Doctor Visit - March 4

On Thursday, March 4th, we had a fairly long day at the University of Iowa. We arrived before 10 AM (it was so nice that we did not have to arrive before 8 AM!) - and got home about 5 PM. The only challenge that morning was that I could not eat after midnight because of the PET scan I would be having. My first stop was for an ultrasound. I thought that was strange, because they had done an ultrasound on my arms (which I questioned at the time why it was my arms and not my legs) about 5 weeks earlier. Because they did not find any blood clots, I was able to stop taking my blood thinner.  This time, my ultrasound was on my legs. There was a student who was learning how to do ultrasounds, so she got to work on part of my left leg while the tech watched. I assured her that I did not bite - hard. Of course, they could not tell me what they found (or did not find), but I learned later that I still had a partial blood clot where there had been one last fall. That just means that I am back on

My Dad

My Dad went downhill quickly after we visited for a couple of days in mid-January. He stopped calling just to check on us. And he was in more and more pain.  I am so glad that we traveled to visit him when we did, even though he tried to talk me out of it. If we had waited three more weeks (which would have been necessary because of my chemo cycle), he would not have been able to visit with us because he was sleeping most of the time. By February 1st, he could not walk. Mom had died 13 years ago on February 4th, so I thought he might pass away on that day. Instead, he died at 9 AM on Monday, February 8th, at the age of 80. Both Mom and Dad died on a Monday morning - and both the day after the Super Bowl. I will never understand that one. Two of my sisters (out of five) are RN's. One of them helped care for Dad during the day.  The other took care of him at night for the last week, so our step-Mom could sleep. We are thankful that Dad did not suffer long - and now he is in God's

Home After Chemo #6 - January 20-February 4

This round of chemo was my best and easiest round. I was only nauseous the day following chemo and felt just a little off the second day. After that I felt better and stronger every day. I did not nap at all (though I had the usual problems sleeping because of the 100 mg of prednisone I took the first 5 days after chemo). And I was thankful that I was feeling so good. The last time I took my blood thinner was Monday evening the 25th.  Once again, on the evening of day 6, Tuesday the 26th, I was fever free. Such a wonderful thing. That means my last hospital stay was Thanksgiving weekend. I will be thankful for my health for a long time to come, that is for sure. The next day, one week following chemo, we went in for labs. As usual, my labs showed no surprises - the things that we expected to be low, like white blood cell count and platelets, were low and other things, like lower hemoglobin, were acceptable. I also had an ultrasound to check for blood clots. None were found (as expected

Iowa City Hospital - Outpatient #5 - Chemo Round #6 (FINAL) - January 20

Today was my 6th and FINAL chemo treatment. Praise the LORD! I felt excellent going into chemo again, even after our trip to visit my Dad and Step-Mom last week. We left home about 7:45 AM, and it was only 5 degrees. Denise has a pain in the ball of her left foot (learned the next day that it was gout, which her parents both have had multiple times). That meant that today I pushed HER in a wheelchair for my appointments at the hospital. That was a switch from two months ago, when she was pushing me. Shortly after 8 AM, I had blood drawn for labs. This time my PICC line flushed just fine. The dressing was also changed, and there was some debate about pulling the PICC line after this final chemo was finished. Today we talked to the doctor about when we could possibly plan on returning to Ukraine. He thinks that we should wait until June - which was what we were thinking. It is exciting to even think about the possibility. How we miss being among the people that we love so much. And they

Home After Chemo #5 - December 30-January 19

The first couple of days after chemo, I felt off and had trouble with nausea. I am thankful that there is medicine to counteract the nausea, even though it does not bring me back to feeling 100%. My appetite is almost gone, food does not appeal to me, and I just feel "off" during this time. This time the nausea again cleared up before day 4. So thankful! This fifth cycle post-chemo was much like the other times around, only better. The first week following chemo I was tired (though I seldom napped) and felt a little lousy (though not as bad as previous times, probably because I was feeling so good before chemo). The next week I felt better, even though my immune system was recovering from being so low. The third week I felt even better, once my immune system was back and in preparation for the final round of chemo. During this time being home, I was able to enjoy most of the college football bowl games and all the NFL playoff games. What a treat for me to be able to watch foo

Iowa City Hospital - Outpatient #4 - Chemo Round #5 - December 30

Wednesday morning the 30th (one day earlier than normal because my doctor was taking the next day off) we left home about 7:40 AM. On Tuesday we got at least 10 inches of snow and Denise cleaned half the driveway the evening before. It was really hard not to help her shovel the heavy wet snow, even though I am weak, but the doctor gave me explicit instructions not to shovel snow. In the morning, our road was not yet plowed on our side before we left, though it had been plowed on the other side. The rest of the roads were plowed and fine.  We reached the Cancer Center in the hospital shortly after 8 AM, which turned out to be the beginning of a long day. As usual, they drew blood for labs, flushed my PICC line, and changed the dressing on it. Then we waited to see the doctor. And waited. And waited. What was supposed to be a 9:20 appointment with him turned into 11:20. He said that he saved me for last because I was his buddy. I told Denise that it was probably because he knew that we w

Home After Chemo #4 - December 10-29

As usual, immediately after chemo I felt good, though this was not to last. And once again the Neulasta On Body (to boost my white blood cells) worked just fine the day after chemo. Thankfully! The first couple of days after chemo, I had trouble with nausea. Even though the medicine that they gave me to counteract it helps, I am usually not feeling 100% with it. I was glad that the nausea cleared up before day 4, because in the past it has lasted longer. Since this is the fourth time around, I am fairly used to the cycle, and even though every time is not identical, there is a general pattern. The first 7-10 days following chemo I feel somewhat lousy (varying degrees) and normally around day 10 I am getting back to more "normal". Then by day 14 I am pretty much feeling "normal". Not my "normal" before I got sick this past summer, but "normal" for a chemo patient. On day 6, the 17th, one week following chemo, we went in for labs, to flush my PICC

Iowa City Hospital - Outpatient #3 - Chemo Round #4 - December 10

Thursday morning the 10th we arrived at the hospital before 8 AM, so we could see the doctor before having chemo. They took my vitals, which we all very good, and weighed me - 160 pounds. I feel that I eat all the time, so I was surprised that it was not closer to 170. And my Ukrainian friends are not shy about telling me, nicely, that I need to gain weight. (Just like they were not shy in telling me in 2014 that I was fat.) I just tell them that I will be able to work on gaining weight and getting stronger once chemo is over. We then waited to see the doctor, who was seeing patients in the hospital. My blood work from the day before came back fine, and the urinalysis also was good, so I expected to get my nephrostomy capped. After seeing him, we headed to the infusion lab for chemo. This time I got a room with a bed and a private bathroom, rather than a cubicle with a recliner. It was more comfortable for me, but Denise missed having the window seat for lying down. Chemo is in progres

Home Again - November 30 - December 9

No matter how long I am in the hospital, I am always glad to be home and back in my recliner. And I always eat better and eat more at home, as well as sleep better, because my sleep is uninterrupted.  Without a fever, I felt better. Also, my improved hemoglobin helped me feel better. This time at home, I noticed that my strength improved. I was able to dress standing up, rather than sitting on the bench in the bathroom, as I had been doing. Climbing the stairs was easier than it had been. This may be temporary, because chemo always seems to wipe me out, but it was good progress. Hope and I decided that it was time for her to get a different computer, so I helped her find one, ordered it for her, and will help her set it up when she is here for Christmas. We are excited that she is planning to visit us for a long Christmas weekend. As always, my only assignment during this time at home was to prepare for my next round of chemo, which means working on getting stronger. This includes gett

Iowa City Hospital Stay #5 - Fevers - November 26-30

After going through the process of being put in a room (when the nurse asks me if I wear dentures, etc.), I was finally able to go to sleep. I wanted to say, that since I was just in the hospital less than three weeks ago, please use my answers from last time. Ha. But I knew that would not happen. Denise was able to visit me from 1 to 3 every afternoon. We noticed how quickly two hours go by compared to the four hours we had previously. Many hospitals do not allow any visitors, so we are grateful that she could visit me at all! On Thanksgiving Day, her family waited to have dinner until after our visit was over, instead of at 1 PM as they had planned. We took a "selfie" for Thanksgiving When I saw the doctor on Thursday, I asked what the criteria were for me going home. She said that I needed to be fever free for 24-48 hours. Out of my control, but now I know what they are looking for. And I missed turkey dinner at the hospital. They served it for lunch and stopped serving it

Iowa City ER Visit #5 - Fever - November 25-26

When we got to the ER about 6:15 PM, we were once again glad to see just a few people waiting. However, this time we waited three hours until about 9 PM for an ER room, even though they told us when they took my vitals shortly after we arrived that we would be next, barring an ambulance or air care (helicopter) coming in. I forgot to take Tylenol before we left home, so while we waited I had the chills and just wanted to sleep. If I had asked someone for some, they may have done so, but I was not expecting to wait nearly three hours. Once we did get into the room, they got busy right away. Blood tests, blood cultures, EKG, chest x-ray, and urinalysis (from my nephrostomy bag) - all this to determine what type of infection (or infections) I had, because normally an infection is the cause of the fever. The cultures are up to a 48-hour process (or sometimes longer). And they gave me some Tylenol. Once again I was neutropenic, a common problem with chemotherapy, which meant that I had a fe

Home After Chemo #3 - November 19-25

As usual, after chemo I felt pretty good. And it is always good to be home. Other than going out the next afternoon to get my Neulasta shot (to boost my white blood cells), my next planned visit to the hospital was on the 25th for labs and to change my PICC line dressing. Each and every day I was so grateful to be healthy and at home. This round brought with it more trouble with nausea than the time before and sooner than day four. Thankfully, the medicine they gave me takes care of that, though not always right away. Wednesday morning the 25th, day 6 after chemo, my temperature was slightly elevated (ranged from 99.6 to 100.0). I took some Tylenol because I also had a headache. My temperature dropped back to nearly normal before we went to the hospital for labs. And I felt good at that time - with no more headache. After we got home and had lunch, I took a nap for a couple of hours. And I did not want to wake up. Then I watched a movie on TV, "Free Birds", and fought sleep m

Iowa City Hospital - Outpatient #2 - Chemo Round #3 - November 19

Thursday morning the 19th, one week delayed from the original plan, we had to be at the hospital by 7:00 AM for labs, then to see the doctor about 8 AM, and start chemo after 9 AM. I find it difficult to get up so early on chemo day, but you do what you have to do! While I got my blood drawn for labs close to 7, everything else was delayed. M y vitals were good and later my blood work came back normal as well. My weight is increasing, so that is a good thing.  We waited to see the doctor well past 8 AM. Then we were ready to start chemo after 9:30 AM. Flexibility and patience are very important in these situations! Outpatient chemo is easier than inpatient chemo and includes the bonus of being at HOME! My outpatient chemo is just part of one day. They start out with some pills, then give me a series of different drugs intravenously - some are as small as a shot, others take just 5-10 minutes, and then there is the long one, which takes several hours and also causes baldness. I was able

Home Again - November 12-18

How glad and thankful I was to be home and no longer in the hospital. I started eating better almost right away and my recliner felt so good compared to the hospital bed. And with my white blood cell count back to normal and my hemoglobin improved, I was feeling much better. Of course, "better" does not yet mean that I am ready to go back to the gym and workout like I did earlier this year. It just means that I am more easily able to do the basic things of life - that is, take care of myself. I am so grateful that, other than following the first chemo treatment, when I was so weak and it was difficult to care for myself (even to get in and out of the recliner, or the hospital bed), that I have not had any trouble since then. When I am home, it is nice in the evenings to be able to watch something with Denise - a movie, TV show, or football. My breakfast at home consists of Cream of Wheat and a chocolate Carnation breakfast drink.  I normally read my Bible after that,  unless

Iowa City Hospital Stay #4 - Fevers and Other Issues - November 2-12

The first few days in the hospital, I started feeling better than when we came to the ER on Sunday, though I lacked energy. I enjoyed my single room very much. They continued to try to determine the source of my infection(s). One blood culture came back positive for strep, so they decided to remove my PICC line, even though it showed no signs of infection. It was just a likely source, they said. And they continued to give me IV antibiotics. Because of the unknown infection(s), they were not sure when I would be able to go home. This was an ongoing problem throughout my stay in the hospital. I also had no energy because my hemoglobin was quite low several days (7.0-8.2). Had it been any lower, I would have required a blood transfusion. Wednesday the 4th was a rough day. (I tried not to be too graphic with this, and yet transparent.) I had been dealing with constipation even before coming to the hospital, and we were trying medications to help with that, but nothing was working. They cou

Iowa City ER Visit #4 - Fever - November 1-2

When we got to the ER, we were glad to see just a few people waiting. However, we learned that this does not necessarily equate to getting in right away. We did get into an ER room just after 10 PM and decided that waiting for just over an hour was not too bad. I told them there that I was becoming a "frequent flyer" in the ER because it was my 4th time in a month and a half. We are so grateful for your prayers and encouragement, especially when things do not go as we would have wanted or desired! They confirmed my temperature of nearly 102. And they ran three sets of blood cultures to determine what type of infection (or infections) I had - which can be up to a 48-hour process. Once again I was neutropenic, a common problem with chemotherapy, which meant that I had a fever of more than 100.4 along with an extremely low white blood cell count. They started me on intravenous (IV) antibiotics almost immediately. Waiting in the ER room We knew that they would be admitting me, so

Home After Chemo #2 - October 26-November 1

As I mentioned in the previous blog post, my Neulasta On Body failed. Denise and I went in on Wednesday morning, so I could get the shot manually. Without it, my white blood cell count would take longer to recover. My uncle Larry shared with me the devotional from "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers for October 31st. It was very thought-provoking and deep. Matthew 17:20, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed...nothing will be impossible for you." "We have the idea that God rewards us for our faith, and it may be so in the initial stages. But we do not earn anything through faith - faith brings us into the right relationship with God and gives Him His opportunity to work. Yet God frequently has to knock the bottom out of your experience as His saint to get you in direct contact with Himself. God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith , not a life of emotional enjoyment of His blessings. The beginning of your life of faith was very