Friday, May 25, 2007

Hats and Hair

Hello everyone,

When I was ten (1955), I had X ray treatments for a scalp infection that caused my hair to fall out. It seemed months before it grew again, causing me to go through a lot of kid like suffering. Wearing a baseball hat in a Catholic Church caused a lot of looks from adults who didn't know the story. About the only bald guy at the time was Yul Brenner. My beautiful auburn hair eventually came back a dull brown, and less thick than before, but I survived the experience.

So, I'm amazed that Deb is now going through the same thing with a lot more maturity than any ten year old :). Not that it doesn't bother her somewhat, being the first exterior manifestation of her cancer, but it's great that she approaches it with the same equanimity as other life tribulations.

There has been a lot of shedding but she looks so chipper in her pink ribbon hat, and she now has a supply of hats, scarves and of course her jaunty new wig.

Yesterday her blood counts had rebounded to acceptable levels and she had her second chemo treatment. She took her Ipod and watched the Big and Rich music video amoung other things. She got home about 4:30pm. She was tired and after a bite to eat rested in bed. Today we went to breakfast and to pick up a couple of things from the store, but she was tired and so we came home.

Not that she could get much sleep as the tree trimmers were here making a real racket, but boy oh boy do the trees look good and there is a lot more sun in the back yard. We had an old tree taken down by the back fence and it makes a huge difference. Deb found a swing today to put in the back yard so she will have somewhere to rest outside when she is home.

We continue to adjust to the whole cancer thing. We seem to have more pep and less stress related depression, but we are just beginning the battle, we know, and everyone tells us that the effects of chemo are cumlative. What makes a huge difference for me is knowing how many people have lifted us in prayer, and the wonderful cards and letters we get almost daily. Today we received some beautiful flowers from Kim and Joe Knox.

This seems the time of year for so many charity related events. The relay for life is one we supported this year. I know there are walks scheduled for Y me and other groups. Perhaps next year we can walk too. There are so many worthy causes that it is impossible to support more than one or two. Some of the camps for children with cancer are incredible for their caring and the dedication of the staff to make these kids comfortable. We would encourage all of you to send a card to someone who needs cheering up. It doesn't have to be cancer, but there are lots of elderly and just people who need a laugh or a smile.

Sebastian is looking forward to his trip east. Can it be only three weeks until he leaves?

We can't begin to thank all of you enough for your support and prayers. We feel amazed that so many people would take the time to think of us. I know that we are very optomistic about how this will end, but we know the doctors and medicine are only tools, so we pray for health to the Great Physician.

We continue to pray for Dan Krupa amoung others, for a complete recovery.

"Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.

God Bless all of you.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Blood Tests and Comments

Good Thursday everyone.

Deb and a blood test today. Some of the values are low. The white blood count is below three and the hemoblobin is 10.6 instead of 12. The MCHC is 32.4 percent instead of the target of 36.

The granulocytes is .5 insted of 1.4 or above. The lymphocytes and monocytes are hight too. Dr. Weyburn's staff seems unconcerned with the results now, but with chemo scheduled for next Thursday, it would be good to see them go up (or down as the case may be).

I found out I could change a setting on the blog to allow comments without membership, so comment at will, as Deb loves reading them.

I changed the layout a bit and added a couple of photos.

I hope all of you realize how much you mean to Deb and I and how we value your support and prayers.



Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cruising Along

Hi everyone,

Deb has been sailing along the last few days in good spirits and with energy. She still has what seems to be an allergy and I still am stuffy too. But the best news is that she has energy. What we believe now is that looking back she should have taken the rest of the week off after the medi port was installed. Going back to work the next day drained her completely.

It is great to see her with some pep and bounce in her step. Nausea isn't a factor and neither is acid reflux right now. She says her scalp is sensitive when she wakes up, and she expects hair to start evacuating the premises soon. Question. If a hair falls out and no one sees it, does it still end up floating in my coffee?

Deb's wig should be ready soon and last night she ordered some hats over the web. Perhaps a pirate's hat to go with the bald look and an earring? Something rakish with a wide brim? I've always admired the Queen Elizabeth look personally.

Last Sunday we shared Mother's Day with the Kellers and Bargers at Anita and John's home in Woodstock. I have some new photos and I'll add one to the blog shortly. It was a great day with lots of hugs.

Our 17Th wedding anniversary is this Saturday. We're going to have Italian at a new place in Richmond and then go to the high school to pick up Sebastian's year book as he will be at Green Lake Wisconsin with the rest of his exchange group for the year end mandatory get together. We also will pick up a copy for Masha, as the second half of her year with us, including prom, is in this years book. Today is exactly a year ago that she returned to Russia.

Next week brings another chemo session on Thursday. Deb is doing very well with all of this and I'm convinced it is because of all of you lifting her up with your prayers. We continue to get the most wonderful notes of support and prayer and unless you have faced the uncertainty of life and death as Deb is, it is impossible to explain the impact of this love and kindness in her life.

So we continue to praise God for His mercy and grace. We pray especially for Dan Krupa, a fellow cancer patient who is struggling with weight loss but continues to battle every day with the extraordinary help of family and friends, including his wife Marge.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Odds and Ends

Hi all,

Deb has struggled the last couple of days with what we now think are allergies rather than a cold. She was up and down most of last night and as a result, didn't go to work today. She had acid reflux and nausea. Her temp was good so we really weren't alarmed. She sounds so tiny at times.

I like her new haircut. She says she cried in the car after she realized that she wouldn't be getting another for some time. She said she felt really depressed.

She read all the material from the doctors and now understands most of what can happen and how to avoid the really dangerous stuff.

She says she feels some sensation in the tumor. Dr. Weyburn examined her today and said that everything that's going on is normal. Her counts (Blood etc) are down, but he says to do everything we can, based on her tolerance and stamina.

Deb said the session with the wig lady went well and her custom creation should be here next week. Cher? I'm taking Sebastian to the Shedd Aquarium tomorrow. He won't be here much longer. It is hard to imagine him gone.

Great support from so many people. Today she got a great survivor hat and scarf from Brad and Char. Our pink ribbon stuff came so now I have a pink wrist band to wear.

We want to thank everyone that is cheering for us. Someone said he was going to pray for her, but he was sure that God would wonder who the stranger was, since it had been a long time. I said maybe it was time to renew the acquaintance. We believe in the power of prayer.

There are many many people who have suffered and died or survived breast cancer. We feel confidant we will survive, but the battle has only just begun.

Tonight is my sleep test at Centegra in Woodstock.

We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.

Take care,


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The lull before the storm

Dear Friends,

The last few days have been interesting. I picked up a dandy cold and was in bed most of Friday and Saturday. In spite of trying to stay away from Deb, she now has the cold. I don't know exactly where I got it, but she may have been around me before I developed symptoms.

Friday Deb was off work, as she planned to help Sebastian get ready for prom, something they don't have in Germany. He was so handsome in his tuxedo, with his tie matching Anika's dress. The tie has his name, the date and RBCHS (Richmond Burton Community High School) sewn into it, and the custom is for the girl to keep the tie. Deb took him to the Stocker's, Anika's host family, and I stayed home. Lots of photos taken and both of them looked great. You wouldn't know that this was probably their first and last prom, or that both were citizens of Germany. They just looked like any other happy couple going to their high school prom.

The prom was at Concord Banquets in Lake Zurich. They had dinner and dancing until about midnight, followed by the post prom party, sponsored by the school, that lasted until 5am. Sebastian got home about 6am on Saturday. He took a shower and had breakfast and went to bed until about 4pm.

Deb seemed very tired on Friday, and went to bed early. On Saturday, she did a few errands, but needed a nap in the afternoon. She was also having some issues with nausea, but the medication we have helped with that. We understand that the fatigue can be cumulative, so since we are in the beginning, this may be more of an issue as we proceed. I know Deb wants to do as much as possible and doesn't want to "give in" to this fatigue.

Sunday we took Sebastian and a neighbor boy, along with our friends, Jack and Dee, to Miller Field in Milwaukee to see a Brewers baseball game. We had a terrific brunch at Saz's before the game. Deb was tired again Sunday night, although she did several loads of laundry.

She has been very calm during all of this, one of us should be don't you think? She has the ability to focus on the really important stuff, not like a certain someone we won't name. I mean, how do people get through all this. Work, kids, chemo, ups and downs and the normal day to day stuff of living? Are they all supermen and women or on drugs? Wait, this rant is over. I think I'll be allright for a while, someone just gave me some chocolate :).

Deb's monthly dinner is tonight and I'm glad she can attend as we don't know if she will need to isolate herself from crowd situations or if there are some that are OK, while others are not. So I am glad she is going and we should know more about fatigue and isolation after her blood review on Thursday. We have been sleeping in separate rooms since this all came up so she could rest better.

Tomorrow she gets her hair cut. I'm picturing Billy Idol. Thursday she visits the Doll House, a wig specialist in Lindenhurst. We are sure we are on the correct path to wellness. I know all of our questions will be answered in due time.

We continue to pray for Dan Krupa, who is dealing with the terrible after effects of radiation and chemo, and for Marge, his wife, who is doing her best to help him heal and regain some lost weight. Please add both of them to your prayer list.

There are so many others affected by a cancer diagnosis. Children, no matter what age, feel helpless and depressed at the same time. It can be a wicked reality check for those who have not faced their own mortality yet. Yet I know they are praying for us and that feels very good.

We are very blessed to have had an easy road so far. It is impossible to thank everyone enough who has prayed for us and given us hope and comfort. We trust in God's mercy and grace and submit to his will.

Thanks to all,


Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Red Devil (Adriamycin)

OK, so they also call it Kool Ade, but that's the one they put in while wearing rubber gloves.

We arrived on time (1pm) and after vitals were taken Doctor Weyburn came in and examined Deb. He talked to us for a few minutes trying and succeeding, I think, to reassure Deb.

The medi port is a terrific idea, but the first time it's used is a little painful, and it's only been two days since it was put in. You can't see any part of the port, but to access it they push a needle through the skin covering the port into the membrane of the port. It really is very easy and a time saver. No hunting for veins or having them collapse.

They took both of us back to the room and set Deb up in a reclining chair. She had her Ipod ready to go, but since it was her first time, she spent some time having everything explained. I was able to be in the back with her only this time.

Lynsee, a wonderful nurse, explained everything , from how the pump works to the order drugs would be injected into the saline or pushed through the line directly into the medi port.

Once the line was running they injected a steroid, Decadron, and a nausea drug, Aloxi. Then Adriamycin was pushed through followed by the Cytoxan.

I left about then to run some errands. Deb called later to say she was leaving and that she had fallen asleep for the last ten minutes or so. She said she is really tired. The actual process started about 1:30pm and finished about 4pm. It will probably go a bit faster next time.

We were told again by the Jill and Lynsee that if there is any temperature spike to call immediately or if she feels sick or nauseous and the prescribed meds don't remedy the problem. They seem to be a very concerned bunch and Deb got a hug from the appointment lady who took her back to the chemical plant.

So, we know that this is only the start of this journey. We still have to face hair loss, low blood counts, nausea and surgery. We know that there will be ups and downs. Things we will miss doing because we can't risk Deb's exposure to crowds or even family gatherings. We know all of this may not work, in spite of our optimism and faith. But, today at least, we both feel good about starting the process and beginning the battle. We continue to get fantastic support from everyone.

He will be with you also, all the way, that faithful God. Every morning when you awaken to the old and tolerable pain, at every mile of the hot uphill dusty road of tiring duty, on to the judgment seat, the same Christ there as ever, still loving you, still God.

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it." - Helen Keller


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Medi Port

If there was any doubt that the medi port installation wasn't surgery, that was soon dispelled by the familiar procedures Good Shepard Hospital used that reminded me of the times I've had an operation.

We were supposed to be at the hospital at 6:15 am, way too early, but neither of us could sleep so we ended up getting there before 6am! Poor Strider, our Cocker Spaniel. She was trotted outside before 5am, probably the earliest she has ever been outside. But as if she understood, she did her business and we left knowing that Sebastian would only have to take her out briefly before he left for school. Both Deb and I left a note for him, saying the same thing about taking Strider out.

I think looking back at the last week that most of our stress was because of the surgery today. Now that it's over, there is some relief.

We were ushered into a cube after 7am and they took Deb's vitals and asked the standard questions to make sure they had the correct person for the correct surgery. They made note that Deb is allergic to penicillin and that she didn't have false teeth or artificial joints or a metal plate in her head. Dr. Compagnoni came in and helped Deb decide what side to put the port in and gave her an overview of the time involved in surgery and the follow up needed with her office. Then a med tech tried to start the IV in her left arm, then in her right hand and finally gave up and called her anesthesiologist to start it.

Deb was finally taken to the OR about 8:30am. I settled in the waiting room after having a snack and some apple juice in the cafe. Comfortable couches and free coffee, woo hoo! I read a couple of newspapers and at one point dozed off, and then about 10am Dr. C came out and told me that everything had gone very well and that Deb was in recovery and would be out of there in about an hour.

I cooled my heals until about 11:15 or so and then was allowed in to find Deb in a chair having cranberry juice and graham crackers. Since it was the first thing she had eaten since 8pm the night before, she enjoyed breaking her fast. A nurse came in and went over everything with us including the post surgery orders for pain meds and follow ups.

Deb was feeling some pain so she took a Lortab, a Tylenol product with a narcotic base.

We left the hospital about 12:30pm and stopped for a hamburger on the way home and to pick up the pain prescription. Deb was somewhat obsessed with having a Big Mac, so that's what she had. The nurse was worried that she would be nauseated after the burger but she doesn't know our girl and Big Macs.

All in all, everyone at the hospital was great and we're both glad to have this behind us.

Deb is going to take it easy today and go back to work tomorrow afternoon. She moved up her hair appointment to May 9Th. She thinks that her hair will still start leaving after the first chemo on Thursday. The hospital says she has symptoms of apnea, so she may have to get tested too! Deb was great today, even though this was her first surgery. She had lots of stress and pain but was gracious through it all, just as she usually is with everyone all the time.

So another facet of this passes behind us and we look forward to other days and other battles. As Hubert Humphrey once said, "The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.

And so my friends thank you for thinking of us, loving us and healing us. God bless you all.