Friday, June 30, 2006


Over the past few days, our doctors have informed us of the need to return to the hospital. The lymph node exam that was done during the operation on June 8th showed no trace of cancer, as far as could be seen with the instruments and timeframe available in the OR.

The results were incomplete.

Traces of cancer cells were found two days later when further examined by the pathologist. Two of the three lymph nodes that were removed showed signs of (what medical professionals call) micrometastasizing. What that means is that traces of cancer cells were found. Whether this means that the cancer has spread is unknown. This is something that none of the physicians in the field of cancer research or treatment seem to be able to fully understand.

The net result is that Anne-Marie must return to the hospital to have more (about 10) lymph nodes removed and examined. We'll know more when we get the results from the new test.

This is not what we had hoped for.

(There is still more to this story. I'll talk about tissue removal tomorrow.)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Returning to the hospital

Today Dr. Morgan told us that we would need to return to the hospital for an additional procedure. I will explain tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Chemotherapy treatments will be postponed until August, according to Dr. John Smith. Hormonal therapy will begin sometime in the fall. Because of the overexpression of HER2/neu, Anne-Marie will be taking Herceptin for 12 months starting this fall.

(I know the HER2/neu thing doesn't make a lick of sense to 99% of you. It took six weeks for me to figure it out. But if you click the Wikipedia link I posted, the information in their article should only take you three weeks to decipher.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The story 'bout the robin

Different versions of this story have been floating around, so I might as well set the record straight.

It was the first night after returning from the hospital, and Anne-Marie could only get comfortable in the recliner. I slept on the couch for two hours at a time between giving the prescribed doses of five different medications. I finally fell into a deep sleep sometime between three and four in the morning.

At exactly 5:00 AM I awoke to this: CHEEEEP!!! Whap! There was a robin flying around our living room. Our cat, Sydney, caught a bird, carried it through her "kitty door" in the wee hours, and then came to show us her prize.

(This may easily be considered natural cat-like behavior to many people reading this. I would agree if our cat was not a complete and total slug. After 13 hours straight laying asleep in the same position, I usually like to take her pulse.)

I woke up just enough to be dangerous. The bird was flying around the ceiling above Anne-Marie as I tried to intercept it. Sydney thought this made the game much more fun as she ran around the recliner waiting for it to come back down.

I realized that the bird was wounded about the time that it landed head down in the magazine rack. When I went to retrieve it, it jumped up and flew across the room to the kitchen window. Oh great! This thing was gonna bleed on our curtains!

When the robin slumped down into a pathetic heap on the windowsill, I formulated a plan to save our window treatments. First, I threw Sydney outside so she would be out of the way. Then, I went to the laundry closet and put on the (size extra-small) cleaning gloves and grabbed the laundry basket.

I returned to the kitchen holding the basket, and crept slowly toward the bird being careful not to allow it to see my movement. When I made it to the center of the kitchen floor, I lunged at the bird and flipped the basket over its head before it could hobble away. I threw the upside down basket to the floor. The bird fell off of the counter with the basket (leaving surprises along the way).

I scooted the basket along the kitchen floor. The robin attempted to peck me through the squares of the basket on several occasions. I avoided the attacks by deftly moving my hands away from the targeted grids. There was no obvious way to get the bird outside that I could see, so I opened the door and slid the upturned basket in front of it. Then, I slammed the door as hard as I could.

I can hardly imagine what the 5:30 AM jogger must have thought as the door of our house flew wide open, then launched a laundry basket and cartwheeling bird down our front walk. I guess I'll never know.

Anybody wanna cat?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Oncologist consultation

We are thankful to be under the care of oncologist Dr. John Smith II. He will be helping Anne-Marie fight cancer through chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. We will be meeting Wednesday morning to layout a treatment plan and schedule.

Dr. Shawn Morgan will also be making a very important decision on Wednesday morning. He will--with the help of his colleagues--be deciding whether Anne-Marie should return to the hospital for a lymph node removal and exam. Pray that he makes the correct decision.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Outpatient confusion madness

Ok. So the outpatient surgery was not today. I don't know how we miscommunicated about this.

The new procedure will not take place until Dr. Morgan makes a presentation of the information gathered from Anne-Marie's surgery (the one that happened on the 8th). The "tumor board" at Meridian Park Hospital will then decide if Anne-Marie needs to go in for a simple outpatient tissue removal at Dr. Burgess' clinic, or a more complex inpatient tissue removal plus lymph node exam.

We hope for the former.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


I will be going to Oregon District Bible Quizzing Finals. I'm not sure if Anne-Marie will be able to come to the tourney for any amount of time, yet.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Anne-Marie's pain level seems to have increased over the last 24 hours. I'm guessing that it is just like many other physical healing processes. An increase in pain is an indication of the body making a major effort to mend itself. Maybe someone else has a better insight...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Follow-up on walk

OK. So instead, Anne-Marie's husband, Eli, took her for the walk.

Made it all the way around the block. Good job, Anne-Marie!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Post-op - Week 2

We went to see Dr. Burgess on Friday. She let us know that she had talked with Dr. Morgan earlier in the week and decided that they wanted to take the additional step of removing another portion of tissue. This small outpatient surgery is a precaution against spreading.

Anne-Marie has been getting stronger every day. I'm hoping that our cousin, Jen, will take Anne-Marie on that long overdue walk around the block sometime today.

Thank you to Pastor Gary Gleason for going out himself to buy dinner for my housebound wife just a few hours before he performed his daughter's wedding!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

On location @ Jeremy's

Anne-Marie is doing so well today that I've had to tell her to stop doing all the things that she has wanted to get done for the past week and a half. We hope to go for a walk around the block today or tomorrow.

It's time to go put on my tux...

Donna and Jeremy - June 17, 2006

Friday, June 16, 2006

Big weekend

As you probably know, there's a wedding this weekend. Jeremy asked me to be an usher. While I am ushing, Sue Fackler will be taking care of my much-improved wife.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Good news

Anne-Marie sat down at the table and ate dinner tonight. She has been awake today more than she has been asleep. She read a book and washed her hair on her own.

Anne-Marie during the construction of Ben and Jen Fackler's house.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A turn for the better

Thankfully, Anne-Marie began to eat again this afternoon. She has been up and walking by herself for the first time. The new medication seems to have milder side effects. A remarkable change from just 8 hours ago.

Anne-Marie is holding Anne, her oldest niece.

Post-op update

Anne-Marie has had problems keeping food and medication down today. Dr. Burgess has switched her to all liquid prescriptions to avoid returning to the hospital.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Notes on surgery, Part IV

Humor-tinged as the last three segments may be, I will admit that this has been one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. There's no doubt that Anne-Marie would say the same.

Trying to make sense of it all seems impossible. I wouldn't wish what my wife is going through on anyone.

It all comes down to this single conclusion: We trust God. I cannot and will not explain why. We just do.

And I cannot help but believe that these are the fires in which great lives are forged.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Notes on surgery, Part III

Anne-Marie was barely awake. Full of local and general anesthetics, she was hardly able to keep her eyes open. She said a few things to me and to the others, then drifted off to sleep.

A few hours later, she came off of the more powerful pain killers and was able to hold a conversation. We talked for about an hour. She fell asleep for two. We repeated this cycle several times during our stay.

Around 10:00 that night, the nurse gave me a cot that was unfortunately just to long to avoid being hit by the door when it opened. "OK, sweetie! It's time to take your vitals!" Whack! "Oh, sorry about that." My cot was shoved this way and that at the most unseemly hours.

Friday was mostly uneventful. Anne-Marie started breathing on her own and went for a couple of walks around the nurse's station. We spent a good part of the afternoon trying to figure out if we would--or even could--stay Friday night in the hospital. When all the people were talked to and the verdict was handed down, we stayed. Our sister-in-law, Kara, gave us our one repreive from hospital food by bringing in sandwiches (delivering Anne-Marie from foodservice meatloaf).

Uncle Gene and Aunt Ida came to visit that night. So did Dad (Phil). Unfortunately, Dad arrived at 8:59 and only got in at the emergency entrance by telling the nice lady at the counter that he had to make an "emergency" delivery of a decorating magazine to his daughter. It will be a long time before he lives that one down--especially now that I'm publishing it on the web!

I decided to sleep on the vinyl upholstered lounge chair that night, since it was a little smaller target for the door. Someday I'll laugh about that experience. Right now, I don't want to talk about it!

Dr. Morgan happened to be in the hospital on Saturday morning. He wanted to check in one more time before we left and let us know that he would continue discussing Anne-Marie's progress among the "cancer board" of physicians that is held at Meridian Park. Apart from that, he said that he would "fade into the sunset" and leave our future treatment and consultation to Dr. Burgess and the oncologist.

The crowd of doctors, nurses, and assistants waved as Anne-Marie was wheeled down the hall. We got to our front-row parking space, eased into the car, and headed HOME.


Right now, Anne-Marie is not up to having visitors. However, you can call us at: 503-722-1488.

Notes on surgery, Part II

I looked over at Pastor Gleason. "It's time to eat." We walked to the elevator to go down one floor to the cafeteria. If I would have known how familiar I would become with this place over the next 48 hours, I would have driven straight to the nearest restaurant. (But, then again, I would have lost my God-given parking space.)

When I got back up to the waiting room, I found all of my family. Keep in mind, this was a Thursday morning. These people all got off work for us.

The longest three hours of my life were spent in the second floor waiting room waiting for Dr. Morgan's report. I tried to pass time reading a book, talking with family members, and going for a few walks. It wasn't working very well. At 4:00, I closed my book and was about to go to the nurse's station to see if I could get some information. When I got up, I saw the burly surgeon coming down the hall.

I wish I could recall the conversation we had, but I do remember that he said that Anne-Marie's lymph nodes were negative. (I hope, for your own sakes, that most of you don't know enough about cancer to understand what this means. Cancer can spread throughout your body through its drainage system: the lymph nodes. If lymph nodes are examined and tested during surgery, and the results are negative, it means that it will be much easier to stop the cancer permanently.) He said that everything went well and that Dr. Burgess would finish the procedure during the next hour.

Dr. Morgan was a little optimistic. Dr. Burgess found us in the waiting room and let us know that Anne-Marie was in the recovery room and doing fine. She would be upstairs in her permanent room in an hour.

An hour later I went upstairs to see my wife.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Notes on surgery, Part I

The day of surgery started with a call from Meridian Park Hospital in Tualatin. They called to tell us that everyone in "short stay" was ready and that we should arrive as soon before our 10:30 appointment as was possible. We threw our computer, our clothes, and ourselves into the car at about 9:45 AM.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were grateful to find a shiny BMW pulling out of the nearest spot to the door. We left half of our stuff in the car and found our room in short stay: A229. The nurses began immediately with injections, IVs, pills, gowns, socks, paperwork, bracelets, and stickers. It seemed like every specialist in the hospital swarmed the room.

"Hi, I'm Dr. ----. I'm the ----ologist."
"Nice to meet you. That's my wife in the center of the crowd--she's the patient."
"Oh, well, this is just gonna take one second. I've gotta check ---- with ----."
"I see."

Pastor Gleason, Mom, Dad, Aunt Edie and family, and Uncle Gene and Aunt Ida arrived at the same time as the plastic surgeon, Dr. Elisa Burgess. By the time all was finished it was 11:45. We were waiting for Dr. Shawn Morgan, the surgeon.

Dr. Morgan--the surgeon who looks more like a mechanic--filled the door of the short stay a half an hour later.

"Hey, Man. Sorry I'm late. I had to do a hernia." (Did I mention he also talks like a mechanic?)
"Oh yeah? How did that go?"
"Good. Thanks." (I love this guy.)

Dr. Morgan promised he and Dr. Burgess would take good care of Anne-Marie and signaled the nurse to unlock the bed wheels. I gave my wife a hug and kiss thirty seconds before I watched her disappear down the endless, stark-white hallway.

I'll admit that I nearly broke down and wept.


Thursday, June 08, 2006


Mike G. posting for Eli:

Anne-Marie is doing well at the hospital. The surgery was five hours long and went smoothly: no additional problems, clear lymph nodes and so on, and successful reconstructive surgery.

Eli will be spending the night at the hospital with Anne-Marie, and they look forward to returning home late Friday night or, at the latest, Saturday morning.

More updates to come soon.

EDIT: Make that Saturday morning. You can find them at Meridian Park, room A327.

Final preparations, Part III

Everything is packed and ready to go. We leave in twenty minutes.

Mark 14:36

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Final preparations, Part II

(You may have noticed that I have switched from "bulletin" mode to "journal" mode. I hope you don't mind.)

I never knew we had so much laundry. We're packing things for our short trip to the hospital. Clothes, books, laptop.

Mom (Margaret Garcia) is planning to come to our house and clean while we're away. Regardless of that, we're cleaning the house as much as we can. Never knew we had so much laundry.

The nurse at the hospital says we may be out by 11:00 AM on Friday. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Amazing how, on June 6, 2006, our site meter reached (the apocalyptic) six hundred threescore and six at about 11:00 PM.

I have my doubts as to any significance.

Although, earlier today, when I went to get a cookie--from the complimentary snack that was a gift from the bridge department to the engineering department--I found I had to choose from two stacks of six peanut butter cookies and one stack of six chocolate chip cookies. Out of the three stacks of six, I picked one of the chocolate chip cookies. The peanut butter ones were near wooden in texture, and besides, the chocolate chip were bigger.

A little levity goes a long way in times like these.

Final preparations, Part I

We are getting Anne-Marie's prescriptions and a few books to read.

Kara Huffman and Jen Fackler will be caring for Anne-Marie during her recovery next week.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


running a daily blog and having nothing new to write.

This weekend we have spent most of our time cleaning the house in preparation for Anne-Marie's long stay at home. We're trying to get together everything we'll need so that we don't have to be stressed out at the last minute. I can't help but feel that we're forgetting something. (You know the feeling.)

I don't know if they have internet at the hospital, so this blog may possibly go without updates from Thursday morning through Friday or Saturday. I'll see what I can work out.

Congratulations to Phyllis Escobar and Tony Gleason on their graduation from high school! We love you!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ultrasound results

The pre-op ultrasound that was performed yesterday indicated a suspicious growth that was previously undetected. Apart from the need to analyze a few more lymph nodes, next Thursday's surgery should be sufficient to make this of no effect.

Keep praying.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Expandable comments

I have tweaked the template of the blog to allow "dynamic" viewing of comments for each post. Just click on the "1 COMMENTS" link below to show the comment. Click again to hide it. If you want to post a comment, click to reveal the comments and then click the "SAY SOMETHING" link at the bottom of the previous comments.

I hope this is an improvement and not a blight.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

One week to go...

As we enter the last week before the surgery, we've been spending a lot of time preparing the house for Anne-Marie's long stay at home. We're trying to do a lot of the things that we won't be able to do later and make our house as comfortable and accessible as possible.

Tomorrow we go in for pre-op blood work and one last ultrasound.