Why the Redwood Forest slideshow?

Judy had always loved trees, and in 2008 we spent some time among the California Redwoods. Some of the ingredients in Judy's chemo cocktail were derived from trees (not Redwoods but Yews). We always knew that Judy loved the trees, and the trees got their chance to repay her affection.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

In the final comment to the last post Ms. Eddie had expressed her wish that Judy would get her cookies made. Well, all you have to do is look at the photo to the right and you'll see who's keeping the upper hand here! Mr. Cancer-Scrooge, go home!

Two days ago Judy did what she loves to do so much: Set off flour bombs in the kitchen and create beautiful cookies. She and Natalie had done a half-batch test run last weekend, and with a few breaks between baking, icing, and decorating Judy turned out these spooky-scary punkin' cookies.

Right now she's getting her daily dose of antibiotics while we are waiting for the first trick-or-treaters to knock at the door. We will have to continue the antibiotics for at least another week, probably longer. The fluid in her abdomen (actually, two different effusions) continues to shrink, but at a lower rate than I had understood from what the docs had said. I read the report of the CT scan from last week and the shrinkage is evident, but only at a snail's pace. If the fluid is just, well, simply some fluid (don't ask me for the proper medical terminology), then all the antibiotics are just B-52s lining up against houseflies. If the fluid, however, is infectious and we discontinue the antibiotics, Judy most likely would not last through chemo. So, the decison to continue is not a tough one to make.

Chemo: We're going to get started on Tuesday. Judy will go to Dr. Phillips' office at 8:30 a.m., hang out with three compatriots for about six hours, and then go home. Three weeks later, she'll do the same. and three weeks later, again. And so on. We're anticipating eight cycles total--provided that there are no complications, no excessive nausea, etc. etc.

So now we have a well-laid-out plan, and just like when we went in for the surgery, I feel somehow relieved: There's the road, and we "just" have to take it. I've learned a few things about how I operate best. I need a straight line and a goal, and the glimmer at the end of the tunnel is enough for me to give and sustain energy.

Judy is different. She is worried about letting us down by not being strong 24 hours a day, eight times three weeks. I'd be afraid of feeling like dog-poop, and she's worrying about failing us, her supporters. We talked about this, but that's Judy who feels like that, and if all of you are honest with yourselves you know that it is sometimes very, very difficult--if not impossible--to jump over one's shadow.

Judy is getting ready for the second part of this big stage race--after the Pyrenees come the Alps. She's already proven that she's a fighter who can stomach and come back from the set-backs. She's getting ready for an even harder battle now, because it is longer and gives you the same punches again and again and again. Every time the hit is going to be a little harder, too.

So, right now we're waiting for the trick-or-treaters. But deep down inside, we're waiting for the first punch to be thrown. Let's hope that little Juju is going to be able to withstand all of these attacks and will recover in time to offer the other side of the chin. Do you remember that little boy confronting the headmaster in Oliver Twist? "Master, may I have another?" May Judy be able to ask for more and more and more and flinch every time but never get knocked out.

Happy Halloween indeed.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Every day, things become just a little better

It's about time for an update. I just returned after driving about 1,250 miles to Ruston, LA, site of one of Judy's most favorite mountain bike races, the Piney Hills Classic. Wow, it was another great race, but we had to work pretty hard with not only Judy absent this year but two key members of the timing crew as well. But everybody pitched in, and it all came off without a hitch.

While I was gone I called Judy several times a day. A number of friends came by to give her company, help her with her shower, administer the antibiotics, and even take her out to Michael's to buy some craft stuff. She is now at a point where she can take a shower by herself, even applying the waterproof cover for her central line (through which she is going to receive daily antibiotics until at least this Thursday).

I am so proud of Judy: She has been a model patient. She is doing a few things around the house, but everything in just very small portions. She is taking her naps and is really taking things easy. She has been working diligently on her caloric intake, and even though eating is still the weak point, I think that she's doing a little better. We're still bothered by the nausea that sets in every time right after the antibiotic has been adminstered. Tonight she threw up some of the peanut butter that she had eaten. Right afterward she cried a little, and I sure was glad to be here to hold her. I told her that she'll just eat a little more of the peanut butter and that it's really not a set-back.

I can't believe how strong her attitude continues to be. She's not afraid of the chemo but a little apprehensive since she doesn't know how she will react. Jimminy, I'd be scared s***less in her situation! And she is just a "little apprehensive"!

This Friday, on Halloween, we will see Dr. Phillips and get the run-down on the chemo. We expect that her first treatment will come as early as next week. I think we both are ready to get started with the second major stage. Let's kill the bastard while it's weakened from having lost a lot of its sorry bulk to surgery. Judy hopes that the antibiotics will be stopped on Thursday so that she can, as she said, have a little holiday from the nausea before chemo starts. Maybe some of her appetite returns by the weekend and we can have us a nice meal together--even if she eats just a fifth of what I'll wolf down.

Good to be back in town after this last of this year's mountain bike races for us. Only one more race, the Half-Ironman World Championships in Clearwater (FL) in two weeks, are left for me this year. Yeah!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

CT scan shows that Judy is on the mend

Good news: This morning, Judy went in to receive the results of yesterday's follow-up CT scan, and things look good. The fluid in her abdomen has continued to shrink, and there are no new areas of concern. Once again, there are no signs of any leakage in the area where the bowel was resected. Dr. Phillips did his job to perfection!

This weekend, Judy is going to be at the house while I will drive all the way to Ruston (Louisiana) for the last mountain bike race of the season. So, if you want to stop by or give her a ring (806-792-8573), she'll probably be tickled. She's still having a tough time developing much of an appetite, and she feels worn out and rests a lot.

I'll be in touch with her, of course, and will try to update the blog once or twice.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another CT scan tomorrow

For Wednesday, Judy has been scheduled for another CT scan to rule out any lingering questions in regard to the colon resection. Hey, what better is there to do when the temperatures are supposed to drop into the 30s by morning?

Judy has been resting, resting, resting. I am totally thrilled by how good of a patient she has been since coming back from the hospital. There are still some nausea problems, and she still has that "stitch" in her right kidney area, albeit less severe. Dr. Howell will also do a urinalysis tomorrow in addition to the CT scan--maybe it is something as "simple" as a urinary tract infection.

We hope that the results of both tests will be available when Judy goes in for her follow-up appointment with Dr. Howell on Thursday morning. At that time we will learn how many more days we have to continue the home-based antibiotics treatment (which, by the way, is a piece of cake).

Cake--well, that's a word Judy is not too crazy about, together with practically all food terms. But once again, she's trying. Tom, thanks for the comment in regard to the instant breakfast--we'll try that tomorrow. You're the second person to have had good experience with IB.

So, that's it for today. Let's hope for a clean fact sheet tomorrow.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Plugging along

The hardest thing to do is EAT. Judy is having a tough time with it. I mean, a really tough time. Intellectually, she knows she's HAS to eat. But after only a few bites, the cracker with peanut butter piled on it becomes l'Alpe d'Huez, practically impossible to conquer.

I try my best to goad her into just another bite, just the way I have been able to squeeze that extra mile out of our novice riders when Ropesville was "just another three miles" down the road--after having covered those three miles two, three times before, with nothing on the horizon.

You gotta know when it is time to quit the bluff and take the food off the table, or push 'em in the last mile or two in case they ride a bike and don't recover from cancer surgery. Judy had a rougher day than yesterday, with no appetite and some nausea and throwing-up after the antibiotics. Still, we keep reminding ourselves how much better we're off than just a week ago.

I think tomorrow will be a big plus day. She's going through cycles, and there will be on, off, and so-so days. I'll be in school tomorrow, and she'll be mostly on her own (although Rachel M. will come by in the morning to give her a hand with her shower and just getting settled for the day). Thanks, Rachel!

Thanks also to Alan, aka Dr. Howell, for stopping by and bringing by some of Martha's home-made muffins. Can we ask for better physician-friends than that? And thanks to Wes and Natalie for spending time with us learning how to administer the antibiotics, as fill-ins for me this weekend. What would we do without you guys? Keebler, there will always be homebrews for you, and Natalie, well, you have at least one scrumptious fajita coming. :)


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Things are going smoothly--our JuJu is a good girl

It's late Sunday afternoon, and Judy is lying back and enjoying her daily dose of antibiotics.

For her, it's been a lazy, lounge-about-the-house type of Sunday—just what the doctor ordered. I am so proud of her to truly kick back and not try to play the heroine. Saturday was a busy day in lots of ways, and today she felt a bit more tired and thus just napped and did nothing. I went for another long bike ride, with Emily's dad, Rod, and when I got home we napped together on the couch.

Her side "stitch" is still still bugging her a little, albeit much less than yesterday. She's been eating, drinking her protein and Cytomax, showering, and walking a little in front of the house—just a bit of everything. The bodily functions seem to have settled into their new rhythm, too.

So, overall this has been a great Sunday. The weather is glorious, and just looking outside makes one happy. We're looking forward to a week of rest and relaxation for Judy, gathering as much strength as possible for the next stage of the war.

Judy wants all of you to know that she continues to appreciate all of your thoughts and comments.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Judy is settling in at home

What a difference being at home makes! Judy slept the best since before surgery, getting up only once during the night to tinkle. For the time being, she is sleeping in the guest bedroom since getting in and out of the guest bed is a little easier than trying to tackle the water bed.

We've been a little concerned about a "stitch" in her left side, in the kidney area. Last night it was much more pronounced, and she was positively groaning a few times just sitting up and moving around, but we used the heating pad and she's been really good in regard to rehydrating, and even though there was a little soreness today it appears as if things have become better.

The other worry that we have is that there still has not been a "real" bowel movement--a little mucus-like stuff here and there, but she feels tight and full. If nothing "happens" by Monday we will call Dr. Phillips' office. Addendum: While writing this, it did happen!!!!! We're in business--the real thing.

Judy spent most of the day lounging around the house, taking things easy. (Thank goodness!) Emily came by to keep her company, and with Em's help Judy was able to take a shower, get her food, and even take a few easy walks in front of the house. A few friends and neighbors came by to say hi, and several of them brought by food. From Miles H. and Judy R. in NC Judy received one of those incredible "edible arrangements" with fruit galore and chocolates to boot! We really appreciate all those goodies, but we're now maxed out on fridge and freezer space! Everything looks yummy, but Judy is eating so little right now and I can only eat so much, so maybe hold off for a few days before bringing by anything else.

With Emily around the house I was able to lead the long Grape Day ride for our bike club. It was a gorgeous day, with little wind, and we had a nice group together. I ended up with a total of 68 miles for the day, which is farther than I have ridden in many, many weeks and months. Having fun with our club buddies at the winery sure was fun too, and I only wish Judy could have come out for this event as she's always liked it.

We also managed to give Judy her first home-administered antibiotics treatment via the central line. Just in case, her friend Sandi—still in town on her trip from Dallas—supervised my hooking Judy up, and apparently I didn't screw up too badly.

After supper (not much for Judy, but she is trying hard to eat as much as possible) Judy opened a package that had arrived yesterday afternoon but that she had felt too worn out to open earlier. She was absolutely floored by the gorgeous quilt that Jennifer B.'s mom Eileen had made for her. Judy is all wrapped up in it right now and feeling cozy. Thank you so very, very much, Eileen!

Well, that was a lot of good news for the day, and we're excited about the progress (especially what happened in the bathroom just in the last few minutes). Let's hope we continue in this direction.


Friday, October 17, 2008

We are HOME!!!!!

At 9:40 a.m., Judy left the hospital after 22 long days! You can tell from her gesture when she got out of the wheelchair and into our neighbor Irene's van how elated and victorious she felt.

Just minutes beforehand, Vanessa, who had been our intake nurse on day one and with whom Judy developed a special, very deep relationship, stopped by the room. Once again, the photo (at the bottom of this post) speaks volumes.

On the way home we stopped by Dr. Howell's office to get an in-service on how to administer a daily dose of liquid antibiotics. Judy will stay on the antibiotics for about 10 to 14 days. It will only be one bag a day, taking around 30 minutes to administer. We learned how to do so by using her central line.

When we got to the house, Judy was beaming. "My house," she kept repeating several times. Now she's sacked out--after all, the three hours between discharge and finally arriving home were significantly more than she had been up for the entire last week!

So now starts the second big stage of our race: Home recovery before the onset of chemo. I think that in many ways things will be easier, but we also realize that we can't fall back on the nurses. But I am sure that our local friends will want to continue to pitch in and sit with Judy when I am in school, need a break, or run off to the last mountain bike race late next week. And we hope that some of you have some good movies that we may borrow so that Judy is not going to become bored and will do things around the house that she's not supposed to do!

Whatever this next stage will bring, we're ready. We've been looking forward to this day, and now we can go on with renewed energy. I would assume that in the next few days Judy will write a few things here on the blog herself.

We'll keep you posted in regard to her progress. All of you can pat yourselves on the shoulder because without you the past three weeks would have been much, much harder, on both of us.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Going home" postponed until tomorrow

This morning, the docs were not happy with her blood count and Judy is supposed to get a transfusion today. By the time all that is done, we would be too late to get to Dr. Howell's office to get our instructions in regard to taking the transfusion pole with us--Judy will remain on the antibiotics at home, and we will have to learn how to manage this. Dr. Phillips just stopped by in between surgeries. He will see us in two weeks in his office to get started with the chemo treatment, and her release here from the hospital is now dependent on the infectious disease doc.

Judy would have preferred to go home today, and obviously so would I. But she is OK with spending one more night here. She realizes that things don't always go the way they are planned, and the hospital mills grind slowly. We knew about the blood transfusion this morning, and now it is 1 p.m. and the transfusion still has not started.

Judy spent the night with the best sleep yet here in the hospital; maybe the Ativant had a lingering role in this. She's been eating well, and we're going to have lunch in a minute. She is a model patient, and I am proud of her for taking this delay in stride. We got to keep reminding ourselves where we were a week ago, two weeks ago, and three weeks ago--things have been improving steadily, and there is no reason to panic.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mama's coming home on Thursday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, do you sense some excitement in how I started this post? I received the good—hell, excellent!!!!—news this afternoon after I had left the hospital to prepare dinner for Candace and myself.

(The pic shows Judy with Ms. Eddie from work on the left and sis-in-law Candace from Midland, right after receiving her new port.)

This afternoon, Judy received a new "central line" port. I was with her in the hours before leading to this rather minor non-surgery. Judy had been given not just one but two Ativant pills, a benzodiazepine that is used to combat anxiety attacks and that serves as a general tranquilizer. She swore she'd just had a stout margarita or two. You should have seen the woman eating her noodles and beans and jello. Personally, I think she had the munchies! Later on she told us how she was flying with Harry Potter and eating these butterfly noodles. Yessir. Classic case of drug-induced feel-good.

She came back from the short (30 min) procedure, still a bit addled. Later I was told that Doc Phillips had come by and told her that she'd leave the hospital tomorrow—and he also told her that he was concerned about her recovery but that in light of her already having spent three weeks in the clinic he'd let her go home. His words, according to Candace, were that Judy is not out of the woodwork yet.

So, the challenge is going to be to keep Judy out of trouble. If you guys get frantic phone calls from her telling you how cruel and unreasonable I am—mind you, I said calls from HER and NOT my students—ignore them. Tell her to forget about complaining. Tell her to go back to bed, or the couch, or the chair. She is NOT supposed to do ANYTHING for the next week, and knowing her, she will push the limits. Please help me. There was the time when she had knee surgery, I was off to the Tour of the Gila, and she "wanted to just see whether I could drive the Miata" and she got stuck in the car in the garage (w/o a garage door opener!!) with her leg brace and thought she'd be found as a mummy! OK, we all laughed, and it's really funny when you have her on speaker phone with four guys at a race in the hotel room after she's been able to extricate herself, after all. What Dr. Phillips made clear today is that her survival is going to depend on whether she can live up to his expectations.

I intend to be stern. I've put a lot into this, and I'm not going to tolerate Judy pushing the boundaries. I want her to be with me ten years from now. Days three and four will be the worst, I am sure. Maybe I'll tell you in a few weeks (after she's been a model patient) what she had intended for this weekend. If you'd know, you'd come here and tie her down. Seriously.

So, tomorrow I will tell you how the first day back at the casa was. I'm sure there will be challenges. And no, she won't be allowed to get into the waterbed for a week or so, at least. I'm glad that all of this is off my chest (because I honestly doubt that I want you to think of me as an ogre or any worse than you already do).


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Another day, 1½ steps forward

It's all slow going. No hurry here. Easy does it. Remember Aesop's fable of the slug and the hare (or whatever it was)?

Judy is mending. And the more she heals, the more acute the challenges seem to become. The way I see it: Surgery is BIG--not cleaning out the potty is SMALL. Fast forward: Still being in the hospital is BIG--getting the food she is supposed to eat is DAMN BIG.

The poor lil' Jude is supposed to augment her dietary intake with a powdery protein supplement, which is supposed to be mixed into her apple juice when she has her meal. The doctors have ordered this supplement, and they've talked to her to get on a "regular" diet. So, for breakfast the protein powder shows up at 10 a.m., holding up—guess what?—having a normal breakfast. Same story around lunch time. Come evening, I'm around, wondering when the protein supplement is going to arrive. Judy has an actual appetite, there's a baked potato (thanks to our dear Natalie), she wants to eat—guess what, again? The damn protein isn't here at 5:30, 6:15, 7:15 (Judy begs me not to go after the nurses), 7:45 p.m. At this point Judy is totally out of sorts for a helluva reason, I think I'm a total idiot for not going to the charge nurse an hour ago, and a sweet nurse's aide is still not getting any response from the nutrition gang several floors below.

This has been the last time that I have given in to playing Mr. Nice Guy at the behest of our patient. Judy was so upset, crying, thinking that the whole world had come to an end—just because some bozo on the whatever floor couldn't fill a simple order. Judy sees it as a do-or-be-damned situation: If she doesn't eat, she won't poop, and thus she won't go home. How much more basic can we get?

Tonight, sis-in-law Candace is with her, giving me another break. Hey, I might go on vacation. :) Speaking of, tomorrow I'll have to cancel our trip to Cancun in two weeks. We had held out, just for the R&R factor, but it has become obvious that going would be irresponsible, so I'll try to rebook for April. (Talking about traveling: This morning, the UCI sent me two assignments for next summer, one to Canada [Canmore, AB] and one to Costa Rica, and I'm intending to work those two races, so we better be ready.)

I think we have rectified the protein situation as I had a talk with the Charge Nurse on the way out. No more Mr. or Ms. Nice Folks here. Jack W., if you read this, I should have used your USMC tactics (OK, you were not part of the Marines, but you sure act like it) and taken charge right of. I wanted to give Judy a chance to do just that, empowering her, but it backfired. I better remember in the months to come. When it comes to Judy's well-being, I must take charge over her protestations.

So, that's the news. I suppose it's good, because once we start complaining that means it's no longer life and death but just the little stuff, right? The L&D part starts again in a few weeks. Sorry to break it to you, but that's the big race on the schedule. I wish I could just wake up some morning and say, "Boy, that was a bad dream."

I don't mean to sound dejected, because I really am not. Judy's progress has been so pronounced over the past few weeks that it's impossible not to be upbeat--but those who know me well also know that I look at the peripherals.

Thursday looks as if it may be the big day for us to go home--provided they can set Judy up with 1,000 pounds of Protein powder. :) Boy, the Lil' Bit really wants to go home, and so do I.


Monday, October 13, 2008

The positive trend continues

After a weekend of 900+ miles of driving I am back in Lubbock. What a difference a weekend makes: Free of the infection and finally starting to eat solid foods, Judy is more energetic and healthier looking than just three days ago on Friday. No, she isn't well yet, but she has made some significant progress.

Dr. Phillips came by the room after yet another day of surgeries late in the afternoon, and he was pleased by what he saw. The word is that if Judy can show that she can eat solid foods on a consistent basis and that her bowels process the food, she will be able to go home. This could come as early as Wednesday, maybe Thursday. Mind you, all this is tentative, and we've seen our share of set-backs. Dr. Phillips said that all weekend he'd kept his fingers crossed that Judy would progress, and he was obviously relieved by what he saw today after being out of town all weekend.

Judy's appetite is not back yet, and she has to force herself to eat. Her friend Cheryl had brought a fruit/protein smoothie to the hospital, with three types of berries, and Judy actually liked it! She also ate a whole bowl of vegetable soup (including the carrots and other solids), but she couldn't force herself to eat more than one bite of the macaroni and cheese (usually one of her favorites). She is slowly figuring out what works and what doesn't. Oddly, textures make a big difference, too: She could not stand the way the beans in the soup felt in her mouth, and she quickly got rid of some small pieces of beef, too. She's been eating other things such as apple sauce and oatmeal, and every bite she can hold down is a step in the right direction.

I am dead tired and better close shop for tonight.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Eat the elephant one bite at a time

Here I am in a hotel in Abilene after working another great BTU Power Pedal in Bryan, with a gazillion racers asking "How's Judy?" Once I rolled into town I called Judy in the hospital, and here's a quick update:

Since having her "central line" yanked out because of the infection Judy has been on an IV--meaning that she no longer gets the TPN, the liquid diet on which she had subsisted for the past two weeks or so. I don't understand all the details, but the gist is: Judy has to start eating on her own, and she has to do it now. When I talked to her, she was trying to work her way through a tiny portion of wheat-something—she said it was as big as a wall! Every bite is an accomplishment. She knows what's at stake, because the sugary TPN doesn't mix well with the IV, which has given her nothing but trouble. She told me that her reward after every tiny bite is a sip of iced water. Texture and taste of whatver she's taking in are off. I told her to use the strategy that we've used so often when things have been overwheleming: Eat the damn elephant one bite at a time, and get rid of the sucker, even if it takes a while. She's such a trooper, and she didn't want me to worry, but I could tell how HUGE of a deal swallowing just one bite was.

As Amy has said on several occasions: Cancer sucks. Those of you who know me know that I'd stick the f-work right after cancer and before the suck. I'd also use all caps, definitely in bold font.

For those of you at the race this weekend in Bryan, thank you for all of your concern and kind words for BOTH of us. Yes, I am out there as the Chief Official, but I am also out there as your fellow community member who is cradled by your collective concern. As you saw this weekend, both can coexist without conflict of interest. Judy and I feel privileged to feel the friendship and love that you extend to both of us.

So, let's root for Judy to eat her porridge and chicken soup!


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Another "up" day

Saturday night in Bryan/College Station, and I just got off the phone with Judy--hey, you can reach her at this number directly, no hospital operators needed: 806-725-7527.

She appears to have had a very good day. The infection has been traced to the central line that was removed yesterday--that was the "implanted" port in her chest area, not the NG tube (which was also removed). She's still running cyclical fevers (I tell her it's malaria, but she won't have any of it), but Tylenol has been helping to manage it.

She was so proud that she drank an entire glass of apple juice and even managed to eat half a bowl of vegetable soup (sans the legumes). She has also restarted her walking excursions on the station floor. So, we took a few steps back last week but she seems to have overcome the adversity and is picking things up. As Scott said in his comment to the last post: Let's keep our fingers crossed that some of next week's posts will originate from our residence.

I am staying with Michelle B. and her family in College Station tonight and will keep this update short. I am sure that I will see some of you tomorrow at the BTU mountain bike race.

And as I said, feel free to give Judy a ring--if nobody picks up, she and Lorane are probably walking. Please try back later.


Friday, October 10, 2008

What a rollercoaster!

After 350+ miles of driving I am in Temple on the way to Bryan/College Station. I talked to Judy on the phone several times this afternoon, and here's the latest and good news:

  • The CT scan showed that the anastomotic fluid has shrunk!!!!
  • The scan also did not give any indication of any anastomotic leakage or perforation!!!
  • Judy's "central line" has been removed as it may be behind her infection that has caused the fevers.
  • She was hooked up to the antibiotics and the bag via an IV--apparently, this was quite painful since her veins are, well, pretty much shot.
  • The damn NG tube is gone!
  • Her fever has been receding.
  • She has been able to tolerate the Tylenol and had only one or two "pukey" sessions this p.m.
  • Dr. Phillips is very confident that no follow-up surgery will be needed. Yes, yes, yes!!!!!!
  • Judy's lungs looked great on the CT scan. Yes again.

I am really sorry to put you through these ups and downs. Believe me, I would love to report nothing but positives. But the reality has been that one day we're on top, and the next we're in the sewer system. If you read this, you have decided to follow our path, and you most likely are prepared to celebrate with us and also to get beaten up. During my long drive today I thought about a lot of things, and the reality of it all is that we're all in the fight for Judy's life, plain and simple. This is really big, so big that it usually doesn't register like this for me. Otherwise I'd probably be balling all the time. I'm not sure how it registers with Judy; there are those really intimate moments when I think we both are realizing what this is about. And for you, I know, you're rooting for us in all ways, and I'm also sure that you know what all this means when you get a chance to really sit down and allow yourself to be overwhelmed by it all, but still ... most of the time this blog is just a somewhat perverse account of a human being fighting really hard to stay alive and get back to the happines that was so expected and normal just four weeks ago.

We thank you for choosing to be part of our life. Most likely, Judy has touched yours at some point (hell, you wouldn't write all this nice stuff about me!), and we certainly hope that that's what the future will bring more of.


Friday morning update

Dr. Phillips made his rounds this morning. He's concerned, but not truly alarmed. He calls it a bump in the road and is confident that we'll be over this rough patch before long. No, he doesn't like how things have developed, but every patient is different, with different challenges.

Right now Judy is being given contrast liquid for her CT scan, scheduled for around noon. The liquid is administered through the NG tube; after that, Dr. Phillips wants it removed. So far Judy is OK with the liquid which is being administered very slowly.

Her blood sample from yesterday showed that there is an infection; the infectious disease doc hopes to find out where. The fever is lingering, going up and down between 99.5 and up to 102.

Dr. Phillips was adamant that follow-up surgery is a last resort. He does not want to go back in if he can avoid it. If the CT scan continues to show fluid in the anastomotic area (where the bowel was reconnected), the first course of action would be to try to reduce it by aspiring it. Dr. Phillips made clear that, if truly necessary, any surgery would not happen until early next week--especially since he will be out of town over the weekend.

This last point was really important for us as I am supposed to leave town this afternoon to go to Bryan/College Station for the next TMBRA race. Judy was adamant that I have to go, but if there had been the possibility of surgery, well .... As I said, this decision is now off the table.

Our friend Lorane has traveled back from New Mexico to stay with Judy for the entire weekend. We hadn't planned for her to have to spend the time in the hospital but rather thought both of them would be at the house, but that's the way it is. I suppose they can both knit here as well as there, right? I will stay with our old friend Michelle in CS, who is a PA and, more importantly, the wife of Ken who had his own battle with cancer. So, both of us will be in good hands.

I will stay in touch with Judy here in the hospital and will try to make blog updates if possible, but there could be a bit of a lag, depending on when I can log onto the internet.

I read Judy your comments in response to last night's post, and whenever I tell her "such and such wants you to know that..." her eyes light up and she revels and basks in your outpouring of love and concern. For those of you at the race in Bryan who couldn't make it to the POP, we'll have another poster to sign for her.

In this case--not like in the political arena--we can truly say: Thank you, our friends!


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thursdays are sometimes not so good

Two weeks ago Judy underwent her surgery, and today was a small step backward from the past two days. In a nutshell: Judy's throat hurts like hell--most likely a function of the NG tube that has not been removed yet even though it has been disconnected from the vacuum pump. We're not sure whether the fever that she ran today has been caused by a throat infection, which with all the various antibiotics should most likely not be the case.

The docs are still not discounting the possibility of some internal problem in her abdominal cave. Judy has been scheduled for another CT scan tomorrow morning, and we probably won't see results until noon or so. An earlier scan had shown some fluid around the area where the bowel had been resected, and the scan will show whether this fluid has increased, stayed the same, or diminished. I would assume that Judy will be given some contrast agents to determine whether there is a bowel perforation or not--you may remember that the earlier CT scan did not indicate a perforation. So what's going on? We're bracing ourselves for the worst and are hoping for the best.

Judy's sister in-law, Candace, left this afternoon, and I spent the afternoon and evening after teaching here in the hospital. I rode home after dark, ate something, took care of paperwork, made a few phone calls, grabbed some clothes, and am now back in the hospital. This is a time to stay strong and not get mad at the situation. We had hoped for smooth sailing but have had to contend with choppy seas. So be it. We're going to get over this hump, too.

That's all for tonight as it is almost midnight and I still want to update our German contingent.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wednesday is Humpday--no setbacks today

Maybe we're over the hump, after all.

Now that Judy is off the morphine and other Happy Juices, we regularly read the blog and the comments that you send, and they make her tear up. Judy is such a humble person who's always done what she has done to serve and please others, and you guys put her in the passenger seat. I don't think she is yet ready to acknowledge that she has touched so many people in such a positive way that the outpouring of love from all of you is not something to be embarrassed about.

Her brother Mike joined her sis-in-law Candace today by driving up from Midland, and together they almost forgot that Judy is in the hospital. I used the break to deal with insurance issues, ride my bike for a few miles, and grade my students' latest set of stellar papers. Who said ouch?

Judy had another good day, but it was not without some mental trials. Together with her good friend Liz D., who herself had some pretty nasty back surgery a few weeks ago, we all took Judy to the park across the street from Covenant. Not only did Judy enjoy the sunshine while being pushed around in the wheelchair, but she walked with her IV tower for quite a while. Lubbock's weather right now is perfect!

The Little Bit (as Ms. Eddie calls her) had a little meltdown, though. She had hoped sooooo much to get rid of the NG tube, but, after consulting the docs' orders, the nurses told her that she'd have to be ready for that, and to prove that, Judy would have to slurp up a whole 240-ml bowl of vegetable broth. Now, those of you who are even somewhat close ot me know that I eat pretty much anything. Man, I tried that broth and thought that I had swalled a spoonful of Dead Sea brine! (I've been there. I'm allowed to use this analogy.) No way to eat that crap, and even if it had tasted better, you just cannot eat 240 ml (pint) of broth if you've had nothing but ice and water for two weeks. No way. Judy just freaked. She wanted to get rid of the damn tube but she (thankfully!!!) realized that trying to force down the broth was going to set her back a day or two becaue she would have puked it all up, had she even been able to slurp it all up. Oh, she was so down. Additionally, let's not forget that her hormone are probaly all over the place. considering all the female parts that were lost to surgery.

And when things get really bad, and even sisters-in-law and husbands can provide only so much ointment for the soul, then a little angel in the form of Natalie shows up. Judy's former placement student and protegée--all barely-90-pounds of her--snuggled up with Judy in her bed (OK, she had just come from yoga class and was still pliable) and gave her the sweetest talking-to this side of being a husband. The bond between the two was, well, palpable. I suppose we have two "step-daughters": Emily AND Natalie. What lucky people we are.

And now it is almost midnight and I better post this update because from all your e-mails and comments I know you have come to expect news--and I still have to write my e-mail to our German friends and family.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Judy's intestines are awakening!

I know, I know: This is something one generally doesn't talk about, and even less covers in writing in a semi-public forum. But the news is too exciting to keep quiet: Judy experienced a first real bowel movement this afternoon, 12 days after surgery!

The significance is huge: It means that she will most likely lose her NG tube tomorrow since the gastric juices now will slowly be processed by her intestines, and before long she will be weaned away from the liquid drip-administered nutrition and start eating "real" food. And once she is back to steak and ale--well, OK, not so fast!--we'll be eyeing the return back to the house.

Today, Judy went for three separate walks in the station, pushing her IV-tower ahead of her. Gone were the little pink houseshoes and out came those badass Keens. She wanted to walk, not lounge. I was at the hospital for the last of these excursions, and it showed Judy's unbending character: At about 1:30 p.m. she had told the nurses that she wanted them to disconnect (not remove) the NG tube because she wanted to see how long she could go without getting nauseated. (Dr. Phillips had heard even more intestinal action this morning than yesterday, so the hope was that some processing of the gastric fluids might happen.) When I arrived at the hospital after teaching at TTU around 3:15 p.m., she had been going for almost two hours without the tube. She felt queasy, but she wanted to go for one more walk. Man, she walked soooo fast, pushing the tower ahead of her with a single-minded determination. Once or twice she stopped, feeling a little nauseated. But she wouldn't have talk of stopping and going back to the room. "I'll do the whole spider" she said in reference to the various hallways that are like the three spokes of a wheel radiating from the nurses' station. She was muttering under her breath that she was going to finish her walk. She walked so fast that she must have elevated her heart rate so much that she even became a little panicky. But she finished. She was NOT going to stop. If anybody can beat this cancer by willpower, this tiny woman will. Lance may be a faster cyclist than Judy ever was, but--no joke--it is hard to imagine that he had or has much more determination.

After this exertion, and after having hosted a fairly large number of visitors, we decided not to go outside, despite the absolutely delightful fall weather here in Lubbock. That's on the agenda for tomorrow again. She knows that she pushed the limits today, and she didn't want to push them so far that there'd be ill effects. Thank goodness, because we couldn't have talked her out of it!

Thank you for the many, many posts and also the e-mails today in response to yesterday's blog entry and photo. I know that you provided your share of stamina today!

Let's see what tomorrow will bring. We will stay optimistic and hope we don't have any setbacks.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Judy is finally progressing

OK, we said that once or twice before, and we don't want to jinx anything. But several of the small steps have been adding up, and things look a little brighter than just a few days ago.

One very encouraging piece of information was the cytology report for the fluid that had been aspirated from her chest area before the weekend: It did not contain any cancerous cells! This is an important psychological boost, especially since we had expected the result to show the opposite. We are realistic in that this doesn't necessarily mean that the cancer has not spread out of the abdominal cave, but at least there was no sign of cancerous cells in this small pocket.

Dr. Phillips (and yes, this is Dr. Benny Phillips) listened to Judy's belly this morning and detected some slight gurgling and action--faint, but definitely perceptible and a first sign that her small intestine is slowly waking up. Never has a little toot been more eagerly awaited than right now!

Her physical strength is returning. She gets out of the bed without any help, and we walked around the station this morning for about 10 minutes. And this afternoon, as you can see in the photo (which I will upload in a few minutes), Emily and I took her on a walk outside. Man, did she love it! She was beaming from one ear to the other.

We still don't have an idea when discharge may be happening, but after a little bit of being "blue" this morning, Judy came around (with the help of a visit from her old friend Leonard G.) and her spirit is back to where it has been all along: abnormally high! Let's hope that the good news will continue tomorrow.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

It's late Sunday night ...

... and I just wanted to let you know that this was, overall, a good day for Judy. Ever since getting off the antibioticum Flagyl yesterday, Judy's nausea has almost completely subsided. A few times today she said she felt "queasy," but there was no nausea and she has not had a single episode of the dry heaving that had sucked her energy for the past few days. The NG tube is still in place, sucking greenish fluid from her stomach.

While Wes was giving me a break today, he and Judy took a little walk around the station, the first time she has been out of the room on her feet. The NG tube is a real bother, though, since one has to be so careful not to displace it.

In the morning, Drs. Phillips and Howell came through, essentially telling us to be patient. Both think that it is just a question of time that her intestines "wake up." Dr. Phillips is still concerned that there may be some leakage in the anastomosis, the area where the bowel was reconnected--but at this point there is practically no way to know for sure. So, we are patient.

Talking about "patient": Judy has been a good one. She does her breathing exercises, stays on her diet of ice and water (plus the TPN--liquid diet), makes sure that somebody is around when she needs to use her "potty," and is making doctors, nurses, and visitors alike laugh with her demeanor and jokes.

Judy had several visitors today, and looking at who all has been here to see her is truly amazing. We would like to thank all those of you who have stopped by, and quite a number of you have been regular visitors as well as care-takers.

Judy would like to ask who sent her the vase with the orange carnations and the crystal butterfly in the purple box. Neither one of us has a recollection how either arrived, and Judy would like to properly thank whoever thought of her.

That's all for tonight. Let's hope that this will be the last Sunday in the hospital!


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Another Saturday at Covenant

Here's the update: Nothing much has changed since yesterday. Judy's intestinal system has still not jumpstarted itself, and we're waiting for her small intestines to start doing their work. When Drs. Phillips and Howell made their rounds this morning we discussed the situation, and it seems as if we need to stay patient. The trauma to Judy's bowel system has been much greater than expected, and it takes time to come back.

As the docs were saying, clinically speaking, Judy is doing much better as her vitals will attest. But she still suffers from the nausea, and she threw up twice today. We're hoping that discontinuing one of her antibiotics with which she had some problems earlier in the year will help out.

She is continuing to receive liquid calories that go directly into the bloodstream. Until her bowels wake up there won't be any Steak and Ale. She appears stronger than at any time after the suregery going to the bathroom or, as we did just a few minutes before taking the photo, taking a shower.

Dr. Phillips is still concerned about the possibility of a slight leak around the anastomosis (there, I had to use that word!) the area where her dissected colon was reconnected. Even though the CT scan did not show any leakage, that does not mean that there couldn't be a tiny tear. He brought up the possibility of another scan next week, if necessary, and kept the possibility of follow-up surgery open. That would be a real kick in the groin for us.

But maybe it won't come to that. Maybe things are going to continue their slow path of improvement. We need to keep in mind that this is only the first stage of this long battle--the cancer is still there and it must be eradicated.

Judy wants to tell all of you thanks for the flowers, cards, good wishes, prayers, and evrything else you have sent her way. She has been too groggy to respond herself, but she wants to let you know how much she apprecaites it all.

I appreciate the selfless giving of time from some of our local freinds who have given me a chance to take a few breaks here and there. Today I was able to ride for 33 miles and do some grocery shopping. A little bit of normalcy (even though it's always rushed) is absolutely necessary, and I am thankful for these breaks.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Our second Friday night in the hospital

Here we are a week later, and there are more questions in my mind than answers. We seem to be stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for Judy's intestinal system to overcome its shock and go back to work. The urine culture that was taken two days ago indicated a bladder infection, but with the help of antibiotics this seems to be under control--but what to make of some of the blood in the urine? Judy continues to have serious problems with gastric fluids that are not completely removed via the NG tube; today she threw up five times, under great distress, finally ejecting every time some of this vile-looking liquid that also accumulates in the "stomach vacuum cleaner." Why can't this be managed better? The dry heaving and eventual throwing up take so much energy out of her. The CT scan did not indicate any leakage in the bowel resection, but there seem to linger certain concerns in that regard. What will the analysis of the fluid show that was aspirated today from her chest cavity?

We had hoped to be out of the hospital at this point. Instead, we have no idea when this point may come.

We are so fortunate to have friends who give me a break since at this point it is unthinkable to not have somebody with Judy at all times. Tomorrow Kathy O. and Cheryl W. will give me a big break during the day that I will use to do some shopping and go for another bike ride--gotta eat and exercise if I want to be able to do this for a while. Our dear "little" Emily gave me a two-hour break at the end of the day, which I used to mow the lawn and prepare a meal. Tomorrow she'll do the same. When I got back, we sat together, hugging each other closely. Judy said that we looked pretty cute.

It is almost midnight and I better close things down. Let's hope for some progress tomorrow.


Midday update on Friday

Since some of our European friends are getting close to calling it a day I wanted to give you a quick update:

This morning, Dr. Phillips made his rounds and expressed his relief over the results of the CT scan which showed that the bowel resection is intact. Late this morning Judy was taken to radiology where the fluid in her lung-area was aspirated. She came out of this procedure OK but was quite nauseated because her NG tube (which removes stomach fluids) had been disconnected for quite a while. We won't know the lab results until sometime early next week in regard to the fluid--cancerous or not is the big question.

I talked to Dr. Weaver, the pulmonologist, and he, Dr. Phillips, and Dr. Howell have conferred in regard to Judy as a patient.

Right now Judy is finally resting again. Later on I will read her some of the cards that continue to arrive and show her the "treats" that arrived from FeFi and Lee just yesterday. I also hope that we are going to be able to have her sit in a chair for a few minutes; Dr. Weaver wants her to get back to some activity, ever so light and ever so gently. Anything that exercises her lungs just a little bit is good. We'll work on that.

She is allowed ice and water, and the liquid nutrition continues to be administered through her port. As "dessert" she is allowed to have a bit of diluted apple juice, but the doc doesn't want her to overdo it.

So, overall, things are a bit better than yesterday, but we're not over the hump just yet.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Good news, more news...

Man, this is getting tough. I feel like a soul-less reporter, bringing to you the good, bad, and ugly. Here I'm speaking from the soul, because it is difficult to (unfortunately, as some of you know from firsthand experience) bring you the news about MY OWN WIFE. And please, don't send me any sympathy comments, because right now it is all about Judy and I have the greatest people around me who support both of us and never forget me. Here's the scoop:

Judy had a rough day yesterday, and the night was pretty tough as well. You got that from the last post. Judy had a CT scan this afternoon to try to find out where abdominal bloating, the fever, the pain, the throwing up, etc. were all coming from. Fast forward: Around 6:00 or 6:30 p.m., our best nurse yet, Roxanne, came into the room with the great news that the CT scan had NOT shown any problems in the abdomen that could be related to the resection of her bowel. The docs had kept Judy off ANY fluids all afternoon (not even a tiny sliver of ice) just in case they had to do surgery again to fix what was a real possibility of being broken.

I can't tell you how it hurt to see my little JuJu lying in bed, pleading for just a little bit of water. All she was allowed to do was suck on a moist washrag--talk about worrying about infections in the hospital! Next time you guys race and you're thirsty and you're out of water, you think about our Judy, without any food for a week, a damn cancer eating her up, and not even being allowed to have even a tiny sip of water. It breaks my heart. And all she did was crack a dry (no pun intended) joke or just close her eyes. If she had started bike racing early, she would have won world championships. Seriously. I don't think that I've ever seen anybody so tough or determined. I've always known it, but not until now, if that makes sense.

The CT scan showed nothing that would indicate any need to repeat surgery. I am cautious with my words as I don't want to jinx anything. Been there, done that, will be there again.

But she's still in bad shape. There is an infection, even though her temp has come down to almost normal. I'm not going to mention docs, but I'm sure glad I can confide in our good friend and supporter Alan who also has mixed up her antibiotics cocktail that seems to do the trick. I wish it were all that easy, though. Judy also has some fluid in her chest, close to the lungs. Make a short story short, I talked to Dr. Weaver, who is in charge of the pulmonary aspects of the treatment, and suddenly everything clicked and he realized that the fluid might, mind you MIGHT, not is, a possible migration of the cancer via the fluids from the abdominal cavity to the chest. He and I talked, and let me put it this way: I hope that from Friday morning on our three attending doctors will have good communication channels and are all going to be on the same page as Judy and I and all of you. I am thankful to have this team of doctors, and I am confident that we are going to have the best care. I teach communications, and that's what is needed here, and I will do my best to ensure that. Jack, Sandi, Michelle, do you hear me?

Tomorrow, Dr. Weaver will initiate an aspiration of the fluid. Here is what we will accomplish: 1. If it infectious, a major part, if not most, of the infectious fluid will be drained from the body, which means Judy will have to fight less/receive fewer antibiotics=strengthening of the overall constitution; 2. Fluid is neither infectious nor cancerous: cool, she will continue her breathing exercises and recover faster; 3. the fluid is cancerous, as a result of migrating fluid from abdomen to chest: well, nothing will happen now--we have identified another villain, and chemo can be customized to kill that SOB too. So, it is a three-win situation. It may sound morbid to you, but let's remember: this is about Judy's life. We got to get after the villain, and we'll get it. We have everything it takes: A team of great physicians whom we truly trust, a tight support team of others in the medical field who keep me up-to-date, an incredible circle of tight and local friends who have been helping out in sitting with Judy and giving me a break, and an unbelievable crowd of loved ones all around the entire globe who, like YOU, are giving us so, so, so much support.

I'm crying like a dog (OK, the damn dogs in the neighborhood just howl, but I really do cry) while writing this. You are our friends, and we will need you now, tomorrow, and in the weeks, months, and, helldamn, years to come. And please don't be offended by that word, but I've always used it and is appropriate. Just ask Tommy out in Sedona, who is an inspiration to us all.


Thanks for listening to us. Please make her sleep well tonight and come out stronger tomorrow.

Problems are lingering

It is 3 p.m. on Thursday, and Judy just has returned from a CT scan of her abdomen. She was earlier given a barium contrast liquid, and the docs are hoping to find out what is causing her continued abdominal problems. The blood and urine cultures that were taken yesterday are not fully analyzed yet, but from what I understand there is an infection as indicated by the urine culture.

I have just arrived here at the hospital after teaching and was filled in by Candace, Judy's sister-in-law. Judy's night was apparently a little more restful than two nights ago, but she is not over the hump, it appears. Her NOT having been moved back to ICU indicates to me that we're looking at only a temporary set-back, but let's keep our fingers crossed that she can overcome it quickly. It is really tough on her because she is not allowed any liquids orally, ony via the drip--not even an ice cube.

Her spirit is still high, though, and she cracked us up when, after being put into her bed after coming from radiology, she told us in all seriousness that one of the doctors had told her that she could have a whole Popsicle, right now. The nurse, Candace, and I just looked at each other, and the nurse said "the doctor said that?" And Judy, as serious as a heart attack, looks at us and just says "yep." Mind you this was no hallucination--she was trying to trick us and wanted us to smile and laugh, the way we all four did.

Candace told me that the radiology report may come in as early as this afternoon. Once I know more, I will update the blog.

Thanks you all for your continued comments and e-mails. I keep telling Judy when something new has arrived, and her face always brightens up when I tell her that so-and-so send her sweet note. She gets so much strength from you and the knowledge that you are thinking of her. She loves all of you. And for myself, I can only tell you that your support is a big boost for me, too. All of us together, we will get through this mess.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

After a rough night, a rough day

This is meant as just a short update: This afternoon, the NG tube (leading through the nose to the stomach and meant to siphon off gastric fluids) was reinserted. Judy continued to have problems with nausea, and her continued running a light fever indicates that there is somewhere an infection. She had a tough day with lots of prodding and poking and probing, meant to find out what is currently holding up her recovery.

Judy's sister-in-law Candace arrived from Midland this afternoon, and she gave me a big break this afternoon. She is also going to stay with Judy in the room tonight, so that I can get ready for my TTU job tomorrow morning.

It is about 9 p.m. right now, and Judy is happily sleeping. She's been given some morphine, and she is on antibiotics. Let's hope that her body recovers the needed strength through sleep as well as the liquid drip-nutrition that she has now been receiving for about 24 hours to make good progress overnight.


A rough night behind us

Here she is: peacefully resting in the morning sunlight after a rough night.

It is Wednesday morning around 9:00 a.m., and after all those advances yesterday that were so promising Judy had an extremely rough night. She had a lot of dry heaving, sounding like a cat with a giant hairball. All this heaving of course meant that her incision was jiggled around and she got little rest. Around 3:30 a.m. she finally threw up quite a bit of liquid--I didn't measure it but it was probably close to a pint.

After that she slept quite a bit better--until she decided to try to go potty by herself and I heard all the commotion. Bad idea, and I told her so. She had told me that she'd let me know when she had to go, but in her stubbornness she thought she could do it herself. I made her promise to let me know. Her incision is hurting.

The first medical staff started to filter in around 6:30 a.m. How is a person to get any rest? The dry heaving has fairly well subsided, but she is obviously weaker than yesterday. She's running a temperature that has steadily (but very slowly) risen since last night. So, there were blood samples to figure out where there might be an infection. Then they wanted a clear urine sample, so that was taken by reinserting a catheter (not permanent--just for the sample). And thus it goes: Right now we're waiting for her to be taken to radiology, for X-rays. They wanted to transport her in a chair, but I protested and now they've taken her on a stretcher.

The way things look, I doubt that she is going to leave here on Thursday. We'll see. I'll keep you posted.