Tuesday, January 01, 2019

I hate 2018

This year was forgettable at best. (As in, it would be best if I could forget it.)

Actually, that’s not completely true. What I really hated about 2018 was going through 2018. I don’t regret the patience God taught me. I don’t feel bad about the compassion I gained. I wouldn’t undo the lessons I learned.

Bad always comes with good and, for some reason, life requires every one of us to take it as a whole. I'd think there would be some type of refining effect that would come along with this process as one year moves into another. Someway to make it more good than bad and offer some kind of guarantee that you did it all the right way. 2017 pretended for us; so did 2018.

At the beginning of 2017, we were fighting a losing battle, cancer was all over Anne-Marie’s body and we were waiting for a report to confirm it. The doctors were wrong. 

At the beginning of 2018, the prognosis was good, only one last tumor remained and we were waiting for a report to confirm it. The doctors were wrong. Wrong again.

If we haven't figured out how to turn bad into good, you would at least think that we'd have learned how to defuse (or diffuse) the shock and grief that comes from getting the unexpected phone call.  Or on the positive side, how to take the good news with all its joy and relief in stride. Forgive us. We haven't figured that out yet. 2018 proved it.

All the challenges from 2006 to 2017. Every inconvenience. The sorrow, the fatigue, the sum of every burden brought by an accursed disease to this point was realized in full within the twelve months of 2018.

All kinds of memories were made with the family.  A new school, surprise trips out of town, milestones reached, holidays celebrated.  Those all happened in between the challenges.  Or maybe the challenges happened in between the happy memories.  I can't tell for sure.

But I do know I will never be the same. Hopefully some of the changes I and we've gone through in 2018 will be for the good in either the long or short term.  But without doubt, never the same.

Maybe you hate 2018 too.  You won't find any judgment here.  But somewhere in the somewhere that you didn't look, you may find that 2018 loved you more than you thought.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Brain scans (round two) and more

It's already been three weeks since the rush trip to the podiatrist.  I didn't go with Anne-Marie since it was "just a consult" to figure out options. When a friend brought her home that afternoon, she was recovering from outpatient surgery. The podiatrist assessed the problem and performed the procedure all in the same appointment. I never miss things like that, but in the middle of all the other tests and issues, I missed it and I still feel bad.

The podiatrist performed a wedge resection to relieve the pain and the other issues are under observation.  Results have been mixed with still a lot of pain, but we at least know our options going forward.

Brain scans followed this last week, along with a look at two presumed tumor locations in Anne-Marie's neck and right femur.  Scan day was normal with a few hours spent on a Tuesday afternoon at PeaceHealth SW hospital here in Vancouver.  Results day was two days later with Dr. Smith at Compass Oncology in Portland.

The brain scan results show improvement in all areas*.  The first brain surgery site didn't even garner a mention in our discussion and the second (gamma knife) is showing noticeable improvement.  That means the last brain tumor is dying.

The even better news is that the suspected tumors in Anne-Marie's neck and leg were looked at and found to be nothing of great concern.  They were there and now have nearly disappeared.  We'll keep watching these areas, but expect no issues.

Thank God for another good report.  We are on to the next thing and know that having a good report going into the holidays is an amazing blessing (it was a different story in 2016).

*Further consultation with radiologist, Dr. Gotkowitz, concerning the brain scans happens this coming week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October 2018 scan results and what that means

Hundreds of you saw last week's post on insta/FB, so I probably don't need to go into the specifics except to say 12 out of 14 tumor sites look good and we're working on the other two.  We are grateful to God for a good report (and don't forget those doctors).

Here's the epilogue of what that means to us on a daily basis: It means nothing.  It appears that all of the pain, fatigue, skin problems, stomach flu is not from cancer but from the treatment.  We are still fighting the same battles and more* that we were fighting a week ago.  But in a different sense it means everything because we know the treatment is working.  We waited through the entire summer and half of the fall blindly going through misery without promise of a return, but now we know.  That's huge.

*By the time we hit Monday morning we found a new arena for this battle.  Anne-Marie's feet have become so damaged by the chemo that a previously-recommended visit to the podiatrist has now been rushed.  The appointment happens today and I have exercised my spousal naggingness to demand she remain in bed until we know what to do.

I'm glad we got some good news to remind us why we're fighting because the bell just rung and we're about to start throwing more punches.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Shrinking world

We have now reached the five-month mark of chemotherapy. As of last week, this is the longest treatment plan Anne-Marie has ever been on. This one's different because, as far as we know, it's perpetual.

The past two and a half months has been the most challenging of any treatment we've done these past 12 years. Daily doses of the chemo pills have affected Anne-Marie's tolerance of food, sleep patterns, energy level.

I'm sure some of you reading this can understand what it's like to have a single circumstance that affects your life completely in every area and never goes away night or day. We have fought to maintain an atmosphere of normalcy at our house for years, but lately that has become nearly impossible.

Every item that is a "must-have", every action that is a "must-do" and every event that is a "must-go" is put on trial for the sake of survival. It is the poverty of everything; it is the possession of everything that matters.

Starting this month I have decided to step away from many things, including responsibilities at our church, in order to relieve stress in this situation and regain focus. This continuing adjustment of priorities is helping me understand and prove to myself where my values really lie.  And it's allowed me just a few more moments of quiet to remember that there's always a light in every darkness.

It's taken me 2 weeks to write these six paragraphs, so I guess I'll click Publish. CT scan and bone scan are scheduled for October 16 with the results given two days later on October 18. Pray for us. Anne-Marie has fought through so much to get to this point.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The Summer of 2018

I'm not sure how I keep taking summers off of blogging.  This time has its own unique list of excuses, I guess.  That's what this post is about.

Excuse #1: I'm now a general contractor.

When we bought the house back in June of last year, it was considered a "livable fixer" with only 2 real bedrooms, a kitchen that needs an intervention and a (yet-to-be-discovered) river running through the basement.  I have been making it my business to get all these issues fixed.

With the help of some friends, we've managed to get the dying furnace out of the middle of the basement and replace it with something with air conditioning that's more efficient and out of the way of everything else.

From there we celebrated on the 4th of July and called a team of professional waterproofers the next morning to fix the newly-discovered river.  We were pretty shocked when they told us they could start tearing apart the basement in less than a week.  That put us in a mad rush to complete the demolition, preparation and to move Elisha upstairs from his temporary spot to nowhere in particular.

Basement waterproofing took three weeks and immediately I got put in the role of framing walls (it's only been 20 years, so why not?), repiping the house (it's only been 80 years, so why not?), redoing the basement electrical (it's only deadly, so why not?), ductwork (it's only...ok, you probably get it), drywall, flooring and trimwork.  If I forgot anything, I don't want to hear about it because it's not in the budget.  Here's some of our progress so far:

Excuse #2: WFH w/Kids

One thing they don't explain in the employee handbook of a company that is 100% work from home is how to handle summer break.  The kids have been running around my office screaming and throwing stuff for seven weeks now.  Just kidding, I don't have an office.  My office is going to be right where the laser is sitting in that last photo.  

Maybe by Christmas.

Obviously, things have been pretty distracting at "work".

Excuse #3: Jr. Bible Quizzing

Elisha spent the first six months of the year as a Junior Bible Quizzer in the Oregon District and learned most of the New Testament book of Galatians and some of the book of Hebrews.  He worked really hard and--let's be honest: I worked really hard--to get through the year.  The poor guy had so many distractions between January in June, but he finished his first year as Rookie of the Year for the state of Oregon.  Good job, Buddy!

Excuse #4: Cancer

This is the always excuse.  The good news is that the brain scans I referred to in my previous post came back very good.  Everything from the conventional surgery is gone and the site from the gamma knife surgery has had noticeable shrinkage.  That area is expected to slowly go away.

The real challenge this summer has been the chemo.  Anne-Marie has been on the chemo pills Xeloda and Tykerb for about three months now and the side effects seem to have a cumulative effect.  Anne-Marie is very sick on a weekly basis, often for stretches of a few days at a time.  Scans are due within a few weeks, but the date is pending.  We hope to have results by the end of September.

We did sneak away for a quick date night at the end of June to enjoy Anne-Marie's favorite restaurant ever.  We don't get out much, but we try to make it good when we do.  So--and I'm sure she would never say this herself--if you see her in person, know that Anne-Marie very much prioritized the event on her calendar.  

Just a few more weeks of summer left! I think we might celebrate by staying home and building some walls.