Greg's Blog

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Last Chapter

This will be the last chapter in Greg's story. Sadly he isn't here to write it. As you may or may not know, Greg passed away on February 3rd. In early January he was admitted to the hospital because of dehydration, not eating, and an infection. He was so very weak going in and coming out he was stable and alert, but still extremely weak. He was able to visit with all of his family and mine. A week after being home he stopped eating again, and jaundice set in. His whole body was slowly shutting down. He slept most of the time and didn't really communicate the last 4 days. Then on that Tuesday he quietly slipped away.

I'd like to thank all of our family, friends, medical staff, and other readers for all of their encouragement over the past few years. The blog and your sweet notes of support helped keep Greg going through the difficult times he had.

Greg and I were fortunate to have as much time as we did together. Knowing this day would come sometime hasn't made his passing any easier. I'll miss him until the end of time. He was and is the love of my life, there are none that will ever compare to him.

I'll love you forever Greg.

Cindy Hill

Friday, December 05, 2008

Post Thanksgiving

Hey guys,
Having another very tough week.
We hosted Thanksgiving for the whole Hill clan. I think we had 16 total for dinner, and then did bed and breakfast service for 8 Thanksgiving night.
For some reason Cindy wanted to undertake this event of her own free will. It was totally her idea and she did all the cooking on this side of it. I did the meatballs, and a tray of great various cheeses (gouda, edam, colby jack, sharp cheddar), crackers, pickles, olives, miscellaneous veggies, and so on with help from my niece Jamie, and her friend Jessie. They were a great help Thursday morning. After they did the appetizers for me they both did souz chef duty for Cindy the rest of the morning.
I was able to talk her into allowing some people to bring a dish or two.
Tondi did her famous pies, and a special goo pie for me which is a pecan pie without pecans. I don’t like pecans but love the goo in a pecan pie.
Wendi brought her resurrected green bean, potato, and dumpling recipe from my grandmother who never wrote down anything, so it took her over a year to get it right.
Tammy brought a cranberry and apple dish that was delicious.
Alyce brought a cranberry jello dessert.
Stella brought some festive green rice krispy treats.
Cindy did about 12 to 15 dishes in total I cant keep up, including two desserts of her own.
Jeff deep fried the Turkeys in the backyard. They turned out great. Very little leftovers even after doing 2, 12 lb Turkeys.
That was a great help as there was no way we had any room in the oven to do the turkeys, with Cindy’s avalanche of other dishes. The oven was full top to bottom all morning until meal time.
Anyway all the hub-bub and days of cleaning the house before hand really wore me out. I was pretty much useless come Thanksgiving day and was couch ridden most of the time, and then the next day as well.
We did a cookie decorating party on Friday for all who were able to stick around that long. It was great fun but I wanted to be more involved in it. I only joined in to do about 5 cookies, but all the ones everyone did, were really cool.
The next few days I was really exhausted and have to this day, 7 days later, still not really recovered.
Larry and Alyce, and Tondi stayed until Sunday morning. Then on Monday noon Cindy’s parents Larry (yes Cindy’s father’s name is Larry as well as my father) and Ellen arrived for their visit. Ellen only was able to stay one night, but Larry stayed until Thursday Dec. 4th.
I had a pretty crappy birthday on the first, turned 37 I think. Felt like a steaming pile of crap physically. Got some nice gifts from the family, but nada from my loving wife. It is ok, all I want is to spend time with her and feel good. There is nothing she could give me that would compare to 5 healthy happy mins of time together. But you cannot buy that or put it in wrapping paper.
The last two days have been really bad, I have been unable to get off the couch for more than a few mins at a time, and then with quite a dose of pain while I am up.
Larry Stanton, Cindy’s Larry, was here to help me at least, and kept me in cold drinks, and snacks. My apatite has been non-existent for several days now. I ate 4 inches of a sub today for lunch and that was the biggest meal I have had since Thanksgiving.
Mostly the thought of food has been making me nauseous again lately. Despite my taking a medication specifically to stimulate eating. But no such luck. Also my stomach has been retaining an unusually large percentage of fluid again this week. We have already done 8 liters and I am about to pop now, and I am counting the moments until Friday’s drain. Will probably have to spend the night sitting upright, which means no good sleep if there is any at all.
None of these symptoms should be exhibiting themselves at this time. It has been 7 weeks since the last Chemo treatment and I should be running track and field events now. But I feel about the weakest I have felt in months. My hands shake almost constantly from any effort whatsoever. I have to really take my time standing up and then it is incredibly shaky. Seems like an upcoming fall is inevitable.
I have my company’s Christmas party on Saturday night and have to give a half hour speech and give out about 8 awards. But that may turn out to be a 5 mins speech. After that I will finally get a day off, with no visitors, and no work, and not even a visit to MUSC, this coming Sunday.
We had a great visit with everyone who came and love spending time with them, but it is very tiring to even just have people in the house at all.
But that is what I would want to expend my energy on more than anything else, is spending time with my family. That is what we did, so I am happy.
Then Chemo starts on Monday morning, which will put me on my ass for the next two weeks. I am really concerned about my apatite and very low weight and weakness at this point going into a Chemo session. All it is going to do is dose me with poison and make me even weaker and sicker. Do not know if I can stand that. But what else can I do, if I let the tumors go without chemo they spread and grow like wildfire.
But man, my legs look like something from Auschwitz historical photos. No kidding. They have the big bulging kneecap and just skin covering bone above and below the knee. I can almost wrap my hand around my leg above the knee and touch the thumb and middle fingers together. It looks like the legs could not possibly support the weight of my body.
My dad, Larry is coming down to help me through the chemo week on Monday night and will take me to the rest of the weeks sessions.
We will see what the future brings, I guess. Pretty apprehensive about this upcoming session. If I get any weaker I guess I will be completely dependant on outside help to do literally everything. Good thing Dad is coming. I am sure I will need his assistance.
The week after Chemo is just as bad or worse as the system gets saturated and absorbs all the poison. Oh, and then the other great surprise of what is going to be this months new symptom. Could be anything as you well know by now.
So if you do not hear from me in personal communication for the next while, that is what is up. I am sure I will not feel like writing anything. I really don’t want to write now, but felt like the blog was well overdue for another update. And all of you are so kind to keep checking in on my blog page. I hate to not update it, and you go away without any new information.
Please wish me luck and give me a prayer, considering what storm is heading my way.
Love to all,
Yours nervously, Greg

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Veterans Day

Man, do I suck at keeping this thing updated. I will be surprised if I have anybody still reading it. I hope all of you have had a blessed time since we last spoke. Well I guess I really do all the talking. Thanks to Breanna, for her comments, but I have to admit I have no idea who you are, sorry.

I would like to send a special thank you to the veterans in my family:
Larry Hill, Larry Stanton, Gene Young, Charlie Hartsoe, David Travis, Dave Stanton, and if I have left anyone out please forgive me, thank you too unknown or carelessly overlooked soldier.

We all owe you each a huge pat on the back for signing your name on the dotted line to potentially risk your life to defend the rest of us spoiled Americans. The relatively posh lifestyle we all enjoy has been maintained by the sweat of your brow and the fact that you had the sack to stand between us and those foreign threats that would jeopardize not only our royal lifestyle in this country compared to the rest of humanity, but our very lives. God bless you all.

Here is a little glimpse of the last couple days. I am just going to fast forward you to current time, since an unimaginable bunch of crap has happened since the last time I posted, and I have had so many setbacks, trials, and bad weeks that stretched into bad months at a time, that I could not ever begin to do the stories justice at this point, nor would you want to sit through all the bitching anyway. So lets just jump in the time machine and say I am still here and fighting and we will pick up with this past weekend. Forgive me but it is less painful for all of us this way I think, and hey who it the storyteller in my little tale anyway.

Sunday the 9th I had a pretty good day for the first time in a long time.
So I begged Cindy to take me out of the house to do some errands, just for a change of scenery, you know.

Well I wore her out and she had to give up and come home while I was still raring to go and had about 10 more stores on my list ( no way that was all getting done, but could go a while longer. We were out and about for around 3 hours. When we got home at about 4 PM she went to sleep on the couch as soon as her butt hit the cushions and I wrapped Christmas presents and did home paperwork for the next 7 hours or so.

Well today was a whole other story, might as well be a whole other book. I must have really overdone it Sunday.

I could not keep consciousness at all, every time I tried to wake up my eyes just shut again and I passed right back out. So tired and weak, and in pain all over. I skipped a Dr's appointment I had at 9 AM, there is no way I could have made it down there. The best I could do was stagger to the bathroom every 3 hours or so when the need woke me because it had become an emergency situation and have a last second save, very painful restroom session. Let the dogs out on each of these sessions too. They behave so great when I am feeling at my worst. I guess they can sense it, and they do not give me any crap.

Nearly passed out while standing every time I tried to get up, just saw stars, and my legs quaked and shook trying to support my skin and bones frame. What a difference 24 hours makes. I was maybe in a standing or sitting up position for a total of 7 mins all day up to that point.

Finally at 3:30 PM, I was able to stay awake for a while. I was starving by then and was thinking what is the quickest thing I could possibly make but palatable enough for em to want to eat it, just to stay alive until Cindy got home at 5:30. I had made my sweet and sour meatballs a few nights ago during a late night burst of energy and thought that a bowl of that served over some plain brown rice I already had made would give me the best bang for my buck in that situation. Good hearty sustenance to quell the starving beast and no prep needed, just heat and serve, not to mention that it is Damn good. So many times I think I am very hungry and I make something, but the time I sit down to eat it, I just look at the food and lose any apatite at all that I may have had. It even gets to the point of nausea and I have not taken a bite yet.

This time when I tried to stand up I just could not do it. I resigned myself to just stay hungry and wait until Cindy got home from work. The thought of 2 mins in front of the microwave just blew my mind, it sounded like doing a marathon. I felt like there was no way I could possibly do it.

So I sat down and tried to ignore my stomach growling like a lion while it searched my body to find some fat in my system to consume. I was down to 132 lbs and I am full of fluid and have a abdominal water drain scheduled at MUSC the next day, which will take another 10 lbs off. So that 132 is my highest possible weight right now. I need to eat every thing I can hold down at this point.

After 15 mins of that I could ignore it no longer and grinded through the pain and dizziness to fill a bowl halfway with rice and about 6 1 inch in diameter meatballs. Then propped my head against the microwave door while it nuked all the flavor out of my beautiful, gourmet, homemade, meatballs like a criminal. Hate to butcher such a creation, but had to do what had to be done. After what seemed an eternity (of 2 actual mins) the destruction was over and, I grabbed a fresh bottle of Lipton Raspberry White Tea, during my stumble back to my nest on the couch.

Anyway I obviously survived, and my voracious hunger ended up pulling me through a little over half of the half bowl I had dished. Then of course I felt like I was going to be sick. Such are the days of our lives.

I was able to stay awake for the rest of the day after that. Then when Cindy is ready to go to sleep for the night, I am just starting to feel a little like a human and have a tiny flame of energy. This happens frequently and causes a conflict of varying degrees almost every time, unless I am really sick and sleeping 20 + hours a day.

So now it is now well after 4 AM (don't know why it says 3:22 on the posting time on the blog, must b when I started working on it) and she is knocked out, (not by me in case you were wondering), and here I am feeling better than I have all day, still like shit, but better shit than before, tolerable.

That is about all for now that I will bore you with. I will really try to do postings more frequently, but it seems so hard to find the time to do it. Please bear with me, and know that I really appreciate your interest in my little world. The fact that someone would take time out of their lives to hear about mine, or to even be concerned for my situation is something I am thankful for. So thanks to all of you. You are all heroes to me, like my sweet Superhero, the Saint Cindy.

Remember to be nice to everyone you meet for we all are fighting our own battles no matter how small. And please help control the pet population, have your pets spayed or neutered. There are an unending supply of pets at your local SPCA or shelter looking to get out of jail. Change a life, bust them out of prison and they will think your house is a royal palace. At the same time you gain a loyal companion for life that will never let you down if you treat them right.

Already have a pet, I will wager that they would love nothing more than to have a new brother or sister. Already have 2, how big of a deal would 1 more be, it will just blend in with the crowd. There is not a more happy scene on this earth than to watch the beauty and innocence of a play session between Gods smallest, simple creatures. I defy even the hardest criminal to not smile at that.

If you do not know how to go about getting your little buddy "fixed" just put a comment on the blog with your email and it will get to me. I will tell you exactly what needs to be done and tell you where to go, the cost and walk you through every step of the way personally. Can't afford it is your excuse, hell I will maybe even chip in. It is a very easy procedure and not painful at all for the animal.

Be good and live every day to the fullest you physically can. Don't spend your life on the couch like me until you are forced to live that way. I would give up every thing not to have to live that way now that there is no alternative. Chances are pretty good that all of you will have to do your own prison time of some length like this before you face the pearly gates. No reason to do self imposed time now.

Love to all,
Greg "The Chemo Warrior" Hill

Saturday, October 04, 2008

October 4th long overdue posting.

Oh dear blog reader, you are one of the most neglected of all of God’s creatures.
I, your host on this humble board, feel ashamed that I do not put up more frequent entries, and I am quite surprised that any of you even bother to check anymore. You have my most sincere apologies. Except if there are any in my audience that come on here just to laugh at my plight and get some sick satisfaction from my suffering. Probably that animal does not exist here, but that is a glimpse into the paranoid side of my dark mind, not a side I show you often.
The shame of not posting more compounds itself as when I finally come to the point where I say to myself, “Self, you REALLY need to get on there and put up a posting. These people are kind enough and interested enough to take time out of their day to check if you have said anything lately, and you don’t have the decency to even provide fuel enough to quench their thirst for information.” So then I feel embarrassed and end up not wanting to face doing it so I put it off again.
I of course do have my list of excuses as to why I do not post, but I am sure I could squeeze out a little time and do more postings.
Anyway these last several weeks, have been tenuous at best. Has been a pretty hard road to travel, but I am soldiering on. What else can I do?
Here are some tidbits for you of the happenings since we last talked.
Everyday I have enough new stories I would want to share, that I could do a posting a day, but have to sort it down.

On 8/31
Having a really hard time today. I slept until 1:00 in the afternoon.
My stomach is about to burst, and I just had a drain Friday afternoon.
Not even 48 hours later, and I can even move.
It is pushing against my kidneys and everything.
Tomorrow will be a nightmare unless I get excellent results from my water pills overnight.
My electrolytes have been all out of whack according to the blood tests.
So I have been exhausted between the drains.

I did beef jerky today out of a London broil, it turned out fantastic. It only took 3 hours to dehydrate. Can you believe that?
The thicker slices I left in for 4 hours, but after that, all were completely done.
I plan on buying another one or maybe even two while they are on sale.
I always do my marinades from on the spot creation and inspiration.
This batch was made of:
For dry seasonings, onion powder, garlic salt, Lawry's seasoned salt, cumin, old bay and oregano.
Wet stuff, was A1 sauce and Soy sauce.
Whisked all together and then smush it into the meat in a Ziploc bag.
Marinate overnight, mixing it every few hours, to ensure good coating.
Much, much better than any store bought jerky on the market.
The worst batch I ever made was still better than any prepackaged jerky.

I am very weak and tired right now.
Have Chemo day 2 today.
My Dad is down babysitting me this week, and will be taking me to chemo.
My weight is down to 130 pounds.
I cannot seem to eat enough no matter how hard I try.
I get real nauseous after just a few bites.

I have trouble standing every time, and get dizzy to the point of having to grab on to something after a few steps. But that is how the cycle goes. I am not surprised.
It started going downhill Sunday while Tammy and Randy were here visiting, and has just progressed to a bed ridden state pretty much now.
It is nothing for anyone to worry about though. I have been through it before, I just limp my way down to the hospital and back everyday, then I can sleep again and that is exactly what I do.

During the weekend after chemo now and I am really trying to keep a good attitude, but it is really wearing me down.
I had a big cry session last night. I asked God why he had forsaken me, and if he was getting a big laugh out of my misery.
I know it was wrong, but I feel like there just has to be someone to blame, because I certainly never did anything bad enough to justify this hell.

I am having the shittyist time of my life right now, puking my damn guts out at every turn.
If I even think about food I throw up. Seriously, thinking about it has made me throw up at least twice, not kidding.
Terrible pain in my stomach from just the muscles being so stressed with the vomiting.
So weak and tired that I am having to use the walker in the house again to get to the bathroom and back.
I have terrible chemo induced diarrhea that kills my guts every time I go.
I cannot breathe half the time when throwing up.
Having a hard time swallowing, and on top of everything else have a sore throat because of a chemo side effect.
Headaches to beat the band, and the shot each night sends me into a screaming pain for 3 to 5 mins straight. I have to cry every time it seems. It absolutely kills me.
My ears are so sensitive it kills me to hear the dogs licking their feet even when they are in the other room. Every noise in the house puts my ears into a tailspin, and bores straight into my brain.
The effects of chemo are unbelievable and so numerous and ridiculous, you could never identify them all.
It is a terrible, terrible way to have to treat a disease. What a friggin mess. I hate it so bad; I could rip it to shreds with my bare hands if it were a tangible item.
I am just miserable. Want to die.
Cindy is being so good trying to comfort me, but it does not help. I love her so much it hurts to know she sees me in pain. I want to hide it from her. She gets upset sometimes because I suffer so much. But she is so strong there is no way I could survive without her support through this.
Don't worry, this is just the way things go after chemo round, sometimes it is worse than others.
This is a bad one.

Caution: Kitchen detour ahead.

Sunday of weekend after Chemo.
Ok guys here was Cindy's special cocktail waiting at the end of her lawn mowing adventure this weekend. I dragged myself to the kitchen, propped myself up on the counter, while she was mowing and made her a Frozen Lemon Drop.

1 part ginger/lemon/or regular simple syrup
1 part vodka 1 part lemon juice1 part sweet and sour mix 6 parts ice Lemon wedges, for garnish Country time mix for rim for garnish if wanted

Add liquid ingredients and ice to blender and blend until smooth. Pour into margarita glasses and garnish with lemon slice. For my own special Greg touch, line the rim with Country time lemon aid mix like you would salt a margarita rim. Excellent finishing touch!

I try to do something like this for her at least once a week to let her know I love a appreciate her.
Try it for your special someone, you and they will really enjoy this tradition.
Nothing else adventurous going on the kitchen this weekend as I was coming off of a Chemo round Friday and cant stand for more than a min or two at a time.

Thursday of recovery week.
Had a hell of a time the last two days with pain and such.
I am having diarrhea literally 12 to 15 times a day. And gas to the moon.
I can let one go for like 15 seconds at a time and do it every couple mins.
I could power an automobile if you hooked me up to one.
It is crazy. I hurt from all the vibration, like a trumpeters lips after a long solo.
I am not kidding.
Cindy and I just both shake our heads in amazement at it all. I am putting out about 3 to 4 times the quantity of what I am eating.
So I guess this is all the dead cells that the chemo is killing.

Did nothing but sleep all day today, other than do a great meatball dish in the slow cooker.
You would love it, and it is so easy it’s ridiculous.

They make a great meal served over rice with the sauce I add, or for appetizers for a party (assuming your guests eat meat).

Caution: Kitchen detour ahead.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs:
1/2 cup of preserves, Apricot are suggested but this last round I did, I used 1/4 cup grape jelly and 1/4 cup Apricot preserves, any flavor will do. Apricot just seems to go good with the rest of the oriental flavorings in this.
1/4 cup of Hoisin sauce, if you don't have this or don't want to shuck out the bucks for it, since it is rarely used, use sweet and sour sauce. But Hoisin in certainly the best choice, it really makes the dish.
1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
1/8th teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/2 of a bell pepper cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2 medium yellow or white onion cut into 1 inch pieces
1 lb of frozen prepared meatballs, or make your own.

Add pre-cooked frozen meatballs or you own cooled meatballs to slow cooker with all other ingredients, mix until sauce ingredients are thoroughly combined and meatballs are coated.
Bring up to medium heat for first half hour to 45 mins, then reduce heat to low and just let em soak it all up in the hot bath. Stir about every 30 mins or hour, to keep the balls coated and moist on all sides. Let it go and fill your house with the great smell for several hours until you cant stand it anymore. What a smell!!!! Do at least 3 hours on low.

How is that for simple?
If you do the pre-made meatballs, it is like 5 mins of prep to put the ingredients together and have all swimming in the slow cooker.
Start it on Sunday morning when you wake up while you are waiting for the bacon to fry. By lunchtime it will be done and your house will smell fantastic. Serve over white rice, or in a hot dog bun as a meatball sandwich.

I did not really get UP for the day until 4 pm and I did sleep all night except for getting up to go to the bathroom every hour and a half. I hate it, so tired I can barely walk today, and then only for a min or two. Though I would be getting more energy by now, but I actually had a better day Wednesday than Thursday.

During this week, Cindy’s parents, Larry and Ellen sent me a list of cancer fighting food and vitamins they downloaded from some site and I noticed that Cindy had already identified all of these and discussed them with me and the Dr. when all this first started. She did a great job on researching cancer foods and drugs that would fight it when we first got into this mess.
So if anything this validates the stuff she was telling me.
Larry and Ellen are always trying to help us with my condition, and I know they feel there is nothing they can do, but just me knowing that they care is a mountain of good to me.
So to them: Can’t thank you enough and I could have never even dreamed of having in-laws as great as you two.
My other friends and co-workers always have complaints about in-laws, I just smile and laugh. I have complete support from you as if you were my own parents. You have treated me just like one of your real kids since we were married.
Thank you for being you.
Cindy does not let you know how much she appreciates how great of parents you are too, but I wanted to let you know that she thinks it. Sometimes I have to remind her to contact you, or keep up with you. But she does love and appreciate you, she just needs a little push to express it sometimes. You know, she does not bear her emotions as flagrantly as I do. And you all know I do everything with zeal and emotion. Once again she is the stoic ying, to my flamboyant yang.
That is what makes us such a great couple, Variety. (The neighbors might say it makes for a noisy house, ha ha ha.)

On the Sunday after recovery week.
I went to about 6 places today as we did stuff.
Farmers market, Costco, Monroe brakes to get the Blue van new brakes, the grocery store, and another store.
I did it all with just the walker except for using the little go carts in 1/2 of Costco, since the battery died, and the grocery store.
I was unable to go anywhere all this week without being pushed in the wheelchair, so this was a major victory.
Was out from 10:30 to 5:30.
And plan on doing the same tomorrow, I have 19 stores on my list to visit, not kidding; we are going to try to get the 13 in North Charleston done tomorrow. Cindy and I are breaking up the list and she is going to be able to take 3 of them off my plate, then she wants to go look for furniture (a low buffet type table to go under the windows in the kitchenette) so we can store appliances and stuff in the cabinets below.

I got some great stuff at the farmers market, had about 10 items.
Should be making some great eats this week and in the near future using my great fresh ingredients.

Last night I made my first banana pudding, you know with wafers, and bananas, and pudding and whipped cream.
Tonight I did homemade chicken salad, both turned out great.

To occupy my prison sentence time here at the house, I have started wrapping Christmas presents this week while I could not sleep in the night. Up to 58 wrapped already. Seems like I have not scratched the surface yet though. Cindy wakes up and it looks like a village of elves snuck in overnight and wrapped all this stuff.
She is so not into Christmas, and I am a complete Christmas junkie. I buy and wrap every gift we have given since we started going out 15 years ago. She does not even know what she is giving people half the time until they open it and say "Thanks Cindy" she goes, “oh yes, do you like it?” Then looks at me like, good job or what the hell did you get them that for. I do all the Christmas stuff start to finish, including all the decorating. Cindy normally just takes the holiday off. But she will have to help me with the physical stuff. You know like lifting tissue paper to put in a box to be wrapped. I am so weak a flea could beat me at arm wrestling. No way can I put up a tree by myself. I would need a crane and a catapult.
I want to get a jump on it this year as things have been very unpredictable and I never know when I will be sick, or if the winter months are going to be impossible for me to do it.
I have to take everything so slow these days I do not want to get caught up in a no win situation.
I never know what is around the next corner.
Speaking of the next corner: I get CT scan results on Oct. 6th.

One of the things I got at the farmers market was Muscadine and Scuppernong grapes. Oh god are they great. I ate 1/2 half a pound the night I got them. At another booth they had Muscadine cider. It was great in the taste test so I got a 1 liter bottle, it was 7 dollars whew. But if I sip it, and savor it, I will be able to stretch the value.
Ginny, my Dad’s mother in law has vines in her old backyard. I asked him to go pick all he can for me. I am a complete junky for these things.
My mom actually has some vines in her backyard that I had forgotten about. So when they came to visit, they brought a huge zip lock bag full of them, must have been over 5 pounds. I am halfway through that already.

Caution: Kitchen detour ahead.

I made a surprise dinner for Cindy.
Grilled Fresh Eggplant Curry steaks, Homemade Cucumber and Yogurt dip (tzazaki sauce) with home baked Pita chips, Golden raisin and cashew basmati rice and a frozen Peach smoothie cocktail.
The Pita Chips and Eggplant and Rice came out great, ,so did the peach cocktail, but my homemade tzazaki was a flop. You can’t win them all. Actually Cindy says she is extremely happy if she gets a 20% success rate on new recipes, so 4 out of 5 or 80% of the recipes she would want again, makes me feel pretty good. The cooking ended up taking nearly 3 hours, I had only planned for an hour and a half, so she busted me and the surprise was not ready, but helped me for the last half of the time and we finally ate.

Oh I did a sun brewed Iced tea last week. Fantastic of course, goes without saying. Sun brewing gives it such a different flavor. Left it for 6 hours in the 90 degree sun then mixed the sugar and after dissolution, added Ice and 1 sliced lemon, let it chill for 2 hours in the fridge, and then jumped on it. Finished the whole gallon in 3 days by myself.

Made a great Chicken dish while my Mom and Gene were visiting for the afternoon. It was, Cindy's Bacon Wrapped Creamy Chicken Breasts

Boneless skinless chicken breasts or large tenders, one to two per person (you are gonna want seconds!)
1 8 oz Philadelphia soft cream cheese with chives.
Turkey bacon, suggest Butterball.
¼ Stick of Butter.
Fresh cracked pepper.
Fresh chives, or scallions, or parsley for garnish if you feel like it.

Preheat oven to 350. Tenderize and flatten the breasts with a mallet a little bit if you like.
Liberally spread a thick layer of the cream cheese on one side of the breast like jelly on toast. Leave out what is left of the cream cheese to soften more, we will use this later.
Wrap the breasts into a spiral. Wrap the outside of the chicken with the bacon as much as you can fit on it without overlapping. Coat the bottom of a glass or Pyrex deep bowl with very thin layer of butter. This will sizzle the bacon, and keep them from sticking.
Top each breast with small pat of butter to crisp up the tops of the bacon and get a good sauce started when it melts to the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the cream cheese (as much as you want) around the breasts in the bottom of the pan, so they will simmer in it. Bake for 30 to 35 mins, or until the center of the biggest breast reaches at least 165 with a meat thermometer, and the tops are a nice golden brown. Or just slice into the center of the thickest one and make sure there is no pink in the middle. I just don't want anybody getting sick, so I tend to overcompensate. Turn it up to broil at the end for another 5 mins to brown and crisp the bacon and breast tops. When you are satisfied with the doneness, remove from oven and let sit to cool for 5 mins before serving.
When plating, pour the rest of the butter/cream sauce from the pan over the breasts. Sprinkle your garnish over them for a nice visual effect. I suggest you serve with rice, risotto, or potatoes of your choice for a nice complete meal.

This is so good it was Cindy's absolute favorite dish before she went veggie on us. Mom said it was the single greatest thing she ever put in her mouth, after the meal.

Today during our errands, since it was 65 degrees, I wore a t-shirt, a long sleeve oxford, a knit sweater and my leather jacket up top.
Gloves, two pairs of socks, a diaper, thermal underwear, and khaki pants. Only got cold twice during the day on just on my head, would have worn my toboggan, but it was in the Van and we were in the middle of the farmers market. So I was pretty much eskimoed up. Do not know what the hell I am going to do when it get below freezing this year. I don't think I can leave the house. I need to get a winter home in Key West. If they have a good Cancer clinic there, I might just move there.

I made my soup last week, slow cooked it for about 5 hours.
It really took forever, I used homemade chicken stock that I made from the left over rib bones and meat from our breasts, and various spices.
After that I still probably spent 1 and 1/2 hours working on it, not just letting it cook.
It made 3, 32 oz containers.
And I had it for dinner, of course it was perfect.
I might sell the recipe to the Greek place, it is a ton better than theirs was, and theirs was the reason I even considered making it in the first place, because that was so good, I fell in love with it.
Have gone through 1 quart in less than 24 hours though.
Had it for both Breakfast and Dinner the next day.
It is just fantastic, the whole time I am eating it, I am groaning out "mmmm" and "oh man this is good".
Must be driving Cindy crazy.

I got no sleep again last that night, maybe an hour and a half and no nap the next day.
I try to sleep while Cindy watches some boring junk that I can fall asleep to.
But I want to be in here with her.
Have not seen her at all that day, she had to take Lucy to the vet aright after work, so she did not get back here and settled until almost 7 pm.

Slept good that night, and went into the office for 4 hours or more today.
So I will probably be good and sick tomorrow.
Have my CT scan and then a drain fright after.
Won’t be able to eat as my scan has to be clear, so should be really screwed up by the end of the day sick, exhausted, and starving.
Sounds like a pass out waiting to happen, when you mix that with weak legs that can barely support my weight.

The shot was easy as pie the last night for some reason.
Really tired, as I did not get but 1 and 1/2 hours sleep the night before.
Got my soup, in the middle of the night. I eat at every opportunity I can.

Two nights in a row the shot did not only go in good, but we had no after effects like we normally do for the next 5 mins with the fire spreading down my leg.
It was fantastic. If each night was like that I would never say a word.
You guys would never even know I had to take a shot, because it would be a non issue. Just like any other pill.

That pretty much brings you up to date. Sorry it is so much to sort through, but read what you want and skip the rest. It is there if you want it.
Need to make some food now, have been working on this enormous posting for hours. Maybe I will come back and add pictures later of the dishes I made.

Love to all,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Happy Labor Day weekend

Voice of the Narrator: On the food networks newest show, "Battles in the kitchen with The Chemo Warrior" see what our hero was up to. It was a war for the ages, stay tuned to see what's up.

My new hobby seems to be culinary arts.
Not that what you would call what I produce art, but cooking at least takes my mind off being sick, and I can do it at home, and at my own pace.

I am a big sissy and watch the food network all day like a housewife, which is essentially what I am lately. I can feel my balls shrinking as I write this. So here are some of my exploits.

For dinner one night I decided to do wild salmon with and my island vegetable blend.
For the veggies I did cubed baby carrots, diced green pepper, chunks of yellow onion, large cubes of celery, a few cubed mushroom caps, 1/4 cup pineapple chunks with juice, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp lime juice.
Put all this in a foil pack, pour 1/4 cup soy sauce over mixture, add about 2 tbps of Italian dressing. Wrap up the foil pack and put on grill at about 300 until carrots are tender enough for you.

Back to the salmon, make a dry rub mixture of garlic salt, lemon pepper, fresh cracked pepper, and old bay, put in foil pack. Add enough soy sauce to cover the bottom of the foil pack so as to steep the soy into the fish during cooking. Add a little lemon juice directly on top of steaks if you desire.
Cook all at 300 for about 4 mins, then open your fish foil packs and flip the fish, wrap it back up and mix your veggies. Continue to cook for about 3 or 4 more mins.
Very low fat, high protein dinner. Man was I pleased.

I had worked on this prep stuff for about 2 hours on Saturday night. Then worked on some stuff for the dehydrator for about an hour. After working all that time it was about 10 PM and I was too exhausted to actually cook the dinner. So I decided to cook and eat it Sunday. I had canned ravioli for dinner instead. Big let down huh.
Well Sunday night came and I start working on the grill and make the great dinner, and ate it about 8 PM. It was fantastic. Then I threw it up at 10 PM. Even bigger let down huh. Got to enjoy it for 2 hours though.

In the dehydrator I did 3 batches of fruit, it is going so good.
I did Tofu Jerky for Cindy, 3 differant flavors of beef jerky for me and dried bananas, kiwi, peaches and plums.

The plums have been the best by far. They taste like candy. And this is of course healthy no additives or preservatives or sugar.
I went and bought another 1 and 1/2 pounds of plums and did a whole batch of just plums.
I finished those and had Cindy pick me up 3 lbs of plums while they were still on sale for 99 cents a lb. I dehydrated all 3 lbs. My mouth is watering thinking about them. God are they good.
The next week Mom came to visit for a few hours Sunday the 17th and we went out to lunch. She had brought me some Fuji apples from their tree in their backyard, and some little purple plums from the tree in the front yard.
Then after they left, I got to work in the kitchen.

I had the urge to make an apple pie.
Have never done anything remotely close to this, but seemed to pull it off.
Used a ready made dairy pie crust and some apple pie filling but mixed in several of the fresh Fuji apples mom brought into the pie as well. Wanted to try my hand at a basket weave pie crust top, and it came out pretty good.
Trick is keeping the crust cold, cold, cold, so it does not tear or smush, or fall apart, as you have to handle it quite a bit.
Had to bake it a bit longer than expected to get the crust on top to brown up. Need to put foil around the outside perimeter of the crust to keep it from getting burnt, while browning up the center of the crust.
See pics below.

While that was baking I made a nice refreshing blender full of cocktails I called a Fish Bowl (due to its color) for Cindy.

Cindy was bitching at me to eat something for myself while all this was going on, because it was getting so late. So I made a Philly cheese steak for myself in the skillet and had blue box Kraft Mac and Cheese on the side, no pictures of that, sorry.

Then wanted to try my hand at fruit leather, like a fruit roll up in the dehydrator since I had so much fruit laying around.
But it was getting too late and I could not start it in the dehydrator or I would have to be checking on it all through the night.
So had to wait to puree it until the morning, but I did prep the fruits ready to go.
Sliced several of the little plums and apples along with ripe strawberries, peaches, and cherries to be blended and then go in dehydrator. See below.

Did one batch of Peaches, Fuji Apples and Plums with Vanilla Yogurt and a splash of pineapple juice.
The other batch is Fuji Apples, Fresh Cherries, Strawberries, and Vanilla yogurt.
Put them in the dehydrator on Monday morning.
They both turned out good in texture and such, but the cherry and strawberry one is the best.
Tastes just like fruit roll ups from the store, but without any of the sugar.
The peach, apple, plum version did not have a lot of flavor.

Ended up having another great day energy wise that Sunday when mom was down. I am so happy I ended up having good days on the weekend so I could be lucid to spend time with Cindy while she is home. I really needed the boost. Crazy thing is I only had 2 hours sleep Saturday night/Sunday morning from 5 AM to 7 AM.
I am sure I will pay the price on Monday when this all catches up with me. I seem to have an adrenaline burst when someone comes to visit because I am so excited to see actual people and not just the dogs like I do all week.

Did moms yard grown Fuji Apples and Plums in the dehydrator too. First I soaked the apples in a bowl of ice water with fresh squeezed lime juice for 2 hours to give them some more flavor. Glad I did. They were just right with a little sour kick.

My next attempt in the kitchen was Homemade Pickles.
Worked on it Friday on and off throughout the day ( had to let spears soak in ice water for 4 hours after slicing for the option to get crispy pickles instead of normal limp ones, Cindy always really likes the crispy ones like Claussen from the refrigerated meat department ).
By about 9 PM they were ready to be packaged and refrigerated.
I used a quick pickleing method that would have them ready in a day.
So I jarred them up and let them refrigerate to soak up the brine overnight.
By morning they were ready to try.
Of course the longer you wait, the more flavorings they absorb and the stronger they become.
They will last up to 3 months in the fridge. If I do another batch in the future, I will try a long term, Ball type jar pickling method, and put them up for use all year.

The pickles turned out ok.
I did dill spears, but they came out a little on the sweet side, other than that they are good.
Very crunchy, have a good snap when you bite into them like fresh deli pickles, which is essentially what they are.
I got them from the farmers market, fresh picked local cukes, big ones.
Then sliced them in half, then quartered the halves to make the spears. So they are a little smaller than say mount olive spears in length, but they are wider in girth, since I started with a huge cuke.
The whole batch started with 7 of the largest cukes I could find, 2 for $1.00 at the farmers market. How can you beat that price. So $3.50 for cucumbers, and then about $1.50 worth of pickling spices and vinegar, so for $5.00 it yielded about 1 and 1/3 gallons of pickles.
They came out a little on the sweet side of a dill pickle, so I am now trying to find a way to tone down the sweet flavor some.
I really do not like sweet pickles.
To do this I had the idea to set aside a little test jar and add more dill weed, and some black pepper, and celery salt to the brine.
After soaking a day or two they were certainly less sweet, but had become somewhat mushy in texture for some reason. The others were still crisp. Could have to do with air exposure or something I guess.
At this point I doubt I will make them again, or if I do I will try some other combination of pickling spices.

My next attempt was a creamy chicken and rice, with mushroom, Lemon Soup.
It is fantastic. I get this from one of the Greek restaurants around here, and it is to die for, so I thought I would try my own from the hip interpretation just by guessing at ingredients. I think it turned out every bit as good as theirs. This was a huge win, and I will be making this many more times.

While the soup was slow cooking my beautiful hard working wife was outside mowing. I made a her a drink called Tokyo Tea for her to enjoy when she finished.
1/4 cup Rum, 1/4 cup Vodka, 1/4 cup of Midori Liquor, 1 cut up lime to float in the pitcher, and a 12 oz can of 7Up. Yeilds about 3 or 4 servings.
It was a beautiful rich lime green color and easy to make. The fresh cut lime wedges floating in the glass carafe I made it in really set it off visually.
I chilled a margarita glass in the freezer for about an hour, added a quarter of a lime on a toothpick for extra garnish, and had it ready for her when she finished mowing. All we had to do was pour it over crushed ice.
She sipped it in the tub during a long bubble bath after sweating in the hot sun doing the lawn work. Do I know how to take care of my girl of what?
She found it a little too sweet, but other than that liked it. If I blend it with crushed ice to diffuse the sweetness she will probably like it better next time.

So in summary,
Wild Salmon
Island Veggies
Beef Jerky
Tofu Jerky
All of the dryed fruit
Cherry/Strawberry fruit roll ups
Apple Pie
Fish Bowl drink
Dryed home grown Plums and Lime infused Apples
Lemon Chicken Soup

Peach/Apple/Plum roll ups
Pickles (more like a tie really, they are just ok)
Tokyo Tea drink (also more like a tie)

Voice of the Narrator: We come to an end of this episode of "Battles in the kitchen with the Chemo Warrior". Tune in next week to see what our apron clad heroic crusader is up to on our next show.

I had a drain scheduled for Friday the 22nd, I just had one done that Tuesday. Comparatively speaking I was feeling good and not tight in the stomach, so I called and delayed it until the coming Monday, since I had to be down there for an Oncologists visit anyway. I took about a 2 hour nap later in that afternoon, and when I woke up my stomach was tight as a drum and I was full of fluid, and I was already having a hard time getting around. Wish I had not messed with the appointment. It was going to be a rough weekend, limping around like a tick about to pop. Fortunately I was able to grit my teeth and wait it out until Monday and did not have to go into the ER to have it done.

So I ended up spending over half the day at MUSC Monday between the blood work, the Dr. appointment and the stomach drain.
I had a on and off week the rest of that week. Mostly off. Monday was bad and I had the drain in the afternoon, so the night was even worse. Wednesday I went to the dentist and actually drove myself. That is huge after spending the last 2 weeks in the wheel chair when I had to walk or stand for more than 30 seconds or so other than the exception of the weekend I felt so good on.
More bad news at the dentists. I have to have another 4 cavities filled. This will make 8 in the last 3 months. The Chemotherapy is destroying the enamel from the inside out. There is nothing I can do to prevent it. Chemo has very direct effects on all aspects of your mouth.
Last Thursday was terrible did not get off the couch for more than 5 mins all day until Cindy got home from work. I was actually stuck there from 2:00 on. I literally could not get up or stand under my own power. Good thing I had a drink handy, and of course my Mobile Command Center, (see my February 13th posting if you do not know what this is). Do not know what I would do without that.
Friday was bad too, but not as bad as Thursday. Late Friday, I started to come around and was up until 6 AM Saturday morning. Have more energy then than I did all during the daylight hours. I am a scientific, medical mystery.
All that week and most of this week I have run a fever each night. Including tonight. Temp is fine all day, then at about 6 or 7 every night I start to feel real bad real quick, and sure enough the fever strikes. It has gone up to 100.5 at times, nothing to really worry about, but it makes me feel miserable. The Dr. tells me that I need to page him and possibly come into the hospital whenever my temp exceeds 101. That seems a little paranoid, but after that infection scare we got a few months ago, I guess you cannot be too careful.

Still going through the fires of the burning Lovenox shot every night.
Let me tell you that is some fun to take after you just threw up your measly dinner, and you are gasping to get your breath back, stomach muscles spasming and aching, barely able to speak you are so exhausted and weak, to have hot fire injected under the skin and left there to burn for 10 mins.
Last night the shot was so bad, I yelled so much and so loud I still have a sore throat still now 24 hours later. It was one of the worst ones ever.
I am down to under 130 lbs again (when I am drained of fluid).
Cindy is very worried about my weight.
I just cant seem to eat, and what I do get down, many times I throw up.

Have another drain tomorrow afternoon, and boy do I need it. Just had one done Monday. Full 4 liters, and I know I will get 4 off this time as well. That is the max they can take without admitting me for the night because of the electrolyte imbalance it causes.
Will have to sleep sitting up in a chair becasue of the stomach being so full.

Better try to get some sleep or I will get yelled at by the better half in the morning. It has taken me almost 4 hours to do this posting. It is now after 2:30 AM. For some reason the posting is time stamped by Google at the time of the first save, so it says I posted this at 10:49, that is when I started working on it. But hey that makes sense to Google for some reason.
You know how I feel about them already.

Many of you may have gotten emails from me with a lot of this already covered, but I wanted to share the Love with everyone.

Hope you all have a good holiday weekend. By the way, why the Hell do they call it "Labor day" if nobody works, shouldn't it be "Rest day" or "Lazy day".

Sorry I do not write more often but this month has been a real struggle.
Be good to each other and live every moment. Try to find pleasure in even the smallest things in life. Cherish your health and the miraculous ability to even perform the most mundane activities in life like going to work, or being able to mow your own lawn.
You have no idea how bad you want to actually do those things when you are unable to.

Everybody please get your preventative exams done regularly, don't want any nasty surprises from any of you.
Guys, get those prostrates checked.
Ladies get your Mamograms done regularly.
If any of you can trick the insurance company into covering a CAT scan for some reason, please have it done.
If I had one done earlier, many things may be different with me now.
Remember, my tumor was growing for many years prior to diagnosis. If a CAT scan had been done, anyone would have seen it.
Just love you all too much for anything like this to happen to you.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Starting August with a fresh dose of Poison

Hi Everybody,
Tomorrow is August first, and I am starting it off on the right foot with a cocktail of 5-FU, Dicarbozine, Steroids, and a stomach drain. Here I sit in my Superman underoos thinking I need to catch you all up before I start getting in trouble for not posting. Some of you natives get restless when I go a while without giving you the new dirt. Been a quiet few weeks since we talked so here we go.
Just the normal aches and pains this past month, and fatigue seems to be a permanent resident now in my routine.
All things revolve around energy levels. My problem is that I get to feeling good for a few mins and think "Hey, lets catch up and get some crap done around here". But I have no meter that tells me when to stop working. I should do an hour of activity but try to do 5 or 6, sometimes even more. By the time I feel the pain or exhaustion coming on, it is way too late to stop without consequences. If I can feel it, the egg has already been fried and there is no going back to fix it. So I end up spending the next 24 hours in a sheer state of exhaustion, laying on my ass on the couch, slipping in and out of consciousness.
It is just that so much stuff gets behind in the business of the house, and bills, and errands to be done, and shopping to do. Cindy is already way put upon and does the work of two of us around the house, so I feel guilty and compelled to use every ounce of energy I have to help her out and take any duty I am physically capable of doing from off of her plate.
She of course then yells at me for doing too much and not looking out for myself, but it is humiliating to be incapable of taking care of myself sometimes, and not pulling at least 50% of the load around the house. I used to do more than 50% and now I just cant stand the fact she has to work all day, then come home and take care of me. She says she does not mind, but how long can that continue? Infinitely, she says, because she loves me and I believe it, but it does not take away the guilt or longing to make her life as comfortable as possible.
So that is how and why I wear my self out so much.
In other news, cooking has been my new hobby as of late. I am such a woman now, if the TV is on there is a 50% chance that the food network is showing. I sometimes spend hours in the kitchen cooking (normally broken into shifts) and then am too exhausted to eat it after I finally get it done. Also my apatite is like that of a flea. I so want to enjoy these great dishes, but they mostly go to waste after just a few bites. Pretty frustrating, but I get enjoyment out of the creative process and the actual act of cooking.
My mother does not understand this. She says her rules of cooking are, work no more than 15 mins and use no more than 3 ingredients. Hell, I use more than 3 herbs or spices in everything I am making. She does not see that I enjoy the process, like gardening or knitting. It is much easier to go to the store and buy vegetables, or sweaters, but people like to do the craft. This is my craft. Probably just a passing phase, but I am having fun for now at least, when I have the energy to do it.
Since Cindy is still completely vegetarian, many of the things I am making I have no one to share them with, which kind of takes away from the enjoyment some. It is always nice to see someones reaction to your efforts. Hopeful positive reaction. I don't even know if I am any good, because I have no one to critique the dishes for feedback.
Wish I could mail some of this food to some of you to try, but with this kind of craft it is impossible to share long distance.
Need to go get some rest before my big first day of Chemo. It is always about twice as long as normal chemo days. They do new tests and have to make the meds on site after the results are processed on day one. The rest of the week is just delivering the meds.
I am up to 2 stomach drains a week now. I have not gone 7 days without a drain for about 2 months. Running more like every 4 days and we are taking the maximum (4 liters, about 9 pounds) every time.
Have a good day, week, or month, however long before I post again.
Be nice to each other, for everyone you meet is fighting their own personal battle.
Love to you all,
Greg the Chemo Warrior

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Tons of info

Last time we heard from our hero he was waiting to see if dental work would be approved. Little did he know that his teeth would be the least of his worries over the next month. Lets see what dark plots and sinister traps await the chemo warrior.
We pick up our story at the next Dr.s office visit and stomach drain......

Well the Dr. approved the dental work to be done, so the appointment was set and relatively uneventful. They did a very good job on the 6 teeth we had to drill right now, but surely we have more to do in the coming months. If you are looking for a good dentist in the Charleston area, I strongly recommend Dr. Don Ahern in Mt. Pleasant.

I had not been to a dentist for many years, and was terrified of them from a horrible childhood experience. The first time I went to Dr. Ahern I was put completely at ease. I have been going like clockwork every 6 months for the last 12 years. He will conquer your fears.

During my office visit with the oncologist, he recommended doing a blood transfusion as my hemoglobin had been consistently low and dropping. So we set that up to be done the week at the end of the dental work. During that one week, Monday and Thursday I had dental work done, Wednesday I had a stomach drain done. The next week I had Chemo all week.

Wednesday during chemo we drained 4 liters of fluid out of my stomach.
Friday (yes 2 days later) we took another 4 liters. 8 liters in 48 hours.
This morning (Saturday), less than 24 hours later my stomach was fully extended again.
I think we could do 3 liters a day if that was possible.
Also on Friday we did 4 hours worth of blood transfusion. Then the regular chemo treatment of 3 hours.
So we were there from 9 until 5:45 Friday, either taking something out or putting something in. I feel like a robot.
Little did I know what was to come over the weekend.

This had been an incredibly bad chemo week.
I felt the worst Friday that I think I have ever felt coming off of chemo. This was every bit as bad as the first session we ever did.Absolutely no energy, cant stand by myself, fever, stomach pain through the roof. Incredible headache.
Good news I was able to sleep, I had no choice.

Saturday, at about noon all hell broke loose, I felt a sharp pain in the middle of my stomach like somebody had kicked me with a pointed shoe. During the day the pain spread a little wider and then in the evening it worked its way toward my left rib cage. By the time we went to bed the whole area had turned a bright red and covered the left side of my abdomen all the way up my rib cage and to the side of my chest. Cindy wanted me to go into the hospital that night, but though it was very painful I wanted to wait to see what happened overnight.

Sunday morning when I woke up the pain and redness had spread down my left leg to the mid thigh. I immediately thought that this could be a moving blood clot and decided to get into the hospital now. So I paged the Dr. for the first time in my life and it happened to be Memorial Day weekend. Luckily enough he was the only call Dr. on rotation that week. He told me to get in right away. By the time i got the hospital I could not put any weight at all on my left leg because of the pain.

They started doing tests right away on me. Upon arrival nobody had any idea what it was and what was happening. So we just did tests to start ruling things out. During Sunday the redness and pain epicenter continued to move down my left leg. We used a magic marker do track its progress. By Monday morning it had gone down all the way to my foot. the pain was excruciating. I was having to be basically carried the 5 steps from the bed to the bathroom.

My sister Wendi came down to help take care of me so that Cindy could take breaks of about 4 hours during the day to take a shower at home and play with the dogs a little. Then Cindy wold come back and spend each night in the recliner in the room with me. I was there for 8 days. It must be miserable for her sleep there, but she would never complain.

On a side note to tally my time having some kind of medical treatment 16 of the last 18 days I saw somebody for some kind of treatment.

We got home Sunday evening after my long imprisonment in the the hospital being woken up every 2 hours each night for vital signs or some other stupid reason by the staff.
I went to sleep and pretty much did not get up at all, all night.
Then Cindy stayed home with me Monday and both of us slept almost all of the day.
I only woke up for her to put food in my mouth, and to go to the bathroom.
So Tuesday was really my first day of consciousness.
I was still having real difficulty getting up, sitting up, and standing.
Standing moves the blood into my bad leg and I can still feel every inch of the blood moving in.
It throbs with each heartbeat. I am laying with my legs elevated at all other times.
I do have a new toy to help me though.
We bought a walker. It really makes a difference having two hand braces to walk with rather than just a cane. It has many compartments and bags attached, and it even has a seat for me to rest on when I need a break from standing or walking.
I am zipping around the house to and from the bathroom and kitchen pretty good with its help.
I just need to get a cup holder mounted on it now.

Continued to very slowly improve over the next week then had 3 days of relapse of some kind.
I survived 2 days off of just a peach for breakfast on day 1. I tried to eat dinner on day 2 at 9pm and threw it up after about 10 bites. I have not thrown up in a long time.
I have been sleeping all day these days. Not kidding.
Monday after sleeping all night I woke up for 5 mins to say goodbye to Cindy and go to the bathroom at 7am.
Immediately back to sleep.
At about 10am I got up to let the dogs out and went potty again, watched 30 mins of TV and fell asleep until 1pm.
Let the dogs out at 1pm and tried to eat a yogurt. By the time I got back to the couch I had lost all appetite, and did not even open the lid.
Went back to sleep instead. So tired I could do absolutely nothing else. Slept until 4:30 when Cindy called. Went back to sleep after hanging up until she came home. Then slept again until 8:30pm.
So I was awake like an hour all day total.
I did get down a scrambled egg, another peach and a string cheese for dinner on the third day so that is a good sign. I should be eating about 5 foot long subs. I have no idea what is going on with me.
I only drank a 20 ounce Gatorade all day as well, so I am probably dehydrated.
I am so weak at some times I can't lift my arms higher than horizontal.
My leg was doing much better, only hurt to walk, and that seemed to get less and less painful each day, but the infection had effected my whole body in other ways as well.
Both legs were still very weak and I do not dare walk without the walker to hold onto.
I was still getting dizzy almost immediately when I stood up and have to sit in the walker and rest if up for more than a min or so.
Frustrating that I am so slow in getting my strength back, but those last 3 days I had actually gotten weaker.

Thursday I was able to eat at least a little something for 3 meals and kept it all down.
Had a cream cheese lenders frozen bagel for breakfast.
A microwave corn dog and a little left over mac and cheese for lunch.
A peach for a snack, and Ramen soup and a piece of toast for dinner.
I know it is not covering all the nutritional needs, but anything is an improvement right now.
Have a stomach drain 9 am Friday, somehow I am about to pop with fluid.
It seems that there is a manufacturing plant in there that does not require raw materials that generates this stomach fluid.
I have been tracking my intake and output and there is no explanation as to why I would be retaining water.

Things were pretty quiet over the next few days then we had a drain on Wednesday.
Have felt like such shit the previous 2 days I had not even gotten out of bed.
Do not know what is wrong with me. Had been throwing up frequently too.
Not eating barely at all, and was nearly blacking out when I tried to stand up.
Thank God for the walker, or I might not be able to make it to the bathroom.
Have no idea where this comes from.
Do not worry though, this kind of thing happens all the time.
I just go through these spells.

We had a CAT scan done the next Tuesday and I got the results back from my CAT scan on Wednesday during my last stomach drain.
This is the scan we do to come up with our long term plan and determine big picture stuff.
Well I was pleasantly surprised by the results.
Cindy and I both had our reservations about this test and were prepared for the worst.
I have been continually feeling bad, and having bad times come harder and more frequently lately over the last few months.
Somehow I can not come up with any energy whatsoever and have weakened dramatically.
So we really thought there was progression of the cancer and that something new must be going wrong or an existing tumor had grown aggressively.
The results showed that almost all of the spots we were watching maintained their size and had not developed any farther.
Nor were there any new growths to speak of that they could identify.
One of the plethora of tumors actually shrank some. It is located on my adrenal gland and has shrunk in length from 2.5 cm to 2.0 cm, while maintaining the same width of 1.5 cm. But this is a very minor one.
None of the really important tumors or blood clots reduced in size but they did not get any bigger.
So the overall treatment has been positive over the last 3 months.
We will call this a victory and continue with the same treatment plan.
So Chemo started up again on Monday the 7th.

End of the week of Chemo now and have a white blood cell booster shot scheduled for 4:30 this afternoon. Then finally I can get some rest and try to recover from the Chemo treatment. All seems to be quiet now and we will continue the grind.

So our caped crusader survived the trials of the last month. What new surprises await Mr. Hill this month, only time will tell. Whatever it is will of course be another interesting story full of peaks and valleys. Armed only with determination and his superhero boxer shorts our hero ventures again into the unknown. Until next time diligent readers God be with you.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Five years and counting.

Well May 6th was the five year anniversary date of my original Pancreatic Cancer Tumor removal surgery. The mortality rate for this kind of cancer for people who have had my surgery, called the “Whipple Procedure”, is 96% at the five year mark.
That means that by still being able to witness the sunrise each day I am in the top 4% of patients. Makes me feel pretty lucky, hell I am lucky for sure. The fact that I came out of that surgery and actually woke up again, is a miracle in and of itself. Each day since then has been a gift and a blessing, though sometimes it feels like a curse.
I will never forget the feeling going into that surgery. I had made my peace with God, had a chance to see all my family once again and tell them how much I loved them. There are not many death scenarios do you get the opportunity to do that. If you get hit by a bus, you cant tell the bus to, “hold on while I make a few quick phone calls before you run me over, I need to tell my wife, family and friends I love them and how much they have meant to me”.
Having done all that and getting my mind right to accept the fact that I very well might never have another conscious thought after they start the Demerol drip, was a almost peaceful feeling. I was sad, but prepared, and gave myself a 50/50 chance of coming out of it, but I was ready and willing to accept any outcome. I did not say to anyone that I was honestly thinking 50/50, to help them not be scared I of course said I have 100% confidence of coming out OK, and I will see you in a few hours.
I guess I could try to explain it all day, but if you have never faced something like this you wont get it. Anyway long story short I was as ready as anyone can be to die. Pretty morbid, but that was the long and short of it.
Another thing I was grateful for was that I had the time to make sure Cindy knew what to do with all the life insurance stuff and had a chance to make out a will. I would urge each of you to get those types of things organized and prepared for the loved ones you will leave behind. I know it is hard to think about, but getting all those ducks in a row by asking yourself what she would do if I went today, will help out the survivors tremendously. Just take the time and do it. Go over it with your significant other or your kids, or your parents, whoever is going to be impacted most by your departure.
Then both of you can rest a little easier, knowing that you are not going to leave this person with the task of having to figure it all out alone, while trying to deal with the grieving process.
I want Cindy to have nothing to do but make a phone call or two to get the ball rolling on all these issues. They need to know all account numbers, passwords, bank accounts, investment accounts, insurance policies, agents’ names and numbers, all that business stuff. I am even going to coordinate as much of the funeral arrangements as possible in advance. So all she has to do is make one call and everything is already decided, they just make it happen. Then she can worry about herself, and not become a business manager the day her husband dies. That is just too much strain on a person.
Enough of my sagely advice, most of you are not going to take it anyway, but you will wish you had, on to the medical update.

The biggest news I have now is actually coming from my Dentist. After 15 years of going to him and have nothing but stellar checkups, no fillings or anything needing to be done, we have some problems. In the short 6 months between checkups, I have developed decay along the gum line of almost every tooth. Six of them have to be drilled and filled immediately to avoid losing them. The others we are going to try to save by doing overnight fluoride soaks.
He said this decay is due purely to the chemo I am taking right now, and there is nothing I could have done to avoid it. It is not a hygiene issue; it is coming from the inside out, not the outside in. All of the decay is at the gum line and you can even see it with the naked eye. I have a sort of brown line along the bottom of each tooth. Below that line you can feel that there is no enamel. Also my teeth are weakening. I have a vertical crack in my right top front tooth, and two other teeth have been chipped as well. All this happened in the last 6 months.

I am having a pretty hard time dealing with this side effect. I have always had perfect teeth, and have had a huge fear of losing them. I have nightmares all the time of them falling out. So now even cosmetically the Cancer is having an impact on me. The fillings are going to be visible, and if I start having to have teeth pulled, I am going to go nuts.
This is infuriating, that to fight my disease it hurts so many other things in my system. On a large scale, it is keeping me alive, and that is the objective, I know. But it still just pisses me off to have this happening now.
I already look like a freak enough; I will lose all chances at someone mistaking me for normal if my teeth go to hell. My skin and bones body, with scars, and pocked with scabs from itching, is hideous enough. Add to that the fact that I have to walk hunched over half the time, have black circles around my eyes, and move like a slug; take the teeth out of the picture, and I will look like the frigging Elephant Man. I already do not know how Cindy can stand to look at me. I walk by the mirror and am still shocked at how bad I look each time. I guess that is something you never get used to.

So I tried to get the dentist thing scheduled, but the Cancer Center people overrode it and said I could not have anything like this done to my mouth until my white count comes up to an acceptable level. Your mouth is the biggest breeding ground for germs and bacteria in your body. You become very susceptible to infections or other sicknesses, because of exposure of the mouth from dental work. With an incredibly low immune system this could have catastrophic results for me. So I have to wait to get the green light from the Doctors.
In the meantime my teeth are getting worse every day. I have to get this done quickly; the dentist said time was a major concern here for these six worst teeth. Right now I have the appointment scheduled for Thursday the 15th. By then my levels should be good. That will be five full weeks off of Chemo. Now the dental work will be holding back the Chemo treatments, which are time sensitive as well. The last time I did not have treatment for awhile the tumors grew like weeds.
So the week of having this done will make it six weeks off, then we will start in week seven. We are normally on a four week cycle, so this is a walk on the wild side too, putting off Chemo for so long. Both of them have to get done, there is just not enough time.
I hope to get the go ahead for the 15th from the Docs. If it is later than that I will have to make a hard choice and possibly do the Chemo round again and wait another 4 to 5 weeks to be able to do the dental work. By then it may be too late for the problem areas. All I can do is wait and see right now.
I just wanted to let you all know about the 5 year milestone. So be happy for me and help me celebrate my 5 year birthday of my second shot at life.
Happy Birthday to Me!!!
Love you all.
Spay and Neuter those pets, they will still love you afterwards, I promise.
Bye for now, from the five year old brat,

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Slight Delay

Hey everyone,
Guess what?
I got a call from Dr. O'Brien today and he said they misread the last CT results and actually all my tumors shrank by 50% and there were no new growths like previously reported!!!!
You do know what today's date is though right?
April fools. I got no phone call, but wouldn't that be a nice one to get.
In my dreams.

In reality here is what is going on. I tried to call to schedule a drain of my stomach today but the Oncology nurse Tess, which is the only person in the world that knows how to do that procedure has her pager off today for some reason. I really need a drain bad, I am having to sleep in a complete sitting up position. I am bursting.
In the last couple weeks here is what has been happening with the fluid drains. On Wednesday last week I had 4.5 liters taken out. The previous Friday (5 days prior) I had 4.5 done as well, we had more to drain then, but they ran out of vacuum bottles in the cancer center. That proceeding Monday I had another 4 liters taken out. So in a 9 day period we drained a whopping 13 liters. That is 6 and 1/2, 2 liters bottles of Pepsi. Absolutely mind blowing to me that this much excess fluid could accumulate in a person.
I have to be sitting on at least 5 liters right now, but they will only take 4.5 out, if you take more they say your system is shocked too much any your electrolytes and potassium levels go crazy and you have to be admitted and have an IV drip done for 24 hours. So we always stop at 4.5 liters as a max. I can go back a few days later if needed.
Having this done so frequently makes the port that I had put in my stomach an absolute necessity. It used to take me about 3 days to recover from a drain when it was done through the radiology department. Now I am just woozy for the first day, and then it is fine pretty much after that. I have had no other crazy reactions like I did that one time when I thought I was going to die.
In the next 48 hours I have to get drained or I am going to be in some serious trouble. I hope I can get ahold of Tess tomorrow. They are normally really good about fitting me in on short notice.

The title of today's posting is "Slight Delay". We are delaying the next Chemo round a week. The last time I was in their office, (Wednesday last week during the drain) they looked at me and said there was no way I would be ready for Chemo this coming Monday like we had scheduled. So now it is going to be one more week off. Which is great. I have had a real hard time recovering from this last round of Chemo. I feel very tired still. I worked 3 and 1/2 hours on Monday and it totally wiped me out. I had to come home and sleep from 4 until 9 that night. Then I ate dinner and went back to sleep until 11 AM Tuesday morning. Still very weak, and feel like each month I get weaker and weaker. I would love to take about 3 months off of Chemo, but the growth was so rapid this last time we took time off, and the fact that even on Chemo I had new growth and cancer spread to the Spleen, I cannot stop taking the poison.

That brings you up to date.
I hope everyone has a great week, and enjoys this beginning of spring weather.
I am going to try to get in the hot tub several times this week while the weather is warm.
Love to all.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Pattys Day

Hi Everybody,
Hope you all are wearing Green today.
Happy St. Patty's, just stay away from the Green Beer.
Wanted to give you a quick update.
Completed a week of Chemo, it was pretty rough this time.
I ended up having to go to the treatments in my wheelchair all week. Though it is a little embarrassing and humiliating, it was unavoidable. My legs actually gave out on me a couple times last week and I did face dives in the house just walking from room to room. I had only had to use the chair 1 maybe 2 days a week for treatments in the past. But I guess this is just the natural variation or evolution of the whole process.
During the chemo week I had to have 2 stomach drains done. On Monday I had 3.5 liters taken out, and then was completely full again by Tuesday night. That was unnerving. 24 hours and I needed another drain! I was able to put it off for a few days by tripling my water pills, but by Thursday I had to be drained again, another 3+ liters was taken out.
As far as recovery goes, I was bedridden pretty much all weekend since chemo. Up only to go to the bathroom. Had an insomnia night Saturday, after sleeping until 5PM Saturday, I did not sleep 1 min again until Sunday night at 11PM. I sure was trying, but could not get to sleep. That will drive you nuts.
Currently very weak and having to use the cane around the house to get to the restroom and such, but that is expected for at least the next few days. Cant wait to get back to some kind of normalcy, being in the wheelchair all last week makes me feel like it has been an eternity since I have had a good day. Mentally I really need one. We had another rough weekend emotionally. But I still am fighting, I try to turn my anger to energy and strength.
Oh, one thing I might have forgotten to report earlier: my bone scan came back clear. They said that the bone scan did not even flag the 2 growths on the T-17 vertebrae that the CT showed. So this thing spreading to bone cancer seems to not be an issue at this time. Big relief.
I have hit you with a big enough barrage of info for now and thank you for your interest and concern. Keep praying, I need all the help I can get.
Miss you all terribly and cant wait to see you. No matter where you are.
Your lonely friend,

Friday, March 07, 2008

Early March

Hi Everyone,

We just got back Saturday from our cruise out of Charleston. It was great and relaxing. The food sucked in general, but that is really my only complaint from the cruise. Many would say that the food is the main focus of a cruise, if this is the case for you I would recommend staying away from the Norwegian Majesty.

If you just want a quiet ship with mostly Senior patrons, and a nice relaxing week, they you will be happy on this ship. The sit down restaurants where they actually come around and serve you were really not that bad and we had some meals there that bordered on great. But all the other food (buffet, room service, walk up grill, deli station etc.) were so bad that it more than offset the good meals we did have.

It was good for both of us overall. We came back looking the best we had in years. Everyone at my work commented on how healthy I looked, and I felt rejuvenated.

Cindy and I did a trip on Grand Cayman Island to go swim with the wild stingrays on this sand bar about 20 mins off the island. The water was beautiful and the stingrays were so tame and docile, they would literally swim right up to you and you could hold and pet them.
As far as the medical update goes. I start Chemo on Monday the 10th. We did a bone scan on Monday to check for bone cancer because of the 2 growths that are there on the vertebrae, but I have not gotten the results yet. I should have had them by now, but you know how it goes.
I have been having a hell of a time with water retention and pitting edema this week. I got drained on Monday (after the bone scan) and they took out 2.5 liters of fluid. By Tuesday night I was completely full and swollen again. Just over 24 hours, and I had more fluid than I did before the drain. So I don't know what has been going on with that. But I have had to triple the prescribed dosage of lasiks to keep up with it. That means up every 30 mins to pee, and thus no sleep. I did not sleep 1 min on Wednesday night. So I only did double dosage Thursday night and got more sleep but I woke up with legs so swollen I could not bend my knees.
I am going to try to get a drain done unscheduled as soon as possible.
That is really all that is going on now, just going to do Chemo on Monday and start my cycle again. Still doing the fire water shot every night. That is just a nightmare. Both of us are nervous wrecks each night before during and after the shot is given.
Hope you all have a good week,

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

CT Restults February

Happy Presidents Day!
Maybe I will make this a policy to post on holidays.
I know most of you and I too had to work but somebody gets these BS holidays off. My first big day back, I of course overdid it. I left the house at 10:30 and did not get home until after 6 PM. So I am paying for it tonight. Probably have screwed myself up enough that I won’t even be able to drive myself into work tomorrow. But I do this every time. Not a surprise to anybody.
Anyway, on to the news.

CT Results. Overall a bad score on the CT. Pretty bummed out, we had a bunch of "=" signs in the no further development in the multiple liver tumors, or the pancreas tumor, or the lymph node tumor, or the spinal cord tumor (which I don’t remember being there, but nothing surprises me anymore, very well) , but no "+" signs for any shrinkage of any of the existing tumor sites, and two new "-" signs.
The two new negatives are the big news of the scan.
The first is that I have new growths that have appeared in the spleen. There are two new metastases that are very small right now on the spleen which has been clear up to this point. Now I don’t know how many organs I have in there, but I seem to be running out of ones that DON’T have any tumors at this point. The lungs and the kidneys are all I can think of that either have not been removed, previously operated on, or currently have cancerous growths. This is getting pretty damn ridiculous.
The second negative piece of news is that I have a new blood clot. This one is located on in the vein that the venial port catheter runs through in the chest.
I seem to think this blood clot around the port catheter is a big deal but the Dr. downplayed it. Maybe they just did not want to scare me.
I saw myself in the mirror tonight and the veins on the left side of my chest and my left arm are bright blue. The right side is normal flesh colored. It looks like a drawing in a medical book, where they are giving you an inside look on one half of the body.
This concerns me. If they are that dramatically different looking, then they have to be that different functionally as well. Maybe I can get a good picture of it. Let me go try....
Ok, it came out so-so.

You can see the blue veins on my left but not my right. (Also my intimidating Schwarzenegger like chest physique.)
With it being taken with the flash, it is not nearly as easy to see as with the naked eye.
In person the blue veins are MUCH brighter than what you see here. It looks like they have been painted on. I think blue veins means they are not getting enough oxygen.
They neglected to tell me exactly where the blood clot is, but for the veins to be used as a road map it has to be right by the heart. Remember that is exactly where this port goes. That scares the hell out of me. I have a blood clot right at the entrance to my heart in a main vein, (because that is where you are supposed to put the port line) if it dislodges from the catheter tube and enters the heart, isn't that VERY bad? Like possibly life threatening bad? They always freak out about blood clots moving and going to the heart and lungs don't they?
Isn't that why blood clots are dangerous in the first place? And this one is right by the heart. That is the starting point and nexus of the blue vein road map drawn on my body. Not very reassuring. After I left the office and recovered from hearing all this bad news, I had great questions about all this, but of course you are too shell shocked and emotionally rocked to think about this stuff scientifically. It is like you need to bring another Dr. with you that is not concerned about your case emotionally to ask the questions to the Oncologist that you would ask if you only could.

So that would be a negative 2 on the score card of possible 6 now. 0 would be no changes, 6 would be all improvements -6 would be all declined. I got a -2.

The continued bad news about the blood clot is that with me taking blood thinner and having blood that takes 3 times the normal rate to clot it should have been impossible for this clot to form. We were taking Warfarin as a pill to do blood thinning. Well since that is obviously not doing the job, did not reduce the clot in the liver, and a new one developed the Dr. decided we needed to change to a completely new type of thinner that works in a different way and is delivered in a VERY different way.
This is called Loveox and has to be done by injection. Oh, no big deal right. Hell I get stuck with needles at least 10 times a month, I don’t even blink anymore. Bad thing is it has to be given in the stomach. Now between the surgical scars down the center and the new drainage port on the right side, that does not leave a lot of real estate to inject this thing. But we will manage.
So we did the first dose there in the exam room (after we had to spend another hour going over to the pharmacy building and getting the new prescription filled for this wonder drug). The nurse did the injection and of course Mr. big shot can take a little needle prick no problem. Well, the needle I did not even feel, but then the goo they shot into me, HOLY SHIT. I hit the friggin roof. This stuff burns like the fires of hell. I thought she had injected me with acid and I would look down and a big gaping hole the size of a tennis ball would be missing from my gut.
This is the second time in as many months that the 3rd floor of the Hollings Cancer Center has been blessed by a hundred decibel swearing and screaming session by the gentlemanly, mild mannered Mr. Hill. I swear they had to be able to hear me all the way out in the waiting rooms. Everybody there knows me, that is for sure.
This pain lasts for about 3 mins of intense action, then it starts to subside, but in total lasts about 10 mins. After I came down off the ceiling I asked ok we need to do this what, once a month, once a week? No, daily. You have got to be kidding me. Now we have to do this at home every night and I get to look forward to this misery indefinitely until the clots do something.
I just really need break from all this.
Its 1:30 AM now, better try to get some sleep.
Love to you all.