Saturday, July 17, 2010

It's starting to catch up

I'm tired.  That about sums it up.  Obviously, it's been a long week for everyone involved.  I am grateful beyond belief to my parents and mother-in-law for taking care of the kids all week, to our friends for the visits, lawn mowing & meals that have been delivered.  But, I'm really, really tired - both emotionally & physically.

Last night was our annual church camp-out.  Cal wanted to camp so much and was really upset about the idea of not getting to sleep in the tent.  Mike was obviously not going to be able to camp, but wanted to at least go and visit for awhile for a change of scenery.  In the end I stayed with both kids & Mike and his mom went back home.  I think Cal really needed to do something different to keep his mind off everything that's been going on.  He's worried now about Mike having the staples removed.

I like camping, hanging out with friends, sleeping in the tent, etc.  But, last night it was hot & sticky, the group site a bit up the hill from ours was up until 3am having a great time and I had another night of not getting much sleep. 

I feel like I'm just complaining now, but I'm ready to get on with things already.  Mike is healing slowly - mostly because he can't stand to "look sick" so is trying to do too much so he doesn't feel like he is sick.

Mike's dad will be here today to pick up his mom.  Not sure yet if they will go home today or tomorrow.  Again, we couldn't have done this without family here and I don't want anyone to take it the wrong way, but honestly, I'm ready for it to just be the four of us again.

I know we still have a long road ahead of us and we'll get through that too, but until we see the oncologist on the 27th maybe we can pretend to just be a normal family dealing with normal, everyday stuff like kids fighting & dogs barking instead of this cancer thing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Are you kidding?

All along we have had so many people praying for us.  Family, friends, people we barely know & people we have never even met from all around the country.  There is a lot talked about regarding the "power of prayer".  I guess now we can add to those stories...

So, I go home to take a shower after talking to the docs at the hospital when Mike calls.  I'm thinking, I haven't been gone that long, but maybe he's already been discharged.  Instead, Mike tells me that Dr Dachman just called to tell him that of the 30 lymph nodes that were removed on Monday every last one came back clear!  Are you kidding me?!?!  I told Mike I would be right there.  I grabbed my purse & sunglasses and told my mother-in-law I was heading back.  She asked, "without drying your hair?"  Yup. And I was outta there.  Fortunately, the hospital is only about 2 minutes from the house so I make it no time.  Park, speed walk through the lobby, run up the stairs and speed walk down the hall to the "family lounge" at the end of the hall.  Mike is sitting there grinning at me. 

On June 25 when Dr Dachman said, "I'm sorry, Mike, but you have colon cancer" my world turned upside down with disbelief.  In that other sentence from Mike, "All 30 nodes were clear", there is another feeling of disbelief.  I MUCH prefer this one.

It's weird how two completely unexpected announcements can have a similar yet so incredibly different effect.  Shock, disbelief & fear vs. shock, disbelief & hope.

Two oncologists, the surgeon, our doctor and both of us believed the lymph nodes were involved.  This thing had been growing for 3-5 years, several nodes were swollen on the CT scan, enlarged and hard when Dr Dachman held them after removing them, yet when biopsied were clean.  Lymphatic involvement was so certain that the Power Port for chemo had been installed during surgery.

That said, it doesn't mean this story is over.  There was the polyp that tested positive, which was located in the lower part of Mike's colon.  Ideally, all of it was removed on June 25, but there just really isn't anyway to be positive of that.

On July 27 we will meet with the oncologist to determine where we go from here.  Could be that we do nothing, could be oral chemo or it could be the regular chemo we were prepared for already.  Honestly, we're more afraid of doing nothing than of Mike having traditional chemo. If we do nothing & there is even one cell left hiding somewhere, it will likely continue to grow.  However, if we go ahead with chemo we will be able to kill anything that might still be hiding out.  Using chemo proactively feels much less threatening that having to use chemo to save your life.

Earlier on in this adventure I hoped I would be strong enough to handle all of this.  Obviously, there were moments, even days, of feeling frustrated, afraid, etc.  Honestly, overall it hasn't seemed as difficult as I imagined it would be.  I'm not sure what that says about me, but I just did what I wanted and needed to do.   Of course I had a TON of help from my parents & my in-laws & friends, not to mention the emotional support & a husband with the most positive attitude & best sense of humor of anyone else I know.

On Monday we'll go back to see Dr Dachman so Mike can have the staples removed.  Until then the challenge will be for him to be able to rest when he needs to and to manage the pain.  More than anything we are both looking forward to a much deserved good night's sleep.

He really IS going to be OK.

Home Sweet Home

Although we are still at the hospital, Mike has been given the go ahead to be released today! One day earlier than the original estimate.  It will be nice to leave this part of the journey behind us, although in some ways it will be more difficult at home.

The kids will be so happy to have Mike home - the dogs will be a pain in the neck.  Kona has been missing me and both she & Payton will be excited and none too happy to banished to the backyard or basement when we first get home.

Furniture will be rearranged a bit so Mike can be as comfortable as possible & I imagine the kids will need to be kept busy this afternoon.

We know that our lawn was mowed yesterday by David & Louis (thank you!) and Maureen provided dinner last night (thank you!) and dinner will again be provided tonight, and the night after that, and the night after that, etc.  One of the first things I need to do when I get home is make room in our freezer as we are about to be, once again, overwhelmed (in a good way) by the generosity of others.

Yesterday Cal told me he wants to be able to crawl in bed with us and cuddle again.  Me too.

Dr Dachman gave Mike the go-ahead to resume regular activity.  Really no major restrictions.  It's crazy, the guy had two feet of colon removed and he has no restrictions as far as diet is concerned.   As long as Mike chews everything really well, there should be no problems.  I guess Doc assumes that Mike has at least some common sense when it comes to deciding what to eat or not. 

Driving is fine once Mike is confident he can slam on the breaks if necessary.  No lifting more than 25-30 pounds for now and all other physical activity can be done "at Mike's discretion".  Basically, listen to your body.  The human body is absolutely amazing in its ability to repair itself.

Staples (we counted at least 19) will come out on Tuesday and we should have the oncology report then as well.  That's the last bit of information we need before moving forward with making a plan for chemo.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I'm not even sure where to start in regard to my admiration and respect for Mike.  His determination is inspiring and makes me want to be a stronger person.  I've been in love with Mike for half of my life and it is because of him that I am he person I am today. 

Recovering from this surgery has been anything but glamorous, but Mike does it all with the the good humor, that anyone who knows him, appreciates.  Sometimes when a person is in a situation like this, no matter how laid back they usually are, the boredom, indignity, and dependence can be more than they can take.  So far, Mike continues to remain upbeat, joking with the nurses and just taking things as they go. 

The nurses are happy to have Mike as their patient.  He doesn't complain, does as much as he can on his own, was up walking sooner than expected & apologizes when his body does something that is out of his control (a recently resectioned bowel can be a bit temperamental).

I am so grateful (I seem to be using that word a lot lately) that our parents are able to watch the kids so I am able to spend so much time with Mike.  I hope he isn't getting sick of me. LOL 

For lunch Mike actually had what resembled a chicken breast & mashed potatoes.  After seeing Dr Dachman this morning & finally having the foley removed (Yeah!!) we were told that Mike is doing "exceptionally well" and if pain can be managed by taking the pain meds orally he may be able to go home tomorrow.  Just shows what prayers, determination & more prayers can do.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Up & Moving

Epidural is gone and Mike walked the halls a little.  He's sleeping again, which is what he needs.  Turns out insomnia is common for someone of Mike's age, fitness level & health that goes through this type of surgery.  Tonight he'll get Ambien to help him sleep & I brought the ear plugs.  Funny how you are supposed to rest as much as you can so the well meaning nurses can disturb you every 90 minutes.   

Speaking of nurses, they have all been great.  I'm not just saying that because I happen to be friends with two of them either.  

Kids are doing better today now that they've seen Mike a couple of times.  Zoey was a bit quieter than usual when I went home to get cleaned up, but overall they're having fun with their grandparents.  

Not a whole lot for me to do here, but I don't want to be anywhere else.  Knowing the kids are taken care of lifts a huge weight.  I can focus my energy on Mike and making sure he gets what he needs.  Even in a small hospital things come up and he may not be high on the list of priorities.  As awful as it sounds, it just means there is someone else worse off than he is.  

Long Night

Not much sleep last night.  Actually, I slept more than Mike did. For a guy that can fall asleep on the couch by 8 on any given night, it's rough to see him not be able to sleep even though he needs & wants to.  The big issue is that he hasn't been able to move.  He had an oxygen tube, IV, epidural & catheter.  Plus the epidural has made his entire right side and leg numb, so he wouldn't have been able to stand even if the nurses would have let him.

Finally around midnight, he was able to stop using the oxygen.  His O2 levels have remained in the mid-upper 90's so it looks like we're past that.  This morning, Jeff, the anesthesiologist adjusted the epidural down to 5 from 8, but Mike also has a manual pump he can use for a boost if he needs it.  Hopefully, that will bring back the rest of feeling in his right leg.  It came back gradually over the night, but he probably still couldn't put weight on it if he tried.

Mike's first goal today (aside from actually drinking something) is to have the catheter removed.  Now that feeling is coming back into his upper legs he's also feeling that a bit more and claims it isn't comfortable.  Hmmm, what a surprise!  So, hopefully he can get enough feeling back in both legs to get up and walk to the bathroom and get rid of that.  Although, the kids seemed pretty fascinated by it.

Docs should be in later this morning to do rounds.  This will be the first time Mike will have spoken to them since before surgery.  Will be good to get more information and hear again what was told to me yesterday.   I can't get out of my head the statistic Dr Dachman mentioned yesterday following surgery concerning 5 and 10 year survival rates for situations similar to Mike's.  I appreciate the honesty, but it's not something I want to think about.  Sometimes denial is good.

Monday, July 12, 2010


That step is over!  Mike is resting comfortably with the help of REALLY good narcotics given through an epidural.  Probably good the meds are disbursed on a timer, otherwise he may  want to tough it out with the pain.  

We arrived at 7:30 this morning and at 10:00 he was taken to the OR.  Upland Hills is awesome.  I was called at 10:40 and told that the incision was just made.  I was called again half-way through the procedure and told that the resection was taking place. I was called yet again to be told that the resection was complete and the port was being installed.  Not long after that last call, Dr Kramer, who had been assisting, came out to talk to us.  He looked relaxed, which was a really good sign. Especially considering how haggard he looked the last time we talked to him at the hospital following the diagnosis.

Surgery was textbook.  Dr Dachman removed about 2 feet of colon and all of the surrounding lymph nodes he could find.  I was relieved to hear that the cancer had NOT spread to the surrounding organs- Thank God.  However, the lymph nodes are involved, which we had pretty much figured.  Until the biopsy, however, we won't know how many are cancerous.

After Dr Kramer left it was as if whatever was keeping me detached disappeared.  I was so relieved that the surgery had no complications and that no other organs were attacked it was all I could do to keep from sobbing.

When Dr Dachman finally came out, he gave me a picture of the section of colon that was removed.  Right in the middle is that ugly, ugly mess of cells that caused all of this upheaval.  I'm thinking we should make copies and use them as target practice.  Or, maybe we'll just use the picture as our Christmas card this year. LOL

We had planned on waiting until tomorrow afternoon to have the kids visit Mike, but he's feeling well enough and doesn't have the nose tube so my parents are bringing them by for a quick visit.  I think he needs to see them as much as they want to see him.  

I'm spending the night at the hospital tonight and know the kids are in good hands with their grandparents. 

Thank you to Pastor Todd, Maureen, Michelle, Carl, Mom & Dad, Ma & Dad, Cal & Zoey for coming to visit or stay with me during the surgery.  

I will continue to update as we find out more info and as Mike progresses.  He may even get to eat jello for breakfast tomorrow - Whoo Hoo!

Mike needed to up his pain meds a bit.  The epidural is working well for the area surrounding the incision, but just above that and where the port is was starting to bother him.  Lacey, his nurse gave him some different meds in his IV and after about a half hour he was starting to feel better.  I found that if I ask him if he can breathe regularly rather than shallow it's  a good judge on whether or not he needs increased pain control.

Mike was also given caffeine in an IV before and after surgery to help combat any caffeine withdrawal type headaches.  Unfortunately, because of that he isn't too inclined to sleep so has been awake since coming out of surgery at 2.  Hopefully, he'll be able to sleep through the night.  Well, as much as you can when you get your vitals checked every half hour.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Tomorrow is the day.  The first day of the rest of our lives, right?  I honestly don't know how I feel right now.  I think maybe it just doesn't seem real, I don't know.  I usually have a lot of feelings one way or another, but tonight I just feel kind of empty.  I imagine tomorrow will be a different story. 

I worry about the kids, Cal especially.  I know he's having a rough time and I hope he can be distracted enough by his grandparents.  Selfishly, I only want to be with Mike.  I don't want any other responsibilities right now.  I am beyond blessed to have parents & in-laws that are spending the week with me in order to take care of Cal & Zoey.

It'll be interesting to see what tomorrow brings.  What the doctors will find once they get in there.  At this stage of the war that's still an unknown.  Based on x-rays and CT scans Mike's lungs and liver look clear, we're banking on that being the case once Dr Dachman digs around.

Time to wrap it up, get my kids in bed & spend some quality time with Mike.  He's been nauseous most of the day because of the super-antibiotics he has to take to "sterilize" his colon.  I just kind of see it as a taste of what's to come once the chemo starts, I guess.