Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009

January: Elliot Martin Oliver arrived during the ice storm of the century in Fayetteville. By some fluke of engineering, our hotel had power, so we took Ethan back with us. He's convinced to this day that we lost his LSU football uniform pants there. So, Nana replaced them. Now Erin has TWO LSU helmets to store. Surely, Elliot will have a phase when he will wear one to humor his Daddy.

February: We continued our house remodeling project. Painting morphed into new window and door trim and starting the screened porch addition. I loved waking up to see a yard full of pickup trucks. All I had to do was make a request and these guys said, "Yes, ma'am."

March: Bryan first noticed the swelling in his parts. We spent Spring Break in Fayetteville, helping with bridal pictures and grandbabies. Erin and I took Elliot along to the photo shoot with Rachel. He was a trooper. The photo shoot had been delayed because of weather, so when we got to Fort Smith to meet the photographer, there was no place to change into her gown. Shannon marched across the street to the funeral home, asked if we could use a room, and led us in! Erin and I were panicked that mourners would encounter the beautiful bride in the hallway, but there was no confrontation.

April: The house project continued quickly. After 27 years of glacial-speed progress, having all these workers here was quite a change for us. We had carpenters, granite fabricators, tile layers (thanks, Keith!), roofers, electricians. . . . and we had a wedding about to happen!

May: The weather threatened, and we rented every tent in Fayetteville, but the wedding was beautiful! Wearing blue rainboots, Rachel avoided the puddles, and the ceremony happened as planned in the Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks. The nephews and niece made it down the aisle and the bridesmaids avoided hypothermia with their lovely pashminas. Then we had a great party. Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Silvestri! We celebrated Emily's third birthday. She loves Fancy Nancy books, Legos, and baby dolls. As much as she loves to read, she loves to talk.

June: Bryan and I went to Malibu to visit with Bob Harris of Malibu Ceramics. He and Bryan collaborate on a lot of projects since their talents complement each other. We stayed in a beautiful house on a mountain overlooking the ocean. It was then that we realized that a visit to the urologist was necessary to figure out what was going on.

July: We had a houseful. The Sutcliffes were here. All the kids were here. Peggy was here. Daddy was here. Others were waiting at home to hear. After the diagnosis of stage-four renal cell carcinoma, the brain scan was next. We held our collective breath and together sighed our prayers of thanks when it showed no mets. "We knew there wasn't anything in your brain!" Then waiting for surgery was hard. Knowing that a cancer is growing inside you is frightening; to have to wait so long to get it out gave us a sense of helplessness. However, we had met the surgical doctors on the team and were confident in their plans. July 22: radical nephrectomy followed by several days in the hospital. What a supportive, competent group of nurses and doctors we had at St. Vincent's. They took care of us and smiled at our beach-themed visitors. We met our oncologist, Dr. Baltz, and immediately felt safe and optimistic in his care.

August: We actually went to the beach. Dr. Baltz understood our family's crazy need to complete our annual trek. He approved the delay in Bryan's blood tests by prescribing daily heparin injections. The grandkids understood their parents' explicit instructions to NOT use Pawpaw as a trampoline. I even got a new car for the safe transport of the patient. I had expected to need to drug him up for the trip, but he did fine, even walking into rest stops and restaurants. The beach house had two living areas. In past years, we have made ourselves available to the kids, focusing on each one in turn. This time, Bryan napped and I found quiet places to reflect and rest. Just being together was healing. Elliot contracted foot and mouth syndrome (disease?) and was a mess. His mouth hurt so nothing was soothing. Bless his heart. He was better by the time they flew back to NWA. The other kids loved the pool and the sand. They love to be together.

September: Back to school and the self-centered world of middle school kids. All my colleagues have been tremendously supportive and helpful. Teaching is a monumental task. There's not really a break from it. No substitute takes over the tasks. The planning, responsibility for instruction, assessment, interaction with parents, care of students doesn't abate whether the teacher is on deck or not. It's a heavy load to carry along with a heavy personal load. I know many teachers carry that load, and I hope to understand it in others and help when I can. I try not to whine.

October: We love those Hogs! We were able to attend all the football games both here and in Fayetteville. Rachel and Matt organized great tailgating in The Gardens. We usually rode the shuttle bus up the hill. One of Bryan's side effects has been tender feet. We even went to Dallas to the new Cowboy Stadium to see the Hogs play Texas A&M. David Sutcliffe and his wife, Jenn, are A&M alums, so it was fun to visit with them and their baby, Anthony, before the game. Rachel and Matt met us and took us to the game. David's folks, Gail and Vic, retrieved us from the game so we didn't have to negotiate Dallas traffic.

November: Thanksgiving is usually at our house. We love it. Cheryl Dawn, Peggy, and I usually make dressing by the vat. Tables everywhere. Enough food to make us all feel stuffed, drowsy, and very grateful. But, this year, Sam and Alicia were going to KC, Erin and Shaun were going to Shreveport, and Rachel and Matt were packing in preparation to moving. We had many invitations from all of our friends. We decided to go to the Henry house where we had a wonderful meal, a soft couch for watching football, and a very-welcomed respite from our busy lives. I actually made a normal -sized dish of dressing that was pretty good. We were disappointed that LSU beat the Hogs in overtime the next day. Ethan had to be convinced that his team really lost. He was in Tiger country and was influenced to defect. The best news came on the 30th, though, when Bryan had his latest set of scans. Whole body, top to bottom (thanks NovaSys) NO NEW METS!! and the mets in his lungs are shrinking! Bryan used his famous math skills to calculate the volume of the largest based on the numbers from his previous scans to figure a 79% reduction in size. Dr. Baltz told us that it was nothing short of a miracle. Keep those prayers coming folks!

December: Birthdays! Eli turned seven on the 2nd. He chose El Porton for the birthday dinner. When he was two, he loved that place. He called it "Tone" and would eat cheese dip with a spoon. He is much more refined now. His friends' party was a Lego party at his house. Alicia made a great cake that looked like Legos, of course. He's enjoying first grade at Williams Magnet School and is a Tiger Cub. His Daddy is, of course, the den leader. Ethan turned four on the 8th. He had a friends' party at "Chucka" Cheese that we missed. It was on a Tuesday! Ethan is now on the Mighty Mites' hockey team and actually ice skates. Matt's birthday was the next day. We made it to Fayetteville over the weekend to see their new house. We have guest quarters! We realized that the perfect gift for him was a sky hook, but since those don't exist, we found a great ladder that is alternately an extension ladder or a step ladder. The smoke detector in their living room is at 20 feet! We continued through the fullness of Advent, getting busier and busier. Gertie came down for a short visit. We appreciate the folks who carry her down. She needs to see her boy regularly. This isn't something a mama should have to endure. On Christmas Eve, Sam and family, got out to the house around 3:00. Daddy was already here. We had planned to be here with them until Christmas afternoon and then head up to NWA to see the other kids. The weather was coming at us, though! Sam and Alicia and kids were heading to Germany on the 26th, and they didn't want us to get stuck here, so they said Go Now to beat the snow. We quickly threw clothes, gifts, food, etc. into the truck and took off around 5:00. The precipitation was liquid until we got onto I-540 when it turned into blowing snow. It did get slick, but we made it to the Silvestri abode by 9:00. They welcomed all of us, even sleeping on their couch so we older folks all had beds. Cheryl Dawn and Marty made it down from Bella Vista to get Papa the next day. We had our usual rollicking Christmas dinner complete with crackers (silly hats, jokes, and toys) and a delicious dinner. Ethan is into Jesus and the wonders of his birth and reality. We elders are kept on our toes, answering all his questions.

We celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary yesterday with dinner and a basketball game. Tonight, we've watched more football and other New Year's Eve television. How blessed we are to be here, together. Life is about as normal as we could ask. We look forward to 2010 with optimism and hope. We continue to plan new projects and new trips. As we said when this diagnosis was presented to us: What do you do when told you have cancer? You live!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Season '09

Well, it's been awhile. Things are still dull and going well.
What a year it has been. (or at least half a year) .
I just started round 4 of the Sutent, so we've completed 18 weeks so far, and 5 months since surgery.
Had a doctors appointment today. This was a normal appointment with bloodwork and some face to face time with the Cancer Warrior. Blood work was normal or ok for the situation except
that the blood is super thin at the moment. He adjusted the coumadin for a couple of days to
get it back where he wants it. We'll check it again in a week. I don't feel bad. I couldn't tell that something was out of adjustment.

We had Christmas all over the place this year. Years ago, we were determined that our kids would wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning. Well, dang !!! They were paying attention and now they want the same thing for their kids...and so we travel. We had a shortened Christmas eve time with Sam, Alicia, Eli and Emily. Our plan was to also be with them on Christmas morning, but at their urging because of the eminent snowstorm, we went on to Fayetteville on Christmas eve night. Stayed with Rachel and Matt (they don't have any little ones yet, Rigby the puppy doesn't count).

Carrot's Version:
Dull? What does chemo do to your perspective?

After receiving the news that OKW's scans were "nothing short of a miracle," we settled into celebrating Advent and Christmas. We got a real tree instead of going through the intense work of putting up the nine-foot artificial tree. We met Eli and Emily at the tree farm to choose and cut our tree. They had already chosen, cut, and loaded theirs by the time we got there.
I took off the last day of school before the holiday to avoid the three-hour holiday talent show and movie for 300 sixth graders. I had a wonderfully calm, quiet day to begin my vacation. Of course, I have 200 essays to grade before I go back, but that's the price of that quiet day.

Daddy came to our house on Wednesday for the duration. On Christmas Eve we had all eyes on the weather. With the snow storm looming, Sam and Alicia encouraged us to get ourselves in the car to get to Fayetteville before the road got slick. So, in an hour, we tossed gifts, clothes, food, Daddy, and ourselves into the truck and headed north. The snow hit soon after we got onto 540 and made that leg of the trip really exciting. We arrived at Rachel and Matt's house safely but unwilling to go any farther to find more beds. Rachel and Matt ended up giving us their bed and sleeping on the couch. On Christmas morning Cheryl Dawn and Marty made it down to retrieve Daddy and headed back to Bella Vista. We had a wonderful dinner of veal and crab-macaroni and cheese and enjoyed our silly crackers with hats, jokes, and toys. Sam's family negotiated the airlines successfully after a nearly three-hour sit on the tarmac in Atlanta. They're in Germany now with Alicia's folks touring the snowy old world.

I helped Rachel unload the boxes in her office. Matt painted stuff using his new 22-foot ladder. Who puts a smoke detector that high? This morning I rode back to Little Rock with Erin and her boys. Ethan sang every word to "Do You Hear What I Hear?" over and over. Elliot is perfecting the back-arching screech to protest any denial of his mobility. PawPaw is installing a gate on the stairs as we speak.
On Wednesday, we'll celebrate 37 years of wedded bliss. What a journey. From U of A students in 1972 to the joys of grandparenthood today, it's been a blessing to be best friends and in love.
On January 6, Bryan will turn 59. We hope his 60th year is as exciting as this one. Dull? I don't think so.

Erin's perspective:
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. I sat in that oncologist's office today... it was ridiculous. I was looking to meet the Mysterious Dr. Baltz, but I didn't have the chance. Seriously folks... a line as long as St. Peter's, waiting for your name to be called. This guy must be good.
I had dinner and drinks with my dearest friend Amy this evening. She was worried about Dad. I told her (and she is well versed in seeing thru any facades or shenanigans I may pull) that he was fine. He has white eyebrows, but he's working full days, and doing his thing, and that for right now, he was just fine. She bought it , so I will too. Her major concern was that Mom had not booked the beach house for next summer. She knows us, and knows that booking the beach house is as regular as fixin' breakfast, so... her conclusion was natural. I assured her that with our latest results from scans, we were in talks of beach vacations.
There was actually a minor sibling scuffle over the parents this year for christmas. Rachy and I wanted them in Fayetteville, Sam wanted them in Little Rock. I'm sure they felt wanted and important, and I'm sure they secretly loved it. I just wanted them to open their new jerseys for next years' games in my presence.

Oh Yes! The perfect present!
Ummmmmm, don't know what else to say. Blogging is stressful. I didn't like sitting around that Oncologist's office today with lots of people that looked sick. Dad doesn't look sick. He looks ridiculous with his white eyebrows, but most people would assume he had an unfortunate pigmentation condition, not the dreaded Big C.
Next, the Birthday Party. We've always shafted Dad's B-day simply for its unfortunate juxtoposition to Jesus' birthday. Too bad for him. This year, it's on.
Come one, come all, we'll have pie.
Lervy Dervy, E

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hellew there. Life has gotten busy, and I've neglected my LittleRottenBlog. Just talked to mom. She said that in their appointment with Dr. Baltz today he wheeled his little rolley stool over and said "about these scans..." Mom was ready to throw up expecting the worst, Dad was probably ready to show his spherical volume math skills, and then he said "they are nothing short of a miracle."

What a nice thing to hear at your oncologist's office! That's all the technical news I know of.

Moo and Poo came to Fayetteville and stayed with Matt and Rach. They just bought themselves a palatial mansion for the two of them and Big Rig, The Hairy Little Dog. They'll make some babies one day and fill it up... but until then... there are some apparently comfortable guest accomodations. Word on the street is that Dad slept until 10! Whaaaaaaaat?? Yeah, 10.

Here's PawPaw and Elliot. I like this picture because their eyes look the same I'll line us all up at Christmas and show the magic of genetics. How can three people have the same lookin' eyeballs?

Christmas is approaching. Lets think about this. On July 5th, I read somewhere that the average survival rate of Stage 4 RCC was 5 months. So instantly I thought, Oh, December 5th, ok, Christmas is going to be weird this year.
But its not! I still don't know what the HEYUL to get Dad, as he is THE HARDEST person to shop for... I am hosting Christmas dinner, and I thought about putting some sappy place card at Dad's spot telling him that I'm glad he is here, but then if I saw him read it, then I'd start crying, and then he'd see me crying and he'd start crying, then Rach would start in, and them Mom would catch on a little late, but she'd join in, and then Shaun and Matt would just stare at us and wonder what they've married into.... so I'm not gonna do it. Too risky.

Glad you're here, Dad. I'm not going to write it down. Maybe I am and I'm just prepping you?

Christmas approaching. Today my Ethan asked me if God was real, if Jesus was real, if we could drive to Heaven and take Jesus a present, that I told him that Jesus lived with God in Heaven and his Daddy told him that Jesus lived in his heart, so how could he be both places?, if God can fly, if God was a baby once, how long ago Jesus was a baby, if it would take a long time to get to Heaven to drop off the present and would he get to watch a movie in the car, and how did God make the Earth. He wouldn't get out of the car before I answered the last one. I felt like putting on my best Charlton Heston voice and starting in on the "ON THE FIRST DAY, GOD CREATED...." but we were late. I haven't had to answer any questions about the Holy Ghost yet. OYVEY!

So, what will I get Dad for Christmas? I actually have THE PERFECT gift. I think. It was all Shaun's idea, and I'll give him full credit.

Dad gave us the Bob Dylan sings Christmas CD. So, get your Bob Dylan voice in your head .... and

Fawl.... on ya knees..... and hear..... the angel voices....

Glad you're here Dad. EAT IT, STATISTICAL DATA!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Shar-pei Syndrome

Hi all,

You know that Chinese dog the Shar-pei; a bundle of wrinkles with a sweet dog inside.

That's how I looked this morning. I'm in an off week and for some reason retain water.

I had so much water this morning that my eyelids were bulging and partially blocking my view of the world. This is how I felt this morning.

The Shar-pei was the first thing I though of. Maybe I'll soon join old Asian royalty.
Tonight I'm back to about a normal 58 year old face....I'll take it.

We got the scan data today. Incredible !

The largest nodule in my lungs has decreased from 2.3X2.1 cm. to 1.3X1.3 cm. If I assume that the thing is somewhat spherical, then the volume has gone from 5.54 cubic centimeters to 1.47 cubic centimeters. Folks, thats a decrease of almost 75%. The other three had decreased slightly or were deemed stable. This Sutent is working.
The brain scan only had one notation....unremarkable. Hmmm how can that be? I can calculate the volume of a sphere; that's remarkable in and of itself. I am happy to have an unremarkable brain scan.

The other CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis also showed nothing that would be considered to
be mets. Essentially no change from the August 27 scan. And they did note that the right kidney was gone, gone, gone.

I was also injected with radioactive stuff and then given a bone scan from skull to ankles. There was nothing noted except that maybe my right knee was wearing out before my left knee.

I feel extremely relieved. You never know if the right drug has been prescribed. Apparently we started with the right one. Dr. Baltz is still my hero. He's quite a warrior. He did appoint Debbie to be the "boss". So she must be doing a good job too. We've made it this far. Although
I don't stress much, there is notable relief in the air the last couple of days.

Eli turned 7 today. I had lunch with him at school then we went with Sam and Alicia to Eli's choice for dinner at El Porton. Cheese dip and tacos YUMMY! Then we went to their house for birthday cake. Alicia and Emily made a "robot" cake. We've had a good day.

This weekend we're going to Fayetteville to stay all night in Rachel and Matt's new house. You know of course OKW can't move furniture hehe.

Erin, Shaun, Ethan and Elliot were here right before Thanksgiving; passing through on their way to Shreveport. Ethan's birthday is Tuesday the 8th at Chucky Cheese. We'll miss that but will celebrate early with him this weekend.

Carry on y'all
Great Speckled Byrd