Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Little Help?

My dad is still experiencing some side effects from his new drugs.  One of the biggest problems we are having is that he gets up and walks away sometimes and he is not stable enough to do that on his own.  He will be sleeping for hours in a chair and the moment someone leaves the room, he gets up and wanders into another room without his walker and without a helper.  Last night/ Early morning dad got up and walked into the kitchen.  Megan found him and called for Jake.  My dad had no idea what he was doing yet he told Jake he was making toast.  The water was running, he had spilled milk on the floor and he had turned all of the lights on.  He is having a difficult time adjusting to the heavy doses of medicine, but at this point, our biggest concern is his safety.

Tonight, he was asleep in the living room so mom got up to do something in the kitchen.  She heard a loud noise and thought it was Jake.  By the time she left the kitchen Jake & Megan were already on their way to see what had happened.  Dad had wandered into the bedroom and fell into the nightstand.  Megan helped him stand up and they all checked his body to see if he was injured.  It appears that he had hit his back but he told them nothing hurt.  They called hospice and reported the incident.  It is difficult to keep an eye on him every second so the hospice nurse has recommended we get a few baby monitors so we can hear when he is up and walking around.  We are going to leave one in Jake & Megan's room downstairs and possibly a few additional ones in the spare bedrooms in case someone else is sleeping over.  If you have any baby monitors that you aren't using anymore, please let us know because we might want to borrow them for a while.

This transition has been extremely difficult for everyone.  Visitors have continued to stop by each day and that is great, please just make sure you call ahead of time to make sure the timing is ok for everyone. Thank you for all of your well wishes.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Not Quite Ready for This

It is fair to say that my dad has struggled the past few days.  He has started taking new medication and it has caused him to sleep a lot.  He is confused at times and doesn't participate in most conversations.  It is difficult for all of us to see him this way.

His best buddies came into town to see him this weekend.  Bob and Dy flew in from Spokane and Dave and Val drove into town as well.  Having his friends around seemed to be good for him.  Throughout the past few days he has had other visitors as well.  Although he probably won't remember most of the visitors because of his medication, my mom is very much appreciative of your kind words and warm wishes.

Each day has been something different with my dad so it's hard to tell what to expect from day to day.  If you would like to stop by for a quick visit please call ahead and let us know you are coming.  If the timing is bad we will be sure to tell you.  

Thank you for sending good thoughts our way during this difficult time.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Changes Can Be Difficult

Yesterday, mom had chemo.  Also, while at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, my dad saw his oncologist for a quick visit.  His oncologist didn't like the way he looked or the things he said.  They did a scan to see if there was a blockage in his liver.  If so, that would mean a surgery to create an opening for the fluid to drain out.  Unfortunately, there wasn't a blockage.  Dad's discomfort and poor liver function test were due to his cancer progressing.  So, no surgery.  Instead, dad will begin to manage his pain better with more medicine and lots of hugs.  In addition, SCCA has set my dad up with a hospice nurse.

Hopefully a nurse will be able to track his symptoms and determine when he needs more medical attention.  Overall, people who utilize a hospice nurse tend to have a better quality of life so that is what we are hoping for as well.  Today, dad didn't get out of bed.  He was tired and was experiencing some discomfort in his stomach.  Mom was wiped out because it was the day after chemo so she spent the majority of the day resting as well.  She did have a few visitors though, and they seemed to cheer her up.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Each new day will bring us new obstacles, but we are up for the challenge.

Tired but hopeful-

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wonderful Weekend

Yesterday we had a little poker tournament at our house with some of Rick's old friends and he had a great time.  Mom, Megan and I made some snacks for the gamblers so they wouldn't go hungry.  Jake and Shannon made it to the final table but didn't win anything, Rick took third place, Tinker took 2nd, and Zip took 1st.  Congratulations guys...now what about a cut for the hostess?

Rick and I are both exhausted today so we're just laying low watching college basketball.  Oh wait, we've been watching college basketball non stop for about a week :)  Congrats to all you Husky Fans and anyone who's ever heard of N. Iowa.

Amy and Mel spent the weekend at Desert Aire having a great time with family and neighbors.  Angie and Shannon are getting ready for their trip to Bora Bora (oh, I'm so jealous).  Yesterday they went house shopping...Shannon needs to live closer to her new job in Seattle.  Jake and Megan are in Seattle today visiting Ken and Debbie (Meg's parents), Dave and Val moved back to their real house yesterday, so it's just Rick and I hanging out by ourselves.  It's so quiet :)

I guess I'd better go make some lunch.  Rick just keeps losing weight so I need to feed him as often as he'll eat something.

Dream Big,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Great News!

Angie's test results came back.  Everything was benign.  Cancer Free at 33!

All is fine in Schmittville

I know many of you worry when you don't hear from me in a while.  I'm sorry about that.  Sometimes I just don't have much to say or it feels like a repeat. 

Rick is working on his retirement plans and is looking forward to some quality time off.  I'm right there with him looking forward to some time at Desert Aire and having a little fun.

Tuesday is chemo day for me and a doctor's appointment for Rick.  He still hasn't been feeling well (we were hoping that he would get back to feeling "normal" once he was chemo free for a while) so we're hoping the doctor has some plans to get him back on his feet.  He's extremely fatigued and doesn't have much of an appetite.  I know those are normal habits for cancer patients, but being chemo free we thought those symptoms might go away.

I've been feeling really good.  I wake up each morning coughing terribly, but after I use my nebulizer...I'm back to breathing as good as I get.  Each afternoon I take a nap then wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the night.  I've been trying to get out a couple of times a week and have a little fun, grocery shopping, or just taking care of business that needs my attention.

The weather has been awesome so I'm going to venture out again today.  Please remember, if you don't see anything on the blog...call me.  The phone line is always open and if I'm sleeping, someone else will answer and have you call back later.  Thank you all for being such great supporters we are lucky to have you ;)

Dreaming Big,

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Being Proactive will Save your Life

It has been a well known fact that my siblings and I have bad genes.  Our Grandma had Lymphoma in her early 50's, followed by our Grandpa with colorectal cancer in his late 70's- early 80's.  Grandpa was followed two months later by mom's lung cancer in her 40's and then 8 months later by our dad's colon cancer at the age of 50.  It goes without saying that we need to be proactive with our body.  We need to find a balance between being a hypocondriac and being naive. 

In November of 2008, 4 months before her 32nd birthday, Angie had her first colonoscopy.  She said some of the doctors were asking her why she got checked so young.  She referred them to her family history on the piece of paper in front of them.  Angie had no polyps and nothing that concerned the doctors.  She encouraged me to get checked as well.  It took me a while, but this past September I made my appointment after I kept experiencing digestive issues.  My results were fine, showing only three little ulcer-like spots caused most likely by stress.  I passed my test.

Last week Angie called me out of the blue and asked if I could be her driver for her colonoscopy on March 12th.  I said yes, of course, but I wondered why she was going back in for a scan when she had just completed one 15 months before and there were no signs of problems.  She told me that she listens.  Not only to her own body, but also to the doctors when she takes my dad in for his check-ups.  They ask if he has experienced a change in bowel movements, change in frequency, or blood in his stool.  They ask the same three questions every time.  Angie informed me that she had asked herself the same three questions the past few weeks and contines to answer yes to two of the three. 

So, yesterday, I took Angie to the hospital assuming they would check her out and tell her that she is all clear and just experiencing a large amount of stress.  Unfortunately, it wasn't that easy.  After she came into the recovery room they came and got me.  She was clearly experiencing discomfort and she was very comical in her medicated state.  They had to give her more narcotics than normal because they were having a hard time getting around parts of her colon.  They found a polyp that they kept discribing as "alarmingly large" considering she had just been checked 15 months before.  They removed it and sent it to the lab.  He said it looked normal as far as he could tell, but lab results will come back next week.

He continued to express concern about how quickly it grew.  Most people start their colonoscopies at the age of 50 and come back every 10 years, but Angie began them at 31 and will now get them every 24 months or so.  He told us there was no doubt this would have been cancer had she waited to get checked.  Those are difficult words to hear.  As if this news wasn't discouraging enough, I took her home and then she started to bleed when she went to the bathroom.  I had to take her back to the hospital so the surgeon could decide if they needed to go back in and look at the spot they had biopsied.  After a few hour at the hospital the second time, Angie was released and told to rest and watch for anything unusual. 

Needless to say, Yesterday was a long day.  I spent the night at Angie's house and she looked fine the rest of the evening.  She wasn't in any pain and she hasn't experienced any more bleeding.  Physically, everyone is back to normal, but mentally, knowing how things could have been is a tough pill to swallow.  I'm really proud of Angie for being so proactive with her health and it is a reminder to me that I need to be just as proactive.  I know that I probably would have just assumed it was stress and blown it off since I had just been checked.  If you're one of those people with a less than favorable genetic makeup, you need to make sure you are getting your annual physical and bloodwork.  Don't assume you are invincible, regardless of your age or how recently you were checked.

Hoping for good results-

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lots of changes

Over the past couple of weeks we've have lots to think about.  Rick is no longer receiving chemo because it's not working,  my chemo is finally working (which hits me with survivors guilt) and now Rick is going to be retiring after 30 years at Wolfkill.  It's time for us to start enjoying what life we have left.  Hopefully, it will be another 20 years, but if not....we will have had a great time along the way.

It's odd how I thought he would put up a fight leaving the job that he felt so safe at.  But, instead, I think he's looking forward to some special time together, maybe spending a little more time at Desert Aire, visiting Dave and Val at their new home in Leavenworth.  Whatever makes him happy, I want to be right there as an active participant.

Shannon got an amazing job with Seattle Storm (the WNBA professional women's basketball team) so I'm sure we'll have to support her endeavors too.  Rick has never been to Angie's school and watched her teach (it's one of my favorite things to do) so I'm going to bring him to Marysville to witness what a fabulous teacher his daughter is...then I might take him to lunch. :) We've been able to watch Jake coach his boys and girls basketball teams and that's been fun too.  I'm not sure we can follow Amy to her undercover jobs as a special agent for the gambling commission so we might have to limit our time with her at home or out for dinner.  We've got great kids.  They'll make sure we're not bored.   Hopefully we'll be busy a lot of the time.  It will keep our minds from wandering to places it shouldn't go.

I knew I would have a sad little moment today when I got up because our house guests are gone.  Dave and Val have moved into their beautiful home (but they'll be back in 9 days...Dave's got so other job to do...yahoo for me)  It surprised all of us how well we got along these past 6 months sharing the TV, bathrooms, kitchen, and just general space.  I think we could have lived in a commune :)  Think of the money we would have saved.  Our remodeled bathroom is complete and absolutely gorgeous.  It was a gift from Dave and Val for the time they spent with us.  I'll never be able to thank them enough for this beautiful gesture.

This past round of chemo has given me a stomach ache that I can't seem to shake.  Just about the time I think it's gone, it hits me again.  I am feeling a little better about it today so perhaps I'm on the mend.  I've had a low grade fever the whole week too.  Nothing that tylenol won't cut, but I've got to stay on the safe side and keep checking it.

Ok, I think I've rambled enough.  Keep us in your thought and prayers as we go through all these new changes.  We'll be just fine, but it's always nice to know you've got someone at your side during the journey.

Dreaming Big,

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Great news...Shrinkage :)

In almost 4 years ( April 19th) I learned to accept the word stable as a great report. Today however, for the first time I  heard the word "shrinkage"!  Val and Kelly came to my appointment and we were all thrilled. Dr. Eaton took us to the computer and showed us pictures of my scans and how much change this poison does for me.

I also have to contribute "shrinkage" to the alkaline water Shelly makes me and personally delivers weekly.  You know me, I'll try anything once! The plus side to the good news was a burger and a shake at Dicks!

Now that we know this toxic cocktail is working, I'll continue Chemo every three weeks.  It's a beautiful day in my neighborhood and I'm so glad to be home...... :)

Now that I've had good news,  I'm going to wake up everyday hoping Rick will say he feels great. I know he wishes he could wake up and say those words too. Patients Doreen patients.

Dreaming BIGGER than ever -

Monday, March 1, 2010

Happy Birthday to my beautiful daughters

33 years ago on February 28, Rick and I were blessed with 2 beautiful (inside and out) daughters. Who would have known after all these years they would still like us?  They continue to bring us joy when we least expect it.  We didn't spend the day with them yesterday as Amy (and Mel) went to Canada for the closing ceremonies, and Angie (and Shannon) went to the zoo and Seattle for the day.  We're going to celebrate tonight instead.  Happy Birthday girls. :)

Our friends, Bob and Dy, surprised us on Saturday afternoon for a quick visit.  It was a pleasant surprise but very short.  We spent Saturday afternoon chatting up a storm, went and picked up some take out for dinner and we visited some more.  The came back to the house on Sunday morning and we laughed all morning until Dave and Val got home (they had Bob and Dy's dog Woody).  Friends really can lift your spirits even when you thought they didn't need any help.

Yesterday Rick showed a little improvement from how he's been feeling (let me stress the "little").  He still is not himself so we've got a long way to go.  The only thing he's been doing well at is getting sleep but apparently his body needs it.

He says his chest is feeling better and that gives me relief.  I could only imagine there was something in there I didn't want to hear about.  Let's pray this is his week for recovery.

Tomorrow is another big day at Seattle Cancer Care.  I'm due for chemo, but before they do it, they have to review my CT scan and brain MRI from Friday.  If the stuff in my brain in growing, we may stop chemo and do some radiation on the brain.  I'm confident that everything is STABLE and I'll just keep getting that rotten chemo that makes me feel lousy for a week.  That's my pick of the week.

I only got up this early to get some water.  I think I'll go snuggle back into bed.  I have an early day tomorrow.  No need in making it 2 days in a row :)

Dreaming Big,

PS.  You should see my new bathroom...it looks like a piece of art.  Thanks Dave, Val, Jake, Angie, and Shannon.... HGTV here we come :)