Karen's Page

Welcome to Karen's Page, a web page intended to keep Karen's family and friends informed about her cancer. Karen, age 40, has a rare form of cancer called Pseudomyxoma Peritonei. She and her husband Tom have 2 children ages 4 and 7.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Chemo II is done. So far so good . . . .

Chemo II is behind us and it was done with much less fanfare than the previous, now that we know a little bit better what to expect.

To start with, Karen drove herself to the session with a packed lunch, a book, and her big toed slippers in hand. She was hooked up at about 11:15, only one hour past her scheduled time, and was home by about 2:00pm.

Today they did not give her the nasty shot to boost her white blood cell count like last time but this time they found her to be a bit anemic so they have given her procrit, a red blood cell booster. We hope that it will not have the same affect on her that the white cell med had on her last time.

So, after the chemo she stopped off at the drugstore to pick up some meds for the Cheekster and then made her way home. She reports that she felt a little shaky for a while but overall not too bad. After she arrived home she put her car away and took a nice 2 ½ hour nap. I believe that she would have slept even longer but she was attacked in bed by a huge, sweaty, and altogether up to no good hot flash that woke her up. There seems to be a trend where the hot flashes are triggered by the chemo and then fade as the chemo works its way out of her system.

But by 5:30 she came downstairs and had some dinner with us, sat with Hudson and read for a while and now is clacking away at her email which has suffered greatly in the last few days, having not been checked hourly.

I talked to my Dad today, and they are getting ready to come out for a visit on the 11th. That should be fun, as I have told the boys that when Popop arrives we will begin work on our Manly renovations and I have warned dad that we have done the prep work and that the guys are going to be looking for some serious results on the construction front while he is here! Oh, the pressure. Actually, I am as excited as they are and it has taken a lot of willpower not to start on the changes before he arrives. The fun part is that since he taught me everything I know about building stuff I can leave him with ideas and drawings and he will “get” what I have in mind, and do it just like I would. That’s pretty cool, I must say.

So the news is good! We will do the daily updates and let you know how she is doing over the next 72 hours and then . . . life goes on!!!

Tom

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Karen and the Rickymartin

Viva Las Vegas, baby!

In my younger years, I had the privilege to visit California on several occasions, mostly for pleasure as a tourist and a couple of times on business. It was big, smelly, and really a fast paced nightmare of a place that left me feeling like if I did or did not go back, it would not matter much. I certainly knew that there were other places that I would rather live than California and besides . . .what were the chances? A small town Ohio boy like me? Come on! While in Detroit, when the possibility that I could be assigned to a place that I really would not like came into relief, it became very clear that there were really only two places in the entire country that I did not – repeat, did not – want to live. One was Florida (too old, to humid, too many bugs, too humid – did I mention that?) and the other was California. Those people are whacked and I knew that if I had to face Karen and let her know that we were moving to Lala Land, life would get considerably more – shall we say – interesting. “PLEASE, Lord”, I remember praying, “not Florida and not California. Okay, if it has to be California, not southern California”.

As Karen and I mark our upcoming 10th year in Southern California, my mind has been made to see that the colloquial view of the world and my reluctance to actually venture out and see the world were poorly founded at best. I have also learned that when admitting something that it is good to bring it into the light and name it, and so I shall.

“ I live in California and I like it.”

Oh, my. That was big. I think I had a bit of a palpitation there. "But why???", you may cry, "those people are even more whacked now than they were then. They have the Governator. Neverland Ranch. Brown outs. If it ain't shaking, it's baking! The people vote on planning to plan! The Baldwin Brothers!!!!!"

I understand, faithfull blogger, truly I do. But I have learned that for the truly short-attention spanned there is no better place than Goofball Central.

There is just so much to do, and so many beautiful things to see here and near by that I feel fortunate. True, after The Big Quake my highly overpriced real estate may be just off the western shore of the Pacific and true, I am fast becoming a minority in a state being changed in culture, but just the same, in some warped way . . . I like it here.

As we launch our See America NOW tour this spring with a tour of the Grand Canyon, followed by Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks this summer, I am reminded of how great it is to live in this corner of the world. Only hours from wonders untold! Hook up the camper, toss in the kids and roll. (That's a laugh. For those of you who have had the experience of 'camping' with the Pendletons you understand that 'throwing in' comprises of ultimately taking along approximately 3,000 pounds of vehicle and gear per person to achieve our kind of 'camping experience in the great outdoors'. Try throwing that kind of baggage and you'll end up with a slipped disk and a hernia. Light travellers we ain't.)

And for many, one wonder that perhaps should remain untold is Las Vegas. Talk about a strange world. I traveled there on business years ago and was shocked by the around the clock culture where there are no clocks, the casinos have no windows, and everything that you could possibly want is available 24/7. Slot machines live in gas stations and family restaraunts; newly planned communities include not only wonderful multi-generational recreation facilities but neighborhood casinos. Did you get that? Whilst touring with your real estate agent amongst buildings and houses that did not exist last year, she points out the new high school, the new hospital, the new shopping hub, the state of the art park facilities and oh yes, here is your neighborhood casino, the Big Flippin Nickel.

Pardon?

I ain’t kiddin, kiddies. This weekend Karen and were the guests of some former Bradford Circle buddies the Zweifels who were ripped from their Bradford Circle home and thrust into Vida Las Vegas. They have been there going on three years, and oh the stories. During a drive through Henderson, which is a booming suburb of Vegas with a lovely view of the strip on a clear night, Julie shared with me that the little casinos scattered throughout suburbia were “neighborhood casinos” and that they were designed to serve a certain market of locals. Zoning apparently only allows a certain density of residents to casinos and as such they were tastefully separated by a few miles from neighborhood to neighborhood. Talk about a jaw dropper. I must have hesitated a two-count and waited for Julie to take that one back but no, dang if she wurnt kiddin. What a world! And everything there in the ‘burbs is new. Startlingly new. If you are a sapling tree and you have accumulated over 427 leaves, had your stakes and cables removed because you can stand in the gale force Mojave desert winds on your own, AND are more than 10 feet tall then congratulations! You are deemed OLD GROWTH! Watch for loggers and beware Midwest transplant residents scoping you out for building a tree house for Junior and little Missy.

Why do I ramble? What can this possibly have to do with Karen? I’m glad you asked. I will tell you. Right now. Ready? Are you sure? Okay, then.

It’s the Rickymartin. About a month ago I got a call from Julie asking how Karen was and if I could arrange to have here in Las Vegas on January 27. Knowing that Julie would not ask this lightly I replied “of course. Why?” Turns out that Dave and she had procured VIP tickets to see the Rickymartin at his one show in Vegas, and they had tickets for us. We were there, because if there is one performer that gets Karen into high gear from a dancing and feminine viewpoint . . . it’s the Rickymartin.

Now, as stated above there are lots of interesting places very close by and as one of them, Vegas is only about 250 miles from here as the crow flies. But in Southern California even crows drive. It’s the culture. So to get to Vegas You can take the Road to Destiny ( with the other millions heading to Vegas on I-15) and it will take you 6 hours of frustrating gridlock to get there. Or you can take the Back way and end up on a nice little two lane highway. (This is the true gamblers route. You are gambling that there will not be any large tractor trailer rigs ambling along at 60 trailed by 100 cars of slower traffic and oncoming vehicles for 150 miles. If you win, you get there in 4 ½ hours and are thankful. If you lose, you may pass the 6 hour mark but get great gas mileage because you will rarely break 55 My bookie calls it a 10:1 on a good day). Or, you can take the locals’ version: the Back Back way.

The Back Back way is a bucket of fun, and with loads of dipty-doos and reasonably nice, lightly traveled roads you can crank up your minivan to a cool 80-85 and catch some air over the dips all the way to Vegas in a cool 3:45. Oh, yeah. And hey. Don’t go talking the Back Back way up now, or it will be history! This is our little secret, all right? In enjoy most of the drive except the part where they have this speed limit thing and there are people living all around. Bummer.

But I digress. On Friday Dave and Julie took Karen to the Rickymartin. At the last minute I bowed out and another friend of Julie’s stepped in to take my place because Hudson spiked a 103 fever and was not happy. So Dave got to escort three hotties in black to the Rickymartin. Karen was elated. She rested most of the day, took a nap, and then went to the show. When she returned she was glowing and said that it had been a great show. The rest of the weekend she continued to proclaim that it was still dreamlike and that she can’t believe that she actually got to see the Rickymartin. I’ve never seen her so pleased with a concert. So I look at this as the first small step towards the See America NOW tour and why not? A Puerto Rican singing Spanish dance songs in Las Vegas during the Chinese New Year? How much more American can one get?

So Saturday we rested and attended a lunch at a cool little restaurant and then decided to take the Tournament of Kings at the Excaliber. This is a dinner served without utensils around a dirt arena. You are seated in an assigned country, and each country (there were 12) has their own King on a beautiful horse that comes out to play tournament games right before your eyes. So, while you pick apart an atrocious Cornish hen, eat really lousy potato wedges, cold broccoli and some leftover rolls, you have a great time screaming “Huzzah!!!!” when your king rides over to see you, and then you toast him. A lot. The show was truly medieval right down to the scantily dressed manservants (which may have been part of the Rickymartin show the night before) before your eyes. I know that they elicited some squeals of approval from the two princesses I was with.

Ahem. So Julie bought the boys little helmets with horns, and me a big helmet with horns, and tiaras for them and we had a great time. There was hand to hand combat, lots of swordfighting, horsemanship games, jousting, flames, magic, explosions – your typical round table type entertainment that kept us all enthralled. Even Hudson, who was a little put off by the loud noises from time to time, was raptly paying attention to the pretty horses and characters in front of him. He was so impressed that he thought it was a movie. It was a great time by all.

Today we traveled back home the back back way and had a nice meal of pizza. Our friend Dr. Rick stopped by to look at hudson’s ear and surprise! Ear infection. Again. Krikey, I can’t wait until he grows out of this deal.

But the bottom line is this. As we ready for Chemo 2 tomorrow morning, Karen has tackled and easily conquered a three day outing to Vegas. Now, that’s encouraging!
We are doing this chemo without the white cell shot that we believe made her so sick two weeks ago so the hopes are up for a great chemo!

We’ll let you know how she is tomorrow night!

I shall be seeing thee.

His Bloggness.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Having fun

Hi Friends,
I just wanted to let you know that I've been feeling pretty good lately. I got my hair cut and styled today in preparation for our family trip to Henderson this weekend. Tom and I have the very good fortune to be able to attend a Ricky Martin concert in Las Vegas, with our good friends, Dave and Julie. I won't be able to shake my "bonbon" like I once did, but will certainly enjoy the view and music. I think Tom is just putting up with it. It'll be so great to visit with good friends, as well.

My next chemo treatment will be on Monday -right after I get back. It will be interesting to see what side effects might occur this time. It was hard to determine last time, since the shot presented some side effects of its own. I won't have to get that shot this time, so I'll get a clearer picture of the chemo side effects.

The kids are doing great. We all miss Bumpa and Grandma, but it's nice to have our nuclear family back in tact. It also forces me back into my life, which is a great thing. My parents were so helpful, that I was getting pretty spoiled and lazy!

So, have a great weekend and I'll let you know how Ricky looks!

Love,
Karen

Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday wrap up of Chemo 1 - She Jazzercises!

It’s Friday and here I sit, comfortably back in front of my little laptop computer. I think that I shared this with all of you but it is interesting nonetheless – For many years I used this laptop only when I had to because my hands tended to get stuck on the keyboard and get tangled up with each other. The keys are so close together that I only used this machine when I absolutely had to, and that was not that often.

At work, I got one of those funky looking keyboards that is shaped kind of like an upside down boomerang, and the keyboard is broken into two completely separate halves. This took some time to learn, as any of you who have used one know, but after a time my big hands stopped fighting over key territory and I became quite proficient on that strange apparatus. Only problem was that I could not type on a normal keyboard very well anymore, much less on a laptop.

When we went to DC for the Big Show in November, I of course did not lug along a desktop but rather took my little Dell companion. The two of us had never spent any quality time together before and this experience forced us to do just that. All of the blog entries I have done with very few exceptions were done on this little machine, and now I find it very difficult to type on anything else. Surely it is because I have never spent so much time consistently typing anything and without knowing it, I have made myself a very proficient typist on this keyboard. I am my most verbose here because it is so easy for my to use. I have blogged (as you well know, faithful blogger) from airports, airplanes, couches, beds, hospital chairs, and yes – even perched upon my knees while getting some down time in the Loo. But fear not! I have excellent virus protection.

So here I sit on Friday evening. Karen is downstairs with some friends watching a movie, and I have just gotten the boys to sleep and it is time to say hello to all of you. It has been a very interesting week and we have learned some lessons , I can tell you.

First off, we have learned that after getting the shot to boost Karen’s white blood cell count she feels like the worst flu in the world is cranking up in her muscles and joints. She was literally horizontal all of Saturday and Sunday and most of Monday as well. Tuesday she felt a little better, but it was a miserable time for her. After going to the doc today for the regular meeting and bloodwork, we found out why: Normal white blood cell count for a human ( on this test) is around a factor of 5. Karen’s white cell count today was over 35. What this means is that the pain she felt was literally her bones and marrow manufacturing and cranking out white blood cells. She is actually flowing with these little warriors and we defy any illness to attack her right now! Apparently she reacted way better than was expected to the booster shots and over-produced.

We wonder what will happen on the next course of chemo when we don’t have that shot. It might be down right bearable for her.

Second off, Karen is learning real time where her limitations are. It seems to me that for every minute she spends doing something (something defined as not laying down on a couch or resting in a chair) she needs to rest about 3 minutes. Wednesday she decided to go walk around a bit at the Bob Hope Classic and do some stargazing. It was only 2 minutes away and sounded harmless, right? No. She was home by noon and feeling nauseous and exhausted. She went to bed and napped most of the rest of the day.

Wednesday was also the day that Joyce and Al took their leave of us, and headed for parts more chilly and east. They headed out for a stay with Kathryn and family in Colorado and then home to their house, which has not seen them since before the first of November. They did a great job and carried a huge load for us and we are sad to see them go. It was nice having them under foot.

That being said, Thursday was the first day that Karen and I had to come to some kind of schedule with the boys that would work. Don’t misunderstand – we have lots of standing offers for help with all of this but we have to try, don’t you know? So, just like in the old days I get up with the boys, feed them, make Tucker’s lunch, feed the dog and the fish, and then I leave the house at about 7:30 for work. Karen usually comes downstairs about 8:00 or so and gets the guys dressed and delivered to school. This day she did that, and then went home for a nap. Pooped. In the afternoon, she got the boys home and then dropped Tucker off at guitar lessons but that was it. She called me and asked me to pick him up. She had some early dinner with us and was in bed by 5. she mostly slept for the next 15 hours and woke up rested, but not fully. She has so much healing to do, that she is going to be adjusting to what her body can handle for . . oh . . . the next year.

I see things changing a bit in simple ways. When she gets together with friends, she needs to invite them here. Why spend Something Time driving or ‘getting ready’ to go somewhere else when she can use that valuable time with her friends in our living room? I can keep the house ready to go for her. That’s one thing.

Another is the definition of ‘normal’. Her mind is ready to get back to normal, which for Karen is lots of frenetic activity that while not always efficiently productive seems to be rewarding to her in its own way. But her body ain’t playing. If pre-surgery Karen’s body was running on 100 health and stamina units, the new post-surgery body is running on about 15-20 right now. And there is no little light that tells her she is approaching empty – nosir. When that tank is empty you might as well put a fork in her, because she is done. This is a tough reality for her, and will take some time to adjust to.

For my part, I can work on the house and keep the guys out of her hair during rest times. Now is a great time in their lives for “daddy time” and it is a simple, simple thing to take them with me or have them around working with me on a project or something. For example last weekend we tore up the old foundation of the Manly 5002 swingset and installed new concrete footings in preparation for some new construction that is upcoming and they were there the whole time hauling dirt, moving trash and helping to drill holes, cut wood, and fasten bolts. They loved it and mommy got a nap. This is our new reality. We will have bursts of mommy, but there is a lot rest involved.

But after Thursday’s early night, Friday was approached with a different tack and speed and she has done well today. As you probably read, she even Jazzercised for the first time! Management of her energy is going to be the key. It’s really frustrating for her to be a slug, and very much against her nature. I had thought that the surgery was going to be the hard part of this phase but I think I was wrong. The next 6 months as she goes up and down between chemo and has to be less that the active person she is addicted to being . . .well, that’s going to be the hard part. Surgery? Pshaw, tweren’t nothing for old Tom. Karen at home? Hmmm. Could be a bit more challenging.

But I am still excited. Things at work are busting out all over and it is going to be a great year. Aside from that cancer thing, life at home is a new normal with baseball tryouts coming up and even a couple of camping trips on the books for February! That’s pretty exciting for me as most of you know, because one of my joys in life is to pack up the Airstream (Barnaby, for those who have not met him) and go somewhere. Yeah, that’s right. Somewhere. Not so much the where but the with Who and How long that matters.

Barnaby has been serving Joyce and Al as a off-site home since December 1 and tomorrow I am going to bring him home and give him a good cleaning and wash and shine. For a 30 year old rig he is doing just great, and we hear from his agent (that’s not a misprint. The camper has an agent) that he has an upcoming photoshoot with Bloomingdales this week here in the desert so I need to clean him up good so he looks good for the cameras. What an interesting life.

By the way, I have heard from several of you that you did not know how to access the old entries starting in November to get the whole picture. All you do is go to the right here, and click on the month you want. Remember that this blog is always newest to oldest so if you want to start at the very beginning (that’s a very good place to start) click on November 2005 and scroll to the bottom. Settle in. I can’t believe how long it is.

Thanks for staying tuned!

Blogman

Ain't Jazzercise great?

Hello friends,
This past week, I've been feeling up and down both physically and emotionally. I can start out the day feeling good, then poop out half way through. It's frustrating when walking around a golf course tired me out!(I was able to attend The Bob Hope Classic on Wednesday morning with some great friends). Seeing the stars there was so fun, and the morning was so beautiful. Yesterday, all I did laundry and had to go to bed early - yikes!

I had every intention of attending my evening jazzercise class Thursday, but was too tired to. So, feelings of frustration have been very prevalent.

So, I decided that I would attend a morning jazzercise class, since that seems to be when I feel the best. Today was the day that I started! I have to tell you, if felt pretty good. I just love the music and, of course, the dancing. I wasn't able to finish the whole class, but was happy with how I did. My new plan is to build up my endurance in the morning classes, so I will be able to attend my own evening classes, eventually. So - my students - please don't feel I've abandoned you. I just have to work with when I feel the best right now. I will return to class, and when I do - watch out!

I have goals that I want to reach. I think I just have to stay open-minded and fluid about how to reach them. That is my prayer.

So, now I will go lay down for a while. I have an appointment with Dr. Luke later today.

Much love,
Karen

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Feeling yucky!

Hi.
As I said before, the first chemo treatment went really well on Thursday. On Friday afternoon, I received a shot, called neulasta, to help keep my white cells up. This shot has made me feel awful! I have amazing muscle aches, headache, and some nausea. I feel like I have the flu. Every muscle is sore - like I've had a very intense work out. So, I spent most of yesterday in bed. I have a feeling that today will be very similar. These side effects are common with this shot. This shot is necessary because it will prevent a drop in white cells, resulting in a high fever. I experienced this in the hospital and don't care to repeat it. So, the shot is necessary. However, it makes me feel like crap. I don't like feeling this way and it makes me crabby. I indulged in a pitty party for myself yesterday!!! It was fun, but I hopefully won't get stuck in it.

So, there's the latest. This is definitely no fun.

Love,
Karen

Thursday, January 12, 2006

CHEMO I It is done.

Thursday! Thursday! Thursday! It’s an intravenous rumble in the Playground of Presidents! It’s Meds in a Lazy Boy! It’s Karen surrounded by really old people! It’s Karen hooked up to bags again! Don’t miss it! It’s Chemo triage in Rancho Mirage!*

It’s Karen vs. 5FU in CHEMO I Celebrity Smackdown !!!!!!

Now available of Pay-per-View. Check your area for local listings-some programming and Karen’s freaky slippers may be disturbing and not suitable for younger viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.

So as you probably know, today was Chemo I day here in the valley. A few things were learned today about chemotherapy in today’s world.

First off, if we had not been sure of it before, we are now: Karen is young to have cancer. Now, if you are an older reader take this gently but . . . Holy Cow! The doctor’s office was full of people who were so very advanced and frail that I had to wonder how they survived the chemo. With the exception of a friend of Karen’s who happened to be there for chemo as well (that was a freaky coincidence) the next youngest had to be early 70’s. There were walkers and canes everywhere!

The room where she does the chemo is like a big ad for La-Z-Boy. They have nice big recliners around the room and everyone has their own pillows, blankets, and IV stands. Some people sit and stare, some nap through their chemo, and some talk.

Today’s fun topic was centered around a very puckered little lady of around 105 who was tucked with her hat, blanket, and blue jeans into a chair for chemo. Now, they had a heck of a time getting her stuck for her IV and it took a couple of nurses to get the stick right. Each time they would try, she would let out with a very wrenching “Oooooaaaaaammmmmmuuuuuhhhhhh.” Spiced with some “that hurts!” Apparently she has been doing chemo for nigh on 57 years because the nurses were telling her that at some point she really needed to get a port put in because her veins were just about solid scar tissue and almost un-pokable. This caused a nice little rave about how she was not going to do surgery because she could not stand the anesthesia. “I’m afraid I won’t wake up!” were her exact words.

Now . . . how bad could that be? “I just went to sleep and . . . “ what? Woke up dead? Woke up in Heaven? Woke up with Allah and 70 Virgins? I always wonder about people when I hear that because they sure sound way more afraid of death that of the pain and suffering that they are going through right now. As for me, may I be so blessed as to “wake up dead” some day, you know? How cool would it be to climb in your bed one night and the next morning be hanging with JC up in heaven going, “ dang! I didn’t get a chance to bring in the trash cans.” Sign me up for that plan, baby! Although I can’t know how my ride is going to end, I certainly hope for something peaceful like that instead of some horribly gruesome end . . . like getting run over by a Zamboni at a minor league hockey game, or being chewed to death by deranged cats or maybe wandering on to an active runway at a major international airport and getting hit by an empty airliner. That would stink.

But I digress. So after ms. Pucker spouts forth with this exciting revelation, it becomes the mission of life of all the women in that end of the room to 1)figure out how to convince her to get a port in her chest and 2) set her up with the appropriate surgeon to perform the task in an outpatient environment with a local anesthetic. The ladies chattered on about how great their ports were, how easy it made life, and how much there husbands loved it wherein one of the ladies threw forth with an, “isn’t that right, Howard?” Howard is a smart man after 74 years of marriage and replies from across the room with a very worn, “You bet it is.” while not looking up from his magazine. I am not sure that Howard heard the question or really cared but those four words seem to be an old friend that keeps him off of the blistering pavement, if you know what I am saying.

The chatter continued about the surgeons, the surgeons’ families, family histories, and how these particular items made them more qualified that others to insert this port in ms. Pucker.

Ms. Pucker, for her part, really wanted these ladies to Zip It and let her go back to sleep, so like a true customer stuck in a used car salesman’s office (and yes folks, I’ve seen this before believe it or not) she threw out the only defense she had, and that was the weak and rarely successful “objections of desperation” When faced with these objections, the average car salesmen makes something up and moves on. When the Chemo Crew were faced with ms. Pucker’s feeble ramblings, they put her down like a Thanksgiving Turkey at a Vegan convention.

MP “ I don’t like surgery! I just can’t handle the anesthesia!”
BAM!!!! “ Then get a local, dear! My Hank just had general anesthesia because he gets queasy.”
MP “ Oh . . . I don’t know any good surgeons.”
SMACK! “ Well, I use the young Dr. Schultz. Ladies?”
BIFF! “ Johnson!”
KAPOW! “Yang!”
ZOINKS! “ Old Schultz”
KER-SPLAT! “ Westheimer!” *
MP “ I don’t want to spend all day in surgery.”
SHAZZOOP!” Ten minutes! That’s all it takes!”
MP “ It does not sound like it is worth it.”
FABOINK! “ You’ll never regret it! Isn’t that right, Howard?”
“ You bet it is!”

When I left, ms. Pucker was standing at the front desk talking about a port with the staff. I think she just gave up and signed on the dotted line. She knows that if she shows up next time for her treatment and there is not a port on board her vessel, it may be on-site amateur port installation time, and that would not be pretty. Poor thing. Maybe we will see her at CHEMO II?

So there sits Karen, as out of place as one of those goofy songs on Sesame Street where one of these things is not like the other. Where one of these things just isn’t the same. You know the one. Sing it with me.

After a 1 ½ hour delay, she finally got underway and once started the process moved along nicely. In a preventative measure, they gave her an anti-nausea medication right up front along with some dextrose (sugar solution) and then came the bolus chemo. And surprise of surprises, there was no infernal machine around at all! They showed up with a syringe, hooked up to her IV and slammed that baby home in a very short time. Then it was game over and she went home. How about that, sport fans?

This afternoon when I got home she was napping, and did wake up with a bit of a headache. But overall, she looks like herself. Her hair did not fall out while she was at the doctor’s and she can still walk, talk, and eat.

I think that tomorrow will be telling as to how she feels, so we will let you know then. As we understand it each chemo will be more unpleasant as the body gets a little less tolerant of these chemicals and the latent drugs build in her system. The last few sessions could be ugly but then again, Karen plans to start Jazzercising again shortly and that means that her physical condition will improve even more, so again: Chemo, who’s your daddy?

Stay tuned!

Blog Man.

* I made the Dr. Westheimer thing up. Roll with it.

First Round of Chemo

Hi Everyone,
Well, my first round of chemo, so far, has gone well. I didn't experience any side effects while I was there. It took about 3 hours after the infusion started to complete. This was faster than expected, so I was pleased. I had a nice visit from a friend who brought my the funniest slippers to wear. I wanted to put them on immediately, because they made me, and some of the other patients, smile!

Since I've been home, I have been pretty tired, have a headache and have experienced a little nausea. The nausea is usually taken care of with crackers, so I haven't felt the need to take medication - yet. My understanding of the chemo treatments is that with each treatment, the side effects can get worse. So, I'm happy that I have experienced very few.

Thank you for all of your prayers, emails and phone calls. The support really helps me, as you know by now!

That's it for now. Tom will be adding his special way of interpreting today's events. Stay tuned.

Love,
Karen

Monday, January 09, 2006

Karen's thoughts

Hi.
I have a lot of thoughts running around in my head. I thought maybe it would be therapeutic to put them down here. I've been pretty disappointed with the turn of events surrounding my pathology report, after surgery, categorizing my cancer as a high grade. I suspected that the cancer was more aggressive, because the spread was quite extensive in just 9 months from the first surgery in February. But, the reality of it is hard to swallow. That's why I decided to go ahead with the chemo. If the pathology came back low or even intermediate grade, I probably wouldn't have done the chemo. I really want to delay any recurrence (if there is going to be one) as much as possible. I haven't discounted the power of prayer and God's will. We'll see. I can deal with whatever happens, but want to do as much, as is in my power, that I can.

Challenging thoughts: Fear of the chemo. I hope I don't scare my kids with any side effects. I hope I can teach Jazzercise during my chemo treatments. Bummed about the inconvenience of it all. Frustration with my lack of strength. I hope my weight stays the same. I hope I can finish all rounds of chemo.

Good thoughts: It's only been 8 weeks from surgery, and I have made good progress. I just have to take the time to realize it. I have amazing friends that will help me through anything. Whatever comes, I am strong enough to handle it, with God right with me. I have an awesome husband. I only have to get chemo every other week.

My parents are still here, but will leave soon. They will probably pack up their car next week. That'll give me more driving practice until they leave. I took the kids to school today. When I pulled into the parking lot at Hudson's preschool, he proclaimed, " You did it Mommy!" Warm feelings all around.

So, pray for me as I receive my first (out of 12) round of chemo this Thursday morning at 9:30. I would really appreciate it.

This experience certainly has shown me the power of prayer, faith, and friendship. Thanks everyone!

Love,
Karen

Sunday, January 08, 2006

News from the Frontier!

Hello faithful bloggers!

I know that it has been a long time since we had any new blog news but we have not had a lot of different things to say over the last few days, I am happy to report. I enjoy the blog and certainly feel a responsibility to keep all of you in the loop as much as possible but when there is no news I certainly don’t want to log on and babble about some other topic, as this forum is definitely not about me. If you do want to hear me ramble on about things on a daily basis, maybe I should set up a separate blog and go from there. The writing is certainly therapeutic for me and it is wonderful to talk to you all and know that you are up to date with what is happening – without needing to recount the entire endeavor from the beginning. Life is certainly funny at times as well as infuriating and from that standpoint there will always be something to talk about. I can’t help but think that Karen has felt like she is living in a bit of a fish bowl during the surgery for there are details out there now about her that few people will ever have known about themselves.

We do have a good amount of news over the past few days, so I guess that we will dive in and let the chips fall where they may.

On Friday we met with Dr. Luke, the oncologist, and discussed chemo. We had the same old discussions about whether to do the chemo now and hope that it does some good versus doing it later when the cancer decides to go partying and we informed him that our decision was to do it now. Interestingly enough, when we told him this he agreed with us and said that he had a feeling that it would go that way but wanted to keep the options open for us to decide. He is firm on one point, however: if at any time during this chemo Karen begins to lose weight, grows unstable, or seems to be suffering more than a reasonable amount (in his opinion) then he will step in a put a stop to it. But he cannot see any reason right now to put it off, and in fact we aren’t. Karen starts on Thursday of this week.

We have agreed on the FolFox course with the 5FU, but with a positive twist. Dr. Yoo had thought that we would do the 120 minute infusion with 46 hours of pump infusion every two weeks. Luke has researched this and has found that whether or not you do the chemo in one big dose (called a bolus, which is a single dose of drug usually injected into a blood vessel over a short period of time) or a slow-infusion pump, the results are the same be they good or bad. So this means that at this point Karen will go into the office for 4-5 hours every two weeks for an infusion through an IV in her arm and will NOT have to get a port in her chest and do an infusion plus pump. Bolus is good! That’s a word that has been with us from the beginning but has never been called into play. Remember the infernal machines back in Washington that would beep until beaten into submission? They had big, mysterious BOLUS buttons on them. And the TPN pump from Karen’s Steak-in-a-sack food mixture? Had a BOLUS button as well. Never got to use it. Gonna use one now.

Karen gets to pick her days to have the chemo, and Luke encourages her to adjust the schedule a day or two either way to fit her lifestyle, not the other way around. That’s cool, and we are putting that to use during this first course already as a friend is coming into town this weekend and thus chemotherapy would be particularly inconvenient on a particular day. So, move it. That’s very cool and makes the chemo much less ominous because we don’t have to kowtow to some schedule.

Yo Chemo . . . who’s your daddy?

Saturday afternoon Karen announced that she was going to drive the car. No fanfare, just walked out of the house with her purse and keys in her hand and headed for the car (AKA ‘Rocket’ per Hudson) With deliberate moves and looking much like a teenager on her first drive in the car alone, Karen adjusted all of the seats, the mirrors, familiarized herself with the controls, and settled in. She started the engine, backed out of the driveway, and disappeared into the sunny afternoon. She was gone for over 30 minutes on her little drive, and when she got back she declared that all was pretty good. Unlike the last surgery where pushing on the brake pedal caused some strained feelings and a certain loss of power in her foot, this time there is plenty of power for that but it is a bit uncomfortable to manage the steering wheel in a certain position for long, and stretches here a great deal to crane her neck right or left. But she feels safe and in control of Rocket. It will be nice for her to have her independence back again and I believe that she has given Grandma a Sleep In Late pass for tomorrow so that she can take the boys to school herself. Then it will be nap time.

Saturday night, while Bumpa and some card buddies took all of my and Sean’s money at the poker table, Karen and Grandma went down to Kristin’s house and watched a chick flick. They did not return until 11:00PM, way past the recent bed times. Although Sean lost his money before then he did not want to go home a break up their girl thang, so he hung out with the rest of us for quite a while. What a sport.

Tonight we erased all of November and December on the War Board and replaced it with January and February. I am very pleased to note that nowhere on the board are their such ominous notes as “Surgery Day” or “ Tom leaves for DC”, “ Tom returns from DC” or “ Tom and Karen hopefully come home”. Nay! The biggest events right now are “Trip to Legoland for Tuck’s B-Day”, “Baseball tryouts”, and “ Gone to Vegas to see the RickyMartin”. Joy.

So, with the closing of this chapter we are left with some burning questions:

HOW will the chemo affect Karen?
WILL it really suck or be not-so-bad?
WHEN will she be Jazzercising again?
WHAT will 2006 bring for adventures?

Stay tuned! Same Bat Channel!

Blogman

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

You all are wondering where I have been , aren’t you? I have been home in the desert and enjoying it. The week between Christmas and New Years was nice and easy, and every day Karen made little strides towards normalcy. At least if you call the next six months normal, that is.

She still tries to sleep a lot, and there is a fine line between sleeping enough and sleeping so much that she can’t sleep at night. The good news is that this is really nothing new, and she does what she has to to sleep or watch TV or the like. Her big thing since getting home is the leg twitches. Have you ever had those? It’s like when your eyelid twitches for no good reason, I guess, only this keeps her up at night. Karen’s solution is to sit on the edge of the bed and pound those muscles into submission. Literally. At times I will wake up to a 5.0 earthquake as the bed does a nice little jig to the thump of a leg muscle getting the smackdown treatment.

For New Years our buddies Barbie and Bob came to us from Colorado and brought their hot air balloons and a great menu of cooking. In yet another Bradford Circle first, we set up and flew the balloons right off of the Cul de Sac on Friday and Saturday. It was great fun and a strange feeling to be standing in front of a house with a crown line (from the top of the balloon) in my hand instead of a field of grass. But it worked great and on Friday Sean (LB) flew along with Tucker and neighbors Chris and Nick. That flight went down to south of Coachella where we tethered the balloon for Hudson and Dessa (Chris’ youngest) who are not quite big enough for a free flight yet. I think that friends and neighbors thought me a bit off my nut when I informed them that we were going to fly a balloon right off our street. But I say to them, “Verily we have done so – twice!” The second morning flight was really pretty and we had a much larger crowd to see us off. A coup this day was Karen’s mom Joyce went flying with Barbie and me across the valley and landed near Cathedral City. (which is a good, fair piece!) We have some great shots and it was good to handle a balloon and fly again. Alas, fair Karen opted not to go because she lacks still many of the muscles that one needs for landings, etc. but she did chase with us on Friday. Barbie brought here a chair with a little umbrella attached to keep the sun off of her, and she sat in her throne while we stuffed the balloon back into the trailer. It’s great fun, and every time we fly now I harken back to and miss the old days of ballooning.

But that first day of flight about wiped her out, and by the afternoon she was woozy and nauseated again. Good news is that she went to bed and bounced right back after a little rest. Her stamina is improving!

We are going to see Dr. Luke this Friday to talk about Chemo. As of right now we have discussed it at length and are pretty sure that the chemo is a go. We’ve come this far, after all. Let’s get it done with.

Thanks for your cards and calls! Karen should start driving this weekend and that will help her attitude tremendously. It is nice to not have to ask her mom to take her places. Remember what fun that was?