Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hospital Blues

I'm in the hospital now, just sitting around waiting for the pharmacy to send up the chemo. They have given me the pre-meds, so it shouldn't be too long.

We came at 7 AM to have the PICC line put in. They will use that to give me Johnnie's cells next week. Then I came up to the ward and they had a room all ready for me, and started the paperwork. Ron and I went down to Audiology at 9:30 AM, where I had a hearing test to establish a baseline. That way they can tell afterwards if any of the chemo or anything damages my hearing. Then we came back up to my room, and I've just been waiting ever since.

They have taken my vital signs a couple of times, checked my blood sugar, and asked a million questions they already have the answers to in the computer. I've seen my doctor, and one of the other docs on the team.

We had to make arrangements for Kelly, our daughter, to get on post. When she took Johnnie back yesterday they wouldn't let Kel on post because Ron wasn't with her, so Johnnie had to walk from the gate to her quarters, in the dark, carrying shopping bags. Kelly was so upset, and I'm sure Johnnie wondered what she has gotten herself into. So today Ron arranged for the pass, and there should be no more problems like that. We just didn't think about them refusing Kelly entrance to drop Johnnie off, but we should have known.

Ron and Johnnie will be here later this afternoon. Johnnie said she slept in this morning, and did some laundry. Sounds like she is feeling a little more at home.

Ta for now.

PS: Getting the Fludarabine now (3:15 PM).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back To The Hospital

We had our family meeting with the doctor and staff this afternoon. I signed all the consent forms, heard all the scary stuff again, and I'm going into the hospital tomorrow to begin the strong chemo that will wipe out my immune system. I didn't expect to go in so soon, and it was a shock. I wanted to be able to be with Johnnie while she did the neupogen shots and had her stem cells collected, but that won't be possible now.

I'll get Busulfan twice a day for the first two days, and Fludaribine for five or six days (I'm confused on that). Both start tomorrow. Then I'll have a day with no chemo ( a rest day), and then on Wednesday, Dec. 7, they will do the transplant. (Another new birthday).

Johnnie will start the neupogen shots this Friday, they will collect cells from her on Monday and Tuesday, and give the fresh cells they collect on Tuesday to me on Wednesday. Anyway, that's the plan.

Please pray for us. Pray that the cell collection goes without problems for Johnnie, that my body will accept her cells and not reject them, and that her cells will not see as my body as a foreign object and attack me. We want her "super cells" to just find their place in my bone marrow and start building me a whole new immune system. My doctor said that if everything works as it should I will be a chimera, with my body and Johnnie's immune system. So strange and wonderful what they can do!

The chemo will cause the usual side effects, but things probably won't be bad until a week or so after the transplant. Not looking forward to those two or three weeks.

He warned me again that my age and history of radiation and chemo puts me at a higher risk for failure, but I am putting all my trust in God. I have so much to live for and I am determined to fight with all my might, so I'm asking for a miracle. I want to be cured of this cancer and see my grandchildren grow up.

Thank you for your prayers. I'll offer up my sufferings for all of you, family and friends.

(PS: I'll take my computer with me; don't know how much I'll be able to post).

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Process Begins

We had a long, busy day. Ron and I picked up Johnnie, then we stopped for breakfast. Because they were going to be taking a lot of blood from Johnnie, the nurses wanted her to have a good breakfast. We went to the bone marrow transplant unit where they took our vital signs and drew blood from both of us. They only took a few vials of blood from me, but they probably took 15 or so from Johnnie.

Then we hopped the shuttle to Wilford Hall and the apheresis unit there. They had all kinds of paperwork for Johnnie to complete, they took a look at her veins to make sure they are good enough to get the cells, they explained the process to her, and took even more blood. Poor Johnnie--by the time it was all done they had taken more than 20 vials of blood.

Back at BAMC, she had an Xray and an EKG and we were finally ready to leave around 1 PM. We went to lunch at Cheddars, then came by the house so that Johnnie could see Josh, Cyrise and the kids. At one point the three little girls, Aubrey, Camryn and Gina were all sitting in a semi-circle on the floor in front of Johnnie, just staring at her. :o) I love how they are so comfortable with my sisters almost immediately.

We were all tired, so Ron and I took Johnnie back to her place around 3:30 so that she could rest. I hope she sleeps well tonight. I took a little nap when we got back home. I worked with Reece for awhile on his counting to 100 and sight words. I put Aubrey, Cammie and Reece to bed at 8, after reading them a couple of stories and singing Little Bunny Foo-Foo three times. They all went to sleep so quickly tonight.

Tomorrow we have a family conference with my doctor and a bunch of other people. Kelly, Josh and Johnnie will go with us (me and Ron) to the meeting. I think that's the only thing going on tomorrow. Things are going so quickly now that I'm losing track of things.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Johnnie Is Here!

My wonderful, beautiful bone marrow donor, my sister Johnnie, is here! We picked her up at the airport this afternoon, and got her settled in her temporary quarters, which are very nice. Reece was with us and was excited and happy to see "Aunt Johnnie's house." We also met Kelly, and she went with us, too.

Johnnie and her family spent Thanksgiving with my niece and her family in Dallas. Sandi and Mom joined them there, so they had quite a crowd, too. Johnnie's flight from Dallas to here was only about an hour.

She was tired, and getting over some kind of stomach bug that she got in Dallas, so we visited for awhile, went to pick up a few things she needed, and left her there to rest and relax. Ron and I will pick her up early tomorrow morning. We have an appointment to have blood typing done at 8:30 AM and she's supposed to have a good breakfast first.

The weather has turned cold for our area; we may get to freezing in the wee hours! Johnnie thought she was coming to nice warm Texas, but she brought cold weather with her. She didn't bring a jacket, so I'll have to remember to take one for her tomorrow morning. I'm so excited to have her here with us!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Gentleman Ted

Kelly has taken Gran's little dog, Teddy, to the vet for all his shots and a checkup, and she had him groomed. He looks cuter and I'm sure he smells better. :o) Kelly said he looks like a little gentleman with his hair combed and his ribbon 'round his neck.

He likes to be with Kelly and her dogs. He thinks he is just as big as any of them, and tries hard to play with them the way they play. Kelly worries that they will hurt him, but I don't think he would keep going back for more if he didn't enjoy the roughhousing. He is crazy about Gran, but I think he likes his vacations at Kelly's. He doesn't get treated like a mini person there, but I don't think he minds. He likes being a dog.

My sister Johnnie will arrive tomorrow to begin the bone marrow donation process. I'm excited and a little bit scared. I can't wait to see Johnnie, though!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Again Already

Lily in her Minnie Mouse ears with Santa hat. She looks so much like her mama.

That was a whirlwind visit! Our son Jason and his family left tonight. I'm so glad they decided to come for Thanksgiving. It was fun and I loved having them all here.

Last week my doctor asked what we were planning for Thanksgiving, and laughed when I told him that we would have three kids and their spouses, eight grandchildren and six dogs. He was having company, too, but I'm sure his day was much calmer than ours. It was crazy and hectic, but I wouldn't change a thing. Some day maybe I'll be organized and have everything ready well in advance, but that hasn't happened yet. But no one cares, and everyone helps, so it all works out.

No Black Friday shopping for me; I can't handle the crowds. Instead we stayed home, relaxed and ate leftovers. Some of the kids slept half the day, others played video games, read books, or played outside. Everyone came in and out of the kitchen and ate whatever they could find in the fridge whenever they were hungry. Gravy and stuffing are even better the second day.

Tonight Ahlyssa played my violin for us. She is learning to play the viola, but was able to play several pieces on my violin, even without her music. And she only started learning this fall! I am amazed at how well she is doing, and so proud of her. She has inherited her daddy's musical gift.

Reece is going to miss his cousins and Uncle Jason and Aunt Kis. He loves all of them so much. The little girls will miss them, too, especially Lily. She is such a little mommy. She played with them and took care of them the whole time she was here, even baby Gina. When I see them all together I really wish we all lived closer together.

And now I think I'll go have a piece of pumpkin pie and ice cream before I go to sleep. :o) (I wish we still had some of Kelly's banana cream pie. She used her grandmother's recipe, and it was so delicious)!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you all have a blessed day with family and friends, food and football!

Our son and his family from Spring have arrived, and the house is filled with wonderful, precious people.

Ron gave me a Kindle for my birthday. I haven't figured it out yet (no time), but I'm excited to be able to download books and all kinds of things. All that's on there right now is Angry Birds for Reece. :o)

Jason gave me a case for my Kindle, Mom gave me an angel in a snow globe. The music is Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and it's so pretty. My sister Sandi gave me girly lavender PJs, my niece gave me a movie, Ponyo, to share with my grandkids. It's her little boy's favorite movie, and she thought we would love it, too. Reece and I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but the two little girls have watched it 3 or 4 times already. Yes, they love it! :o)

I got to have chemo for my birthday. Oh boy, just what I've always wanted. It went well, but I was zonked out all afternoon. Slept like a log.

I still haven't made my pumpkin pie or cranberry orange relish. I'd better get a move on!

I am very thankful for all of you who visit me here, who cheer me on and pray for me. Thank you so much! You are holding me up.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reece and The Angry Birds

Reece has discovered Angry Birds. He has never played video games, but a little boy at school told him about Angry Birds several weeks ago, and he was very interested in them. Then his daddy put the game on my phone, so we were up late last night playing it. I can see how it can be very addictive, but he has limited access to my phone, so I'm not too worried. I really, really dislike video games, usually. I think they are time wasters and keep you from real life, so I've always been glad that Reece wasn't interested in them.

Last night he was sleeping with us and started laughing in his sleep. He laughed and laughed and woke me up. I asked him this morning what he was laughing about, but he didn't remember it at all. I love that he is such a happy little boy that he even laughs in his sleep. :o) He does it quite a bit.

Sandi and Gran will be here later. They will stop here on their way to Bryan and drop off Teddy, who will stay with Kelly while Gran is away. Kelly is looking forward to having Teddy join her dog pack again, and has plans to take him to the vet and to be groomed. She's such a treasure! I'm sure glad she loves dogs.

May you all have a peaceful and blessed Sunday.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Summary

Friday I had the bone marrow biopsy and Methotrexate put into my Ommaya reservoir. My new doctor had me laughing so hard. He is funny.

We stopped by Mom's on the way home. She was doing well. I told her that Sandi would be here this weekend, and that they were going to Dallas for Thanksgiving next week. She is excited about that. She will get to see two of her youngest great-grandchildren for the first time, as well as family members she doesn't get to see very often.

Sandi arrived safe and sound and spent a couple of hours here with us before going on to Mom's. She will take Mom out for dinner and to get her hair cut this afternoon and evening. The kids always love to see her, and of course, so do we.

We will have Thanksgiving here, as always. We just found out a couple of days ago that our oldest son and his family will be here with us. We thought they were going to stay at home for Thanksgiving and come to us for Christmas, but now they are planning to come here for both. Yay! I'm glad they will be here before I go through the next chemo and the transplant, while I'm still feeling pretty good. Not sure how well I will feel at Christmas time, but I'm glad they will be here, anyway.

Reece is out of school all next week for the holiday. He enjoyed the kinder feast they had on Friday. He brought home a little Indian vest made of a brown paper bag, and a pilgrim hat made of construction paper. He said the cookies he took to the feast were "real good." They had all kinds of good food. The feast took place during their lunch time.

Reece is happy that he will have no school next week, and he is beyond excited that his cousins and Uncle Jason and Aunt Kismette are coming. He keeps asking us, "Is everybody coming?" and when we tell him "yes, they are coming next week," he gets upset that they are not coming today. He is absolutely crazy about his cousins.

Are you having a good weekend? I hope so!

Miraculous Medal Novena

Please join me in praying the novena starting today, November 19, and ending on the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, November 27.

Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

O Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord Jesus and our Mother,
penetrated with the most lively confidence in thy all-powerful and never-failing intercession,
manifested so often through the Miraculous Medal,
we thy loving and trustful children implore Thee to obtain for us the graces and favors we ask during this Novena,
if they be beneficial to our immortal souls, and the souls for whom we pray.

[Here privately form your petitions.]

Thou knowest, O Mary, how often our souls have been the sanctuaries of thy Son, Who hates iniquity.
Obtain for us then a deep hatred of sin and that purity of heart which will attach us to God alone
so that our every thought, word and deed may tend to His greater glory.
Obtain for us also a spirit of prayer and self-denial that we may recover by penance
what we have lost by sin and at length attain to that blessed abode where thou art the Queen of Angels and of men.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Feels Like Fall

Brrr, it's chilly here today. But it is sunny and pretty, so no complaints.

Ron and I just got home from the hospital. I was supposed to have Rituxan in my port and Methotrexate in my Ommaya, but I have to go back tomorrow for yet another darn bone marrow biopsy, so my doctor decided to wait and do the Methotrexate then. I think he was behind and trying to get caught up; he was running around like a crazy man. I don't mind waiting. The bone marrow biopsy was a surprise I didn't expect. Seems like I just had one, but it was in late September, so they want another. They hurt.

Did okay getting the Rituxan; it just takes so long. They do my labs first, wait an hour for them to come back, then order the chemo from the pharmacy, then put it in through the IV so slowly. They increase it every 30 minutes, but it still seems slow to me. Blood counts were low, but acceptable.

I was famished when we got home. I ate some cottage cheese with canned freestone peaches and some saltines and a glass of peach tea for lunch. I'm still hungry, though. Oreos, here I come.

I completed the other side of the sweater front and am now working on the sleeves. I took my knitting with me today, but I'm too easily side-tracked. I was knitting along, looked down at the right side, and there were 5 or 6 little purl bumps right in the middle of my smooth knit side. Arrrgh! Now I'll have to rip it back a few rows to fix things.

Reece will be home from school soon. I hope he had a good day. He did not want to go this morning. Tomorrow they are having a "kinder feast," and he and his parents are going to get cupcakes or cookies to take for dessert. When my kids were little I made dozens upon dozens of cookies and cupcakes for them to take to school, but now they only allow store bought treats. I guess they are afraid someone will put something toxic in the cupcakes. :o(

Happy Weekend!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend Roundup

More laundry and kitchen cleaning yesterday, and I finished the left front of one of the girl's sweaters. I have the back and one front side finished now, still have the right front to do, then the two sleeves. Because the sweaters are small, the knitting goes pretty fast.

I also made dinner last night, which was kind of fun because I haven't cooked in awhile. Ron got some bowtie pasta, alfredo sauce and breaded chicken tenders, so it was pretty easy. I just boiled water for the pasta, heated up the sauce, baked the chicken in the oven and heated up some frozen veggies. Not really "homemade," but it tasted pretty good and everyone liked it. Then the kids and I baked chocolate chip cookies (Nestle's ready-to-bake from the refrigerator section) for dessert. They were all gone when I went downstairs this morning. :o)

Josh and Cyrise took Reece, Aubrey and Camryn to the last day of Wurstfest in New Braunfels today. They had fun, but it was hot and the kids were so tired when they got home. They had food on a stick and fried pickles, rode the merry-go-round and ferris wheel.

Gina stayed here with me and Papa. Kelly came over and we went out for lunch while Papa watched Gina. We just went to Chipotle, close by, and then to Bath and Body Works, so we were not gone too long. Gina loved seeing her Aunt Kelly.

I got some antibacterial handsoaps, some wallflowers and a bottle of lotion at B&B Works. I like the Pink Sugarplum scent that they only have at Christmas time, so I got that in lotion and one of the handsoaps. I always wind up getting more than I had planned when I go there. I got Kitchen Lemon, Fresh Lavender and Winter Cranberry handsoaps (4 for $10). And Pink Sugarplum, Winter Cranberry and Frosted Cranberry wallflowers ($6 for the 2 pack of refills). That should last me through the holiday season. :o)

My dashboard is showing that it is 85* here. Feels like summer outside. We have the AC on one day, and the heat the next.

Life seems so normal right now, other than the cauda equina syndrome causing my legs to be numb and tingly so that walking is difficult. I'm still not using the walker at home, but use it when I go out. My calves have felt stiff and sore sometimes lately, but I walk anyway, and they loosen up after a bit. I'm not looking forward to the weeks ahead--the strong chemo and the transplant.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fab Friday!

We just finished dinner and I am so content. Josh grilled thick, tender filet mignon for all of us. Oh my goodness, they were delicious. I'm glad I'm not a vegetarian.

Cyrise made roasted potatoes with rosemary and we also had broccoli florets. Yummy!

It's been a busy day. The kids went shopping and Ron and I stayed with Reece and the girls. They played outside for quite awhile, after their naps. The girls got new tops, jeans and jackets and look so cute in them. The weather was cool enough that I wore a jacket myself. It was fun to sit outside and watch them play.

Josh and Cyrise bought Reece a new mattress and box springs, but it won't be delivered until the 22nd.

Papa took Reece with him to visit Gran. They said she is doing fine. They took her the leftover Chinese we had last night and she enjoyed that.

I cleaned up the kitchen this morning, and have been doing some laundry today--sheets and towels, mostly. I get tired pretty quickly, but it makes me feel so much better to do something. Now I need to get our mattress pad and sheets back on the bed and fold towels. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

She Had A Happy Birthday

Love that grin and the smiley eyes.

Her family gathered around her. She liked her cake, especially the frosting.

One of her birthday gifts. The other little girls are very interested in the purple doggie, too. But it can be programmed to say Gina's name and favorite things.

Happy Birthday, Gina!

Gina is one year old today! She is the sweetest baby, almost always happy and smiling. Love you, baby girl!

Not feeling my best the past couple of days, but nothing serious. My blood sugar is high, and I admit I haven't been watching it like I should. My diabetes has taken a back seat to the cancer. I will start watching it more closely.

I went in for the echocardiogram today. Don't have any results yet, but the procedure was quick and easy.

Tomorrow I'll see a dentist at Wilford Hall to make sure I don't have any kind of infection in my mouth. I know I have a couple of broken molars, but they've been broken for over a year and never caused any problem, so I don't expect any trouble from them. I hope the dentist will just put fillings in them. He said he could put a filling in anything when I saw him last year. :o)

I finally finished the little blanket I was knitting for Gina, and have started on one of the cardigans for the little girls. I hope they turn out cute. I like the yarn. Kelly and I went to one of the local yarn shops a few weeks ago, and I got a sweet raspberry colored yarn for one sweater, and a pretty lavender for the other one. Girly colors. :o) I'm almost finished with the raspberry back. I think the two front pieces and the sleeves will go really fast, but I'm worried about sewing it all together so it looks nice.

Ron and I were hungry after I finished at the hospital, so we stopped and had Mexican food on the way home. He had cheese enchiladas and I had chicken flautas--pretty good. As usual, my eyes were bigger than my stomach, though, and I brought most of it home.

We were going to shop for Gina's birthday, but I started to get a migraine (those darn sparkles), so we came home. Cyrise and I had talked about what I wanted to get for Gina, so she and Josh went shopping for me. We'll have a little celebration later this evening. I took some ibuprofen as soon as I got home, and lay down for a little while and I feel okay now.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Plan

We met with my new doctor today. He talked with us (me and Ron) for quite awhile about my treatment. He said that there are two options. The first one is to continue as we have been, using the Rituxan and Methotrexate to keep the cancer at bay. But he said that that usually only works for a few months, and then the cancer will come back. The prognosis would be only months to live.

The second option is to do the bone marrow (also known as stem cell) transplant. He gave us all the scary reasons why I might not want to do it. He said that I'm older than most of their allogeneic transplant patients, and I have the disadvantage of having had a lot of chemo and other treatments already. He explained how sick I will get, how they will kill off all my cells, all the risks and awful things that can and will happen. It will be worse than the autologous transplant I had last year, where my own cells were used. I can't even imagine being sicker than I was then; it was awful. My body may try to reject my sister's cells. I'll have no immune system for several weeks and any tiny infection could kill me. After he told us all of that, I told him that I will have the transplant. He said, "Even after all that I've told you." And I said, "Yes." He seemed relieved. He said it was a reasonable decision. He said that I'm kind of "in the middle"--I'm not the best subject for this procedure, but I'm not the worst, either.

There's a lot to do before the transplant, getting me ready and making sure all my systems are healthy enough to do it. So far all of my tests have come back fine--the CT scan, my opthalmology exam, the pulmonary exam. I still have to have xrays, an eccocardiogram, appointments with GYN, the dentist, the bone marrow transplant social worker and bmt coordinator. What a whirlwind!

My sister is coming down November 27, after Thanksgiving, to donate her cells. She will have exams and labs the first few days, then have the neupogen shots for four days. Then they will harvest her cells. During the time she is getting the neupogen, they will be giving me chemo to wipe out my cells. I'll probably get her cells on the same day they are harvested. If it takes two days for them to get enough cells from her, they will give me more the second day. Then I'll be in the hospital for at least a couple of weeks, probably longer, to recover. My immune system will be totally wiped out, so I can't get even the tiniest infection or I could die. The weeks following the stem cell transplant will be the worst. But if it works, I'll never have to worry about any kind of cancer again.

Please pray for me, for my sister, Johnnie, and for my family. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lamb, Butterfly, Octopus

I was going to take more pictures of the little girls in their Halloween costumes, but it's just too much trouble to get them all dressed up again. I didn't get good pics of them that day, but I'll post them anyway, just so you can see their costumes.

Gina was a little lamb.

Aubrey was a butterfly.

And Camryn was an octopus.

All Souls Day

The practice of recommending to God the souls of the departed in that we may mitigate the great pains which they suffer, and that He may soon bring them to His glory, is most pleasing to God and most profitable to us. For those blessed souls are His eternal spouses, and they are most grateful to those who obtain their deliverance from prison, or even a mitigation of their torments.

Hence, when they shall enter into heaven, they will certainly not forget those who prayed for them. It is a pious belief that God manifests to them our prayers for them, that they also may pray for us.

Let us recommend to Jesus Christ, and to His holy Mother, all the souls in Purgatory, but especially those of our relatives, benefactors, friends, and enemies, and, still more particularly, the souls of those for whom we are bound to pray; and let us consider the great pains which these holy spouses of Jesus Christ endure, and offer to God for their relief the Masses of this day.
The Roman Missal (1962)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Feast of All Saints

We can pay no greater honour to the Saints than by offering up to God in their name the Blood of Jesus. The efficacy of their past merits and present prayers is greatly increased when offered to God in close association with the merits and prayers of our Lord.

Therefore the Church commemorates on this day all the Saints in Heaven without exception, and thus honours also those who are unknown and who have no public recognition in the Liturgy.
The Roman Missal (1962)