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.