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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Short update

Well, we were able to make it up north this weekend to spend some time at a cottage with friends! (Yeah! Thanks guys!)

Dave was feeling well on Friday and Saturday, and slept well the first night. Saturday was cold but still a beautiful day for skiing. (Dave wanted to ski, but thought that it probably wasn't a good idea. He gets cold very quickly, and tires easily - both from the chemo.) Saturday afternoon Dave started to feel a little off, and then just didn't feel great the rest of the weekend. Unfortunately the chemo can just knock him down sometimes. It was still a good time with friends and he was glad to be there, even when he wasn't feeling as well. It was good to get away, but I know he wishes that he could have been out skiing or even just be able to spend more time outside.

We know that some days he'll feel well and some days he won't. (We just prefer the good days is all!)
We're hoping tomorrow's a better day. Thanks for your prayers!

(I know it's short today. Just thought we'd let you know we were able to make it away for the weekend.)


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Weekend North

Just a short FYI today.

Dave's feeling pretty good considering the dose of chemo he received yesterday. And he says he's been sleeping a little better which helps a lot. 

If he still feels good tomorrow afternoon, we're planning on heading up north for the weekend to stay at a cottage with friends. I plan on skiing and Dave will hang out by a fireplace.

Tomorrow mid-day he has another appointment to have his feeding tube site looked at as he still seems to be having unnecessary pain from it. We've also asked the doctor to switch the tube from a GJ to a G tube - which just means the tube will empty into his stomach instead of his small intestine. I don't think I've mentioned this here, but Dave actually hasn't been using the feeding tube for more than a few weeks now. He's been able to eat enough on his own to pretty much keep his weight up. (They put him on the feeding tube early on as he was losing weight because of his difficulty swallowing. Also people often lose weight on chemo because they don't have an appetite.) He can use the tube for supplemental feeding and it would just be easier if it were in his stomach. You can basically do the feeding faster through a G tube than a GJ tube. (Put it this way - he'd be more likely to use it for supplemental feeding if it didn't take so long to do. He was on it for 12 hours a day when he started with it. The pump is noisy and he couldn't sleep well with it running. It was just very frustrating for him and once he found that he could eat a little more and do OK without it, there was no going back.) We don't want it removed entirely, but just want it to be a little more convenient to use.

Hopefully that isn't a big deal and goes smoothly tomorrow. (It's not supposed to be a problem at all. They apparently just pull the old tube out and put a new different tube in.) And we hope they can figure out what the pain is from. (Dave still thinks it's from the suture pin that the VON nurse impaled him with.)

Also, we've pretty much finalized our trip next week to this wellness centre in Michigan. (www.creativehealthinstitute.com) Cale will be home with Brady. We'll be going between his chemo treatments on Wednesdays. We really aren't entirely sure what to expect but do have a good feeling about this. I know you stay there, they feed you, and teach you how to prepare your own 'Raw Living Food' (vegetarian) diet. They also supply wheatgrass juice throughout the day. Dave will be on a cancer diet, and I will be on a general detox diet. (My only vice is my morning coffee. I might have to sneak out to a coffee shop every morning or smuggle in some instant coffee!) They also show you how to grow & juice your own wheat grass and send you home with some trays, soil, & seeds. 

Well, we're crossing our fingers that tomorrow is another good day for Dave and we'll be able to take off for the weekend!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Round 2

Today was the first day of  'cycle 2' in Dave's chemotherapy regime. It was a full day, but it went by quickly.

They did his weekly bloodwork and said everything looked good there. Then we spoke with our nurse to discuss any side effects and concerns and then we spoke with the oncologist. (His regular oncologist, Dr. Dingle, was away and we saw Dr Parent instead.) We asked for the results of his brain and bone scan and she went to get them. She came back and said, "OK. Well the brain scan found a brain, so you're good there. Nothing to worry about." Woohoo! She said the bone scan showed a 'non-specific lesion in his L3' (third lumbar vertabrae) which apparently doesn't necessarily mean anything. Bone scans will show everything and all damage he's had over time. He's had lower back injuries and back problems going back a number of years ago and it's likely related to that. At this point we're not concerned about it.

Next we waited for an opening in the chemo suite and a friend showed up to visit briefly with a HUMONGOUS happy face mylar balloon, a devotional, and some goodies for Dave. This balloon was seriously huge and quickly cheered up our little corner in the chemo suite. Thanks Jeannie! (We brought it home, and our dog Brady was terrified of the thing! We have it floating around in the living room now and he seems to be getting used to it. He periodically just looks up at it, but doesn't seem afraid of it anymore.)

The LRCP has pagers that they give you to to let you know they're ready for you. That way you can wander through the atrium, visit the library, check out the fish tank, or go to the Tim Horton's on site. It's convenient. The chemo suite itself has portable dvd players and headphones to use if you like. You can bring your own movies, or choose from their small (very small) assortment of movies. Dave watched a western, and then read the paper. I made some phone calls, and read.

After treatment we picked up Dave's anti-nausea meds from the pharmacy and then headed on our way. (There are 2 anti-nausea meds that he has to take for 3 days, and then after that he can take some as needed.)

Dave says the drugs give him a chemical, kind of toxic feeling. He felt pretty good the rest of the day and has had a good appetite, but is just now starting to feel a little nauseous. He also has to drink a ton of water to reduce the side effects over the next few days, so I don't think he'll get a great sleep tonight. But, you never know!

Thanks for checking in and for caring!  :)


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's gone

Well, today was the day we've been dreading a little and were starting to think it might be avoidable at this point in time. We were told that hair falls out from chemo at the 2 to 3 week point - but sometimes it doesn't at all. Well, today was Day 21, and Dave noticed some hair he left behind on the phone late in the morning. It was a little upsetting for Dave at first, but he seems to have come to terms with it quickly.

It was kind of funny timing as Dave was planning on heading into school this afternoon for team pictures. He washed his hair, leaving a bit more behind unfortunately, and headed in to have his picture taken with the hockey team. Then he immediately went out to a barber shop and had them shaved it all off. It's hair, and it'll grow back. We're curious to see how it grows back. I mentioned this in an earlier post that apparently it often grows back curly and a different colour after chemo. Stay tuned! Anyway we've determined that he has a decent noggin and there's no odd bumps or divets on it! Hahaha! It's beginning to grow on me. Our son Cale offered to shave his head in support but Dave said he didn't need to do that. (That's nice though.)

Dave has already noticed that he has to wear a toque or he's feels very cold. He's currently wearing one that a few of his students gave him. It says 'chemo sucks' on it!
and it does.

Despite losing his hair today, it's actually been a pretty good day for Dave. I can tell he's feeling much better today. He's still fighting this cold and yesterday was a bad day as he really wasn't feeling well at all. We kept taking his temperature and it seemed to keep climbing all evening. (When it hits 38°C [100.4°F] we're supposed to call the hospital.) His temperature has normally been around 36° and it was 37.4° when he went to bed last night. But this morning it was dropping again at 37° and is now 35.8°. He said he got a good nights rest last night and felt great when he woke up this morning. Yeah!

Well, today is the end of chemotherapy 'cycle 1'. One down!
Thanks everybody for helping us get through to this point! It's so nice that people just call to check in and say hi, or post a short note. It's really encouraging and I don't know how we'd do it without you!

Tomorrow is the start of 'cycle 2', which means we'll be at LRCP for the better part of the day for blood tests, an oncologist appointment, receive cisplatin and epirubicin intravenously, and then change the bottle on the 5-FU med he does at home. He tells me he'll be wearing his new toque!

Thanks for keeping us in your prayers. Today is another good day!


Sunday, January 24, 2010


Sorry we haven't posted much this week. (Dave tells me he likes to check the blog to see how he's doing!)

Another weekend has come and gone. We still have plenty of visitors that come by which is awesome, however Dave occasionally has a hard time staying awake. (I just want to remind visitors not to come by if you're sick, but wait until you're healthy. Chemo affects the immune system and it's harder for Dave to fight off colds/flu.) The main side effect of chemo is fatigue. Dave has gone past the point of being tired, to being exhausted, and just falls asleep whether he wants to or not. (So we apologize to visitors that he's fallen asleep on!) Often he just needs a catnap and he's good to go again, but in general he needs regular naps throughout the day. Unfortunately he still doesn't get a good nights sleep and finds himself awake numerous times through the night.

The past 3 or 4 few days haven't been great for Dave. He also seems to have a lot of  pain at the site of the feeding tube. It felt better for a few days after they cauterized the opening on Monday, but then it started to hurt again. Today was a little better, but in general - he's just not feeling great anymore. He was feeling so good until this past week that it's hard not to get down a little, but I have to say that he bounces back quickly and is usually laughing at something in no time!

We've become very interested in Wheatgrass and/or Barley grass juice. (The first time anybody mentioned it to us was the IV nurse at St Joe's that put in his PICC line. She credits it in part for her husband being alive today after he was diagnosed with inoperable, untreatable bowel cancer and sent home to die. See this post from Jan 4th - click here. Since then we've heard about it repeatedly and are becoming very interested in starting to grow and juice this ourselves. (It takes just over a week to grow from seed to harvest.) You can buy it frozen from health food stores, but it's quite expensive and not as good as the fresh stuff. Yesterday morning a friend (thanks Don!) introduced us to some people that grow it themselves and they showed us how they grow it, and juiced some for Dave & I. (Here is the wikipedia link about wheatgrass.)

The nurse also mentioned a wellness center they went to in the states, and gave me this website, www.creativehealthinstitute.com. This place doesn't sell you anything - they just train you how to eat a vegetarian raw food diet, teach you how to grow & juice wheatgrass and help you to heal your own body. We are considering going to this place for a week. It's in Michigan and is about a 4 hour drive - 90 minute past Detroit. We're still a little undecided as Dave isn't feeling great, and heading to the USA may or may not be a great idea while he's doing chemo. We're just thinking the sooner he starts on this the better. I spoke with them on Thursday and they seem very sincere and genuinely just want to help. Please continue to pray to help us decide. (FYI. Right now Dave isn't on a vegetarian diet as I don't think it's wise to jump in without knowing what you're doing. He has cut back a lot on his meat & carbs and eats them with a lot more fresh fruit & veggies.)

My initial response to all of this (raw vegan & wheatgrass) was uncertainty, but in the last 3 weeks our eyes have opened a little. And our prayer life has opened a lot. The reality is that all 3 oncologists we've seen have given Dave a very poor prognosis. I haven't really mentioned this in the blog before, but on December 21st & 24th Dave was told he had 3 months without treatment, and 6 to 18 months with treatment, and to put his affairs in order. I've researched a little further myself and the best 5 year survival rate I've found for Stage 4 Esophageal Cancer is less than 3%. There is no Stage 5. My intention here is not to frighten or depress anybody, but just to clarify that what traditional medicine is offering, is just to buy a little more time at best. We would be foolish not to pursue alternatives.

And this is where our frustration with traditional medicine begins. Despite the fact that they told us Dave's cancer was caused by chronic acid reflux, which is caused by food, they REFUSE to consider diet in the treatment. The reality is that MANY cancers could be prevented by a healthier diet, and it's just not being discussed as a complementary treatment. It makes no sense. If you don't change anything - why would you expect anything to change? I think I've mentioned this previously here, but any hard core cancer survivors that have beaten crappy to no odds from their doctors seem to have a common thread. That thread is a 180 degree change in their diet and often wheatgrass juice has been a factor. We saw a well recommended naturopath last week and we believe we're on the right path here.

I'm going to steal a Mark Twain quote here. "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics." Fortunately for us, statistics exist because there are variables. The variables here are that every cancer is different for every patient, and every patient is different from the next. Dave has a lot in his favour. He is younger than the typical EC patient and otherwise healthy. Despite my complaints we have immediate access to a great Cancer Hospital. Dave has a fantastic attitude and a huge number of friends praying and supporting him. Most importantly he has a renewed faith in Jesus Christ. Thankfully God is in control - not the doctors!

Thank you all for your concern, and for following our journey. I hate to sound like a broken record, but just knowing that so many people care and are praying is a constant morale booster. Thanks so much!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Staying healthy

Hi all.

Just thought we'd touch base. Dave's been doing pretty well the past few days, but is very tired. (To be honest, he's either been out doing something or is so exhausted when I'm home that I just want to let him sleep. So because of this, we haven't shared as much these past few days.) Also, despite the fact that he's tired, he still has insomnia in the evenings.

Yesterday a friend took him to LRCP for his weekly blood test and to change the bottle/pump for the 5-FU chemo med he takes at home. (Thanks Rob!) He also went to a couple of Clarke Road student events in the afternoon and evening.

Today Dave went out to Sharon Creek to walk the dog with Wil in the afternoon. This evening a friend gave Dave 3 tickets to the Knights game. (Thanks Jeff!) He went with his cousin Cory visiting from Korea, and another friend, Logan. Knight's won!

Dave felt a cold coming on over the weekend, and he's still fighting it. We did discuss this today and Dave agrees that he needs to cut back on the amount that he goes out. He still needs to get out for short walks and fresh air, but should cut back on his outings in public places. He's two weeks into chemo and the effects are cumulative. It's a hard balancing act. You want to keep life as normal as usual, and get out while you're feeling well so you don't go stir crazy. But he also needs to focus on staying healthy and ensuring he gets enough rest. Right now Dave is doing well, and we want to ensure he stays well during chemotherapy.

Fortunately Dave enjoys talking on the phone and has plenty of friends so I don't think he'll be bored!

Today I came home to a very clean house courtesy of Clarke Road staff. They pitched in for a cleaning lady! THAT was awesome and very appreciated. She did a great job. Thanks to all of you and to you Jill for organizing this! I'm so happy to not have to clean this weekend! Hahaha! I do find I'm spending a lot of time at different grocery stores lately, buying fresh fruits & veggies, and looking for organic food. And preparing veggie juices in our new juicer. And a lot of time reading. (I'm currently reading "Foods that Fight Cancer".) So having some time where I don't have to clean is wonderful!

We really want to thank everybody for their support and prayers. Please continue to pray for Dave to stay healthy during chemo.

Dave says good luck to you students on your exams next week. Wait, he's rewording it - it's not luck - he's stressing that they need to continue their hard work and it will show in the end. He's proud of all of you.

Take care!

Monday, January 18, 2010

More needles!

This afternoon Dave went back to the hospital radiology unit to have his feeding tube site checked. It's been causing him some pain lately and seemed to be at it's worst yesterday. Initially Dave thought the pain was from the stitches being removed improperly a few weeks ago, which left a tiny pin (suture anchor) embedded in his chest cavity. (See December 31st's post.)

He saw the doctor today and and was told that the pain likely wasn't from the suture anchor. They gave Dave a number of needles (always with the needles!) to freeze the area, and the doctor tried to externally locate and extract the pin, but it was too deep below the surface of the skin and they had to leave it in. They're still hoping it works it's way out itself. They told Dave the pain is actually from what's called 'granulation tissue' at the tube entry site where the wound is trying to heal itself. (Granulation tissue is an overgrowth of healing tissue that has only a very thin lining of skin, and it's very painful.) They cauterized it and hopefully that fixes the problem.

Once the freezing wore off it was quite painful for him, so Dave is back taking Tylenol 3's this evening. Actually, Dave hasn't been taking any pain med's since the day after chemo started, almost 2 weeks ago. He's been feeling better and hasn't seemed to need them - until yesterday.

Despite being on chemo therapy for 12 days now, Dave still has great appetite and constantly tells me that he's starving! (Chemotherapy is supposed to decrease your appetite.) We've also found that he's able to eat a lot more 'solid' food then he used to. We'll have to ask his oncologist why this might be. We're thankful that he's still feeling this good!

Around noon today Dave took Brady over to visit a friend and they walked the dogs through the Coves. (For those of you unfamiliar with London, this is a unique little gem in South London. See The Coves website.) This is great that he still feels up to this, as it's important to keep active and get some fresh air. And of course the dogs loved it too!

Have a great week! Dave loves hearing your positive feedback, so keep it coming!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Still smilin'

Hi All.

Today's been a little rough, but overall it's been a pretty good week for Dave. Today is day 12 of chemo. He hasn't been feeling too badly overall, although he finds that he'll be out for a bit and feel like he's just 'hit a wall', and just needs to go home & crash. Sleep is still an issue, but it seems like this is going to be an ongoing side effect of the 5-FU chemo med that he's on 24/7. Although Dave doesn't have too much of an issue with the PICC line in his arm, the actual bottle with the pump inside makes him physically nauseous just looking at it. Thankfully he doesn't really have to look at it, as it's inside a little protective sleeve with a zipper.  The bottle itself has a little bio-hazard symbol on it, and they actually send you home with a 'Chemo Spill Kit' in case it somehow were to break. (This really is like a poison to kill the cancer cells, and the thought of it is just too much for Dave.)

This is a pic of the bottle. I guess there is a heat sensor on the end of tubing on Dave's arm that controls the continuous infusion through the PICC line.

There's no batteries or anything - just this bottle. with a kind of balloon inside that deflates as the drug is used up. And once a week (Wednesdays) he goes in to get it replaced.

This morning Dave woke up with what seems to be the start of a cold. He sounds fine, but any coughing really does cause him a lot of chest pain as he tries to clear his throat. (It breaks my heart to listen to him as it obviously hurts him.) Also going outside seems to give him the chills very quickly. We take his temperature twice a day, and it's been fine, but we're keeping a close eye because we know that things can get bad quickly because his immune system is compromised while on chemotherapy.

Another 'sore spot' has been the suture anchor stuck in his chest wall from the VON nurse removing the stitches improperly on his feeding tube. (In case you missed this, see the post from Dec 31st. Feeding Tube Fiasco.) It's kind of been bugging Dave for days, but this weekend especially it seems to be very painful. Dave contacted the Radiology department, this evening. It's not an emergency and she said she'd set up an appointment for Dave tomorrow afternoon. So we'll see what happens tomorrow. The only positive thing that has happened because of this incident is that VON now only sends in one nurse to see Dave at our home, instead of a different nurse each time. She comes weekly to change the PICC line dressing, or as needed, and she seems very competent.

On a positive note, so many people have contacted Dave or posted on the blog or facebook pages, to share their stories about their  faith being strengthened, or just being encouraged by our story. It is reciprocal and we need you guys so much!

Also, for those of you that know Dave, I'm sure you can visualize this. For the most part Dave has been feeling good this week. Occasionally when he coughs and has a moment that causes him pain, he'll look over at me and if he's sees I have a concerned look on my face, he always smiles back at me or does something to make me smile. He is always positive and won't let this get him down.

Never give up!

Friday, January 15, 2010

One Month in...

Well everyone. I hope today's addition meets the level of writing criteria you've been accustomed to, as I'm writing this one and Val has the night off... grin.

I have been hesitant to write in this blog for I suppose unknown reasons. I mean... I know why, but don't know how to express why I am hesitant. I am humbled by all the support. I mean truly humbled. I feel maybe as if, if I write the blog people will think I am trying to gain popularity, sympathy or somehow drawing attention to myself. It is hard to put into words. So let me just move on.

First off I really want to thank everyone, with all my heart, for every moment of time you have thought about us. Every prayer, the food, the positive feedback, the facebook pages, the messages and especially the encouragement. I can't tell you how much we appreciate it.

It was a month ago last night that we found out the diagnosis. One month. We have gone through so much in a month already that the cancer diagnosis seems so long ago.

As I sat waiting with my friend Bill on Wednesday for my chemo pump change, I couldn't help but notice a man laying on his bed all alone. Val mentioned she saw others alone when we were there last week as well, but this guy was different. He just laid there staring at the ceiling or looking through his charts restlessly. He didn't have any magazines, books, any friends or family there with him. I couldn't help to think... he had no hope. Obviously I have no way to know this, but I really felt that you could just see it in his eyes. He had no hope... What a statement. I can't imagine going through this without hope.

We are trusting the Lord and asking for his blessing everyday for healing, wisdom, grace and strength... everyday. Everyday brings us new hope...everyday brings us closer to him and when we feel and see what is happening in the house we know we have it. I mean people ask me how are you feeling today (100 times a day they ask...lol) I now say that I haven't felt this good in ten years! I have hope. No matter the result, we have hope. I have been saying lately that I wouldn't have signed up for this assignment, but am I somehow blessed that he chose me. He has brought us back to a heart of worship and a place we let slowly slide away, as our lives started to become comfortable years ago. We all have 'situations' and I encourage you to seek the Lord's hope for your situation.

Yesterday I stayed on my feet all day with visitors, and running errands with my friend Guy. We went out for lunch actually! I was a little nervous about that, as my food intake & swallowing can be very finicky, and sometimes food causes chest spasms for me that are painful... and in public settings can be awkward. So not wanting to put my friend in a situation like that, I was hesitant to eat out. When I expressed my concern he just laughed without hesitation and said he long ago stopped worrying about what people thought of him and let's go! Had a great afternoon. Then I went to watch the Clarke Road boys hockey game at Argyle against South. A nice and much needed 4-1 victory! The boys played well. I heard that the boys basketball team also played a great game against MTS as well and attribute both teams turn around this week to personal accountability. I mean...I saw the first games earlier this week and ouch...great job boys!

In the evening I went to the healing room down off of Adelaide street upon the invite from a new friend I met through Mike Hoy. Dan is a cancer survivor and said that the room helped his recovery and thought I might benefit from it. As the couple prayed for me I just concentrated on the Lord. I have had people pray over me before but was still not really sure what to expect. I concentrated on the Lord and the couple prayed. They prayed for healing, they prayed for protection, they prayed for a peace unlike any other. Well when I left the room, Mike said well,that took a while... 20 minutes? I looked at the clock and couldn't believe it. I thought I was in there for maybe 5 minutes and when I came out I thought...well now what? So peace. A peace like no other.

Then last night I stayed up till my eyes were falling shut and thought... finally...sleep! But oh no. No sleep yet. I was up again all night! I have to drink a lot of water during chemo so I was either up using the bathroom or just plain uncomfortable. It is annoying but yet understandable, the patterns just get all messed up. It just is hard to get you head wrapped around it. So I was up early Friday am and doing some things around here, including writing this post. I am going to play some pool with friends later to get me on my feet again.

Thank you all again for the prayers and support. We could not do this without all the encouragement. Please also remember the terrible situation in Haiti and the unrest there. We are still comfortable here in our lives and sometimes when we are going through difficulties it is easy to forget...someone, somewhere always has it tougher.

Thanks again,

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Seeing the Donut instead of the Hole

The first few weeks after Dave's diagnosis seemed to be filled with upset people just wanting to see him. Dave was usually the one cheering his guests up! A little more time has passed and things have become a little (very little) more routine. People make time to come over to visit and there are no tears, just laughing and stories. You wouldn't know Dave was ill except for the occasional hiccup that causes him some chest pain. He has a great appetite and a good sense of humor.

Dave has been touched by so many friends, students, co-workers, and acquaintances that really have been encouraging him so much. And I'm pretty sure that Dave is encouraging them right back!

"Seeing the Donut instead of the Hole." This phrase will likely make Dave hungry as he's voluntarily cut sugar and a whole lot of other processed food out of his diet, but it sums up what's going on around here right now.

No needles today! Dave went with a friend for his weekly visit to the LRCP to have the pump changed for the 5-FU chemo med. They also did blood work and told him that the results looks great! (I don't believe the blood work is related to the cancer really, but just to check how he's faring on the chemo meds.) He asked when we'd get the results from the brain & bone scans and they said not until our next visit with the oncologist, which is in 2 weeks.

He mentioned that he wasn't able to sleep for the past two nights. They said it was probably the anti-nausea meds and gave him another/different presciption today. Hopefully that does the trick.

Speaking of sleep, I need some!

Thanks for checking in and for your thoughts & prayers!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sleep or lack thereof

Today Dave went in for the bone scan. A friend picked him up which was awesome! (Thanks Don!) It's a 2 part procedure where you go in for an injection (yep another needle) then return 3 hours later to be scanned. The actual scan is 45 minutes of laying still with your arms above your head. I'll have to call and find out how long it takes to get the results back for both the bone & brain scans. I have a feeling they'll make us wait until our next appointment with the medical oncologist in 2 weeks. We're praying that both these tests show no cancer.

Yesterday after work I drove Dave to the Clarke Road boys basketball game at Central. This afternoon Dave went to watch the Clarke Road hockey game. (Thanks Anthony for taking him there!) 

Tomorrow at noon Dave goes back to the LRCP (London Regional Cancer Program) to get his weekly blood tests, PICC line dressing change, and to replace the pump with the 5-FU (this is the chemo med he takes at home). Another friend is picking Dave up and taking him there. (Thanks Bill!)

Thankfully I've been able to sleep OK, but Dave has been finding himself wide awake at nights recently and just unable to sleep. So, he's been really tired for the last couple of days. I'm sure that part of the problem is just a lack of regular routine, like getting up and going to work. I do have to say, that regardless of how he's feeling, Dave really is staying positive. He is not getting down or frustrated. He's really touched by so many people that contact him through the day. He usually shares a few nice stories with me each evening.

Thanks everybody that's dropped a little something off, or picked up Brady to take him for a play or to the dog park. We do feel bad for the dog. He's a Weimaraner and will be 2 at the end of the month. They're a very active dog which is one of the reasons we got him - to push us to stay active right along with him. With the winter in full swing, it's hard to get him out for enough exercise. This time last year, we both took turns getting up early before work to walk him in the mornings, as well as in the evenings. Dave can go for walks, but is unable to walk the dog. Brady is a large dog, and a bit of a puller on leash, which is no good for Dave's PICC line and feeding tube. I do take him for walks, which I really enjoy, but I can't do it alone. So thanks you guys that have been coming by to drain his energy!

I've been encouraging Dave to write a few of these blog posts on his own. He likes that I do it for him, but it is really encouraging to listen to him. I'll have to keep pushing him!

Pray for Dave to get a good nights sleep on a regular basis. I think this is important for proper healing. Thanks everybody for your continued support!


Saturday, January 9, 2010


A few people seem surprised that Dave is still able to eat. I think this stems from the fact that he has a feeding tube, and I wasn't very clear in earlier posts. Dave has difficulty eating some food like meat and drier or crunchy foods because they just don't go down easily and can cause him pain, but he can still eat softer foods like soups & spaghetti. (The tumor is partially blocking his esophagus.) He still has a good appetite, but he just needs to eat smaller meals and chew them very well first. The feeding tube was put in as Dave was starting to lose weight because he just couldn't eat enough to keep his weight up. The doctor wanted to make sure that he didn't keep losing weight - especially going into chemotherapy, where people tend to lose their appetite. The feeding tube gives him supplemental calories & nutrients and will keep him healthier during chemo.

I've also been making him daily protein shakes with frozen strawberries, blueberries etc... bananas, yogurt, probiotics, & protein whey. Also, my sister & brother-in-law just bought Dave a juicer for his birthday, which has been awesome in helping him get fresh veggies & fruits (like carrots & apples) that he otherwise couldn't eat right now.

A few people have dropped off some homemade soups, which has been great as it's just a little more variety for Dave. (Thanks so much for that!)

Food & nutrition is quickly becoming a big factor in what we believe will be Dave's recovery. We think it's a crucial part to keeping healthy through chemotherapy and in fighting the cancer itself. I hate to say this, but I'm a little discouraged at how this seems to be overlooked by traditional medicine (doctors, nurses, and dietitian/nutritionist at the hospital). I have asked a few times over the past week or so about what foods he should be eating and avoiding (like sugar and processed foods) and they insist that it doesn't matter, "just eat whatever you like to keep the weight on". And yet the American Institute for Cancer Research gives very specific information on what foods to eat and avoid. AICR-foodsthatfightcancer
The fact that the LRCP doesn't encourage healthier eating is a little disappointing. (Don't get me wrong. I fully believe in traditional medicine and the treatment Dave is receiving, I just think it's a little closed minded to rule out everything else.)

This weekend Dave has been feeling not too bad. They described the first few days of chemo to feeling like you've got the flu. I think that's been pretty accurate. (Dave seems better to me today than he did on Friday.) Yesterday he went to the dog park with a friend (and the dogs). Last night he went to North Park church with a few co-workers and said it was awesome! This afternoon Dave went skating with some friends that came down from Toronto to visit. It was a great weekend to get out! We had 2 beautiful sunny days.

As always, thanks everybody for your positive calls, emails and keeping us in your prayers!


Side Effects

This morning Dave had another CT scan. A friend drove him to the hospital and Dave said they were in & out within an hour which was great. Unfortunately every test for cancer seems to require a needle, which is not so great... (Poor Dave...)

This was a brain scan and Dave said they found his in less than 10 minutes. (rolls eyes)

All kidding aside, this is a routine test apparently, but we're obviously praying that there is no cancer found there, as well as in the bone scan he will have done this Tuesday.

Dave was picked up by a few colleagues this afternoon and went to go watch a Clarke Road hockey game which was nice. And a couple of girls from his basketball team also dropped by this evening to say hi. He's feeling OK today, but just seems to be very tired.

The chemo meds and anti-nausea drugs have a combination of side effects. On Wednesday one of the nurses went through all the meds with us while he was waiting for his chemo treatment to finish. The conversation was along the lines of, "this one will make you drowsy, and this one will keep you awake, this one might give you diarrhea, and this one might make you constipated!" Dave looks at her and says, "Well, it sounds like it all works out fine in the end then!" It's not really funny, but it's hard not to laugh. So, last night he was wide awake and didn't get much sleep. That would explain why he was tired today.

One of the things I'd like to remind visitors is that Dave's immune system is weakened while he's doing Chemotherapy and the risk of infection & illness is higher. We ask that if you're sick or not feeling well, to wait until you're better before visiting. We questioned going out at all but more than one nurse said that he should still try to get out regularly, but just try to stay away from people that are obviously sick, and to wash his hands regularly.

Thanks everybody for your support! Couldn't do it without you!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Almost forgot - more tests

Me again. I almost forgot to mention that Dave has a few more scans. They want to check for signs of cancer in his brain and bones and this is apparently routine. Tomorrow morning he has the CT (brain) scan, and on Tuesday Jan 12th, he has a Bone Scan.

Pray that these show negative results.



Happy Ukrainian Christmas!

Today we drove to Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto for a second opinion. The drive there and back was fine and we got through Toronto rush hour traffic this morning in plenty of time for our 9:30 appointment. We waited until almost noon before seeing the doctor (radiation oncologist), however he gave us plenty of time for discussion and we didn't feel rushed.

He didn't offer any new or different information and agreed with the chemo treatment Dave's getting and said they would use the same meds there. He gave us other things to think about during treatment, including quality of life. He basically said to avoid trying to 'pre-planning' the treatment. Each step should be thought out carefully and side effects should be considered. Every cancer is different and every patient is different, and although they don't like to give out false hope, they never say never.

He said we're welcome to come back again in the future if we like.

Although he didn't offer any more positive information, we were somewhat relieved that he didn't throw anything new or different at us that would require another decision or add more confusion. And it's reassuring that he agreed with pretty much what our doctors are saying.

One thing I've been finding encouraging is that we haven't noticed Dave getting worse since the original diagnosis 3 1/2 weeks ago. That first week the thoracic surgeon gave me the impression that Dave wouldn't be able to swallow his own saliva within about a week because of the tumor, and that a stent would need to be put in his esophagus ASAP so he could still swallow. (A stent is a mesh like tube they can put in the esophagus to keep it open.) This was obviously very distressing and overwhelming along with the cancer diagnosis. That doctor was erring on the side of caution and fortunately he seems to have been mistaken. :)
Right now Dave is still able to eat semi-solid foods (ie spaghetti, scrambled eggs...). He does have intermittent chest pain from both the tumor and from the suture anchor still stuck in his chest! (See December 30th's post regarding the feeding tube fiasco.) But overall he's feeling OK. This is the 2nd day of chemo and other than feeling tired, Dave hasn't really been feeling nauseous.

Today is our 26th anniversary, and the Ukrainian Christmas. (I'm 1/2 Ukrainian. I haven't gotten around to taking down the tree yet, and I tend to use this as an excuse to procrastinate!) We're currently enjoying a quiet evening in front of the fireplace, and our pretty but very dry Christmas tree. The snow outside is fresh & and serene. Today, all is good.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chemo - Day 1

It's been a long but we believe successful day at LRCP (London Regional Cancer Program).

We started with blood work, and unfortunately the lab technician drawing blood said they weren't allowed to use the PICC line, so Dave got another needle. :( The good news is that we questioned this with the first nurse we spoke to and she said that only nurses are allowed to use central catheters and we can request that his blood work be drawn by nurses in the chemo suite instead of the blood lab. Now we know for next week.

We had a consult with the nurse and then Medical Oncologist to basically try to answer any questions we had. The doctor explained they're being very aggressive (as per our wishes) and because Dave is young and otherwise healthy. We're finding the discussions with the doctor are less stressful each time, mainly because we know he's doing his job, but God is in control.

The chemo treatment itself was administered intravenously over the course of about 5 hours and included 2 different chemo drugs, fluids, & anti-nausea meds. When they finished they hooked Dave up with the 3rd chemo drug which is administered through the PICC line 24/7 at home through a small bottle with a pump in it that he wears at his waist. He will go in weekly to have the pump changed, PICC line dressing changed, and blood work done.

Chemo for Dave will be in 3 week cycles, and will go for 4 cycles (12 weeks) with a possible pause in the middle for assessment. The first day of each cycle will be just like today and a full day at the clinic. Then he takes the rest of the meds at home through the pump and PICC line, and the pump gets replaced every week. After 2 cycles (6 weeks) they will do another catscan and re-assess their treatment plan to ensure the drugs are shrinking the tumors. The expectation is that they will add radiation treatment at the 6 week mark.

After we finished in the chemo suite, we stood in line at the Pharmacy to pick up a variety of anti-nausea drugs. Then we sat in on a 1 hour instructional class on chemotherapy, where they tell you what to look out for as far as fevers, nausea, mouth-care, etc...

The nurses were ALL awesome and took every opportunity to give us tips and instructions. We asked and they said that his hair would likely fall out in 2 or 3 weeks. Dave will probably shave it off before it starts to fall out. (Some students gave him a toque yesterday that says 'chemo sucks' on it. He's been wearing it around this evening!) A few nurses also said that hair usually grows back a different texture and curlier, and sometimes a slightly different colour. Hahaha! Dave used to have fire-engine red hair as a child, so we're wondering if it will revert to that.

While Dave was having his chemo, about 4 people rang a bell as they left and a group of nurses stood and clapped for them. They have a tradition when people finish their chemo, that they ring a bell as a sort of closure on that part of their treatment. (Felt a little 'East Side Mario-ish', but still kind of neat! Something to look forward to.)

This evening Dave is feeling OK and has been on the phone for the last few hours. He felt a little nauseous/flu-like after dinner, but he took a pill for that and it went away. (They say to take it immediately or it will only get worse.)

Cancer is essentially cells that are multiplying rapidly and out of control. The chemo basically works by destroying all fast growing cells - cancerous or not, which is what causes the side effects. Hair follicles are fast growing cells, which is why your hair falls out. The tissue in your mouth is fast growing as well and is easily damaged so it's important to use a soft toothbrush and special mouthwash regularly. Dave needs to take his temperature twice a day to check for fever and infection. It's a lot to take in, and we have a whole raft of new pamphlets and reading material to go through.

Tomorrow we have to get up early and head to Toronto at 6:00am for a 2nd opinion at Princess Margaret Hospital at 9:30. Pray for good driving weather. Positive news wouldn't hurt either! Tomorrow is also our 26th wedding anniversary! :) We're praying for many more!

I will leave you with a poem we read in the clinic today. (It was framed and hanging beside the pharmacy window.)


It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy confidence
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot shut out memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot quench the spirit
It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection
It cannot steal eternal life!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wading through Cancerland

I can't believe I forgot to mention this in yesterday's post, but the referral to Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto went through and they called with an appointment for this Thursday Jan 7th! (I called there before Christmas to see if treatment could begin any faster there, but at this point we're simply going for a second opinion. Certainly can't hurt!)

On the recent advice of a friend at work, I also asked if they would have all of Dave's current reports etc there, and she said that I should arrange for LHSC to put all of his recent imaging tests (catscans/ultrasounds) on a CD and bring them with us. I made some more calls while in the waiting room at St Joe's yesterday afternoon to get that done, but I can't help but wonder what happens if you don't ask these questions? There should be a guide for wading through Cancerland. How do people go through something like this alone? It's overwhelming.

This morning the VON nurse came by to change the PICC line dressing. She knew what she was doing and that went smoothly. Dave plans on heading into school with a friend this afternoon to take care of some unfinished paperwork and hopefully watch a hockey game there as well.

Tomorrow is the first day of chemo. It begins with blood tests at 7:30am, another consult at 8:30, and then chemo begins at 9:30. Don't know how long we'll be in there and how accurate their schedule is.The Medical Oncologist tomorrow consults with us, and decides on the 'cocktail' of chemo meds that Dave will receive. Please pray for wisdom for this doctor to treat Dave effectively.


Monday, January 4, 2010

A Pleasant Hospital Visit!

Yeah! Today's PICC line insertion went fairly well. There's always risks with these things I guess, and the biggest seems to be infection, but the benefits outweigh the risks. This is apparently the best way to adminster the amount of chemo that Dave will be getting. The nurse said that the chemo meds are very corrosive on veins and actually causes them to collapse very quickly, so this line distributes the meds safely through the veins directly into the chest cavity where the blood flow is greatest and there's no damage. Also he won't need to get any more needles to draw blood as they can do this through the PICC line as well. (Dave HATES needles so reducing the amount of needles he will need is a good thing!)

A VON nurse is supposed to come tomorrow to change the PICC line dressing. After the incident with the removal of the feeding tube sutures, I called this morning to ensure that only a nurse that is familiar with PICC lines come out. (Live and learn.)

While we were at St. Joe's this afternoon, Dave stopped to visit a friend that recently had a baby. This little boy was born prematurely and at just 1 lb wasn't expected to live more than 12 hours. That was 5 weeks ago, and he's 10 lbs now and almost ready to leave NICU to go to the Children's Hospital, and then home! We're constantly encouraged with stories like this. We also ran into an old friend that's a nurse there who gave us some tips. AND the IV nurse that was assisting in the procedure today got talking to Dave (and then me) and asked why he was getting the PICC line in. She couldn't believe he had Esophageal Cancer and said he looked great. She also said that her husband was diagnosed in 1982 with bowel cancer, was told that he was too far along, that it was untreatable even with chemo at the time, and sent him home to die. They found a place in the states that uses diet alone build up your immune system to treat it and he's still alive today! She gave me some information that I'm going to look into - www.creativehealthinstitute.com. (I still don't understand why the doctors' and even the hospital nutritionists don't think this is important. All they seem to care about is calories and keeping the weight up but they don't seem to care how you do it.)

Here's the interesting part, we weren't even supposed to go to St. Joe's. A different nurse today mentioned that they were just doing a favour to the Cancer Clinic by fitting Dave in, and that they don't normally do PICC lines for Cancer Clinic patients. We were very encouraged by our total hospital visit this afternoon. Funny, but we no longer believe in coincidence!

Keep prayin'!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

From PICC lines to Siberia

Tomorrow Dave goes in for his PICC line insertion at St. Joe's at 12:30pm. (A Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter is a thin, soft plastic tube — like an intravenous (IV) line — guided through a large vein in your arm up into the main vein near your heart where blood flows quickly.) This is how the chemotherapy meds are administered. A PICC line stays in place for weeks or months as long as needed.
Obviously we hope that this goes smoothly and isn't painful or uncomfortable.

Today we went to church and were encouraged by a number of people, some we know better than others, and it's always moving to hear that our attitude or story is uplifting to others. Our 'story' is actually the same as everybody's - that is that the future is never certain or guaranteed. We're quickly learning the reality of thanking God every day for what we do have.

Yesterday Dave & I went for a walk with Brady through Reservoir Park. The dog loved it, and we enjoyed the stillness and beauty of the fresh snow in the woods. Dave was feeling well, and also got out to watch some boys high school basketball yesterday & today.

On a side note, my sister & I went for our usual Sunday visit to my parents this evening. My father is 85 and spent a good part of his young life fleeing Communism and the Russian Army with his parents & 3 siblings. He retold some of his story this evening of living in Siberia for 6 years, traveling back to the Ukraine, then fleeing to Europe. Despite the fact that they were traveling on foot through war torn Europe during World War II, were split up a few times, witnessed horrific acts of war, and made numerous life and death decisions, all 6 of them survived and made it to Canada together. He constantly acknowledges that it was only God's Grace that kept them alive and together. Beating the odds appears to be God's specialty!

(Don't ask me how I went from PICC lines to Siberia!)

Thanks to everybody for your continuing prayers! Keep Dave in your thoughts, and please pray that tomorrow's procedure goes smoothly.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Hello 2010!

The ball dropped and suddenly it's a New Year!
For us it's filled with Hope, and the Promise of Healing!
The radiation oncologist estimates that the tumor has been growing for about a year. So, in 2009 it slowly & quietly grew & spread.
In 2010 we intend to fight it back!

Dave assures me regularly that he will never quit, because he knows that those few that survive are not quitters! The human body and mind are amazing things when they work together, and doctors have been surprised before. People do beat the odds, and that means they defy what their doctors have statistically predicted. Dave is younger and healthier than the typical Esophageal Cancer patient going into this. Our goal is to help the doctors see that, as well as see his determination to beat it.

First and foremost Dave really wants to thank everybody for their constant support and prayers. We know that it's helping us to stay calm and focus on healing.
Dave is encouraged daily when people email, or call, or post a positive note on the Facebook pages. He knows that through all of this, God will be glorified.
Like the rest of the world, we don't know what the year holds for us, but we have been blessed with the reminder to love life!

Have a Happy New Year Everybody!