Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cowboy Wompin Up on the Red Devil

That Red Devil tried to get the best of my cowboy, but my cowboy ain't fazed. Red Devil is nothin' more than a "burp" in the road to Cowboy Billy!
(Thanks to Clifford for this photo.)

Actually, Bill had a few really awful days in this round, but after he hits bottom, he starts back up again, and we're two days into improvement right now.

He had his blood test today, and while he showed some borderline-low scores, he still wasn't bad enough to need an IV booster. They also said he can come in any time he gets that 24-hour nausea, and get IV drips to knock that back, and maybe a low dose of steroids to cheer him on.

So we look forward to a very decent week upcoming. His next event is July 5th, when he gets the last dose of Red Devil before they do the MRI in Wake Forest soon thereafter, to see if the Doxyrubicin has worked on the tumor.

Gratuitous and Irrelevant Lesson on the Dangers of Gyms

I had a tiny drama with a bacterial eye infection this week, but today I got antibiotic drops, so that's that. It was in the same eye that 2 weeks ago was diagnosed with macular wrinkles and retinal membrane (no treatment needed), and the day after THAT exam was when tears started coming out of that same eye ceaselessly. The eye got gradually grosser. The Ophthalmologist admitted that the dilation drops could have been contaminated, or the equipment improperly disinfected, since I caught it the day after being there. Oops. But it could also have come from my daily gym trips. 

Did you know that gyms are, per square inch, the germiest places on earth? And gyms account for a huge percentage of eye infections. You touch a piece of equipment that someone forgot to sanitize, you push your hair back or wipe the sweat off your forehead, a drop of sweat rolls down into your eye, and voila! Eye infection! Even gloves are no help. The only solution, the Dr. said, is to carry your own personal tube of hand sanitizer cream, and use it before and after EVERY SINGLE surface you touch! What a pain! But, okay. Eye infections are gross. No pinkeye for bacterial infections (only for viral), but when you wake up, your eye is glued shut and you look like something that crawled out of Stephen King's Pet Cemetary.

On that picturesque note, I conclude today's news! I probably won't write again till Sunday, as nothing should happen by then, but I'll just let you know.

Thank you always and always!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Heading Toward His Nadir, Po' Crittuh (But Miraculous Photos!)

I would have written sooner, but I kind of feel bad when I put up bad news, because it seems to upset people, then I feel guilty, and Bill kind of says, "Well maybe you should've played that down."

So I don't know what to do! I guess I'll just keep telling the truth, and if you get upset, then go have a nice hot toddy. hahaha.

Bill was fantastic on Wednesday after the shot, due to steroids and helpful IVs. Thursday, pretty great. Friday, crash 'n burn. Saturday, so sick I couldn't leave him. Sunday (today), markedly better than Saturday.

Though it's a calculus, when I say "better." Because some things are better, but some are worse.

Mainly, fever, bleeding, pain, nausea, ((((dry heaves as early as 4 am))))), red burning skin, extreme fatigue, irritability, sadness, moments of hopelessness, hair gone, and NOW throw in a new anxiety: an MRI to see if the Red Devil did anything to the tumor, or if the tumor is just continuing to grow. That's coming up and seems like it will be a HUGE turning point in his life. No date yet. May not happen until July. But! His mouth sores didn't strike this time! Prayers answered! What a huge break that was. And then, getting some days of feeling good, like a vacation from all the suffering. Huge, unexpected blessing.

Next event is just a blood test this week, and an IV drip if his blood test is bad. The following week will be the last Red Devil before the MRI to check on whether the tumor is shrinking. I'll post as things occur.


A friend of mine from high school, with whom I interact daily on Facebook (Clifford), went to Univ. of Fla. as did Bill. To these guys, apparently a Gator Brotherhood is a higher status than even blood brotherhood. Because Clifford has taken on an indescribable weight of compassion for Bill, even tho they've NEVER MET! Cliff has sent Bill flowers in Gator colors, sent me a card and encouraging messages, sent Bill a huge package containing Bill's new favorite tee shirt, a Gator Nation shirt, AND a really, really nice Gator Jacket, big, and padded and warm and beautiful! Bill is more in awe every time Clifford surprises his "Gator Brother" with something.


The biggest surprise of all came yesterday, when Clifford posted on Facebook, the words: "Solidarity with Bill" and then posted these photos, in this order, to our complete shock and surprise:

First photo: Cliff writes, "Today's shirt" to show Gator solidarity with Bill.

Below: Cliff writes, "Front before Bill." That's Cliff's head.

Below: Cliff writes, "Back before Bill." Cliff's head.

Below: Cliff writes, "Front after Bill."

Below: Cliff writes, "Back after Bill."

If there's any uncertainty about what just happened, it's this: Clifford, who has never even met Bill, just reads this blog and knows Bill through Facebook and through me, SHAVED HIS HEAD in solidarity with Bill! 

I will spare you my reaction which started with shock, followed by awe, followed by tears, followed by 8 thousand posts to Clifford, in essence naming him winner of Greatest Guy in the World contest for the 21st century.

I will end this blog here. Words fail me. Words fail to convey the impact and power of THIS kind of love. Clifford, you changed all of our lives. With LOVE.

"Greater love hath no man than this: that he would lay down his (hair) for a friend."

Speechless and tearing up again,
Beffie and the Bald but not Bald-Alone Cowboy
God Bless Clifford.
And all of you for loving Bill in your own ways. We are changed by your love. THANK you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012



Here he is (below) waiting for it to start, waving at the camera. Please notice and appreciate his new shoes: New Balance tennis shoes. He loves them. He is reading a new PG Wodehouse book (Uncle Fred in the Springtime) that our beloved Anna Barry recommended.

BELOW, you can see the nurse giving him the Red Devil. She's in her sort of haz-mat suit giving him the bright red drug in two fat syringes. Each syringe takes a half hour to inject, via his under-skin port, into his neck artery. Ew! She wears a body suit and rubber gloves, because if it hits skin, it burns a hole all the way down. Ew, again!

He is a mighty relaxed cowboy! Isn't he sumpn? Who wouldn't love him? You can see my perpetually messy hair accidentally got into the picture (on the left).

Anyway, Bill says that RIGHT NOW, he feels as good as he did as a young man, like he could ride his bike 100 miles, or golf 18, or do ANYTHING!

Why? It's the steroids! Tons of steroids! And HUGE fat intravenous bags full of anti-nausea medicine and feel-good preparations to get him ready for the Red Devil bomber, and to get him past the first couple of days.

REALLY. This feeling-great thing didn't happen the last times he got it! And I was afraid they wouldn't even give him chemo today, with how terrible he felt. He was SO beaten down yesterday and this morning, that he said his brain wasn't even working right. He said he just felt poisoned, foggy headed, depressed, nauseated 24 hours a day, and a bunch of stuff I can't write on a blog, but all bad.

Then this! We don't know how long he will feel great, but great he feels!

I'll post more frequently for the next week, as that is when the most dramatic things happen.

(Remember, if you'd rather get this blog within 1 minute of my writing it, in your email inbox, just send your email address. Then you don't have to keep checking the blog to see if it's up.)

Thank you for your prayers and love and thoughts and wishes and everythings. It's working! We are both soooooooooo grateful. THANK YOU for loving us!

We love you more! :)

Diamond Lil and Cowboy Bill

Sunday, June 17, 2012

We've Seen Better Days

I haven't posted every day, because I didn't think there was enough info to keep you awake.

But since it's Sunday, and Father's Day, here's an update:

Our heroic cowboy is being brave, but problems are getting to him.

1. Most of his hair is gone, along with half the volume of his beard, moustache, and eyebrows. He's scared to tug on his eyelashes. I tugged on his arm hair, and out came a clump of arm hair, so no more doing that. It's surprisingly traumatic, even for him, for hair to fall out. More than vanity. Just stinkin' weird!

2. He is sleeping a LOT. Very fatigued.

3. He is kind of yellow or yellowish-white. When he looks at himself in the mirror, he gets hungry for egg salad. Take it from there.

4. Upchucking in the mornings--automatic style. Involuntary. Not cool. Carries bucket. This morning, he was so miserable from the involuntary contractions of his abdomen that he was telling Jesus to come get him.

5. When this all comes together, he feels depressed, as you can imagine.

6. Has some serious new bleeding, a lot, and that is scaring us both. He doesn't really want to investigate it. His logic (which is almost solid): "I already have cancer. I don't want to know if I have more. All they can do is chemo, and they're already doing it. I refuse further surgery. And I have every right to say no to their offers of tests and procedures." He's right. Tough choices.

7. In just 3 days, Wednesday, he gets another WHOLE DOSE of the red devil plus Gemzar. In the condition he is in, I can't imagine how he's going to stand it. I will be beside him throughout all of it.

8. But for happy news, he had a great Father's Day, and is stretched out on the sofa watching his beloved golf. And he's hungry tonight, so I made him spaghetti, one of his favorites. See? It's not all bad!

Thank you for caring, praying, following--thank you always. Your love is rowing his boat, and he's hanging in there!


So much love.

Bethie and Cowboy Bill

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yay! Drama! My Favorite Thing! But Thank God, It Wasn't Bill This Time...

Today, we had a big drama. As you know, I am the drama queen of the family, and I love dramatic scary moments in real life. But this one happened to ME, and it wasn't quite as much fun going THRU the drama, as it was coming out safely at the end of it.

But first Bill!

He had his blood test and is doing so well, he did not even need the chemo drip they had him scheduled for! He is appearing indestructible to the "red devil."

And yes, his hair continues to gain its independence, but there's still some on his head!

He feels great, is only a little tired, and is eating in restaurants! It's just unbelievable! (((((((((((((prayer?)))))))))))))))).

Here ends today's report on Bill, the actual cancer/chemo patient and subject of this entire blog.


The rest of the blog is about me, attempting to take over the blog, upstage Bill, and get ALL YOUR ATTENTION FOR MYSELF! So if that seems tasteless, crude, discourteous, graceless, inconsiderate, self-serving, intrusive and vulgar, then skip the next part.

Cause it's all about MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

For a little while today, my inner panic button got pushed, and during that time, I was pretty darned sure that by the end of the day, I would be blind, de-eyed, glass-eyed, and possibly diagnosed as being filled with multiple cancers that had metastasized to my eye, and/or having brain-eating parasites that had started by digesting the back of my right eye.

An emergency trip to the World's Coolest Rock Star of an Ophthalmologist in Boone, saved me from these wretched illusions.

Since I already wrote the report of My Eye Apocalypse on Facebook, I'll just copy/paste that in here, for anyone who is forgiving enough to allow me to UPSTAGE my poor husband on his own blog, by my self-centered, shameless hunger for sympathy and attention. Here's the report as posted on Facebook.

Drama Queen Eye Hysteria Zombie Apocalypse Report: 

We were going to go do a chemo thing for Bill when I called the ophthalmologist (try spelling THAT word!), and as I described some new eye symptoms in one eye, the woman stopped me and said, STOP TALKING!! EMERGENCY!!! COME IN! COULD MEAN EMERGENCY SURGERY! 


My whole body went into shock, panic, weeks to live, glass eyes, blindness, respect for Helen Keller, theological questions like "Is God mad at me?". 

Even a valium wouldn't touch it. 

So we did the chemo trip, and THANK GOD Bill didnt need a drip. 

So we rushed to eye clinic, and this AWESOME GODLIKE 7 FOOT TALL REINCARNATED APOLLO of an eye dr came in and did this intense exam with dilated pupils (still dilated, I feel CRAZY with the pupils dilated!!!!!). 

Result: words I can't spell. Macular pucker something, with a retinal membrane something, and it probably won't ever need surgery, but if it does, I'd have to lie FACE DOWN on a bed for 14 days WITH A GAS BUBBLE IMPLANTED IN MY EYE TO RE-ATTACH THE RETINA! omg! 

During the exam, I started laughing about something, and then the Dr started laughing at what I was saying, then the nurse started laughing, then we were all laughing, and then the Dr said to Bill, who was there, "Does she talk this much all the time? My sympathies, man!" and gave Bill a fist bump!

Bill said (total straight face), "Two weeks upside-down without talking? Are you SURE she doesn't qualify for that?" 

We kept laughing so much that the Dr said, 'You are my favorite patient of the day," and when I was paying my bill, he came over and put his arm around me and said to the nurse, "She is my hero. Funniest patient ever." 

I asked the nurse, "Was there a mood elevator in those eye drops?" She said, "No, and I've never seen so much laughing in an eye exam in my life." 

I said, "Well, I thought I'd walk out of here with a glass eye. I guess I'm just so relieved." 

So I have 20/25 vision and NO eye disease except this THING that won't progress, most likely. 

Gawd. I went from almost throwing up with terror and weeping (Bill had to drive during that part), to laughing and wanting to kiss everyone I saw (Bill had to drive home during my euphoric episode, which euphoria was fully expressed all the way home, even though my eyes were closed, due to the bright sunlight and my dilated pupils). 

I don't know why he is now taking a huge nap. 

Poor Bill. He just said, "You're a piece of work, Beth, a piece of work."

I wear that cowboy out, sometimes. I really think I do.

Love to all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

He's Feeling Purty Good!

No news! Bill is feeling purty good, all things considered.

His hair is still on his head, falling out only slowly, like autumn leaves, a few strands drifting down at a time onto his shirt, or pillow.

But if he plucks a handful, he GETS a handful.

I was thinking of rubbing superglue all over his head to keep it on there.

His mouth sores are starting to return, and he has intermittent nausea, but is able to go out a little bit, and even drive. Occasionally, he turns all white, and then he knows to go to bed and rest or sleep.

Otherwise, his skin color usually looks like he just got back from a cruise in the Aegean Sea. Seems like the bright pink turned into a tan. That's weird!

Tomorrow he goes in and gets his blood tested, and maybe a two-hour drip of magnesium if he needs it. Otherwise, nothing scheduled till next week, when he goes in for the next round.

Love to all and thank you for caring!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Big moment in the Cowboy's chemo history.

FINALLY, his cowboy hair met its match.

And it's raining hair, beards, and moustaches at our house today.

Bill was sitting on the couch watching golf, and suddenly he yells, "Beth! I just pulled out a whole handful of hair!"

I ran in. "What? Show me! What do you mean?"

So he reaches up to his head and gently pulls on his hair, and out comes a huge clump of it.

Oh, wow.

Do you, reading this, feel that in the subconscious, archetypal, reptilian, dream sequence part of your consciousness?

Cause I sure do. And so does Bill.


It never sounded that weird before. Hair falling out. Chemo, yeah, yeah, yeah, tell me something I DON'T know.

But the first time you run your hand through your hair and that hair decides to take a vacation from your head, and shows up, by surprise, in a big ole clump between your fingers, you're thinking, "Dear Life As We've Known It Up Till Now:  You got some splainin to do."

Oh, wow. (Sorry to repeat myself, but oh, wow.)

So, not knowing what else to do, having skipped the class "Hair Coming Out in Clumps 101," I said, "Try your moustache."

Boom. Moustache clump attains freedom from face.

"Try your beard."

Beard clump: free at last.

Oh, wow.

So thinking I'm helping, I run and get him a big garbage can, a comb, and a mirror. He says, "Um, what is THAT?"

I said, "Well, in case you want to get it over with and just pull everything out."

(Later, during my knee-jerk inner-child panic phone call to my mom, the wild-minded atheist, she says, of the mirror, garbage can, comb idea: "WELL WHAT IN THE HELL DID YOU DO *THAT* FOR?" Thanks, Mom.)

So Bill politely thanks-but-no-thanks me, and returns said items to their original positions.

I said, "Bill, not that I'm upset by this but, I'm feeling,"

He says, "Horror?"


He says, "Me, too. Let's not talk about this any more and tomorrow, I'll go get everything shaved off. What's for dinner?"

"Sloppy Joes."


"And, Bill?"


"It COULD grow back curly and red. We could have fun with that."

Bill: "Sloppy Joes and what else?"


Apart from the hair trauma, he was sick all day, gagging, aching, fever, weak, unable to get off couch by himself sometimes. But we know that starting tomorrow, he begins his ascension to feeling almost human till the next dose.

Thank God for that!

And tonight, just for a minute, remember to be grateful for your hair.

Friday, June 8, 2012

(Sound of airplane in tailspin) then....BAM!

Bill Drennan is one hurtin' cowpoke today.

Tomorrow's another day.

Love, Bethie

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Day After 2nd Red Devil: A-OK!

Our Man of Steel, BillyBob Drennan, is following, so far, the identical path he followed during the first 14 days after Red Devil/Gemzar chemo #1.

That means that today, day 1 after chemo #2, he is filled with energy, from steroids, and has a great appetite and refused to stay home and rest, despite my pleas. He made a to-do list for us with 11 things on it, and we did them all!

His only symptom is that his skin is bright red. According to our journal, tonight he will get a fever, but if he takes his nausea meds every 6 hours, including setting his alarm through the night, we hope he won't be upchucking in the red bucket tomorrow, like he was last time, on Day 3, from not taking his meds through the night.

Tomorrow, the journal says he will begin to feel quite ill, in several ways, and will start running a fever.

But by the 2nd week, he should start to recover.

Will this pattern hold, even though chemo has a cumulative effect? We don't know. We know he won't be BETTER than he was in round 1, but we hope he isn't any worse. (PS: He hasn't lost any hair at all, and should have lost it all by now. Ain't he sumpn?)

(By the way, those scary BUN/Creatinine scores were re-checked, and his body had pulled out of it. He came out of the danger zone and is in the normal range again on that. Whew!)

The Onco Bronco said that after the 4th round, he will go to Wake Forest and get another MRI identical to the one that found this new tumor by his heart, so they can see if this chemo is shrinking that inoperable tumor. If the tumor has responded well, he'll get another round of red devil, then 5 more rounds of totally different drugs as a followup (ten MORE weeks of chemo, after the 10 red devil weeks). If the tumor isn't responding to the red devil, he won't get any more red devil, and they'll probably switch chemo drugs, to find one that works.

I'll be posting! THANK YOU for caring and loving and praying and hoping on his behalf.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." -- Ps. 23

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chemo Round 2 All Done!

We are home now, and Bill is finished with round 2 of his chemo!

He got "red devil" again (hasn't lost any hair yet) and Gemzar, along with steroids, and bags and bags of anti-nausea medicines.

The whole thing was kind of quick, and included free lunches brought to us right in our chairs!

Only freaky effect so far is that when Bill walked into the clinic, he looked like a robust, well-fed, regular guy who might easily have just come off the golf course.

But before he even got out of his chair at the end of the "poisoning session," he looked like he'd just spent the day with Dracula. He was completely drained of all normal color and had turned yellow with a tinge of green and gray (green and gray were my high school colors; they look good on a cheerleader but not on Bill's face.) The nurses didn't think he looked like he could even walk to the car. It was strange!

So now he is trashed out tired, but zippy from the steroids, and we have a better idea what to expect each day, because I kept the 14-day detailed side effects journal for him.

Our carpet beetle apocalypse ends tomorrow with the final round of pesticide in one room, door closed, and exhaust fan blowing out all the pesticide. In 3 days, it's all dried out and gone.

I'll post at the next juncture of fun!

Love and gratefulness,
Bethie and the Cowboy

Monday, June 4, 2012

Our 24th Wedding Anniversary!

Today we celebrate 24 years of the funnest, happiest, craziest marriage ever.

Bill feels absolutely great! In fact, his beard (which had quit growing this week, so we thought his hair would fall out) has started growing again, and he hasn't lost any hair at all. It was supposed to be gone by about now.

We are going out to eat, and he is hungry! NO MOUTH SORES!

And what timing. His next chemo isn't until Wednesday (day after tomorrow), so we get our anniversary date landing at the end of his chemo cycle, when he feels best. Well, THIS round he feels best, any way.

I refuse to even ponder the idea that this isn't a little supernatural!

Prayer. Stuff happens. You don't ALWAYS get the answer you want, but you don't "never" get it either. That places a reasonable doubt on the claim that prayer NEVER works. Reasonable doubt. Yeah. Prayer sometimes does work.

Love and happiness to all of you. We will toast you tonight with Peruvian Merlot.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sunday--a Great Day!

We heard from a doctor, and found out that it was safe to wait till Monday, and then get with the oncologist about the BUN score. This Dr said that score could be the result of other things besides kidney trouble.

Thank God for that doctor, getting us that info on a weekend! Blessings on his whole family!

I have NOTHING TO REPORT! Bill feels better than he has felt in the ENTIRE YEAR since his last chemo. Can you even believe that? His nausea is under control for the first time, his gastro issues are resolved, his bag breaks are resolved, his hair is still in place, his color is kind of good--I wouldn't say great--his eyes still look too big, but he is active, cheerful, hungry, eating, sleeping, and even wants to go GOLFING tomorrow, 9 holes. Asked if I'd come and drive the cart. Oh somebody shoot me, please. I hate to say no, but ohhhhhhhhhhhh how I don't wanna do that!!!!

There you go! SOMETHING WONDERFUL is going on, that we even got these two weeks over with, and he's not hooked up to IVs, throwing up, or growing thin and wizened, as the poem goes.

The Christians: it's PRAYER! The agnostics: It's MEDICINE. The atheists: It's cause and effect and blind luck! The Pastafarians: It's the Spaghetti Monster!

Bless you for your love and prayers and thoughts and hopes, wishes, and words of comfort. We love you so much, and are doing this 100% WITH YOU.

Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking with it.

Love and a happy night here!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saturday. To OMG or not to OMG.

Trying so hard to be brief. <---That sentence just made it longer. <---So did that one.

Bill is feeling really good, relatively speaking. Just a bit of nausea, fatigue, mouth pain, but all manageable. Next appointment is this week, Wed. I think, to get the red devil again. He still has his hair.

Only thing is that I looked at his blood test results printout from a couple of days ago. I've researched this till I'm cross-eyed, but have not found any page that does not agree with this statement: If your Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) to creatinine ratio gets higher than 20, you are in "prerenal azotemia" which means stage 1 of kidney failure.

Bill's ratio is 22.2!

Technical terms you can skip if you want: his baseline blood test with family Dr. showed elevated BUN 23, when the limit is 18. Two weeks later, after one red devil, his BUN jumped to 32, where the limit on that test was 21. His creatinine stayed at 1.4. For the BUN to jump and the creatinine to stay the same is worse than if both went up.

So I go to the online calculator to get his ratio using his test results. His ratio with the family Dr. was high, but within the limits, definitely under 20.

But now his BUN : creatinine ratio is 22.2:1, and EVERY MEDICAL JOURNAL I've read says that above 20, you are in prerenal azotemia and you have 24 HOURS BEFORE NECROSIS SETS IN AND YOU LOSE A KIDNEY OR go into total kidney failure.

Ok. I know a google degree in medicine is worthless. But where do I err in those facts? Bill said that TO HIS KNOWLEDGE the Oncologist DID NOT LOOK AT HIS BLOOD TEST RESULTS, and they sent him home. The nurses only looked to see if he needed magnesium, he thought. I wasn't there. Or she looked and didn't notice this? Or she looked and thought it was ok? The latter is my hope: that somehow you're SUPPOSED to go into pre-kidney failure and receive no treatment, and that we're safe, and the entire internet is wrong.

Even though my reading tells me this is a dire emergency and that right this minute, he should be in ICU with people working on him to save his kidneys. Yes. The pages I read said ICU. And 24 hours.

But what do I know?

Bill refuses to read about it, let me discuss it with him, or call a doctor.

So here we sit in a standoff, with me wringing my hands and Bill refusing to THINK about it. He had to take a valium when I just mentioned it!

The carpet beetle drama continues but, yes, pales in comparison to the above. I am a nervous wreck. But Bill is online shopping for golf balls as we speak.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?