Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rianne is CANCER-FREE!

“I cannot live scared to death to live!” Rianne would wake up some days with an anxiety attack greeting her even before she left the bed. “The anxiety is killing me,” she often said. Rianne couldn’t take it anymore! She was scheduled to meet with her Oncologist on December 21st, but her anxiety was choking the strength right out of her. She had to know and she had to know immediately. On Tuesday, December 14th she made the call, begging to know the results of the Post-Treatment PET Scan. Minutes later her Oncology Specialist returned the call and told Rianne that the Scan looked clean and that Rianne is CANCER-FREE!
Tears of joy overcame her as she struggled to catch her breath. She was at work when she took the call, which was very positive, as she has an incredible support group at Curry County Title. She enjoyed a moment of celebration with her co-workers before she gave me a visit. Katie brought her to the high school to tell me the good news. I was just locking up the Metal Shop when she slowly stepped out of the vehicle and began her walk toward me. Her face was long and her eyes were red. It was the first day since April that she drove herself to work, so I immediately assumed that something was awfully wrong with her. Before she reached me quick scenarios ran through my mind - “is she sick and needs me to take her home? Does she have anxiety again and does she need me to take her to her doctor? Did something happen to one of her parents?” Naturally I assumed the worst, as I’ve learned throughout her battle with cancer that I should never get my hopes up too high. As she continued to walk toward me I read the face that I have seen look that way so many times before. I knew that what she was about to tell me was not going to be good.
“I called Susan and got the results of the PET Scan back.” She said.
“The cancer is back, isn’t it?!” I dejectedly said.
“She told me that they couldn’t find anything and that I’m cancer-free!” The words barely made it out of her mouth before she exploded into tears. She was crying so hard that her body shook. She leaned into my arms and sobbed. I asked her if they were tears of joy and she simply shook her head “yes!” She no longer needed to talk – all she wanted was to be held. Tears flowed from my eyes, as well.
Since then plenty has happened. She was greeted with numerous phone calls from friends and loved ones who expressed their congratulations to her for being cancer-free and winning the fight. Her anxiety levels have dropped drastically since she heard the good news - and deservedly so! A giant burden was lifted off of her shoulders when she was told that the cancer was gone.
Unfortunately, however, she has not yet returned to her normal self. “Give it 6 more months” she was told by Susan, her Oncology Specialist. “Your whole existence on the face of this earth has been put into question.” It has been great to be cancer-free, but the frustrations of the recovery period have caused some setbacks.
On Saturday, December 18th she woke with a headache and couldn’t shake it through the course of the day. That evening, Ty and Ashley dropped off the grandkids and went on a date. The combination of a long day, a headache and the activity of baby-sitting quickly developed into a migraine. Her eyes became cloudy and every sound and movement caused it to worsen. I eventually called Ty and he came to the house to pick up the boys. I led Rianne to the van and slowly drove her to the Emergency Room, as each turn and bump in the road intensified the pain. The ER nurse remembered Rianne from her migraine in August and immediately cared for her. This time the doctor went straight to the Dilaudid and had her pain lessened quicker than the treatment for the unbearable August migraine did. We left the ER after a few hours compared to spending numerous hours there 4 months earlier.
She is cancer-free, but she still needs to watch her every move, as do I. Unfortunately, I brought home a cold from the school the last day before Christmas Break began. A few days later her throat was sore. With her immune system suppressed due to the cancer treatment, she struggles longer to fight off colds. She was sick for well over a week and still wakes up with a stuffy nose and a cough.
Her spirits, however, are high and continue to climb. Knowing that she is cancer-free has given her a mental and emotional boost unlike anything she has felt in the past 9 months. Your support, love and friendship have also continued to give her a boost. We both appreciate you and thank you for all that you do!

Monday, December 6, 2010

More Birthday Fun!

I can't resist - I HAVE TO post a cute video and photo from our dinner tonight with Bob and Pam Hunter celebrating Rianne's birthday. We changed our initial plans and went to the Mexican Restaurant in Brookings. It sure was great to see her laughing and smiling the entire time! She had a terrific evening and a wonderful birthday!! She wants to thank all of you who sent cards, letters, texts, phone calls and birthday wishes!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Rianne!

November was another roller coaster month. Rianne spent half of it fighting off a tough cold. It didn’t really have her down and out, but it just stuck around. She finally got rid of it and has been doing fine since.
On Veterans Day we decided to get her out of the house and go for a quad ride. We hadn’t been on them since last November, just before my back surgery. We took Kelbi with us and rode up to Sundown Mountain. We put in about 15 miles and Rianne did well the entire trip! She pleaded with me to let her drive with Kelbi on her quad - I was concerned with her having to multi-task, but she proved that she could do it! The video below is one that I shot of her driving by with her new canine hood ornament!
We had a Happy Thanksgiving this year and truly have been blessed! We celebrated Thanksgiving at Bob and Pam Hunter’s home on Thursday and really enjoyed ourselves. Dustin and Sheila Hunter were there, as well as Sheila’s parents, Brad and Carla Van Prooyen. Pam’s sister, Sandy and her husband, Jerry were there, as well. They have all been great supporters for us. On Friday we again celebrated Thanksgiving with our daughter-in-law, Ashley’s side of the family at Ty and Ashley’s home. Most of the group watched the Oregon Ducks Football Game, but Rianne spent the entire time playing with her Grandsons!
Anxiety has been her worse enemy since her treatments have been final. She does fine when I’m here with her, but when I leave in the morning to head for the school anxiety overwhelms her. It digs deep into her emotions and thoughts, breaking her down when nobody is there for her to confide in. She often calls me with a quiver in her voice. She sometimes breaks down in tears when the girls from work pick her up. I’ve left her for short periods to hunt and fish and she is anxious the entire time that I am away from her. One day she told me to go fish with a friend and 20 minutes later she called crying, begging me to come home because of her anxiety. I did, however, manage to catch a 30 pound salmon on one of the trips! On Sunday afternoons she gets anxious about starting a new work week. When we go to Coos Bay for tests or Blood Draws she is anxious during the entire ride up. The list goes on – bottom line is she is having a VERY difficult time allowing herself to relax due to her struggles with anxiety!
Yesterday we took a road trip out of state to buy her a birthday present! She turns 53 tomorrow! We headed to Crescent City, California to visit the Home Depot which is armed with excellent Christmas Decorations. Her favorites are animated figures for the yard. I told her to get what she wanted – she smiled and was like a kid in a candy shop! She grabbed a few good ones then we headed back to Oregon.
Happy Birthday Rianne! Today we spent a few hours arranging the decorations in the yard. She always goes “All Out” when it comes to decorating for Christmas. If you know much about Rianne, you know that Christmas is her favorite time of the year! After we finish decorating the yard, you can bet on it that the inside of our house will be quite festive! She is absolutely amazing at decorating for Christmas!
We are very grateful for our many blessings – especially during this holiday season! We have so much to be thankful for! We hope that you, too, are counting your blessings! Have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and enjoy the rest of the holidays!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

She's Not Out of the Woods Yet!

Overall, October was a good month for Rianne. Her spirits are high and she has been feeling decent for the past two weeks or so. She fought to get over a cold that she caught and fought for 10 days, but lately she has been doing well. Still – it’s day to day and we are aware of that!
2 weeks ago we returned to Coos Bay for a follow-up appointment with the Radiation Oncologist. It went well and he was confident that the radiation was successful. Rianne asked him to look at a new lump that she discovered on her leg. He checked it and told her that it was very likely NOT a new tumor. She wasn’t buying it! Nor should she! Keep in mind that she was told that a lump on her head was “nothing” and worrying would only make it worse……that lump grew into a cancerous tumor and changed her life! She pleaded with the Radiation Oncologist to take a look at it through an MRI or CT Scan. At first he resisted, but when her tears began to flow and her words began to come with difficulty, he agreed to have it looked at.
We left the Radiation Center and went up to Bay Area Hospital to have an ultrasound done on the lump. The technician did all she could to find a mass on the monitor, but nothing showed up. That was good news to hear, as Rianne was stressing about it since it surfaced a month or so ago. When she found it, she was told to use hot compresses on it, which didn’t seem to do much for it at first. Apparently the compresses did work enough to help shrink it enough for it to NOT show up on the ultrasound!
Our next stop was North Bend Medical Center for a blood draw and discussion with Rianne’s oncologist. Her blood was drawn by her favorite nurse, Teresa, who is always gentle with her Port and enjoyable to talk to. After the blood was drawn, we met with Susan, the oncology practicioner, who has been great to work with. Rianne feels very comfortable with her and relates to her well. We’ve been anxious to hear about the results of the CT Scan from earlier this month and Susan went over them with us. It wasn’t exactly what Rianne expected to hear!
The CT Scan found no lymphoma……but it did discover an enlarged spleen with a lesion on it that was stable, some fluid around her heart, a mild hernia in her belly, a small cyst on her right ovary, and mild diverticulosis in her large intestine. The new findings weren’t what she wanted to hear and caused her some immediate concern. Susan, however, assured her that the new symptoms would be watched closely and that she could improve them with proper diet and exercise. We left the meeting with Susan very relieved that no further lymphoma was discovered.
But she isn’t out of the woods yet!
Rianne will still need to go through another PET Scan and Brain MRI. We are especially anxious about the Brain MRI, as it will tell us if the entire tumor beneath her skull has disappeared or not. Both the Oncologist and the Radiation Oncologist feel confident that it is gone, but we won’t rest until all of the tests are final!
It sure has been an exhausting 7 months to say the least. Rianne has been working at Curry County Title lately and has been averaging about 5 or more hours a day. She is exhausted when she’s ready to go home, sleeps well and returns to work another day. Her weekends have been spent resting – which is exactly what she needs!
We hope you are all well. We’re in the season to give thanks – and we are sure thankful for your love, support, friendship and prayers. We hope that you all are healthy and happy during this season!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Radiation Leaves it's Mark

Rianne has been recovering from the Radiation Treatments slowly but surely - but mostly slowly. I’m not sure if its me or her, but it seems that her progress has been at a snail’s pace. It could be that my expectations for her are to recover quickly or it could just be that she is extremely tired and has taken time to progress. Either way, she is still on the roller coaster.
Rianne has a few sayings, which definitely provide us with wisdom during these tough months. “By the inch it’s a cinch, by the yard it’s hard.” I like it because her recovery is actually taking more time than I thought it would and this saying reminds me that ANY progress in a positive direction is good progress. I need to expect her recovery to take more time – weeks and maybe even months to be realistic.
“Don’t try to eat the whole elephant in one bite” is another trademark quote from Rianne. If we expect her to be able to recover all at once, without any setbacks, then we are expecting too much. Her recovery will be more of a challenge than I initially assumed it would be. By allowing her to take it a day at a time, one bite at a time, we are allowing her to recover at a reasonable pace.
But the thoughts and fears of my wife having cancer continue to consume me daily, and I struggle with anxiety at times, waiting for the oncologist to say that she is cancer-free. The demons in our heads tend to eat away at us, especially when we worry about the possibility of the cancer returning.
In the meantime, Rianne has been to work several times in the past two weeks. She has struggled at work due to the chemo-brain. Most of us rise in the morning and head off to work, but Rianne has daily fights with anxiety the second I leave the house. She feels an anxious loneliness and fears going to work because she is afraid that her memory will lapse and she worries about not being able to stay on task. She is anxious when people approach her because she is uncertain of who they are. She knows the faces but the names don’t surface quickly enough in her brain that has been affected by the chemotherapy. She pushes herself to do a little more each day, yet feels that she can’t keep up. Returning to work has been an emotional roller coaster in itself. Yet she couldn’t ask for better bosses than Bryan Little and Dave Little. They have been unbelievably supportive of her throughout this entire ordeal. They have had huge hearts and continue to support her 100%. “Just do what you can while you are here” and “if you feel that you need to go home we understand” are two examples of their support for Rianne during these difficult times in her life. Her co-workers have also been absolutely supportive of her return to work. Becky, Katie, Lacey and Carol have picked her up and brought her home each day and have helped her at work.
Rianne says that it seems like Becky sees most of her tears when she picks her up for work. One day last week before she went to work, the anxiety overwhelmed Rianne and she had a meltdown. Becky picked her up and she sobbed from the second she got in the car. They drove a mile toward work and had to pull over to talk. Becky said, “its okay, why don’t you let me take you back home for the day.” Rianne called me at the school and just sobbed. The chemo-brain and the anxiety were more than she could take that day. It was best for her to just curl up on the couch, put a movie in the DVD player and let her mind relax.
Evenings have been good to Rianne. She has had a good appetite, eats well, then relaxes on the couch and goes to bed early. She is most comfortable when I’m close to her. She has been sleeping well at night because she “cheats” by taking Ambien to help her brain shut off for the night. At least that’s what she calls it…I say it’s a good strategy for her brain to take a well-deserved break!
It’s the 18th of October and, as I type, I reflect on the road that she and I have been down together since April. It has NOT been entirely exciting or enjoyable. We do, however, count our blessings! Some cancer patients have not made it until today, and we are both aware of that. Each day brings different challenges, yet often new blessings. We are both very happy to still have each other to lean on!

Monday, October 4, 2010

One Rocky Road

Rianne’s Radiation Treatment is complete! Last Monday Rianne endured her final visit to the facility for radiation. What a DANG TOUGH and amazing woman she is! I’m really proud of her for all that she has overcome during the past 6 months. She has been through one rocky road during this difficult course in her life!
Luane drove Rianne up to Coos Bay for her final radiation appointment a week ago, which allowed her parents to again get a break from traveling. It was a good day for Rianne and she even received a certificate for completing her scheduled treatments! They also gave her the mask that was used to align her head to the same position for each treatment. It left little diamonds on her face each time, which are easy to see in the photo on this post. She was relieved to reach the final day of radiation, as the fatigue was beginning to take a toll on her.
She was exhausted early in the week due to the effects of the radiation. Her parents were both also exhausted, so much that they slept the entire ride home from one of her treatments. They are yet to see the photo in this post, which should certainly get them to laugh. They pulled the 5th Wheel out of the driveway and left for Clarkston on Wednesday. It was great to have their support while they were here for the past three weeks. We are both very grateful for their help during that tough month of September.
Her spirits have been strong and her energy levels are slowly but surely increasing. Yesterday, Ty brought Kacen and Brant over and they played non-stop with “Gramma” for two and a half hours. She also worked a few hours during two days last week! Her attitude has been great and she wants to desperately succeed, especially at work.
Today I drove her to Coos Bay for a follow-up CT Scan. She had a little anxiety before the procedure, which is…well…Rianne! She’s felt that way before each and every appointment, so why should she change now?! We won’t hear about the results until later this week or into next week, so keep your fingers crossed! What we want to hear is that she is cancer-free from the shoulders down through the CT Scan results!
Thank you again for all of your love, support, prayers, gifts, letters, phone calls, text messages and friendship! We appreciate ALL that you have done. We love you all! Have a GREAT week!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Only SHE Really Knows What She Feels

16 Radiation Treatments down and only 4 to go! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter and brighter! Rianne, however cannot.
Tonight she went to bed feeling very discouraged. It absolutely crushes me to see her down in the dumps, but it’s part of the territory with the cancer treatment. Bottom line is she’s exhausted from the past 6 months of torture on her body, mind and emotions. Her parents have been taking her up to Coos Bay for the past couple of weeks, and they too are feeling fatigued.
Tomorrow her friend, Luane Merkley will take her to her 17th Radiation Treatment while her parents take the day to rest. I’ll take her up on Thursday, as she has an appointment with her Oncologist and a blood draw following the Radiation Treatment.
It’s gut-wrenching to reflect on her past 6 months – the initial surgery to remove the tumors…..the phone call announcing her cancer…..the battery of tests…..the chemotherapy…..the unexpected blood transfusions…the intrathecal shots into her spine…..the radiation therapy…..and the emotional roller coaster to go with it all. It’s a wonder my wife is still able to function at all.
The “chemo-brain” has caused her unnecessary stress. She struggles to control it and it tends to disrupt her emotions. Rianne is a perfectionist – even through all of this – and it’s tough for her to accept that she has difficulty with her level of concentration.
She has worked hard to keep her brain “active” to combat the chemo-brain. She reads, works on household chores and has been digging in deep with the Sudoku Puzzles. I’m really proud of her for challenging herself to stay active and to keep herself engaged in activities.
But it is what it is…’s cancer. It’s a serious, life-threatening illness that attacks everything you have. Lately it’s attacked her deepest emotions, consuming every thought she has, every minute of every day. We, her supporters and loved ones, really don’t know what she’s going through because we aren’t Rianne. Only SHE really knows what she feels. She has fought off serious depression, feelings of hopelessness, fear for her life and the thought of losing it all. Sadly, adding to her anxiety, a fellow cancer patient whom she was going through treatment with passed away from the disease two weeks ago. He was in the Radiation Treatment Center one day and was gone the next. She’s had humbling support from all of us, but she still has the cancer inside of her, keeping her riding the emotional roller coaster.
But then again, tomorrow is another day. She may rise in the morning with a smile on her face and walk straight to the next Sudoku Puzzle, prepared to destroy it and claim another victory. That’s exactly what I believe she will do to the cancer inside of her – she will beat it and claim a victory over it!
Although she went to bed feeling discouraged, I’m confident that she’ll push herself down the stretch and fight to the bitter end of her treatment. She is, without a doubt, the strongest person I have ever known! She has been beaten down by the cancer numerous times, but she continues to fight and bounce back every time, no matter what the circumstance!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

She's Itchin' to Ride Her Quad!

The days go by and Radiation Therapy continues for Rianne. She is finished with Number 11 and has 9 to go! Treatments have been going smoothly, although she has been a bit tired the past few days. She also has some tenderness in the radiated area on her head. Overall, she is doing well though!
Her parents have been taking her to the treatments for over a week now. We are so grateful to have them here to support her and to help with the transportation to her radiation appointments. We are also grateful to have had friends also transport her. The trips up to Coos Bay have given her a chance to visit with friends and her parents.
In the morning I will drive her to Brookings to get the crown permanently installed. She did fine with a temporary for a couple of weeks. We will then head north to Coos Bay for her 12th radiation appointment, then head to NBMC for a blood draw. We hope things go smoothly.
Over the weekend we decided to get away and took the trailers up the mountain for a campout. Hap Flynn joined us so that he and I could go elk hunting with our bows. Rianne and her parents held the fort down at our campsite with some additional help from the dogs! It was great to get Rianne out into the fresh mountain air for a couple of days. She sure misses riding her quad and is itching to get back to the habit after her treatments are final!
Tomorrow will be a long day, so I’ll close for now. We hope you are all well and are counting your blessings! We are truly blessed and thank you all for your love, prayers and support!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Radiation - Day 2

Day 2 went well for Rianne today. She was driven up to Coos Bay by Pam Hunter and they enjoyed the time together. At 1:30 she had her radiation appointment, then she had a meeting with the Radiation Oncologist to discuss her treatment. She will meet with him on each Tuesday during her four week treatment period.
After the radiation appointments she went to meet with her Oncologist. He discussed a few things with her during the visit. He expressed his relief that her daily headaches were going away and also told her to continue taking Tylenol if her low grade fever continues.
He had one last thing to say - that her tumor has shrunk and that radiation should help considerably. He stated that the number of her radiation treatments will be 20 instead of the 30 that he initially thought would be necessary.
Good news to hear! When her Radiation Treatment is completed, he will run some final tests to be certain that the cancer is under control. Hopefully by the middle of October her treatment will be finalized!

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Play Dead and Just Lie There!"

1 down and 19 to go! Rianne survived her first day of Radiation Treatment today. Her day didn’t begin very well, but it improved consistently by the hour. The anxiety Rianne felt the past few days was stressful, but it left her the moment she stepped out of the Radiation Treatment Center today.
We rose around 7:00 and Rianne was feeling some anxiety, so she called Becky
Howlett, her co-worker, to talk. She sobbed and cried on the phone, expressing her fears of the radiation and side effects to Becky. After talking she felt better and was able to calm down and relax a bit thanks to the conversation. "Feel my arms around you and know that I love you" were Becky's words of support for Rianne.
Unlike past trips up north, she wasn’t feeling nauseated. She was able eat a good breakfast and did well on the trip up. When we arrived at the center she even posed and smiled for a few pictures. We entered the center and sat in the waiting room for around 30 minutes. While we were there she asked patients questions about the treatment and she was told that, compared to the chemotherapy, it was “a walk in the park.” She was also told to “play dead and just lie there.” The advice was well taken, as Rianne was escorted into the treatment room by her nurse, Jamie, and 15 minutes later she was done. It took about 10 minutes of preparing her and reviewing the programming on the mask and 5 minutes of radiation. When she was finished she had a smile on her face and a look of relief on it as well.
We had some shopping to do at Walmart, then met Hap Flynn for lunch, as he had appointments in Coos Bay today. Rianne ate a good lunch, then we did some more shopping. We then met Katie Hensley and her mom, Mary Hawthorn at the mall, as they were also in Coos Bay for appointments. We had a good visit, then we headed for home. Rianne did well on the ride to Gold Beach and didn’t develop a headache at all today.
Shortly after we arrived home, Vivian Hage stopped by to drop off some vegetables and to visit with us. It was great to talk to her and feel her support for us. As we’ve said before, it is absolutely humbling to feel so much support and love from people. After a great visit with her we received a few phone calls to make a good day even better. Overall, it was a very positive day for Rianne, which made it the same for me!
Tomorrow is Day 2. Pam Hunter will take Rianne to her treatment for the next 2 days and Debbie Teller will take her on Thursday. Rianne has decided to allow people who have offered their help drive her up for radiation so that she can visit with them while she feels able to do so. We are hoping that she will be able to make the trip daily, but if she feels that she cannot, she will stay in the apartments at the Radiation Treatment Center.
Thank you for your love, support and prayers. We are very grateful for all of it! We hope you are all healthy and well. Enjoy your week!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Migraine Misery :(

This was a tough week for Rianne to say the least. Just when we thought that she had endured the worse possible pain, she developed a migraine yesterday that put her in the Emergency Room for over 4 hours. It has been a very frustrating 2 weeks off, as we expected her to improve consistently. Instead, she has continued to struggle.
On Tuesday she went to the dentist to receive a temporary crown on a tooth that chipped a couple of weeks ago. We have been told that the Radiation Treatment is tough on the dental work, so we made sure to get her chipped tooth crowned before she is deep into the treatments. It could be up to 3 weeks before the permanent crown arrives, so we were insistent in getting the temporary crown put in. We were fortunate to have our dentist work her into the schedule and get the temporary put in on Tuesday.
While she was in the dentist chair, I called her Oncologist to receive instruction on what to do for her fever, which continued to harass her throughout the day. We were instructed to take her to the Emergency Room so that she could be “processed.” The nurses drew blood to check her counts, took a urine sample, took a chest x-ray and the doctor checked her heart, lungs, throat, eyes and ears. All looked good, which has stumped her Oncologist because he and we know that something is amiss. That evening we continued to fight the fever with Tylenol, as we have for well over a week.
On Wednesday she continued to struggle with fatigue, sore shoulders and the mild fever. She just didn’t feel very good all day long. She laid flat most of the day, getting up to eat lunch and sit on the deck to watch the hummingbirds feed in her 7 feeders. They help get her mind off things temporarily, but the radiation scheduled for Monday is causing her stress and anxiety already. She went to bed early that evening.
On Thursday she woke after 10:00 and relaxed on the deck, again watching the hummingbirds. We ate lunch and I checked her temperature, which was close to normal all day. I asked her if she had a headache and she said she was doing fine.
Around 3:00 she said she needed to lie down and went into the bedroom. I sat on the bed and typed on the laptop while she tried to rest. She suddenly felt a headache and took a couple of pain killers in an attempt to combat it. It didn’t let up and she soon felt nauseated. Minutes later she ran to the bathroom and vomited. When she returned she lied back down and mentioned that her headache was worsening. She tried to sleep but couldn’t and around 5:30 she said that she could feel a migraine coming on.
From that point it simply got worse and worse. 30 minutes later she again rushed to the bathroom to vomit and dropped to her knees, as her head hung low toward the floor. I held her head up and could feel that she could barely support it on her own. She heaved and heaved, yet little came out of her stomach, as it was already emptied from her previous trip to the bathroom. When her stomach was done thrusting, she cried, sobbed and begged me to take her to the Emergency Room again. I tried to get her to her feet, but she couldn’t move as the pain was excruciating. I lifted her up and helped her stagger to the bedroom to get out of her nightgown and into her sweats and a t-shirt. She barely made it to the van, as the pain was more than she could bear.
We arrived at the ER at Curry General Hospital at 6:25 and she immediately had blood drawn. She received a Demerol shot around 7:15 with Zofran to reduce the nausea. Previously when she has had intense migraines, a Demerol shot conquers it and makes her drowsy enough to sleep through the night within 15 minutes of it being administered. Last night when the shot was injected, her pain was a “10” on the pain scale (1-10; 10 being the worse pain possible) and after 30 minutes her pain had not changed at all and the nausea was still there. She was well beyond miserable and it hurt her to even talk. She clutched a barf bag in her hand during the entire visit in fear that her stomach would heave while she was on the bed.
We pleaded for a second Demerol shot, which she received around 7:45. Still, her pain was excruciating, as the injection didn’t seem to touch her pain. At 8:15 the ER doctor decided to give her an injection of Dilaudid, which he felt would help her pain. Slowly the three drugs worked as her pain level decreased and the nausea lessened. At 8:45 she felt that her pain was at a “9”, which was actually a relief, as I could see that she was feeling better. When I’m in pain, “better” is a “6” or lower, but for Rianne a “9” was tolerable. As I’ve said before, she absolutely humbles me with what she has experienced since this ordeal began. Minutes later, the doctor ordered another Dilaudid shot and it was administered just before 9:00.
She lied on the bed with the lights turned off until the radiologist wheeled her into a room for a CT Scan. Blood tests and urine sample were fine, which ruled out an infection, so the CT Scan was necessary to search for an aneurism or tumor. The CT Scan results soon returned and were negative. Shortly after 9:00 Hap Flynn showed up to visit and show support for Rianne - and his timing was perfect, as she was steadily improving. She was able to talk again without as much pain and told us that her pain was down to an “8.” At 10:45 we thanked Hap for his visit, slowly walked out of the Emergency Room, loaded ourselves into the van and drove home.
Rianne staggered into the house, clinging onto my arm as I led her in the door, then slipped into the bed, looking very foggy to say the least. She plunked her head on her pillow and appeared to be out for the night. I brought the dogs into the house and checked on her. She insisted that she needed to take her nightly medication, so I gave her the pills with a cup of water. 5 minutes later she sat up, grabbed the trash can next to the bed and literally blew them out of her stomach. I stood next to her in disbelief that her stomach rejected the pills and projected them out of her with that much force. She lied back down and again tried to sleep, but couldn’t. 30 minutes later she tried to take her sleeping pills and succeeded in keeping them down. She was now slightly wired and kept looking up at the TV from her pillow next to me. I finally decided to just turn off the TV and scratch her arm to soothe her into falling asleep, which she soon did.
She slept soundly throughout the night, sleeping in until 11:00 this morning. We could tolerate no more and again contacted her Oncologist. He directed us to drive to Coos Bay today to have her endure another Lumbar Puncture to again check her spinal fluid. Meningitis is a major concern when the spine is accessed, especially as many times as she has been contacted, which is now in double figures. We arrived at Bay Area Hospital for her 2:30 appointment and her fluid was drawn. The surgeon spoke with each of us and felt that her fluid looked clean, but also advised us that the lab would need to analyze it. We left the hospital 30 minutes after the appointment, stopped to pick up a birthday present for our grandson, Brant, who is 2 years old today, then headed for Gold Beach. We stopped at the Wardle home to give Brant his gift, visited for a few minutes, then got Rianne home to rest.
She had a better day today than most this week. She had a slight headache for a good portion of the day, but ate a good breakfast, lunch and dinner and didn’t feel nauseated, even during the trip to Coos Bay. She felt decent after arriving home and watched a movie while resting on the couch. She even took her meds tonight without having them thrown across the room by her angry stomach, which is always a plus! As I finish typing this entry, she is softly snoring in the bed next to me, which is actually a very welcome sound to me, as it shows that she is finally resting comfortably!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Two Weeks Off!

The Cancer Roller Coaster Ride continues. Rianne received her 8th and final intrathecal chemotherapy shot on Thursday, August 12th. Our son, Ty Wardle, took her to Coos Bay for the shot, as I went on an antelope hunting trip to Eastern Oregon. Her Oncologist decided to give her a couple of weeks to recover from the chemo before her radiation begins, which is scheduled to start on Monday, August 30th.
I called from Juntura, Oregon to check in on how she did with the final shot and was happy to hear that it went well for her. She had the usual headache, but all else went well. That evening her parents arrived so that they could stay with her while I was away on the hunting trip.
On Monday, August 16th I returned home. All I could think about while I was gone was Rianne! It was good to get the antelope hunt out of my system, but I didn’t handle being away from her well. Rianne, her parents and I met in Bandon, as Rianne had another appointment with her doctor concerning her ear. We left Bandon together and went to Coos Bay to see the doctor. While we were there the nurse took her temperature and it was 99.3 degrees. Immediately we were concerned, as it indicated a possible fever. Her eardrum has healed and recovered fine.
She went in to work on Tuesday and did well, feeling good for the 5 hours that she was there. It has been difficult for her to be away from work, as she hates to feel like she is helpless. We took her temperature later that night. She had a slight fever and continued to reach temperatures between 99 and 100 degrees, which were lowered with Tylenol. To complicate her situation, the upper area of her shoulders, at the base of her neck became swollen and sore.
Her temperature rose and dropped all week and she was still struggling with the fever and her sore shoulders by the weekend. I was concerned that she might have developed another infection from the chemo, yet her temperature kept breaking with the Tylenol. On Friday evening around 10:30 I called her Oncologist. He gave me some suggestions on how to control her symptoms and decrease her swelling. She has been taking Benadryl to fight the swelling and it seems to be helping. He instructed me to NOT give her ibuprofen, as it can cause the blood to thin.
She had a rough night Friday, with her temperature peaking at 100.2 degrees. It broke once again and has been relatively steady since. Her shoulders, however, ache as if she was “hit by a truck”, which is how she best explains it. Her parents left this morning around 11:30 and are headed north toward Portland. She is now sleeping and resting well. She seems to do best when she can rest as she deems it necessary.
On a very positive note, Ty, Ashley and the boys came by after dinner on Saturday night. Kacen whispered into Rianne’s ear, “Gramma, you’re gonna have another Grandson!” We were all excited to hear the news, as Rianne’s parents were still here and Tate was also home for the weekend. The new Wardle baby should be here in the springtime!
We hope all is well for you. We continue to count our blessings as Rianne continues to battle this awful illness. By the end of September we hope and pray that it will be an obstacle that she is able defeat!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Six Down; Two to Go!

Six down and two to go! Rianne has endured shot after painful shot in the spine these past three weeks and only has a week left until she gets a break before she begins radiation.
On Monday of this week she received her third Rituxan Infusion and her third Methotrexate Injection, an intrathecal medication that she has responded well to during the first two weeks. This week, however, she struggled with it. What should have been tolerable for her became a monotonous headache for days. On Tuesday and Wednesday she hardly left her bed, as the headaches and fatigue made her horribly uncomfortable. The only remedies she had to combat the pain were her pain killers, an icebag and sleep. She kept the icebag full for days and placed it on her head practically non-stop. Luckily, her appetite was normal and she continued to eat well enough to function properly. She did, however, become highly constipated due to the effects of the oxycodone.
Thursday morning was absolutely awful! We headed to Coos Bay for her Cytarabine Injection and she was miserable from the moment we locked the front door. Her head was aching so badly that she planted her icebag on top of it. We were driving along just north of Port Orford when she leaned forward and vomited into a plastic bag. Usually she begs me to pull the van over, but this time she gave me no warning. It startled me so much that I briefly lost my concentration on the road. I took a second look at her and noticed that she was balancing the icebag on her head AND vomiting AT THE SAME TIME! I’ll admit, it was a first for me, as I’ve never seen anything like it before! I snatched the bag off of her head to help comfort her and we continued down the road.
When we got to Bandon she said, “I just need to throw up and get it all out.” I knew what she meant – that she was miserable and had some nausea from the chemo and her anxiety. But what she ACTUALLY meant was that she had to “get it all out” – which she did. She vomited again and again and again, literally emptying her stomach in the process. I’m humbled every time she goes through pain or any kind of a setback. She doesn’t complain, or cry, or plead for help – she just gets through it. When I need to throw up I make some sort of an announcement to her, become dramatic and get very vocal, including some follow up complaining. Rianne simply puts a bag beneath her chin and doesn’t make a sound. She continues to amaze me throughout this entire ordeal, as her tolerance for pain and discomfort seems to have no limit!
We arrived at Bay Area Hospital at 10:00 for her Blood Draw, then returned to the van so she could rest before her injection at 12:00. As she rested, she looked horribly uncomfortable, yet didn’t complain. I wrote her discomforts on a list to present to her oncologist, which included the consistent headache, neckache, balance, comprehension, nausea and anxiety to name a few. The previous evening I called her oncologist due to the severity of her headache and he informed me that we may need to stop the injections if her condition worsens. He explained that the more shots she receives, the more uncomfortable she’ll possibly become. As I sat next to her in the van, I decided to tell her oncologist to call off the final three injections, as she looked absolutely miserable and I doubted that she could endure any more of it.
At 11:45 we left the van and I told Rianne that I was ready to call off the final three shots. She responded with, “I want to finish them, no matter what it takes.” Once again, I was amazed at her resilience. There she was, hardly able to walk in a straight line, yet she was ready for more poison to be injected into her feebly body.
When we entered the hospital room, she lied down on the bed and remained motionless for the procedure. The surgeon inserted the enormous needle into her spine, the oncologist injected her with the Cytarabine and she recovered in the bed for an hour. I sat by her bed in near darkness, as the light caused her headache to intensify. She was miserable, yet wanted me to read my “Ghost Bull” story to her. The story of the elk I killed last year helps her relax, or should I say fall asleep! At 2:00 we left the room and prepared for the ride home.
I expected the drive home to be unbearable for her. She had been miserable that morning and, to add insult to injury, she received another injection of Cytarabine, the toughest drug she has had to deal with. We headed to McDonalds to get her a plain hamburger and some fries again and instantly she began to feel better. We’re not sure what it is - the hour of recovery after the injections or the burger or the combination of both, but whatever it is, it has worked for the rides home. She still had a headache, but the nausea was gone and she felt good enough to even hold a conversation with me!
The first two weekends following the Thursday Cytarabine Injections have been intolerable for Rianne. After hearing the oncologist explain that the road could get tougher with each injection, I feared the worst for this weekend. Yesterday (Friday) I woke quietly to let Rianne get some sleep, as it tends to help the most. Instead she woke up, got out of bed, ate a light breakfast and went outside on the deck to work on her plants. It was the first time in over a week that she stayed on her feet for a substantial amount of time. She still had a headache, but it was mild. She rested on the couch for most of the day, but was feeling better. Later, we went back outside and hung up a few more hummingbird feeders, then watched the series called “Roswell”, which has been a good way to keep her relaxed and engaged.
Every day is a different day, which is why we were concerned about what we would face today. But, once again, Rianne woke feeling decent. She had a stomach ache, which she fought off with a light breakfast, then she went outside and lounged on the deck. She rested in her recliner in the shade, read a book and watched the hummingbirds as they used the feeders. I gave her dog, Wickett, a grooming and she felt good enough to help me with some much-needed touch ups on her. She paced herself well today, resting again on the couch and watching more of Roswell. Now, at 10:30 on Saturday night, she is still resting and relaxing. What could have been an awfully tough weekend on her has actually turned into a relaxing one!
Tomorrow is another day and on Monday we will return to Coos Bay for another injection. We hope she will do well again tomorrow like she did today and yesterday. It’s a relief to see her up and moving around, especially when she isn’t busy balancing an icebag on her head!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Simply Put, My Wife is an Amazing Woman!

Let’s compare some of my painful and traumatizing experiences in my life with those of a close friend of mine!

When I was 8 years old I remember stepping on my first nail. Good gosh that hurt – and it was a small one! I cried like a wounded rabbit. Mom took me in to the doctor and I was required to get my first tetanus shot. The needle was the size of a broom handle! Cried like another wounded rabbit…until the nurse handed me a lollipop and cured me.
Rianne has had needle after needle after needle, too numerous to now count, inserted into her arms, chest and lower back. She never gets a lollipop. She never cries.

When I was 9 years old we had a crowded but fun playground at our school. I caught a pass for my playground football team, turned to head for the goal line and rammed my head into a volleyball pole. I was flat on the ground and counted hundreds of birds circling above me. I had the worse headache from it and begged my teacher to call Mom so I could go home.
Rianne has had a headache for the past 2 weeks. The Cytarabine is an intense chemotherapy drug which attacks cancer cells in the Cerebral Spinal Fluid surrounding the brain. It also has numerous side effects, some of which she has experienced.

When I was in junior high I ripped my arm open on a nail head while playing basketball on a hoop mounted to the pump house. I made the lay-up and beat the pesky seven year old, who put up a good challenge. When the game was over he said, “nice game, you’re bleeding everywhere!” I freaked and ran into the house to show Mom. Got 4 whole stitches, another tetanus shot and, you guessed it, another lollipop!
Rianne had a painful lump on her head, slowly growing for 10 months. Her surgeon put her out partially, unzipped her scalp and extracted 4 cancerous tumors from the top of her skull. He then sewed her back up with 7 stitches.

When I was 37 I tore the tendon in my right thumb and had to have surgery to fuse the bone with screws, then sew it up with 5 stitches.
Rianne has a Port installed in her upper chest. The Port receives numerous chemotherapy drugs, has blood drawn from it and tends to be uncomfortable, especially when she sleeps. Did I mention that the Port will be removed when she is cancer-free, which will involve unzipping her skin, yanking the unit out and re-stitching her up?

In December I had lower back surgery for a herniated disc. The pain was intense, but all went away after the surgery was complete. I was miserable for a few days.
Rianne has endured a 4 ½” long, 20 gage needle being inserted into her spine 5 times. Before the huge needle is inserted between her lower back bones she receives 2 or 3 “bee stings” from a smaller needle to numb the area up. She will feel the wrath of the “pile driver” needle 4 more times in the next two weeks and will possibly feel it again during another lumbar test in September.

When I arc weld I sometimes receive an “arc burn”, which is comparable to a sunburn. This can be uncomfortable for a day or two. I usually whine to Rianne about it.
In a few weeks, Rianne will begin her Radiation Treatment. The skin on the top of her head and the tumor under her skull will be burned by the radiation 5 days a week for 4 weeks.

I guess by now I’ve made my point – I’m a wimp and she’s one tough woman who has been giving all she’s got in the fight of her life. I admire everything she does and every day that she does it. She has a ton of pride and an enormous love for life, family and friends and is willing to give it all she has to be here. Whether it’s doing the laundry, fixing us a snack, vacuuming or resting to relieve a tense headache, she amazes me! I’m absolutely humbled by her strength through all of this, as she doesn’t complain and simply keeps on fighting! Don’t get me wrong – she has her bad days, but she keeps on battling with the end in mind, which is to be cancer-free and to continue living a very good life.

Simply put, my wife is an amazing woman!

And if you know my wife, you also know that she loves hummingbirds! We shot the video of one drinking from her feeder on our deck!

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Dieing is NOT an Option!"

Another infusion here at NBMC. It’s 8:20 on Monday morning and Rianne already has had her blood drawn and also has a needle in her Port, dripping chemicals through it and into her body. We have another favorite Oncology Nurse, Melissa. She has been an inspiration for us, taking great care of Rianne as she administers the infusions, explains the side effects that she may endure and any additional information that she can provide us with.
Rianne had a rough weekend, starting with Friday. She endured her 2nd Intrathecal Injection on Thursday and responded well to it for the rest of the day, but took a turn on Friday and began to feel poorly. She spent Friday moving around the house and doing small tasks, but didn’t really feel well at all during the day. I power washed the deck as she rested. She spent Friday evening relaxing in front of the TV and drifted off to sleep around 10:00. I tucked her in around 10:15.
Saturday was also a rough day. Rianne woke around 9:00 with a headache and decided to return to bed. I worked again power washing the deck and checked on her frequently. She woke from her nap and rested on the couch, taking pain medication to fight her headache. I cooked her dinner and she ate well, but still didn’t feel any change. She retired for the evening shortly thereafter.
Sunday was troublesome for Rianne. She woke at 9:00 and I cooked her a light breakfast. Less than 30 minutes later she rushed to the bathroom and vomited. She was nauseated and told me that she still had a headache. I helped her climb back into bed and she immediately fell back to sleep. She didn’t want to move, so I left her where she was. Again I worked on the deck, checking her every 30 minutes. She slept until 4:00, climbed out of bed but was still nauseated. I tried to interest her in some lunch, but she refused it. She rested on the couch, remaining motionless as she watched a movie. I checked on her every 30 minutes, asking if she had an appetite yet, but it was nonexistent. At 7:00 I had enough of the deck for the weekend and went back inside. Rianne was eating watermelon and stated that she also ate some grapes and a banana. Around 9:00 she asked for more watermelon. I prepared it for her and she ate a good sized bowl of it. Nothing else was appetizing to her, as I tried to pawn off a protein bar on her but it was rejected. She went to bed around 10:00 and slept poorly.
When we woke at 5:00 this morning she said that she was worried that we wouldn’t make her appointment on time today, which caused her to sleep poorly as she woke several times during the night. She had absolutely no appetite this morning, had another headache and was very nauseated. In fact, she was so nauseated that she opted to insert a Compazine suppository versus take an anti-nausea medicine orally. My smart wife knows that you just can’t throw up a suppository!
Rianne also said she dreamed that she was dieing. She was trying to hold on, gasping for air and trying to focus. She remembered that she wondered if she would miss her family and her soul mate. Were there things that she wanted to do and say? Had she lived a good life? Would her loved ones be alright without her? She remembers her Grandson, Kacen saying to her, “Gramma, its okay!” I woke and heard her sniffling and talking in her sleep, saying that she was going to die. I slapped her in the face 5 or 6 times to wake her. When she finally looked at me I yelled, “Dieing is NOT an option!”
Actually, I didn’t wake her and slap her – but it sounded heroic, didn’t it?! She told me to keep it in the Blog so that you would laugh like she did when I read it to her! We’re also checking to see if you’re reading carefully or not!
But dieing is NOT an option. Rianne’s dream felt very real to her, but I refuse to allow her to believe it. Rianne has come a very long way and she WILL win this fight. It does, however involve a rough road ahead. The Intrathecal injections along with the Rituxan have proven to be a challenge for her. This weekend was proof of that. We aren’t sure if the Cytarabine caused issues for her or maybe the Methotrexate and Rituxin contributed to it. Either way, she felt poorly, which indicates a rough road ahead of her for the next three weeks. Following the Intrathecal Injections will be the Radiation Treatments - a long bridge we will cross when we arrive there.
If you talk to her and she knocks you over with her breath, never fear – it’s just the Cytarabine wreaking havoc. She and I have now implemented a “6 foot rule”, which is difficult to enforce when traveling in the van and when we sleep in the same bed! I could sleep in the doghouse, but don’t like to practice that option unless I’m in hot water with Rianne, which I currently am not!
It’s really tough to sit next to Rianne here in the Infusion Room, watching chemicals drip into the body of the love of my life. I feel so helpless and frustrated, knowing that I can only wait and allow the medicine to do what it must to improve her health. Right now she is lying in the recliner receiving chemotherapy and she is exhausted and absolutely miserable. Watching her struggle is gut-wrenching for me to witness, and seeing her in this condition rips at my emotions daily. I tend to bottle it all up inside of me until a card or a phone call or a visit from a friend opens the door to briefly let it out. I sometimes feel like a cancer zombie, telling people that I’m doing fine when really I am not. Rianne’s lymphoma scares the sawdust right out of me and it will continue to do so until her Oncologist tells us that she is “Cancer Free”. The support we have received from everyone has been absolutely amazing, but fear has a way of choking its way inside. “A day at a time” we keep saying, yet neither of us are used to living this way.
Update (written at 9:00 PM) : At 10:00am I was asked to leave the Infusion Room to allow the patients better privacy. Shortly after I left, Rianne’s condition began to improve. She was given Zofran, an anti-nausea medication, which settled her down. At 11:30 she walked out of the room with a smile on her face, which relieved my concern for her feeling so poorly. She was also told that the Cytarabine is the stronger of thr two Intrathecal Drugs, which explains her rough weekend.
Our next appointment was at noon at Bay Area Hospital for her Intrathecal Injection of Methotrexate. She did well during it and recovered nicely. We left the hospital, grabbed some lunch and blasted down the highway for home. Her “Cancer Roller Coaster” ride went from rock bottom back to a high point in a matter of only a few hours.
This afternoon and evening have been a complete turnaround for her compared to how she was feeling this weekend. Her appetite has returned and she physically feels an improvement.
Thanks again for all of your love and support, which has been phenomenal. You have helped us every step of the way and we have all of you to thank for that!

The video shows the infusion needle being inserted into Rianne's Port. Looks like a huge yellow mosquito moving in slow motion! This type of needle is inserted into her Port each time she receives chemo and also for blood draws.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Adios Ommaya

The Ommaya Reservoir will NOT happen – and Rianne is relieved! On Monday Dr. Cook performed a Lumbar Puncture on Rianne’s lower back and drew some spinal fluid to test it for cancer. He found her fluid to be cancer free. He then injected the first dose of the Intrathecal Chemotherapy drug called Methotrexate in the same hole as he drew the spinal fluid from. The Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF) flows through the spine and also flows around the outside of the brain – which is where her tumor is located. The injection of Methotrexate will flow upward through the spinal cord, around the CSF surrounding the brain and will ultimately attack the tumor.
The Ommaya Port would have accessed the tumor directly from above, but time constraints have now made it an unnecessary procedure. The Intrathecal Chemotherapy which Rianne will endure consists of 8 treatments – 2 per week for 4 weeks. Right now we are in Week 1 with her 2nd injection scheduled for tomorrow. Surgeons who install Ommaya Ports (a Nuerosurgeon is required) are very busy right now. To arrange for the surgery a “consultation” with the surgeon must first take place. The earliest opening for a consultation was next week. Surgery would follow and the earliest a surgery could be scheduled would have been the following week, which is Week 3. By then she would be halfway through the treatment before the Ommaya Port would have even been installed. Also, she would have an incision to deal with, as it would need to completely heal before radiation were to start, which could be weeks longer. With that said, the decision was made to administer ALL 8 of the Intrathecal Chemotherapy Injections through her spine twice a week for 4 weeks, instead of waiting for the surgery to be scheduled. Time is critical as we fight the cancer and waiting was not an acceptable option.
In the morning we will return to Coos Bay for a Blood Draw and for the 2nd Intrathecal Chemo Injection, which will be the second drug called Cytarabine. In addition to the intrathecal drugs, on Mondays for the next 3 weeks, Oncology Nurses will administer Rituxan through the Port in her chest. This will be done for systemic coverage throughout her body to continue to kill the cancer cells. Rianne’s lymphoma is a very serious condition and her Oncologist is continuing to treat it as such.
Rianne has been in average spirits today. She is relieved to know that a hole won’t need to be drilled in her head, but she’s also exhausted. Sometimes she and I look too far ahead, which often becomes overwhelming. As we’ve said before, the best way to fight this cancer is one day at a time. Tomorrow is another day!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Is Ommaya Reservoir a New Place to Fish?

Here we are at another low point on the Cancer Roller Coaster Ride. The other day Rianne was very upbeat and excited, knowing that her tumor had shrunken and that radiation was next. The Radiation Oncologist, however, was puzzled at why a Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma was located under the skull and in such an odd place. He and Rianne’s Oncologist collaborated with a Lymphoma Specialist from OHSU and decided that the tumor still needed to be treated chemically.
Radiation is now on hold. The next procedure that she will endure is called Intrathecal Chemotherapy. This will involve surgically installing an Ommaya Reservoir (Port) on top of her skull and sewn under the skin. You may want to Google it (as we immediately did!). I asked a friend if he knew what it was and he asked, "is it a new place to fish?" "Uh - not even close" I replied! In a nutshell, an incision will be made on her scalp to make room for the Port. Then a hole will be drilled beneath the Port and through her skull so that a tube leading from the Port will access the tumor directly - allowing chemotherapy medicines to attack the tumor head-on.
Rianne is understandably no longer excited as she was a few days ago. Her stress level has increased dramatically because of the Lumbar Puncture she is now enduring and also due to the surgical procedure ahead of her. She is still positive but knows there is now a longer road ahead of her.
As I type this post, I am sitting in a waiting area outside of her hospital room. They first drew her blood today to check her blood counts, which were good. She is now undergoing another painful Lumbar Puncture. The spinal fluid extracted by Dr. Cook will be tested for the possibility of cancer in her spine. After he draws the fluid he will inject her with Methotrexate, the first of 8 treatments of the intrathecal chemotherapy. He will alternate it with Cytarabine. Scheduling a surgeon to install the Ommaya Port might take some time, so Dr. Cook will continue to inject the chemicals through her spine until the surgery takes place - hopefully this week, as Rianne has already stated that she isn't looking forward to Thursday's injection through her spine.
Now, more than ever, she needs your prayers, as anything involving surgery of the skull and brain involves high risk.
Dr. Cook has also notified us that he will continue to administer Rituxan through the Port in her chest for systemic coverage throughout her body to continue to fight the cancer cells. Keep in mind – Rianne’s Non-Hodgkins Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma is a VERY serious condition and her Oncologist is continuing to treat it as such. She will be injected through both Ports throughout the next 4 weeks as her treatments continue. August is now spoken for, as well as September, which will be the month for Radiation Treatments.
Ahead of time, thank you for your prayers and for your support. The cards in the mail, the gifts, the texts and the phone calls have all played a vital part in keeping her fighting through all of this – and we thank you for that!
Update: Rianne did well with the Lumbar Puncture but is in pain as the procedure is intense. She was given the option to be infused with the Rituxin today. She elected to return to Coos Bay tomorrow for the infusion as the Rituxin tends to give her a headache. She went through enough pain for today, so we’ll return tomorrow for the Rituxin Infusion. On Thursday she will again return to Coos Bay to be injected with the Cytarabine through the hole in her spine.
Here's another funny one for you: A friend told us this story before we left for Coos Bay this morning. She said she was discussing the Ommaya Port with her husband. She was concerned and said to her husband, "I'm worried that Rianne might get an infection from the shampoo when she washes her hair." Her puzzled husband asked her to repeat herself and think about what she was saying! She then said, "Oh yes! Duh! She doesn't have any hair!!!"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On We Go to Radiation!

It’s been a few days since our last entry - and I didn’t even let you know how her “Peek-a-boo” went. Her colonoscopy went very well for her and the doctor found her to be clear of cancer. The only finding is called Diverticulum, which are small lumps in the colon that can become inflamed unless more fiber is consumed. So, Rianne will now “get after it” with her fiber intake. All else was good and her stress of the possibility of having colon cancer is now GONE!
Rianne had a good weekend and on Monday we returned to NBMC for Chemo Infusion #5. We rose early and departed early, arriving at the facility before 9:00. We went in and met with Dr. Cook, Rianne’s Oncologist, and he said that the results of the Brain MRI from last week showed that the tumor has shrunken considerably. That was GREAT NEWS! He also said she will begin Radiation Treatment sooner than previously planned. He scheduled a consultation with the Radiation Oncologist for Wednesday (today) and sent us on our way. She was on "Cloud 9" all day long - I haven't seen her that happy for over a year!!
Yesterday she rose early and went to work at Curry County Title. She wants to put some hours in before her radiation begins, as she knows it will be every day for several weeks. I picked her up at noon and brought her home. She was tired and needed to rest, and again listened to her body tell her that she needed to lie down. She woke from her nap and did some light housework, then watched a few episodes of “The Mentalist” which is a favorite TV series of hers. She also likes CSI Vegas, CSI Miami, Bones, Lost, Medium, Ghost Whisperer and others. She can watch them for hours and sometimes does. Around 8:30 I coughed and startled her, which means she was dozing off on the couch from her medicine kicking in. I watched her drift off again and woke her to walk her in to the bedroom and tuck her in for the evening.
Today we again rose early and headed to Coos Bay for our consultation with Dr. Jenson, Rianne’s Radiation Oncologist. Before the consultation, just for fun, she tried on a few wigs and giggled the entire time! It was good to see her relax and smile. We met with Dr. Jenson and he explained the procedure to us. She felt very comfortable with him and was impressed with his knowledge of her Thallesemia Minor and also with his overall demeanor. He assured her that the tumor would be radiated successfully and for the first time we were told that her Lymphoma was “curable” versus “treatable”. It was a good emotional boost, but we have learned from experience to be somewhat wary of getting our hopes up too high. We ARE on a roller coaster ride here folks, so we are always keeping our eyes on the track ahead! He informed us that she will receive radiation treatments Monday-Friday for four weeks and that she will also be examined on Tuesdays to check her skin and overall condition. When we finished the consultation, we visited the housing facility behind the Radiation Treatment Center that is provided free of charge for radiation patients who need it. It is a very nice facility and we will likely use it if the daily commute to and from Coos Bay becomes tiresome.
Tomorrow we will return to the Radiation Treatment Center to allow the Oncologist to “map” Rianne’s radiation treatment procedure. This will involve programming the treatment machine to radiate the tumor safely and accurately, while minimizing side effects. “Mapping” will also maximize the effectiveness of the treatment process. He informed us that he will create the “map” and then use a “practice dummy” to insure that the machine is programmed correctly. If necessary, he will also prescribe medication to reduce side effects.
So, in a nutshell, we are entering a new chapter in Rianne’s cancer treatment plan. The radiation will be quite different than the chemotherapy, and we hope she works through it well. She’s a fighter and has a very strong will – I’m sure she’ll come out of it fine!
Thank you for your friendship and for your love, prayers and support. And thank you for reading this Blog and all of your comments. Remember - you are a HUGE reason she is able to get through this difficult season in her life!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Super Snorkeler

Great weekend for Rianne! On Friday Rianne went in to work for a few hours. She knows her schedule and knows she’ll be down next week, so she insisted on going in to work. Bryan Little, her boss, had to force her to leave and actually drove her home at 2:30pm because he knew she wouldn’t leave on her own. Nice thing about it is that it shows how good she was feeling! When she got home she rested, then we went for a short drive and ended up at the confluence of the Big South Fork Hunter Creek and the mainstem of Hunter Creek. Some call the hole “Sugarloaf”, which is a popular place to swim. We let the dogs out and in they went. Rianne went in also with her new snorkeling gear. As usual, I chickened out due to the cool breeze and “wimp-itis” as some of my friends would call it! She searched for fish while I tossed the dogs a toy 10 or 50 times. When we called it a day she was ready to head home to relax and watch a movie, so we did just that. We went to bed relatively early.
On Saturday we slept in until 9:00 and got up to go for a drive up into the mountains. Hap Flynn and his son, Braidon, were camping by Game Lake, so we drove up to meet them. We ended up meeting them on the way out and decided to eat lunch in the shade at Fairview Meadow. Rianne loves the serenity of the mountains and could stay there for days if she was able to. We enjoyed a good lunch and visited, then headed back toward Gold Beach. When we got to “Sugarloaf” we swam the dogs and this time we both snorkeled! Renny and Kelbi, our labs, sure love the water, but Wickett isn’t so excited about it. She also isn’t excited about being ditched on the bank, so she decided to swim out and hitch a free ride from her best friend, Rianne! Sure made a cute video! We stuck around for a short while longer, as too much exposure to the sun isn’t good for Rianne right now. We returned home, ate dinner and went to bed.
Today we slept in, then watched the movie "Ironman." We received a text from Hap inviting us to go snorkeling, so we went back to Hunter Creek for another splash. Rianne sure is good at everything she does, and snorkeling is another one of those things. She moves through the water effortlessly while I thrash and splash and gasp after inhaling mouthfuls of water. She spots fish well before I do and she dives to swim down next to them. It’s impressive to watch her in action. What an adept swimmer she is!
Tonight we are winding down before her trip to Coos Bay tomorrow. Chemo Infusion #5 is scheduled to take place, but her oncologist stated that he may change the treatment schedule and begin radiation. It’s up in the air for now and we are prepared to do what he instructs, as we are very confident in his ability to treat her. Rianne is a little anxious about it, so please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.
I’m going to cut it short for tonight, as I’d also like to get a good night of rest. We’ll keep you updated on how things go tomorrow. We hope all is well for you and hope you all have a great week!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rianne was Reading and Reading and Reading Today

Rianne has had a few good days! In our last Blog entry she was a bit discouraged about her road ahead, but since then she has continued to ride the “Cancer Roller Coaster” and has arrived at the top again. The most recent stretch of the ride has been mostly toward the top. Her headaches and aching sternum have been there consistently, but she has curtailed the pain with her medication.
Last weekend she laid low and concentrated on resting. It proved to be a good decision as she reached very good numbers on her Blood Draw, which was yesterday due to the holiday. She has done an excellent job of allowing her body to speak to her instead of pushing it to stay up and do things that cause her to become exhausted. It frustrated her to not watch the fireworks, but her body spoke loudly enough to her to stay home that evening - and that’s exactly what she did.
When her initial CT Scan was analyzed, the oncologist found an area in her colon which concerned him. Although the Chemo has been working in her body for over 2 months, he wants to be certain that there is nothing there. Soooo, as her parents would say, it’s time for a “Peekaboo!” Tomorrow morning she’ll have the joy of undergoing a colonoscopy. As I’ve said before, no sugar coating allowed here. She was ordered to gulp down a 10 ounce bottle of Magnesium Citrate before 10:00 this morning. Her last solid meal was at noon today. At 4:00 this afternoon she was instructed to mix 14 ounces of Miralax with 64 ounces of juice or Gatorade. I talked her into the Gatorade to keep her electrolytes up. The next step was to begin a series of drinking 8 ounces of the new and improved “Miracle Laxative Gatorade” every 20 minutes until it’s all GONE! She drank it all down and waited…..for about 10 seconds that is - then the fun on the toilet began! Then the fun continued……and it continued some more…..and it continued even more…..and she’s still continuing to have fun. She told me to suggest to people who “water the toilet” before a colonoscopy to “dab” and not to “wipe”. She says it tends to keep you from getting too messy during the clean up stage! Also, wear a nightgown or sweats because you may likely need to be able to remove your clothing literally on a moment’s notice! A & D Ointment has now become a new friend of hers! Last night I giggled at her when she was concerned about being a little constipated and concerned that she may not “clear out” before the surgery. She’s not so concerned anymore, as she’s basically been “reading” in the bathroom all afternoon. She’ll probably finish the novel she started by the time all is said and done with the “prepping” for tomorrow’s Peekaboo!
Her spirits have risen again and she is ready to fight again. She really didn’t want to give up, she was just exhausted is all. Rianne has spent countless hours reading and educating herself about Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and has made enormous headway through her reading. She FULLY understands the seriousness of her condition and knows that without a fight there is no chance of making it out alive. She is once again ready to fight it out with the cancer in her body.
Oh! She’s yelling for more toilet paper so I better go! Thank you for all of your love, support and prayers. If you get a chance to text or call her, ask her how the fire on her backside feels – she’ll surely laugh with you as she explains it!

Below is a favorite joke of Rianne’s, which especially applies today – Sent to her from Kelly Margolis

"The Final Stage"
There were four guys who were in the final stages of interviewing for a prestigious job. They were from Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Texas A&M. The company decided to fly them all in for dinner and a final interview. Over dinner at a fine restaurant, the president of the company told the men that all were very worthy applicants, and that he wished he could hire them all, but that they only had enough money budgeted to hire one person. He told them that he would call each of them in one at a time for a final interview the next day, and that he would ask each one of them the same question. Whoever answered the question the best would be the one hired. All applicants agreed that this was fair.
The next day, the first applicant called in was from Harvard. The president posed the question, "What is the fastest thing in the world?"
The young man thought for a moment and replied, "That would have to be a thought." "Why do you say that?" asked the president. "Well, a thought takes no time at is in your mind in an instant, then gone again." "Ahh, very good. Thank you," replied the president.
Next the same question was posed to the young man from Yale, "What is the fastest thing in the world?" The young man paused and replied, "That would have to be a blink." "Why?" asked the president. "Because you don't even think about a blink, it's just a reflex. You do it in an instant." The president thanked him, then called in the next person.
The young man from MIT was asked what the fastest thing in the world was, and after hesitating for a brief moment, he replied, "I would have to say electricity. Why? Because a man can flip a switch, and immediately, three miles away a light will go on." "I see, very good," replied the president.
Then, the young man from Texas A&M was called in. He, too, was asked, "What is the fastest thing in the world?" "That's easy..." he replied, "that would have to be diarrhea!" Rather stunned, the president asked, "Why do you say that?" "Well, last night after dinner, I was lying in my bed and I got the worst stomach cramps, and before I could THINK, BLINK, or TURN ON THE LIGHTS, it cut loose!"
(He got the job....)

The photo today is of Rianne’s Cancer Toilet which she nicely decorated – her Aunt Annajean and cousins Debbie and Pam Flomer sent a photo of a toilet in Moscow, Idaho with the words “Flush Cancer” painted on it. Rianne wants to paint something like it on her yellow toilet. If you have an idea for a phrase for her toilet, please respond with it in your comment – we still need to paint the words on it for her!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rianne is Home!

Rianne is home! She and her parents rolled in towing the 5th wheel last evening around 8:00. It’s great to have her here and out of the hospital. She sure had a difficult 5 days up in Coos Bay – mostly because she is so active and was going stir-crazy lying in the hospital bed. While she was there her parents had to “suit up” in germ resistant coverings to prevent the spread of potential infection to her.
On Wednesday she called to tell me that she had to stay for another day. It crushed her and she was crying on the phone. I reminded her that it was for the best and that she’d have around the clock care until her condition improved. She had her digital camera with her and, after she hung up the phone, she took a few photos of herself. One of the tearful photos is posted tonight. She said she is grateful that Becky and Katie were able to listen to her and console her when she called them. Calls to Briana, Crystal and Edrie also helped her get through those difficult moments.
The tears in her eyes tell it all – everything from first learning that she has cancer to….. all of the tests and needles in her arms to…. the miserable rides to and from Coos Bay to…..hours sitting and receiving chemo infusions to….the unbearable headaches and nausea to…..the exhausting blood transfusions to……being away from her husband, home and pets to…..expecting to go home and having to stay another day. Rianne has been through more pain, suffering and heartache in 3 months than most of us endure in a lifetime. She’s bound to have some emotional moments, and that’s exactly what happened when our conversation ended.
Her parents were her guardian angels while she was hospitalized. They were the only people allowed to see her in the sealed room, with the exception of a visit by Brianna Hale, who was smuggled in. Don and Lillian also kept me informed of what was about to happen and when. They gave her a great gag gift – a baby-sized comb and brush for Rianne’s hair, which she currently has none of! They laughed and boosted her spirits, but the best gifts were the 4 rolls of REAL toilet paper. Rianne says, “Hospital TP is like sandpaper and it rubs me raw!”
Now she’s home and her spirits are improving. But they weren’t so bright when she first arrived. The length of the hospitalization exhausted her. We’ll be honest here – she mentioned that she wanted to stop doing chemo and didn’t want to go through with the radiation. She said she is through and that she can’t take it anymore. She is worn out from the awful feeling of having a sick body and seeing needles stabbed into her arms and into her Port. She is scheduled for more tests next week and a colonoscopy the following week. She is worried sick about the possibility of having more cancer in her body.
She asked me if I was going to make her continue with the treatment. I told her that I wouldn’t make her do it but would instead convince her to continue. It was a gentler way of saying “HECK YES YOU’RE GOING TO CONTINUE WITH IT!” I love her too much to allow her to stop now after coming this far. Her chemo infusions are past the halfway mark. The tumor should be shrinking and her future will be bright. She will again become that strong, vibrant Rianne that we all know and love!
This evening her spirits are finally improving. She again has that smile on her face, but I’m concerned about what she was feeling last night and most of today. Her thoughts are understandable but they do concern me. I don’t want her to give up on the fight!! If you too feel that she should continue with the scheduled chemotherapy, radiation and tests, please post a comment for her to read. She could really use the strength of your words right now!!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I'm Here and She's There

I’m here and she’s there and it’s been a few difficult days. On Sunday morning we left the Emergency Room and prepared to head up to Coos Bay for Rianne to receive another blood transfusion. Instead we decided that her parents would take her up and pull the 5th wheel behind them in case she needed to sleep on the way home. Her temperature and condition were worse than we thought and the oncologist decided to keep her overnight.
Overnight has now turned into a 4th day. Late Sunday evening, after numerous antibiotic infusions, she received a blood transfusion. On Monday the oncologist ordered a SECOND blood transfusion, as her blood counts, especially the white blood cells, were still lower than preferred. Yesterday she received more antibiotics and today she has been closely monitored.
Tomorrow she may be released to return home, but that was what the oncologist said yesterday. He entered her room today, drew blood, returned with the results and kept her where she was. She called this morning frustrated and tearful, apologizing again and again for having cancer. It absolutely crushes me that she feels this way and it remains a difficult task explaining to her that none of it is any fault of hers. The photo in this post was taken the last time she broke down apologizing and it too was another troublesome moment for her.
Her oncologist explained to her that the infection she has is thought to be part of the chemotherapy process. He said that sometimes it happens due to the chemicals killing off cells throughout the body. Her chemically infused body is very vulnerable during chemo treatment and being hospitalized is also part of the process.
Her spirits were NOT high this morning, but her condition improved when her parents visited her this afternoon. We’re sure fortunate to have her Mom and Dad here right now and are especially thankful that they can be with her in Coos Bay. We are also fortunate to have your prayers and friendship and are grateful to you all.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another Blood Transfusion

It’s been a week since I have had a chance to make an entry here in the Blog and I apologize for that. I’ve been working at the Gold Beach Football Team Camp and have spent an enormous amount of time away from Rianne. Unfortunately, it may have worked against us this time. Rianne is currently in a hospital bed at Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay. Her parents took her up this morning and I stayed here to work.
Chemo Infusion #4 on Monday went well for Rianne while she was receiving it, but the ride home from Coos Bay didn’t go as well. On the trip home she became nauseated and also had an awful headache. When she arrived home that evening with her parents and Tate she was sick. We put her in bed and monitored her throughout the night. She recovered on Tuesday and did well the rest of the week.
Yesterday she felt well and joined her parents, Tate and I outside for some yard work. She looked fine and felt well during the day. I should have known better though – the warm sun and the amount of time that she spent outside caught up to her. I left for the camp to work the afternoon shift from 3:00-5:00. I stopped at the store to pick up groceries for dinner, then I began cooking a good meal when I returned home at 6:00. She was resting on the couch and visiting with her parents. She took her evening medication early and had to be woken up to eat. She ate a good amount of protein-filled steak and plunked into bed around 8:30 with a headache. I returned to the camp to work the evening shift from 9:00-11:00 and when I returned home at 11:15 I took her temperature. The thermometer read 99.8 degrees. Since it is a digital thermometer, I take several readings to insure some accuracy – a minute later it read 100.0 degrees. I gave her 2 tylenol in an attempt to reduce the fever, but this time it didn’t work like it has previously done. I fell asleep by her side at 12:15 and at 1:45 she woke me asking for me to take her temperature again. She was hot and clammy and did not look well. This time the thermometer read 100.6 degrees. We have been instructed by our Oncologist to call if her temperature reaches 100.4 degrees, so I took another reading and it settled in at 100.2 degrees. I wasn’t comfortable accepting the drop in the reading so I took another and it read 100.4 degrees. We immediately woke her parents and she asked her father to give her a blessing. He insisted that I call the oncologist first, so I did so. Her doctor and I discussed Rianne’s situation and he instructed me to take her in to the Emergency Room if her temperature didn’t drop in the next 30 minutes. At 2:30 the thermometer read 99.7 degrees on two separate readings. Unsatisfied, I remained awake and took another series of readings at 3:15am. The thermometer beeped an alert sound as each reading ended - they read 100.0, 100.0, and 100.1 degrees respectively. Instantly, I felt a lump in my throat and knew that something was very wrong. At 3:25 I took a final reading and it beeped in at 101.0 degrees. Without any further hesitation, Rianne and I got dressed and headed for Curry General Hospital, while her parents and Tate stayed home to get some sleep.
The Emergency Room Nurse did a good job taking care of Rianne. She slipped an IV into Rianne’s left arm and administered antibiotics and anti-nausea medication into it. She also drew blood to have it analyzed. At 4:00am Tate drove Rianne’s “Cancer Notebook” to the hospital so that the nurse would have access to all of the medications which she is currently taking, which are numerous to say the least. At 4:45 I returned home to pick up Rianne’s pain killer and a glass of Almond Breeze milk, which is the only thing that she can take with some meds to keep them down. She took the pain killer and grimaced as her chest began to feel pain, once again due to the Neulasta shot. Her headache worsened as the night, or should I say the morning, progressed. She was miserable and her face was losing color with each hour. This time I had no doubt in my mind that she was anemic again. The blood results returned with numbers stating exactly that. Both her white blood cells and red blood cells were low in numbers. Another transfusion was necessary, but she would rather travel to Coos Bay to receive it so that her oncologist could also examine her, so she was prepped for the trip. At 7:15am she pleaded for a Demerol shot to relieve the headache pain and received it shortly thereafter. She was finally released to be driven to Coos Bay around 8:00am.
When we arrived at home the decision was made to have her parents take her to Bay Area Hospital and pull the 5th wheel behind them so that they could stay overnight for her tests on Monday. The three of them left at 9:00am and headed north. Rianne was asleep in the back seat of the truck when her head hit the pillow, as the Demerol put her out. It was a helpless feeling for me to watch them drive away, but the schedule of her tests for Monday and my hours at the camp conflicted. Her parents came to Gold Beach to help care for her so that I could work the camp. I intended to follow them up in the van, but they all reminded me that driving to Coos Bay on an hour of sleep wasn’t a safe idea at all.
The oncologist admitted her for the night and possibly may keep her there for a few days. Her fever and low blood counts have her doctor concerned and he won’t release her until her condition improves. I spoke with her this evening after 6:00 and she was still receiving antibiotics. She hadn’t even received any blood yet, a process which took 6-8 hours during the first two transfusions.
Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. She has had another awfully rough stretch, which we can only hope and pray improves and quickly. I love her so much! Thank you again for your love and support!