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!