Monday, March 27, 2017

Stage Two: Surgery


Stage two of our trial by fire is upon us.  With Bill's permission, I am going to share to keep you all informed about our journey. 

One form of chemo and radiation ended mid-January. Bill  was still in pain with general lethargy for an additional two weeks.  Gradually his appetite returned as did physical strength.  By the second week in February he was ready to fly to Eureka, CA to bring home the last load of our personal belongings.  His surgeon gave him the green flag.  She said he should be feeling great (and he was!).  He was in the honeymoon period between radiation and surgery.  Off he flew to clear and clean out the rented storage unit and bring his pickup and a trailer load of stuff home.

In the midst of this trip Liz and I flew to Eureka for a Scottie Dog Quilting Retreat.  It was a whirlwind trip, a fun and successful retreat and a chance to reconnect with old friends.  

Bill made the last long trip to MN and so we are officially and in fact Minnesotans now.  Our house is slowly becoming our home, the snow (for now!) is gone and the green is beginning to appear.  But I know that Mother Nature is fickle and we could have snow anytime between now and mid-May. 

There have been a few doctor  and nurse visits the past week as we prepare for surgery on Wed. March 29.  One very educational trip was to the Wound Care Nurse who will be following Bill throughout the next couple of months.  She answered all the questions we had (and didn't know to ask) about Ostomys and Stomas...two terms we really didn't know much about but will be so much a part of our lives in the future.  Wednesday the doctor, via robot, will remove Bill's colon and re-route his large intestine to the left side of his abdomen.  She will cut through the muscle wall and insert the end of the intestine and fold it back on itself and sew it to the outside of his body.  This opening is called a stoma.  Then they will flip his body, remove the rectum, sphincter muscles and anus.  They'll sew up the hole.  Even just a few years ago the surgery was harder and the care for a stoma and the output was much more difficult and distasteful.  But now there are great systems.  The picture is the "fitting" of a Two Part system.  There is a "bandage" with a circular fixture that allows for a tupperware type seal.  Bags are disposable and even have charcoal filter systems to cut down on odor.  He should be able to do everything he did before the surgery once he is healed up.


 
 This surgery will take about 5-6 hours and require a 6-7 day hospital stay.  Then there will be a 6-8 week recovery period before four months of infusion chemo.  No lifting and not much physical activity. The immediate future doesn't look fun, but the down the road future looks great.

Please keep us in your prayers.  The road ahead is still long but we thank the Lord for his mercies. 





Friday, January 20, 2017

YMCA to the Rescue

I'm sure you remember it....the catchy song from 1978 by the Village People:  YMCA.  Just click here and you can listen to it.  The cop, Indian, cowboy, construction worker and more.  Every high school dance played the record and teens flailed their arms up and around trying to spell out Y..M.C.A.






As a kid I didn't have much experience with the YMCA.  They sponsored a trip to Disneyland really cheap with bus included each Summer and my Mom happily sent us for a day of peace.  In our town the YMCA was pretty much for boys.  There WAS a YWCA but if I recall correctly (and it HAS been a long time) they had a reading room and helped out "girls in trouble." I went to the public library for my reading material.

So here I am in Minnesota in January.  My activity level has gone down drastically because we now live in the country, the snow is deep and the drive and roads are too icy to walk on.  I still get in 10 or more flights of stairs but not so many steps.  I had checked out a few gyms but I have arthritic knees and hips and weights and elliptical machines and the like aren't for me.  I'm not a weight lifting kind of gal either.  I want a pool for my dream exercise (besides walking) is aquatic exercise.  Be it calisthenics, dance, jazzercize in the pool or just plain walking in the water I love it.  LOVE it!  My good friend and neighbor Laura said she had joined the YMCA in Prior Lake just 12 miles from my house.  She'd love to pick me up two days a week and she sent me a copy of their classes.  Imagine my delight to find there is a water exercise class nearly every hour of the morning!  So I joined the YMCA on Wednesday.



I learned quickly no photographs so this is a stock photo of one of my favorite things.   The Vortex!  I call it the not-so-lazy river.  If I walk against the water flow on the inside I can only keep it up for about 20 minutes.  I tried it on the outside and it knocked me off my feet!  There are two pools.  

Just to the left of this picture is the lap pool.  This is where I can take my classes.  I've been twice so far and hope to make it 3-4 times every week.  Half an hour on my own....walking in the Vortex, exercising in the pool next to it and then an hour of instruction.  Finally a dip in the hot tub.  AHHHH.  I tell you  the hometown YMCA was never like this.  I watch Korban on Mondays sometimes and I can take him to the child care center....best indoor playground I've ever seen with a very very low ratio of kids to care givers.  I might even take a tap dance class. You never know. Maybe I'll ask the trainer to help me use some of the equipment in the gym.  But I probably won't join the basketball team.  Just sayin.....

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Trail of Fire....Part 1

 Today marked the end of the first of three parts of our journey on the Trail of Fire.  Winter is upon us, lots of snow and below zero temperatures.  When I went out to feed the birds today I thought to myself, "Oh it's 8 degrees out, I don't need my coat."  I went out with just my slippers over my socks and then had second thoughts.  I was going to be out for about 3 minutes and I knew I needed my coat.  Turned out that with the wind chill it felt more like -15!

For the past 6 weeks Mr. Scottie Dog has been getting up in the dark.  Monday through Friday with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas he's made the cold, dark drive early each morning to St. Francis Cancer Center for his radiation treatments.  St. Frances Hospital is in Shakopee, the county seat for Scott County and just up the road about 15 miles.  But these early morning trips take close to half an hour.  First off, it's winter.  Snow, icy roads and crazy drivers make it necessary to go "the back way."  If Mr. Scottie Dog relied on 169 to get him there, chances are it could take much more time.  169 clogs up with commuter traffic and in the winter there is often an accident or seven blocking one or both lanes going north.  We live in the country so the back way is unpaved (and often unplowed) roads to get around.  Most of the time Bill went by himself but once or twice a week I'd go with him.  The sun comes up about mid-way on the trip and the skies were amazing.  The people at the cancer center are wonderful and caring people.  They have donuts and coffee every day for the patients and caregivers.  I don't drink coffee or eat donuts, but it's a nice gesture.  There was an older man there every time I came and today one of the nurses mentioned that his wife passed away last year.  But he still comes in five days a week for his coffee and donut!
 Here's a view out the front door at our place.  Brrrr!  Cold!

The past six weeks have been rough for Mr. Scottie Dog.  Radiation is just that....burning radiation!  There were weekly trips to Burnsville for blood work and consultations with his Oncologist and Oncology Radiologist. He'd had some pain prior to Christmas but was able to control  with over the counter meds.  Christmas night the horrific pain began.  Burning, tearing of soft tissues.  I don't begin to know how bad it hurt but my gentle stoic husband moaned and cried out with pain.  His days were filled with pain and fatigue.  I would sit and pray with tears streaming down my face as he endured it.  Bill was happy when they first gave him Vicodin (this is the man who refuses to take aspirin for a headache) and then just days later he asked for something stronger.  Very little complaining.  With his appetite gone I had to cajole him to eat.  I think if I hadn't insisted he'd have forgone eating altogether.  When he wasn't sleeping he was hurting.  He's brave but several times he said he thought the radiation (and the chemo pills he was taking) might kill before the cure.  He longs for the surgery (Step 2 in our Trail of Fire).

 One of the benefits of having cancer is that you get to park close.  The doors to the Cancer Center are just to the left of this sign.  I took this picture today just after we had left for the last time.  Big smiles.  And then we went out for ice cream! (Who cares if it was 4 degrees out?)

Now there is a rest for a bit.  The radiation will continue to shrink the rectal tumor and the surrounding lymph nodes for a few weeks and hopefully the sores and tears will have time to heal.  We are hoping that the pain lessons as the weekend days were always a bit better than radiation days.  In a couple of weeks he'll visit his surgeon (who is high on the list of the top 10 surgeons in MN) and set up Part 2: Surgery.  We expect it to be mid March.  There will be 5 or 6 days in the hospital after the 5 hour surgery.  Then the coming home and learning how to live with a colostomy.  Bill's already found a FaceBook group that will help him and there are local groups too.  They say surgery should be a piece of cake after the radiation.  I hope so!

We covet your continuing prayers....and many thanks to all who are helping out in big and small ways.  It's humbling for us to be in a position of needing help and that help and  leaning on the Lord has gotten us through this journey so far.