessings flow.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Sunday morning at 7 AM, and everything is quiet. Deb is sleeping and Kathi will go home today. I will go back to work tomorrow. Kathi helped a lot by being here and giving us someone else to talk with other than ourselves. She also be adept at helping with all the little odds and ends that we normally do without realizing how much time they take. Her best asset is that Strider loves her.
Deb is feeling more pain. She is taking Advil every six hours. She finished the antibiotics. She feels pain in her chest and her left arm is very weak and difficult to use, even a little bit. She has exercises to do. One is using her fingers to climb a wall and getting as far up as possible. The other is wax on, was off , in the air. She is frustrated by this, but with all the surgery she should be sore. It will take some time to recover from this.
Looking at the web site illustration, you can see how much is removed in a modified mastectomy. http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/mastectomy.jsp
She will see Dr. Bugno, the radiologist, at some point and that treatment will start. She sees Dr. Weyburn, the oncologist, nest Wednesday.
She is taking showers, but as you can imagine, is shocked by the damage to her body. She visits a prosthetic store this week to get something temporary to even things out in her clothes.
We have been blessed by some of the best food imaginable. Really incredible food! Roast beef, potatoes and carrots; Pork with Au Gratin potatoes and salad, with egg custard for dessert. The best meat loaf, with mashed potatoes and green beans. Chicken casserole, and great Chicken soup with home made noodles, with pumpkin bars for dessert. And bread, lots of bread, which Deb can now taste and enjoy fully. Egg Plant parmigiana and chicken parmigiana, that would do an Italian restaurant proud, with salad and home made sauce. Sweet and sour beef over rice, with pumpkin pie. Wow! Every dinner made and delivered with love, lots of hugs and good cheer. We can never thank everyone enough for this wonderful blessing. Most of the time we think we live in a shallow world, but there are many good people willing to help in any way they can if asked.
I'll update again, but for now, Deb is trying to stay comfortable and heal. She will need a group, I think, for support. We have been blessed with great support and prayers through all of this. God listens to every prayer, so even if you aren't used to talking direct to the Big Guy, just ask him for peace for us and to heal Debbie. He will listen, I know.
Have a good Sunday everyone.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
It's 6 am on Thursday. Yesterday went to the doctor to hear the results of the pathology tests on the tissue collected during surgery last Friday. She also had her drain removed.
Dr. Compagnoni told us that 15 lymph nodes had been removed during surgery. Once the first sentinel lymph node was tested in the OR and found to be cancerous, more were removed.
The report indicates that three of the fifteen had disease. This is one of those glass half full or half empty things. It's good because it appears that no real spread of the disease is present, but with any disease in the lymph nodes, there is a chance and a likelihood that cancer cells, microscopic in nature, have migrated elsewhere in the body.
Dr. Compagnoni had spoken already to Dr. Weyburn, the oncologist, and Deb will meet with a radiologist soon to map a series of radiology treatments, lasting perhaps six to seven weeks. She will go once a day, as we understand it, and the side effects should be localized. That is, some burning at the radiation site, but nothing like what she had, and still has from the chemotherapy.
The other interesting piece of news is the pathological report on the tumor. Contained in the breast tissue removed during surgery was a tumor, two centimeters in length, what remained from the six centimeter tumor identified in the original MRI. Six centimeters is the length of my smallest finger from the tip to my palm. Two centimeters. is about 3 /4 of an inch. That is the length, not the volume, of course. Why it wasn't seen by the MRI is a mystery, but it underscores, in my opinion the importance of follow up testing.
The last few days have been a roller coaster for Deb. She has been thrilled with all the phone calls and visits. The e mails to me and to her have lifted us so much. We even have people praying for us that don't normally pray, and can you imagine how God must be pleased with that. I never forget how He uses everything for good. Deb's cancer must seem to most people something without any redeeming quality, but if someone turns to God in prayer, for the first time, or after a long absence, how powerful that is in His sight. What a blessing to Deb.
The dinner brigade has been supplied us with gourmet meals and taken that completely off our minds. The great people in my area at Metra have arranged for food to be delivered to us next week, so our blessings continue. Yesterday, Lori, Dee and Mary, of Deb's monthly dinner group, delivered lunch and kept her company until close to when she left for the doctors. Deb's group at Kemper sent the most beautiful flower arrangement and with it several gift certificates for local restaurants. At the very least, we will no go hungry anytime soon :). What a blessing!
Kathi, my daughter, came in from Michigan yesterday at about noon. She and I had some time to spend together before Deb's doctor's appointment at 4:30pm, so we had lunch at Sweet Tomatoes, and shopped at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. Loni Marik took Deb to the doctors. Deb has been very frightened and close to tears the last few day, concerned and prepared for the worst.
Last night was a relief in most ways, but she had more pain than usual in her chest.
So we continue on with this journey. Our compass direction set, but without really knowing the final destination. The doctors may quibble with this, but I believe that most times the final results of cancer treatment is out of their hands, and they do the things that have a high percentage of success and hope for the best.
Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.
Henry Miller 1891-1980, American Author
Another way to look at cancer and chemo.
My veins are filled, once a week with a Neapolitan carpet cleaner distilled from the Adriatic and I am as bald as an egg. However I still get around and am mean to cats.
John Cheever 1912-1982, American Author
God Bless all of you for your prayers, love, patience, help and friendship.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Deb was discharged from the hospital about 3:30pm on Saturday. She was very tired and went to bed when we arrived home. She does not have much pain. She takes an Advil four times a day. She is also taking an anti biotic four times a day for five days. She has a drain that collects fluid from her surgery site. I empty that twice a day and record the fluid amount. About 20 ml every 12 hours.
The drain will come out Wednesday and Deb can shower after that. On Wednesday she will visit the doctor to learn about the pathology results on the other tissue samples and what lies in store for her as far as treatment. We pray for good news, of course.
Sunday Deb stayed home while I went to church. After church I fixed eggs and bacon for us. Later Chuck and Loni Marik brought dinner to us, including a wonderful apple pie. Chuck and Loni have arranged with our friends that we will have dinner delivered for the next few days. We've never been so overwhelmed with such kindness. What a blessing!
Deb stayed up all day after I came home from church. She has better color and more energy that I expected she would have so soon after surgery.
Today Strider, the wonder dog, comes home. She has been with Deb's parents since Thursday night. It has been so quiet. Gabby the cat, normally hiding from the dog in the basement, has spent every night sleeping with me and has taken to keeping us company during the day. Alas, back to reality for her today.
I'm spending the week with Deb. Kathi, my eldest, will be here Wednesday through Sunday to help. I'll be back to work next week, with others looking in on Deb, then I'll be off Thanksgiving week.
I'd like to publicly thank several people. First, the doctors and their staffs. Both Dr. Weyburn and Dr. Compagnoni have shown compassion and patience in their approach to Deb and me from the beginning. The wonderful people in the chemotherapy area and the office staff at Dr. Weyburn's have gone above and beyond to make Deb's visits comfortable and to answer any questions. What we have seen from them is more than one could ever expect. We don't know where this is headed yet, but the medical team has done everything they could to beat this disease.
My co-workers have been fantastic for me. There willingness to help and to offer comfort and hope knows no limits. Every one of them have made my load lighter with their smiles and prayers. Who ever said you had to separate church and state :). Mary and Darlene have graciously listened to all my stories. Rick, Sue Ann and Mike have been supportive at every turn.
Deb's work mates at Kemper have been so supportive for her. People she hadn't met before have gone out of their way to offer prayers and support. People have come forward to share their cancer stories with her, giving her hope. Others have taken time since the April diagnosis to visit her and offer concern and support for her recovery. E mails from those no longer at the Long Grove location and phone calls from former employees have lifted her spirits.
Our family, both here and in Michigan, have been there from the start. Their support, calls, love and prayers have cheered Deb considerably and made it easier for her to go on day by day. I can't imagine having a child with cancer, so I can only imagine how Deb's parents must feel.
We will always have a Russian daughter. Masha has had to cope with this from six thousand miles away. Her American mom has cancer and she fells helpless. Her support by e mail and her expression of her love for Deb have kept the emotional bond in place created during her time with us.
Finally our friends. Their support has been remarkable. Loni and Chuck have done so much. John Puleo, Julie and Perry Fish have been there so much for us. The surprise visit from Deb Brinker and Deb McReynolds last week, all the hugs at church. Calls from Pastor Spangler and Jim Van Peursem after the surgery. The dinner brigade. The e mail support from Peggy and Ilona for me. The constant support, love and encouragement on the train ride home from Edwina Vass. The prayers offered by the neighbors. The E cards from Nicky. The counseling with Pastor Tews, that righted our emotional and spiritual ship at a critical time.
So we start another week in this journey. We'll know more about the compass heading after Wednesday. No matter what happens, we know our lives have been made richer by the kindness, love and support of so many people who we can never properly thank for making this time of our life hopeful instead of hopeless.
God Bless every one of you.
Friday, November 2, 2007
We arrived at the hospital promptly at noon. Interviews were taken, noting all the proper information. Blood was drawn and four needles were inserted in the breast to inject a radioactive dye. I left during that procedure. The nurses were pleasant, professional and competent. Dr. Compagnoni arrived about 2:45pm and outlined what would happen in surgery. She thought somewhere between an hour and a half and two hours in surgery and about an hour in recovery would be sufficient.
They took Deb promptly at 3pm, and I started to read the book I brought, Playing for Pizza. Time passed and Deb's parents arrived to keep me company a bit after four. The receptionist advised that Deb was still in surgery, and that it had started at 3:45.
So we became a little concerned at six pm without any real word on the delay. Finally at about 7:10 Dr. Compagnoni met with us. She told us that the frozen section of the sentinel lymph node tested in surgery indicated the presence of some disease. Three other lymph nodes were removed and would be tested by the pathologist. The delay in the start of surgery was because a breathing tube was necessary and it took some time to get it in place.
If all four tissue samples had disease (cancer), then she and the oncologist, Dr. Weyburn, would have to decide what further treatment would be necessary. Perhaps more chemo or radiation. Or both! It will seem like an eternity until Wednesday.
Sentinel Lymph Node Dissection
One of the most talked about new surgical techniques in breast cancer is sentinel lymph node dissection. This is an alternative to standard axillary lymph node dissection, and many women believe that it can spare them more invasive surgery and side effects. However, the sentinel node procedure is not appropriate for everyone. Recent research shows that even after the sentinel node procedure, more surgery may be necessary. It has its own limitations and drawbacks, and must be done by a surgeon who has significant experience with the technique.
The dictionary defines "sentinel" as a guard, watchdog, or protector. Likewise, the sentinal lymph node is the first node "standing guard" for your breast. In sentinel lymph node dissection, the surgeon looks for the very first lymph node that filters fluid draining away from the area of the breast that contained the breast cancer. If cancer cells are breaking away from the tumor and traveling away from your breast via the lymph system, the sentinel lymph node is more likely than other lymph nodes to contain cancer.
The idea behind sentinel node dissection is this: Instead of removing ten or more lymph nodes and analyzing all of them to look for cancer, remove only the one node that is most likely to have it. If this node is clean, chances are the other nodes have not been affected. In reality, the surgeon usually removes a cluster of two or three nodes—the sentinel node and those closest to it.
Strategic removal of just one or a few key underarm nodes can accurately assess overall lymph node status in women who have relatively small breast cancers (no more than two centimeters) and who have lymph nodes that don't feel abnormal before surgery. Studies have shown that after almost five years, women who had just the sentinel node removed were as likely to be alive and free of cancer as women who had more lymph nodes removed. Longer follow-up will help us better understand the long-term pros and cons of sentinel lymph node dissection
Wednesday, the drain will be removed and she can take a shower. The stitches will dissolve automatically. We will have the results of the pathologist's findings.
We got to see her about 8:30pm. Deb was pale, cold to the touch and got sick after a couple of bites of jello.
Her mom and dad stayed for a few minutes more as I left to come home.
Deb is in room 746. I don't know now if she will be home tomorrow or not. It depends on how she feels.
This isn't necessarily bad news, as we will know more on Wednesday. There is a good chance, according to Dr. Compagnoni, that the other three samples will not have evidence of cancer.
So we thank God that Deb made it through surgery.
Please say a prayer for our friend John Beebe. John is in the hospital with the diagnosis still to come, but artery blockage is mentioned.
I updated this at 3am the first time. Now it's 8:47 am and Virginia at the nursing station just told me Deb is eating breakfast and feeling much better this morning. Woopee!!
Here we are in a house so quiet we question our hearing. I took Strider to Deb’s parents last night so we’d have a bit less to do this morning. They will keep her until Monday, and then come over to visit Deb and bring dinner! We don’t have to be at the hospital until noon. Surgery at 3pm and I’ll update the blog when I can.
Deb’s doing well this morning. The past week has been filled with phone calls, visits, cards and flowers from friends, co workers and family, all of which has served to remind Deb she is not alone in this struggle. On Halloween we had a surprise visit from Deb Brinker, who grew up down the street from Deb, and last night Deb McReynolds came over to pray with us. It’s in our nature to worry and fret about this stuff, but we know there are a lot of people who are praying for a successful surgery and recovery, and that cheers us a lot.
Loni and Chuck Marik have arranged for friends and fellow COF members to bring dinner to us most of next week. Wow! Deb was afraid I’d actually cook something, I think and cereal would get old after a few days.
I’m sitting here, looking out the window at the frost covered ground. It was below freezing last night. I seem to always think about life and the seasons. Like Sinatra crooned, “It’s a long, long time, from May to September, but the days grow short, when you reach December”. Autumn is a time when the days grow short, and we face the storms and cloudy skies of winter ahead. Life is like that too, but we know when the hour comes we have a place prepared for us.
Deb’s parents will join me at the hospital later. Thanks for all the prayers and love.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Deb is scheduled for surgery on Friday, November 2, 2007 at Centegra in McHenry. The pertinent details are as follows.
Centegra Northern Illinois Medical Center, 4201 Medical Center Drive, McHenry, IL 60050Phone: 815-344-5000. Our address is 1902 Hunters Lane, Spring Grove, IL 60081. When Deb comes home, you may call us at 815 675 6130 or write to Deb at email@example.com
Surgery is scheduled for 3pm. I imagine Deb will be in the hospital for a couple of days. I'll be off the next week after her surgery to be with her.
As you can imagine, for a girl who never had surgery or was in a hospital as a patient from her birth until May of this year to have her medi port implant, she is having some problems with sleep and stress.
She will have a mastectomy without reconstruction. We don't know about the aftercare yet, whether radiation will be involved or not, but she visits the oncologist tomorrow and I'll post anything that qualifies as new information.
I read the old posts of this blog over the weekend, and I was amazed how this journey has moved along and the changes in our feelings. Through it all, we have had the support, love and prayers of many fantastic people. People, some of whom we don't know, and will never meet, have added their petitions to God for Deb's healing and the restoration of her complete health, both physical and emotional. All we can say is may God bless you.
We acknowledge God knows how this will end, and has known since the beginning of time. We believe that we will see some day how our brief life fits into the fabric of time. We know our human emotions of fear and doubt exist because we are not perfect in our trust of God's plan for us.
Take care, all of you, and make Wednesday a spontaneous hug day. Trade a hug for a smile from someone who needs an emotional pick me up.
A Psalm of Life
Poem lyrics of A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Tell me not in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem. Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,Was not spoken of the soul. Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destined end or way; But to act, that each tomorrow Find us farther than today. Art is long, and Time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave. In the world's broad field of battle, In the bivouac of Life, Be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife! Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant! Let the dead Past bury its dead! Act, - act in the living Present! Heart within, and God o'erhead! Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sand of time; Footprints, that perhaps another, Sailing o'er life's solemn main, A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, Seeing, shall take heart again. Let us then be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.
Monday, October 22, 2007
We went to the surgeon last Wednesday, after an updated MRI on Monday. We stopped at the hospital to pick up the report before the appointment and of course read it in the car. It indicated that except for edema (swelling) there wasn't any evidence of a tumor.
We met with Dr. Compagnoni and she gave us the perspective on the MRI report. While it would seem to be good news that the tumor is undetectable, she still wants to proceed with a mastectomy, a complete removal of the breast. They will also remove some lymph glands, with a check by a pathologist during surgery to help make sure no more lymph glands than necessary are removed.
The next issue was about potential reconstruction. Would Deb want to have something implanted or not? The options are to use abdominal tissue or an implant of saline or silicone. Abdominal tissue is removed below the navel, which is the least likely alternative to cause issues later. There is a scar and the potential for the abdominal muscles to be sore for some time. The recovery time can extend to six or seven weeks.
Using a saline or silicone implant reduces the hospital stay, but at the time of surgery a expander is inserted with a pump. During a several month period the pump expands the skin over the chest wall so that when all treatment is finished, a permanent implant can be inserted.
http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/reconstruction/types/implants.jsp is the web site that discusses implants.
Deb is still doing homework on this, but leaning toward not having reconstructive surgery. She can have it in the future, of course, but would like to heal more quickly and her life style isn't going to be affected by her decision not to have an implant.
I know that Deb is starting to struggle more with the enormity of cancer, surgery to remove a breast, and the aftercare. There is also the reality of repeated checks and the potential for a recurrence.
If not for the kindness shown to us, and all the prayers from so many people, we would be lost. There has been a flood of information and events as this is national Breast Cancer Awareness Month. So many people with cancer, and so many family members and friends struggling with care and support for the victims.
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear -- not absence of fear.
Mark Twain (1835-1910) U.S. humorist, writer, and lecturer.
So many have trod this path before us, without the advantage of the medical care we have now, so we will make our choices and leave it in God's hands.
Thanks to all for your caring. It is impossible to describe how your love and warmth makes it possible for us to endure, sometimes even with humor!
God Bless all of you,
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The end of chemotherapy. It began on May 3rd, and no one could have made me believe then how it would affect Deb over time. Everyone has side effects of course, but somehow, even though you know they will happen, and you read the list, my mind at least, could not process the information. Nor did I understand the loss of taste, the rash and the extra side effect like the pain in her fingers and toes. Deb does such a good job with this, never complaining and working most every day. She made cookies and took them in with her to show her appreciation to the great staff at Dr. Weyburn's clinic.
I spoke to a friend Wednesday and he related that his wife, a nurse, had the identical treatment and developed chronic congestive heart failure as a side effect from the chemo, so praise God, we seem to have dodged all that.
Next Wednesday we visit the doctor to determine the surgical schedule, decide on reconstructive surgery options and see how the new MRI looks. I plan to be off when she has surgery for a few days.
Today is Deb's thirty year high school reunion. Two other couples are going that we attend church with, so we will have some friends there. I'm looking forward to going, it should be a blast.
Oh yes, as all of you know, we have Strider, who seems to feel a responsibility to protect us from everyone and everything. But there was a dog who she grew to like. She would bark in that special way she has when Twerp would walk by with his master, Bob. Strider would rush out to greet both with no barks or growls but with her tail wagging at 100 miles and hour. Twerp was a long legged black dog who seemed to love everyone and every dog, very hard of hearing but always willing to have a treat. Bob's constant companion since his wife died five years ago, Twerp liked ice cream after dinner and a warm buttered English muffin for breakfast. Too old to chase rabbits and squirrels anymore, he delighted in resting with Bob on the bank in the front yard and watching the world go by. Twerp died three weeks ago, and Bob is doing his best to understand and deal with the loss of his best friend. Because as we all know, dogs supply unconditional love in this sometimes unloving world. Twerp was sixteen, old in dog years. Will Rogers said that he didn't know if dogs went to heaven, but when he died, he wanted to go where they go when they die.
Monday, October 1, 2007
Deb continues to medicate for a rash that is improving, but is still present on her ankles, hands and face. She is taking extra B 6 tablets to help with numbness and pain in her toes and the tips of her fingers. She is taking steroids to help with the rash and her hair is coming in gray. Yikes!!
Deb's surgeon examined her on Wednesday and after speaking with her oncologist, Dr. Weyburn, called Deb at work to tell her about the next steps.
A MRI will be done and then Deb and I will meet with Dr. Compagnoni, her surgeon, to discuss surgery. The current medical opinion is that a mastectomy will be necessary rather than a lumpectomy.
Deb will have to decide if she wants reconstructive surgery first. If so, then she would meet with the doctor recommended by Dr. Compagnoni who would preform the reconstruction at the same time at the breast surgery. Deb would have to decide between two implants, silicone and saline or using the tissue from her abdomen. The main difference is the recovery time, six week or more versus two to three weeks for the implants.
After surgery Deb would take an oral medication and have radiation treatments. The number of treatments could reach thirty or more.
Deb is doing well with this, but we plan to meet with Pastor Tews to get some help dealing with our emotions. We realize there are no guarantees, either for the surgery or after, and this is still a frightening time for us.
We had a good weekend with terrific weather and topped off by dinner at Deb's parents with pot roast and noodles. We even took Strider to visit. She was beside herself with happiness going on a car ride that didn't involve the groomer or the vet.
Please renew your prayers for Danny and Marge, and all those like Deb that face cancer.
On a wonderful, positive note, a miracle has allowed Molly Brown (don't you just love the name) to have the medication line removed from her chest and to stop wearing a back pack filled with the medication twenty four hours a day.
When Molly was diagnosed with what the doctors called an incurable lung disease shortly after birth, six years ago, she was sentenced to a life without most of the enjoyments typical babies and toddlers enjoy. She couldn't swim, and all of her clothes had to accommodate the line and the backpack. Can you imagine what her first day was like without the gear? He mother wrote a note about what it was like. If you are interested, please write to me and I'll send it to you. I tried to read it to Deb and had to stop several times to regroup. Molly's mom's sister is married to Deb's brother. This is a real miracle. Praise God! Unsinkable Molly Brown indeed!
My e mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org for this blog.
Take care everyone, hug one another and pray for each other.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
It's hard to believe it's been a couple of weeks since I've brought this up to date. I'm sitting here watching Reaper, about a boy whose soul was sold to the devil by his parents. Seems realistic. Dancing with the Stars tonight was way better.
Deb is doing fairly well. Unless you count the rash on her legs and face, the loss of her sense of taste, and the feeling that this has gone on too long already. On the positive side, we are approaching surgery and then rehab, so we're pleased that we are making inroads into the timetable. We know God is in control.
No much going on in our lives right now. Deb usually has a good day on Friday, with a lot of energy, but needs frequent naps on the weekends. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are good, and even her taste buds come back by Tuesday, but gone again on Thursday. Deb sees the surgeon on Wednesday and the oncologist on Thursday, so we should know more then.
We have committed to attending Deb's 30 year class reunion and the 50Th Wedding Anniversary party for her Aunt and Uncle in October.
We had some sad news, that Danny has new cancer and will need more treatment. Apparently it is chronic so he will always have to be aware of changes that signal new outbreaks of cancer. Please remember him and Marge in your prayers.
I talked to my mom tonight. After the last few e mails and conversations with my sister, I'm amazed we can still talk. My mom's body is a wreck, but she continues to baffle all the health care providers by staying alive. It is no exaggeration to say that she should have died many times over the last two years and that she has set some kind of record for being in hospice so long. Her organs fail, she has ulcerated sores, her blood pressure sinks and she is on enough morphine to knock out an elephant every day and yet through some miracle she lives on.
I talked to her, and I said "I love you Mom" and she replied, "I love you son". It's is so hard to think that she will die and I won't hear that again. A parent's love. Nothing here to suggest we had a perfect relationship, or that I was a wonderful son, but I've had her for 62 plus years. The only mother I'll ever have, and for all her faults, and for all of mine, she loved me with the forgiving love only a mother can have.
A man never sees all that his mother has been to him until it's too late to let her know he sees it.
William Dean Howells 1837-1920, American Novelist, Critic
I have tried to accept and understand all that is going on in my life. My hearing is at a point where I need help, so I'll have that tested. My vision is OK, according to the doctor, but I have cataracts forming in both eyes. I had good test results today with my PSA and blood sugar, so I should be counting my blessings, but I can't escape the constant reminders of Deb's life and death battle and my mom slipping ever closer to the abyss. I know this too shall pass, but some days I just want to kick the can. How did I get this Yugo body instead of the Cadillac I ordered?
Deb is going hat less now, and she feels good about it. She continues to get great support from friends and family, and of course from our little church. We pray constantly for strength and patience.
Thanks to everyone who reads this and prays for us. Please remember to hug each other and let people know you love them. The ones, like me, who need extra grace are more difficult to love but need it the most.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
In the midst of everything else, this is good news. We don't know why, or how it will develop, but any nudge toward normalcy is a good thing. We also had some great news that Masha, our Russian exchange student from 2005/6 is planning a visit to America to visit us. How wonderful!
Deb continues to battle fatigue, but she still has spurts of activity that allows her to get a lot done.
Last Friday we drove to Cedarberg Wisconsin, just north of Milwaukee. It is a lovely old town with lots of shopping and good places to eat. We ate in the renovated woolen mill at the Cream and Crepe. There are lots of old preserved buildings downtown and due to the time of day and being a week day, we didn't have much competition for parking or floor space in the shops.
Saturday we had a wedding and a surprise 40Th birthday party. Both were very enjoyable. Sunday we met with Linda, another breast cancer survivor, who was here from Iowa to visit her son and his family. Deb works with her daughter in law. Monday we went to the movies and had dinner at Culvers.
It is remarkable how much fun it is to do these things. Years ago I recall that most of our activities involved much more energy and endurance, such as spending the day walking around Chicago or a frenzied approach to yard maintenance. But it seems with age also comes a reluctance to do too much, to perhaps have something in reserve. I remember when my mom and dad started being content with staying home and reading or watching TV, and how I was amused that they could ignore all the many activities that were available. Perhaps with age does come wisdom.
Youth is full of sport, age's breath is short; youth is nimble, age is lame; Youth is hot and bold, age is weak and cold; Youth is wild, and age is tame.
It is notable, the number of people who have come forward to share their cancer stories with us. I must admit that I have shared this blog with many people, some who are casual acquaintances, but the response has been terrific. We have shared so many stories of both victory and loss.
I would stress that we are stressed by this, and it takes considerable effort to keep our focus, probably more for me than Deb. I would not paint this journey as a sonnet or a picnic, as sometimes things seem to crowd us into corners.
Adversity is a great teacher, but this teacher makes us pay dearly for its instruction; and often the profit we derive, is not worth the price we paid.
Jean Jacques Rousseau
Now at the half way of chemo we look forward to a decision on surgery.
October will be busy with Deb's 30th high school class reunion and the 50th Wedding Aniversary celebration for her Aunt Joyce and Uncle Dick.
Thanks to all for reading this and remembering both of us in your prayers. We praise God for His Mercy and Grace, and we are grateful for all of your support.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Deb's chemo sessions have been going very well. She is very tired after the sessions on Thursdays, but is able to go to work on Friday. She has much better energy and although she still tires easily, she is able to do a lot. Cooking, laundry, accounting and so much more. Deb celebrated her 30Th anniversary at Kemper on Friday.
Now the focus shifts to the continuing shrinkage of the tumor. We will have to wait until we have a more precise test to see what it actually looks like, but we expect a follow up MRI within the next two weeks or so.
We continue on with the certainty that God watches over us and that your prayers are heard and answered. We thank each of you for reading this blog and sharing your time with us. We may never personally know or be able to thank each person who helped with their prayers, but we thank you for your wonderful efforts.
"When we walk to the edge of all the light we have, and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on... or we will be taught to fly." ~ Frank Outlaw
We have been taught to fly, to be certain of what we see, and to have faith in what we cannot see. Please continue to remember all those who struggle with cancer, and also those who are in remission.
Our warmest wishes for a great week and a good holiday.
Dan and Deb Harrell
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Good news yesterday. Dr. Compagnoni, Deb's surgeon was excited about a definite size reduction in the tumor. Chemo will continue for a while and Deb will probably have the tumor marked, which involves placing metal pieces at the points around the tumor so it can be found by x ray.
Continued shrinkage may delay surgery for a while and could eliminate it altogether. We don't want to get to far ahead yet, but this is a wonderful development, praise God!
The other good news is that Deb is having a much better time with chemo now then before, with less fatigue and more energy. This is probably due to the switch to Taxol. Other than double cheeseburgers from Mickey D's before chemo, she isn't excited by food. Most everything lacks taste. She did go to the Stage Stop in Wilmot with the girls this week and said she could taste the steak. No surprise there.
Last Saturday we drove up to the Elegant Farmer in Mukwonago WI. Their speciality is apple pie baked in a paper bag. It was delicious. Lot's of other stuff there too, like cherry brats, cider baked ham and other pies. A very cool place.
We now have baby bunnies. We have to watch Strider the wonder dog, so she doesn't hurt them. They were naked things last week and now they are furry hopping things that you can tell will be rabbits soon. We have a Robin's nest in the evergreen that fascinates Strider. She stands on her hind feet and peers into the tree to see the nest.
Deb has been doing a lot of weeding, so the yard looks great.
We continue to pray for others who have health problems and thank those that pray for us.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
This is a week that went according to the normal plan. Deb felt rested and energetic most of the week, with the exception of Thursday evening after having chemo. In fact, Deb could not believe how good she felt. Truly a great blessing.
The plan is two or three more sessions of chemo, then a MRI to see if any reduction has occurred, and then surgery, or more chemo and another MRI. There is some thought that the tumor has reduced in size. Most people with cancer, if the blog sites are any indication, want to have get it removed from their body as soon as possible.
Cancer seems test our emotional, physical and certainly our spiritual reserves every day.
The highs and lows we experience are mostly due to the uncertainty of the outcome, and the speed bumps and setbacks all along the way. If everyone reacted the same way to treatment, we'd all have a better idea of how this is all supposed to come out.
The physical reaction to having large vats of poison dumped in one's body every week or so are so individual and varied that they cannot be predicted with any certainty. Of course the brochures all talk about the nausea and hair loss, but the loss of taste is probably the biggest thing bugging Deb right now. Except me, of course. She just can't taste much. Things I think are spicy just don't give her much reaction, except when they start doing the bongos in her stomach.
And to think, that after surgery, more chemo and perhaps some radiation, which brings a new and different set of reactions.
Spiritually, we are doing very well. We are part of God's plan and we praise him for a good life and His grace and mercy. God may have allowed this to happen, but it is our reaction to it that says more about our walk. Sure, we are optimistic, and we have been, and yes, the initial diagnosis was positive for a recovery, but we both know that anything could happen in the next few months. We would rather enjoy what we have and look to the future with hope and thanks than have bitterness or regrets.
Deb continues to get wonderful cards and messages, many prayers lifting her toward God's embrace. Giving her the certainty of God's healing hands and the love of so many people.
We miss our ability to travel and visit friends like Skip and Dorothy, Joe and Kim and Kathi and Jim. Even doing much locally is unpredictable, as we both try to catch up on everything on the weekend, especially rest.
This weekend is the 60 mile Susan G. Koman breast cancer walk. You will know them by their caps and scarves covering their heads, by their pins and clothing that says we have cancer. But more, you will know them by the look in their eyes and the smiles that tell of battles fought, some won, some lost, of those that came before and sadly, those who will come later. When you see them, give them a hug. They will all know you care and smile all the more.
May those who love us, love us. And those who hate us, may God turn their hearts. And if he doesn't turn their hearts, may he turn their ankels so we'll know them by their limping.
Author: Celts, Ancient
You gotta love the Irish!
Thank you, everyone.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Deb had her first week with Taxol. She was tired on Thursday night and Friday, but had a great surge on Sunday when she returned from a outdoor wedding shower. This week she has been tired, but today she feels well enough for dinner. So tonight I let her open the cereal and get the milk from the refrigerator. Kidding, kidding, kidding. OK. She fixed a nice meal tonight and I helped with the dishes.
She misses her sense of taste the most. Perhaps it's her sense of smell, but most food doesn't have enough taste to interest her, not that she's given up eating, but most food tastes bland. There are some of her favorite vegetables and fruits she shouldn't eat, so that adds to the bland diet too.
We have been working in the yard the last few days, cleaning up an area where we took down a tree and the weeds took over. Couple that with the 90 degree temps we've had and it becomes a bear out there.
Deb goes for chemo again tomorrow. We believe that she will be checked by a MRI in three or four weeks and without significant reduction in the size of the tumor, she will probably have surgery. Following that she will probably have more chemo and perhaps radiation.
In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't. Blaise Pascal
We continue in faith to face this journey. We couldn't sleep at night or focus on anything else if not for our faith. The power of your prayers and the grace and mercy of God, continue to make all of this bearable for us.
A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.
- William Arthur Ward
So, we struggle to find the words to say thank you to so many people who say silent prayers for Deb, and in doing so, change our lives and theirs in ways unfathomable.
I'd like to ask all of you to say a prayer for all the care givers out there. I've been blessed that Deb hasn't had to have much help. She still does the laundry, cooks when she can and pays the bills. But there are those, such as my sister Diane and her husband Ken who have cared for my bed ridden mother for two years, every single day. They are typical of so many who struggle to care for the difficult, and try to deal with their own feelings of resentment and hopelessness. We can easily identify the lame and the sick, but consider those who have no visible sign of the struggle they face everyday.
Thank you for reading this and for your comments.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Deb continues to battle fatigue. During the week she is able to work and do some chores around here, but she tires easily. I think she is disappointed that a new round of chemo is starting next week. I'm sure she would have preferred to have the surgery and start the next phase of treatment.
I have been thinking a lot about all she does and how she is able to carry on with life without any drama. I remember being so impressed with her when we met, and after we married, she seemed to always know what I needed and how to look on the positive side of life. Deb always liked to let situations develop and her patience was the key to our relationship. In fact, I don't know anyone she ever lost patience in or wrote off. Deb has a talent for keeping friends and overlooking any negatives. She is able to wait for people to change and enjoy the changes.
I am reading this and realize how pitiful it is in capturing the Deb I love. I know that she has made a difference in many lives. Certainly Sebastian and Masha, but so too with Kathi and Jim, Kris and Aaron and Erin and Rob. Her strength is quiet but always there. There is always a smile and a laugh. She is generous, loving, forgiving and makes great meat loaf.
We are spending less time picking up and weeding the garden, and more time snuggling in bed with Strider the wonder dog. We try to hug more and argue less. We aren't trying to finish everything on the list of to do items, but spend more time relaxing. This isn't to say that Deb isn't active or doing things, but she and I know that some of this stuff will still be there tomorrow.
I don't know where the time goes. Kathi and Jim are now married fifteen years, and Kris and Bud fourteen. Wow!
My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.
Maya Angelou 1928-, African-American poet, Writer, Performer
To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
Gilbert K. Chesterton 1874-1936, British Author
Sebastian has been home over a month. His parents must be very happy.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Someone told me that I should respect my elders, but it's getting a lot harder to find any
No seriously, I'm here all week. Ta DA!
I had a wild day at work today, as if it isn't obvious. We continue to adjust, my new boss and I, he all full of black and white and me so full of gray. He is going to be a good one, on par, I believe, with the best I've had.
Deb had blood drawn today and her red blood count was lower than ever, so she had a shot of Aranesp, to boost her count. She will get one every two weeks.
Last week wasn't the best one we've had, as Deb was so fatigued that from her Chemo on Tuesday until Saturday night she couldn't get too far from her bed. Thankfully, she had scheduled Thursday and Friday off work.
She starts Paclitaxel, Taxol, two weeks from today. The side effects look a lot like the ones she has now. We hope that by having the chemo every week, the side effect will be manageable. Someone who had Taxol every three weeks mentioned she had to stop working, so probably not what Deb needed to hear, but good, so we can be vigilant. Deb continues to work, feeling that being slightly off at work is better than being home.
Tonight is just a beautiful portrait from God. The temp is in the seventies, the sun is shining through the trees. Lately we've had the most beautiful sunsets. Deb and I enjoy walking through the yard with Strider.
Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being "in love" which any of us can convince ourselves we are.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.- Captain Corelli's Mandolin
I had to include that, something I found that sure seems to crystallize how love is when it is true. How close are Deb and I to that, I'll have to ask her. It probably changes from day to day. But I can't imagine life without Deb, and so we are entwined. I mean, our silverware is all mixed together for God's sake.
We had a great note from Gaby Felkel, Sebastian's mother along with a wonderful torte from Augsburg, Germany that was very good.
We still find ourselves amazed by all the wonderful people who ask about Deb and continue to pray for her. There are so many, including some great people at work, including conductors and people in my office. There is no way to thank them enough except for Deb to recover, so they can all see the power of prayer. No matter what happens, we praise God. We thank him for the good news about Danny and his remission. We pray he continues to heal.
Thanks everyone for reading this. It's become a good way for me to chronicle Deb's week, and mine.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Happy Independence Day. Remember that Freedom isn't Free. Please remember all those who have died serving the cause of freedom and those who continue to serve in far away places.
The past week has been interesting and challenging, bringing new feelings and old issues to the surface.
Deb seemed to have developed a sensitivity to the smell of the chemo lab. In fact, looking at her new IPod cause her to recall the smell, so naturally, she avoided looking at the IPod at every opportunity. She told me that she didn't want to have the chemo session yesterday, the first time she felt that way enough to vocalize it to anyone. It was switched from Thursday to Tuesday and along with today, Independence Day, Deb will be off work until next Monday. When she arrived the scent wasn't there so she was able to read her new, personally autographed copy of Janet Evonovich's book, "Lean Mean Thirteen" during the session. Thank you Kathi!
She came home with the news that she is going to start Taxol once a week for the next twelve weeks, in place of the current drugs. The tumor hasn't reduced enough to be removed, and since it hasn't enlarged, there isn't a reason to rush into surgery. There was an option of having Taxol every three weeks, but the dose would be much stronger with the resulting increase in side effects. She also has to take steroids before the first treatment.
Speaking of side effects, there is the vomiting today, without warning, so I think the family picnic is out. Looking at the side effects of Taxol would make an alcoholic sober. Google it and then imagine twelve weeks of doses. Can't be something to look forward to.
Elsewhere, things are going well, albeit without the hum of teenage television and grocery bills. We haven't had anything further from Sebastian, but his parents sent two beautiful books, one about Augsburg and one about Bavaria. They also sent an Augsburg Torte, a beautiful and delicious concoction.
Deb continues to get great support from family and friends. Cards and phone calls cheer her, and the prayers of everyone make the real difference, as we know that God's plan will prevail in all things.
Please take a moment and check out this site. http://rubyshooz.wordpress.com/
and read the poem "To Whom it May Concern"
Our sincere appreciation to everyone for their support, love, prayers and hugs, as both of us try to deal with the silent killer called breast cancer. We just learned that Teresa, my sister's sister-in-law is testing for cancer, both breast and cervix. She would be only the latest of several siblings that have battled cancer. Please pray for Teresa, as the time before knowing the full truth can be a long, lonely nightmare, filled with stress and insomnia.
Maya Angelou tells us, "I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.". Indeed!
Love to all,
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Thanks for thinking about us. We had our whirlwind tour of Southern Illinois over the weekend, returning last night. Alto Pass is where my Dad's family lives, except for the Dad and his portion of the family, that moved to Pontiac Michigan in the 30's. After taking my Dad and Brother Dennis to Alto Pass (south of Carbondale) in 2001 we have gone back to the family picnic twice, including this year. It was very moving to see the places my Dad called home, and to meet some very wonderful people, all related some how to me.
We had the pleasure of meeting Evelyn this year, a breast cancer survivor. She had great words of encouragement for Deb. We will miss Tempa and Raymond, first cousins to my Dad, who left us this past year. We miss most Melvin, who taught us a lot about being friends and showed us the pleasures of gardening when we were there last. I know his wife Joan, and all the family miss his humor, and his love.
Perhaps I'm taking this blog thing too far, as now I've given it to our benefits department at work and a wonderful person at Blue Cross who is most helpful with figuring out the medical bills for us. It continues to amaze me how many people say they are praying for us, because such a volume of prayer will surly speed to God on the wings of his angels.
Deb is doing well with the exception of acid reflux and fatigue. She seems to be a bit more tired as this goes on, but we expected that to be the case. She continues to face all the treatment, knowing surgery will come soon, followed by more chemotherapy and radiation. She could be depressed but she is an inspiration with her patience and perseverance. Plus she looks so cool with all the various hats and wraps.
Reflect upon your present blessings - of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.Charles Dickens
We are very glad to know our friend Danny has now entered the monitoring phase. He and Marge will now concentrate on keeping his weight up (boy, do I wish I had that issue) and healing as he has a check up and blood work in six months.
So, we are at another way point. Deb has chemo next week, and after that the doctors will decide the next step. As we wait, we are buoyed by the love and prayers of so many of you, our friends and family. Remember my mom in your prayers, as she waits for our Lord to come for her. Her road hasn't been easy, and she has amazed the health care workers with her ability to hang on here, but there must still be something for her to do, before she leaves.
Remember those who you love, but perhaps haven't seen or spoken with in a while. With so much death around us, celebrate life with a phone call or a letter to someone. Make their day special, and your's will be special too!
Don’t let death be your cure for procrastination.
God Bless all,
Sunday, June 17, 2007
It was four years June 5Th that my dad left us. I suspect that every father's day will bring the memory of his passing to me and the rest of the family. Oh, by the way, if you're looking for something good to read, consider picking up a copy of "For One More Day" by Mitch Albom. It's a terrific book about spending one more day with a departed parent.
Deb had her third chemo on Thursday. She was very tired on Thursday night and Friday, so she didn't go with Sebastian and me to Chicago, but rather stayed home and rested. Friday was her birthday and so when Sebastian and I came home we had Ben Thomas over and did some great steaks on the grill.
Deb was still tired on Sunday morning and missed church. Nothing too much different about the chemo experience this time, and a sense of routine starts to build.
The next chemo is July 3rd so we will see after that how the tumor has responded. I believe the doctors are intentionally vague so that patients and their families are not holding unrealistic expectations. So much of this treatment depends on how the individual patient reacts, and then adjustments are made on the fly. I expect that if the tumor has shrunk, surgery will be scheduled to remove it. That will be followed by chemo and perhaps radiation.
It was an emotional weekend anyway with Sebastian leaving on Saturday for Germany and his family. His flight left O'Hare about 2:30pm and was scheduled to arrive around 6am in Munich, about 11pm Chicago time. He wrote to say he arrived very tired and still battling the cough he had for about two weeks before going home.
He had just returned from Philadelphia where he spent a week with daughter Erin and her husband Rob. He saw New York City, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, with lots of history including ground zero, the Statue of Liberty and all of the monuments in D.C. We are very thankful to Erin and Rob for taking the time and making the effort to host Sebastian.
I took Friday off and we went to the Sears Tower to really see Chicago. We had lunch at Blackies and visited my office to see the really important people in my life, or at least that's what they asked me to say.
Looking back on having Sebastian makes me glad he was here and grateful for showing me what having a son (I have three daughters) would have been like. He was really a treasure to have. Good student, helpful and dependable. I think I still favor the daughters. No competition for the TV remote, the PC or the chips :).
Deb is missing him. I know we will miss having a new student but it will be easier not having one this next year until Deb's health is more certain.
Deb's sister Anita had all the family over for Father's day today. It was a great time, as usual. Kathi and Erin called to wish me a happy father's day and happy birthday tomorrow.
We are going to southern Illinois next weekend for the Harrell family reunion.
Finally, I feel like we have received a special blessing from God because of all of your prayers and good wishes. Your cards and notes are so precious. Deb seems visibly lifted by the outpouring of love she receives every day. There is a lot of stress in our lives right now, but we feel so blessed to have good friends helping us.
Please consider praying for Danny, our friend who is still battling cancer and the effects of radiation. There are so many people for whom cancer is a lonely battle, as they are old or without friends or family. Please pause a moment to remember them with a special prayer. Ask God in all his mercy to heal and comfort them, for we know he is the Great Physician and His love endures forever.
God Bless You All.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
We've started to experience some routine with Deb's cancer treatment. Blood test every Thursday, Chemo every three weeks, visit the doctor every week. But in the routine is the comfort of predictability, not the edgy uncertainty of diagnosis and treatment plans. A fancy way of saying not much has changed in the last week.
Both Dr. Weyburn and Dr. Compagnoni think there is some change in the tumor. It started out the size of a lime, so perhaps now it's a small plum? A walnut? We won't know until after the last chemo on July 5th, and probably a MRI exam, just what will happen next. Will it be small enough for surgery or will further chemo reduce it more, so the surgery will not destroy the breast.
After surgery comes radiation and more chemo, we understand.
Deb is doing particularly well with this hair thing. She now has a variety of hats and scarves to wear, including some scarves she always wanted to wear but could not find the exact ensemble to compliment them. Her wig looks great on her and so she has lots of options. I wish I did.
There were several articles in the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times the last few days about breast cancer. It may have something to do with the charity walks for cancer going on now. One article explores a new medication aimed at reducing the risk of cancer returning after the initial treatment. New thoughts on radiation treatment are discussed too. It appears that even after a successful initial battle with breast cancer, and a clean bill of health, there is a statistical possibility of cancer returning.
Sebastian left for Philadelphia yesterday for a week with Erin and Rob (and Quinn too). He is excited to explore new American cities and is hoping to see some of the landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty and the Mall in Washington D.C. His flight was delayed a bit but when Erin found him at the baggage carousel he was helping an elderly couple with their baggage. He is a terrific guy!
Soon he leaves for Germany. We will miss his smile and his laugh. We are the richer for his being here. What will we do without the King of Queens and the NBA?
We offer our prayers for all of you that may be in a battle too. Life is both a joy and a struggle. While we are preoccupied with our issues, we know that there is a lot of hurt, loneliness and health problems out there. We take a lot of comfort in the certainty of prayer and faith.
Please accept our thanks to everyone for their prayers and thoughts.