Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hospital Update

Yes, you read it right. I am in the hospital. The fluid retention got worse.  I started having dizzy spells when I tried to walk. We got a used wheelchair from a family member.  Between my chemotherapy nurses and my cardiology nurses, the decided I was over-medicated, and decreased the diuretic. But before things got better, they got worse. The dizzy spells became blackouts and I fell and broke my ankle. So we came to the hospital to get me straightened out! Five doctors are seeing me and working together! I have a cardiologist, a pulmonologist, an oncologist, an orthopedist, and my primary care physician. The fluid is starting to come off slowly. They were afraid to withdraw it too fast lest my kidneys become overloaded.
               The orthopedist put a brace on my leg. I can only take it off for bathing and I cannot put any weight on it. Last night I got another diagnosis and another doctor. I have cellulitis in the leg that was broken. So they called in an infectious disease doctor. He put me on IV antibiotics and said it won’t interfere with my chemo therapy.
                This is Dorothy typing for her mom, Bobby. She forgot to add all the fun stuff from her hospital stay so far. One Saturday night we had a slumber party in the hospital. We watched Netflix and ate pudding. We stayed up talking about girl stuff, like which one has the best husband, makeup, accessories, etc. She looks a lot better than when she first came to the hospital. My mom is definitely giving the nurses a run for the insurance money. Every hour, almost, she hits the call button. Someone always comes, though possibly thirty minutes later. My husband Q and I went to Wendy’s one night. They messed up our order so we got a large frosty as compensation. Mom enjoyed eating that. I also made her a video of all her “grand animals” and included all 6 of them (the dog Chiquita, the cat Moon, the possum Guinevere, the chinchilla Mr. Fluffums, the turtle Toidle, and the guinea pig CoyCoy). Just because she cannot see them, doesn’t mean they don’t miss their Gamma.
                Prayer Request: Please pray that the fluid buildup drains, and the cellulitis and the broken bone heals.. I don’t have access to my pictures in the hospital but will post them when I get home. My garden has been growing and is full of blooms.

Thank you so much from me and my family for all of your prayers. You all are truly a blessing in this world. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Good News, Bad News: Another Medical Update

     I went to my oncologist on September 5, 2013 and got the results of the PET Scan. I’ll list the bad news first, so we can finish on a positive note with the good news.
     Bad news: The scan showed an infiltrate, an infection, in my right lung. That’s what the pulmonologist called “haziness” on the x-ray. Good news: It is something treatable! Yea, God! The doctor gave me antibiotics and the medicine is breaking up the phlegm so I can cough it up.
     Bad News: There is increased metabolic activity in the tumor in the left lung and in the left pleural cavity around the lung. Good news: There is no metastatic activity anywhere else in the body – not in the right lung, abdominal organs, skeleton, or brain! Yea, God! God already bound the cancer cells in the pleura by turning the fluid to gel so it cannot flow around my lung and seed new tumors. He will bind the other malignant cells, too, because with God all things are possible!
     Bad news: All of a sudden I started to retain fluid; I gained twenty pounds in three weeks. This is one of the adverse effects of the chemotherapy drug Alimta. This also causes shortness of breath, as the fluid in the abdomen presses against the heart and lungs. Good news: The doctor doubled the dosage of my diuretic.
     Bad news: I still have shortness of breath and my lung volume has gone down from 1250 to 1000cc on my incentive spirameter. Good news: My arterial oxygen blood levels are within normal, well above 90%.
     Bad news: My endurance is down; I could only walk for 15 minutes on the treadmill at two miles an hour. I used to walk 1.5 miles in thirty minutes at a speed of three miles per hour. Good news: I walked half a mile in that 15 minutes! And I kept my oxygen level above 90% by using my special pursed-lip breathing exercises!
     Bad news: My CEA tumor markers and Alkaline Phosphatase (AP) levels have been going up consistently since May. Good news: They actually went down this time! The CEA went from 55 to 45.5 and the AP went from 171 to 160! Yea, God! There is power in prayer!
     Bad news: Because the CEA and AP have been rising, the doctor thinks my body has built up resistance to the Alimta. Good news: He is going to change the chemo drug. He has ordered tests on my original biopsy tissue from 2009 to determine which drug will work. Thank you, God for working through the doctors. I think it is amazing that they can retest original tissue that’s four years old! And they have so many new drugs now! Cancer treatment has advanced so far in twenty years!
     Bad News: I became eligible for Medicare on September 1, 2013. I had checked with all my doctors to make sure they accepted Medicare, but I did not realize that Medicare would be my primary insurance! I could not receive my chemotherapy because they now have to obtain approval from Medicare to administer it! Grrr! Did I make a mistake in accepting Medicare? I envisioned it taking several weeks to get what we need! Good news: Within three working days, the clinic had Medicare’s approval!!!! Yea, God!
     Bad news: I found out it is common for a chemotherapy drug to stop being effective in killing cancer cells. The doctor told me, “You have outlasted the advertised life of this drug. Usually it stops working after 18 months.” Good news: It worked for me for 28 months! Almost a full year extra! Yea, God! And that, my friends and prayer partners, I owe to YOU! Thank you so much for being so supportive of me and proving once again that prayer works!
     I have many specific prayer requests now. Please pray that the pneumonia and fluid retention will clear up and my breathing will improve. Also pray that the doctors will find the right chemotherapy drug for me, and Medicare will approve it quickly.

     With all of my good news, it’s time to celebrate by showing pictures of butterflies in my garden. Butterflies symbolize change, and there are certainly changes in my life right now. To me they also stand for freedom because they can fly anywhere they want to go. The monarch butterflies are more cooperative than the yellow butterflies when it comes to posing for pictures.
In the center of these flowers is a Monarch butterfly

Close-up of Monarch butterfly

Another close-up

Just left of center is a yellow butterfly
 among the purple Mexican petunias

Medical Updates on the Cherry Pits

       My blood work, the CEA markers and the alkaline phosphatase, seem to have stabilized. They did not go down, but did not go up either. I had the PET Scan on Tuesday, August 27. I am still having shortness of breath but my arterial blood levels are good. I have started to wear my pulse oxygenator to monitor it and it is well above 90%.  My primary care doctor cut my blood pressure medicine down by half because I was getting dizzy and faint when standing. That condition is known as orthostatic hypotension.  I have been monitoring my blood pressure at least one a day, too, and it is staying low. I saw my pulmonologist on August 19. He showed me my x-rays and said there is a change in the right lung. The lower lobe is hazier than it was.
       Okay, God! You know what to do with abnormal medical findings! Let’s bind that haziness on earth and in heaven and loose good lung tissue on earth and in heaven, in the name of Jesus, by whose stripes we are healed! I understand that no weapon formed against me shall prosper!
       As for Al, he finally got his permanent crown on Aug. 21. Yea, God! We went out for a steak dinner to celebrate! It has been almost two months since he could chew on both sides of his mouth.
Last but not least, COMCAST STRUCK AGAIN!We received the bill. After Al and Dorothy spent three hours on the phone getting the modem to work, they had the nerve to charge us $100 for two service calls! Not only that, but they called Al on his cell phone to see if he was satisfied with the service. Al told them everything that went wrong and appealed the service charges.But then he got even with Comcast when he said, “By the way, you called me on my cell phone, which is ATT! Does it work? Yes! Maybe I should switch all my services to ATT!” Ah, yes, U-Verse is sounding better and better.
       After the Comcast fiasco, I decided to relax by watching television. Since I am learning to cook again, I turned it to the food channel. Maybe I’ll learn to cook a spicy Italian pasta dish, or a French sauce with wine. Oh, no! The lady is announcing her entre as she takes it out of the refrigerator! She’s cooking heavily fat-laden PORK BELLIES! Yuck!! I need my anti-nausea medicine!

       Pictures feature two blooms, to represent Al and me dealing with the fiascos in our life. Of course, we deal with them by giving them to God!
Knockout rose and butterfly milkweed at dusk

White penta and blue plumbago

Mexican petunia and Rose-of-Sharon

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

More Cherry Pits

               I thought our soap opera was over, but it seems to be a way of life for us now. Wednesday August 7 Al received his temporary crown. We planned to go to our favorite Italian restaurant for supper and then go to the healing service at church. Just as we were finishing our spaghetti, a car horn starts honking. Al went outside to see if it was ours, and it was! He cut it off, came back in, but no sooner had he sat down when it started honking again! Again he went outside to cut it off, and again for the third time it began to honk as soon as he returned to his seat. By this time at least two people in the restaurant had told us, “That happened to me and I had to replace the horn!”
               So we paid the bill, went outside, checked under the hood and could not find the fuse box. Al wanted to remove the horn’s fuse so we could drive home without constant honking! Since we could not find it, we went straight home and Al called the Hyundai dealership’s service department in Orange Park, where we had purchased the car. Now the town of Orange Park is a forty-five minute drive south of our house. The lady who answered the phone said, “All you can do is disconnect the battery and have it towed to our shop.” “WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!?” screamed Al into the phone. “This is my only means of transportation and I have to take my wife to Fernandina for a chemotherapy treatment tomorrow! I can’t be without a car!”
Al asked her how to remove the fuse to the horn but she would not tell him where it was. She insisted that he had to disconnect the battery and have it towed. To which Al replied, “Well, if that’s all you have to offer me, this is the last time you will talk to me because I’m going to trade this Hyundai in for a Honda tomorrow!” The lady then told him that there was a latch under the hood that connected with the horn. If the hood is not shut properly, that could set off the alarm. Al relied,“That’s probably the problem because I just had the oil changed at Jiffy Lube”. After hanging up, he got the car manual and together with trial and error, we found the correct fuse. Then he found the latch under the hood and made sure that it was straight. Needless to say, we never made it to church.
        The next day we headed to Fernandina. It is a one hour drive north from our house and Al had disconnected our horn. We had to take Interstate 95, and then get on the local roads with semi-trucks that haul logs to the paper factory in Fernandina. Often debris from the logs gets blown off the trucks and that can be dangerous. I prayed that we did not run into any trouble because our horn was not working. To get on the I-295 beltway, we have to cross a three mile bridge at the beginning of our journey, and that’s where our troubles began! We had just passed the last exit when the traffic came to a halt. We saw ambulances and police cars going the opposite way in the other lanes. There was an accident on the bridge, and we could do nothing but sit there and creep forward at two miles an hour with the rest of the drivers. People were changing lanes so they could see what was happening and get in the fastest moving lane. And we had no horn to honk in case they accidentally turned into us!
        Well, forty minutes later, we finally past the accident. It was all the way at the other end of the bridge! But we still had a forty minute ride to the doctor’s office! So I called them to say I would be fifteen minutes late and they could take someone else who came early. Of course, when I called, I only got voice mail, no real people! And I have no idea when they check their voice mail! At the end of the day, probably! So I left the same message on three different voice mails, the appointment desk, the chemotherapy room, and the doctor’s medical assistant.
        By the way, I take a diuretic, also known as a water pill, for the swelling in my legs. It makes one pee to get rid of retained water. On the top of the bridge, in the middle of the traffic jam, the water pill kicked in! Of course there was no way I could get to a bathroom. By the time we got off the bridge, I thought I could hold it until we got to the doctor’s office. Well, I did, but just barely! This time it was me and not Dorothy barreling through the door yelling, “I’VE GOT TO PEE REALLY BADLY! WHERE’S THE NEAREST BATHROOM?”They had checked their voice mails (all three departments) and they got out of my way as they directed me to the nearest toilet!
But the news is not all bad! The good news is:
1.                       I was able to get my treatments and see the doctor even though I was late. In fact the doctor told me, “Don’t worry if you are late getting here. We can always squeeze you in.” How nice of him to say that! I wonder if his nurses agree.
2.                       We did not have an accident, in spite of the fact that our horn was disconnected and we were in a traffic jam!
3.                       Al fixed the problem with the horn. It was the latch under the hood!

God is good! All the time!!

God showers me daily with loving kindness and tender mercies, renewing my faith abundantly ever day. The blossoms on my Mexican petunias represent my faith because they, too, are renewed daily.
View of the petunias from my back porch. There are over 200 blooms on them.

Close-up of some of the 200 blooms

Close-up of 2 blooms in the early morning sunlight

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Ongoing Saga of the Cherry Pits

Al finally returned to his dentist for the temporary crown on Wednesday, August 7. We thought it would only take about a half an hour, but, alas, he was in the dentist chair for two hours! Picking, drilling, trimming gums and packing them… Poor Al! His mouth was so sore! We got home just in time for him to have some soup for lunch. After eating it, he said, “I want to disconnect the modem, take it to Comcast and exchange it.”  I wasn’t sure if his mouth felt better or if he was still numbed from the Novocain. This is a big chore to do three hours after dental surgery! But he did it anyway (why am I not surprised?), and we got the new faster modem. Al reconnected it, started up the computer, and nothing happened! But we had anticipated problems! The clerk at Comcast had given us a phone number to call for problems activating a modem. Al called it, conversed with the robotic voice, punched in the right numbers, then asked for a representative. He was informed by the robotic voice that there was a seven minute wait time. So he put the cell phone on speaker so I can listen to their elevator music, too. 
      All of a sudden the back door was flung open and our daughter Dorothy came barreling through it, yelling, “I’VE GOT TO PEE REALLY BADLY!!! CLEAR A PATH TO THE BATHROOM!” I jumped out of her way; she used the bathroom and just when she was coming out, a real live person came on the line to Al’s cell phone. I quickly explained to Dorothy what was going on. Then Al comes out of his office, saying in a loud voice, “Hello? Can you hear me? Hello? Can you hear me?” Al could hear the technician but the technician could not hear him. So the technician hung up on him!!!
      Al was furious!! I thought he was going to spit the packing out of his mouth and start his gums bleeding again! He called the number back, talked to the robotic voice again, and finally got in touch with a real person who could hear him! This tech talked him through the activation process and got us online, but the modem wasn’t downloading as fast as it should. Then, suddenly without warning, the cell phone dropped the call!! By the way, he was using the cell phone because the land line would not work until the modem was activated. Since the modem was working well enough to allow Al to go online, he contacted a Comcast tech in an online chat room. Her name was Gisell. She kept instructing him to try different things and report back to her. By this time the Novocain had definitely worn off and Al, Al was in pain, and his dyslexia was interfering with his ability to type. He was confusing 9 and 6, and b and p. This often happens when dyslexics become fatigued. Dorothy, who is also dyslexic, saw what was happening and said, “Dad, let me do the typing for you.”  So they switched seats while Gisell did the trouble shooting for the modem.
      Two and a half hours later, the modem was faster but still not downloading as rapidly as it should. The tech noticed something in the instruction manual and typed that the problem was Al’s router. Al got angry again and started to complain that there was nothing wrong with his router and that it had worked just fine on Friday when the Comcast repairman was at our house!!!! Again, I thought he was going to spit out the packing around his tooth. Evidently this router was so new that the technicians hadn’t had time to learn about it. Gisell informed Al that this brand new modem had a built-in router!!!! So Al disconnected it and the download speed soared!!!! Its built-in router was ten times faster than the old one!!!  Too bad she hadn’t discovered that two hours ago!!
      We all gave thanks to God that Dorothy was in the right place at the right time. She had not planned to visit us; she just happened to be in our neighborhood that afternoon!!! But she was a Godsend because she is so computer literate, unlike me. She knew how to handle the situation with the computer – and with her dad! She and her husband remind me of a verse I read in the Bible today while I was reading in my garden. Psalm 144:12 – “May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars, cut for the building of a palace.”

Pictures show colorful penta and blue salvia in my containers.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Medical Update

          My CEA marker numbers have been slowing rising and my oncologist is concerned. He thinks my body has built up a resistance to the Alimta, my chemotherapy drug. He is ordering some tests on my original biopsy tissue to see what other drugs are effective. I will find out the results when I see him on August 14, 2013. My CEA marker is 55.9 (up from 35.5) and my Alkaline Phosphatase is 161 (down from 169).
          On a positive note, my lung capacity is still 1250 cc on my incentive spirometer, I can still walk the treadmill, and my asthma is better. I’m using my inhaler once a day or not at all. Al had his follow up dentist appointment with the periodontist Monday and his mouth has healed. He will go to his dentist Wednesday to make the temporary crown. Last week the periodontist gave him antibiotics for his mouth and they also helped his knee! So Al is on the mend!
         The weather has been miserably hot and humid. To work in my garden, I have to get up early at 6:00, when the temperature is cooler, in the seventies. With all the rain we have been having, it has not been necessary to water, but I can’t keep up with the weeds! The rain nourishes them too! Seven of the eight marigolds that I transplanted are growing well in their new sites, and so are the two white penta plants. In fact all the transplanted marigolds and pentas are blooming! Now I have more color in my flower bed out back! And I can see all the flowers from my living room window!
          My Mexican petunias are full of blooms, too. Today I counted over one hundred blossoms! As you may recall, those flowers represent my faith in God, which is confirmed and renewed daily by the many blessings and tender mercies that he bestows on me and my family. That is why Al and I can find humor when things go wrong and I write a “Cherry Pits” blog. We know that all things work for good for those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28) and no matter how bad things get, God will work it out for us!

Transplanted penta blooming

Transplanted marigold blooming

Mexican petunias in the early morning sun

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Another Exciting Episode of …

…The Cherry Pits! Yes, my loyal followers, it’s been like a soap opera during the past month for the Cherry Clan! Let’s see, where shall I begin? It seems like we’ve spent half of our summer in doctors’ offices.  Dorothy met her health insurance deductible for the year in February when she was in the hospital. She is not working this summer, so she took the time to go to a physical therapist and other doctors to have her body checked out from head to toe. After all, it doesn’t cost her anything for the rest of the year! I often went with her. Since I am a retired physical therapist, I attended all of her therapy treatments, twice a week for four weeks. It was interesting. The treatments for back pain have changed since I last practiced thirty years ago. I learned some new techniques for myself also.
               Al had his teeth cleaned but the dentist office called him back in because they saw something suspicious on the x-ray. One of his eye teeth, one that anchors a six-tooth bridge, was decayed. He spent three hours in the dentist chair having the decay cleaned out, rebuilding the tooth, putting in a post, and then when the dentist made the impression for the crown, the post came out! So he had to wait two weeks for it to heal and then go back. On the Friday before the Monday that he was to return for further dental work, he fell. He got an ugly wound on his knee and sprained his back. We dressed the wound, but he could not take anti-inflammatory medication for his back because it increases bleeding time. The dentist had instructed him not to take such medication for a week before his dental procedure! So he was limping around the house, propping his leg up, using hot/cold packs on his back, taking Tylenol, and feeling utterly miserable! I had to be his caregiver!
               On Monday, July 29, we went back to Al’s dentist. He had arranged appointments with a periodontist and an endodontist. So in six hours we saw all three dentists – and went back and forth to three different dentists’ offices four times! (Al had to see the periodontist twice on that day!)
               No sooner had we arrived home when we heard a loud clap of thunder! It sounded like it was right over our house! It took out our land phone line, our internet, and our television. All three are bundled with the same company, Comcast Xfinity. So Al called them; they said they could not send a repairman until Saturday! Yikes! Six days with no phone, internet or cable TV! They said they would notify us if there was a cancellation. In the meantime, poor Al, the political science major, city civic volunteer and local community activist, had no 24-hour news programs to watch! He could not even go on the internet to catch up on the news! But the biggest problem was the lack of a land phone line because that is the one we rely on for our doctors to call us. Al called Comcast every day to check on the status of our repair request. Each time he told them that I was being treated for lung cancer and he was in the middle of dental surgery. Of course, we had our cell phones, but they are not as reliable as the land line. One never knows when the battery will run out.
               To make a long story short, Comcast did move us up to 3:00 on Friday. And somehow we got through the week without Cable TV or internet. Just before the repairman was scheduled to show up, I told Al, “This time, I am going to act sick. You did tell them we needed the land line to keep in touch with my doctors.” So I got an ice pack for my head, leaned back in my recliner, put five prescription bottles on the table beside me, covered myself with a blanket, and closed my eyes. The man arrived, spent an hour fixing our televisions, and then announced that he did not have the equipment to repair the internet or phone, which is hooked into the internet. However, he informed us, Al could take the non-working modem to the Comcast office the next day and they would swap it out for one that works. I was incensed! The repairman wanted Al do his job!! So quiet, timid little me spoke up loudly and said, “What do mean you don’t have the right modem for us??? My husband has been calling Comcast every day this week and screaming and hollering to them that we need our land phone line to keep in touch with my oncologist office!!! I also get emails from my oncologist’s office!!! And you came out here without another modem for us when they knew our situation???? Just wait till I get the customer satisfaction survey on this call!!!!”
               The man became very quiet, and then said, in a small voice, “I may have something in my truck to help you.” After another hour of working on the computers, we had internet access and land line phone service! And, by the way, we had five new messages on our land line answer machine. One of them was from Comcast, confirming the Saturday service call!!!!So Comcast is calling on a phone that we reported to them as dead, to confirm a service call to repair it!!!!! That makes no sense, but it does reveal something about their business practices. Their left hand doesn’t know what their right hand is doing!!!
That evening Al went to visit friends at a local cafĂ©. However, after acting sick all afternoon, I really did feel too tired to socialize, so I went to bed! Hmmm, it’s true, after all! If you act sick, you’ll feel sick, and you’ll be sick!

For this blog, I thought pictures of the weeds in my garden would be appropriate. Please note that the last picture shows my ribbon of faith, belief, and God’s truth. The weeds cannot hurt my flowers and the cancer cells cannot hurt me. Both weeds and cancer cells have been bound on earth and in Heaven. Also, the dollar weed is the plant kingdom’s version of the cockroach. It can survive in a drought when all other plants die. It has roots that extend eight inches underground and they have large nodes filled with water!
Weed in the red lava rocks

Weeds in the marble rocks

Dollar weed surrounding planter of heather
Weeds growing in paver stones
(The frogs posed for this picture)

Weeds in the mulch with Ribbon