Angel Note

Angel Note
"If Music be the food of Love, Play on!" -- Wm. Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Thursday, December 30, 2010

News from the Front

We have had an interesting week. We went up on Tuesday to use some movie tickets we had been given by the hospital. We saw the new Chronicles of Narnia movie, and LOVED it! We have the audio books (in two different versions) and the written books, and our whole family has always enjoyed these wonderful tales! We spent the night at Snowman's house, visiting with him and his wife, LadyBug's sister. We also had dinner at their place.
Wednesday we went further north to the hospital where LadyBug was to have her Port-a-Cath installed. She got the Power Port put in which will help with all injections, IV's, and blood tests for her chemo treatments. This is an out-patient procedure, but we still ended up being in the hospital for almost six hours!
The next day, we spent the gift-card my sister Inklings gave us (thanks, sis!). We figured LadyBug won't be able to eat much some of the time while on chemo, so we got a juicer so she can get some nutrients in liquid form. We also got ZeldaPrincess a CD, and season 1 of a favorite TV show DVD. It has been kinda different pushing LadyBug around Wal-Mart in a wheelchair for a couple of weeks now!
So today, we had a visit with Dr. Chemo. He was going to start treatments today, and LadyBug even had blood tests to make sure she was healthy enough to begin. After verifying that she was in good health, he asked if she had any further questions. She told him she had been reading the book he gave her and wondered why she had been diagnosed with this particular form of cancer when symptoms pointed at another.
He explained biopsies and pathology reports, and then asked her what symptoms she had that made her ask the question. She told him all the things that made her wonder about the diagnosis.
After some discussion, he told her she had "raised doubts in his mind." He says he thinks we should now try a different treatment called Adriamycin, which is nicknamed, "The Red Devil." Nice name, huh?
This is a harsher, more aggressive form of chemo. She will no longer just have 6 treatments over 18 weeks, but 8 treatments over 16 weeks. The regimen will be more difficult than previously planned, and she will wait until next week to start. Then she will finish 1 week earlier than originally thought.
One source says the side-effects include, "hair loss, short term memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, stomach pains, loss of sleep, sweats, mouth sores, watery eyes, neuropathy, and on and on.....nasty, nasty stuff."
LadyBug is very nervous now, even more than before, but if this is what it takes to get healthy and stay that way, it is simply what must be. Your continued prayers are greatly appreciated.
On a personal note, my diet continues, much to my chagrin. At times, I am ready to chuck it all and die young, but I think about what LadyBug is going to be going through, and realize a little sacrifice on my part is nothing. One good thing, though: in the two weeks I have been going, I have already lost 15 lbs.! Not bad for just watching what I eat. I'm not even getting much exercise yet! Guess I can keep it up for a while longer....
Take Care!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Let it...Well, You Know

Two Words: SNOW DAY! *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
Our school is closed today because of the incredible amount of snow that fell in the last 24 hours. I don't remember when this last happened. We aren't afraid of snow here, and it take a ton of snow to shut us down. People here will drive as long as they can get the vehicle to move. Our concert is today, so we will see what happens. Merry White Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Full Pardon

Today was a bitter-sweet day for me. It was the Christmas program for my prison choir. Things didn't go as smoothly as they could have, but over all it went quite well, and we were all pleased with the outcome.
Sadly, however, it was my last day at the prison. With LadyBug's looming chemo/radiation treatments and the possibility of further classes at the college, I told the bishop months ago that they would need to replace me. This bishopric is from a neighboring stake, though, and I always felt strange being a part of their stake, etc., so this needed to happen anyway. They should have had someone trained by now, but everyone is too scared to commit, and the few who have agreed only made it to training before backing out.
I told the brethren today, however how much I have come to love serving them, and that I pray for their well-being all the time. My personal beliefs have been challenged so much working there. I have come to see more fully the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in the lives of men who need it so desperately. However heinous the crimes, these men have been an important part of my life for the last two years and I will be forever altered because of my time serving them. 
Today was also our High School Women's performance of Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols. We performed this in an amazing, historic hall up north, then in another such hall in the town 15 minutes away. This was an incredible opportunity, and I also consider that we have been blessed to have the privilege of singing this incredible piece of music in such wonderful venues. Needless to say, I am on a musical high right now, not to mention a spiritual one. My emotions are right on my sleeve, and I find that even writing this post, I am getting misty-eyed. I have the best job in the world (now if I could just get paid more)!
Take care!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dr. Chemo Speaks

So LadyBug visited Dr. Chemo today. He says she will have six treatments, spread out three weeks apart, for a total of 18 weeks. This throws my original information off a bit. She will not be done with treatments until mid-May at the very earliest. As soon as she is done with chemo, she will begin radiation treatments, which will last for five weeks. This means LadyBug will be continuing this well into June. After this is all done, she will finish up reconstruction. We are looking at the possibility that she may not be done with everything until this time of year 2011, or later into 2012. 
In the mean time, although she is recovering nicely, she is still not ready to go back to work. I definitely do not want her rushing into it and ending up worse, so we will wait until the doctor clears her and she feels ready. We are not sure how we are going to manage on a single income until this happens, though. The bill collectors sure aren't worried about this. We had someone call from the anesthesiologist's office yesterday asking us to start paying on their bill. LadyBug informed them that she hasn't even been back to work yet. They made a note of that, thankfully, so maybe we will get a grace period before they really get anxious.
Most of the costs are being paid by my insurance, which I cannot complain about too much, since it is taken care of, but I am still upset, because my coverage has gone down while my costs have gone up. Several years ago, my insurance would have made it so we only paid a small amount. Makes me wish we had gotten the cancer insurance. The costs at the time seemed ridiculous, but one teacher was able to have them remove most of the useless stuff, making his costs much easier to manage. Oh well, live and learn.
To answer one question, yes, LadyBug will be losing her hair. We don't know exactly what other side-effects she may suffer, since some of those vary by individual, but we have a whole folder full of literature about this that Dr. Chemo gave us. Knowledge is power, so I will be doing some reading soon.
On a completely unrelated note, I have been experimenting with almost every meal I have cooked lately. I am trying to avoid all the bad stuff that can kill me. The other stuff is boring though, and I'd rather die young than live bored, so I try new things all the time. Tonight I made a sort of Stir-Fry (using Olive Oil for healthier cooking). It was almost exclusively vegetarian, except for the egg I added at the last minute. 
I used about a teaspoon or two of "Chinese Extra Hot Mustard" which sounded exciting, except that I've tasted hotter mustard on Pretzels! I also added Srirachi sauce, ginger, and curry. The resulting dish, served on brown rice, that being the healthier choice, was a little spicy. A little. Very little. I've made spicier spaghetti (no, really). It had a nice flavor, though. Not the best stuff I've ever had, but better than some food I've had in restaurants. What I really need is to get my sister Delirious to send me some ideas (okay, ANY of my siblings that have tasty, yet healthy meal ideas!). I am convinced I can make this healthier diet work, but only IF I don't end up wanting to baste our DOG with butter and garlic sauce!!!
Well, one thing for sure...I can always tell if I ate a good healthy meal, because in no time, I will still be STARVING! I am told that after a short amount of time, those pangs will diminish. Hmmm....wonder how soon THAT will be! Right now, I don't know how soon I'll be able to look another salad in the eye. Wait, if salads HAD eyes, they might taste better.... better be off to bed, I must be starting to hallucinate!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Stitch in...Well, Nevermind

LadyBug visited Dr. Plastics today. This is the first office visit in a month that hasn't required a hospital stay! He said she is healing well and everything looks good. He will wait until she has recovered a bit more before continuing the reconstruction process. And he removed her tape/bandages, so now it is just healing for a while.
She has her appointment with the oncologist tomorrow. We have not met Dr. Chemo yet, so I will post the outcomes of that visit afterward.
On a positive note, anyone who will be in our state capital, at a certain square this Saturday, come see my choir perform Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols! We have been preparing for some time now (ZeldaPrincess has a solo), and look forward to singing in the smaller venue next to its more famous neighbor (How's THAT for being vague?)! FHL at 4:00, AH at 6:30, NVC at 8:00.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

There's No Place Like....

Home. We are home. All of us that should be home are finally here.
LadyBug was released from the hospital just after lunch today, and we went to her sister's place for dinner and a visit. Then we took Kissa home and we are now back. All of us. She still has more office visits. She still has more surgeries. She still has chemo and radiation. But she is home. She is in less pain than before. Bearable with medication.
Thank you all for your faith and prayers. May the Lord bless each of you at least as much as He is blessing us!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

...Jiggity Jig

I just returned from visiting LadyBug. She SHOULD be released tomorrow. They finally cleared all the clot out of her leg, and by now should have removed the sheath that was stuck in the back of her leg to protect it. She is feeling so much better with the clot gone! And once they remove the sheath (and spend the half-hour keeping pressure on her leg), she should be able to take a shower for the first time in several weeks! She has bathed, and has had sponge baths. She has had her hair washed even, but she has not been able to shower.
Then she should be able to move around on her own for the first time in a week, one of the first qualifications for coming home. We will go up tomorrow and check her out, then we will go to Snowman's house for dinner. Both our daughters, Kissa and ZeldaPrincess will drive up with me. We will pick up StarGazer on the way. SkiTl we won't see until Christmas, and then we'll have everyone home (and hopefully happy) for at least a couple of days!
I do want to thank those who have generously donated to our need. Some checks we haven't been able to cash yet, and one anonymous donor here in town even left cash. It is all greatly appreciated. Our greatest thanks, though, go to the Lord who has blessed us so greatly in this time of trial. With His help, we can overcome any obstacle, clear any trial. It has been a truly humbling experience. His hand is in all things.

Take care....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

...And Again

One day before LadyBug was supposed to be released from the hospital, her leg started swelling up and turned red. She was in extreme pain, so the doctors had another scan. They believe the clot formed in her ankle and migrated upward. It is now to her thigh area, and is around 18 inches long, with a thickness close to that of your little finger.
They have taken her into surgery again, to drill a hole the length of the clot. They believe the blood flow, combined with medication they will administer will break the clot up completely. This surgeon has had good results with this process before, so is hopeful, even though LadyBug was not responding as they had hoped to the blood thinners before.
So now, LadyBug will be in the hospital at least another 24 hours. I will hopefully be going up to get her on Saturday. Although, this may not happen, since we don't know how she will respond to the surgery and medications. The surgeon is confident the clot will be gone before she leaves the hospital. Of course, if they keep her longer, his chances obviously improve, so I really have no clue how soon she will be released.
All of this would be easier if the hospital wasn't over 100 miles away! We simply don't have the gas money for me to go up, since LadyBug isn't working. And I hate the idea of her being up there without me. Her sister, brother-in-law, and our son StarGazer have been visiting her, but I miss her terribly, as she does me, and I hate the fact that all these things are happening while I am almost two hours away trying to keep things together.
People here keep asking what they can do for us. I have to answer that I have no clue what they can do for us. I can't eat most of the things anyone would bring. LadyBug isn't here to eat food, smell flowers, read cards, or whatever. She is stuck in a hospital and I am stuck in Limbo.
You want to know what you can do? Call Mr. Hospitalsman, the guy who has built most of the medical facilities in the northern part of the state, and convince him to put a radiation clinic in our cancer clinic so patients don't have to drive so far every flipping day. Put a major hospital a little closer to the sticks so those of us who live in the middle of nowhere can see surgeons without emptying our bank accounts for gas. And contribute to cancer research. Let's find a way to cure this, and prevent it!
In the mean time, I will try to find a way to make tasteless food appealing and try to keep paying the bills until the woman I love is back home.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Quick Update

LadyBug will be released from the hospital on Friday. Then, for the next six months she gets the pleasure of injecting blood thinners into her belly twice a day! We have been told that if we go through what is called an "Infusion Pharmacy," we will have NO out-of-pocket expenses. If we don't (or can't), the medicines are $900 per month! No I don't know much about making medicines, but even at a 100% mark-up, I can't imagine ANYONE ever SPENT $450 to make one month's worth of medicine. Just my opinion. If it cost them that much, they got ripped off, because I think charging that much for vital medication is HIGHWAY ROBBERY!
Now I don't want her to rush into anything, but I hope that things work out relatively quickly from here, because we are hurting without LadyBug's salary. She has been out of work for three weeks now (we were told two), and we have received some unexpected checks that actually make up what was lacking in her last check. I should be getting one more check this month that is only slightly unexpected that will cover some of her next check. But we definitely need her to be ABLE to go to work soon.
On a personal note, I had been adjusting what sorts of food I eat. I am choosing low fat, low carb foods. I have enjoyed a salmon fillet, apples, soup, and tuna. The problem is...I'm STARVING! I honestly think I could win an eating competition right now! SO FAR, I haven't been too terribly bored with these foods, but they leave me wishing for about 60 oz. of STEAK! With mashed potatoes. And dessert. I have tried to make do with fruits, etc. to wind up meals. Apples are good for my condition, and I love bananas too, and have been munching on small pieces of fresh coconut to give me a sense of dessert. I still wondered how long we'd have to BBQ our dog before dinner could be ready.... Naw, not enough meat....
I will keep posting on LadyBug's progress, and whether or not I eat the sheep in our neighbor's yard...
Take Care!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

...And Back Again

LadyBug had a follow-up appointment with her surgeon today. Once of the ladies in town took her up, since I had a full day of school plus my last day of private lessons for the semester.
Dr. Wonderfulsurgeon saw her, and (YAY!) took out her drains! She finally will no be tied to those things (as it were). We won't have to empty them every day.
LadyBug was having too much pain in  her leg, though. The blood clot was so painful she couldn't sleep at night. So the doctor sent her in for a sonogram. They found that the blood clot was MOVING UP HER LEG! They immediately checked her into the hospital and took her to surgery. They have implanted a filter which will be in her leg for the rest of her life. But without the huge threat of a massive Pulmonary Embolism, that will be longer.
LadyBug will be in the hospital for another three days. They will see if they can make the anti-coagulants work this time.
On a different note, I've been dealing with nausea for several weeks now. I had blood work and a sonogram this week, and found out two BIG things. First, my Triglycerides are through the roof! Second, I have sludge in my Gall Bladder. I am not even going to consider gall bladder surgery at this time. I will wait until LadyBug is back fully on her feet. I can't take care of her if I am on my back in a hospital also.

So, I am trying to adjust my diet for both cholesterol and gall bladder friendly foods. I will NOT do a  no-carb diet. First, some carbs are good for you. Second, no-carb diets are WORSE THAN DEATH! I'd rather die young and enjoy variety and flavor than live long on that sort of food! I will also look into herbal supplements or medicines that are shown to reduce sludge and help cholesterol.
And in case you talk to mom, they said NOTHING about my blood SUGAR level!
We will hope for the best, but once again, I just want LadyBug home....

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Home Again, Home Again

LadyBug is home once more. Now, along with everything else she is dealing with, she must not only take blood thinners, but she must go to the hospital every other day or so to get blood tests, to ensure that the thinners are working properly! So not only does she have chemo and radiation to look forward to, but in the mean time, she gets poked with a needle several times a week.
She is also now having to manage her pain (which thankfully is less than before) with Tylenol instead of Percocet, since the latter was causing other issues. She still has her drains, she still is tired and sore, and she sees her surgeon on Tuesday. Then some time before January, she will most likely need a port inserted for the chemo treatments.
Our thanks to all who have sent wishes, comforting items, cards, money, and prayers. You make the battle a little lighter!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It Never Rains But....

LadyBug is currently sitting in the E.R. of a hospital up north. She went in for a visit with Dr. Plastics today. He said everything around the surgical sight looks great, and she is healing up nicely. He was concerned, however about the trouble she was having breathing, so told her to get a chest X-ray at the hospital.
The x-ray showed fluid in both lungs, plus a blood clot in the left lung. They are waiting for a room to be ready, or something right now, and our son StarGazer drove over to be with her. They said they will probably keep her a couple of days, but we don't know for sure exactly how long. They have her on oxygen, and I think, antibiotics, and will start her on anti-coagulants as soon as they can.
We don't know much at this point, but your continued faith and prayers are appreciated. I am quite worried right now, because my accompanist told me her husband's first wife died suddenly from a blood clot in her lung. We'll be walking a tight line until we can get LadyBug home again.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Little Pampering Goes A Long Way

Today, LadyBug called down to one of our neighbors who has an in-home salon, to see if she could wash her hair for her. The lady not only agreed to do this, but offered her services pro-bono, so we took her down there. Our van had not started for two days, so we jumped it with my truck, drove down and helped LadyBug into the salon. The lady washed it, dried it, and even started styling it for her, though that was not needed, since she doesn't know how LadyBug styles her hair. but it was a kind, generous service, and was a nice way for LadyBug to get out, get some pampering, and get a small amount of exercise all at the same time. 
I am not necessarily surprised, but definitely pleased about how many people are stepping in to help LadyBug. We still have a long way to go, but with all this help the Lord is sending us, we won't go through it alone!

LadyBug Fly Away Home

Tuesday, LadyBug was released from the hospital. She spent the night with her little sister and her husband, SnowMan. The next day, they brought her home to stay! They then went home, but came down again for Thanksgiving (more food than humanly possible to eat in a week!
For the first day, we had to check LadyBug's drains every four hours. Now we are up to 8 hours. This is a quite unpleasant task that I gladly perform, because it means I have a tangible way to help her! Kissa and SoccerGirl have helped a few times, and StarGazer has at least been trained, though he hasn't needed to help. Soon, we will need to remove the pain-med pump, and be done with that. Once the drain levels are low enough, we can go to Dr. Plastics and he'll remove the drains.
People keep asking what they can do to help. We respond that this is the first time we've ever gone through this, so we don't know what we'll need. One thing that will help is those who have volunteered to take LadyBug up north when she needs to go. I am more than half-way done with taking my possible leave days, so too many more, and the district will start docking my pay. We REALLY can't afford for that to happen.
We actually have more food right now than we know what to do with, so we are okay there. Which is good, since all our spare cash already went for gas to get north, and dinners while we were there. I get paid again in a few days, and LadyBug should get at least a small check next week. If we have too many trips, those will be gone fast. Thankfully, I have my classes at the College to help.
LadyBug is doing fairly well, considering. She takes Percoset for pain, plus another pill that makes her drowsy. She has spent 48 hours on the couch, only getting up to relieve herself or change. She can't shower for a while, but we have caps that you put over your hair to wash without water. Weird, but cool. She hurts, but it isn't unbearable, and she is staying focused. The rest of us are trying to stay as strong and positive as she needs us to be. The one thing that keeps us going is knowing that with the Lord's help we can get through anything. Thank you to all who have shown and offered your support!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Hardest Thing I've Done

I try to stay strong. I try to stay positive. But this week nearly broke me, as I did one of the hardest things I've ever done.
It started on Monday when LadyBug went in for surgery. She was on the table for over six hours, which is quite a bit longer than the doctors told us would happen, worrying us (our youngest daughter was waiting with me). First we had to go in for an X-ray. LadyBug had to fast, so I took our daughter to the cafeteria for breakfast. After, we had a couple of hours to get a haircut and find out that Wally World pharmacy wanted to charge us over THREE TIMES what should have been our cost for one of our medications.
We got back in time for LadyBug to get injected with radioactive dye (I asked if she would now turn green when she gets wouldn't like her when she's angry). After this we went to the prep room. About 1:00 pm they took her to the O.R. where Doctor Wonderfulsurgeon scrubbed up within minutes. Three hours later, she came to talk to us while Dr. Plastics started reconstruction. She told us that the operation went as well as could be expected--better in some aspects.
She told us, however that the lymph nodes tested positive for cancer. This means that LadyBug will have some recuperation time from this surgery, then around the start of the year, she will start Chemo-therapy. Those can be done right here in our town! Depending on what the Oncologist recommends, this will entail bi-weekly visits for either 6 or 8 treatments. Immediately following completion, she will start radiation, which will go five days a week for four weeks or so, and must be done up north.
We still have a lot to learn about which combination of chemicals will be used, what stage the cancer was in, etc., but we are focusing on getting better. 
My daughter and I, in the mean time, had both lunch and dinner, before LadyBug was brought to the room. She was quite groggy from the anesthesia, and was still in quite a bit of pain. Our daughter has never seen her mom in this sort if setting, so really had a hard time with it, but we stayed as positive as possible for her and LadyBug.
And then, after several mg's of morphine, I did one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. I left her in the hospital and went home. I've missed so many days of school already, and expect to miss more, so I couldn't afford to stay, though it tore me up to leave. With her missing at least two weeks of work right now, and with more dr. visits coming up, we need every dollar my paycheck brings. Logic explains it, but didn't make me feel like less of a cad. It was so late when we left as it was that I had to have my daughter drive part of the way home.
That was yesterday. Today, LadyBug was released. She will spend a day or so with her sisters family, who will bring her home for Thanksgiving. That means she won't have to be in the hospital, but we still don't get to see her yet. I know we still have a ways to go, but we can see the end now. By summer, LadyBug will be done with all her treatments. And because of Dr. Plastics, she will come home with almost the same cup size she started out with! And within weeks, she can decide just how much more she would like to have. She doesn't want to go very big, and it doesn't really matter to me (no, really!). I keep telling her she should at least go up one cup size, just because she's always complained about being too small....
I wish we knew more. People keep asking how they can help. I just have to answer that we've never done this before, so don't know what we need. Cooking and cleaning can be handled. We will need some help getting her to some of these appointments, and several friends have already volunteered. We know before this is done, we'll end up owing twice as much to the medical treatments as we originally thought. We've met our deductible this year, but treatments start in the new year. So we'll get our deductible met for next year before January is up, I am sure!
The one thing we know has helped us is all the fasting, faith, and prayers on our behalf. I've always believed that the Lord answers prayers. I've also always believed that he doesn't always answer them in the way we expect or necessarily want. Sometimes, what we think we need is not what is best for us in the long run. This experience has already changed us, and continues to do so. And in the long run, perhaps we will eventually become the people the Lord wants us to be.
I just finished reading Stone Tables, by Orson Scott Card, which is a fictionalized retelling of the story of Moses. The main theme of this book was that Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and Joshua expected their lives to go one way. They prayed for their lives to go another way, but the Lord had other plans. Moses in particular had to lose everything in order to be in the situation where he could be the Lord's prophet. He certainly didn't think it was a good thing at the time, but realized later that it was necessary.
We may not be enjoying our circumstances right now, and we may not yet be entirely grateful for our hardships, but we recognize the Lord's hand in all things, and are seeking to understand His will. One thing for sure, we have come to realize not only how much our friends and family love us, but how much we love them. Without our loved ones, we would be left bereft of much of what gives us hope. May the Lord bless all of you who have supported us and continue to do so. Thank you!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Never Disappointed?

My mother once shocked me by telling me that she used to come up with new ways every day to disappoint me, with the plan that that way i wouldn't grow up not knowing how to deal with disappointment. Well, for better or worse, I think her plan worked (sometimes I wonder if it worked so well I EXPECT disappointment)!
I was thinking the other day, though, that perhaps this is one reason why I was led to LadyBug some two dozen years ago. I wonder if the fact that I have spent the last two decades convincing her that she is not only worthwhile, but strong in her own right, has made it possible for her to continue through this ordeal with cancer in the way she has. She has stayed positive and focused throughout the whole ordeal, and has earned the respect of observers for her courage.
I have never really considered myself to be a "strong person" but feel that my mother-developed ability to see adversity as a temporary challenge has enabled me to help LadyBug in this trial. I also believe, as Delirious has stated, that our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has helped us through this also. With His aid, all things are possible, and I feel that when He is blessing us, we can overcome any obstacle. It has inspired me to seek other stumbling blocks in my life to remove.
This has also shown me that there are some things in our lives which we cling to that simply are NOT important. I have found that dropping some of these things was easier than it would have been three months ago. I'm not giving up every indulgence or pastime, but I am recognizing which ones I definitely can do without.
So, although she sometimes scares the crap out of us, at this time of year, I am Thankful for a mother who wasn't afraid to disappoint her children. Repeatedly. On purpose....


We went yesterday to get a sonogram. The doctor wanted to compare this with the MRI from earlier in the week. As they performed the sonogram, they could easily see the mass on the right side, and said it looked like a normal--and more-importantly--benign fibroadenoma, a normally recurring type of tissue found in breasts of women the same age as LadyBug.
They still wanted to be safe, so recommended taking a core biopsy (or, more accurately, FOUR biopsies). These were couriered over to the pathologist so he can try to have a report on it before the surgery Monday. We then had to get a chest x-ray. This is in preparation for the surgery, which will take place Monday, sometime after noon.
Basically, unless the information we have changes, or LadyBug's mind does, the surgery will excise the left breast, while leaving the right. The best possible conclusion will be that this removes all the cancer and LadyBug will not need radiation or chemo. 
Your prayers and faith have been greatly appreciated. We are praying for a quick recovery and a quiet Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Checking the Right

Today we went north again. We needed to get an MRI to see if there was anything in LadyBug's right breast that could cause concern. We also had an appointment with the plastic surgeon to see options for reconstruction. We ended the day with both good news and bad news.
First the bad. LadyBug's MRI showed a mass in her right breast. Dr. Wonderfulsurgeon said we should not panic, because it appears to just be fibrous tissue, but then that's how the left side started too. Regardless, it means we must go north AGAIN on Friday to get a sonogram, so they can compare images to decide what exactly is going on. It basically means that we still don't know whether this will be a double-mastectomy or single. It also doesn't help us know whether or not LadyBug will need radiation and chemo. So all we know is that we need to get more tests, and the operation is still Monday.
The good news is that whether LadyBug needs radiation or not, the reconstruction process will begin Monday while LadyBug is STILL ON THE TABLE. We saw several pictures today showing what the reconstruction process is like, including a coffee table book showing one woman's journey from mastectomy to recovery. Not for the squeamish, and not what you want to show to your kids friends, but very informative and encouraging. If LadyBug only needs one side removed,  they can not only rebuild that side, but build up the other so they match (including a breast lift on the right side). If she must have the double, then both sides will be rebuilt at the same time, and she can choose what size she wants when she gets there. I won't go into the gory details of everything reconstruction involves, but we will keep positive and keep posting through the process.
The prayers of all our loved ones have definitely helped us, and the strength we receive from the Lord keeps us going. We don't know how we will reach the end of all this, but we know that with His aid, we will reach it. This experience has brought us closer, built our faith, made us grateful for our blessings, and made LadyBug realize how many people care for her.
I don't know if we can say yet that we are thankful for this experience, but we can definitely say we are grateful for things that have come to us as a result of it. Thank you all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Insurance Companies are Evil

If you are planning to get health insurance, check first to see if your company covers the costs of the test for the cancer gene. Ours, Educator's Mutual, does not. Further more, the people who do the test told us it takes 10-14 days to receive results. That would be okay, if they had told us with more than 7 days until our surgery. Which means that even if we could afford the $3,300.00 cost of the test, we would not have results back in time to do any good. So double check those sorts of things before you throw good money to bad companies. Healthcare reform, my eye!

Monday, November 15, 2010

To Contribute

Anyone wishing to help with deferring the medical costs of our Cancer Battle may do so by sending funds via PayPal to:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

News From the Front

So LadyBug and I headed north today to see her surgeon. This was a much anticipated visit after the news we received on Friday. If you ever want to spend a tense weekend, find out on Friday you have entered the realms of cancer, then wait until Tuesday to find out more.
After a bit of a wait, the Doctor Wonderfulsurgeon entered the room. She, much as she always does, got right to business. She laid out both options that were available to us, with accompanying benefits and consequences. One was a lumpectomy, the other a full mastectomy. To cut the matter short, LadyBug decided to opt for the total package. She doesn't want to have to worry (and lose even more sleep) and wonder whether or not the cancer will come back.
One of the things she did was recommend a screen for the Cancer Gene. If the results come back positive, she will strongly advise a double-mastectomy. If the results are negative for that gene, only the left breast will be taken. The doctor then explained that as she is in surgery, they will look at her lymph nodes, and the pathologist will be able to tell before the end of the operation whether or not the cancer has spread. 
If the cancer has spread to the lymph system, LadyBug will need to begin radiation therapy as soon as she is recovered from the surgery, to be accompanied by chemotherapy. If she were to do just a lumpectomy, the radiation and chemo would have been mandated. Since radiation therapy would mean a 200 mile round trip five days a week, please pray that it will not be necessary. If the lymph system is cancer-free, the surgery will most likely end the ordeal, with possibly some chemo added for good measure.
While LadyBug is still on the table, the reconstructive specialist will come in to see what he can do about building a new breast. He will insert a tissue extender, which can be inflated with saline gradually over time. Eventually, when the surrounding tissue has reached the point where it is ready, he will remove the extender and insert the augmentation implant. LadyBug's younger sister suggested going BIG! Her brother-in-law (married to another sister) advised DOUBLE-D's.
LadyBug doesn't want anything much bigger than what she has now, but if they only have to take the left breast, she will get a new one to match it's size and shape. The surgeon can eventually reconstruct (ahem) all physical attributes of a healthy breast, with the exceptions of inner material and feeling. I suggested that once she is done, she needs the shirt that says, "Of course they're fake! My real ones tried to kill me!"
LadyBug first has to have an MRI, and consultation with the plastic-surgeon, both of which take place next Wednesday. The full surgery will take place on the Monday before Thanksgiving. She will spend one night in the hospital, with a possible second-night stay. LadyBug's bro-in-law, Pillsbury Doughboy, has volunteered to check in on her the second day, since I will have classes to teach. If she can be checked out that day, he has volunteered to drive her home. If not, he will call me and let me know. Then she can be brought home the next day (the day before Thanksgiving).
We don't know how long recovery time is. We do know without my college classes, we wouldn't stand a chance of making it without LadyBug working. We also know we have the faith and prayers of many loved ones. My students had a text forwarded around town about five times telling everyone to fast and pray for her this last Sunday. It's in the Lord's hands now, and I feel very strongly that he is guiding the surgeon's hands. What His will is in this matter, we cannot say, but we know He will watch over us and guide us. Our thanks to those whose prayers have benefited us so much already. And if you haven't seen your doctor in a while, go soon. Don't wait. And may God bless each one of you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

We Have Joined the Cancer Community

I will not post very much here. I just want to keep one more place where everyone can be kept up on what is going on. In June, LadyBug went in for her first Mammogram. She was 43, and felt she had put it off too long already. The results showed several masses, which appeared to be just fibrous material that is common and benign. 
She was referred to a WONDERFUL doctor up north who did more exams and determined the same thing. She told her that she had several options: 1) Wait and see what happened over the course of the next six months; 2) Biopsy the lumps and decide later; or 3) Remove the lumps and be done with it.
LadyBug chose option number 3, and went in for surgery in August. All three lumps were removed, and biopsied. The results came back as expected--they were non-cancerous fibrous tissue. We were relieved, but not too surprised. After all, this is what we had been told to expect.
Six weeks later, LadyBug began experiencing pain in her left breast, a few inches away from any incision. We called our doctor, who put her on antibiotics, thinking it was an abscess. After a week or so, we called the surgeon's office. She was out of town, but one of her associates agreed to see us. After several types of exams, we were told it was most likely a hematoma or an abscess. This doctor really didn't seem to interested in anything other than getting us out of the office. He gave her stronger antibiotics, and was asked to contact him if there were no improvements. There weren't. 
When we went back, Dr. Doesntgiveacrap saw us again and said, "Oh, it looks smaller! Good! That means the antibiotics are working!" He told her that all her other symptoms were basically figments of her imagination. So we went home, feeling like we had completely wasted a long trip, plus copay.  
A few days later, Dr. Wonderfulsurgeon came back into town, saw that her disinterested associate had seen us and called to get LadyBug in for a visit. She wanted to see for herself what was going on. She did an ultra-sound exam, and saw the mass, which she assumed was either infection, or a hematoma. She suggested we should return in a couple of days for another surgical procedure. We agreed.
After a three-hour wait in Pre-Op, and a thirty minute surgery, the dr. came to speak with me. She did not find a huge amount of infection OR a hematoma, but instead, found a small amount of infection surrounded by what she called "angry tissue." She cleaned out the infection and scooped out some of that "angry tissue," which was biopsied.
Friday morning, Dr. Wonderfulsurgeon called at 10:30 to speak with LadyBug. She had just gotten the results back from the biopsy. "Angry Tissue" turned out to be cancerous. She set an appointment for Tuesday. We don't know what to expect, but have been on the receiving end of Relief Society dinners, well-wishes, and Fasting and Prayer by many of my students and friends. Things like this really let you know what is going on! And let's you know what really matters. We will know more Tuesday, but I have appointments every day this week because of this, so I don't know how soon I will get onto this blog. I will try to keep my family informed as soon as we know anything (although I don't think I have cell numbers for everyone yet...).
For now, just keep her in your prayers. It is in the hands of the Lord, and our Wonderful Surgeon, and between you and me, that's the best place she could be in this situation!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Our Little Elves

Those of you who know my wife and I know that I am rarely, if ever, home, and she has been in poor health for several years now. Three of our four kids have "moved out" of the house. The problem though, was that before moving, they did as little as possible to help with the upkeep in chores, and as much as seems possible to add to the piles of messiness everywhere in our house.
I am not afraid of work, and the missus is a very conscientious housekeeper, but with her health affecting her the way it did, and with me being gone for hours and hours every day, the mess got to be a HUGE monster staring us in the face! We have even watched episodes of "Clean House" with varying degrees of guilt, but with such a seemingly insurmountable task, just kept getting further and further behind. The result was an embarrassing situation and never wanting anyone to visit our home.

Well, her boss, seeing how clean she keeps her desk in the office, and hearing how much she complained about not being able to get caught up at home, decided to step in. He brought about a half-dozen co-workers over to our house between yesterday and today, and they boxed up, bagged up, cleaned up, carted off or threw away tons of trash, clothes, books, toys, shoes, and whatever else they could find. The result is an amazingly clean house. One of our bedrooms has become a storage room, but everything else is nice and neat! Here are some pics:

 I have never felt quite so grateful and humble all at the same time before. It is a terrifying process to see people pick through your nick-knacks and little treasures and decide you don't need them, tossing them out. I must say, though, that it is a testament to the impact my wife has on the people who work with her that they would be willing to do this for her. There a re just times, I guess when the dragon is too big for one lone adventurer to tackle. Thank you to all our little elves who magically transformed our place back into a semblance of the home we bought. We have a long way to go before it could be ready to sell, but what a relief to not ignore the elephant in the room anymore!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

All-State 2010

We had our All-State Choir Concert recently. We had a great guest conductor from a state to our north, and around 700 students, all singing in an amazing hall. What a great weekend! I only have one picture to share right now, but more may come later, possibly on FB. 
Schools that spend at least 20 percent of their curricular day studying the arts, especially choral music, are more likely to have educational achievement. Please speak to you administrators and school boards, legislators, and congressional representatives to keep music alive in our schools!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Hot Air Ballon Fiesta Trip

We went last week to visit my sister at the balloon rally held in her little town. Here are some pics from that trip, as requested by Inklings.
 Two crazy Sisters...

 At a restaurant...

 Mass Ascension...

 Balloon Fiesta Arts Show...

 Fried Twinkies?!

 The drive home...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Windows of Heaven

We have been planning for some time to take a trip to visit my sister, Nene. A certain gathering takes place in her little village every year that is quite the sight, and we've been a few times before, but not for a few years. And this will be our first trip without  my parents. Even though we'd originally planned this in order to see lots of family only to find out we were going a week too early to do so, we decided to continue with our plans anyway.
Several things this last week came up (finances not being the least) which made us wonder if we would be able to make the trip. This was causing me considerable stress, and I did not know what to do. We wanted the trip to happen, but just didn't know if it would be possible.
Then yesterday, right before heading to do some shopping, we checked the mail. It seems there was a problem with our 2009 State Taxes. They had chosen our return to review and had found a problem. There was one form, it seems, that we had forgotten to include in our return. This review now means that we will be getting a nice little check from the State Tax Commission sometime in the next thirty days. That, combined with my regular paycheck, my bonus paycheck, and my college paycheck, which are all coming in the next couple of weeks, make it so we can now go on our trip.
Of course, after getting our daughter from college, we will be leaving at 7:00 p.m. and driving through the night in shifts, arriving in Nene's town about breakfast time! And the last time we went, our van did not make it back in one piece.... We will keep faith (and pray, pray, pray). See you in a few days, Nene!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Visit my New Blog

No Apologies
This Blog is now open for comments. I still retain the right to read all comments before they are published, but it is no longer closed.

Where There's Smoke....

—Noel Sheppard is the Associate Editor of NewsBusters.

CBS's Bob Schieffer made it crystal clear Sunday that he is going to do his part to prevent House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Oh.) from replacing Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as Speaker this January.

In a hard-hitting interview about a variety of subjects on "Face the Nation," Schieffer actually hammered his guest for smoking cigarettes and taking campaign contributions from the tobacco industry.

"How do you square that with the fact that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in this country; 435,000 people -- their deaths are linked to cancer. That`s one in five," scolded Schieffer. 

(video follows with transcript and commentary): 

BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST: Mr. Boehner, I`m going to ask you this question because I`m not objective about this. I`m -- I`m a cancer survivor. I used to be a heavy smoker. Do you still smoke?


SCHIEFFER: You have taken $340,000 from the tobacco industry. They`ve been the largest contributor to your political campaigns over the year. How do you square that with the fact that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in this country; 435,000 people -- their deaths are linked to cancer. That`s one in five. How do you -- how do you justify that in your own mind?

BOEHNER: Bob, tobacco is a legal product in America. And the American people have the right to decide for themselves whether they want to partake or not. There are lots of things that we deal with and come in contact with every day, from alcohol to food to cigarettes, a lot of things that aren`t good for our health. But the American people ought to have the right to make those decisions on their own.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean, they have a right to shoot themselves if they choose to.
Actually, Bob, suicide is against the law in America. Nice try! 

SCHIEFFER: But, I mean, shouldn`t we do something to try to encourage them not to? I mean, do you think that`s a good example?

BOEHNER: Well, listen, I wish I didn`t have this bad habit. And it is a bad habit. You`ve had it. You`ve dealt with it. But it`s something that I choose to do. And, you know, at some point maybe I`ll decide I`ve had enough of it.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean, if you should become speaker, you could set a good example for the country by saying, I`m going to try to stop smoking. Maybe you could get the president. I understand he smokes too. Maybe the two of you could find a way to try to stop smoking. That would be kind of a good thing, wouldn`t it?

BOEHNER: Bob, I appreciate your suggestion.

The hypocrisy on display here was astounding. After all, as Schieffer noted, Barack Obama is a cigarette smoker. But something Schieffer didn't mention was that in 2008, Obama took more money from the tobacco industry than Boehner did. Yet, according to LexisNexis, Schieffer has never scolded Obama for his smoking or asked him to quit in order to "set a good example." 

The world’s view on smoking cigarettes has changed dramatically over the last century. The habit was once considered to be cool, sexy, good for your health, and widely enjoyed by many people. It was promoted by sportsmen, and advertised all over television. No one could be seen acting in a movie without a lit cigarette in their hand! Today, smoking is considered to be a nasty addictive habit that can kill you and those around you. You wont find them advertised anywhere – nor will you see anyone smoking inside a public building. It seems that these days smokers are considered to be anti-social and are often frowned at if seen smoking outside in crowded places. Below is a list of interesting facts about cigarettes.
1. Cigarettes are the single-most traded item on the planet, with approximately 1 trillion being sold from country to country each year. At a global take of more than $400 billion, it’s one of the world’s largest industries.

2. The nicotine content in several major brands is reportedly on the rise. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Health Department revealed that between 1997 and 2005 the amount of nicotine in Camel, Newport, and Doral cigarettes may have increased by as much as 11 percent.

3. In 1970, President Nixon signed the law that placed warning labels on cigarettes and banned television advertisements for cigarettes. The last date that cigarette ads were permitted on TV was extended by a day, from December 31, 1970 to January 1, 1971 to allow the television networks one last cash windfall from cigarette advertising in the New Year’s Day football games.

4. U.S. cigarette manufacturers now make more money selling cigarettes to countries around the globe than they do selling to Americans.

5. The American brands Marlboro, Kool, Camel and Kent own roughly 70% of the global cigarette market.
6. Cigarettes contain arsenic, formaldehyde, lead, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia and 43 known carcinogens.

7. In the early 1950s, the Kent brand of cigarettes used crocidolite asbestos as part of the filter, a known active carcinogen.

8. Urea, a chemical compound that is a major component in urine, is used to add “flavor” to cigarettes.

9. The ‘Cork Tip’ filter was originally invented in 1925 by Hungarian inventor Boris Aivaz, who patented the process of making the cigarette filter from crepe paper. All kinds of filters were tested, although ‘cork’ is unlikely to have been one of them.

10. In most countries around the world, the legal age for the purchase of tobacco products is now 18, raised from 16, while in Japan the age minimum is 20 years old.

11. Contrary to popular social belief, it is NOT illegal to smoke tobacco products at any age. Parents are within the law to allow minors to smoke, and minors are within the law to smoke tobacco products freely. However, the SALE of tobacco products is highly regulated with legal legislation.

12. Smoking bans in many parts of the world have been employed as a means to stop smokers smoking in public. As a result, many social businesses have claimed a significant drop in the number of people who go out to pubs, bars and restaurants.

13. Scientists claim the average smoker will lose 14 years of their life due to smoking. This however does not necessarily mean that a smoker will die young – and they may still live out a ‘normal’ lifespan.

14. The U.S. states with the highest percentage of smokers are Kentucky (28.7%), Indiana (27.3%), and Tennessee (26.8%), while the states with the fewest are Utah (11.5%), California ( 15.2%), and Connecticut (16.5%).

15. Cigarettes can contain more than 4,000 ingredients, which, when burned, can also produce over 200 ‘compound’ chemicals. Many of these ‘compounds’ have been linked to lung damage.

16. The United States is the only major cigarette market in the world in which the percentage of women smoking cigarettes (22%) comes close to the number of men who smoke (35%). Europe has a slightly larger gap (46% of men smoke, 26% of women smoke), while most other regions have few women smokers. The stats: Africa (29% of men smoke, 4% of women smoke); Southeast Asia (44% of men, 4% of women), Western Pacific (60% of men, 8% of women)

17. Nicotine reaches the brain within 10 seconds after smoke is inhaled. It has been found in every part of the body and in breast milk.

18. Sugar approximates to roughly 20% of a cigarette, and many diabetics are unaware of this secret sugar intake. Also, the effect of burning sugar is unknown.

19. ‘Lite’ cigarettes are produced by infusing tobacco with CO2 and superheating it until the tobacco ‘puffs up’ like expanding foam. The expanded tobacco then fills the same paper tube as ‘regular’ tobacco.

20. Smokers draw on ‘lite’ and menthol cigarettes harder (on average) than regular cigarettes; causing the same overall levels of tar and nicotine to be consumed.

21. ‘Lite’ cigarettes are manufactured with air holes around the filter to aerate the smoke as it is drawn in. Many smokers have learned to cover these holes with their fingers or their lips to get a stronger hit.

22. The immune systems of smokers has to work harder every day than non-smokers. As a result, a smokers’ blood will contain less antioxidants, although a smokers immune system may be quicker to respond to virus attacks due to its more active nature.

23. Smokers often smoke after meals to ‘allow food to digest easier’. In fact, this works because the bodies priority moves away from the digestion of food in favor of protecting the blood cells and flushing toxins from the brain.

24. Some people (mostly males) can be aroused by the sight of smoker smoking (usually females). This is called the Smoking Fetish, and affects a small number of the population. As with most fetishes, the reason for this arousal can usually be traced back to incidents in childhood. However, cigarettes – particularly menthols, force blood away from the penis if smoked while aroused.

25. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 25% of cigarettes sold around the world are smuggled.

26. Most smokers take up the habit in their mid teens, well before the legal age for purchasing them, and is seen as a right of passage towards adulthood. Other perceived rights of passage include: aftershave, wearing stilettos, alcohol, drugs and sexual intercourse; with a combination of these sometimes being cited as the main causes of teenage pregnancy.

27. Smoking tobacco is the ultimate gateway drug in that it is legally available, and involves mastering a unique method of intake – much more so than alcohol (which has such a significant effect that users need look no further for stimulation). Smokers looking to get ‘high’ will very rarely do so from cigarettes after the initial stages of taking up the habit.

28. Smokers generally report a variety of after-effects; such as calmness, relaxation, alertness, stimulation, concentration and many others. In fact, smoking will produce a different effect in each individual depending on ‘what they expect to get’; turning the cigarette into the worlds most popular placebo (satisfying the brains hunger for nicotine being the only ‘relaxing’ factor). The smoker will then use these expectations as a means to continue the habit.

29. Several active ingredients and special methods of production are involved in making sure the nicotine in a cigarette is many times more potent than that of a tobacco plant.

30. ‘Toppings’ are added to the blended tobacco mix to add flavor and a taste unique to the manufacturer. Some of these toppings have included; clove, licorice, orange oil, apricot stone, lime oil, lavender oil, dill seed oil, cocoa, carrot oil, mace oil, myrrh, beet juice, bay leaf, oak, rum, vanilla, and vinegar.
Contributor: Lifeschool