Monday, December 7, 2009

We're Not Quite Done!!

Hi VP's...well, we got a phone call from Mary, Dr. Hong's medical assistant, this morning. We learned that although we are declaring Brenda cancer free, Dr.Hong wants a touchdown...with NO QUESTIONS ASKED. He wants Brenda to have some clean-up chemo to get any of those nasty cells that might still be lingering. Needless to say, Brenda is discouraged and so very tired of being so very tired. We both understand Dr. Hong's reasoning, but we don't have to like the path this journey is taking us once again.

The good news to all this is that we'll be able to do the chemo here in Phoenix. Dr. Hong has yet to decide what kind of drugs to use and how many treatments to administer, but he will continue to draw up the plans and then we just have to find a good medical oncologist here in Phoenix to actually administer the medicine. He wants to see the pathology slides and talk to the pathologist before he determines exactly what the treatment will be. Whatever it is, it won't start until after the holidays. Thanks the Lord!!

I feel so bad for our girl...I wish there was something I could do to take this from her. She's just been through so very much and she's so tired. But Dr. Hong wants a CURE (so does Brenda and I) and he wants to MAKE SURE the bad cells are dead! Brenda is driven to realize a long life, but it doesn't make the news any easier to take. Please continue all the wonderful prayers you've sent her way...for strength...for healing...for some happiness in all this...and most importantly...for the CURE!!!

I'll keep you posted.
Dee and Brenda

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Pathology Report

Hi everyone...it's a cloudy, cold (by Arizona standards!!) morning here in our Mesa "hood." All's right with the world. Brenda and Tanner are asleep on the couch. Abbie is asleep in the chair. And I actually got to report .02 of an inch of rain to the online weather reporting system I signed up with. Some of you are probably really laughing at that...but this is Arizona in a drought and since I put the gauge in the backyard in September, I haven't been able to report ANY rain!!! This is a big deal! Ha!

Well we finally got the pathology report on Friday. Lord...the holidays really bogged the system down. We heard from Dr. Gillenwater's nurse practitioner, but she hadn't spoken with the doc and was just a little hesitant to give us the news. It's important to note that she wasn't in the room when we met the doc before we flew home.

So...They removed 12 lymph nodes and tissue total from Brenda's neck. I don't know how many exactly on each side. Of the 12...6 contained neuroendocrine carcinoma. All of these were on the right side of her neck which was the side were the cancer originated. Some were encased in hard tissue, probably the result of all the radiation and some weren't. Once again I don't know the exact count.

It's important to remember the conversation I had with Dr. Gillenwater on November 30th. I specifically asked her if she got "it" all and she said "yes!" She then said..."You're done!" Of course the important test will be the next PET-CT that they do when we go back in March. We're envisioning "NO METABOLIC ACTIVITY!!!" Amen...go home and recoup and come back in another 3 months.

Please help us pray for only healthy cells and Bren's continued healing. She's very weak and very fatigued, but she's got a determination like no other I've known. OH! I forgot to tell you that on Friday we also went to a local ENT and had the nose stents removed. I was expecting to be grossed out again but it really was a simple procedure and not painful for Bren or to watch!! Once he got the plastic out he suctioned her nose and sinus out and them looked around. He stuck that scope in so far that I really thought the dang thing would come out the back of her head!! Amazing! He said Dr. Gillenwater did a great job cleaning out her scar tissue.

She's a very happy camper now that she can breathe through her nose. Now she doesn't sound like she's underwater all the time. The ENT also gave us a prescription for physical therapy at the hospital in Scottsdale so we'll see if they will be able to work on her neck and shoulders properly. Bren's doing her home exercises like a good recovering patient. I don't have to crack the whip at all!! Good dog!

So friends, that's the news for today. Life is good and we're still considering Brenda "Cancer-Free!!!" CELEBRATE!!! Today she's going to just relax and watch football, and I'm going to lunch with my Mom and take her to see "Blind Side."

Hopefully this entry finds you all well and gearing up for Christmas...I can't believe that that holiday is right around the corner...we are soooo far behind!

Smiles all around...
Dee, and the rest of the sleeping gang

Monday, November 30, 2009

Three Strikes and IT'S OUT...We're going Home!!!!

Hi VP's...we just got back from seeing Dr. Gillenwater and the news is fantastic. Although we still don't have the pathology report...should have that later today...we did get the all clear. I asked if she thought that she got all that nasty stuff out of Brenda's neck and Dr. Gillenwater said YES!!! YEA!!! Double YEA...High Five...We're going home!!! This is the best Thanksgiving and Christmas present we have ever had!! We're declaring today a day of celebration!!! It's that day we've all been waiting for...We're done with the initial treatment...Bren is cancer free...time for "good and new" and "smooth sailing."

There's still the rehab Bren will have to continue when we get home and the adjustment time it will take to manage the side effects of all this treatment, but it's time for new beginnings. We'll have to come back every 3 months for scans and check ups with all the docs to ensure we're on top of everything. So the next trip will be sometime in March.

I've already checked us in for the 12:30pm flight home tomorrow and have called the apartment rental company to tell them we're checking out tomorrow. Toni is going to meet us at the airport to help me get the luggage and Brenda home while I go off to the off-airport parking lot to get our car. Bren just can't lift anything heavy and I don't want her wearing her backpack on those tender neck and shoulder muscles. Thanks a ton Toni. Like we're not too excited to get home or anything!!! Then Wednesday I'll go down to Tucson and pick up the dogs!!! I can't wait.

So we're all smiles here in Houston and I hope this blog entry puts some smiles on your faces and some screams of joy from your mouths. We are soooooo HAPPY and thankful for all your prayers and positive energy for total healing.

Remember..today is a day to celebrate LIFE!!!!

Love to you all...
Dee and a healing Bren

HOME JAMES...........

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving Message from Marshall Vic

We are so fortunate that Marshall Vic sent us a wonderful Thanksgiving message that we just had to share with the village...enjoy!!

Thanks Marshall...we sure do love you!!

video

There's A Lot To Be Thankful For!!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!!

Let me start this blog with a HUGE "Thank You to our FABULOUS Village" for all the support, positive energy and prayers...not to mention your friendship, cards, well-wishes, goodies, skyping, jokes, videos, and love that you've given Brenda and I this year. Words just escape me in trying to tell you all how much your efforts have meant to us. You are simply..."THE BEST!!!"

Now let me bring you up to speed on today's activities...all is well and I'm not typing you from the Houston City Jail!!! The big milestone for the day was that Brenda got the drain tubes out. I have to confess that this absolutely gave me the creeps when they pulled these out. Holy Mackerel!! There was a lot of tubing in her neck. The nurse kept pulling and pulling and the stuff just kept coming...Lord...it was gross and I just couldn't watch her take the other side out. Plus you could see that it really was painful to get these removed. It was gross...just gross. But...the dang things are out. Brenda was getting tired of watching her balls!! Ha!

We got Brenda home and she immediately hit the shower. She said it was absolutely heavenly to actually wash her hair...well and all the other parts as well! There's absolutely nothing like a shower.

The next great thing was that the Rehab Department DIDN'T cancel our 4:00 pm appointment!! May miracles NEVER cease! The therapist worked with Brenda for over an hour and improved her range of motion and relaxed some of the tight muscles in her shoulders and back. She said it felt great. Too bad it's a holiday or we could have gotten her a couple more sessions in before the one we have Monday. This is something she'll definitely continue once we get home and can find the right therapist.

So here we are back in the "hood." I've made dinner and now we're just relaxing and playing on our computers and watching a little TV. All's well. Brenda is trying to move her head a little more to improve her range of motion. Having the drains out really makes a big difference. I think we'll be in good shape to take Paula and April up on the most generous offer to go to April's home for Turkey Day!! YUM!!!

So if I don't get a chance to check in tomorrow...again...

Happy Thanksgiving

Hugs to all...
Dee and Brenda

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The "Chief" Comes Out Again...GRRRRR!

Boy! The "Chief" sure came out this morning!!! Here's what happened. Michele...you really would be loosing your mind with this!

So we got up early to make sure we were on time for our 9:00 am appointment for physical therapy. Let me just set the stage a little bit. I know it will probably give the ending away, but you have to know the details to understand my reaction. I really am giving this all away!!! So last week, per Dr. Gillenwaters orders, we made the rehab appointment through Robert, the scheduling guy for that department. We were set for Tuesday the 24th at 9:00 am.

OK...Brenda goes to surgery and on Saturday the rehab lady comes in and gets Brenda walking and leaves paperwork on the exercises and info on Lymphadema with us. She doesn't say anything different about Tuesday's appointment.

When Brenda is discharged on Saturday afternoon, the nurse prints up her schedule and on the schedule is Tuesday's appointment. Are ya still with me on all this? So what would you think right now...RIGHT!!! We still have an appointment on Tuesday the 24th!!! OK...We're all on the same page...everyone except the Rehab Department at MD Anderson!!!

Early morning appointments are REALLY HARD for Bren...that's the time she gets some good sleep. She usually gets up around 5 or 6 am...gets her mouth and nose cleaned out, takes her meds, and then heads for the couch for about 3 to 4 more hours of really good sleep. So it's hard for her to get up at 7:30 to get ready for her 9 appointment.

You are soooo right...Robert CANCELED OUR APPOINTMENT YESTERDAY!!! The worst thing about that is that...NO ONE CALLED UP TO TELL US THE APPOINTMENT WAS CANCELED!!! What the hell is up with this!!!! We were ushered into Robert's office where he tried to explain why he canceled it. He said that when someone is admitted to the hospital their "STATUS" has changed and they need new orders. I asked if the computer showed us as "Discharged" on Saturday and thus our "Status" was the same as when the appointment was first made. He said "YES", the computer did show that Bren was out of the hospital, but they needed new orders. I said I have the schedule that the nurse that discharged us gave us that showed us the appointment was still set for Tuesday!!! I asked how we were supposed to know that he (Robert) would end up camceling the appointment or that we needed to do something different when NO ONE CALLED US!!! I just looked him in the face, and with MUCH restraint, and in my most "Chiefly" manner, advised that this was just flat "UNACCEPTABLE!" Again...I was trying not to get arrested!! He got the message and we now have an appointment at 1:00 PM this afternoon.What is up with this canceling stuff without notification!!!

I just hope and pray that we still have that appointment when we show up at 1:00. I won't be responsible for my actions if it's been canceled. LORD help me!!!

OK...so not to worry...Brenda is fine and dandy...sleeping lots and healing. The drains are still in because they are still outputting too much juice. It has slowed this morning and I'm really hoping we can get these out tomorrow. I'm not sure anyone is in the office on Friday due to Thanksgiving.

Just thought I'd share my morning frustration with you!! Ha! Remember the old saying: "Pain shared is pain divided." Hopefully this is the same for frustration!!

Stand by more more updates...or some huge explosion!! NOT!!

The Houston Duo

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Sleepy Football Sunday

Hi Everyone...After 12 hours of sleep we almost feel human! Well Brenda still feels drugged and is in pain from the knife fight Friday...she's doing so much better than she did last night. Trying to get the pain calmed down and get her comfortable so she could sleep was rough. She was pretty miserable. But thanks to all the good drugs she's taking, she finally got to sleep.

Today is a much better day. The pain isn't as intense as she can lay on her side...her favorite couch sleeping position. She still draining over the limit for the tubes to come out so maybe we can get them out Tuesday. I sure hope they'll be out before the long holiday weekend.

So today was spent sleeping (Brenda), watching football, (both of us), and playing Mafia Wars!!! (ME!!) Then I got cleaned up and ordered a nice pot roast dinner for Brenda and I from the Black Eyed Pea. I thought it was yummy, but Brenda had some difficulty getting the meat down even though it was very tender and juicy. All the foods she used to eat and all that she can eat now are so very different. We'll get it figured out.

After dinner, we went walking around the 3rd floor of our apartment building so we can work on getting her moving...Doc Vic orders! Tomorrow we'll try to do that in the morning and afternoon and then on Tuesday we have a physical therapy appointment. She's got to start all the exercises tomorrow however. I already told her that Nurse Ratchet is out again!!!

So there ya have it VP's...all's well in the hood. Tomorrow will even be better. Sleep well and thank the Lord for Brenda's excellent medical care and her wellness.

More tomorrow...
Nurse Ratchet and Healing Brenda

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ms. Brenda is Free At Last!!


OK...so I just typed an entire entry for the blog tonight and was just getting ready to send it when I hit some dang button and the entire thing disappeared!!! UGH!!!

Here I go again...this is a short one because I'm pooped! Really pooped!!

We sprang Brenda from the hospital around 3 this afternoon. She started to do much better once they got her up and moving a little. Poor thing, she had a rough night until they got some good pain meds in. They also got her tummy calmed down and she started eating regular food late this morning.

It's good to be back at the apartment where it's quiet...no more beeps, vitals, visits...well you know the drill. I sure hope with her evening meds we can get her comfortable and she can get some sleep. She just hurts!!! I thought I'd add a photo in case you're curious about the knife fight she was in with her surgeon. I think the docs and nurses out there will say that she's looking pretty darn good. I really thought she's be a whole lot more swollen than she actually is. I'm sure as the days go by, she'll be getting better and better. Soon the tubes will come out and she'll get a little more mobility in her neck and then the exercises to regain all the strength in her shoulders will continue.

So we are going to try and get some sleep...I'll check in tomorrow and let you know how she's doing. Sleep tight everyone...

The very sleep Houston Duo...

A Sleepy Saturday Morning Hello

Hi VP's...it's 8:00 am here in Houston in room P1130 at MD Anderson and I just thought I'd give you all an update on our gal. We both didn't have the best of nights sleep. Again you all know the post-surgery/hospital stay drill...wake you up and take vitals...wake you up and make you go pee...wake you up to empty the drain meds...wake you up to take more vitals...etc. Now we're not complaining because in that wake you up phase, Angelina (our night nurse) also brought some morphine and some zophran. Bren's tummy is still upset...probably because there is nothing in it and she needs her normal meds. She also drank a little too much water last night and that decided to leave her tummy around 3:00 this morning.

We're trying to get her comfortable in the bed but she just aches and, of course, still is very sore from the surgery. She probably won't have the best of days today but then things ought to get progressively better. They also have her using a nasal saline spray every 2 hours to keep the inside of her nose moist.

I spent the night here in a half recliner. I only got to put my feet up and had the back half of the chair upright. Thanks heaven I'm not very big...I did all sorts of pretzel things with my body to try and get somewhat comfortable in this chair. I actually did get some sleep so all is well. I'm not sitting here with my morning Starbucks and a cancer-free partner and I just couldn't be happier. I'm so very thankful for all the things the village has helped us with through this journey...please know how much you mean to both Brenda and I for all the good that you bring the world and our lives.

We're going to try and get Brenda to eat some solid food in hope that she can keep this down and they are still talking about discharging her around 11:00 am...we'll see how that goes.

So stay tuned and I'll give you more updates later in the day. Hugs to you all from both of us.

Dee and an uncomfortable Bren

Friday, November 20, 2009

Doing OK...

Hi VP's...well it's 10:45 pm and Brenda and I are up in room P1130. They have her comfortable and her pain is under control so all is proceeding OK. You know how post-surgery goes...very groggy...pain...aches....tubes....drains....beeps from machines...UGH!!! Bren's stomach is upset but they are on it and all that's come out when she thinks she has to throw-up is air from her tummy. She's sleeping now and I'm back on duty and will help watch her through the night. It certainly takes a village!!!

Here's the info from Dr. Gillenwater. She came out about 6:00PM and said that the surgery had taken longer than expected because of all the scar tissue in Brenda's neck...it made the surgery a little more difficult, but all the "bad boys" are OUT!!! The fantastic news is that when she went looking around her sinus cavity she didn't see any cancer or suspicious "things" in there. She placed the nasal stints and hopefully that will help her breathe better. They want her to try and keep this device in about 2 weeks in hopes that the nasal passage will heal open before the stints come out. They also put some stuff in there to try to retard any further growth of the scar tissue. Keep your fingers crossed.

Dr. Gillenwater couldn't tell if the lymph nodes and tissue she removed were cancerous or just dead but still full of hot tissue (from the radiation.) All the stuff they removed will go to pathology and hopefully in several days, we'll get the results. Still need all those positive thoughts and wonderful prayers rolling in gang!!

Paula and I got to go back to the PACU to see Bren around 7:00 and she looked amazingly well. I was envisioning that she would be really swollen in the face and neck and she wasn't swollen much at all. She has incisions that run from the base of her ears around the fold in her neck maybe a good 5 inches on each side. There are drain tubes on each side and the incision is closed with disposable sutures with stiry-strips (sp?) all along the incision site. She's draining stuff from her neck and the doc said that the tubes could come out once the output was 30 cc's or less in a 24 hour period. Since the right side was more involved, that is draining the most. Needless to say...they won't be coming out tomorrow!!

So friends...Brenda is good and now sleeping comfortably. I'm about ready to start napping here in this recliner. I'm pooped! Thank you all so very much for all your prayers, love, concern, and well wishes. Paula...thank you soooooo very much for keeping me company and teaching me all about the ins and outs of Mafia Wars and sharing your "Mafia Wars Gang list" with me. It's so addicting!! ha! You were just a sweetie for sitting so long with me...it really helped to pass the time.

If everything goes well and Brenda is doing OK...they said they might release her tomorrow...YEA!! Just in time to watch football on TV this weekend. Watch the blog and I'll give you pictures and another update tomorrow...it's time to get some shut-eye!!

Sleep tight. The cancer is out of her!!! That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Dee and sleeping, cancer-free Brenda!

All's Going Well

Got another update that said Dr. Gillenwater had finished with the right side and was working on the left. Once that was done they would close the incision and work on her nose and look around her sinus cavity to ensure all was OK.

Vital were good and she was doing fine.

Stand-by for more...

Surgery Update

Time of this update is 2:15 PM...

They started on the right side of her neck at 11:14. This side has 3 nodes that need to come out. They should be about through with this side and still have the left side and the endoscope and nasal stints to do. The nurse said it would be another 3 hours at least in surgery. So it looks like the surgery will actually be longer than the 4 hours originally anticipated, but we'll see.

All her vital signs are stable...keel those good positive moe-joes and prayers a comin!...

Dee and Paula (she's here waiting with me...she's teaching me more about how to play Mafia Wars

Surgery Started Early!!!

Hi Everyone...we all know the phrase..."the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray" ...at least I think that's the phrase!!! Ha! Well it happened again this morning. We had the morning planned to be at the hospital right on time. So there we were...just got up...hadn't showered...and the phone rang and they said..."How fast can you get here!?" WHAT!!!??? So we zoomed around the house trying to get ready and off we went. Actually this is a really good thing because we didn't have time to sit around and drive our anxiety into the stratosphere. Apparently Dr. Gillenwater's earlier patient needed more chemo to shrink their tumor more so that moved Brenda up. It's all good.

We only had to wait in the surgery check-in area about 45 minutes and off we went into the pre-op area. They zoomed through that and before we knew it they gave our gal the "happy juice" and off to surgery she went. She's in God's and the surgeons hands now.

Just wanted to give you all an update. They said that the actual surgery itself would take 4 hours or so but when you calculate the time for prep in the operating room and the time in recovery, the time increases to about 6 to 7 hours. We'll be getting updates about every 2 hours and the next one is due in about 40 minutes...so stand by and I'll post the progress.

Hopefully you're sending good moe-joes...
Dee

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Friday's Surgery Details

Hi Guys...well we're nearing the time for Friday's synchronized attack on the "BIG C!" Of course we had another adventure in the pre-op appointment today. It's always about the dang schedule...or lack thereof!

We had an appointment at 8:45 am for the pre-op anesthesia assessment. So like good compliant patients and their nurses...we showed up right on time. Now I know it's a huge place and there are lots of docs going to do lots of surgery tomorrow, but do all the Friday surgery patients have to show up at the same time? I think it's like going to the meat department at the grocery store and having to pull the number out of the little machine to wait your turn. YEP...First come, first served.

So we sat and sat and sat...our 8:45 appointment turned into a 10:15 appointment? Michele...you would be loosing your mind! I just know that there is a better way to do this. YIKES!!! OK so that's done. But...it could have been worse so I just shouldn't complain!! So there!

Let me get to the plans for tomorrow. We have to be at the hospital at 12:45 pm. Then surgery will be an hour to and hour and a half after that. Since Brenda can't eat or drink anything after midnight, she is going to be one hungry, thirsty girl. Thank heaven she can rinse her mouth out with water.

OK...we need the collective village's positive energy and prayers flowing toward our gal tomorrow afternoon. We're both getting nervous about this, but are looking forward to getting the nasty "C" out of her neck. I think I told you that she has 5 nodes (3 on the right and 2 on the left) that need to be OUT!!!. The scar tissue in her nose is also getting harder and harder to keep open and so we're hoping that the nose stints that Dr. Gillenwater will place in there tomorrow will do the trick to keep her nose open until the scar tissue can heal OPEN...PLEASE LORD!!! OPEN!!

We're looking forward to SKYPING with the POD tonight at 6:00 pm. They are all in PuertaVallarta enjoying a nice vacation and are going to try and say Hi tonight via the computer...before Survivor of course...HA! We anxious to say Hi to everyone.

We have also become addicted to Mafia Wars on Facebook...thanks to Paula!! She's going to sit with me tomorrow so I don't have to wait alone (thanks you dear Paula!!!)...we're both bringing our computers so she can teach me more about the game...OH yea...and so I can update the blog and let you know how things are progressing...so keep watching tomorrow. If you're not on Facebook...sign on and join our Mafia Family...we need members!! Ha! You all would crack up watching Brenda and I sit on the couch coaching each other on this silly game. Life is short...play hard!!! Check it out.

That should bring you all up to date on this Thursday afternoon. Hope all is well with each and every one of you. Remember the mantra: "We are happy and thankful for Brenda's total wellness."

More tomorrow...
Dee and Brenda

Monday, November 16, 2009

Surgery Is a "GO"

Hi VP's...well we just got back from more waiting in the clinic and we have now seen both Dr. Gillenwater, the surgeon, and Dr. Hong, Bren's oncologist. Just as we suspected, several...5 lymph nodes in her neck (3 on the right side and 2 on the left)...are still lighting up and have to come OUT! We still don't know if there is residual disease in this "bad boys" or if they are dead, but because of so much radiation, they are still lighting up. They will send these guys to the lab to actually see if they are alive or dead. Regardless...they will come out along with some surrounding tissue to make sure the "Big C" is history.

The good news is that the current scans still show no metabolic activity in Bren's sinus and brain where those other tumors/lesions were. YEA!!!! We are soooo happy about that. There is no new activity any where else as well so that continues to be very good news.

The other problem that poor Bren has been having is the scar tissue in her nose that has been trying to close off her nasal breathing. We talked to Dr. Gillenwater about this as well. She is going to do an endoscopic exam on Friday when Bren is knocked out just to look around and see if there is anything else that is suspicious in her sinuses that need attention. When she's in there, she's going to try and open Bren's nasal cavity by putting some stints in her nose...sew them in...and leave them in about 6 to 8 weeks until the scar tissue hopefully heals OPEN! We were in hysterics in Dr. Hongs office visualizing flexible McDonalds straws up her nose. You know that sick gallows humor that cops have? Well we were cracking ourselves up laughing at all the information...as in horrible side effects...that could result from trouble with the surgery. Believe me...we are very nervous about this upcoming surgery. This is just the sick way we know that takes some of the tension out of this situation. We sure had some good belly laughs though.

There are all sorts of horrible things that can go wrong with this surgery...most involve nerve and muscle damage. It's amazing all the stuff that's in your neck. Dr. Gillenwater is a very good surgeon and she has done this type of surgery many times before so we hope and pray that she's "spot on" Friday and that the surgery goes flawlessly. We anticipate Bren being in the hospital about 1 or 2 days. I won't have a time of the surgery until Thursday, but I'll definitely post that on the blog when I get it. We'd really, really appreciate lots of positive thoughts and prayers that day. I'll definitely have my laptop and will keep you all posted so stay tuned.

So there ya have it dear friends...I think I've got everything that happened covered. It's really chilly here today and we were talking about going to Kemah tomorrow to walk around the shops by the marina. I think we might do something with Paula and Jason on Wednesday. There's a couple more appointments we have at the clinic but we know the path the week will take so now it's just that waiting game until we can get this surgery behind us.

Keep watching the blog for future update and pics. We hope this note finds you all well and getting ready fro a wonderful Thanksgiving...that's right around the corner!!

Blessings to you all...
Dee and Brenda

Friday, November 13, 2009

Three Strikes and the Big C is OUT!!!



Hi from Houston VP's...yep...we're back. I think the powers that are in the universe felt bad for putting us through hell in August and then messing up this series of appointments, so our trip back here was flawless. We even got an upgraded car due to a mistake by the wonderful man that drove the Dollar Rent a Car bus!! THANKS...we needed that Ford Escape because of all our luggage. Packing for a possible 19 day stay means a few more T-Shirts than a 3 days stay!!!

So we are tucked into an apartment called the "Amalfi at Hermann Park." It's new and really nice...nice apartment, good workout room, free coffee in a very nice lounge, 2 pools and 3 garden areas. I do wish when you rent these apartments, they would put a few cleaning supplies here and more then one roll of TP and one roll of paper towels!! Ha! This is a whole lot nicer than being stuck in a motel for 19 days.

The timing of the trip worked out so well that we had moved our luggage into the apartment and went out and had a nice fish dinner and got home just in time to watch "SURVIVOR!!!" We're both hopelessly addicted to the show!! Ha! But we were tired when it was time to hit the sack and with the help of a little Ambien we both slept well.

OK, so we had super early appointments for the new series of PET scans this morning so we had to get up at 5:30!!! Remember...We are NOT morning folks!! Ha! I took my laptop over to the clinic with a grand plan of updating the blog while Brenda was in getting the scans...well that didn't happen. I happened to find an unoccupied recliner and fell fast asleep for the 2 hours she was asleep in the scan tube!! Ha! Now that felt good!

We went over to Le Peep for some breakfast after the clinic and then did a little grocery shopping. Again we made it back just in time for "The Young and the Restless! It's Friday and you just shouldn't miss the Friday episodes! Hey...Quiet!...I'm retired! Brenda left me to watch these ridiculous melodramas and she escaped to the bedroom for a nap.

I think we'll try and go to the movies and see "Precious" this weekend. It's supposed to be a very good movie. Then we'll hook up with Paula and Jason for some good grub and conversation. Since we're right across the street from this big area called Hermann Park, maybe I can get Bren out for some fresh air and a nice walk. Monday we see Dr. Gillenwater (surgeon) in the morning and Dr. Hong (oncologist) in the afternoon. Then we'll really know the next steps we'll take. We're calling this trip "The Three Strikes and You're OUT Cancer." This is the 3rd time we've come to Houston and so far we're winning the game...The is the trip that we totally wipe out our opponent. TKO!!!

So that should give you the latest. Bren is doing well...she still has trouble keeping her nose open so we'll be sure to talk about that with Dr. Gillenwater on Monday. She needs a lot of sleep to keep that good ole healing going so we have lots of down time for some good naps.

We'll keep you posted on all the latest Houston Haps...stay tuned! To all our Olivia buddies...safe travels to Porta Vallarta. We'll look forward to pics and sme e0mails if you can get a connection. Have a wonderful time...we'll be there with you in spirit. Hopefully the sun will be bright and warm, the pool cool and the food good. I know the company you'll all keep will be fantastic!

Have a wonderful day...
Dee and a sleeping and healing Brenda

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

UPDATE: Getting Ready for Another Trip to Houston

Yes VP's...the blog continues. I didn't abandon you...really! I just took a break to focus on stuff around here in Mesa plus...my #1 job... helping our favorite gal heal...that's a VERY, VERY slow process. So here we are once again with an update.

We were all scheduled to go back to Houston this week to have the scans again and then to have surgery, if needed. I had arranged everything...flights...another apartment...the car...you know the drill. Then a little over a week ago, I noticed that someone had removed the surgeon (Dr. Gillenwater) from our appointment schedule. HELL!!! She’s the main player in this next stage of treatment. Then I noticed they moved the appointment to December 7th...what the hell??? I thought we were trying to stay on top of these nodes if they still contained residual disease and needed to come out so the cancer didn’t fly someplace else or didn’t get another foothold. So we got on the phone with the surgeons office and raised a little hell. Well...I shouldn't say "WE!!" I got on the phone and raised a little hell!! So now...Everything is pushed back a week instead of another month. We really didn’t want to wait until December. We now fly into Houston on Nov.12th, see Dr. Gillenwater and Dr. Hong on the16th.I just noticed that they have now made the appointment for the scans on the 17th. Damn...that's sort of having the cart before the horse so we'll get back on the phone and see what we can do to change that. Pre-op appointments are set for the 19th and the surgery is scheduled for the 20th. If we don’t need the surgery, we'll just cancel that and come home. The nodes are still there however and so we are thinking they will just want them to come out. Bren will be in the hospital for about a day and then they want us to stay 7days to do post-op follow-up. That puts us right smack dab in the middle of the Thanksgiving holiday...wonderful!!! At least is isn’t Christmas! We have planned to come home on December 1st thinking the surgeon will want to see her on the 30th.

So I’ve spent the last several days rearranging all the arrangements I originally arranged...groan! I don’t have to tell you that these changes have added more pennies to the original trip cost and that just ticks me off. I think I’ll give the bill to the nurse that just erased us form the schedule and then DIDN’T CALL US! It’s hard enough to mentally prepare for all this, but then to make changes and not call to explain...well all I can say is GRRRRRRRRR!!! Brenda made me promise not to chew folks out until AFTER her surgery! Ha!
She said it was HER throat they were slitting...not mine!!! OK Bren...I'll be nice! I'll TRY to be nice!

The healing here at home has been very slow. Bren still sleeps through most mornings. She gets up around 6:00 am to get her nose cleared out...lots of drainage...and she's trying desperately to keep that scar tissue from closing her nasal airway. She takes her morning meds and just falls back to sleep until around 11 or noon...then she's pretty much up for the rest of the day. She's even back to seeing our trainer 3 days a week for a half an hour for some rehabilitation...it's really not a workout...it's just getting her muscles to work again and build up some normal strength to do just day to day things that we all take for granted. So the medical folks out there shouldn't panic...she's not training for a body building contest or a marathon. She said it feels really, really good to just get all this moving again.

Eating is a huge challenge for our gal...she's sooooo thin!! I'm such a nag when it comes to getting good food down her. She still has no taste buds and no saliva so there really is no joy in eating anything except to fill her belly. She has to drink a ton of water and eat very slowly and chew a lot to get anything down. It takes her twice as long to eat and she just fills up with all the water she has to drink. High Protein Boost nutritional drinks are helping us keep the calorie count UP. What we eat now is based solely on what she thinks she can get down. I'm really not food driven at all so whatever she wants to eat is just fine with me.

The weather here has been spectacular. We hit record highs about 3 weeks ago and then the temps hit huge lows (that's lows for us in the desert...like low 60's during the day and mis 40's at night.) It snowed up in Flagstaff and there was some snow flurries at our cabin in Strawberry. Then the temps turned around once again and today it's supposed to be 94!!! It's just that time of year. We've gone out several times to have lunch and have just sat outside to enjoy our food...it's fabulous. The sky is a bright blue, there's no wind, and the sun is warm and welcoming. WONDERFUL!! The only bad thing is that there is NO rain in sight...we really need some moisture!

I've been enjoying training our dogs over the last 6 weeks. I've taken our 5 year old Abbie to Rally classes (that's a form of Obedience Training) and I've taken Tanner, our 2 year old to Basic Obedience. It's been great for all of us. I'll get them back into classes when we get home. I've definitely gone to the dogs!! Ha!

So that brings you all up to date with our ongoing MD Anderson treatment saga. We hope this blog post finds you all well and enjoying the fall weather. We're taking both computers back to Houston so watch for more blog updates the in the days ahead.

Toodles from the beautiful desert southwest.
Dee, Brenda, Abbie and Tanner

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Update from Day 2 at MD Anderson

Hi VP's...I know you've all been anxious to hear the results of our Day 2 appointments so here I am with the update. I would have written last night when we got home but we both were absolutely pooped and just went to bed to try and get some much needed sleep!

So Tuesday started off bright and early...remember that we are NOT morning folks...ugh!...with the dentist. No day should start with the dentist...Ha! Dr. Chambers is a really great guy and a true delight to be with. He looked in Brenda's mouth, was delighted she was continuing her facial/mouth exercises, and declared her mouth and gums infection free and looking good. He answered a ton of questions about the swelling in Brens face and neck...quite common after all the radiation she got because the lymph nodes have been fried and the fluid is building up. He said that that would eventually go away as soon as she healed some more and the fluid found other ways to drain. We got some supplies and a couple scripts for oral spray and fluoride tooth paste and off to breakfast at Le Peeps we went.

After breakfast we headed back to the hotel...we were both pooped still. The time change really wackes us out and I must say that the stress is a tad bit draining...gross understatement!!! Then we got ourselves over to the radiation department for our 1:30 appointment with Dr. Morrison...our new radiation oncologist. Everyone says that this guy is brilliant but is a man of very few words. VP's...that was another gross understatement. He came in and just smiled at us and looked like he wondered what we were doing there? Now we had a 2:00 appointment with Dr. Gillenwater, the surgeon, so we needed to get this show on the road...he was a good 45 minutes LATE!!! We asked the questions and he gave us one word answers. His resident was a little more vocal and we learned that there were SEVERAL spots on both sides of Brenda's neck that were lighting up. No one really knows if that's residual disease or if that's the tissue continuing to heal. You can feel some enlarged nodes...the really bad boys when we started this odyssey...on either side of Bren's neck. No one knows right now if this is dead and hardened nodes or if there's still nasty activity in them. HUMMMM! We didn't want to hear that more than a couple nodes were lighting, but it is what it is!!! Morrison did agree with Hong that it appeared that no tissues were lighting up in the sinuses or in that brain lesion...tremendous good news.

So up to Gillenwater's area we went. We got into an exam room and waited and waited and waited!!! So now it was nearing 4:00...we had a 2:00 appointment which Morrison made us an hour late for!!! OK...I was getting nervous about our time frame here and put my Chief hat back on and went searching for the nurse!! I found her and explained that we needed to be at the airport at 5:00 for a flight...she told me I shouldn't have done that and I just looked at her in as big a Chiefly "command presence" I could muster, and said I did it and please help us get the doc in to see Bren. BINGO!!! We were next up. Dr. Gillenwater is really a great lady...friendly, talkative...you know the kind...instant bonding.

I'll just give you the medical bullet...she concurred that she didn't see any concerning activity in the sinus or brain lesion area...GREAT NEWS!!!! She did see, like everyone else, the activity in the lymph nodes. She agreed with the recommendation of Dr. Hong that we wait a month and redo the scans to see if these are still there lighting up. She said that if they are, she wants them OUT!! Even if they are dead tissue and still enlarged, she recommends getting them out. She put it quite simply that we "don't want the cow out of the barn." So I guess we'll just move the barn and the cow to another planet!!! Works for us! She recommended that we schedule the surgery now and if all the nodes are reduced and the scans are negative then we can cancel the surgery...if not, we won't have to come back again.

We asked her about the time frame for a surgical process and she said to schedule about a week. The surgery itself would take about 4 hours and then Bren would be in the hospital about a day or so. Then we would just need to remain in Houston to be monitored until we knew the healing was going along without any glitches. She did mention additional chemo and I guess that's a possibility to do cleanup but that's Dr. Hong's call. I sure hope Bren doesn't have to go through any more of that.

Our psychic contact said that there would be a "small glitch" but then Bren would have "smooth sailing." So far Carol hasn't been wrong and I'm really hanging my hat on the "smooth sailing part." Right Village? Thanks Vic for sending that piece of info...that really helps keep our focus on the eventual results!!

We did ask Dr. Gillenwater why Brenda couldn't breathe out of her nose. She poked around in there and said that it was scar tissue!!! YIKES! This is what Dr. Mello was afraid of. She siad she's never seen that before...thank you Brenda for being such a rare bird!!! Now please stop that! Well, Dr. Gillenwater began pushing on the tissue with a long q-tip and she said that it was still on the soft side and maybe with a little pressure she could get it broken...so she donned her miner's light and armed with that q-tip went digging for AIR!! BINGO....she got through the right side. Brenda was in heaven over the opportunity to breathe out her nose! Delighted with the success, the doc went into the left side...no luck with the q-tip so she put on a new glove, loaded her little finger up with surgelube, and into the left cave she went. She pushed and pushed and pushed...get the visual?...and pushed and just when Bren was about to pass out (well not really, but it HURT!!) Bingo...she broke through the scar tissue on the left side...YEA!!! Brenda was such a happy camper!! Even though she now had a bloody nose she would breathe. YEA!! The issue now becomes...how to keep this open? She would have packed it open if we were going to remain in Houston but we're trying to keep it open with nasal rinses and regular digging on our own with the q-tip. WONDERFUL! She told us how not to puncture Bren's brain...No, No, No!!! The brain remains untouched!! Brenda's the miner this time...I'm just the coach!

So that's about it...we have more to do. We're happy with the news, but we know there is still more work to be done to reach TOTAL WELLNESS! We ask that you continue to pray and say the mantra...this could all be a mute issue if the scans show no activity when we return in November. Thanks from the bottom of our hearts for hanging in there with us. Please keep up the good work!

The flight home was uneventful...not like the crazy one the last time we returned. We landed ahead of schedule and got the car...zipped right home...and crashed! Now we leave to drive for Tucson in an hour to get the dogs...then life will almost be back to normal for another month! YEA!!

Don't worry...we'll definitely keep you posted...you are such an important part of our healing. Hugs to you all...

Dee and a sleeping and nose-breathing Brenda

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day One Recheck Update

Hi VP's...well day one is behind us. Here's the scoop. We had to get up way, way too early. The alarm went off at 5:30 am and we got over to the clinic by 7:00 to start the day of tests and appointments. Now remember that Phoneix is 2 hours BEHIND Houston so we really got up at 3:30...UGH!! All the paperwork that we read on what to eat befor a PET scan told us that Bren could take her meds...so she did. We watched what we ate the night before when we went with Paula to Joe's Crab Shack. We thought all was well until the folks in diagnostic imaging told us that Bren should NOT have taken her liquid Vicodin this morning... well we thought that would really mess things up, but we got rescheduled at 11:00 so all was still on track.

We used the time to get Brenda's feeding tube OUT!!! YEA!! Bren is so happy that thing is gone...she said that it just makes her feel a little less like a cancer patient. HECK! We all know that she isn't...TOTAL WELLNESS!!! We also got her blood work done and made it back to the PET scan place for the tests...that one takes 2 hours!

We had enough time when Brenda got out of the test at 1:00 to go grab some lunch in the cafeteria and then head for Dr. Hong's office. I was now getting nervous so I popped some Ativan so I could actually be present to hear the news...good news!

Doc Hong came in and said that althought the scans had not been read by the specialist that does that, he looked at them and saw NO ACTIVITY IN THE SINUSES OR BRAIN. (Yes! Brenda still has a fantastic brain that works!!!...you know what I mean!) He did say that there was some small activity on both sides of her neck but no one is completely sure of this right now. It could be continued healing from all the radiation she received there, it could be residual disease. He wants Bren to continue with the rest of our appointments tomorrow and all the docs would confer. He mentioned that he thought we should come back in a month to get another PET done. It's still relatively soon after radiation stopped and they gave her so much. If she does have to have these areas removed it shouldn't be a huge process...everyone says that it's relatively simple and definitely not the MAJOR reconstruction that the folks back in Phoenix wanted to do originally...YIKES! We should have more info on this from the surgeon tomorrow.

So we really do have great news that there appears to be no disease in Bren's head...we were really worried about that. Thanks to all of you for the positive energy toward TOTAL HEALING...we are definitely on our way.

Tomorrow is the dentist, our new radiation oncologist, and the surgeon...then it's off to the plane and homeward bound with smiles on our faces. We'll have more news to report tomorrow.

We have felt your strength coming at us for all directions and can't thank you enough for being such a strong part of our healing circle. We've spent a lot of time with Paula and Jason in between all our appointments. J and P...We sure thank you guys for all the info you shared and the good times building our friendship. You both are so special and it sure helped having you touch bases with us and help us through this first visit. Hey Amanda...Dr. Hong asked how you were doing...you sure made an impression...he asks about you all the time. I told him about your new venture...he was impressed!

So I am totally pooped and whipped out so it's PJ time and I'm hitting the sack. I'm reading Dan Brown's new book "The Lost Symbol" and I'm in a good section so I want to get back to that as we keep one eye on the football game.

Love to you all...your energy is so powerful...remember the mantra for tomorrow:
We're happy and grateful for Brenda's total wellness.
Dee and a well Bren...

More tomorrow so tune in...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Off to Houston

OK VP's...your true power and visualization for Brenda's TOTAL WELLNESS is really upon us!! I know that this village has incredible power and can send out only positive thoughts to help us visualize and accept gratefully this wonderful gift of life and wellness so Brenda can fulfill her destiny. We all know the incredible gifts this dear woman can give the world...her story will only continue...and her presence will only heal.

We are off to the airport in about an hour so I just have time to thank all of you for the calls, e-mails, prayers, dinners, laughter, bingo, well wishes, care of the dogs, phone calls, etc. of encouragement and love. You all are so very dear to us and these messages, both spoken and unspoken, mean so very much.

Remember the mantra: "WE ARE HAPPY AND GRATEFUL FOR BRENDA'S TOTAL WELLNESS."

We're taking the laptop so I'll write when I know more. Until then...hold us in your thoughts and prayers and know how much you all mean to us.

We bless your light...
Dee and Brenda

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Healing Continues - Life is Good






Hi VP's...it's amazing that I can intuitively hear when you guys need a blog update. The last couple of days I've been saying to myself..."I really do need to get an update on the blog." So VP's...here I am to confirm that Brenda is alive, doing well, and continues to heal. It's still very slow, but we can see progress and that's a beautiful picture.

We leave for Houston next Sunday (October 4th) and have 2 very full days of appointments on Monday and Tuesday...the 5th and the 6th. Now we really have nothing against Houston, but we are jetting back to Phoenix on the evening flight on Tuesday the 6th. Yes...we're nervous about this and are using all our spiritual resources to live through this with the intention of Brenda's "TOTAL WELLNESS." We are visualizing only instructions from the doctors to go home and heal some more and we'll see you in 3 months.

The mantra that we are using is this: "We are happy and grateful for Brenda's total wellness." We say this over and over and live with this intent. We would love if you would join us in saying the mantra as part of your prayers for Brenda. Envision what this looks like...jumping for joy, hugging poor embarrassed Dr. Hong, planning Thanksgiving at the cabin with friends, enjoying the wonderful fall desert weather, getting out and walking with the family...well you get the picture. Visualize only what you want to see for her...no negative content, only the discussion of wellness. The more that can say the mantra the more intent on total wellness the universe will bestow. Have you read "The Secret?" If you have, you'll totally understand this concept. If you haven't read the book...it's well worth it and just might add to your life.

So we went up to our cabin in Strawberry which is about 2 hours north of our Mesa home up in the mountains with the tall ponderosa pine trees...it's heavenly up there. Since Brenda is a little anemic, she was dressed like "Nanook of the North." You would have thought it was late fall instead of late summer. It got down into the low 50's at night and that's cold for our desert bones!! Ha! The pictures I posted will give you the visual. My Mom came with us and we really did have a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the cool mountain air. We'll go back up in October and then we'll begin to plan our big Thanksgiving celebration with all our friends. It's an annual event up there and it's always a hit...good food...good friends...good times...Life is Good!! And this year we'll celebrate "Total Wellness!"

Brenda has been using the energy she has to work on her garden. We went and got 2 yards of garden soil at the nursery the other day and Bren actually unloaded the entire trailer herself...her energy is slowly coming back and I just let her do what she can do so she can build up her stamina. She still sleeps most mornings and then stayes up all afternoon and evening. Bedtime usually hits her about 9:00 or 9:30 PM. She really is doing great. She still can't breathe out of her nose and her throat is still sore, but the medicine helps with that.

I've been busy doing home repair projects...just the normal things when you have a house...things break and you need to fix them! I've also got Tanner enrolled in Basic Obedience class on Monday night and Abbie and I go to Rally/Obedience class on Fridays. It's so good to get back training the dogs. I'm sooooo looking forward to the weather cooling off so we can walk during the day. Today it hit 105 so we still have a little heat left in the Arizona desert.

Last night our dear friends Beck and Julie got us all (FREE) tickets to the Western Conference Title WNBA game between the Phoenix Mercury and the LA Sparks. We took their little boy Ryder with us and we all had a ball. We ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe before the game and then found our seats were in the second row!!! It was a great game and we all felt like it was our normal routine. That felt so so good. We used to have season tickets so this was just like old times. We saw several folks we haven't seen in a while and it was good catching up. On top of all that, the Mercury WON!!!! How good is that. Now they face the Indiana Fever for the title. GO MERCURY!!!

Tonight is steak on the grill, veggie casserole, and strawberry shortcake for desert while we watch the Phoenix Cardinals play the Indianapolis Colts...it's the big Kurt Warner and Payton Manning faceoff. Hopefully it'll be a good game. We love football season!!

So dear friends...all is well here in Mesa. Remember the mantra for Bren...you all have been so fabulous with helping us through this journey that I feel I can continue to ask for you help with visualizing this very positive intention. "We are happy and grateful for Brenda's total wellness."

Hope this post finds you all well...we bless your light.
Dee, Brenda, Abbie and Tanner

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

No News Is Good News!!!





Hi VP's...I know...I know!! I can hear you all collectively yelling at me for not writing sooner. Sorry VP's...there's been a ton of things to do to get resettled back here on the home front. I've had great intentions every evening, but I've just been too pooped to blog. It's amazing what collects on your personal "To Do" list when you're gone for an extended period of time. Plus we've taken...well actually I've taken... this opportunity to do some house cleaning. We're definitely to the point that if something comes "IN"...something needs to go "OUT." I bet most of you are in that exact position with your households.

Really...no news from me IS good news. Brenda is very slowing coming back to life...thank the Lord! I have pictures I'm sharing with you to prove it. She still sleeps most mornings but has gotten herself up and showered in the afternoon and we run errands or she putzes organizing her office, working in her garden, playing on the computer, visiting friends, or cooking. Most of you that know Brenda know that she is a fabulous cook. The good news is that she's eating human food again and not the kind that comes in a can that you have to put in your stomach via a bag and a tube. Thank the Lord again! The bad news is that she can't taste a dang thing!!! They said that would take 6 to 9 months to come back so we have begun to rate the food according to consistency!! A girls' gotta do what a girls gotta do! I'm working diligently to get some weight back on our girl. She has lost about 30 pounds during this ordeal but I think we have stopped her weight loss and now I'm trying to put a few pounds back on her. Yes! I'm nagging!

Brenda's neck wounds are all healed up but her throat is still sore and she still can't breath through her nose very well. That makes sleeping and trying to keep her mouth moist a real challenge. She's on a very low dose of pain meds and have cut out some that she just doesn't need any more. Progress is slow, but it's still progress and that's a wonderful picture.

We have arranged our return to Houston and are visualizing only good news from Dr. Hong that there is no sign of the cancer and we have instructions to just go back home and continue to heal. We sure would appreciate it if you would help us continue to visualize this. We're looking at just good news, huge smiles, and an enormous weight off our shoulders until the next scans...probably in December or January. Will you all help us with this? I know the power of the village is still with us. We're flying in to Houston on Sunday October 4th and then have doctors appointments, lab tests, and scans all Monday and Tuesday. No offense to all the wonderful professionals at MD Anderson, but we're flying home Tuesday evening. (Oct. 6th)

So Brenda sends you big healing Hello's from home sweet home...with the dogs running around...and the beautiful desert out our back door. It's SOOOOOO priceless to be back home...her healing will be speedier, I'm sure.

We wish you all well...the football season has started, we're going up to our cabin this weekend to enjoy the Arizona rim country, and let the dogs run and run and run!! More pictures will be on the blog shortly I'm sure.

Remember...no news is good news...
Dee, Brenda, Abbie and Tanner

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Healing Update




Hi VP's...I guess by now you've learned that if there are several days that go by and I don't post something on the blog that all must either be going very well or are a complete disaster. Well the former is true. Brenda is doing just great and is getting a little bit stronger with each passing day. She's still sleeping lots, but that's to be expected and is good for her healing process. She does much better in the afternoon and has actually stayed awake more and more each day. It just brings such joy to my heart to see her recovering. YEA!!! As you can see by the picture...Tanner, our red male Dobie...is giving Brenda some lessons on relaxation. It sooooo good to have them home with us.

Saturday Becky came over and she helped Brenda make macaroni salad for dinner that the Mesa gang had last night. Of course Brenda still can't taste a darn thing so we all had to sample to ensure the seasoning was right on target...OH hurt me with that task!! Ha! The progressive dinner we had was a ball and it almost felt like old times once again! I just can't tell you how great that was. Julie made her famous "chicken balls"...comfort food like no other!! We brought macaroni salad and I made a fresh apple pie. Lynn and Kim brought the veggies and a HUGE cookie for Ryder, Becky and Julie's adorable 3 year old. As you can see, Ryder was absolutely fascinated by Brenda's hair and just has to run his hands over her head. He is such a doll and a future heart breaker.

So life in Mesa is wonderful, HOT, but not humid...and totally wonderful. We are slowly getting all the Houston stuff unpacked and put away and are taking the opportunity to clean out stuff. It's truly amazing what you can accumulate in 4 months!!! Brenda is slowly transitioning off the feeding tube and is trying to eat more and more regular food each day. As any good nurse worth her salt would do, I'm trying to get some weight back on my patient. I just can't believe how slow the time went that week before we left Houston and how fast the time has gone since we've been home!!

We just wanted you all to know that LIFE IS GOOD!!!! Keep checking the blog for more updates and pictures. I'm going to keep this going...the story hasn't ended! Hugs to all of you for your comments, e-mails, flowers, well wishes and prayers! Our village is nothing short of fantastic! God bless you all...have a wonderful day!

Dee, Brenda, Abbie and Tanner

Monday, August 24, 2009

Homecoming Video



VP's as promised...here's the highlights of Brenda's late, but cheerful homecoming celebration at the airport. You can probably see how tired she was. That was a &#$@ 10 hour flight!! For those that couldn't attend, we felt your energy. It's so wonderful to be HOME.

Enjoy the video...
Dee and a recovering Brenda

video

The Coming Home Story...Ya Gotta Read This!

Hi VP's...I bet you were wondering about our homecoming. I have quite a story to tell...we NEVER seem to do things without a little "blip" in plans. Now those aren't necessarily bad blips and our homecoming was no exception. We've been busy getting settled back into our desert living...let me just say that we just couldn't be happier to be home. I guess that just goes without saying, doesn't it.

OK...so here's the story. The last update I gave was Thursday and you know that Brenda wasn't feeling well at all. I really wondered if we would get to go home. Every time I asked her if she was OK to travel, she just got this very determined look on her face, and just said "YES!" Did I really expect to have her say anything different? NO!

So our dear "car transport" friend had to fly in on Thursday night because he was flying "stand-by" and the Friday flight was booking up. He got a hotel at the airport and at least he got a good night's sleep. We...on the other hand, didn't sleep well at all. Brenda was still trying to recover from her horrible bout of barfing, and I was fixated on how I was going to organize all the stuff sitting in the living room that needed to get packed into the car. I woke up at 3:00 am and just couldn't go back to sleep. Brenda was up and down all night. So at 4:30 we both got up and I got meds in our gal and got a can of food in her...that was a good thing...she needed food!

I got the car packed and those of you that know me, know I can really maximize space. We got most everything in, and I'm telling you...I couldn't have fitted one more thing in that vehicle. It was packed to the max!! Ha! We had no remorse in leaving that apartment...it served its purpose well, but we were more than over it! HOME...that was our total focus! We got to the hotel about 10:30, chatted with our buddy, and Brenda headed immediately for the bed and fell asleep. That was good. We got a late checkout of 4:00 PM so that meant we could let her sleep until we had to head over the the airport for our flight. I got Bren to drink a Boost and I went and got some lunch. I knew eating would be messed up.

We got over to the airport, checked in, and all was on track. So as we were sitting at the gate waiting for boarding, I noticed this huge weather system that was moving toward the airport...OH NO! Houston weather was predicted to be stormy that afternoon and the weather guys were absolutely right on target...this was NOT going to be a small storm. We got on board, pushed back from the gate, and started to taxi to the runway, when all of a sudden we STOPPED! The pilot got on the PA and informed us we had to hold on the tarmac because the airport had just closed down due to the storm!! DANG!! So we sat there for an hour and a half while the storm ragged around us.

Some of you know that we had planned a surprise homecoming gathering at the airport so while we were sitting there I phone Toni to update her on the delay. POOP! But an hour and a half delay wasn't too bad. We finally took off and headed for home. For those of you not familiar with Phoenix weather...we are in our annual "monsoon" season when we can get violent afternoon thunderstorms with lots of blowing dust, high winds, lots of lightening, torrential rain, and micro-bursts. These storms are nothing to mess around in. But the monsoon season this year has been next to non-existent and it really looked like the Phoenix weather would be calm. HA!!! Did I also tell you that monsoon weather was also quite unpredictable?

The flight thus far was typical...no problems. Brenda wasn't feeling all that well and couldn't sleep very much...she needed to lay down but the flight was PACKED. I felt our descent into Phoenix and had a smile on my face. But all of a sudden the pilot got on the PA system again and said that the Phoenix airport (Sky Harbor) was closed due to violent thunderstorms surrounding the airport. GREAT! It hasn't rain hardly at all all summer and now, when we want to get home to see our friends at the airport...WE CAN'T LAND!!! LORD!!! So we went into a holding pattern south of the airport and waited for the storm to pass or subside. About 45 minutes into the holding pattern, the pilot again came on the PA and said that we were going to try and land but although the airport had opened, the thunderstorm was still very active and we might have to divert. If we couldn't land he said we would have to go to Tucson because we would need fuel! WONDERFUL!

So we start our approach to the airport when all of a sudden we are changing directions...now what? The pilot again came on the PA and said that the winds had shifted and we would have to approach from the other direction. Aircraft fact: When you land, you want to land INTO the wind. This direction change meant we were going into the worst part of the storm. It wasn't a pretty picture...lightening all around...a lot of turbulence...OH...this was not looking good at all. So we turn on final approach to land and the bad weather gets WORSE! These were the worse conditions I have ever tried to land in and they weren't getting better...they kept getting WORSE. On short final, when our airspeed was low, we hit extremely nasty conditions. The plane was flipping up, yawing back and forth, the tail was flipping up and I said to myself..."WE CANNOT LAND SAFELY IN THESE CONDITIONS." Well I was right and the pilot finally gunned the engines and we aborted the landing...thank the LORD! YEP! We were now on the way to Tucson!!

Brenda was feeling worse and worse. She needed meds, she needed to get something into her stomach, and she needed to lay down and sleep, but none of that was going to happen right then. When we got to Tucson (a half hour flight from Phoenix) I did get meds into Bren and that helped a lot. But no one could get off the plane because we were just refueling and then would head back to Phoenix when the weather would let us. YEP...I was on the phone again advising the homecoming gang of the delays. They were going to stick it out and wait for us. What a great bunch of friends. Thank heaven the bar at the airport was still open so some of the folks just went and had some cocktails. Good for you.

OK while we were refueling the pilot came out of the cockpit and told us why we aborted the landing...which was quite obvious to everyone...we actually clapped when we landed in Tucson. Yep! He scared the crap out of everyone, but he was totally interested in getting us SAFELY home so he didn't take any chances. BLESS HIM! He said we aborted because we hit a wind shear and all the alarms in the cockpit were going off...wind shear is nothing to mess with!!! So we refueled and sat at the gate for a bit waiting for that dang storm in Phoenix to leave. Again the pilot got on the PA and said we were cleared to take-off...we pushed back, and headed for the runway. All of a sudden we STOPPED!! YEP! You guessed it...they closed Sky Harbor again and we had to wait!! OK...This was getting ridiculous. It was now about 10:00 PM and we were supposed to have landed at 7:03 PM!! We finally were cleared to take-off about 10:30 PM and got into Phoenix around 11:00 PM.

Julie met us at the gate (she's a pilot for US Airways and had access to get to the gate to help us.) It was soooooo good to see her. Brenda was feeling a little better and in true Brenda (fighter, warrior) fashion she didn't want to sit in a wheelchair...she wanted to walk. OK then! The homecoming at the other side of security was absolutely fantastic...banners, balloons, cheers, hugs, kisses...it was magical! Julie took some video so we'll send that a little later today when I have an extra minute to edit the footage. To all of you who stuck it out at the airport, you'll never know how much that meant to us. It really meant we were home and it was so good for both of us to see you all.

Becky and Julie took Brenda home after she got to say Hi to everyone, and Lynn, Kim and I waited for the luggage and they drove me up to the house. That's when we got the second amazing surprise. Yellow ribbons were everywhere on our front tree. It was BEAUTIFUL!!! Becky and Julie helped collect ribbons from all of you (thanks Vic for the fabulous idea and spear-heading this project!) and put them up in the tree and then had to scurry to take down some of the ones with pictures and notes that wouldn't survive the rain. I think Julie said she took a picture before they had to dismantle part of the tree!! I can just see them. Bless your hearts guys...this was so fantastic. There were yellow ribbons in the house too...on the cactus and on the front door. It was wonderful and very heartwarming. Bren and I go out front and read the notes on the ribbons. Thanks...it made the homecoming perfect! LATE, but Perfect!

I think we got to bed around 1:00 am!! UGH! So there's the Friday news...what a story... right? I have to close for right now. I've got to jump in the shower and head to the gym. I have an appointment with my trainer and have to rebuild all the muscle that turned to flab while I was building callouses sitting around on my ass in Houston!!! I'll fill you in on the homecoming movie and the rest of our homecoming when I get back.

As Dorothy would say..."There's no place like home...there's no place like home!"

Go workout and I'll catch you later. Love to all of you that have helped make our exciting homecoming PERFECT!!!

Dee and a healing Brenda

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Marshall Vic, Brenda, & Nurse Dee Bid Houston Goodbye

Hi VP's....well the anticipated last night in our Houston apartment is FINALLY here. Hallelujah!!! I wish I could say that all is well. Brenda has the "barfs" again and today has not been a pleasant one at all. Amanda and Vic seem to think that as Bren's pain has decreased (and that's the good news...it has...) the side effects of the pain patch increase because her body doesn't need it to keep the pain at bay. So we've taken the patch off but the medicine won't be out of her system until tomorrow. She hasn't eaten all day because she couldn't keep anything down but she's asleep right now and that is a great thing because she's not throwing up!! Howw miserable... poor thing. It just seems like Houston just doesn't want us to leave. You know...breaking up is hard to do...but we're out of here tomorrow!!! AMEN! I've loaded up on all the anti-nausea meds that I can get my little hands on. Mesa here we come even if I have to carry Bren!!! PLEASE send all the positive energy you can spare tomorrow for a calm day with no barfs and a good homecoming. Tomorrow night we'll be sleeping in our own bed!!! Saturday we'll get to see our dogs again!!! I am soooo excited!

In true Marshall Vic fashion she had to send a little "Bon Voyage" message to "Kato-sabe." (It's a long story...I'll fill you in one day.) It's a perfect celebratory message to a long, hard journey that's about to end. Marshall Vic...you are truly priceless and we love you. We just couldn't say it any better.

So VP's...thankfully the initial phase of the Houston road to CURE is DONE!!! It'll feel so much better for us to continue the healing portion of the journey from the Mesa desert. It's too stinkin humid here! Ha! We'll check in with you when we get home and let you know how the trip went. Just keep everything crossed.

We can't thank you enough for helping us get through this part of the CURE. You kept us from feeling so isolated, you brought laughter into the darkest times, and you were generous beyond belief. Amazing and very humbling. You've earned many feathers on those angel wings!

Toodles from apartment 414...
Dee and Brenda


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Monday, August 17, 2009

Final Doc Visit & 3 Days to Home!

Hi VP's...just a quick note to tell you that we had our final visit with Dr. Hong before we head home on Friday. On the way over to the clinic, Brenda asked me if I was nervous to see him and hear what he might have to say. You know...I was! We have just been knocked off our feet too many time not to be...you just never know what the doc's will say although I was fairly confident he would say...just go home and heal!

Brenda has lost some more weight and her pulse was up a little but other than that she's doing as well as can be expected considering what she's been through. She did have a little vomiting episode on Saturday, but we hit that with some Zofran and hope that thta's not a reoccuring nightmare. Ahe isn't sick to her stomach...it just comes on like a lightening bolt. They did say the the excess mucus she has could be the culprit. GO AWAY!!!

Dr. Hong was very impressed with Brenda's tenacity and patience with the treatments. He said what we all know...she was quite a "fighter." Amen to that...right? Her optimism was so appreciated by all that have met her. Both he and Mary were very complimentary...they said it's now time to go home for a while and heal. He's so funny...he told us it was too hot in Phoenix!! What does he think it is here in Houston??? Apparently he was just there and mentioned that he took in a Diamondback game (he's quite a baseball fan) and that MD Anderson was going to have a branch there with Banner Hospital. Hey Amanda...he also asked how you were?

Again...Brenda's healing is VERY slow and she sleeps most of the day. I'm not kidding...she sleeps about 18 to 20 hours a day. The treatments have really kicked her butt, but we're hoping that she, in turn, has kicked cancer's butt. I know our visit on October 6th will be very nerve racking and scary. We sure need your continued prayers and positive energy.

Friday will be a very exciting but hard day for her and she'll need all the sleep she can get on Saturday to help her stay on track. With the effects of radiation calming, she ought to be able to begin some good healing. Just being home will help that soooooo much! AMEN!! I know that everyone will understand her need to limit visits until she can gain a little energy and stamina. Just FYI...she does a little better in the afternoon than she does in the morning.

Tomorrow I have to take the car in for some repair...the automatic lock on the passenger door fell into the armrest!! So I'll just make sure that's fixed before the car heads home. Then I'll get a little more packing done and some errands run...of course there's always my patients' care and that absolutely comes first.

Wednesday we mail boxes of our stuff home...a great sign! Thursday I finish up packing the apartment and separating their stuff from ours...doing some last minute laundry, and packing our suitcases. Friday...I pack the car and off we go!!!! Can you believe it!! YEA!

So that's it from Houston Central for now. Don't worry...the blog will continue as we heal from our home location. Have a wonderful evening...life is good!

Nurse Dee and ZZZZZZ-ing Bren

Friday, August 14, 2009

Coffee With Paula



Hi VP's...I am so happy to say that all is on a healing path here in Houston and we're counting down the days of departure back to Phoenix and HOME! Only 6 days to go!! Brenda had been sleeping almost non-stop since her last radiation treatment on Monday and yesterday, when I said I needed to go out and get a few errands run, she actually said that she wanted to go too!!! That was fantastic! You know, you have to take those baby steps before you can walk and then run! Today, we had an even longer outing and we met our new friend, Paula, at Starbucks for some coffee and great conversation. We had such a good time. Paula is just a wonderful soul, full of adventure, energy and powerful intuition for how to handle what life throws your way.

I really don't have much to talk report...thank heaven for that!!! Just wanted to tell you how Bren was doing. She really did amazingly well in the 4 hours we were out today. Although she won't "bounce" back, she will slowly progress daily, and little by little our Brenda will find her new normal and we'll be there to walk with her.

Take a look at the pics I took of our outing to my favorite coffee shop.

Paula...you're an absolute love. Thanks for sharing your story, your time, and your treasure. We'll definitely stay in touch.

Have a great night VP's...only 6 more days!!!

Packer Dee and Healing Brenda

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Packing to Jet Home



Hi everyone...I can't believe it...we actually DIDN'T have to go to the clinic for ANY reason today. Boy! Did that feel good. Both Brenda and I would sure like to thank you for all your wonderful comments. You all have offered the continued encouragement that we've needed to help us get through these long rough spots in the road to the CURE. We just can't thank you enough for being such great "back-ups" (police talk for support you count on to keep you safe and sane!)

We had a very productive day...Bren worked on healing...I worked on keeping up with all her meds and meals...and we both did some more packing. Man! It made us want to leave tomorrow!! But Bren needs a few more days of sleep and healing before we head off. Even though it's only a 2 hour flight back to Phoenix, it'll take a lot out of our fighter with the drive to the airport, checking the bags, hassling through security, waiting around for the flight, and then reversing the whole process back in Phoenix. I can safely say I know she'll snooze on the plane, but I also know this will take a lot out of her. Thank heaven there are wheelchairs if we really need one. She's so ready to get home, she'd crawl through the airport to get on that plane!! I know you can just imagine how excited she is.

I just wanted to check in and say that all is proceeding as planned here at Houston Central. The pictures prove that. More of the same tomorrow and if all goes OK, we'll take in a movie this weekend...maybe the new Meryl Streep movie, "Julie & Julia."

Have a fabulous evening...your comments have really brightened our spirits. HUGS!

Dee (I'd sure like to retire my nurses cap) & Brenda (Electra's volts are slowly decreasing!)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ringing the Bell


VP's...it's the day we've all been waiting for...the LAST radiation treatment and the long awaited "Ringing of the Bell." After such a dismal Friday, Bren spent the weekend recovering. She's back on track and this little video will help you all celebrate the end of this grueling part of the CURE.

So today is a day to celebrate your life, take a nap, eat a good healthy meal, tell those most important to you how much you love and appreciate them, and thank your higher power for all that makes your life complete.

We're going HOME!!!! It's Brenda's time to heal.

Hugs to all...
Nurse Dee and a very Courageous, but Exhausted, Brenda
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