Thursday, February 23, 2012

hard to swallow.

We spend the bulk of today at the University of Nebraska Medical Center for two reasons.  Besides having an appointment with a swallowing specialist, Mike had a sore on his neck (in the radiation field) that was not healing and we were concerned enough to want to have it looked at.

This morning we saw Dr. Bill Lydiatt's Physican Assistant, Jennelea Montanez.  She was a familiar face and comforted us with her words something to the effect that she does not believe this is related to cancer.  We tend to think everything is these days. Can you blame us?  She said that Mike's skin is still suffering the effects of the radiation and called this sort of thing "radiation recall".  Technically she called it a musositis, or breakdown of the epidermal surface due to radiation.  We are to continue with the sulfa cream, and we were encouraged to keep Tara's organic moisturizing oils on his poor skin.  She assessed that the skin might have been irritated because it is located at a "bony prominence" at the base of his neck.  We laughed because he does have some bony prominences with his weight loss, but...

We were encouraged that when we did the tradition "weigh in" Mike showed some weight gain! He is up to 166 pounds - but we wanted to add that he is in need of a haircut so it might be closer to 165 - ha.

This afternoon we met with a swallowing specialist and found it very, very helpful.  Mike was encouraged by how many things he had "figured out" on his own - for instance, "adding extra juice, broth, gravy, butter and oil to your foods help it go down".  Not only did she clearly explain why swallowing is so difficult following a bout of radiation but she also gave Mike a series of exercises & stretches to do every day.  I call it "head & neck yoga".  The goal is to tone the swallowing mechanism.  Mike is totally jazzed about this because he is acutely aware of how helpful it will be.

This week Mike started Tony Horton's 10 Minute Workout to prepare himself for more extensive body conditioning at Anytime Fitness.  And today he added his head & neck pilates regime.  I have always admired Mike's discipline.  He is on the way to rebuilding his muscles all over the place.

I have said this before, but spending time around the head & neck oncology center is exhausting. But today we are super thankful for our good news about the "red spot that wasn't getting better".  That was news that wasn't hard to swallow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

somebody is feeling better.

I was going to make a post about how I have noticed in dozens of little ways that I think Mike is finally starting to feel a bit more like himself... in the brightness of his eyes, his energy level, his ability to eat, how long he can eat without tiring, his looks, his mannerisms, his spunk... a myriad of tiny wonderful improvements.

  And on Valentines Day I got some more proof.  I knew that Mike felt guilty (even though I told him a hundred times it didn't matter) that gifts for my last birthday and Christmas were below his normal standards.  My most recent birthday fell on the day before his last radiation treatment. We were both doing good to survive and honestly something like 'celebrate' sounded ridiculous.  The Christmas holiday wiped us both out more than we anticipated.

Anyway, last night Mike surprised me with diamond  earrings for Valentines Day.  And not only that, it was complete with a story AND one of his made-with-love-and-meaning cards!  Proof that the real Mike is making his comeback!

You want more details? Oh, OK... We have a pink heart tucked into our bathroom mirror that says "I love you" in my handwriting on one side and Mike's on the other.  We have flipped it back and forth every day for about six month now.  The paper is almost worn out. The cover of his card had a color copy cut-out of each side - and the inside read: "Everyday is a Valentine's Day with you..." 
The earring story? In 1956, the year of Mike's birth, Mike's dad gave his mom a watch with two diamonds on it.  They later had a ring made for him with these diamonds and a shark's tooth keepsake.  He took the ring to Borsheims to have the diamonds set in earrings for me, but because there were antique and flat, it was more cost effective to get me new, sparkly ones! (They are so colorful and bright!) He also knew I was tired of the chinky hoop earrings that I wear everyday and want to throw away.

He has always been one of the most thoughtful gift givers... and he is back.