Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday, Sunday

All is well!

Bill is looking and feeling great. He's in an optimistic mood, and has good energy, and great color and is eating like a horse! Who would have believed it!?

Our Sunday was wholly holy. We went to what HAS been "Bill's" church, but after what I saw there today, I can't imagine anything more divine, even thrilling. I'm pretty sure it's officially "our" church now.

And I've spent the last five years wandering through churches, trying to find that je ne sais quoi. So to have found a place that matches my difficult list of "must haves" is saying something. You simply wouldn't believe what is going on in this place!

And one of the more amazing things about it is that it's a mission church--but wait--it's in REVERSE! The missionaries are AFRICANS--from Rwanda, trying to save US, the Americans from what looks to them like a disintegrating culture!

Have you ever heard of such a thing?

America is always sending out the missionaries. THIS time, the Africans looked at us and said, "Yikes! Those people in that country need HELP!" so THEY, in their economic poverty, started up missions HERE to rescue US Americans from our spiritual poverty. How wild is that? It just blows my mind.


Since Bill has no chemo stuff till later this week, I'll probably wait to post until something chemo-related happens. That could be Tuesday or Thursday.

See you then! Enjoy the sunshine, if you've got some.

And thanks for following our story!


Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday afternoon: CT scan all clear!

Celebrating! The CT scan results showed no metastatic activity! Yay!!

I, being either a pessimist or a realist, feel just a little less safe than I would feel at such good news, because of the fact that a CT scan at Duke University, reviewed by two Duke radiologists, once reported Bill to be 100 percent cancer free, when in fact, just two weeks later, a urologist went in and found a whole bunch of really big malignant tumors growing all over Bill's abdomen--tumors that had been recognized six months earlier on an accurately read CT scan.

So much for CT scans and Duke-quality radiologists.

If that hadn't happened, I'd be in a little more bliss.

But, hey! I'll take a CT scan that says "all clear" over one that says "possible trouble" any day of the week!!!

Thanking God....and you for all your prayers and wishes for him. *heart*

Thursday, Friday

Thursday, Bill had his blood tested, to see what the chemo has done to it. We got the great news that, while there was damage, it was not outside the expected range. So he is on target to start round two this coming Thursday (a week from yesterday). On that day, he will get....hmmmm....I don't know! Maybe just the M and V and then a week later the C?

The amazing thing is that the vast ocean of chemicals he is receiving isn't doing him in!

The only scary thing that happened yesterday (well, to me, it was scary, but then so is everything) was that when we asked for a printout of the results from last week's CT scan, they started out saying, "Okay, we'll get you that." Then they came back and said, "Oh, uhhhhhh, yeah, well.....the doctor, uhhh, hasn't signed off on that yet, so she'll have to be the one to tell you those results, and she isn't here today."

At Wake, you get your scan results exactly 20 minutes after the scan.

Luckily, I had a Kleenex with me, because that scared me and made me cry, but I was in a waiting room, so no one really saw me.

Today, Friday, nothing medical. Bill still feels basically good.

Couldn't ask for much more than that!

Love to you for reading along.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, Wednesday

All is pretty well with our cowpoke! Yesterday, he had "metal mouth" where his whole mouth tasted like iron, but his mouth sores are gone. Today, he has stomach cramps, and great fatigue, but we're both grateful that's all it is!

Tomorrow, no chemo. Only some blood tests.

His classes were canceled for this afternoon, due to the big, ugly snowstorm we are having, so that's a huge bonus for me. I am always elated when his classes get called off, and I have him all to myself at home all day, being cozy together in big storms.

We mostly talk about comic subjects when we talk on days like this, and we do an abnormally large amount of laughing. We're currently reading different books by the same British comedy writer, and we have fun telling each other funny things that happen in the books.

Like, I was telling him that in my book, last night, I read, "The pen is mightier than the sword. As long as the sword is really, really small, and the pen is really, really sharp."

And he said his book had a similar joke in it (same author) where a guy with a pen is facing a guy with a sword in a battle, and the guy with the sword says to the guy with the pen, "Do you really want to test that aphorism?"

Why that seems so hilarious to us might be a good question.

Anyway, we are more and more grateful for days together, like this one. And for friends like you, who bother to read this and to care.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Bill taught his classes today, AND was even able to join us after his classes at the Italian restaurant for a birthday dinner complete with chocolate brownie, ice cream, a candle, and the birthday song!

It was beautiful, with my brother's family there, and so much love.

Every one of you who loves Bill, and wishes him the very best, and send up so many prayers on his behalf: our thanks go beyond anything words can express.

Thank you, and may God bless you a thousand times for all you've done for us.


Sunday, January 23, 2011


Nosebleeds, sores in his mouth, exhaustion, breathlessness. Otherwise, looks good, feels good. Can eat!

Shortest entry ever? No! There's more!

We have family here till Tuesday morning, and are going to TRY to see if Bill can join us at a restaurant Monday night after his classes. We might have to prop him up, but he's going to try.

We're both SO excited about the family who's here with us! It's my brother from Morehead and his beautiful, sweet wife, whom I haven't seen in so long, and we finally met their AMAZINGLY adorable, wondrous, delightful, hilarious, talkative, angelic daughter adopted from Kazikstan! She's 9 years old, looks like a tiny Audrey Hepburn, is as funny as a stand-up comedienne, and we are MADLY in love with her!

We also got to meet their big blonde dog named Jack, who's a labradoodle, and he played with our dogs. Haven't had so much fun and laughed so much in a long time.

Family is who shows up when you're really alone. We've had a lot of pain and a lot of terrible things befall us lately. Thank you GOD for the TRUE love of family: that's the kind of love that never leaves you when you need them most.

Till tomorrow!


Saturday, January 22, 2011


I hope we're not putting you into a deep snooze with these boring posts!

But Saturday's news is short: he's back to having very bad nosebleeds, like he had last time he had chemo, so no surprise there. And some abdominal issues, but nothing serious. Otherwise, feeling pretty decent, but right this minute, very tired.

I'm guessing he will try to go to church tomorrow, at least maybe!

For now, we're over-and-out at the Almost-Okay Corral!

Love, love, love!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday: Nothing New! Yay!

It's Friday, and I'm just reporting that nothing is new. Our boy slept through the whole night peacefully, has had absolutely ZERO reaction to the M and V chemicals, and feels absolutely fine.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday: "Ah wont yew to go a-pumpin yer fist!"

Thursday (today) seemed so complicated on the calendar, but turned out to be relatively easy. All we had to do was sit in the chemo room for a few hours and get methotrexate dripped in and Vin "The Mighty Thor" Blastine injected.

EXCEPT for Bill having to drink two big bottles of the French Vanilla barium, before the CT scans at 2:30 pm. Oh, he hates drinking that stuff. And what a name: French Vanilla. He said, "Well, if it were just plain vanilla, it would be awful, but since it's FRENCH vanilla, it is sooooooooo delicious." Not. A friend wrote today and suggested he ask, next time, if they have it in Jim Beam. Or maybe in The Glenlivet.

The highlight of his day was that when he left the chemo center and walked over to the CT scan radiation office inside the adjacent hospital, his technician turned out to be, he was pretty sure, a cast member from The Beverly Hillbillies.

First, she asked him what surgeries he had had. She was going to write them down. So he rattled them off, assuming she could spell them or had at least heard of them: A TURB-T, a radical cystoprostatectomy and appendectomy, a hepatic resection, and a cholecystectomy.

No farther along than "TURB-T", he said she stopped writing, and slowly looked up at him with an expression of complete loss. She obviously didn't know what he was saying or how to spell any of it. So she just skipped that part of the form.

Next, she said she was going to inject dye into his arm for the CT scan. He didn't think, at first, that he needed to tell her that the LARGE blue plastic object (impossible not to notice) that was already IN his arm (one inch from where she was going to re-stick him) was a port that was already installed for her, for the dye.

But no. He DID need to tell her that, because she did NOT notice the pre-installed port, and was swabbing down his arm with alcohol and about to jam a needle into it.

He fully realized what was happening when she said--and this is literally what she said--instead of, "Please, sir, make a fist," she said, in THIS accent: "Ah wont yew to go a-pumpin yer fist."

Bill said, "I beg your pardon?"

She said, "I wont yew to go a-pumpin yer...."

Bill suddenly caught what was happening. "I hope you're not intending make a new injection site, as you can see that a port has already been installed for you right THERE."

Oh, she said. She hadn't noticed that.

Then, WITHOUT having him undress (can this be real?), (and with him reminding HER that he needed to remove his jewelry....she said, "Oh, yeah, ye do!") she proceeded to lay him down in the scanner in his street clothes, shoes and all (!) and she went to the control panels and pushed god only knows what buttons and gave him god only knows what kind of CT scan with all his clothes on.

Ummmmmmmmm. What?

First, we've had about 20 CT scans by now at both Duke and Wake Forest. Never did he have to drink barium. And never was he NOT dressed in a hospital gown.

And never was he instructed by any technician to go a-pumpin his fist.

Then again, I suppose it's nice to experience firsts, as we travel along this interesting highway.

Wednesday & Thursday

Oh, I'm bad. I forgot to post on Wednesday! I think it was because poor Willy came home so late, then we had a late dinner, then he went right to bed and fell asleep exhausted.

But in short, he WENT to App State and he taught his classes! He felt pretty good, he said!

He was, however, too tired last night to tell me about the classes, so I knew he was REALLY tired, because he usually tells some stories.

I had a pot roast and some potatoes and broccoli/carrot mixture ready for dinner (you can imagine the proportions he wanted of which thing: (hint) about 1/4 teaspoon of broccoli) and we watched a Sherlock Holmes episode.

Today, Thursday, will be quite different from yesterday, though.

At 8 a.m., he had to eat a big breakfast and immediately drink a huge bottle of barium. Oh, goodness. French Vanilla flavored.

At 11, this morning, we go over to ChemoWorld and he gets methotrexate and vinblastine. Then at 2:30, he has to drink ANOTHER whole giant bottle of barium and get a big bunch of CT scans of his body and abdomen. This is the baseline CT scan they wanted him to have before chemo, to see if, after 4 cycles, he is still clear (he'll get a comparison scan in late April at Wake Forest.)

Quite the day. I'll post again tonight or tomorrow morning. Hope your winter day isn't too wintery!

Love to you, very much love...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday: Much better!

Just a quick note: Bill started the day out great, but got really tired, but in an okay way! He said if he had to teach today he absolutely could have done it!

He is definitely going to teach tomorrow, so he hasn't missed any classes so far.

Late in the afternoon, he got a few moments of nausea, but that went away. He did take a couple of good naps today.

The best news might be that we found our keys! One of our friends specializes in prayers for lost items, and it is actually amazing the number of items that have turned up after her prayers. So she started praying, and boom. The keys were found. Make of it what you will, ye skeptics among you, but that IS what happened! ;)

Hooo-rayyyyyyyyyyyy for everything! Nighty night!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday: Just a Bunch of Tired

Our Wild Willy is still doing GREAT in the having-no-nausea department, but he is starting to feel shockingly fatigued.

See, the chemo stops all rapidly-dividing cells from dividing. That means it stops tumors, but it also stops bone marrow, whose job is to replace blood cells that die every day. So since Friday, his blood cells have been dying off normally, but not being replaced by his now-sort-of-paralyzed bone marrow.

He said he feels so tired that he wonders where he gets the energy just to breathe. I mean REALLY REALLY tired.

We still haven't found the five million lost keys, and for a while today, we even lost the phone!

I started getting the blues a little today, so I just went out alone and did errands, which he usually does with me, so it was kinda sad. I missed having him with me.

But to have gotten this far without nausea--that is something I am ridiculously grateful for.

Will write again tomorrow. Next treatment is Thursday.

By the way, how many of you can brag that you have RADIOACTIVE beverages in your refrigerators?

What? None of you?

(ahem) Well, WE do! Two bottles of barium that our cowpoke has to drink on Thursday to get a baseline CT scan.

I'm keeping all the other food away from it, so we don't end up with radioactive oranges, radioactive half and half, or radioactive broccoli. (Yes, Radioactive Broccoli WOULD make a great name for a band, but it isn't the ideal side dish.)

I'll let you know if our refrigerator starts emitting an eerie green glow in the wee hours of the night...maybe we'll walk out and find the missing keys floating mysteriously across the kitchen air space.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday: A Little Bit of Uh-Oh....

Okay, it's not a major crash-and-burn, but we definitely are experiencing a small set-back today.

He feels kind of like a truck ran over him--indescribably tired--and the soft palate of his mouth hurt last night, and today his stomach feels burny. But no nausea, still!

As I type this, he is lying on the sofa, where I made him a super comfy little nest, and I brought him some crackers and cheese, and he is watching the Jets-Patriots football game. I told him I was planning to make spaghetti for dinner, and he is all in favor of that, so that shows you that he's not TOO terribly bad.

I have a little notebook in which I write everything he feels and what time and date he feels it, so that he can most accurately plan his future treatments so as not to interfere with his classes.

Today, for example, I asked him through the afternoon, "If this were a teaching day, could you have made it?" and so far, he says he could have. That would mean that if he got his Cisplatin on a Monday, he could still teach on Wednesday.

In a severely serendipitous development, Monday his school is closed! God bless Martin Luther King! So he gets a whole 'nother day of rest tomorrow, and has no classes until Wednesday.

The only other thing really bothering him is what the chemo nurses warned us about: chemo brain. Your memory gets really spotty for certain things, like if you don't CONCENTRATE when you put keys down, you never find them again.....not saying that we've lost BOTH post office keys, an office key, all his car keys, and all but ONE of my SUV keys so far....

I think I shall become the Queen Mother of All Keys, now that we're down to just ONE key in all the world. (We've looked EVERYwhere!)

But apart from all that, he is doing stunningly well, and I'm happy beyond everything I expected for this weekend! Thanks for being happy, too.

Love to each and every.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday afternoon...all is still well!

Here we are at 5:24 pm on Saturday, more than 24 hours after the Cisplatin, and Bill is still (what?!) FINE!

He has been running around on steroids all day like a manic hamster--doing laundry, buying a guitar, paying bills, playing with the dogs--he even tried to sneak out alone and go to the post office and do all the grocery shopping. WHAT?!

I CAUGHT HIM just in time, and went with him. I can hardly even keep up with the man!

This is your husband;


He has been eating all day (he's been what?!). We'll be having meatloaf and baked potatoes for dinner, and watching a Sherlock Holmes mystery (if he can sit still long enough).

Oh...he DID have some insomnia last night, but he said he LIKED it! He wrote a bunch of emails, read books. I mean, this is beyond anything I expected. That's for sure!

Right now, he is taking a nap.

So...I'll write again late Sunday and let you know if he's still eating and eating and moving at super-human speeds: kind of like Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory episode.

Till then, whoopie-ti-yi-yo! It's been a GREAT weekend!

And we are so thankful.

Love to you,

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday: First Mega-Drug Dose is Done!


We're home from spending most of the day at the Chemo Palace. And Bill is LOADED UP with I don't know WHAT all: probably everything from anesthetics, antibiotics, antidotes, antiseptics, antitoxins, balms, biologics, capsules, cures, drugs, elixirs, injections, inoculations, liniments, lotions, medicaments, ointments, pharmaceuticals, pharmacons, physics, and pills, to potions, prescriptions, remedies, salves, sedatives, serums, tablets, tinctures, tonics, and vaccinations.

I mean, he got giant pills; he got shots; he got at least six bags of all kinds of things dripped into his arm, and the whole time, he felt GREAT!

He read the newspaper, magazines, played crossword puzzles, read his computer, investigated a guitar he wants to buy, and even ate his whole lunch--chicken soup and a ham sandwich.

He even felt like TALKING a lot! (That would be the steroids giving him a speed-like buzz, I think.) We had all kinds of enthusiastic conversations about all kinds of things--from Madame Bovary and the downsides of romanticization of modern America, to Grendel's relevance to current political movements, to Pascal's Pensees and how souls are connected to bodies. hahahahah

It WAS kind of crazy, even for us, talking about all that wild stuff.

But I was delirious with happiness that he was talking and not PUKING all day long!

We are now home with so much anti-nausea medicine that I think he could eat a month-dead mouse and wouldn't throw it up. He got these nausea-killing medicines not just in drips, but he got a pill that cost $60 just for the one pill! Plus three other kinds of pills he has to take every six hours, even setting his alarm through the night.

Then he gets another $60 pill Saturday morning, and one more on Sunday morning. All anti-nausea medicines.

I think the fact that the pills cost $60 has an anti-emetic effect all on its own: you sure don't want to throw up anything that costs $60 a pop. So you're very motivated to keep things down. ;)

The only symptom he has so far is that his cheese and crackers tasted really bitter, and he couldn't eat them, just now.

Last time he had cisplatin, I naiively cooked him something he loved--shrimp and cheese grits for dinner (it's a Southern thing, all ye Yankee readers), and he got queasy that night, and has never wanted to see anything having to do with shrimp or cheese grits ever again.

So I'm trying to think what meal to cook him tonight, knowing he'll probably end up sorry he ate it, and I'll probably never be asked to cook it again. So far, we are thinking tuna casserole should be that sacrificial lamb this time.

Anyway, as you can tell, I'm so happy, out of my mind with relief, that we've even gotten THIS far without any stomach problems.

I will definitely post tomorrow, just something short, and let you know how Saturday goes down. Or comes up. If we aren't so lucky.

Love and thankfulness for your taking the time and trouble to check on our boy. Have a happy Friday night! We are!

Beth & Bill

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thursday: First day of chemo

Today Bill had his first dose of chemo and so far, nothing (much) has happened to him!

We drove there through horribly snow-deep streets, in 4WD, early, and by noon, he was hooked up to the methotrexate, which is a tiny bag of greenish-yellow clear liquid. (No, it was NOT absinthe, but sure looked like it.) It only takes a half hour to drip in. Well, first he got what they call pre-meds which means bags of medicines that prepare him for the chemo, and those had to drip in first.

At the end of the methotrexate, he got the vinblastine, which turned out just to be a regular looking shot in a little syringe. Didn't even have its own drip bag. Kind of a disappointingly wimpy looking thing, given a name like VIN! BLAST! STINE! which, to me, sounded like STAND BACK, YE WEAK OF HEART! WOMEN, HIDE YOUR CHILDREN! I'M THE VALIANT AND TERRIBLE VINBLASTINE, and I'LL BE TAKING OVER FROM HERE!

Nope. Just a quiet little *squirt*.

Anyway. We talked about hospitalization to the oncologist, and she didn't think it was necessary today, because the drugs he got today, she said, will have almost no effect on him. But the thing is, he has to drink VAST amounts of water.

As the weeks go by, the chemicals have a cumulative effect, and eventually he might not have an uneventful experience like today's, and he might not be able to drink the water, (or keep food down) and then he would get hospitalized for IVs between the M and V chemicals and the C chemical (cisplatin).

But luckily, the C chemical only happens ONCE in every cycle of chemo, and a cycle is three weeks, so the hospital risk only arises once every three weeks. We were thinking he'd have to go to the hospital once a week.

On the other hand.....after what Dr. Torti said, that he usually hospitalizes people between the M and V (today) and the C (tomorrow)...we are thinking, oh man, is it RIGHT that we're not getting hospitalized? EEEEEEEyikes! But Bill is chugging away, downing all the liquids he can get his hands on, so it seems okay.

So as of this minute, Bill feels only tiredness--and just now he added "shakiness" to his description (you can picture me asking him a little too often: "Feel anything yet?....Feel anything NOW?......How about NOW?") My caregiver style has an "overly-hovering" quality to it.

About tomorrow--Friday--they warned us that the bomber drug takes many hours to administer, so we should expect to be there most of the day. You know I'll write as soon as we are home. And almost certainly I will post something every day for a while, to satisfy and/or amuse the deeply curious.

The mildly curious among you can just catch up whenever the spirit moves you.

Again, as always, we are profoundly grateful that you care enough to think of us and wish us well. Love to you right from our hearts.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Our Brave Crusader Taught Class #1 Today

Despite a wicked snow storm, our very brave and courageous crusader, Cowboy Willie, went RIGHT over to Appalachian State University today and PARKED his car, and walked RIGHT up the hill and TAUGHT his first British Lit class as if hell and high water were not roaring toward him this week like a New Year's Day tsunami once roared toward Indonesia.

When he got home, I had home-made pizza ready for him, and we watched an old episode of Monk. After dinner, he said he wanted to tell me something. He wanted to tell me how his first class had gone, because it was unusual, and he wanted me to know what had happened.

He said he had been nervous about it, as he always is, but was prepared to give his normal opening lecture, which he's given since time immemorial about cultural and contextual backgrounds to Beowulf. He said the lecture puts even HIM to sleep, but he was going to give it.

Until he was standing in front of the class.

At which moment, he suddenly thought to himself, "After a 40-year career of teaching, THIS day, THIS moment, might be the last time in my entire life I give the opening lecture for a course." Then surprising even himself, he decided, "I'm not going to give that same boring lecture again."

So, unlike anything he usually does in a classroom, he simply threw his notes aside.

He said he began to pace back and forth across the front of the room and instead of talking about Picts, Angles, Saxons, and Romans, he started telling them a story about what, in his mind, is the actual most important, essential reason for anyone to ever study English Literature.

He began by quoting, from memory, two poems by William Butler Yeats, which poems are timelessly beautiful but which Bill used to demonstrate that even the most perfect literature is, in one sense, impotent and ineffectual, giving the example that Yeats, despite having the Nobel Laureate in literature, couldn't use his poetry to get even the unknown young Irish girl, Maude Gonne, to give the merest edge of consideration to courting Yeats.

But, Bill continued, F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, said that the mark of intelligence is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in one's mind simultaneously and to give assent to both of them.

To illustrate this point, and to show the power of literature, Bill then told the class the story of the most memorable day in his life, which occurred when Bill was 18 years old, and when, in the presence of his roommate Geoffrey, an 18-year-old poet, Bill launched, for the first time, a wooden airplane that had taken Bill nine months to build from scratch. Bill had painted the beloved plane yellow and named it NC5011C.

Also watching this plane's maiden voyage were two other friends, Jim and Barry.

The launch was successful; NC5011C flew briefly and gloriously, but then as Bill watched in horror, the plane unexpectedly turned and headed for the earth, at a terrible speed, and hit, crashing into a million yellow wooden splinters.

There was a brief silence, and then Jim and Barry started laughing and laughing and couldn't stop laughing. Bill, even as upset as he was, had to laugh, too, to look cool, he said. But even as he laughed, he noticed that his roommate Geoffrey wasn't laughing. In fact, Geoffrey walked away in silence.

A few hours later, after Bill had spent some time alone, kicking dirt, walking aimlessly and trying to recover from his monumental loss, Bill went back to his dorm room. When he stepped in, he noticed that a piece of paper was taped to his pillow case.

The paper had been hand-decorated in baroque style with drawings of cherubs blowing trumpets and the like, and on the sheet was the following poem, which Geoffrey had written, entitled, "On the Death of NC5011C: An Elegaic Sonnet Written in Iambic Tetrameter and Dedicated with All Sincerity to William R. Drennan."

"For leaning days and wearisome nights,
he loving shaped thee perfectly,
most beauteous of aerey sights.

'Ah, thou shalt see the sun
on tops of clouds,' dreamt he;
then thee with bright yellow he bedights.

Then thee to the yard he doth transport,
and with a prayer said for thy dearth,
he sends thee, looping round to earth;
such grace, and yet thy flight so short.

The tears that fall around thee after
strangely sound, almost, like laughter."

After that day, Bill gave up his major in political science and pre-law, and became an English major.

When Bill finished telling this story and reciting this poem to his class at Appalachian, the room was quiet, he said. He then reiterated that on one hand, literature can be impotent, but on the other hand, it can change a human life forever.

In closing, he said to the class, "I need to tell you one more thing."

"I may not be with you for several class sessions this semester. I'm appearing here between major cancer operations. I have already had three operations and chemo, and I start four to six months of chemo on Thursday." No one spoke.

"But I'll try not to die on you before the end of the semester," he threw in, trying to lighten things up a little.

He then noticed that one woman student was staring at him, apparently frozen, with her eyes so wide open in surprise at what he had just said, that he felt he needed to respond.

"What?" he said to her gently. "It's okay. It is in the nature of things for old men to die."

Then he added, "You will understand that when you get to the part about Beowulf and the dragon."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

First Chemo Will Be Thursday, January 13

*Remember, if you're new to this blog, you need to click the title of this blog [Urological Adventures] in order to see the newest post. If you don't do that, your page will usually open to an older post, and you won't know there's a new post.

To see EARLIER POSTS, just look in the column on the right, and the old posts are listed there. The newer posts are at the top of the list, and as the list goes down, the posts get older and older.


Shoot. That preface was longer than the post is going to be! [Actually, turns out that the post is longer. I always start out thinking I'm going to post one little line, and it always accidentally becomes one little novella.]

I just wanted to update you that we have our first appointment at the chemo center in Boone (called Seby Jones Center) this coming Thursday, January 13. [For details on the dramatic nature of this chemo, click on the preceding blog entry called, "Chemo Will Be HOW Bad?"--you'll see that blog title in the column on the right.]

Of course nothing that happens to us is allowed to happen without phenomenal complex mixups.

And along those lines, we have been assigned NOT to Dr. Flint Grey, whom Dr. Torti trusted to administer this difficult chemo, but to a different doctor whom Dr. Torti does not know. [We, however, do know the other doctor: she was Bill's doctor during the first chemo last year, and we liked her a lot.]

We learned this after receiving an after-hours phone call last night from the chemo clinic during which we learned that Dr. Grey had had gotten some kind of bungled message from Wake saying that chemo had to start immediately for some guy in the area here. But as of last night, Dr. Grey said he knew "nothing whatsoever" about a referral coming from Dr. Torti, or what case anyone was talking about.

Thus we ended up assigned to another doctor in Boone.

In fact, whoever called Dr. Grey's office, told them that the patient's name was William DRESSEN and that they had no birthdate or identifying information other than Mister Dressen's phone number.

Luckily, the staff at Seby Jones is so sharp that they used the phone number to trace our names, found our files, and instantly knew us from previous chemo, and were able to push through all that confusion and get Bill the earliest appointment possible.

Nota bene: Competency is an underrated virtue.

But halle-bless-ed-loo-ya for everyone at Seby Jones Chemo Center AND for the fact that, living in the middle of virtually nowhere, as we do, we are nonetheless able to get THIS kind of chemo just six miles from our house.

Later, taters!

Love from the snowed-in B&B

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Chemo Will Be HOW Bad?

Our favorite cowpoke Willy Drennan is about to get back in the saddle again and bust out a can of whoop*** on some chemo.

That's our we-can-do-this attitude this morning, after a nice long night to NOT think about it.

Well, silliness aside, here's the deal.


GREEN SECTION: The GREEN TEXT is for anyone who wants to know what happened with the triglyceride scare of last week, wherein Bill's LOCAL Dr office told us his lipid scores were so stratospheric that their own lab couldn't even process it, leading us to safely assume he was in some shockingly dangerous risk for heart attack, scaring us to death. If you weren't following that plot line, you can skip to the white text.

WHITE SECTION: The WHITE TEXT is for what happened yesterday at the Wake Forest Oncology center, telling us the upcoming Alfred Hitchcock scenario for Bill's next chemo, which starts right away.

The (as it turns out) non-issue of Bill's blood lipids: Bill had gone last week to the local Blowing Rock doctor to get a prescription refill for Crestor, and the doctor said that they'd need the lab to take a blood sample. Which the lab did. Then gave Bill the Crestor. But then the Dr's office called back, all worked into a frenzy, that the scores on the triglycerides were so out of the ball park that they'd had to send the scores to a DIFFERENT lab to try to make sense of how terrible the scores were.

Of course, scaring us half to death.

So a few days later, Bill called that Dr's office and requested a copy of those scores, because we wanted to take a copy to our oncologist.

But the local office staff said, "Oh, Oooops. Our lab guy here DID send the blood out to the lab, but he accidentally sent someone else's blood. So you have to get tested again."

So Bill got tested again, and when we went to pick up THOSE results, 5 minutes before leaving for the oncologist, the local office staff said, "We're sorry. The scores WERE here, but we lost them."

So the dog ate their homework?

I am NOT making this up!

At least we did know that Bill's supposedly shocking triglyceride score was 584 when 150 is the highest it should be. So when we told the doctors at Wake Forest, they said, "Well that simply sounds like you didn't fast before the test."

Bill said, "Correct. The local Dr's office told me to come in AFTER LUNCH, so the test was done about 2 pm, after lunch." Had the local office said, "You're getting a lipid panel," which Bill has had about a million times, Bill would have known to advise the staff that a lipid panel is taken only after careful fasting. And it's scary enough that Bill would have had to educate the staff on the protocols for lipid panel testing. But no one told him he was coming in at 2 pm for a lipid panel.

The Wake doctors just stared at us--almost with their mouths hanging open. "You weren't told to FAST?" Bill said, "No. They told me to come in at 2 and took my blood."

This present paragraph will not say the things we are all thinking, but can you even imagine all of that happening in real life, with actual licensed medical professionals? I said, "Bill, at what point do you NEVER darken the doors at that local place again?" Bill said, "Beth, I like that Doctor as a friend and as a person. He's a good doctor. It was the office that messed up, not him. I don't care what they do with my blood. I just go there to get my Crestor."

Okay, I can see that point, since Bill actually IS in the care of literally FAMOUS doctors at Wake, but perhaps some of us are left wondering about...oh...okay...I could say some funny stuff right here, but I shall take the high road and stop.

END OF STORY EXPLAINING THE TRIGLYCERIDE FIASCO, told only for those of you who read about the triglyceride thing last week and were worried about Bill's heart, as we were.

* * *


I got an almost verbatim transcript of every word Dr. Torti said yesterday, so I'll use my exact handwritten notes to tell you the main points.

My notes say, "Tho saw good Shen possib somepl taco relapse high dose...."

I have no idea what that means, but you can be sure it means something IMPORTANT.

Just kidding. (My notes actually aren't perfectly legible. And the first line did look like the above, but here's what Dr. Torti really said.)

(Paraphrased). We are going to be very aggressive. The surgery with Dr. Shen went excellently, but we need to do chemo immediately. Due to what we now know about your cancer (from the pathology report analysis? from the blood they drew at Wake yesterday?), the cancer cells are the (something to the effect) most aggressive kind, active and alive, and are currently in your body, moving through it and "are probably" already setting up new tumors, but until they are a certain size, we don't know where the cells are, so we need to attack them immediately, while everything is small.

We will use platinum again in this regimen (Cisplatin, which Bill also got last time, and which totally failed), and you may wonder, Why go back to platinum when it didn't work before, but it's because it's the best drug we have; even if there was a relapse, you can still be responsive to it, and we will be using a much higher dose than before.

There is correspondence to dose size and response. Last time you had chemo (through Dr. Walther at Duke), you got a...(sounded like he wanted to say LOW dose)...then he thought, and said, "a reasonable dose", but this time, it will be higher and that time you had a lot of tumor, but this time less tumor so that the chemo can do more work in your vascular system. So this is much better than the other time.

Even though last time it failed, and it's not perfect, it's the best regimen we have.

You'll have Cisplatin (that's the platinum drug), along with two other chemicals your tumors "haven't seen before": methotrexate and vinblastine. [I, Beth, like the "blast" part of vinblastine.] So we'll use "something old and something new."

You can have this done in Boone, as I've worked with Dr. Flint Gray there, and he is very good. [I actually said, "His mother named him FLINT knowing that his last name was GRAY?" No laugh was evinced.] Then you'll come back here after a reasonable number of cycles, for tests.

There are serious risks. You could have permanent deafness, permanent numbness of hands and feet, hair loss, vomiting, many systems affected. We must watch your kidneys especially. VERY substantial side effects because of the very high dose.

You'll have the [I, Beth, will now switch to M and V for the "lesser drugs" and C for the Cisplatin, which is the bomber] M and V at beginning of treatment, then must wait a minimum of 12 hours before you receive the C, so the M has a chance to clear your system entirely.

I hospitalize my patients with this regimen (because it's so powerful, they need to be overseen, hydrated, and receive drugs by IV between the dosings).

[Bill and me: HOSPITALIZE? Silent Shock. Didn't see the "H" word coming! Both of us thinking, SAY WHAT??????????????]

Me: "Can he be hospitalized at Boone? Will they know how to handle this or should he just come here?"

Dr. T: "He can be hospitalized at Boone. Dr. Gray knows how to handle this, and I'm still involved."

Bill: "I'm teaching on Mondays and Wednesdays. How will this work?"

Dr. T: "You could be hospitalized on Thursdays and Fridays. We will leave it up to Dr. Gray. You could receive the M and V on Thursday morning, then the C on Friday morning and perhaps be able to teach on Monday and Wednesday."

Then Dr. T said Bill will have every third week "off" to recover, and then begin the next cycle, so each cycle is three weeks, but because of reactions, Dr. T said that almost no one stays on the schedule because there are always delays when the body gets so distressed that the next cycle has to be put off.

"If you get a temperature of 102, or feel even one chill, you must go to the hospital instantly. Do not wait even a few hours. If you waited till morning, it could be too late to recover. A temp of 102 means you have an infection, and this treatment can completely compromise your immune system, and you need IV antibiotics and treatment within hours. This scenario happens to one-third of patients who have this chemo." [That scared us, too!]

How long will we do the chemo? "If you can tolerate it, the ideal is six cycles, which takes 4.5 months, minimum. If you have a hard time, we will do only 4 cycles."

Then Dr. T repeated that some of the side effects can be permanent, but "this is as aggressive as there is and gives you the best chance. I can not give you odds on whether the cancer will return, but this is your best chance (he repeated). But be advised: Even with all this, it could come back."

Bill then started to greatly worry about fulfilling his obligation to his Department Chair at Appalachian State, since 70 students are enrolled in his British Lit course which starts in three days. But Dr. Torti said, "No, Bill. We have to agree on one point. Your health is the most important thing. Department Chairs always manage. I, myself, am a Department Chair, so I know what I'm talking about here."

[Dear Queen Elizabeth of England: Could you possibly arrange for an American named William to be knighted for courage and commitment so remarkable, that even England can't believe its ears? And when you think of Prince Charles' ears, that is SAYING something.]

Finally, Dr. T closed with, "The biggest reaction you'll have is fatigue and feeling washed out. No one really prepares you for how extreme that will be. But you need to start the chemo SOON, right away, in fact. Dr. Gray will give you a baseline CT scan before you start so that when you come back here after 4 cycles, we can scan you and see how you're doing and compare it to the baseline."

So our next appointment with Dr. Torti is April 28th for a CT scan.


But I am depending on YOU to spend ONLY the amount of time you want to spend reading it. No one expects anyone to read the whole thing. I only put the whole thing up in case someone wanted details for whatever reason.

The next time I post will be soon--after we find out what Bill will be doing in Boone. Today, Bill is printing his syllabus, buying his parking pass for App State, and proceeding as if he will make it through the semester teaching his class, despite the chemo.

How did I ever end up married to such a hero?

Love to all, and gratitude for your love,
B&B aka Cowboy Willie and Diamond Lil

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Just back from Oncology. SCARY CHEMO PLANS!

We just got off the road, haven't eaten, are super tired, didn't sleep much last night.

But we're in Courageous Moods. Yay for courageous moods. *gulp*


We're going to just go crash right now with some popcorn and a movie and then fall into bless-ed sleep and post the s-c-a-r-y n-e-w-s tomorrow morning about what the chemo will involve and when it starts.

It's extremely dramatic!

It's so bad that he has to be hospitalized for it every week. Ay yi yi! Risks include PERMANENT deafness, all kinds of stuff you won't believe. They even said it is definitely so intensely strong that it's going to be at a life-threatening level, but it's his only hope.


I'll put it up tomorrow, as there are quite a few details.

Should be posted by mid morning.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR CHECKING ON THE BOY! He feels so good right now, and it's all going to come crashing down in just a few days, they warned.

Till tomorrow then. THANK YOU FOR CARING! It's so deeply moving to us that you read this. You just can't imagine.

Tons of Love

Willie and Lilly

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Hooray! A whole new year!

We are in absolutely fantastic moods here, and are really grateful for how good Bill feels (have to admit I was pessimistic at first but am so happy to have been wrong!) and how nicely everything is now going here.

Next Dr. trip is January 6th, so I'll report about that. Also, Bill is having some weird numbers in his cholesterol/triglyceride results, but they're working on it.


There were some metaphorical fender benders in 2010 for us, and for all of you, too, I'm sure. Stuff hurts sometimes. But life has a lovely way of continuing to move and change.

Everything floats down the river and becomes a memory. And new things come.

We're both just grateful to be sitting side by side, watching the river together, holding hands tightly, and feeling peace and happiness and so much love.


And again we thank you for starting yet another year with us. We are so very grateful for you.

Love and Best Wishes,