Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Road Home

Okay, I'd intended to write a post following Deb's check-in appointment on Monday, but things got a bit hectic with packing for travel on Tuesday, my own medical appointment late that afternoon, and various other last minutes stuff.  In other words; I didn't write anything but I don't feel too bad about it.

I also didn't write anything yesterday, but we spent most of the day traveling and without wifi, so I really don't feel bad about that at all.

Now it's Wednesday, so here I am.

Deb's soreness following her revision surgery has been improving, but it has also continued.  The nurse at Dr. Paige's office, Louise (more on her later) looked Deb over and seemed pleased, so as you can guess, air travel was allowed to get back to Knoxville.  She is still restricted from air travel for four weeks, though, in part because I won't be there to carry stuff and lift stuff and et cetera.  She will still travel some, though it will only be by car for a little while (such as a scheduled trip to Atlanta next week).

The bandages have been progressively staying cleaner as well (I won't throw too much detail out there about that) to the point that she went today (for the first time) without bandages over the two points not covered by SteriTape.  Her post-surgical bruising has improved dramatically as well.  She no longer looks like she was at a stick fight dressed as a piƱata (her analogy, not mine).

We were headed out to dinner with our friends who actually live at the building we were staying in for the last half of our trip (we were in the guest suite) when a lady came in the door that looked a little familiar.  I'd just figured it out when she did a double take at me.  It was Deb's nurse, Louise, who apparently lives in that same condo building.  Deb joked that if we'd known, we could have just had her stop by the guest suite on her way home instead of us taking Uber up to their office.  Small world.

Our travel day started yesterday at around 05:00 when a car picked us up and took us to the airport in Seattle (actually just south of Seattle).  We then flew to Nashville and picked up the car we had left at the Embassy Suites there (with their knowledge and permission, of course) and drove back to Knoxville - with a stop in Cookeville along the way - where we are currently staying in a downtown hotel until we close on a house on Friday, 3/31.

So the last thing is that Deb had her first infusion this morning without the benefit of having a port, but she only has one more infusion remaining so I think that having it removed last week during the rest of the revision surgery was the best possible timing (so she doesn't have to be put under anesthesia yet again to have it removed later).

One final follow-up appointment with Dr. Paige remains, and that's in mid-July.  I hope not to have anything to report between now and then, nor anything afterward.  Nor ever again.  Cancer has really put us through the wringer this last fourteen months, as  it did eight years ago for around six or eight months.

Dear Cancer, Deb has had enough.  Go kill off some mosquitoes or something for a change. Thanks, George

Thursday, March 23, 2017

No Place Like ...

Well, we aren’t at home.  Right now we don’t even have a home.  We sold our Seattle house and don’t close on our Knoxville house for just over a week.  Currently we are lodging in the guest suite at some friends’ condo building in Belltown (just north of downtown) in Seattle.  But there’s a bed (that Deb is snoozing in) and a sofa (that I am sitting on) and a few other amenities that make our stay comfortable enough for now, so even though it isn’t ‘home’, it will do for the next few days until we fly back to Knoxville.

What happened since my last post?  I’m glad you asked (at least I imagined that you might ask).  I grabbed a quick breakfast across the street after Deb went back and then went back over and wrote the previous post.  It was around 1130 or so when Dr. Paige came out to talk to me after he was done.  Mostly he went over exactly what he did with Deb’s navel since he discovered (and corrected) an umbilical hernia when he went in.  Deb will still have a navel for now.  He did some more work with it and we will see how that does over the next several months until we make it back to Seattle for another look-see by Dr. Paige.

Since I had another 30 – 45 minutes to wait for Deb to come out from under before I could see her, I went down to the bank branch located in the same building at street level (how convenient!) and moved a little bit of money around.  I then went back up and waited for Deb.

As advertised, she was ready in about 40 minutes and we headed downstairs to grab an UberX back to the Belltown suite.  I gave her some lunch and some pain-killers, and then changed her first dressings out before putting her to bed (she actually did that part herself).  I ran out quickly to get some more dressings and such at a Rite-Aid just a couple of blocks away while she rested, and since then she’s been snoozing.  That’s a good thing.

She’s a bit sore around her navel (not surprising) but the local numbing agents really haven’t worn off enough of the rest of her incision points for her to know just how much discomfort she will have in the near-term.  I’m hoping for ‘not too much’, but trying to prepare for ‘quite a bit’ if necessary.

She will go back around midday on Monday for a check-in to make sure everything is as it should be before we fly out on Tuesday.  If anything noteworthy comes up before then I’ll write a post, but otherwise I will likely elect to pay more attention to her than to the blog.  So for the weekend, no news is okay news.

The Sandman Cometh

There are a lot of things that have happened in the last few days, but I won’t go into too much detail there.  We arrived in Seattle on March 17th and have been running about doing things and seeing people until today.  Deb did actually have a pre-surgery appointment with her doctor (Dr. Paige) yesterday, but I wasn’t there (I was in an adjacent building for a final visit with one of my doctors) so I can’t report too much about it.  Mostly they talked about what he was going to do her today.  We saw him right before they took her back a little while ago and they went over it all again anyway, so I really didn’t miss anything important as far as I can tell.  I just know that Deb is looking forward to the sedation so she can get a little extra sleep this morning.

Essentially this is a touch-up surgery from what he did for her back in September with the major reconstruction.  Nip here, tuck there, work on her navel (that’s right, her belly button is still a hot topic) and also the removal of the port.  In case I haven’t explained the port before, it is essentially a target point about the size of a quarter that they installed just below the skin back in February of 2016.  The port allowed them to place the IV needle there (since it connects to a catheter into a major vein) instead of having to find a vein in her arm each time they did chemotherapy or other drug infusions (e.g., Herceptin).  Since she only has two more infusions remaining, this seemed as good a time as any to remove the port since she’s under anesthesia anyway.

I expect to hear from Dr. Paige in about another 30 minutes or so.  He said it would likely take a couple of hours to do everything, so depending on when they actually got started that could be anywhere between 1100 or 1130 PT (add three hours if you are in the Eastern Time Zone, of course).

Meanwhile, I have been trying to write this update while also trying to talk on the phone to Comcast/Xfinity about getting new service set up in Knoxville and getting our Comcast email addresses linked to that service (and not the old Seattle service we’ve already closed out).  Not an easy process, but I’m giving it the old college try – even though I’m no longer in college.

I’ll try to post again later after Deb has been awake for a while and we get her settled back in at the suite where we are staying until next Tuesday.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Winding Up, Winding Down

Well, certainly a lot has happened in the 4+ months since my last post.  Deb has indeed found an oncologist in Knoxville and has been receiving her tri-weekly (i.e., once every three weeks) infusions of Herceptin here (I say “here” now) in the oncology center in West Knoxville.  In fact, Deb has been in Knoxville since January 2nd and I only joined her in mid-February after our Seattle house went under contract and the movers came and took all of our stuff away.

Sadly, we don’t yet have a house in Knoxville to move it (all that stuff) into, so it is all in moving-company storage and we can’t really get to it.  We are under contract on a house, but we don’t close on it until the end of March.  In the meantime we are living in a small apartment outside of the city with only as much clothing as we were each able to carry with us when we left Seattle, plus our computers, the dog, and - most importantly – my espresso machine (at least it’s the most important thing every morning when I get up).  We have a few other things (emphasis on few) that we’ve bought at CostCo or Target, but those are small items and consist mostly of cleaning products and a new electric toothbrush.

I think the continuing upheaval of the drawn-out relocation process is having an effect on Deb’s psyche (not to mention my own, but I suppress it by getting out in the sunshine).  Still, we have something to look forward to coming up soon, and it ties into the subject of this post.

We are returning to Seattle for 10 or so days in a couple of weeks.  Deb will spend some of that time working with one of her people who has the Seattle area under their territorial purview, and then she will return to Dr. Paige for her final (we hope) encounter with a scalpel.

Dr. Paige, of course, performed her restoration surgery back in September.  This time around is a final touch-up to clean up the margins a little and probably close off Deb’s navel for good.  They tried to reconstruct it, and it looked like it would work for quite a while, but over the last couple of months it has been constricting and thus it would likely be better to close it in the operating theater rather than let it close by itself (perhaps trapping debris in there which could lead to infection).

I will be going along to hold her hand throughout the process (except when they understandably kick me out of the surgery suite), though I will also get the opportunity to go to the Seattle Sounders FC home opener – have I said “Go Sounders” before? Consider it said – and we will also try to visit as many of our Seattle friends as we can while we are there.  We will probably try to see more before rather than after the surgery since, while it’s a relatively minor surgery this time, there will still be a bit of a recovery period for Deb.  In fact, that recovery period will keep us in Seattle for a little while until Deb will be allowed to fly at all.  She’s going to be on travel restriction for over a month post-surgery, but Dr. Paige will allow her to fly back to Knoxville after a week or so only because I will be there to carry any and all luggage and she won’t have to lift anything overhead, or anywhere else for that matter.  Dr. Paige understands that I take my role of porter/pack-mule seriously and that Deb will be severely chastised should she even look like she’s considering try to pick up anything.  Anything.  Hear me Deb?  Anything.

So that’s all for now.  I will post again when we are headed to Seattle if I can, but certainly after Deb’s brief pre-surgery visit with the surgeon early in the week.

I’m really looking forward to being able to wind this blog down once and for all … and never have a reason to start it up again.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Case of the Truant Blogger

OK, I will admit that I’ve dropped the ball for a little bit on the reporting front.  I have reasons, but voicing (typing) them just makes them excuses, so I will simply say “Mea culpa” instead.

Of course a lot has happened since the last post, and all of it for the better where Deb is concerned.  She’s been back to see Dr. Paige (the surgeon) who is pleased with her progress with healing.  Even though the navel is still a bit ‘angry’, he was able to clean it up a little during the office visit and Deb is continuing to care for it at home, so it looks like no further surgery will be required there.  It also appears that her incisions are healing up nicely as far as he is concerned.  There will be one more visit with him before we move back East, followed by the final (I hope) touch-up procedure that we’ve penciled in for the March timeframe back here in Seattle.

Deb has also visited our GP for her annual physical (all good there) and had a cardiac ultrasound to make certain that the Herceptin isn’t having ill effects on her heart.  The results of that test were also good, so that’s one less worry right now.

We are currently (as I type this) sitting in the infusion center where Deb is receiving her first post-surgery dose of Herceptin.  That would normally be done every three weeks (until the end of March), but the last one was skipped since it was during her initial recovery period after the surgery.  Before we came into the infusion center we saw Dr. Ahmed (the oncologist) who was effusive over Deb’s progress.  I am really happy to see her so pleased.  I think she’s already checked the “Success!” box.

Our next challenge will be finding an oncologist for Deb to transition over to in the Knoxville area.  We’ve had a few recommendations from friends in the area, so it’s really just a matter of Deb completing her research and making a decision.  I think she’s close.  In fact, she’s on the phone with a friend (and fellow cancer patient) right now – RIGHT NOW! – and he apparently is seeing the frontrunner in the oncologist race.  It may be that the decision was just made.  We’ll see.

On my own side of things I did have to go back to my dermatologist last week to have the margins cleaned up on that small skin cancer she removed back in late September.  I now have a nice 1-1/2 inch scar on my forearm.  And Deb is no longer the only cancer patient in our house.  Let’s hope that’s the last of that, though. Neither one of us wants either of us to have to deal with cancer any more.  Ever.  Ever!  YOU HEAR ME CANCER?!? EVER!!!

Anyway, Deb returns to work next week though she still has another two weeks after that before she’s allowed to fly anywhere. Sometime in the next several weeks we will put our house on the market (anybody need a good house in North Seattle?) once we decide between the two relocation-company-approved realtors. Then we’ll go to Knoxville for a house-hunting trip.  We’ve already got our Knoxville realtor looking into potential places for us.  Busy, busy, busy.

The point is, this may be the last post for a little while.  I might have something to say if we get her in with an oncologist in Knoxville, but otherwise I won’t likely pick things up again until the touch-up appointment in March.  Thanks for keeping Deb in your thoughts over the last 10 months or so. I really do appreciate it.

So until next time (whenever that is) …

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Art of the Blade

There were two appointments today - one for each of us.  Mine was first, but I'll speak about that one later.  However, since mine was first we went downtown early and just sat in a coffee shop in-between while waiting to go to Deb's appointment.

I'd previously written that we hoped to be able to have Deb's last drain pulled on Monday if the drain cooperated.  It did not.  At least not right away.  It actually picked up in volume initially (taking over anything that the other abdominal drain had been dealing with) before finally starting to settle down on Monday and Tuesday.  It is now gone as of about 1115 this morning.  WooHoo!  Done with drains!

We hadn't expected to see Dr. Paige today, but he was the first one to walk in the door (followed by RN Susan, who actually pulled the drain).  He took a look at Deb's incisions, et al., and was very pleased with her progress.

Except maybe her navel.

We still can't really see it, but it's not healing as fast as he'd like.  He mentioned two different ways to deal with it surgically.  The first, and quickest, is to just seal it up and leave only a scar behind.  I like that one because I can play off on the whole Alien Abduction/Replacement scenario when we go to the beach.  Otherwise they can do a multistage process to try to work on it.  Meanwhile we are going to be using a new type of dressing made from algae and silver (algae to provide natural debridement and silver for it's anti-bacterial properties.  It may turn out that in two weeks the dressing will help reveal a healed navel without having to do anything more surgically.  That would be nice.

To recap: 1) No more drains. 2) Algae in the belly button.

My appointment was at the building right next door two hours before Deb's.  I'd been to my GP on Monday for general physical and had pointed out a bump on my arm that was annoying.  We couldn't tell if it was maybe an infected bug bite or possibly a squamous cell carcinoma.  I got referred to a dermatologist today.  She wasn't able to say exactly what it was, but just to be sure she cut it off (the bump, not my arm) and sent it to pathology.  Now I have a cauterized wound on my arm right where I was going to put the anchor tattoo.  No, I really wasn't.  As far as you know.  I should have the pathology results next week sometime.

After Deb's appointment we walked over to the Frye Museum for lunch, hoping to see the current exhibit first.  Except that there isn't a current exhibit.  There is a new exhibit being installed that will open on Friday evening, but only five visible works right now.  But we did enjoy lunch.

The trip home included a stop to pick up Deb's new contact lenses (now that she's cut back on the narcotics enough that she can focus again ... kidding ... maybe).  I also stopped in at a drug store for some vaseline for Deb's wound care.  But that was it.  We're home now, Deb is lightly snoozing in her recliner, and Betty the dog is heavily snoozing on her bed next to Deb.  Seems like a good plan for her afternoon.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Weekend Update (No Chevy Chase ... Sorry)

We went back to see the RN at Paige's office yesterday.  Her name is Louise, and I have to admit that I love listening to her talk (born and raised in Sydney, Australia, so she has that lovely Aussie thing going on).  She looked at the places where Deb's initial drains were pulled on Monday (healing nicely) and pulled one more of the two remaining.  So that means that drains A, B, and C are now gone and that drain D is the problem child that just hangs around and won't leave home, eating all of the groceries and playing Xbox into the wee hours every night.  However, we are hopeful that we can kick it out of the nest on Monday.  Maybe.  Possibly.  We have an appointment back with Louise, so D just needs to cooperate ... please.

Did I anthropomorphize the drain a little too much there?  Hmm...

In other news, I was able to make it out to Jerry Baker Memorial Velodrome one last time yesterday evening to see some people I won't get to see again for a long time, and some maybe not at all.  Why did I feel OK about leaving Deb at home while I was gone during the evening hours when I would normally be fixing dinner for her?  'Cause Emma is here.

Emma is one of Deb's much-younger half-sisters.  She lives in Portland, OR with her husband, but came up for the long weekend on Thursday evening so she can attend a conference/symposium/seminar/whatever it is over in Bellevue on the east side of Lake Washington.  She fixed dinner for herself and Deb last night, and I figured it was a good time for me to give them some sister-time.  Emma is back at the ... thing ... today (it runs Friday and Saturday), so we expect her back late this afternoon.  We don't know if she'll send another night here or if she'll drive on back to Portland tonight.  Depends on how she feels, I guess.

The run-down:

  • Three drains gone, one remains.
  • Deb has been feeling a bit more pain over the last few days, but then she has cut back to half-dosage on the OxyCodone.  She's also cut out the ibuprofen, so she's down to the half-dose and Tylenol for now.  She's still managing OK.
  • She's been able to be a little bit more upright everyday.  Not that she looks like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but maybe that disaffected-teenager slouch is a better comparison.  But it is improving!
  • Deb looks forward to getting out of the house for short (at first) excursions as soon as the last drain is gone.

So that's all I have until at least Monday at this point.  Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.