You are Loved

The anticipated CT scan took place as planned. Bobbi stopped by the hospital a few days early to have labs done and picked up two bottles of contrast dye she drank before the test. The label on the bottles said they were like a vanilla flavored smoothie but Bobbi shook her head with disgust drinking them down. A long ways from a smoothie she said. They then placed an IV in her arm. Why they continue to stick needles in her, for blood work, IV’s, and such when she has a port confuses both of us. Use it!

Two days later we were back on the road to Petoskey to go over the scan with the doctor. First seeing the nurse, who took vitals and her weight. Then about 45 minutes alone waiting to see the doctor. Usually it’s only five minutes or less after meeting with the nurse. When he came in he explained that the scan hadn’t arrived but the preliminary report did.

He said that everything that could go right went right. The tumor shrank to 3 to 4 millimeters. We were elated. Wow! It went from 3-4 centimeters to millimeters! What we didn’t catch at the time was that he was talking about a tumor present in the liver. Not the one in her pancreas. When he mentioned liver I told him we knew nothing about a spot on Bobbi’s liver. This was the first time even hearing about this. Something didn’t make sense or add up. WTF? When asked about the tumor in the pancreas and it being butted against her portal vein he said the report only detailed the liver. We thought that it must be good news if it went down, the chemo was working, because it wasn’t even mentioned. He asked what plans the surgeon had and we explained that a Whipple was the next step. He said that he didn’t know what criteria the surgeon wanted but perhaps no surgery at all. The tumor had shrunk so much maybe more sessions of chemo? That would be great!

We left the meeting feeling elated, everything that could go right went right he 0said. This was good news right?Though in the back of my mind red flags went up. We text family and relayed the good news. We drove back excited that there was a chance no surgery would take place. Bobbi wanted to celebrate getting a cream puff. There was a bakery across the street from the hospital so we made a quick stop. No cream puffs, she settled for something else.

On the drive home things simply didn’t add up right in my mind. I didn’t want to say anything and wreck the good mood by questioning things. Everything that could go right went right we were told. This must mean what it implied.

After we got home we sat down and read a copy of the report. It gave a detailed summary on the tumor. Problem was that it was a new tumor we didn’t even know existed before today. When it got to the pancreas the report said that the known mass there had poor detail imaging. That was it. One sentence on Twisty. We googled all the medical jargon that the report was written in and learned the tumor he spoke of was in fact in the liver. There were also spots on her lungs but they did appear to be cancer related. Which is what we’re being told today.

Maybe it was scaring from the result of her bile duct problem? The tumor in her pancreas had blocked it, which lead to the jaundice and then her cancer diagnosis in August. A temporary plastic one was placed in the duct to relieve pressure. This fell out about five weeks later and was replaced with a metal one. So maybe it was a spot on the liver from this? Had to be. We would know more when the surgeon calls us from Grand Rapids after they receive the actual imaging. Knew it would take a couple days.

We lived by the phone, waiting to hear from her surgeon. When Friday arrived every thought was on the phone ringing. What a situation. To live your entire life, to suddenly be waiting for a 5-10 minute phone call that would change it forever. The hours passed with no news. At about 4:00 it rang. It was the surgeon. She explained to us that the imaging did arrive late in the day, but because it was a Friday her team wouldn’t be able to read everything, compare them to past scans until Monday. She said she wanted to call us and at least inform us that things did arrive, knowing we were very concerned. Monday? Seriously? I understood why, but it seemed like years until then.

So we waited, determined not to worry and spent the weekend watching TV, cleaning the apartment, talking and finding things to laugh about. Attitude is important and I know how to get her to laugh. We each said we were having bad hair days in the morning. Both being bald made this impossible of course. But it lighten the mood. Bobbi’s energy returned and she was busy as ever going about the day. On Sunday we drove over to see her brother Mike and spent most the time laughing and having a good time. Her family are really good people. We have our moments like any family, but who doesn’t. Situations are dealt with and moved on. One can’t help but leave in a good mood after spending time with him.

On Monday morning Bobbi went with her mother Betty to a doctors appointment for a hip problem that’s been causing her a lot of pain. Which again shows you the type of woman she is. We are waiting for a phone call, that will change her life, one direction or another, and she makes it a point to still take her mother to the doctor. It’s one of the reasons I love her so much. She has always puts others first, with no hesitation.

When she got home we sat on the couch and waited. The hours passed slow. Around 4:55 the phone rang. The called ID said it was from Grand Rapids. It was her surgeon. The call took the wind out of both of us.

The doctor said that her team looked over everything and she was highly concerned about “spots” on her liver (more than one). We asked if it could be related to the bile duct problems from the stenting and she replied that they considered this but some spots were definitely unrelated to that. There were spots that didn’t show up in her scan in August, which were present now. Her scan in October, when she had the metal stent put in showed them, but nobody informed us, assuming we most have been aware of it already. It was the hospital here in the Soo who did the scan in October and they had no idea what we knew and didn’t know. I think the hospital figured we were informed already. Surgeon said the the liver tumor started out about 14 millimeters. Chemo shrank it. Bobbi asked her point blank if it meant her cancer is metastatic, has spread, their was a moment of silence, and surgeon gently said she believed so.

Tests for a biopsy will be done on Tuesday in Petoskey with guided ultrasound. Problem is the chemo worked so well on this tumor that it may be hard to biopsy to know for sure. The fact that it shrunk is a sign in itself. Scars don’t shrink. She also said there were more than one, unrelated to stent problem. It was a very uncomfortable conversation. The surgeons voice sounded sad. We won’t know anything for sure until the biopsy. She recommended that chemo be continued, if it wasn’t making her too sick.

So that’s where we are. Hoping for the best, to hear that it’s nothing to be concerned about, but also know that it’s a game changer. She said there would be no sense to do the surgery if it has spread to her liver. Why put her through that ordeal she added. We are going to drive to Petoskey Monday night, get a room, and be at the hospital early at 8:00. It takes about 72 hours for the results. If they can get to it. If it has spread she will have to stay on chemo forever she said.

I told Bobbi I was done writing about this. She insisted that it must be written. I’m not comfortable doing so. She wants this to help others and it’s very important to her to do so. We don’t know anything for sure. Not going to jump to conclusions without the facts. Angry that we had to find out about the liver spots the way we did. Maybe nothing to be concerned about. The fact that the spots responded to the chemo isn’t good. The fact that the spots shrunk isn’t good. The fact that no one has mentioned anything about the pancreas tumor against her portal vein, is concerning. No mention of it. That was the beast we thought we were fighting. What I do know is that there is a whole lot of fight left in us. We knew that this wouldn’t be easy. It feels like we have to ask the right questions to get the answers.

Yesterday I went out and got us a small Xmas tree and it looks wonderful. We had put up decorations and some lights 2 weeks ago, but not a tree because we thought she’d be in the hospital for the surgery a couple weeks. Bobbi decorated it beautifully and we are still determined to enjoy the holiday. Very hard to do, but refuse to allow it to strip from us the good. We’ve cried, and I hold her at night close. It’s a very confusing time. I looked at her decorating the small tree and decided to take a shower. I wanted to hide my tears. I love her so much and it’s so painful to watch her experience all this. August 24th feels like a million years ago.

There is a gathering of friends being held in Wisconsin this coming Saturday, simply to show us we aren’t alone. It’s overwhelming seeing how many people are involved and doing so much. She is feeling so much love from others that she often sheds tears when a Facebook notice sounds on this iPad. We have it set to sound like popcorn, and at different times it’s like a large kettle is being cooked. Thank you family and friends. Life often shows the worse of humanity on TV and in newspapers. This shows the very best in humanity. The worst three words heard was “you have cancer”. The best three words she has heard is “you are loved”. Thank you are words that can’t describe what this feels like. She has touched so many lives, and will continue to. You have certainly helped her in ways that only love can do. When we decided it was time to let others know what was going on, until now, the love shown has been unbelievable.

The battlefield may have changed a bit. But there is no quit in her DNA. Not now, not tomorrow, not anytime. Tuesday more tests, results probably Friday or Monday. Have gotten about 5 hours a sleep these last few days. How do you tell your mind to shut down when there is no off switch. We move forward and deal with today. She is feeling good, no pain, but it’ like getting hit by a fast ball. Shock, disbelief, confused, concern, all combined into one.

The Dark Of Night

October 9, 2017
Yesterday was another rough day. It’s Monday, about 3 :00am in the morning and I’ve staying up all night to watch over things. On Sunday morning she got up early, dressed, and was tired walking across the room. Her scalp hurt, skin, mouth. Hair continues to comb out in clumps. Her mood was very down and emotional. I went to the store and got a few scarves and flowers. It picked her mood up some but the day continued to be tough. We sat outside for about 30 minutes and even the sun caused pain on her skin. All the areas where new cells are constantly being made are effected by chemo. The medicine kills cancer cells but also kills good cells that reproduce naturally each day. The pain in her pancreas is not the chemo but the tumor. So the battle was taking place at different spots and different times. Her brother Steve and his wife Debbie were in town, texted to see if she was up for a visit but shared she was whipped out for company. They understood. We watched the Lions play but really didn’t follow it much. She tried to stay awake so she’d be able to sleep tonight.

I had a feeling that her night wouldn’t go well so laid down for an hour about 2:00. Sure enough, it didn’t go well. She went to bed about 9:00 but was up at around 9:30 balled up in severe pain. It was like a 15 on a scale of 1 to 10. No matter what she did it wouldn’t let up. I kept switching hot water bottles for cold. One minute she’d be burning up and the next minute chilled. Her temperature was bouncing all over the place. Tried help with massages, laying with her, providing fresh towels, but Twisty has a mind of its own. After about an hour she fell asleep exhausted. It’s presently about 3:15 in the morning and I just checked on her to see if she had a fever. She was sleeping soundly but temps still high.465EFA25-8C63-4F9B-BB43-FA3CFA22CA2F

What an ordeal. She has a week off from treatments but we may be going to Petoskey anyways to see the doctors. It’s close to a couple hour ride. The pain is just too much. Will be calling again when their office opens to find out. We knew this battle would be difficult, but had no clue what to expect. We are hoping that after the whipple surgery the painful episodes will subside, though pretty sure the 4 months of chemo will still leave her with fatigue and such. At least the tumor will be out, no longer pushing on the surrounding nerves and organs. We’ll learn more about this within the next 5 weeks. Hopefully the chemo is shrinking the tumor so they can safely get to it. It’s pushed against her portal veins so is too risky to attempt right now.

Have no clue what to expect today. The longer she stays asleep the better. At least she is not experiencing these problems then. I know she’ll will beat this but it’s hell watching her go through it.

So many thoughts and concerns going on at one time. There will be better days but at the time it’s like one boxing round after another. Each one leaving a toll. Her weight is slipping because she has no desire to eat, though is because she knows how important it is to be healthy enough to endure the major surgery. A whipple surgery is very complicated, which will be explained later. It’ll take place in Grand Rapids. For today we’ll just take it moment by moment until the darkness of the evening comes.

At about 11:00 her Doctor in Petoskey said to get her in the ER here in the Soo. We checked in, now she has her pain under control and a CAT scan is next. Will know more soon. She wasn’t too thrilled to come here but enough was enough. Could not sit back and watch her suffer. Bobbi’s the type to bite the bullet but in a situation like this it isn’t something to be messed with.

Doctor just came in and explained that the CAT scan shows that the stent they put in her bile duct became dislodged and she’ll be transported to Petoskey by ambulance to have it fixed today. Knew that something was going on. At least it’s not a new mass or tumor! We can handle this one. It’s what it isn’t that provides the relief. Serious but she’ll probably be back home tomorrow. Time to pack the bags and meet the ambulance down there. Thank you for the concern. Onward with the battle.

Grand Rapids

IMG_2005September 12, 2017
What a busy week. On Labor Day we packed the car and preceded to Grand Rapids, Mercy Hospital. Bobbi had her CAT done but hadn’t received any information on it yet. Her cancer team in Grand Rapids told us about the “Hope Lodge” a block away from the hospital. It cost nothing to stay there, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. I thought no way. We were a long ways from home and had no idea how we’d afford the journey. Like millions of other families we lived month to month on her social security. I was prepared to simply sleep in the car at night. Wasn’t a big deal. The big deal was what was taking place inside my wife’s body.

The hospital first wanted us there on a Tuesday for a imaging test called EUS for staging of the cancer. This would provide the information that haunted us. The test was completed and the next few days until Friday seemed like an eternity of time. The Hope Lodge was extremely comforting. Everyone there was fighting cancer and were battlers. It felt surreal walking into the doors. A kind lady named Stacy greeted us at the door and took us on a tour. There was a exercise room, reading room, billiards table, and a huge kitchen area for meals. The rooms were nice and very clean. What more could one wish for during this tense time? Guests were able to cook meals. Refrigerators were assigned to each family and one room had shelves stocked with different foods from the kindness of others. We can’t say enough good about this place. Everyone was kind and supportive. Meeting other cancer patients was good. Learning of their own personal battles helped a lot. We certainly all have our mountains to climb. She and her sister Chrissy, who lived about 45 minutes away went out together for the day on Thursday. The visit picked up her spirits and helped pass the time before the meeting. The wait was torture for us. Bobbi was experiencing nausea and stomach pain. The nights were long. Shay is going to school in Australia, which is a 12 hours time difference so it was nice messaging with her in the deep of it. During the day we did the same with Sean and Jen, in addition to Bobbi’s siblings. Each helped us a great deal. Everyone was concerned and supportive. What a situation our family was suddenly confronted with.

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On Friday we met with her main doctor, a lady named Jill. She explained the results of the different tests and what our options were. The tumor was located on the top of her pancreas, which was more positive than in other areas. Because it was in this area, blocking her gallbladder duct, Bobbi’s body showed that there was something wrong. The change in skin color, the nausea, the blood sugar numbers bouncing all over the place, not to mention the weight loss. All symptoms that told her to get in and see our doctor. Some people dealing with this type of cancer get little advanced warning. Which in turn makes it more difficult to catch and treat. The CAT scan showed no spreading of the disease. The best course of action would be chemotherapy and then a surgery named ‘whipple’. The goal was to shrink the tumor and stop any cells from spreading, and when it was safe to surgically remove it. We’d began with 2 months of chemo, have another CAT scan, and see if it did in fact shrink the tumor. If so a month would be needed for all the chemo to leave her body and surgery. A major surgery. After this more chemo. A total of six months. Once each week, for three weeks in a row and then a week off. The chemo treatments will take place in Petoskey, Michigan. About an hour and 45 minutes away. On the way home we stopped at Lori’s and Jim’s house for a couple of days. Could think of no better place to shelter us from the storm. She’s close with everyone in her family. Mike and Steve, her younger brothers, and Lori and Chrissy her younger sisters. her father passed away some years back, of cancer, and that is still fresh in everyones minds and heart. Her mother, Betty,  are close as well. Its been a very emotional three weeks for everyone.

First a port will be placed into her chest. This is a tube where the Chemo will be dripped into. We are waiting for the local hospital here in the Soo to call us on the date. On Friday we travel to Petoskey for our first consultation visit, in just a few days.

On Sunday we talked with Sean and Jen. They had told the grandkids. We were waiting until we learned more on the battle plan. It must have been a difficult meeting to have. We are a close family and just the word cancer is scary. We made a short video to show them a visual that things were well, and followed up their talk with a FaceTime call. You want to protect the people you love from worry and stress, but at the same time its important to have the children know that this battle will take place and that we are going to beat it. We have some good things in our favor. Catching it early and the location where it the tumor was discovered. We aren’t out of the woods in any fashion. Its going to be a long and tough road. Bobbi’s attitude throughout this has been amazing. There are moments of unsureness, but they’re talked through and discussed. We could sit back and just cry and let the sorrow drain us, or we can put on the armor and get ready for the fight. Jen sent us lots of oils and her mother Carol sent us lots of reading on holistic information. We’re very close with her parents. Every holiday was spent together while living in Wisconsin. Bobbi has chosen to only share the news with a few friends there as well. She doesn’t want people to worry or feel sorry for her. Which I get 100 percent. People will learn in time I’m sure. But right now its a family matter and all our energy is being spent in preparing for the chemo and surgery. Getting our ducks in a roll with insurance coverage and so forth. We’re on medicaid so lots of pre-authorizations and phone calls are being made.

We are choosing to believe that we can and WILL beat this. There is no room for doubt. I can’t began to imagine whats going on in her mind. This is the strongest woman Ive ever met, whose taking on a battle that is going to be beaten. We now have the facts, the battle plan, and now waiting on the first treatment. In the meantime its important to get as many calories into her system as possible. There have been some rough spots of sickness throughout the day and night. Its such a helpless feeling wanting to spare her the pains and be unable. I’ve dealt with over 25 hospitalizations the last 6 years with heart issues. A failed quadruple bypass surgery, and 19 stents put into my heart. Everything medically that can be done has finished. I’m on palliative care for comfort. My battle may help her in knowing that we can do anything we put our minds to. We each look at life differently than just a few weeks ago.

Battle Plan

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August 25, 2017
This morning seemed like I woke from a bad dream. Only it wasn’t. The hospital was only a few blocks away. I was still in a daze. When I got to her room she was sitting up, ordering breakfast. The stent was doing its job, her skin was less yellow and her eyes whiter. Both of us knew there was a battle ahead and concentrated on how we’d tackle this news. At least she felt better from having the pressure relieved inside the gallbladder. The doctor soon came into the room and cleared her for release. Her enzymes were still sky high but should soon get better. Her attitude amazes me. I shared that I had talked with the kids and that it wasn’t an easy experience. We talked about how important it was to stay in touch with them and are committed to it. When she was released the ride home back to Sault Ste. Marie took forever. An appointment was made with our family doctor on Drummond Island, and a CAT scan was ordered at the local War Memorial Hospital. An appointment was made in Grand Rapids to meet with the doctors who’d be involved with this battle. Grand Rapids is about a five hour drive from Sault Ste. Marie. It felt good to get home, though still feels like a bad dream. So much has taken place in just a few short days. Her Mother and siblings were all notified by Lori. Bobbi made a call to her Mother and shared the battle plan. The next step was the CAT scan and seeing Dr. Aldridge on Drummond Island. We’re so grateful to have him for our primary doctor.