Sunday, August 23, 2009

When it Rains...

Robbie apparently broke a bone in his foot (a metatarsal) while playing last Thursday at a local amusement spot called the "Jump Place" on a school field trip [see barely visible red circle in adjoining picture]. This place is filled with big inflatable slides and such. While jumping down one of the aforementioned slides, he got his right foot turned under and cracked the bone. We watched it overnight and when it was more swollen and painful the next morning, Liz took him to St. Mary's Hospital (yikes!) where he was x-rayed and diagnosed. St. Mary's put a soft cast on him and gave us a referral. I'm taking him tomorrow to an orthodpod for a more definitive treatment. Poor guy--looks like no swimming or biking for the next couple of weeks anyway.

I'm OK, but I have noticed that the growth factor shots do take the wind out of my sails. I got my most recent shot on Friday, following four days of chemotherapy. Hopefully yesterday was the worst day. I also have a residual, non-productive, hacking cough left over from my "real" chest cold a few weeks ago.

Sunshine (our bulldog) is worrying me, as she not only is drinking (and excreting) lots of water, but since yesterday she hasn't been able to keep down a meal. Joy.

Liz left on travel early this morning and gets home late Thursday night, so this could be a long week. I'll try and keep you posted if energy allows.

UPDATE/UPDATE: Foot's not broken, only strained. Robbie's back in street shoes and can swim, though running around and biking are off the menu for a while. And Sunshine kept down two meals of rice. Things are looking up!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hauling Hay

It's 11:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, and I'm back in my favorite (and my brother Wilson's favorite) blue reclining chair, waiting for my Fludarabine to come from the pharmacy.

On the parking garage elevator this morning, coming up from the bowels of parking level 9 (where dwarves toil in the corners looking for jewels and precious metals), I met a harried young mother and her precious daughter--maybe four years old. The mom had scored a parking place on level 5, and was trying to manuever her daughter's stroller into the elevator. I held the door ('cause Mom raised me that way) and helped them in. The daughter was lovely, dressed all in pink, with what I think is blond hair. I say "what I think" because her hair wasn't really there. I didn't ask her mom about her condition, but was pretty sure I could guess. My guess was confirmed when they rode the hospital elevator to the fifth floor, home of the general oncology department. That's why I can't complain. Under the "God Forbid" category, ask me if I'd rather have this disease or have Robbie have this disease. I'll pray for that mother and that child tonight.

Yesterday, on the seventh floor, I had a delightful conversation with a man--call him Alan--with lung cancer. It has been my experience that people in here for treatment are either very outgoing or very insular. Alan was tremendously outgoing. The son of Northern Maryland minister, he is 57 years old, has a graduate degree from an unmentioned educational institution, and came out of grad school to work for many years as a carpenter. He has a small but aggressive tumor that seems to be responding well to chemo. It seems the aggressive cells, the fast movers, sacrifice protection for speed--much like the Mitsubishi Zero fighter of WWII. As a result, they are very open to attack.

Alan was raised in dairy country, and says he still marvels thinking back to his days when he helped neighbors bring in the hay. Watching from the back of the hay wagon as the people on the ground ran in the hot sun from bale to bale, throwing the 90 pound bales up to where he waited to stack them on the cart, stopping only when the wagon was full, and stopping only until the tractor reached the barn. Then off the cart and back to throwing bales. Alan said that thinking back on this non-stop machine-like performance still leaves him in awe. I told him that I could relate.

I think sometimes (and have probably related in a previous post) that growing up on a farm in some ways prepared me for the battle in which I am currently engaged. Look--if you are gazing out over three different fields, covered by a couple of thousand bales, knowing the temperature and the humidity are both going to break the 95 mark, it can be downright overwhelming. So you learn not to look at the whole field. You look at the next bale. You pick it, you throw it on the cart, you roll up your sleeves (for the city folk, only a fool hauls hay in anything but long pants and long sleeves) and brush off any fire ants that you picked up, then run to the next available bale. You do this until the wagon is full or there are no more bales. There's a break for lunch. There's a break for dinner. There's a break each time you ride the wagon to or from the barn. Other than that, you work. Sometimes we hauled hay until eleven o'clock at night, gathering "straggler" bales by the headlights of the tractor, with hands so sore you had to lift the bales onto the back of the wagon by your fingertips. But eventually, you finished.

I'm viewing my ongoing chemotherapy this way. I don't worry about the end state. I focus on the next treatment, the next thermometer reading, the next set of pills. I have faith that some day someone will say "You're in remission". Hauling hay got me ready for this. And I always wondered, "What good is this going to do me?" Who knew?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Starting Down the Back Stretch

SO here I am, Monday moring at 10:40, waiting for my Fludarabine. I got a late start this morning, due largely because Robbie was in such a great mood and I hadn't talked to Elena for a while. I was up in plenty of time, just didn't get out the door when I should have. Now I'm paying the price.

Robbie was absolutely great yesterday, though he was really spun up prior to falling asleep. He slept until 7:00 a.m., lay in bed chatting with me until 7:20 or so, then we both headed to the kitchen when we heard Elena rattling around. God bless Elena--she is not a morning person, but she was a trooper today.

Where I normally reach Georgetown by 8:15, I stumbled in around 9:00, and became part of the Monday morning 7th Floor crush that I usually avoid by getting here early. I've given the normal 2 1/2 pints of blood for the bloodwork, and am now waiting for my drugs.

Still not complaining, but this is getting old. On the other hand, in as much I plan on getting old, I guess I should hush up and take my medicine.

If the Benedryl doesn't wipe me out, I'll log on again later.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rob & I are waiting outside Jim & Elena's. I have a key, but it's on the Mini's keychain, which is in Seattle with Liz..

This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wednesday's Visit

Well, I'm officially certified "ready for more chemo". Went in Wed. for my pre-chemo check. Dr. Cheson was out of town, but I saw my trials coordinator, Jenny, and Dr. C's nurse practitioner, Katherine. I don't know if it was because Dr. C was not there, but I got in almost a half hour before my appointment time (I got there early for parking reasons).

My blood work all looks good, and my creatinine levels are still going down. Kidneys are still getting better. My heart rate is still a little high and more so than ever I think I'm feeling the fatigue that made chemotherapy famous. Still not complaining though--I still have my hair.

Liz will be out of town from tomorrow until next Tuesday, so I will once again be throwing myself (and Robbie) on the tender sympathies of our friends Jim and Elena (and their daughter Taryn). I've got to get Sunshine in the kennel on Sunday. Still not complaining.

Anywho, that's where things stand. Let's all hope they don't get exciting again.

Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In rm 315 @ Lombardi, where I first met Dr. C, and I'm in 45 min ahead of my appt. This is unprecedented.

This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's deja vu all over again

Heading back to Georgetown Wednesday for the pre-chemo checkup, then on to series Five next week. Only remnant left over from last week's fever adventure is a dry, hacking cough that flares up in the evenings. No fever, no throat guck, just a "oh crap, I think I cough unproductively for 15 or 20 minutes" kind of feeling.

Robbie had an scare on Sunday. We've were cleaning out the basement and garage this weekend, with various people inside and outside, upstairs and downstairs. Robbie is big enough that we let him go outside solo (not so scary as we live in the middle of a 2.5 acre pine forest at the end of a cul-de-sac). So Robbie is outside, Liz is upstairs, and I'm in the living room. All the sudden I become aware of a sound that every parent recognizes: the cry of your child in pain. I ran for the door, but Robbie was there before I got outside. He was holding his right hand and crying like crazy. Seems he had been getting something out of the van and had inadvertently closed the sliding door on his fingers. He was stuck, in pain, and scared to death. Through that, he managed to get the van door open then ran to the house. Damage was minimal and addressed with a "Spongebob Squarepants" bandaid. Poor guy had been more scared than hurt, but imagine being five and stuck with no help around. He's fine now.

Nothing really new to report on my front (or on my back for that matter). Just wanted to stay in touch. Thanks for looking in.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Don't ask me about my last two weeks

Actually, you don't have to ask--I'll tell you. Three weeks ago, Dr. Cheson marked me fit for Chemo, which I started on Monday week before last. At the same time, Liz was in a five-day, all-day class and thus had to work evenings to catch up on her work. So my day--for five days--was 1) Wake up at 5:00 a.m. and drive to Georgetown, 2) Chemo treatment, 3) Drive home, catch a 30-minute nap, 4) Drive to work, 5) Work until around 4:45 p.m., 6) Pick Robbie up at summer camp, 6a) Optional: stop at the grocery store to restock, 7) Feed Robbie and Sunshine, 8) Bathe Robbie, 9) Turn Robbie over to Liz when she comes in and 10) Try to get to bed by 8:30 p.m. so I could get up and do it again the next day. I usually had only a half an hour or so between steps 9 and 10. That schedule worked fine for a couple of days, but by Friday I was fried (get it? Friday? Fried? It's a pun). Anyway, on Friday I didn't get Chemo. Instead I got a growth factor shot to increase my red and white blood cell production. I was wiped out.

I napped most of the weekend trying to recover. Last Tuesday Liz left for Seattle and Rob and I were bachelors again. It's a routine we're used to, but this week we had a wrinkle thrown in. On Monday my blood work showed great (for me) RBC and WBC counts. By Wednesday, I had picked up a low grade fever (~99.5) that seemed to flare in the evenings and go away by morning. I had been told not to really worry until the temp got above 100, and to head for the emergency room if it got up to 100.4.

Friday night, the night Liz was scheduled to return from Seattle, I was feeling a little punk. I took my temperature--100.8. Oh Crap. This was around 7:00 p.m. I took the temp again after 15 minutes. 100.4. I packed bags for Robbie and me. Knowing Liz would be in around midnight, I walked out into the middle of our front yard (the only place at our house with a cell phone signal that night) and started calling the "where can I leave Robbie" phone tree. None of the usual suspects answered the phone. Slight panic, but still had some ideas if push came to shove.

By 9:00, with a temperature fluctuating between 100.2 and 100.7, I called the Oncology Emergency number, where the operator alerted the on-call oncologist. At the same time, Peg (or as her dad calls her, "Farm Girl") texted me to say she was available for Robbie-rescue. The oncologist, Dr. Fitzpatrick, called and we discussed my situation. I told her about the fever history I had this week, she saw that I had good numbers at the start of the week, and decided that I didn't have to come in that night, but that I should get blood tests in the morning.

Unbeknownst to me, Liz was in travel hell on the West Coast, having missed on flight due to a double bridge closure on her route to the airport. They closed the bridges so that the Blue Angels could practice. I've always hated those prima donnas (they caused us problems during Pensacola flight training). The airline rebooked her on a midnight flight, then lost the booking. She was on hold with the Navy travel folks for over two hours. They finally got her on a flight at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. She got home around 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

Back to our heros: Saturday morning Dr. Fitzpatrick called to say "Get ye to an emergency room and get some blood drawn so we can check your levels". While I could have driven 20 minutes up the road to St. Mary's, I was afraid they would try to kill me again. Besides, the goals was to get my blood count numbers to Georgetown, and I knew St. Mary's would screw it up somehow. So I decided that Robbie and I needed a road trip--we were going to Georgetown. He was great. We drove the two hours to Georgetown, singing songs and making each other laugh. He came into the ER with me and watched with fascination (and endless questions) as they took my vitals. We went back to a observation room in the working area of the ER, where we were visited by an admitting nurse, a fourth year med student, a phlebotomist, the 4th year and the head of ER, another nurse, and finally (and to my delight) Dr. Fitzpatrick herself, who delivered the news that my blood numbers were fine and that I had a chest cold. We were sent home with cautions to monitor and report.

One story--as the second nurse came into the room, Robbie (who knows a cute nurse when he sees one) said, "Hi, my name's Robbie! You had a plesiosaurus behind you!" When she asked "What's a plesiosaurus?", he replied "It's a dinosaur with a long neck and four paddles for legs that lives in the ocean!" She was charmed. I think he could have gotten a phone number. I'll work with him.

Today my temp was fine, and I'm sure it's up around 99.3 right now. I'm taking Robitussin to break up the chest congestion. I'll be going to bed after I post this.

All things considered, a busy two weeks.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

All is well. Temp is normal, WBC count 16 (which is very high for me). Rob & I took a trip to Gtown ER for bloodwork

This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T

Back @ Gtown hospital--don't worry, just getting bloodwork done. My temp, which has been normal all day today, got up

This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T