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Friday, April 30, 2010

Emerg last night

I tried to write a quick update yesterday evening, and then got sidetracked by the night's event.

Dave hasn't felt well for the last 3 or 4 days - VERY nauseous, and it doesn't seem to come and go anymore - it just stays. It's really discouraging for him, as he actually had 2 pretty good weeks with just a few sporadic bad days or hours, but he's been very bad for a few days now. It's a lot of mid back pain, constant nausea, and headaches that come and go. He's bored, and wishes he felt good enough to get out regularly. He had another acupuncture treatment on Wednesday, but it didn't seem as effective as last week. (He felt pretty bad going in, and wasn't able to relax at all, which I think plays a big part in the treatment.) We went for a short walk afterward but he ended up feeling awful by the time we made it back.

Yesterday morning he was as upset as I've ever seen him and at lunch time I was trying to talk him into going to emerg. I thought he might be dehydrated. (The VON nurse comes every Tuesday to check his feeding tube, and his blood pressure was very low again. She had mentioned to Dave once before that he could be dehydrated when his blood pressure was low.) I knew this could be causing a lot of his discomfort, but I've been having difficulty convincing him that he needed to get more fluids in. (He agreed, but felt soooo bad and nauseous, that he insisted that he couldn't put any more in his stomach.) Since things seemed to be getting worse over the course of a few days I was getting worried. I truly thought that getting some IV fluids in him could help him get through a bad spot.

He finally agreed to go to Emerg at about 9pm last night. I explained what he was going through and told them I thought he was dehydrated. They gave him a chest x-ray, blood & urine tests, and monitored his heart rate. After the lab tests came back, they said that yes, he was dehydrated and going in was the right thing to do. They gave him 2 Litres of IV fluid, an anti-nausea med, and the doctor suggested we contact the cancer clinic again to discuss side effects, and maybe monitor the progress of the cancer again with them. (It's been 2 months since we were there.) The anti-nausea meds didn't seem to help him at all, and he was still pretty weak when we walked out of there. We got home at about 3:30 am. And I was pretty late for work today...

I contacted the LRCP (cancer clinic) this morning and although they still insist that because he's not doing chemo or radiation, that his family doctor is qualified to treat him, they agreed to make an appointment to see the oncologist. (I explained that the ER doctor strongly suggested it.) So, this coming Wednesday we'll meet with his oncologist again mainly to discuss what he's been going through.

Dave is A LOT better today. He still doesn't feel great yet, but he's much better than yesterday. He got out a bit, went to Hermes Sports with a friend, and also went to visit family across town briefly. He's pretty tired this evening, which is more than understandable.

When Dave was feeling better a week or so ago, he made plans to go to the Swift Canoe & Kayak Spring Sale at the Guelph Conservation Area with a friend. Yesterday after feeling so crappy he said there was no way he could go. But he's had a fairly good day today and has decided that he thinks he can do it again. (He was really looking forward to it, and he will be bringing lots of fluids with him!) It's about an hour and a half drive each way, plus a few hours at the Conservation Area.

We are still praying that the tumor is breaking down, and that Dave will be able to drink liquids again very soon! Also, although our visit to the hospital last night went fine, and they were very nice and understanding there, I'm  not really looking forward to meeting with his oncologist again on Wednesday. It's not been a great place for us, as they just seem to deliver bad news after bad news, up until now. Please pray that he is somehow encouraging.

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

good needles?

 Just thought it was time for an update.

Dave has been having more good days than bad days over the last few weeks – which is great! (Although when he’s having a bad day or two, it’s pretty discouraging for him and brings him down somewhat.) As hard as this might be for some to believe, we still firmly believe that Dave’s main tumor in his esophagus is breaking down and he that is why he is still coughing up some pretty stinky, gunky, and occasionally weird stuff.

Last week Dave started acupuncture sessions on the advice of a friend. I was actually a little surprised when he agreed to try it, as I thought his aversion to needles might be an issue. When he said yes, I made a mental note that he wasn’t making the connection to acupuncture and needles, but decided not to bring it up. So, he’s laying there on the table with pins sticking out of his ankles, wrists and stomach and he says, “I DID NOT think this through. I HHHHAAAATE needles.” I started laughing at him. He wasn’t upset, just wondering how he ever agreed to this! When it was done his back and overall discomfort was better, but it didn’t last long. We went again last night for a 2nd treatment and he actually fell asleep at the end of it. (The needles can’t be that bad!) He actually felt and seems much better afterwards, but it just doesn’t seem to be that long lasting so far.

When we got home from acupuncture, he had his obligatory shots of freshly juiced wheat grass, and then he wanted to go for a walk. He hasn’t really gone for a walk (except from the bed to the couch) since Good Friday, so I said “Sure”, of course. It was a short 15 minute walk and Dave’s not walking very quickly these days, but it was still good for him. (Brady’s not used to walking that slowly, so I was fighting with a pulling dog.) About halfway through the effects of acupuncture wore off but it was still good for Dave to be out and moving. I give him a back massage almost every evening which also seems to help relieve muscle tension.

One of the reasons Dave wanted to go for a walk was because of something I read out loud to him at the acupuncturist’s office as he was being treated. She had a book there called “Nutritional Immunology”, written by a Chinese doctor, that I picked up and started reading. There was a paragraph about lymph nodes which was something we’d also learned about at CHI in Michigan. (They, and many other health experts, encourage rebounding (on a mini-trampoline) for your lymphatic system and overall health.) We each have 500-600 lymph nodes throughout our bodies that are responsible for filtering and draining bacteria and cancer cells. We have 4 times the amount of lymph fluid in our bodies than blood. Unlike blood, that is pumped through our bodies by our heart, lymph fluid has no pumping system and relies on muscle action from general activity (ie walking, rebounding) for it’s movement through the body. All cancer therapies recommend getting outside and staying active to help fight cancer.

Dave had been gently rebounding every morning for 15 minutes, up until a few weeks ago, when he just felt awful and thought it was making him feel more nauseous. He did start up again a few days ago though, and last night decided that he was going to try to get outside more to try to build up his strength no matter how badly he feels. (Previously when he felt really bad, he just didn’t want to go for a walk, and when he felt OK he didn’t want to go for a walk because he was worried that it might make him feel bad!)

This evening we drove out to 'Dreamers' and walked out to Diamond 12 to watch his men's baseball team practice. This is the first summer he hasn't played baseball since he was 11 years old. It was a cool night and a little windier out there, so we didn't stay long, but it was good for him to get out briefly and see the guys.

We’re really hoping that Dave’s at a turning point right now. He thankfully has been having fewer and fewer ‘bad’ days, but he still has some pain each day. (The tumor is blocking the bottom of his esophagus, just above his stomach, and and when he has to cough up the ‘stuff’ that collects there, it’s painful for him. Also the feeding tube is still a pain.) When he has ‘bad’ days, this is usually an overall feeling of sickness, nausea and sometimes headaches still. On a bad day he can't even be bothered to turn the tv on, answer the phone and can barely get his food in. We still feel this is part of the ‘healing crisis’ as his body deals with eliminating cancer waste.

Sometimes Dave does still get down if he's feeling crappy. He’s pretty much sick and tired of being sick and tired. Also, being unable to physically eat is emotionally difficult and draining. Regardless, I am convinced that he is beating this already and remind him of this daily. However he’s the one that has to deal with this 24/7 so it’s understandable that he gets frustrated.

For those of you that haven’t seen Dave in a while, his hair is starting to grow back. It’s about 1/2” now, but is very thinned out from the chemo drugs. (He stopped chemo 2 months ago.) It seems to be fuller at the top than the sides right now, so he he's got a bit of a mohican thing going on. Actually a friend from Toronto shaved his hair off to support Dave. He came down to visit a few days later and already had a very heavy 5 o’clock shadow! I’ll have to ask him how his hair looks now.

Anyway, we truly feel that God has heard our prayers, and your prayers, and has assured us that He is in control and Dave will beat this. We are blessed to have so many people praying and family, friends, students or past students that just call and ask how he's doing, or send him an email or mail a letter. Although this is Dave's fight, he doesn't often feel alone through all of this.

Thanks so much.

Oh. I received another delivery of 200lbs of carrots yesterday. Instead of caregiver, Dave has started calling me his carrot-giver.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

A day in the life

Not a lot going on right now, so I thought I’d show you our little hydroponic wheatgrass grow-op in the basement. :)

We’re actually growing barley grass, not wheatgrass right now. They’re both pretty much equally nutritious, and I was given a 50+ lb bag of barley seed when I purchased the unit. I have also grown some wheatgrass and will likely alternate buying both types of seeds.

This is a flat that's about 11 days old.

This shows you the root mass. 
(No soil!)>

It’s in our laundry room, and has a plumbing and drainage hookup. My brother, Nick, very kindly hooked it up for us and has come back a few times for some initial startup glitches and further maintenance. (There was a part that wasn't functioning properly, then the spray nozzles became clogged once and weren’t spraying very well, and most recently the drainage clogged up.) It sprays water for about 1 minute every hour and needs little attention from me, which is a good thing. We, actually my brother Nick, also installed a whole house water filter system to remove chlorine etc..., for the grass as well as for our drinking water and for showering. Fortunately London’s water is already alkaline, which is a good thing all around.

Every day I put in a new tray of seeds and rotate them up through the unit so the older plants get the light at the top. It holds 9 trays and after 9 days it’s technically ready to ‘harvest’, or juice, at that point. However I like to let it grow for a few more days after I remove it from the unit, and it gets another inch or so taller which produces a better yield. (I requested a few additional trays so that I could do this.) It just needs to be harvested before the grass ‘splits’, or starts to change from a sprout to a plant, because the nutrients drop dramatically at that point. Each tray yields about 4 or 5 ounces of fresh juice for Dave each day. Occasionally I buy an additional flat of fresh wheatgrass to supplement what Dave’s getting and I might have a few ounces then as well. I've also been adding frozen wheatgrass to his juices.

Overall I’m pretty happy with the unit, as I couldn’t imagine having to deal with hauling home organic soil and planting up a tray of dirt every day, then dealing with the used tray of dirt, watering the trays appropriately throughout the day, and possibly dealing with mold. I gotta say this is a LOT easier and pretty low maintenance as far as daily needs are concerned. (Although my brother might not agree...) Also, there is apparently no difference in quality if it’s grown in soil or water which was a determining factor as well.

Dave has been having a few good days (Monday & Tuesday) and then a not so good day yesterday. He just woke up feeling a little off, and just felt unwell & nauseous all day. Thankfully no headache. Today was a better day, but he's weak. He still has lower back pain, which is uncomfortable for him and a little weird. (He says it feels just like it did when he injured it years ago.)

I was very thankful to have the cleaning lady back yesterday. (Paid for by some Clarke Road SS staff. Thanks again you guys!) It's awesome to come home from work and into a clean house. Especially one that I didn't have to clean!

Cale's leg is doing OK but still bothers him if he's been standing all day. It's just an bump below his knee now.

Brady is regularly tormented by the rabbits in our back yard. (I think they heard about my stash of carrots.) They hang out near the back door and he can watch them through a back window. He usually stares at them for a good while then runs through the house trying to convince somebody to let him out so he can chase them.

I'm doing well. When the weather is nice I usually take the dog for a bike ride or walk after work.

Staying strong & positive!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mystery Solved

Well today we finally got closure on the mystery of the 'embedded suture anchor'. Those of you that have been following since December will remember that the VON nurse that came to our home to remove the temporary sutures from Dave's feeding tube, didn't do it correctly. Instead of simply cutting the threads and allowing the small metal anchoring pin to fall into Dave's stomach to be expelled, she tried pulling it out - thinking that it was just a thread. The suture thread broke as she pulled it through his stomach wall, and the pin was left embedded in his chest wall. It was very painful for Dave and has been an ongoing source of pain and grief since then.

So this metal pin has been embedded in his 'innards' somewhere and occasionally and very recently caused him shooting needle-like pains near the site of the feeding tube. This morning when Dave was changing the dressing for the feeding tube, he noticed a bit of blue thread sticking out by the feeding tube. He had actually become so used to discomfort that he had forgotten that the suture anchor was still likely in there. When he realized what it was he grabbed the tweezers, and was able to pull the thread out along with the attached suture anchor pin! Yeah!!! He is extremely relieved and very happy about this. One less thing to worry about and he's actually in a lot less pain today!

Today, and the last few days, Dave's been feeling pretty good. (He felt pretty lousy over the weekend until about Tuesday morning. He actually missed watching a number of the NCAA basketball play-off games over the weekend because he just felt bad and wanted to sleep.) In general, he still usually feels better in the morning and afternoon, and by the evening he's feeling a little rougher. But the last 3 days he's been feeling better than he has for a while.

 I forgot to mention last week that I received my second order of carrots. Yep - for those of you that are curious, 300lbs of juicing carrots lasted less than 5 weeks. I ordered and received 200 lbs last Wednesday and they're stored at my parents. (They live just a few minutes away.) I didn't order as many this time around now that the weather is warming up. I was concerned they wouldn't last as long.

Right now we're very encouraged that Dave's been feeling better over the last three days and that pin is finally gone! It's actually amazing that it's worked it's way a few inches through tissue and that the thread managed to work it's way out for Dave to see it and pull it out. FINALLY!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter = Hope!

Just thought I should drop a line to thank everybody for so much encouragement - and for the cards etc... that are dropped off at our door. They're just another way in which Dave is reminded and touched that people are still thinking about him and praying for him.

Yesterday morning we went to the Good Friday service at our church, although it wasn't actually a service, but a 10 hour drop-in day. There was a 'course' set up throughout the church in which to simulate Christ's journey to the cross. There were 12 stations to stop, read, contemplate, and comment on each message. It took us about an hour to do this. Dave was tired, and walks a little slow lately, so we took plenty of time to stop and meditate at each point. One thing that always hits home is that although the blame for Jesus' crucifixion is placed on the corrupt priests that conspired his death along with Judas' help, the reality is that it was our sin that placed him there. He chose the cross as an atonement for us, to reconcile man and God.

Tomorrow we celebrate Easter, where Jesus broke the chains of death and rose from the grave. The empty tomb is our hope. That no matter what happens here on earth, we will spend eternity with Him! That's reassurance!

I know many of you check in regularly, hoping that there would be posts more often. I just want to say that our days are pretty boring right now - which is actually a good thing. (The past 3+ months have felt like a lifetime of drama. Monotony sounds great right about now!) Rest assured that no news is good news!

I do want to say that Dave is continuing to experience what we believe are side effects of detoxing. (Basically he's on a carrot juice/green smoothie detox diet - along with the wheatgrass juice.) This is purely a cleansing and healing diet. He has lost weight and is 190 lbs now. At 6'3", he looks a lot skinnier than what you're used to seeing. He is still coughing up some nasty stuff, but the actual vomiting episodes happen a lot less frequently. (Once a week maybe.) He still gets headaches, and feels nauseous a lot. He basically doesn't feel great. 

Here's some more interesting detox stuff. At the end of last week he started complaining that his right knee was bothering him again. (He had ACL surgery done in 1984 and a recent surgery again on it a few years ago. They told him that he would need a knee replacement, but he was too young.) I didn't think much of it at the time. Then a few days later, he started complaining that his back was really hurting him. (His upper back and chest area has been hurting him for months - I think from the feeding tube, muscle pain around the tumor, and just from being inactive because he's sick.) But this was different.  He said, "It's crazy, but it feels just like it did when I put my lower back out a few years ago!" (He seriously injured his lower back a couple of times over the past 8 years and was bedridden for weeks.)

As soon as he said that, I remembered something I read about this woman's story. (The short version is that she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast cancer and given 6 months to live - 8+ years ago. She beat it with raw food, wheatgrass, and a few other things like visualization and stuff.) In her story she talks about a period where an old injury flared up. So I did some more research, and it's very common that during a serious detox, a 'healing crisis' occurs where old injuries and illnesses come back while your body works through them again. (Our bodies are crazy and we don't understand them at all really!) I told Dave this and read him her story, which was reassuring.

Then a few days later, he said, 'This is crazy - now my hernia is bothering me!' (He had hernia surgery exactly a year ago.) I asked him again later, and he said his knee isn't bothering him anymore, but now his right shoulder hurts. He had problems with his shoulder years ago from baseball!!!
It's crazy!

I won't get into it too much, but if you google 'Healing Crisis' it explains a lot, and basically it's a necessary turning point for actual healing. (For those of you that think this is nonsense, trust me - about 6 months ago I would have been in your camp too!) Regardless, despite that fact that Dave really does feel like crap, we're both very encouraged and know that we've chosen the right path here. We don't know how long this will go on for, but there is hope at the end!

Thanks as always for your concern and prayers.