Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Marshall Vic is Back and News from Houston Central

Hi VP''s Wednesday night and time for an update and a brand new Marshall Vic Chronicle. She has blessed us with more priceless pearls of wisdom in a fashion that only our dear Marshall Vic can give. These are just priceless and good 'ole Marshall Vic always comes through when things are tough here at Houston Central. These episodes just make us laugh so much...they are such great medicine when times are dark. Thank you MV for brightening our days with your wisdom and down home remedies. VP's ya just gotta love the Marshall.

So it's almost the end of week 6 of radiation. You're right Marshall...we CAN see the light at the end of this tunnel. In fact we've even set a potential date to come home...but more about that in a minute.

Here's the medical bullet for the week. There's no doubt about it...this much radiation is not for sissies or wimps. The good news is that the tumors have and are reacting just like they were supposed to...they are dying or are dead!!! We won't know for sure until the scans are done but, no way could any nasty cancer cell live through this. They are literally frying our gal alive...her neck is purple, blistered, weeping, and itching. We got some new prescription cream to put on all that and it seems to be working nicely. The biggest issue we are working on is the pain in Bren's throat, nose, and mouth. We got the approval from Dr. Schwartz to up the pain medication tomorrow. Although we won't be able to totally eliminate the pain, we are trying to get it reduced so she can sleep better and continue to drink water. She needs to keep her swallowing function.

We also saw the eye doctor yesterday who did a very thorough assessment of her eyes...long term, that's still a big issue with all that radiation to her face. The side effects can crop us years after the radiation is completed so it's something we'll really have to watch. The doctor said Bren's eyes were very healthy and the excessive tearing was just a side effect of the radiation. The tissue around her eyes is very swollen and raw, and some of the tear glands might be blocked bu the swelling so the doc gave her some antibiotic-steroid eye drops to use to see if we can get the swelling down. I really don't know what we would do without all this medication. That's just one more med to add to my chart. OCD is a good thing when you have all this medication to keep track of!!

So when we went to see Mary (Dr. Hongs PA) on Monday, we began talking about when we could go home. HOME!!!!! And we continued that talk with the radiation team this afternoon. Radiation will end on August 10th!!! That's just around the corner. Bren and I talked and decided it would be a good idea to stick around here for 10 days to 2 weeks because radiation is still working for about 2 weeks AFTER the actual treatments stop. The thing we still don't know about right now is if Brenda will have to go through any more chemo. We see Dr. Hong on Monday and that question should be answered then. PLEASE keep your fingers crossed he says NO!! A dear friend has offered to come to Houston to drive our car home so Brenda and I can fly home together and I can keep up with my nursing duties on our home turf.

So here's the news VP's...the most exciting...most happy making...almost the best medicine ever. We're shooting for Friday August 21st to go HOME!!!!! We are on cloud nine! I don't know when I've seen Brenda with so much energy considering the condition she's in physically. She is one happy camper...well actually...that makes 2 of us! This isn't cast in concrete yet but we should have a much better idea if this is doable on Monday. Double keep your fingers crossed. August 21st...we actually have a date in mind!!! It's just music to our ears. I'm going to start packing this weekend!!!

So please celebrate our almost home-going with us. Go out and toast to life, look around your home and the dear folks that mean so much to you and who enrich your life and thank them for all they bring to you. Give your animals an extra biscuit and take them for a nice walk (unless you live in Houston or Phoenix and it's too stinkin hot!) And most of all...pray for a cure for this horrible disease.

Do enjoy our fabulous Marshall Vic and our news. Hugs to you all...
Nurse Dee and a very fried, but focused on HOME, Chemo-sabe

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Update

Hi VP's...Time for another update. The most important thing to report is that the feeding tube is still holding in the correct position so we can get meds and formula into Chemo-sabe. Thanks the heavens!! We're almost at the correct calorie intake per day. Because of naps, and appointments, we've seemed to be one can sigh of our goal each day, but I think we'll make it today. You're probably asking...has poor Chemo-sabe lost weight? The answer is yes, but not at an alarming rate. We've seemed to have lost the most ground in that area while we struggled with this tube. Please tube...keep working!!!

We're at a milestone with today's radiation treatment...only 10 more days of treatments left!!! Yep! We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have 2 issues that we are working to minimize...The biggest is the pain. She describes the pain in her throat like swallowing broken glass. Add to that a dry, constructed throat, and you have a big painful problem. We upped her pain medication last Friday to a pain patch and after discussing this issues with Mary, Dr. Hong's PA...we're going to up it again tonight. This will only get worse as we work through these next 2 weeks so it's important to keep the pain managed. Mary is also going to try to get us into the pain clinic as soon as possible to help us manage this.

The other issue are the radiation burns on Chemo-sabe's neck...they are now starting to blister and weep and itch like crazy. This afternoon we got some gel strips that are used to soothe these burns on radiation patients. They are somewhat soothing to her, but the itch is still maddening. I think I'll get some aloe and work with that as well. You have to be careful what you use these on the burns. These next several weeks will be tricky. Even after the radiation treatments end, the radiation is still working so we probably will have to deal with these symptoms for about a month. The proper amount of pain meds are critical to keeping her comfortable. This radiation stiff is definitely the hardest part of the road to the CURE.

Brenda doesn't sleep well at night at all because she can't breathe well and her mouth dries out so quickly. Consequently she sleeps lots during the day...that's makes the time go fast. I'm being very careful NOT to overdose her on the pain meds so I'm watching her like a hawk. My motto...let her sleep!!

We saw Mary this afternoon...Dr. Hong is on a Disney Cruise with his grand kids, but will be back next week. I think I told you this but next Tuesday we start DOUBLE radiation treatments each day for 4 days. Dr. Schwartz said these were booster radiation treatments to the lower lymph nodes in Bren's lower neck and collar bone area. That heaven it's only 4 treatments and he said that these would not add more misery to the equation. The good news is that Mary said they would not do chemo while she was having these double treatments. The question remains...will she have to go through another round of chemo when the radiation is over?

We also asked about what would come next and when they would scan. Of course this is all up to the main man, Dr. Hong, but we think that they will tell us to take Brenda home to heal after the radiation and/or chemo is over and to come back in 6 to 8 weeks for the scans. The reason they do that is because all the tissue around the tumor sites are so inflamed that they just wouldn't get good scans on any remaining cancer cells until all that calmed down. That made perfect sense to us. Right now I'm thinking that we'll have to stay here for about 2 weeks when all the treatments are over so we can be close to MD Anderson who will help us manage the side effects until things begin to calm down and she's strong enough to fly home...she's pretty weak right now. You know, if our angels continue to remain with us we might be able to be home by the end of that's MUSIC to our ears!!! The light is getting brighter.

I thought I'd send you a picture of our kitchen pharmacy...most of these are for poor Chemo-sabe. I've got quite the system worked out and yes!!! I have more CHARTS! The red machine in the middle is my wonderful Kuerig Coffee Maker...that's MY drug! Ha! The second picture is our girl just trying to get through the day...closer to the end and the CURE. I'm not trying to strangle her...the white gauze is to keep the cooling gel packs on her neck. It is what it is! BUT we're closer to the end then we were yesterday! Thank the Lord!

So there ya have it VP's...the food is dripping and "Garbage Girl" is trying to eat up the food in the freezer, frig, and the cupboards so we don't waste stuff. Thank heaven I'm not a picky eater. Please continue your contact, prayers, and good thoughts as we work through these last hard days. You all really make a difference.

Hugs to you all from Houston Central...
Nurse Dee and a very burned and pain filled Chemo-sabe

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rattling the Cages at MD Anderson

VP' don't get me wrong...MD Anderson is a fantastic place full of true soldiers trying to eliminate cancer. They have again been voted the #1 cancer hospital in the US, but it's a huge place and somewhat understaffed. It's not like the cruise ship Paul Gauguin we were on when we went to Tahiti, where the ratio of staff to guests ensured that you were very well cared for in all aspects of the trip. But it does help to be an unhappy, VOCAL, caregiver...totally frustrated with the problems this damn feeding tube has caused.

But maybe I should back up and tell all you VP's that Brenda AGAIN began to have more problems (symptoms) with the feeding tube. She again began to have decreased tolerance of stuff through the tube...those same old smyptoms...upset stomach, sweating, and that just miserable "I'm going to barf" feeling. I knew that damn tube had flipped again and come hell or high water it was going to be checked and FIXED TODAY!!!!

I started making phone calls this morning and got the dang ball moving. I caused such a stink about Mr. Lucky being such a waste of time and wasting everyone's time that we have consistently been getting Emily and she has never been late...never!!! So when Brenda went downstairs for her treatment, I headed to the radiation doctors/nurses area to start rattling cages. It's always so much better when a plan comes together and it actually happened this afternoon. It sure helps when you arrive in PERSON and you've already been through this game before. We were going to get the tube fixed today!!!

And we record time. It just shows that even in a big place...things can happen quickly when everyone works toward the same goal. We got Brenda back into Radiological Intervention and in no time they had checked the tube...yep! It FLIPPED AGAIN!!! GRRRRRR! Well they pulled it out another inch, flipped it back into the correct position and resutured it back into place. With driving from the main clinic to the Mays clinic where this department was, parking, and getting to the main floor...we were in and out in about 1 hour and 15 that's what I'm talking about. Efficiency can happen at MD Anderson along with the CURE!!

So here we are again...the tube is working correctly and we've gotten some pain meds and food into our girl and now we're actually watching a movie...actually I think Bren is sleeping...she sure needs to after what she's been through. I sure hope and pray this tube stays were it's supposed to! Lord VP's...just send us positive vibes and all the positive energy you can spare. Maybe with all you help we can keep the damn tube in place.

Just wanted to give you all the latest saga in the road to the has certainly not been without BUMPS!!

Nurse Dee and puny Chemo-sabe

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Emily Is a Saint!!!

Hi VP's...Just a quick little update. Believe it or not we left for radiation at 1:45 pm and were back home by 3:00 pm...and that was radiation and a drive over to the Starbucks so I could get a venti ice coffee. That's also with me taking the LONG way home. Simply amazing. Yep! Emily was running the radiation machine today. Now this is the way it's supposed to work. Imagine this also...Emily just moved patients around to minimize patient waiting and keep the schedule on time. A novel idea!!! I'm going to write her a really nice commendation when this is all over. When I called this afternoon, I got Lucky on the phone who said they were on time to which I told him that that was what he said all the time and yet when we get there we wait for an hour and a half!! Do you think he got the message?

I also got some good meds in Brenda before we left and that really calmed her through the treatment...yep...she was out of it but that was a good thing. She was nice and mellow and not in any pain. That's just what the doctor ordered!! Now she's resting comfortably on the couch and when she wakes up we'll get another can of juice in her. Then I'll try for another 2 cans throughout the night and we'll have gotten the right amount of callories in her for the day. Which reminds me...I've got to get some more of that juice...we've almost gone through the entire case.

Just thought you'd like to know that your prayers, positive energy, some good meds and our dear Emily have really done the job today...SUCCESS!!! YEA!!

A Smilin Nurse Dee and a Sleeping Drugged Chemo-Sabe

Tuesday Morning Medical Bullet

Morning VP's...Houston Central here. After much, much trial and error, some well placed complaining to key folks and the help of good ole Vicodin, we might be on the right path to get poor Chemo-sabe through these next 3 weeks. Man! Has this been an ordeal.

Monday, Mary called us to check on Brenda after the melt-down that our poor Chemo-sabe had Friday...a horribly long, tedious day. This really says a lot about Mary and how closely she is monitoring Brenda...Mary is on vacation and still called to see how things were going. Now folks...that's dedication to her patients welfare. She is really dedicated to making this path as easy for Bren as possible. Unfortunately...or fortunately...I answered the phone and gave her an earful. Those of you that know me know that I have a tendency to be rather blunt (30 years of police work and way too many years in police management!! Ha!) so when I turned the phone over to Brenda...Mary already had the total idea of what we were dealing with. I filled her ears with our complete displeasure with Mr. Lucky among other things.

Well that prompted a call to the BIG MAN...Dr. Hong...who called Dr. Schwartz...who called his PA...who immediately called us back. That total chain took about 15 minutes!!! It's amazing what happens when you call the RIGHT folks. Thank heaven that Brenda is Dr. Hong's patient...thank you Amanda and friends!!! Although they were late again with Radiation, we did talk at length with Leah, Dr. Schwartz's PA about the horrific back-up that Lucky causes for ALL the radiation patients. We did find out that the techs changed shifts and I think we might have Emily back...she is great and can actually do more than one thing at a time and can look at the schedule and predict when we should come in to minimize the wait time. Thank you Emily!!!

After seeing Leah, we also got some new meds that will help Chemo-sabe digest her food better and a mouthwash that will help numb her mouth so the stent will ease the gagging response she is developing during radiation because her mouth is loosing elasticity. Poor Bren is definitely entering the most difficult and painful part of her treatment. It just breaks my heart to watch her endure all this. You just can't imagine! We have started giving her Vicodin to take the edge off all this pain and that seems to be helping. She actually got a half way decent nights sleep, but she now can't breathe through her nose because it's all swollen and her mouth is so dry that she wakes up and has to rinse her mouth out with's just a vicious cycle of misery right now.

So here we are on Tuesday morning...we got her meds in her through the tube. We have most things in liquid form and I crush the pills for the stuff that's not liquid. We also have the first can of food in and will hope that we can get another 5 cans in throughout the day and evening. We're behind the power curve and can't loose any more ground. She's sleeping now and that's a good thing. The Vicodin should help take the edge off her extreme discomfort. Man! This is brutal...that's all I can say.

We only have radiation we can spend the day getting the food and meds in. Please keep those prayers coming...positive energy flowing...and comments on the truly brightens her day. here's a note on Mr. Hotpants...we're really not sure there is a Flo up there!! HUMMMM! Hotpants must be a young man or sexually frustrated!! Yep...he was at it again last night! LORDY! At least he did his "THING" at 11:00 pm and not 2:00 in the morning. Ya just gotta laugh! Vic...I like your idea about taping Mr. Bojangles to his door...but we enjoy Mr. Bojangles hanging out in the breakfast nook!!!

Have a great day where ever you are.

Nurse Dee and a sleeping Chemo-sabe

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mr. Hotpants & Flo

Morning VP's...well unfortunately Rhonda had to jet home this morning but not before we had another "interesting" apartment living experience. It's never a dull moment around here! Most of you have probably, at one time or another, lived in an apartment or 2 and you know that most are NOT constructed to be sound proof. Do you know where I'm going with this yet? HUMMMMMM!

Well the guy above us, that we named "Jack," moved out a couple weeks ago. We actually thought he was rather heavy on his feet...well until this new guy moved in. It had to be a man because he pounds around up there and actually shakes the ceiling of our apartment so much that the lamps rattle!!! Last night when we were all trying to get to sleep Mr. Heavy was really moving around up there, pounding around and around and around. This guy is definitely not a ballet dancer!! we all got to sleep...Finally! Brenda was feeling so miserable I was worried Mr. Big Foot was going to keep her up...she really needed to sleep. Thank heaven for meds!! Well around 2:00 or 2:30 this morning...I woke up again with Mr. Big Foot running around upstairs. Now I know it's Saturday night, but this was ridiculous. We all needed to sleep in #414 and Mr. #424 was just getting started. Dang! Just as I was about to get up and start pounding on the ceiling...I heard that old tell tale rhythmic movement of the upstairs floorboards. OH! For cryin out loud...Mr Hotpants and Flo were really going to town!! You just gotta laugh! Thank heaven Brenda didn't wake up. I can't even tell you how glad we'll be to get home!!!

So Rhonda and I got up at 5:30 am to get her off to the airport. Brenda was sleeping soundly so after a quick goodbye off we went. Brenda just needed to keep sleeping. Her strength has really been zapped over the last 2 weeks. Rhonda is such a love.

Today is laundry day and apartment cleaning day. Chemo-sabe is working hard on getting her nutrition up, getting rest, and getting CURED...she's working overtime on all that I can assure you. Her stamina is amazing but the edges of the envelope were sure pushed this last week...especially last Friday. Next week looks like a good time to try and recouperate. We only have one appointment each day (radiation) except for Wednesday when we see Dr Swartz and his yeam for the weekly appointment. Only 16 more radiation treatments to go.

Hope your weekend was a good one. Please say a prayer that Mr. Hotpants and Flo exhausted themselves last night and that they have to get up and work tomorrow so they'll behave and BE QUIET tonight.

Nurse Dee and Chemo-sabe

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thanks God It's Saturday

Mornin' VP's....just when you think that things can't get worse...THEY DO!! Yesterday just took the cake. Michele we thought about how you might have handled this entire day with all it's WAITING and we decided that you probably would have ended up in jail!!! It truly was the day from hell on top of a week from hell on top of the last week from hell. I'll try to explain, but you really will have no idea the cumulative effects of ALL this. LORD GIVE US STRENGTH!!

So you all know what a horrible time Brenda has had with this feeding tube...well we were beginning to get behind the power curve. Brenda and Toni fiddled with this from the time she got it in until Saturday when I came back. Then Brenda and I adjusted things and still could not get the damn thing working right. Now remember Chemo-sabe has not been able to eat much of anything solid so she was getting real puny!! Her energy and stamina were going down the toilet fast. This was NOT looking good.

Yesterday we had to be at Radiological Intervention by 9:30 to have the placement of the tube looked at. Yep...we waited and waited and waited. At 11:00 they rolled her back and in less than 15 minutes they came to the lobby to get me...HOLY COW!!! YEP!!! Just as Doc Vic had suggested, the tube had FLIPPED inside Bren's stomach. They pulled it out about an inch and flipped it into the correct position, gave her a numbing shot in her stomach and then re-sutured the dang thing back in place. We left with our fingeres crossed. So by the time we got out of there it was about noon and we had a 1:45 radiation appointment. We went back to the apartment and grabbed lunch on the way home to eat at the apartment. We didn't have enough time for a tube feeding...especially if we were going to have problems again. So Chemo-sabe had an EAS shake and a little...and I do mean a little...fruit.

The we had to leave about 1:30 for the radiation guessed it...they were running way behind and so there we sat again. Brenda was beginning to fade. There's this technician called Lucky that runs Brenda's radiation program...he is the slowest guy I have ever seen. Thursday I called him to see if he was on time...we are only 15 minutes from the clinic!!! He said yes to come on in...there we sat and sat and sat...and right in the middle of all the back up he continues to create...HE WENT TO LUNCH!!! VP's, I have to admist that I am close to going to jail for the damage I'm going to do to both the Garage 2 parking structure...that's a whole new story...and MR. LUCKY!!! Our fun-meters are trully pegged!!! Do you have a visual?

We got out of radiation around 3:00 and had to go up to the ATC Unit to get Brenda's Nulasta shot. all have gone to the doctor and had a shot before...what does it take...maybe 5 to 10 minutes...right? Can you say 2 HOURS!!!!???? It took 2 HOURS to get that shot. We would still be waiting if Brenda...who is the most patient person I know...hadn't gone up to the desk and started to complain. They saw how horrible she was looking and got her in the treatment area. She came out about 15 minutes later running at me telling me, in a desperate voice, that she needed to eat someting FAST. Some of you know that look and that statement. She is NOT messing around, she needs food fast. I had some applesauce in our emergency pack so she started gobbling that down. OH NO! We let this get way too far and poor Chemo-sabe really got everyone's attention when she started barfing in the garbage can in the hall. Man! The nurses came running with a wheel chair, wet towels, and a cup of ice. would have been in total melt-down by now either as the patient or the caregiver. If Rhonda and I wouldn't have been so concerned about Brenda, I know I probably would have been arrested for disorderly conduct.

We got Chemo-sabe home, crossed our fingers, and got her hooked up for the tube feeding...since she gets to name the food she'd really like to be eating instead of trying to get her nuutrition through a tube...she was having a Pappas BBQ dinner with yams and a big diet coke. YEA!!! We finally had success with the tube and the liquid went in like it was supposed to. FINALLY...THANK THE LORD!!! Brenda lost about 5 lbs this past week so we have some catching up to do...or just have to hold her weight stable.

I can't even begin to describe how exhausted we all were last night. We just couldn't move. After I got Brenda stablized and tucked in on the couch, I went and got Pappas BBQ for Rhonda and I. We woofed that down and crashed along with Brenda who was now fast asleep on the couch. If any of you tried to call us last night...I apologize for not answering the phone, I really do...I actually unplugged the living room phone because I wanted Brenda to sleep and I was just too exhausted to get up and answer it. I sure hope you understand. We absolutely LOVE talking to you all, but yesterday was just overwhelming and exhausting...this whole week was. We all just ran out of juice!

Today is a MUCH better day...we all got some sleep and Brenda's feeding tube is just humming along...It's about 8:30 am and we're on can #2. YEA!!!! YEA!!! YEA!!! This is the way the $^&*^# thing is supposed to work! After this she'll take a nice nap and she'll almost feel human again. I'm going to hop in the shower and get Rhonda to drive me over to the dog show...I'm soooo looking forward to just spending the day there. Rhonda and Brenda are talking about going out and doing a little shopping if Chemo-sabe's energy level is up. Things really are better today.

This great picture of Rhonda and Bren was taken on Thursday was definitely the calm before the storm! We'll get our girl back on her feet...don't worry. Please send her some positive energy.

The non-jailed, but running out of patience, Nurse Dee

Thursday, July 16, 2009

When Things Are Rough Marshall Vic Shows Up To Brighten the Day

Hi VP's...well let me just say that Brenda has really had the last 2 weeks from hell. Man! What a trooper she has been. There is definitely something wrong with the feeding tube so tomorrow we go in at 9:30 am and they'll see what's up with the internal placement. If it's not right, they'll fix it. It's just been a long grueling! But just when things get bad, our dear Marshall Vic shows up with some of her home remedies and words of wisdom. She sent us the latest installment tonight and we just had to post it for everyone to enjoy...especially those of you that also have insominia. Do Enjoy!!! We sure did. Thanks Marshall Vic...we sure had a great laugh with your new chronicle. Please keep em comin!!

Sleep tight VP's...more later...
A sleepy Nurse Dee

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Hi VP's...I heard that universal "Give us an update, Nurse Dee" roaring at me through the universal wavelengths so now that we've settled into the final chemo day in this cycle in room #1 of the bed unit, and I've had half of my morning dose of Starbucks, I can write my medical bullet without falling asleep...Brenda is already off in zzzzzzzzzzz-land...that's such a good thing.

OK so let me just say that after an absolutely miserable Monday night for our poor Chemo-sabe, we have things moving, and will now try to get this feeding tube thing on the right path. I have a whole list of questions for the dietician and doc this afternoon. As radiation gets harder, it's really important to get this feeding tube thing under control. Doc Rachet (Vic) helped me brain storm what might be going on and what question to pose to Bren's care team. She should be tolerating this tube feeding much better than she is so now I think we need to change food and see what we can do to make this less bloating and easier for her to endure. Chemo-sabe really puts a whole new meaning to the term "war hero."

In fact, the new anology for Brenda's journey is that she is really a warrior fighting for her life and the freedom from this enemy called cancer. She's been trained well and relies on this daily to keep moving ahead toward the mission goal...CURE. Her commander in chief...Dr. a competent and knowledgable leader and coupled with his first lieutenant...Dr. Swartz...and the rest of the command staff, they have mapped out the course for the CURE. I'm logistical support and bring up the rear and keep the machine moving with the equipment it needs for the battles. So when we get her home we'll be celebrating the return of a true war hero. Today celebrate your life and those that battle for your future health and safety. With each person that battles this horrible disease, more intelligence is gathered to beat this enemy into oblivion.

We look at the VP's with us as her cheering section...those caring and interested loved ones who are at home rallying her to keep moving forward. Your comments on the blog are the letters from home that help so much keep spirits high as the fight gets harder and harder. You are so important to all just have no idea.

So today we should be released from her chemo treatment around 1:00 pm, then we have her radiation appointment at 1:45 pm and then Dr. Swartz at 2:30 pm...that's if everything is running on time!!! We'll see how it goes. Then I can get her home...hopefully with a more successful feeding program...and to her couch.

Today also marks some significant milestones in the fight. After today there is only 1 more cycle of chemo...that means only one more of those horribly long more cisplatin...and one more steroid treatment. Those are the drugs that give her so much grief. Today also marks that we are OVER half way through the radiation treatments...only 18 more to the END!!! Everyone says the tumors are really shrinking. That is such music to our ears. KEEP YOU FINGERS CROSSED AND THE PRAYERS AND POSITIVE ENERGY COMING.

So I'll give you another update tomorrow. Give thanks to all our troops that are fighing the worlds battles to make a better life for us all.

Smiles and love from the front lines...
Nurse Dee

Monday, July 13, 2009

WOW! Another Long Day Bites the Dust!

ZZZZZZZZZZZ...OH! Hi VP's...sorry just dozed off a bit...thank heavens Chemo-sabe is fast, fast asleep. We got there at 7:00 am and didn't get out of there until after 6:00 pm. We've had longer days, but the radiation and the recent placement of the feeding tube has really exhausted our gal. The transition to the tube feeding is not going as smoothly as we'd hoped. You're right Toni...that gas and bloated feeling are making poor Chemo-sabe miserable...and on top of chemo and the ongoing and worsening side effects of radiation...this isn't good. I went up and talked to the dietician about the problems we're having getting poor Chemo-sabe's wacked out system going and we're going to try Part 1 of a new strategy to see if we can make her more comfortable. We found out that some of the meds she started using can cause this feeling and we might have to switch the canned food to see if she can tolerate another one without soy. First we have to get a stubborn system moving. Let me NOT be more graphic on this one!! Lord! There is NO dignity in cancer treatments.

Michele...I DID ask if the chemo nurses would do Brenda's feeding and the answer...although very polite...was a big fat...NO!!! I was thinking that would probably be the answer so I brought the cooler with the supplies. I had to keep the bag and stuff cold so the nasty germs won't grow so I really did look I was going on a camping trip when we walked into MD Anderson this morning. I did get some stares...I don't blame them at all.

Don't expect a blow by blow on tonights won't be pretty...just let your minds wander. Tomorrow is another early day...we have to be there at 7:15 am. The chemo infusion should be about 5 or 6 hours. We get to go back to the apartment so Bren can take a nap and then we go back at 5:30 PM for radiation. Wednesday will be a long one. Your positive energy is helping...please keep it coming. Wednesday marks the half-way point in her radiation treatments. There really is a dim light at the end of this tunnel!!!

More tomorrow...sleep tight.

Nurse Dee and a very pooped (OOPS! No pun intended!!! Ha!)

A Word From LPN Toni

Mornin VP's...Nurse Dee here...well it's Monday the 13th and our Chemp-sabe and I are back here at MD Anderson bright and early, for that LONG first day of chemo treatment #13!!! She's all hook-up and the infusion has started. I've wandered down to the Starbucks counter and have gotten my morning "fix" so the CURE is on schedule. Our nurse this morning took a look at all our gear and asked if we were going camping!!! Not only do we each have our backpack and briefcase, but now we have another backpack full of Brenda's supplies AND a cooler with the feeding supplies. The tubing and bag have to be kept cold to keep the nasty germs from getting to them. I'll roll the grill in with us tomorrow and make some "Some-Mores" for all the nurses and patients!!! Ha!

I got a note from Toni this morning who asked that I post a message from her to the blog. She was an absolutely fabulous LPN and is such a dear friend to both of us...Thank you from the bottom of our hearts Tonya Jill...kisses all over your face. Here's what our favorite LPN had to say:

Thanks for all the kind words from everyone for my nursing duties. I was (and am) more than happy to help them both, anytime they need it. That's what friendship is all about.

Brenda's schedule normally has you jumping through hoops, but adding that feeding by tube into the equation between the time it takes to use the equipment and then clean it is going to be a real challenge to Dee coupled with being at chemo for the day. I have no doubt though that she will figure it out. After all, she is head nurse. It also helps to be a tad anal. Doctor Vic and I had a good chuckle at the check lists Dee made to ensure Brenda didn't miss anything. (If the true be known, it was a good thing in the beginning so we didn't forget to do something, but don't tell Dee that.)

Brenda is amazing, to say the least, and tough as nails dealing with all of this. The only time I truly saw her down was the night after the feeding tube was put in. They didn't get all of the gas out of her stomach when they pumped it full for the tube insertion, and the left over gas was VERY painful. I tried burping her like a baby, had her try Lynn's remedy of rocking on the toilet, but nothing was working. Now I know those of you who know Brenda well are totally surprised that she would have any problems with gas INSIDE of her. Unfortunately I'm sure the experience reaffirmed her belief that holding it in, no matter where you are, makes you miserable, so better out than in.

I have to say I have a new appreciation for Nurse Rachet's duties. She is in for more than 1 challenge though now that she is back. Chemo-sabe has developed a serious snoring issue of late that causes the walls of the condo to bow in and out all night. Then out of the clear blue, and in no steady rhythm I might add, she sucks in the neighboring condos in addition to her own. And she thinks the fiber in her new diet is causing all the gas!! I personally think it's all the air she sucks in during the night. I told Nurse Rachet she better bring some ear plugs back with her if she wants any sleep. Yes PK, you have competition now!

Birthday girl, the birthday cake is the one and only time I am glad your taste buds are screwed up. It's the first one I have made in probably 30 years, and no I am not kidding. I hate to cook let alone bake. I know Nurse Rachet will like it, because anything sweet tastes good to her. :-)

You are in my thoughts and prayers daily ladies. Thanks for letting me help you both. I wouldn't trade my LPN duties for anything!

Great blog post Toni. I'm up for the challenge. I certainly have the easiest job in the CURE process...and being OCD has it's benefits!!! Ha! So VP's here we sit...or sleep...or whatever. It'll be a really long day not only because it's day one of chemo but because we also have to get to Chemo's radiation treatment. Hopefully they'll be on time because waiting for a long period ain;t going to be pretty. I'll see if I can grease the skids someway...maybe they'll work a little faster if I brought them donuts!!! It's a cop strategy, you know!! Ha!

Toni is right about Brenda's was more than once that I saw the walls move in and out timed with the freight train noises that were coming from my gal!!! LORDY!! I have come back to Houston armed with all sort of sleep aides...Julie's noise canceling headphones, foam earplugs and AMBIEN!!! I ended up on the couch the first day I was back but last night I put the foam earplugs in and actually lasted all night. I pulled the plugs out sometime during the night but I made it through the night none the worse for wear. YES!!! I did that a long acting Ambien!!! A nurse has to do what a nurse has to do to keep her energy up!!

We hope all is well in your world...let us know what you're up to. Toodles from Camp MD Anderson...

Nurse Dee

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Happy Birthday to Chemo-Sabe

Hi Everyone...well we had shift change yesterday and LPN Toni went back to HOT Mesa (113 they say today...) and I returned to HOT & HUMID Houston and my nursing duties for my favorite chemo-sabe. Our many, many thanks to our favorite LPN Toni for her great care, ingenuity, good humor and fantastic care this past week. You did an absolutely fantastic job Toni. It was great seeing you yesterday. Glad you made it back safe and sound and that your girls (2 darling Miniature Schnauzers) greeting you with tons of squeals of excitement.

Thanks to all the VP's that sent all those wonderful cards and goodies to Chemo-sabe this past week. While she was napping this morning I got all of them out, along with the cake that Toni made, and the prizes I brought from home and along with Mr. Bojangles (the huge clown balloon that Wendy and Kim sent) we had a birthday celebration...she loved everything and had so much fun opening the goodies. Check the pictures out. What do ya think? We're invisioning a much different kind of birthday next year. We're thinking that a cozy cabin up in Telluride, Colorado coupled with a yummy BBQ dinner on a warm summer afternoon after we've hiked up in the surrounding mountains just might do the trick. Dr. Hong and Dr. Swartz are working on Brneda's birthday present and I'm sure they'll deliver the CURE!! Things are going well so far although the radiation effects are sure beginning to become more troublesome. This will be a really difficult phase of the CURE so please keep those prayers and cards coming...they sure help bring a smile to both our faces.

Chemo-sabe has been eating very, french fries, salad, steak, my grandmothers biscuits, grilled cheese sandwiches, Nando's mexican food...we just get the magic marker out and write what the desired meal is on the can and pour it into the feeding tube bag for the big drip to tummy-land. Whatever it takes to make this work!!! Toni...that was a great idea! The feeding tube actually works really well, but it also creates a lot of painful bloating and air in her stomach so we're working on trying to make this more comfortable for her to use.

Tomorrow we start another chemo round so it's going to a long and exhausting day for our gal. We did get over to the clinic today to get the blood work done and that was an absolute snap. Not only do we have a 10 to 11 hour chemo session tomorrow, but then she has to go to radiation and then up early for the second chemo on this cycle. Couple that with being in the hospital and trying to get this tube feeding in will be interesting...we're already working out the logistics and I think I'll have to hire a small team of movers to get all her supplies into the treatment room. She'll be soooooo glad when things are back to normal. That is such a gross understatement.

So VP's...there you have it. Brenda sends her love for all your thoughtfulness on her special day. Happy Birthday to her!!! Check out the pics. Thanks to you all...

Nurse Dee...back on duty

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

LPN Toni - On Duty in Houston

VP's...Michele has been wanting a picture of our LPN Toni who is currently on duty in Houston. Well I looked through my pictures and I happened upon one that I thought would fit the bill perfectly. I snuck a quick picture of Toni when she came over to our house in Mesa to show me her uniform. She wanted to make sure that Brenda felt she was in good hands while I was gone and so Toni thought that looking the part was VERY important. Can you say OCD? She even had an "Official" decal put on her car so no one would confuse her for some BHV Brenda's Healing Village) impostor...God forbid! Only the best for our Chemo-sabe. I think she looks a bit "dated" but good uniforms are hard to find in this economy. Toni this just screams professionalism. I definitely know my gal's in very competent hands.

Love to you for helping with this important task. But I must confess that I'll have to talk to your boss and see if they can afford different headwear.

You need a raise!

Nurse Dee

More News From the Front Lines

LORD!!! What a day our poor Chemo-sabe had. I just got off the phone with her and it was after 5:30 PM in Houston and Bren and Toni where JUST GETTING BACK TO THE APARTMENT!!! That is such a long day for her. I can't even imagine if we would have done the feeding tube placement next week when she's getting chemo on top of all this. She is just such an amazingly strong woman! I promise that I will try and never complain that I don't feel well when I just have a head cold!! Can you guys relate? This puts things into such clear perspective!

The kicker to todays activities was that radiation was so backed-up. When that happens, and you have so many other things going on it, just messes up everything. Wednesdays are the days she sees Dr. Swartz (Radiation Oncologist.) They were so far behind that she has to see him tomorrow because the rest of his staff went home. What's up with that...the patient is backed up so everyone goes home? How many times have we, as patients, waited for the doctor. OK...I can just hear you docs out there getting on my case! Ha! I'm just watching out for my girl!!! Admit'd feel the same way about your partner...especially when there are NO RECLINERS to lay back and snooze a little.

She said the first part of the tube placement was absolutely horrible...imagine a wire being snaked down your throat...a throat that's really dry and sore and you start gagging and coughing as this guy is trying to get this thing down your throat without hardly any pre-meds to help ease the anxiety of it all. The word TORTURE comes to mind.

LPN did such a great job today. You really got a glimpse of what life has been like for Bren over these past several months. Thanks for being such a calming presence and helping her get through all this. I sure need a briefing on all the tube feeding particulars. I understand that the 18 wheeler will be delivering Bren's supplies to the apartment. Maybe I'll have to visit the office and see if they have a bigger apartment. We literally have one corner of the place for Brenda's medical supplies already. Bring 'em's all part of the CURE!! I wonder if they have chocolate cake feeding juice for her birthday?

So I think that covers todays trauma. Get some good sleep Bren. You deserve a good restful snooze. Hopefully you'll feel a little better won't be as long a day that's for sure. I love you...xoxo

Nurse Dee

News From the Front Lines

Hi VP's...Nurse Dee here in Mesa, AZ checking in with an update from LPN Toni who is doing a fantastic job helping our favorite Chemo-sabe in Houston. I just got off the phone with both of them...all is well. Brenda just had the feeding tube put in and was in recovery to report that it wasn't a fun time snaking this wire down her throat, but when they gave her more sleep juice...she didn't remember anything after that. THANK HEAVEN THIS PART IS DONE!!! Yikes...the stuff this poor soul has put up with!

I just got another update from LPN Toni and they were just waiting about another half hour for Bren to be released. She's doing just fine. Toni is going to take her back to the apartment (thanks heaven we found one so close to the clinic) for some couch time until they have to come back for a recheck and 1st feeding in the new tube. The she has to get to radiation...and yes! they're backed up AGAIN!!! Then an appointment with Dr Swartz...we'll just see how all this goes. That's a lot to handle in one day for a hero that's already been surgerized and is damn TIRED! Where are the reclining chairs when you need them??? All you in hospital care...please take note...RECLINERS!!!!

I've got an appointment right now, so I'll forward more info tonight when I hear how the rest of the day played out. Please send some of your energy Bren's way. She is such a trooper. Thanks Tonya Jill for being another one of our guardian angles. You're due for a promotion!

Nurse (on my last break) Dee

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy July 4th

Yep VP's, I'm on my last "Nurses Union Break." My boss said that I couldn't take any more breaks without her. She wants to go home!! That's absolutely A-OK with me. I soooo visualize us driving home or me being able to put her on a plane to get her home quickly so she can start the final healing process and enjoy the CURE from home turf.

I just wanted to make a quick post before I head up to Strawberry, AZ to check on our cabin and ensure it's still standing and get the grass...well actually weeds...mowed. They've had rain up there so I know it'll need it. I'm waiting for my Mom to show up...we're going up together and we're going to try and find Cathie's sister in Payson and join their big BBQ. I actually feel like a little lost soul that goes from place to place to get some food! Ha! I had dinner with Becky last night and she said she and Julie would feed me while I was home...Ha! I just had to laugh. Do you have a visual?? There is absolutely NOTHING in the house to eat and I haven't had time to get anything! Ha! If you can't tell... Brenda is truly the cook in the family. I can make one mean bowl of cereal however...OH! And I can scramble eggs. Maybe that's why Bren wants to get that feeding tube in sooner rather than later...HUMMMMMMMM! I'm wondering if that's a sign that I should take a few cooking classes....Bren are you sending me a message?? I called her this morning and she's still raving about Vic's bread pudding...I am hopelessly challenged when it comes to cooking...I admit it!

Bren and Vic are going over to the Apple Store at the Galleria today so Vic can look at the new iPhone. It's a great outing for them and it'll give our gal a little exercise. Enjoy the day sweetie...I'll call you both tonight.

To all the other VP's...have a wonderful 4th of July...give thanks for the blessings you have and enjoy the people around you. Eat's the American way! More when I get back from the north country.

"On Break" Nurse Dee

PS: Thanks Doc Rachet for taking such good care of my gal.