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.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Judy is finally back home!

After exactly five weeks in the hospital, Judy was released yesterday afternoon and she is continuing her recovery at home. I talked to her yesterday right after she made it home, and she was incredibly stoked to be at the house. Emily is staying with her for a few days, and friends and neighbors will be looking in on her while I am here in new York at the World Cup and next week in Quebec at the World Championships.

Thanks for all thse vistis and phone calls while she was at Covenant! You guys were a big, big help!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thanks to all

(Judy ate only a bit of this fine pizza pie, but it's a start!)

I am finally getting to think about really going home, and boy am I ready. When the drain in my surgical wound finally slows down (which should be in the next day or so) I have to wait for two more days of antibiotics. I continue to thank each of you for your thoughts, prayers, and good wishes. This has been a difficult journey, but it is made easier with the incredible support I receive from each of you.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Catheter gone, NG tube out, bag a-fillin'

The past few days have brought a lot of improvement for Judy. Even though she is still in room 555, things are looking up. Without the catheter and the NG tube, getting in and out of the bed is much easier. Also, Judy has started to consume clear liquids (jello, broth, popsicles), and that in turn is adding to the bowel activity that started a few days ago. She is still in the learning curve regarding the colostomy bag, but there is great help and advice from the nurses. We don't have any idea yet when she can finally leave, but I think we're getting closer.

Dr. Phillips just made his rounds and was happy with Judy's progress, and she will start some more solid foods soon. Stay tunedJudy is ready to start the real fight, against the damn cancer, soon again.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Every day brings some improvement

Here we are, three full days after surgery, and Judy is getting better by the day. She manages to get out of the bed, despite all the tubes that still siphon off ugly-looking fluids from various parts of the body. Amazing what medicine can do. But it's still her body (and her spirit) that complete the healing, and that does take time.

In the photo you see her enjoying her "hair wash" during our "shower" session this morning. This shower cap has shampoo and cream rinse in it, and, like those disinfectant fluids, there's no need for rinsing or drying. Pretty cool. She enjoyed the feel of it all, and you see her smile.

We still can't tell too many funny things around her because the tummy still hurts, and she just can't laugh. But things are looking up, and the docs appear happy. The blood infection that she's been carrying for a while now has been identified and the treatment seems to do the trick as the fever is very slight now.

I am running off to Seattle in a few minutes, but we have friends who will drop in on her and stay with her over the weekend. Things look much better than just a few days ago, and we're both OK with the thought (and reality) of the colostomy.

Thank you all for your comments and e-mails, which I have read (and in the case of our German friends) translated to her. You mean so much to her!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

24 hours later

Judy spent a rather good night after yesterday's surgery. She said that my being her made her feel comfortable. In the photo above you see Candice (who arrived this morning) fanning her with the little memento that Emily brought back for Judy from Spain. Judy is still running a slight fever, and one moment she's hot, one moment cold. Dr. Phillips came through in the morning, and he was very positive and upbeat about both the surgery as well as Judy's looks this morning. Obviously, we have a long road ahead of us, but Judy's spirits and attitude were strong today, and even though we can expect more set-backs, we're ready to tackle recovery.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Second surgery

I wish I could tell you that we're on the way home. Well, not just yet.

Judy developed complications over the past few days, and a scan yesterday revealed some bowel leakage. We assumed that it was the area that Dr. Phillips had bypassed, but, as it turned out, it was an area close to the rectum. Dr. Phillips was totally surprised by this location and ordered a second scan this morning. This afternoon, Judy had her second surgery in two days.

She has successfuly made it through this surgery. I just debriefed with Dr. Phillips, and here's what he found: In the colon area close to the rectum Judy had developed since the first surgery a fairly large abscess, in area at least 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. There was a tiny tear or hole in the colon, and Dr. Phillips is not sure about the origin—could have been a result of the first operation and all the handling of the bowel, could have been something else. There were no problems with the bypass of the small intestine. Unfortunately, as is pretty much standard procedure in a scenario like this, Dr. Phillips had to perform a colostomy.

We knew going into this surgery today that this was a distinct possibility, and Dr. Phillips told me that he had a long, serious talk with Judy before operating on her. He repeated to me that the true enemy is the cancer, and that that's the big battle. I agree. Chemo made Judy lose her hair, and then it came back, only to be thinned again by chemo. We will adjust to the colostomy, and who knows, once we have gotten rid of the cancer it may be reversed.

Judy is still in recovery, and I know that when she comes back she will want to know what happened. I am not looking forward to having to tell her, but the news will eventually become just another twist in our new reality. We will meet this head-on, and we won't give in. She's my Judy, whatever they have to do with her.

I want to thank Donna S. for being with me in the waiting room this afternoon. Tonight I will be here in the hospital room, and I hope that poor lil' ol' Jude is not going to be in too much pain and misery. Tomorrow morning, Candice will come up from Midland for the day, and I am sure that her presence will help Judy heal physically and psychologically.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Another weekend in the hospital

It would have been much nicer to be at home and enjoy one of the last "free" weekends of the summer with a mojito and the smell of BBQ, but instead we're here in room 555, with still no real estimate on when Judy may come home.

The past three days have seen ups and downs. Yesterday was a really crappy day when first the damn NG tube came loose and slipped out and Judy later had to deal with a blood transfusion. Fortunately, her bowels have started to work (barely) enough so that the NG tube did not have to be re-inserted, but she battled nausea all day because the bile was just building up and that poor lil' ol' colon of hers could barely keep up. The blood transfusion caused Judy some tremendous pain: Since she is still on the liquid nutrition (TPN), which is routed through her port (together with the regular IV), the blood transfusion went through a vein in her left hand. Judging from her silent suffering, it must have been bloody painful, and after an hour and a half of very slow flow she couldn't take the pain any longer. The nurse then decided to suspend the TPN and continue the transfusion through the port, and that was a huge relief. Judy described the pain as a constant 8.5 on the 10 scale. And we all know she's a tough cookie. It was pretty gruesome sitting there with her for those 90 minutes.

Today things were much better, at least initially. The nausea was mostly gone in the morning. Unfortunately, Judy has been running a fever that has been going up and down, as high as 101.7. She had a chest X-ray and a urinalysis, but we haven't heard anything about the results. We're just hoping that we don't get into another infection situation as we did after her surgery in 2008. Oh man, that'd be pretty devastating, and Alan is still on vacation.

Judy is now allowed to consume liquids, including popsicles. But she has to be careful about the nausea, so it's all a balancing act. (The nurse just took her temperature, and we're a bit down at exactly 101.) Also, the staples that were keeping her very well-healed incision together were removed this morning.

As you can see from the picture, some beautiful flowers have arrived here at the hospital. Yesterday, a huge arrangement was delivered, coming from our friends at TMBRA, the Texas Mountain Bike Racing Association. The other, very beautiful arrangement came from the Amarillo-based parents of our neighbor across the street, Megan. Thank you so much, folks! There have been other arrangements and gifts over these past two weeks, and we want to thank all of you who have thought of Judy and brightened her hospital room and spirits.

So, the situation on this hot Saturday afternoon here in Lubbock is better than a few days ago. Things are getting better. But overall, it's a bit like the Dow Jones: There are those positive days, and then there are those losses that wipe out a bunch of capital; and then there are gains again. Overall, the trend is up, and we can't let the micro movements get too much to us.

So, let's see whether we can get the fever under control, cut out the nausea, and start consuming more and more "real" nourishment. Let's hope that the day when Judy can go home comes soon.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Nausea, NG tubes, and friends

Cancer is not a good thing, and cancer surgery isn't a walk in the park. Here we are, six days after Doc Phillips gave Judy another "tummy tuck," and the bowels still haven't woken up. It was rough day for Judy, who battled nausea most of the time. The damn NG tube sometimes works, and sometimes it just doesn't seem to be doing what it's supposed to do. (Kinda like some of the nurses....) As a result, that green bile accumulates and Judy feels like throwing it up—or she does.

The incision looks great—clean, no visual hint of infection, and apparently healing up a storm. Judy has a much easier time getting in and out of the bed, but the nausea is a constant that keeps her from being more active. We walked this afternoon on the oncology floor, but it sure was a struggle.

So, what makes it all bearable? The friends. Some live close-by and can make it to the hospital, just like Liz does every day. She is a tremendous comfort to Judy, and to me as well: I can leave for a while to do some of the stuff that needs to be taken care of. Our neighbor Irene stopped by today, despite the pain that any hospital visit must cause her. There were Mark, and Carol, and Jody with her dad, John. Sandi in Dallas would be here if she could, and there all those other well-wishers who post on the blog, e-mail, or leave a phone message. If I omitted someone, please forgive.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Cath's (yep, the one from Colorado's CJ Timing) e-mail today, letting us know that during this year's Tour de France her friends Judy and Cindy were remembered and showcased in a message on one of the roads where the peloton passed by:

And this is the location where this message was written on the pavement—coincidentally on the same route that Judy and I went on back in 1990 when we rode our tandem through France and Italy during Le Tour:

Thanks, Cath, for doing this for Judy. It brought tears to her eyes when I showed her your message!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I am doing well

Jürgen does such a good job keeping up with the blog, but it was my turn to thank each of you for you love and concern. I appreciate each of you so much. I am feeling better. I slept well last night. I plan to walk very soon this morning. Pain management is much better.

Thanks again for caring about me.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

The weekend update

Last night, after finally getting done with everything related to the Steelhead 70.3 triathlon for which I was the Head Referee (with a fabulous crew!), I called Judy one final time for the day. Progress has been slow, but there is progress, and from talking to Candice there's much more positive than negative. For the first time after surgery, Judy sat up yesterday and even walked to the door, pretty much exhausting her. The pain management seems to be better, too, with those spasm/cramp-like pains having been targeted by some sort of muscle relaxant. She still has a catheter because using a bed pan would not work too well yet, but let's hope that this will go in the next day or two as she progresses. The NG tube is still in place as the bowels haven't totally awakened yet.

Judy sounded tired but OK. We talked several times yesterday, and obviously we can't wait for me to get back to Lubbock late this afternoon. Her friend Lorane made it in from NM, which was a happy surprise for Judy as Lorane was not going to arrive until Sunday.

I haven't spoken to Judy this morning yet—the fact that Candi has turned off her cell phone (it's about 8:00 a.m.) is IMO a good sign since that the two are getting solid rest. After the last few days of little sleep, I, too, was able to get a healthy dose of zzzzs last night, and my final drive from Portage, IN (where I spent the night) to the O'Hare airport shouldn't be too bad.

More when I have another update.