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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Chemo Phase 2 Check

Hello friends, it's been January since our last post. Hard to believe just how quickly this year is going now that we are at the mid point of March. 

Great news! Susan has finished her chemo regime and did it with flying colors. You'll remember it was done in 2 phases. The first was a concoction of "poisons" administered through her port every 3 weeks over a 12 week period. The second phase was another concoction of different drugs administered weekly for 12 weeks.  Due to a bad cold she had to postpone only one of her first phase treatments but she still completed the course in 25 weeks. 

Can you believe that!  Yes, it's been that long since she began the chemo.  But then it was last July when she had her first surgery. My it goes fast. 

Here is a photo of her last session a week ago yesterday.  Our thanks go to the Dr. Mario Sy and his staff for the top notch care they've given Susan.

Last Chemo Session 8 March 2013

Now that we are done with chemo it's on to the radiation phase. This week Susan met with the Dr. Rajput who will perform the radiation. She told us initially we should plan on daily doses 5 times a week for 6 weeks and confirmed that this week.  She explained the procedure of pinpointing the radiation so as to avoid the heart and lungs. It's pretty sophisticated. Susan will get her markings next week.  Her markings will be tattoos but they will not be hearts, anchors or flowers. She will begin treatment on 3/27. Hormone therapy will follow radiation for 5 years.

Susan has remained positive and quite strong throughout the last several months. She has done remarkably well with each chemo treatment. In talking with many others who we know we are so fortunate and blessed.  It could be much worse. 

A couple weeks ago Susan was to begin her session when all the nurses raced to the lady in the next room. She had gone into shock from her medication. It was scary. But not 30 minutes later a lady 2 doors down did the same thing. Very scary. Very, very scary. Susan fortunately never experienced anything like that.

We've seen a young man a couple of times - maybe in his early 40's - in for his treatments. He clearly was having a tough time with chemo in lots of ways. Sad.

Last week we met a lady in for her monthly treatment. When we asked how many more she said, "I'll be on this forever". I asked what cancer she had. She told us she has an incurable bone marrow cancer. WOW talk about a ton of bricks! 

Waiting for Susan's last treatment we encountered a "chemo friend" we'd met before and who had completed her chemo a couple of weeks earlier. She reported that in that short time she is feeling so much better and has so much more energy. That's even more for Susan to look forward to. 

We know we are blessed. Susan is reminded of that each week she comes home from her group session at Gilda's Club. Although those sessions are good they can sometimes be sort of a downer for her too.

It's Back!
I'm also excited to report Susan is getting her hair back!  I can't believe how fast it is growing. It's different from her "original" hair but looks wonderful. It must be 3/8" long already. It's a different color too. I like it. Yesterday she went to see her friend and hair stylist Fran. I told Susan that was very optimistic to think Fran would style it so soon. She looked at me with that expression of "you dork". I think she wanted to show it off actually and it turns out Fran trimmed her neck. 

Son Brad will be flying home with Susan's mother Ella tonight.  Ella has been wintering in AZ with Susan's sister Peg and family.  We know she's anxious to get home so will drive her to the Waterloo area on Monday. Hopefully our winter is done and she can get resettled quickly. Brad will unfortunately return home on Tuesday. 

Brad and Amanda also have great news. They are expecting their second and our forth grandchild next August. We are of course excited as they are. I'm sure that will be a travel destination next summer. Wait a minute, that's August in Yuma, AZ!

My dad is getting along okay since the loss of Mom at Christmas. He's trying to get a routine but that has to be hard to do. His health is okay at 92 although the skin cancer he had removed 2 years ago has come back as tumor in his neck. He has chosen to let nature take it's course. His birthday is next Friday and we hope to make it over for a dinner with him and a couple of my siblings. 

Things are well with us on all other fronts. We look forward to seeing our snow bird friends on their return to the heartland. We hope you all have a wonderful spring and a very bright summer. 

We'll keep you posted on progress along the way. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Happy 2013

Christmas 2013 @ Our House
Wow, it's hard to believe we can be in 2013 already.  I remember receiving benefit statements in the late '70's showing future pension estimates for 2012. I thought, who'd be around that long but here we are in 2013.  Funny too that Jan 13, 2013 was THE date they time traveled to in the 1985 movie "Back To The Future".  So yes, here we are 2013. 

We hope you had a wonderful holiday season whatever your holiday is or isn't.  It's always a nice time of the year that is special to us.  

Give me a BIGger smile

Susan finished her 2nd and 3rd rounds in this phase of chemo last Friday and since our last post.  We believe this phase is a bit easier 
on her (says the guy who has never been through it) when compared to the first phase.  So with 3 down she has 9 more to go - then on to radiation.  She thinks it's a long time before it's over but it will be here before we know it.  

I've mentioned her doctors before and how we feel blessed having them on our team.  Well, I spoke to another lady on Sunday who mentioned her mother-in-law had the same Oncologist (Dr. Sy) and Radiologist (Dr. Rajput) and she loved them.  Of course I had to say "I hope she was a Winner".  She did Win and felt fortunate as we to have had them as part of the team.  

Last week Susan had a substitute driver and "assistant chemo caregiver".  Our friend Denise Doss picked her up and got her to and from treatment.  I heard from both of them they had a really great time catching up.  

Susan was going to drive to Atlantic after treatment that day to join me, but with so many in the family getting sick we decided that would not be wise. 

My mother passed away on 12-24-12.  She was 90 and had suffered from the effects of colon cancer the past year and nine months.  She'd done pretty well until the last few weeks.  Her mind was always so sharp and remained so until very near the end.  While we knew the eventual 
outcome, we were still  shocked and saddened with her passing.  Fortunately Dad and some of my siblings were with Mom.  She is better now and we are relieved she is at peace. 

The day she passed is also Susan's birthday. Since few restaurants are open Christmas Eve we always have dinner in.  The steaks were ready to come off the grill when my brother Ron called with the news.  Needless to say it changed the evening.  They unfortunately had a long evening making the many calls to friends and family. 

I traveled to Atlantic the day after Christmas.  Dad was still in his PJ's, flat out in bed sick at 1:00 PM.  We all thought it was probably anxiety and a lot of sadness.  Turns out sister Nancy got quite sick that night followed by several others over the next couple of days.  Being a Winner herself for 25 years, Nancy knew it would be unwise for Susan to join us for the services.  Good call sis!  The consensus opinion was a norovirus had landed square in our midst.  Unfortunately it 
took down several in the family.  Younger brother Rob was so sick on Saturday he could not attend Mom's funeral.  So he was both physically ill and doubly heart sick.  

Mom's funeral service was such a positive and uplifting service.  I told a friend that it was the nicest funeral I'd ever attended and I'm glad it was for our Mom.  Nancy, my oldest sister, gave a wonderful tribute for mom based on inputs from many of us blended in her own way with words.  Fortunately Mom had the chance to read it and gave her approval by calling it "neat", a word she often used to describe what she really liked.  And it was a "neat" tribute to a wonderful lady and attended by so many.

So, Susan was not able to be with us due to all the sickos in Atlantic.  She'd dropped Riley and Rocco off at the kennel in Bettendorf however before Friday chemo in anticipation of attending.  You can imagine they were two mighty happy Yorkies when she picked them 5 hours later. Or should I say 3 days early.

Lynn Betz, Vanguard
Rick's Auto Clinic
Niece Heather & Chris
Susan is now on an every Friday morning chemo schedule which works out well.  This past week she slept a bit more than the last two in this phase.  So it's probable the cumulative effect is continuing and having an effect.  

We learned this week there will be a break between the end of chemo and radiation.  They want to ensure her white cell counts are back up before the radiation. That does extend her a couple weeks or more into the spring but that works too.  I know how anxious she is to get through it all. 

Susan had a mammogram, a surgeon follow up and a blood draw today. She will have an oncologist visit and chemo on Friday.  So you can see she stays "busy".  She got an "all clear, no disease and healing very nicely" report this morning from radiology and her surgeon.  Exactly what we expected to hear!

None of our kids were able to be here for Christmas although Christine and Laura came back for Mom's services. They were in on Friday night and headed home early on Sunday.  They even got to drive in a snow storm from Des Moines to Atlantic (white knuckles).  Brad was to be back in San Diego for his promotion ceremony (to WO-4) so was unable to come back.  They hoped to be here in January but we decided it will be better when Susan is finished with treatments.  

When that time comes we'll also be up for a road trip.  So everyone think spring and it will be here soon. Although it's 45 F and sunny outside right now.  Nice March weather in early January.

Thank you to all who have sent notes, cards, emails, food, memorials and flowers.  Susan appreciates her support base so much and knows she is blessed. We are blessed.

Happy New Year and many blessings to all.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chemo 4, Susan (still a) 10

4 done 12 to go.
Progress! The last of the "double bag" phase is now behind us.  Susan completed the first phase of chemo last week.  The first phase was the combination of two drugs administered every three weeks.  The doctor told us the chemo would have a cumulative effect.  Well he was correct. It seems it's going according to plan on that front.  The next phase will be just one drug administered weekly for twelve weeks. That will start the Friday before Christmas.

Before treatment on Friday, Susan had 12 very good days in a row.  Prior to that it was several days of pretty low energy compounded with recuperation from a severe cold.  
I can always tell when the *sparkle * comes back in her eyes and I can get her to laugh.  The *sparkle* and laughter are wonderful and welcomed!

The chemo & blood cell booster combination, translates to lots of sleep for several days following treatment.  She gets worn out pretty easily, so on advice from the doctor she rests.  We'll see what the next phase brings with her weekly treatments. We're hopeful 
it will be less of an impact on the daily schedule being one drug rather than two.  On the plus side she won't have the white cell booster during the next phase.  On the flip side however she will get a bag of Benadryl infused each week along with the chemo. I'll bet that'll be good for a nap or two.

Overall Susan is doing pretty darn well with the chemo but does not "recommend" it - unless you have to of course.  We know of others who unfortunately aren't, or haven't been so lucky.  So we both continue to count our blessings - which are plentiful.

It's now four treatments down and she still looks like a million bucks!  

She's assumed "ownership" of a couple of my winter stocking caps but she wears them well. They keep her head and neck warm at night. She's pretty cute with her dew rags in the day and stocking caps at night.

Susan was disappointed that she's had to give up her volunteer work at Genesis Hospital Gift Shop while in treatment.  She enjoyed her companionship with Connie Clay and other friends when there.  But that will be there for her to return to in the spring.  

We spent a very quiet Thanksgiving together at home.  Mr. Hy Vee prepared a wonderful traditional Thanksgiving dinner for four.  Fortunately Susan has a great appetite. The prep and clean up were a breeze - and we had warm ups too.

The weekend after Thanksgiving we met Susan's mom, aunt Alvina, cousin Joe, sister Peg and husband Jerry in Cedar Rapids for lunch.  It was good seeing them before they returned to Colorado.  

A few weeks ago we reported Brad and Jaxson got their haircut like Grandma.  Brad sent us a few pictures of the process.

Hold Still Dad
Don't move Dad

We're almost done Daddy

It looks like Jaxson really enjoyed it while shearing Dad but, well.............

Final touch

Not funny Daddy
No, Daddy stooooop!!

...didn't like it quite as much when it came his turn under the clippers.  But both looked great when they finished

Our friends at Bettendorf Amicare Pharmacy had a wonderful surprise for Susan last week.  Thank you Amanda, Laura, Lory and Michelle!!  You're always a bright spot and a real lift when we stop in.

Nice selection Larry!
Never Give Up
Fight Like a Girl!!

From the Amicare Staff

And from our long time friends Debbie & Larry Marshall

Our next trip to oncology will be the start of weekly treatments.  These will start just before Christmas and will go for 12 consecutive weeks.  We'll keep you posted on the progress. There will be progress!

On other fronts, Susan's mother is now in Loveland, CO and will winter in AZ with Peg and Jerry.  We look forward to seeing them next spring.

Some of you have also asked about the Pigg folks.  Mom is continuing Hospice at Heritage House in Atlantic.  Hard to believe it's approaching two years since her surgery for colon cancer.  She chose to discontinue chemo several months ago. She doesn't get around so well now at 90 but her mind is good.  In fact we received a hand written letter from her just yesterday!  She's an incredible lady! 

Dad Pigg recently learned of a cancer that resettled in his neck glands.  It likely stems from a skin cancer he had removed over a year ago.   It's treatable with surgery and radiation however at nearly 92 he has chosen to forego treatments.  He's decided to, as he says, let nature takes it's course. Treatment has undesirable side effects so he's had a difficult last few weeks. While some of us hoped he'd pursue treatments we respect his decision. It's one of those no-win decisions.  He's now considering moving to an apartment, possibly at the Heritage House complex, where he can be closer to Mom through the winter.  

Personally speaking, I've concluded cancer really does suck. 
Yip, sure does!

Susan and I thank you for your continued support via your prayers, cards, visits, emails and smiles. We'll continue to keep you apprised of progress and hope to continue hearing from you.

We wish you each a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and best wishes through the Holidays.  Be safe in your travels, keep the faith and count your blessings.  We sure do. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Late October Update

28 October 2012

I think the cumulative effects of chemo and the white cell booster got the better part of Susan this last week.  She's tended to sleep more than usual and a on few days had mild nausea. However she's NOT been sick to her stomach when staying on her medications.  Man, they have drugs for everything anymore. Fortunately the nausea stuff works!

Another welcomed
wish from Elly and Audrey
Last Sunday we had a webcam call with Brad, Amanda and Jaxson.  You'll remember our post from a week ago that Brad and Jaxson got their hair cut like Grandma - a buzz cut.  Well, I complimented Jaxson about his haircut. He said his dad gave it to him and he laughed.  

So I asked him if he wanted to see Grandma's new haircut.  He was puzzled but agreed.  So Susan (surprisingly but on queue) leaned off camera, flipped her wig off and came back on camera.  

Talk about a surprised 4 year old!  Jaxson's mouth dropped open and he went absolutely silent, staring at his grandma without hair.  It totally shocked him into a complete silence.  Actually I think he got a little embarrassed.  But then the truth is I think Brad and Amanda were also a bit shocked by what had just happened.  

Susan takes in good stride and says "you have to have some humor in it".  That's telling isn't it !   Anyway it was a funny happening and glad we did it.   

The Beauty and The Beasts
I mentioned Susan is getting her sleep in this week.  Riley and Rocco still love it as it gives them time to sleep in with "mama dog". 

On Thursday, Susan's sister Peg and husband Jerry flew in from Colorado for a week stay.  It's been good and helped get Susan moving again.  They spent a few hours on Friday doing some shopping for yarn and other things.  Susan got a late nap in and was ready for dinner at the Symposium Cafe.

Peg came prepared to help Susan with new head gear.  She knitted a nice red stocking cap that will serve Susan well the next few months.  Here is the final fitting......

And here is the final product.......

They've had a good time together this week - hanging our being sisters.

Tomorrow their mother will come for a day visit travelling with Susan's cousin Ron and wife Elaine.  Very nice of them to drive down for the day.

Elly's 6th birthday was also this past week.  We were unable to help her celebrate it in Columbia, SC but she had a fun birthday on Friday.  Later in the day we received some photos of the occasion and the new Halloween decorations at their house.  

Elly decided, all on her own, to get an extra pumpkin for their house display.  We thought that was extra special and Susan appreciated it so much.  Thank you Elly and Audrey you are wonderful granddaughters.

Denton House Columbia SC
October 2012

Elly & Audrey October 2012
Pink Cowgirl Audrey 10/12
Nice Hat Audrey 10/12
Elly's 6th Birthday 10/12 

Best to you all and until next time - Cheers.  Happy Halloween and don't forget to vote.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Number 2: Complete!

New Look:

Another busy week for Susan with her new hairs, a blood draw, chemo and a white blood cell count booster.

After an early blood draw on Monday, friend and neighbor Annie took Susan back to Betty's Wig Boutique to be fitted for some new hair.  They had a great time at the fitting and at lunch afterward.  

Annie Stern and Susan

From Annie and Dave

Not knowing they were back as I was about to leave for errands I was shocked when I opened the garage door.  Here were these two "knock out" ladies standing in my driveway smiling at me. They scared the bajeebers out of me for that spit second. They said they wanted to see the look on my face.  Well they got one!

Susan picked up a couple of very nice hair pieces along with some classy skull caps.  She says she now knows why guys wear caps because her head gets cold.  But she fixed that with her night caps.  No, not the alcoholic kind, 'cause she can't imbibe during treatment. They are nice ones and she looks great in them - and without them. 

Treatment #2:

Susan at the start of #2
On Tuesday Susan met with Dr. Sy (oncologist) prior to her second chemo treatment.  He is very attentive from the moment he comes into the exam room and is very aware of her every expression and movement.  That's a good thing and we're glad to have him leading the team!  

He sees her white count is a bit low and recommended a white cell count booster which she got today.  

Wednesday was chemo treatment number 2.  It took about 2-1/2 hours but went well.  Susan smiles going in and is smiling coming out of it.  Two down and fourteen to go.

I'm always struck at how the oncology nurses don their "hazmat gear" when they change the drug bags.  This week I asked them about it.  Kara says it's for accidental spillage.  Hmmm,  I guess it's every man for himself. 

Susan at the end of #2
Susan is doing very well with the treatments and they are doing a great job of managing/preventing nausea.  To this point she has not been sick to her stomach - thank you very much. 

Her spirit is high and her wit and humor as sharp as ever. She continues to volunteer at one of the hospitals with her good friend Connie Clay every other Tuesday.  It's good therapy for Susan and Connie is great company.    

Our oldest granddaughter Elly and her sister Audrey sent Grandma Susan a wonderful pick-me-up note along with some of Elly's art work.  We're blessed!

Copyright Ellyson Grace Denton
Oct 2012

Thank you so much for your continued support of Susan via your notes, cards and prayers. She's a lucky lady - and I'm a lucky man.  

Next up is chemo #3 on 7 November.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Hair Event

This morning Susan visited her friend and hair dresser for a ceremonial shave.  Fran, owner of N2U in Moline, suggested Susan make the first passes.  She has found from other clients that it can be therapeutic.  Fran actually came in on one of her rare days off to do this for Susan.  You're great Fran!

After a good hair wash....

Susan took the shears, then sloooowly made the move and ....

...began the cut with a slow but clean pass front to back across the top of her head.

After a couple of rows she ended up with a "Larry" cut. She smiled the whole time.

             Fran then grabbed the shears and finished it off.  Susan was as beautiful as ever !! 

Okay, this is NOT Susan
but you get the idea.
(Hint, see photo of Brad below)
The Real Deal
(Okay at 6 months)

When we got home Susan surprised Riley and Rocco with her new look.  They just had to give her a "we love you momma-dog" welcome home lick. Susan really does have a good head. Seriously!

Dammit Doll

Susan's favorite nephew, Chad and his wife Rebecca, sent her a nifty little gift this week in preparation for the hair loss event.  She's not used it yet ... but there may come a time.  In the meantime it has given her a big smile and welcomed lift. 

Last night we received photos of son Brad and grandson Jaxson in Yuma AZ. They decided to honor Mom and Grandma with their own high and tight hair cuts.  Nice job guys!! 

Next up it's back to Betty's Wig Boutique in the East Village on Monday with friend and neighbor Annie S for a fitting of the final selections.  Wednesday 17 October (Wear Your Pink Day) is Susan's next chemo treatment.  

Thanks again so very much for all the notes, calls, cards, thoughts and prayers.  Susan is in great spirit and knows she is blessed with so many wonderful friends, neighbors and family.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Wig Shop

Annie and Susan made it to Betty's Wig store last week and tried on several wigs.  Following are samples that may be in our future. We'll see. 

The Bouffant
The Blondie un dew

Blondie deux dew

The Sharon Osborne

The Red

So Sharon

The Natural Look
Susan is convinced, based on discussions with nurses, that she will shave her head rather than let it fall "naturally".  

So next up is a trip to Fran's hair shop (N2U in Moline) for the shave on 12 October.  Nurses tell us that in their experience, day 17 following the first chemo treatment is when the hair begins to drop so Susan wants to be "on top" of it.  


After the shave job it's back to Betty's for a fitting of the chosen one or ones.  

Today we have a followup with Dr. Sy.  Cheers until the next post!