Sunday, January 31, 2010

Creating the Cotton Ball Do!

Hi VP's...How the heck have you all been? I bet you've been wondering what on earth we've been up to and how Brenda is doing. Really Brenda has been doing well. She tolerated the first chemo well and on Tuesday we have round #2. She got a little bug but that only lasted one day so we dodged the bullet on that one. She's been an absolute trooper, full of wit and laughter even when things are tough...she's simply amazing. Sleep is still the secret ingredient...she needs those wonderful zzzzzzzz's to feel half-way decent. Hey! I think that's the medicine we all need. Right?

Yesterday Brenda, Julie and I decided it was time to grab the clippers again. The new chemo was doing it's job on Brenda's poor hair follicles. OK so the first time we did the mohawk and discovered what a great shaped head Brenda had. Yesterday we put our thinking caps on and decided to turn Brenda's head into a cotton ball that really resembled a Q-Tip!! Of course I had to get the flip video camera out and we created this little movie for your viewing enjoyment. We sure hope you like it.

We'll let you know how Round #2 goes on Tuesday...we also see Dr. Halepoda that day so we'll see what he has to say about how things are going. Your continued prayers are wonderful...please keep em coming.

OK so we've had the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild and the Academy Awards are coming up...let's see if you'd vote for our little production...enjoy!!


Hugs...Dee & Brenda


video

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dem Cotton Balls and other Stories





Hi VP's...I'm wonderfully glad to report that our beloved Brenda is doing well...but I'll do the medical update in a bit. I've been anxious to share a little tidbit of info with you, so that first.

You'd think that after 23 years of living together and probably close to 30 years that I've known Brenda, that there wouldn't be any new significant revelations that you didn't know about your partner. WRONG!!! I want you to think: "COTTON BALLS!!!" That's right...that small, white, fluffy, soft, fibrous little cotton ball...Brenda is TERRIFIED of them!!! After 30 years, I have just now learned that Brenda can't stand those little things...hates them...can't stand to touch them...can't pull them apart...in fact she would rather walk on hot coals then pull one apart. I just found this out when the ENT wanted her to put a greased one up her nose (with medication, silly!!! Don't get the wrong idea now!!) He wanted to give her nasal passage a rest and add some moisture up there. It's so dry out here....remember? She came to me with this absolutely pathetic look on her face and asked me to pull the little harmless cotton ball apart for her because she just couldn't touch it. I said..."What???!!! Are you kidding?" NEWS FLASH!!! SHE WASN'T!!! I still can't get over this...what on earth happened to her when she was young that she is now terrified of a dang cotton ball??? This is a woman who has chased bank robbers down dark alleys...and she can't...refuses...absolutely will not even think about...pulling a cotton ball apart!

OK...so there ya have it!! I think it would be fabulous if you put your thinking caps on and create a story about Brenda and cotton balls...visuals to enhance the script would be even better. Hey Marshall Vic...got any ideas on how Brenda can overcome this phobia? Michele, I'm sure you have something hysterical to say about this...maybe some advice you can offer our Brendita? Come on VP's you just can't let this one go!!

So now on to the medical news...really...she is doing fine. She has tolerated the first round of chemo VERY well. I think the biggest side effect we have seen so far is the fatigue. She gets tired very easily but, being the trooper that she is, she still goes to our personal trainer Monday, Wednesday, Friday and he's helping her work on those weak shoulders, getting some strength back just to do normal things, and getting the range of motion back in her neck.

We did go back to the ENT to have her hearing checked because of that fluid buildup in her ear. YEP! The fluid really reduced her hearing in her right ear so Dr. Kelsch (the ENT) put a tube in there to drain the fluid. Now remember that I am just learning the medical stuff and had no idea what putting a tube in your ear entailed. I was envisioning the tube being something like a big, long plastic thing that got rammed down your ear!! I had to watch! So he put drops in to deaden the eardrum, then he took this instrument to puncture his was through to the eustachian tube...OK I was expecting the long tube to get pulled out...NO! WRONG! It's this little itty-bitty thing that just keeps the top part of your eustacian tube open sop the fluid can drain out. It worked like a champ! She hears better and the fluid has been drained Her ear is so much better. She has antibiotic drops to put in and she can't get her ear wet at all but that dang fluid is gone.

Believe it or not, we DON'T have a doctors appointment for her all this week. I'm going to have a hearing test on Thursday because we've gotten to the point (prior to the ear tube thing...) that Bren and I were watching the subtitles on some movies...now that's bad!! Getting old is not for wimps!!! Ha!

So folks, that's a wrap for tonight...let's hear what ya think about the cotton balls...we love hearing from you.

Go "AVATAR" for winning the Golden Globe Award for best movie drama. If you haven't seen that movie yet...go...and see it in IMAX 3D...WOW!!!

Hugs to you all...
Dee, Brenda, Abbie & Tanner

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Insurance Policy Round #1=DONE!!!

Evening VP's...WOW! What a day! Over the last several days our anxiety levels for this upcoming chemo have been building and we haven't been sleeping great at all. We just didn't know how Brenda was going to react with these new drugs. They tell you all the HORRIBLE side effects of the drugs they are using, but we had no idea what might be her reality. Plus there was the SmartPort and how was that going to feel getting accessed...of course we've been on the Internet and learned all the things that can go wrong. BAD DOGS!!!

So at 2:00am we were both wide awake and just ended up talking, laughing, speculating, praying...and finally taking some drugs to get back to sleep!! Those pills have been sleep savers. It probably doesn't help that I also jack myself up on venti iced coffee every day but I so enjoy it...it makes me the ever-ready bunny however! Ha!

OK so we made it to the oncology department "ON TIME" and what happened? You guessed it...they were short one oncology nurse and were over 2 hours late getting Brenda hooked up. EEEEEEKKKK! You'd think we'd be used to the waiting game...well we sort of are, but this was the first day of a new regime and we wanted to get it started and over with and under our belt. I promise, I'm really trying to be a patient person...promise! I didn't say a word, I just stood there in a clear, unobstructed view of the 2 nurses that were working so they couldn't miss me staring at them! Ha! Subtle as a bulldozer, don't you think?!! It worked!!! Can you say "Command Presence." YES! I had my "cop stance" on.

OK...they got Bren hooked up through the port and it was just fine...they drew blood through it and started the drugs...YEA!!! Everything was working thus far. I was so relieved that I walked across the street and...you guessed it...got my Venti Iced Coffee at Starbucks...how convenient that it's right across the street!!! YEA!!! I made it back to the oncology office with a Coke and electrolyte water for Bren as they were doing this "Koolaid" type of infusion with this big syringe...interesting. 2 of the 3 drugs were actually like very short infusions (one was actually a shot in the IV line) and the 3rd drug was hug in a bag and took about an hour to empty. Of all the side effects they said could happen as Bren was getting this stuff...she didn't have any adverse reactions. We understand that some might come on over the next several days, but today there was no upset stomach, no abdominal pain, no joint or muscle pain. We'll just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best in the upcoming days. SO FAR...SO GOOD! Tomorrow she has to go in for her Neulasta (white blood cell booster) shot.

Now the REALLY, REALLY FANTASTIC news is about the newest PET/CT scan. I'll save you all the medical mumbo-jumbo...the report said that there was "no evidence of disease within the neck or paranasal region." There is also "no intracranial abnormality of tracer activity." So dear VP's...it looks like good old Dr. Gillenwater got all the nasty stuff out of Brenda's neck and now she's going through this chemo as the insurance policy that all the bad cells, if any, will be DESTROYED! Wellness here we come. 2010 is turning out to be a fabulous year...let's all keep this on a roll!

We were beyond thrilled...happy...ecstatic...joyous...you get the picture. I hope you are joining us by jumping up and down and screaming. And what do folks do that have fantastic news about a problem that has been troubling them to their core for almost a year? RIGHT!!! THEY GO SHOPPING!!! Since Brenda was feeling so well after her treatment and we were so very happy about the scan news, and since I've been looking at upgrading my cell phone to a new smart phone...we both went to the Verizon Store and both of us ended up buying the new Motorola DROID smart phones!!! HA! It's just what ya have to do!! Go join us in the excitement and use this excuse to GO SHOPPING TOO!!! HA!

It's really a cool phone...internet...navigation...apps...you know the drill. We would have gotten an iPhone because we are such died in the wool MAC users, but we like the Verizon network better than AT&T.

So there ya have it gang...such fantastic news for January 12th!!! YEA! CELEBRATE!!!!

Now it's time to hit the sack and hopefully get a good nights sleep...we so need it. I have a great story about "COTTON BALLS." But I'll save that for the days to come.

Thanks for all the prayers and good positive energy that came our way today...we could sure feel it.

Sleep soundly...
Dee and Brenda

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Happy New Year VP's









OK...OK VP's...I know it's been over a month since I last updated the blog and many of you have called to get on my case to do a better job at keeping everyone posted on our favorite patient. The good news is that she is doing well and is continuing to heal. We certainly thank the Lord for that and for all the positive energy that we can feel you sending our way. We have been held captive by the holidays, our visiting families, cookie making, movies that just HAD to be watched, football that just had to be cheered, dogs that needed to go to the vet and walked, friends that needed holiday cheers...well you get the idea. But we're back and I promise regular updates on the blog. PROMISE!!!

So the most important piece of information is that Brenda continues to keep her fabulous positive attitude as we look at beginning the next round of chemo that will start this coming Tuesday at 10:30 am. Of course there have been a ton of doctor appointments and phone calls to attend to to get us to this place, but we have just about everything lined up. Through the Virginia Piper Cancer Center in Scottsdale, we have a great oncologist that has many patients whose primary care has happened at MD Anderson. He's right in sync with Dr. Hong's order for the new chemo regime and he has a 16 chair chemo department at his office. Like I said, we are all set to begin that this coming Tuesday. They are using 3 different chemo drugs that have been around a long time and are well tolerated...not without the nasty side effects, but the folks back at MD Anderson said that Brenda should be able to tolerate this better than the first chemo drugs she had. I've got my fingers crossed and the prayers heading skyward. We'd love if you'd help us do the same. For those of you that like the details, the drugs are:


Doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
Vincristine (Oncovin)
Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)

I'll certainly keep you posted on how it goes. She'll only have to go through 6 infusions and instead of 8 to 9 hours for the infusions, the treatment will only take about 2 1/2 hours and only on 1 day every 21 days...not 3 days every 21 days...plus we'll be home...that is HUGE!!!

She's had blood tests, a heart echo exam, another PET/CT scan, a "SmartPort" installed in her upper chest for easier chemo access, and this week she'll have another hearing test because she has
fluid in her
Eustachian Tube due to the radiation scar tissue. They are monitoring that and might put a tube in her ear to drain the fluid. We have found a good ENT so that's reassuring. Bren is still dealing with nasal drainage, and the doc is monitoring that, and gave her a new wash to keep the bacteria down so she doesn't get an infection...we certainly can't afford that now. We're back in the "SUPER CAREFUL" mode.

Christmas at home with family, friends, and of course...the dogs... was truly wonderful...busy... but wonderful. My Mom came over on Christmas Day and we opened some gifts and celebrated with a Taylor - Van Amburg California tradition of eating a meal of Dungeness crab for dinner. YUMMMY! Mom was a real trooper. She had never had crab before and she rolled up her sleeves, dug right in, and ate the whole thing. We were so proud of her.

My sister Barb, brother-in-law Tim, and niece Kelly came in the day after Christmas from cold, snowy Detroit. Toni came over for our evening dinner of ham, sweet potatoes, homemade biscuits (my grandmothers recipe), Toni's favorite jello with cream cheese cubes, and green beans. It was so very good. Of course there were more goodies to open and my niece made Brenda a fabulous blanket. She even snatched a ladies ball of yard from her cart at the store when the lady refused to let Kelly have it because that was the last ball of the color Kelly needed to finish the blanket. She grabbed it when the lady wasn't looking, and hurried and paid for it before the lady even noticed. We were so proud of her!! Ha! It was such a great story and made the blanket even more precious.

Brenda's sister Rhonda, her niece, Amy and nephew, Cody, with his new wife, Heather arrived from Boise, Idaho on January 1st for the big Boise State vs Texas Christian football game at the Fiesta Bowl. It was fabulous seeing them and Brenda got such a boost of energy having them around. They had a great time talking, laughing, shopping, cooking, telling stories, and just being in each others company. It was wonderful seeing her spirits so high. Plus Boise State won the game!!! Yea! That's the second time they have won a spot in the Fiesta Bowl and WON THE GAME!!!

I almost forgot to mention that Michele also arranged in early December to have a layover here in Phoenix on her way back from a west coast business trip. We sure love it when she does that. We got to meet her really nice nephew, Matt. and we all had a wonderful dinner at the famous Cowboy Ciaos in Scottsdale and then the next day we all pigged out at the Sugar Bowl...a true downtown Scottsdale landmark...they have great ice cream stuff. It's Michele's favorite when she makes it to Phoenix. It was great meeting her nephew. Michele also introduced us to a new computer game called "Bejeweled 2." Can you say addictive???

We had an emergency with our older Dobie, Abbie when we learned that her heart condition was getting worse. We put a Holter monitor on her regularly and the number of bad beats had gotten very bad, very quickly. That was the same day that we learned that Brenda had to have more chemo so we were both totally deflated, depressed, and worried. I got Abbie in to the heart specialist and we put her on a new heart med. Later last month I re-Holtered her and the bad beats had diminished significantly. I'm so glad we caught this. Dobies have this problem with their hearts that folks are trying to breed out of them. It's a condition where the dog can have a series of these irregular beats and then just drop over dead. She's a great girl and we'd really love her in our lives for years to come.

I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be home with family, our dogs, and friends. We've charted Brenda's chemo treatments and her last session will be April 27th. Collectively let's think of something we can all do to celebrate the end of, hopefully, this FINAL round of treatment. It will be over a year of treatment Brenda has had to ensure to treat this dreaded cancer. I think we all should collectively do something to signal the closure of this part of the journey. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

We've missed reading your comments so I'll keep up my end of the blog if you'll keep up yours...DEAL?

Here's wishing you all the very best that 2010 can offer.

Dee, Brenda, Abbie and Tanner