Friday, December 23, 2011

the journey.

After we returned home to the Vespa's from Barnes Hospital on Tuesday night, Prosecco in hand around the fireplace, I asked "Janice, where are we on the journey now???"  Janice has been ready with great word pictures along MikesLongRide to both prepare and amuse us with what lays ahead.  Right before Mike's first big surgery she said "that we were perched on the edge of the grand canyon ready to head down into some rough terrain".  When radiation came on the radar she cleverly stated "that the coastline was in sight but the path turned us back for much more riding."

I was eager to hear where we were now!  After a thoughtful pause Janice said "I think Mike is walking his bike - like pushing it - because the bike is rickety and beat up.  The front wheel is bent.  Mike is maneuvering the weathered bicycle up the steps... because he is home.  And he is in the market for a new bike."

Well said, my friend.

good emotions.

When we returned home on Wednesday night I ran to The Little House to tie up some loose ends before Emily arrived home for the holidays the next morning.  I popped in my new Amy Grant "A Christmas to Remember" CD and busied myself... until Gabriel's Oboe came on.  If you have seen the movie The Mission, you know this moving instrumental... I stood in the kitchen and wept.  Good tears.  Deep tears.  Good emotions moving out and Up... Amen.

(If you don't want a scene, it would be best to keep me out of the public eye while Highland Cathedral or Gabriel's Oboe are playing.)

another finishing line.

When we left Dr. Haughey's office on Tuesday afternoon it felt different.  We left lighter... overwhelmed with praise and thanksgiving... also numb... and everything felt a little different.

On Wednesday morning we headed back to the Siteman Cancer Center, 3rd Floor Radiology, for a CT chest scan.  Only this was a happy scan.  A scan that will be our baseline for Dr. Haughey's watchful eye over the coming years.   They do not expect anything to show up on the scan - and we certainly pray that nothing like another cancer cell ever shows up again, but continued care involves a yearly CT scan of the chest.  Dr. H will not scan Mike's head and neck routinely because he can see and feel everything he needs to with a scope of his neck and physical examination of his neck.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"squeaky clean" report!

After Dr. Haughey examined and scoped Mike and then stated "Everything is 100%. There is nothing that I am concerned about" - you cannot imagine the rush of relief that swept over us.   I think that the news seemed even bigger and sweeter because I had no idea that Dr. Haughey would be telling us today that - and I quote - "your treatment is completed."  I know that he actually used the words "squeaky clean" when conveying the report.

I have stated that I felt starved for his watchful eye and comprehensive care.  After an examination of the exterior tissues on Mike's neck, Dr. H said that Mike's tissues are getting supple, the way you want them to become. (He mentioned that sometimes after that kind of damage the tissues can get hard.) This was the first good thing.

Then he put the mini-lighted scope down the back of his throat through his nasal passage to view and access the interior tissues.  After expressing the situation in medical terms to Nurse Nicole at the computer, he then told us that everything was 100%.   Any side effects were the result of radiation - and NOT cancer.  You wanted to ask him to say it again and again!  He said there was still some slight swelling on the left side, which was to be expected and which is why Mike still has considerable pain.  He explained how radiated tissues are susceptible to trauma, even chewing.  Even this was spoken in a 'everything looks great' tone.

Our next step is to get a chest CT scan in the morning as our "baseline".  It is standard protocol to have all their patients get one because it is something that they will check every year.  While they rarely see any future cancer outbreaks for Mike's type & kind of cancer, this would be the typical place for it to go - so that is where they will be watching.

Then we made an appointment to see Dr. Haughey in four months.  We made it for April 3, 2012 which would be just two days short of the anniversary of our first surgery. 

The amazing, thrilling, hard-to-even-process thing is that OUR CANCER TREATMENT IS COMPLETED.  Thanks be to God.

Monday, December 19, 2011

dr. haughey.

We have an appointment with Dr. Bruce Haughey in St. Louis tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, December 20th.  He wanted to see us again eight weeks after Mike completed his radiation treatments.  To say we are eager to have Dr. H check Mike over after our gruelling radiation warfare would be an understatement.  Dr. Haughey provides  very comprehensive care and I am very eager to him to view Mike's throat which continues to be very painful.  I am very excited for him to lay his medical expertise over our case again.

Did I mention that I am eager for Mike to see Dr. Haughey??

Sunday, December 11, 2011

159... and holding.

Many of you have asked for regular updates... and sometimes it helps me to just "say some things".   Mike has not been able to turn a corner and put on any weight yet which has been hard.   And if you asked me, it seems like he is continuing to shed pounds.

Let me give you a picture of why this is happening by telling you about his day yesterday:  He got up at 4am to do chores and participate in a study at work (ie very physical labor.)  After meeting Mollie for breakfast at Memories Cafe he spent the entire afternoon chopping firewood with Scotty Gatewood.  Then he did afternoon chores at work (it is his chore weekend) and got home at 8:30pm.  Since he still has pain in swallowing, his 1500 calorie diet cannot keep up with the 8000 calories he expended!  The good part is that he feels good enough to do all of this.

After waking up in the night to worry about it, I decided that my best plan of action is to PRAY his weight back on... while making sure there is lots of good & healthy food in front of him to eat.  I would love to have you PRAY for his rebuilding and strengthening with me.

There.  I feel better.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


We found a practical advantage to Mike's massive weight loss:  Easier access through the tiny hole in the wall for insulating the exterior closet walls.  Yes, Mike crawled in and out of that tiny hole for 8 hours yesterday to complete his insulation project on the new house.  (For more details see

Such an arduous, labor intensive project probably inhibited any weight gain over the weekend, but it did result in a big weight off his shoulders for completing this project!

Friday, December 2, 2011

new perspective.

This cancer journey has enlarged my perspective on many things, large and small.  One thing that is different for me is that when I notice the 'soft stuff' at the top of my jeans, instead of being irritated it registers as HEALTH to me now.  While I am not condoning obesity in any form, it is another thing for healthy, active people to appreciate that healthy layer of fat.  A thin layer of that is there for a reason!  Poor Mike is cold 24/7.  We have been on a hunt for warm pajama pants and 'ski liner' leggings for under his jeans.  I just purchased a couple more silk Cattle Kate neck scarves for layering with his outer wear.  We keep the portable heaters handy around the house. And when we are travelling in a car together, I make sure I can strip down to a tank top for the heat level in the vehicle! 

Be thankful for some of your "soft stuff".  It looks like HEALTH to me.

158.5 and dr. zhen.

On Wednesday Mike had his four-week-post-radiation check with Dr. Ken Zhen at UNMC.  While it was actually emotionally painful to walk through the doors again, it was good to see the smiles of the dear people who work there and are so very caring.  (How do they do it day in and day out? The faces of the weary and radiated people in the waiting room is enough to send you into a downward spiral.  Our hats go off to the wonderful staff there.)

They weighed Mike.  He dropped another half pound this week to 158.5.  We learned that he actually lost more weight in the four weeks post radiation than during the six weeks of radiation - which makes sense since he was sicker and his pain levels were higher, especially in weeks 7-8.  Nurse Cindy gave a great pep talk about doing the hard work of eating - and making your calories count.  Dr. Zhen said "it took a long time to feel bad and it will take a long time to heal completely" - but everything looks as expected.  He assured Mike that when he comes back in 3 months that he will feel much better!  We refilled Mike's prescription for the codeine mouth rinse stuff that makes it possible for him to eat with the pain in his throat.  They had all seen Mike's article in the Omaha World Herald which was fun.  We appreciate these people dearly but are glad we do not have to come back here on a daily basis.  Duh.

Our next Dr. Haughey appointment is December 20th at 1:30pm, as he wants to see Mike six weeks post radiation.  We are looking forward to that very much.

Speaking of St. Louis, please join us in praying for Janice (as in our home-way-from-home Tom & Janice) as she has surgery on Monday for breast cancer.  They caught it small and early... we are praying that Monday's surgery starts and ends their journey.  Like a day-trip cancer ride.