The Bell

October 6, 2018

Bobbi- What a 15 month whirlwind this has been. Chemo Abraxane, Gemzar, hair loss, no eyebrows, eyelashes, completely stripped of recognition. The only control I had was to shave my head when it was literally coming out in clumps. I remember walking from the bed to the kitchen and not sure if I would make it to the nearest chair. Having to sit on the floor of the shower because of not being strong enough to stand. My first thoughts when told I had pancreatic cancer were I will not be around in 6 months, a deadly diagnosis. How I felt then I did not care if I had a time limit on life. When on the brink the human spirit seems to dig deep within to survive. There was a chance that chemo would shrink my tumor and a Whipple surgery would be possible. How can one embrace a huge surgical procedure? I questioned if this would even occur. Next scan liver spots now facing possible metastatic disease, the lifeline was shorter. At time of biopsy spots are gone. WTH . More chemo. I have literally gone through health hell. When told Chemo indefinitely I was done, no more. The day after my decision the surgeon called, said scans were reviewed and I was a candidate for surgery. How would I endure this when I could barely stand? I trained starting with baby steps. Then I was walking a mile, at times having to sit on the side of the road to make it back. I had surgery March 27th and was out of the hospital March 30th. Was I ready to leave the hospital? I put on a warriors face and said I can and will do this, though was unsure. I walked and never stopped. One month after surgery I rode a radiation bus daily for 30 trips along with chemo, with my brother Steve fighting his cancer battle. That period of time we grew even closer. His wife Debbie always with encouraging love.

After my first chemo and radiation treatment, after the surgery, was spent in a motel getting sick for 12 hours. Probably should have gone to the hospital but was seeing doctor next day anyway. I was told I would have 4 more cycles of single agent chemo after chemo radiation was complete. Finally had about an inch of hair and lost it twice so I guess three times the charm. Remember pulling at my hair on day 14 and was shocked when none fell out. Maybe I will luck out this time. By this point the once revered hair mattered little. Never thought I would be writing at this point. Didn’t expect to make it through the ordeal but am so looking forward to my final chemo. Ring the bell. I did not fight alone there are too many champions behind me. My sister Lori and husband Jim came to many appointments and comforted me more times than can be counted. Remember being at her house when I was extremely ill lying in bed together, just being sisters. Our son Sean and wife Jen, who made many trips from Wisconsin with the grandkids were a HUGE motivation. Weekly messages with positive inspiring words from Jens Mother helped. Sharing calls with Shay, our Daughter halfway across the world going to school was a blessing.

My sister Chrissy always called after each treatment meant so much. Visits with brother Mike kept me cheerful and laughing. Meeting with my mother each week, with some really deep talks kept me grounded and feeling positive. All the friends in Wausau were in my corner! The doctors, nurses, social workers, financial assistant coordinator, the nutritionist who provided me with protein drinks and vitamins. The Hope Lodge in Grand Rapids was amazing, along with Surgeon Dr. Jill Onesti. Oncologist Dr. Elena Copolla, Becky Tom NP, and Dr. Boike, Andra, Wendy, from Karmanos were true miracle workers! I would have perished without everyone’s help. When humanity seems to be at all time lows there are people out there.

And of course Mike, my husband. Whose wise words of “worry does not change outcomes” will always stick in my mind when I get too far into the future with it. He was my trainer and coach. And he always told others we were oath keepers not caretakers when the word was brought up. We battled his serious health issues for 7 years, with me doing the same. Guess we do things big at our house, cancer and heart disease. Know his endurance was limited but he made meals, shopped, laundry, shaved my head (and his own), and many sleepless nights looking over me while I slept. Drove 180 miles once a week for over a year. Called hospitals, doctors, loved me, massaged my aching muscles and bones, the list goes on.

I just know today I am here and will spend my remaining days appreciating life. It is not what you have but who you have in your lives. I certainly didn’t fight this alone.

October 11th, 2018

The day finally arrived. We were in Petoskey just a couple days ago, I was the speaker at a survivors meeting, and was unsure what to share. I knew it was a good sign to be speaking at such a meeting. It really dawned on me that I was in fact now a survivor! I still had one more treatment and it’s all I could think about! And today was the day! Lori and Jim met us there, I had the first nurse I started out with, Melissa, and in the exact same chair and room of the first chemo treatment. After the treatment it felt like a ton of weight was lifted off my shoulders. There were many hugs, and when I rang the bell joy never felt before went through my body! We celebrated by going out to a wonderful deli. It feels so good to be alive.

The ride here was stormy and windy. The ride back the same until a giant rainbow appeared the closer we got to home. It was an amazing sight. The timing of it was like an out of the body experience.

There will still be future scans and doctor appointments. No big deal. Today was a good day, no… it was a great day!

October 9th, 2018

Mike- Bobbi spoke at a survivors group today, sharing her story. Many had tears. From barely being able to walk last Christmas to the woman today is a total transformation. So many thanks to everyone! During the talk it sunk in that we were very close to the end of this journey. I was so proud of her using her story to now helping others with their journey.

October 11th, 2018

Seeing Bobbi ring the bell today, having completed all treatments, was an unexplainable feeling. What a long 15 months it’s been. Over 10,000 miles traveled and we are finally done. Lori and Jim met us at the infusion center which was extra nice. Lori presented her with beautiful flowers and the entire experience felt surreal. When we arrived home, and alone we hugged and tears rolled down both our cheeks. Her writings did an excellent job sharing what took place. Glad we have a happy ending. So very proud of her. So grateful for this new chapter. So appreciative for all who have stood by our side with compassion and love. Thank you. Thank you Karmanos!

Today I’am a survivor! To all reading this I hope this inspires you in your battles. The worse odds and statistics matter little. Fight like you’ve never have before and lean on the lives around you. Don’t worry about tomorrow, just get through the one second, minute, hour, and the day you are in.

One Year Ago Today

A picture Cinneidi brought up on visit! Thank you!

Hey cancer… SCREW YOU! One year ago today I learned you were in my pancreas. You took my hair, parts of my stomach, pancreas, gall bladder, small intestine (Whipple). We battled. 26 rounds of chemo, and 30 radiation treatments, I’m still standing! You tried to break me, bury me, and destroy me. Not today you monster!

6 chemo treatments to go and the bell at the infusion center will ring!

We haven’t posted for awhile because of tunnel vision on the finish line. I certainly didn’t fight this alone! Family, friends, doctors, nurses, 3 different hospitals, and answered prayers battled this storm with me! Thank you!

Mike –

Yes indeed, one year ago today we learned that Bobbi has cancer. Neither knew what was to come or to be expected. The fight is still on, we’re not going to lift our foot off its neck for one second. What a year. Strange how three words ‘you have cancer’, that took 3 seconds, can change a life so quickly!

A month ago we were sitting at Lori and Jim’s cabin in Detour and talking about how nice of a summer its been. Out of the blue Bobbi says “Best summer ever!” Everyone there was silent for a second. How in the world could this be the best ever for her? We talked about it and she shared because she was still alive and the lens she sees through, with cancer, changed her perception on life. Little things meant more. She’s always found the silver lining in difficult situations but it’s more than that. I’ve witnessed her taking this fight on and never known a stronger person in my entire life. This last month seeing the kids coming up here was a real blessing and exactly what she needed.

Awhile back someone asked me about caregiving. I was like WTF? We don’t use that word. We call it ‘oath keeping’. When we married our vows contained through sickness and health… never once has it been caregiving. With each having our health challenges both have been oath keepers. You don’t just stick around during the good times and hit the road during the tough. What kind of marriage would that be? Nobody ever promised life would be fair and easy. You just have to suit up and swing away. You win some, you lose some, and you keep fighting. Today we’ve got this!

Is Twisty Hiding in the Shadow?

We drove down for the liver biopsy last night, checked into a hotel a block from the hospital, and went out for a nice supper. The surgeon told us last week there were a number of new spots on Bobbi’s liver and the biopsy would provide us whether or not there’d even be a surgery. Showed up on time, she was prepped, blood taken, and we waited for the procedure to be done. Thinking positive the whole time but preparing ourselves for grim news.

We weren’t  expecting  a Christmas miracle, if Twisty isn’t just hiding in some small cell we’d be lucky.  There wasn’t a spot to be seen. Strange. She moved into different positions on the CT and still nothing. A different hospital than the first imaging was done. All week long Bobbi has lived with the thoughts that her cancer has spread. Trying to stay positive but even the surgeon, going on the films they had, thought it had spread. When they said there was nothing to biopsy we about ran out of the hospital. I wondered if the beast is watching in the shadow. Damn thing.

Don’t know how, why, or anything in why one place said there was and then another saying all was good. Elated for the good news but also a bit angry that she, and the whole family, had to spend the last eight days mentally preparing for the worst news possible. It was fighting Twisty and having it suddenly becoming a dozen of them. I don’t trust this monster. It makes a horror show mage in Hollywood boring. It’s the stranger in the dark.

We’re unsure what the next step will be. Calls have been made and we’re thinking the original planned Whipple surgery will be next. Get the tumor out of her pancreas and follow it up with 4 months of chemo. Knew it was too early to step out of the batters box. Knew we had to stay and think positive, which we did, but things certainly didn’t look good. Onward with this battle, there will be no rest until Twisty has been destroyed. It’s still inside her and it’s shown to be crafty and deceiving. It felt like Bobbi was walking the Green Mile, going to be strapped into the electric chair, and the phone ringing at the last 5 seconds before the switch was flicked given a full pardon. Each day dreading waking up because it was the first thing on both our minds.

The “You are Loved” party in Wisconsin took place and really brought a smile to Bobbi’s heart! Was so happy to see her having fun talking with so many.  It was so good to see her laugh and smile, even in the midst of unsureness in severity. We FaceTimed with everyone and seeing people dancing and wishing her well, missing and loving her, can’t be described in words. Now with this good news she is riding a well deserved wave of happiness. Yes, a major surgery isn’t a great thing thing to look forward to, but knowing that she’s still in the fight is a blessing. Thank you to everyone who took part in this, as well as the support and prayers of others across the globe. It has become a global support. People we’ve never met in person, from Wales, England, Italy, Mexico, and new blogging friends here have been unbelievable. Never imagined that so many would take the time to lend their support, recommendations in getting second opinions, prayers, gifts, all of it! I look back on how we dealt with this last week, look at the goofy video made doing the coneheads skit on the last post, and I’m more convinced than ever that positive thoughts and energy make a huge difference in today and the reality each day brings. There will undoubtedly be more fastballs coming. Not today so will embrace it. She WILL beat this. There is fear but no compromises. It will and hasn’t effected our celebration of Christmas. It’s wanted to! The mental anguish has been the toughest it’s ever been this last week. One I wasn’t sure I’d personally be able to endure physically. But just when your at the edge and brink of despair there is always hope. A simple for letter word that now has so many meanings.

Thank you for the read. Very much appreciated. We couldn’t have the attitude we have without it. Never give up! Pick up the bat no matter how heavy it may seem or how bad the last pitch hurt smashing you in the head and swing away. We all have this ability. May not feel like it at times, but when push comes to shove we learn things about ourselves we never knew existed. Until the next writings please embrace today and try to find the good in it. Hard to do when physical pain wants to be boss. All of us are human and will have these times. Hard to put one foot in front of the other while our bodies and thoughts are saying no more.

There really is no description in believing, even being told, that the cancer has spread to there not being a single spot. The doctor said it might have been inflammation from her first bile stent becoming dislodged. Not going to lift our foot off Twisty’s neck, it’s going down! Going to continue to think positive, make goofy videos, and move forward. When dealing with cancer it’s rare to get good news. It certainly was a relief to learn this good news in the midst of this battle.

UPDATE 12/14/17 – Plans now, after several phone calls between Petoskey and Grand Rapids this morning, is to have 2 more months of chemotherapy and then another scan to see if spots reappear. They’re being cautious and before they do the Whipple procedure. Which makes sense yet knowing the tumor in her pancreas is still there is naturally worrisome. It is what it is and all the worry in the world won’t change anything. We’ll continue to take things day to day and keep swinging at the pitches. Waiting now to see when the chemotherapy will resume. It’s not a set back. Feels like one, because their not really “sure” and I expect things to be in black and white with no in between. All I can do is be supportive and remain strong for her.

Doing Better

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On Wednesday we left Sault Ste. Marie at 6am, for Petoskey for Bobbi’s fourth chemo treatment. One of the medicines hadn’t arrived at the hospital yet, because of extreme weather the day before. Treatment was delayed about an hour so we returned to the car and took a nap until it did. Actually seen the UPS driver come in with a cart of boxes delivering it. We first met with her doctor and went over what type of week she had and what her lab numbers were. The white cells had dropped some, into the 20,000 range but he felt it was safe to have the treatment.

She went through it like a pro. Was pleasant to everyone and the doctor even mentioned she was the high point of his day. It still amazes me how brave and good humored she remains. The last couple of weeks had taken a beating on her body, the last a lot better than the week before.

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The night was restless though. Though she had little memory of it. I stayed up on and off to make sure things stayed alright. She ran a little of a fever but didn’t get sick. Her blood sugar numbers continued to bounce all over the place. Between 200 and 500.

The next day she was up early and continued with her plans on going to DeTour with her mother to see her sister Lori and said she felt fine. I stayed back and cleaned the house and caught up on some sleep. When she got back early evening she said she was tired but had no problems. Which was great news. The chair that her sister and her were working on they drove to her brother Mikes house and gave it to him. He was really appreciative for it. The guy really is a great brother-in-law. He’d give the shirt off his back to anyone and it was nice to see the family work on a project making him happy. He does so much for everyone, his brother Steve and wife Debbie too, and never asked for anything in return. All of her family is like this. That’s why I believe she knew she was ill when we moved from Wisconsin, so she could be with her mother and siblings during this challenging time. When night came around it was as restless as the one before. Tossing and turning every few minutes.

Today it was like she was in a chemo fog. Nodding off to sleep one minute and up the next. Kept things very simple. I did some clothes, went grocery shopping for items she liked, and kept my eye on her without hovering. She stayed on her nausea medicine and didn’t get sick at all. Was just out of it though. The chemo really takes its toll on a persons fatigue. She ate good but again her blood sugar numbers were off the chart. Our new family doctors office called and put her on more insulin too. Didn’t seem to matter and will be something we’re going to stay on top of. Know it has a lot to do with her pancreas, which is where the tumor is, and is a real concern.

She has two more treatments until they do a CAT scan to see if the tumor has shrunk enough to do the whipple surgery on it. If so it will probably be scheduled around the middle of December. That’s what we are hoping for. Get Twisty the hell out of there. There will then be four more months of chemo after she heals from the surgery.

She is doing well. Every day feels like the same and the days in the week are nameless. It’s taking things one day at a time. Her attitude is good but it frustrates her not having her usual energy, it’s a blessing that it was the stent that appears to have caused so much turmoil the past few weeks and not a result of the chemo treatments. This is at least tolerable she said. It’s good to see her eating. I try to do everything that physically needs to be done so that she can simply concentrate on resting and making it through her day with as little problems as possible.

We continue to talk a lot and voice our concerns on the seriousness of things. Try not to worry or get to far ahead of ourselves. It’s really tough being so far away from our kids in Wisconsin and Shay in Australia but not much anyone can do about it at this time. Know it’s just as difficult for them. She wanted to make some calls tonight but was to whipped out.

I’m doing the best I can with what I have to work with. The worry is constant and waiting for anything has always drove me nuts. It’s good to no longer see her in physical pain, needing no medications for it. She is pushing on. Weight loss is an issue so we are doing what we can about that. Things take time. We want automatic answers and quick fixes. This is a whole new ballgame though. It’s reassuring to see her cancer team and new family doctor staying on top of things.

What also amazes me is how life can suddenly change so quickly. One minute all is well, and the next it’s the complete opposite and your fighting for your life, literally. I experienced this with emergency bypass surgery, and then she went from possible gallstones problems to a cancer battle. It seems like a million years ago when life was simple and watching freighter ships pass by. Sitting by a campfire and joking, then to ambulances and IV tubes and beeping machines. She is a determined spirit and a positive person. When she went to bed tonight, at around 8:30, I laid down with her for about a half hour just holding her and lightly massaging her shoulders and back, kissing her lightly on the back of her neck, listening to her breath. She shifts around every few moments. Unaware of it though. Last night she got up about three times and barely remembers.

Nobody knows what our tomorrows hold. Things change so quickly. If I can relay one thing to others it’s the importance of taking in all the good and meaningful times with loved ones. Forget the petty arguments and just work things out with compromise. You never know when serious challenges will be at your door, trying to break in and and create havoc. Tell the people who matter that their important, don’t wait until tomorrow thinking that it’s a given. Life is just too short to get caught up in things that really don’t matter. When butting heads with strangers try to take just a couple seconds thinking what mountain they may be climbing. One thing the world needs more of is simply kindness and compassion. At times it feels like everyone is screaming at the other about their views and beliefs, demonizing the ones who feel or think different. Just agree it’s okay to disagree and move on. We all seem to have a few things in common if we take the time to listen. Trust me, it can and does change with one doctors visit or in one single heartbeat. We never think terrible things will happen today, until they do.

Bobbi is resting peacefully and that okay for the moment. We’ll deal with the next moment as soon as it arrives. Again thank you for the concern many have and are showing. Both family and friends. Hopefully there will be a time where we can help you during your rough roads. Really, isn’t that what life’s all about?

Faith

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What a day. Bobbi’s glad to be home but sleep continues to be calling her every few hours. Which is good. Sometimes it’s good for the reason of taking one away from the reality of being awake. She’s had some nightmares so could be a double-edged sword. Yesterday afternoon Lori and Jim stopped by for a visit and it picked her spirits up. Had a few hours of awake time. Then laid back down. She got up at around 8:00pm after a couple hour nap. I kissed her on the cheek and hit the bed.

That’s about what time my own cardiac battle flared up. Knew it was overdue. The last seven weeks finally took its toll and my body told me it was time to shut things down. I put four slow release nitroglycerin patches on and two under the tongue tablets. Oxygen and morphine followed. Palliative care is management mostly. Everything medically has been done. When she came to bed, guess about 10:00, she couldn’t get comfortable and kept shifting around every 15 seconds. She was sore but doing a lot better and so glad we didn’t have to return to the hospital down state the night before. I knew I had to sleep so went and laid down on the air mattress. When I got up and checked on her she had moved from the bed to the recliner. Checked her temp and returned to the bed. At about 2:00 she returned to bed, thought I was still on the air mattress so startled both of us. I climbed out and returned to the air mattress. It was like playing musical beds. She says it feels like someone punched her from the inside out.

The night was long for both. She had nightmares and I fought off the same. I felt like there were four gremlins pulling on my arms and legs downwardly. I didn’t know what the outcome of the night would bring but remember thinking in my head “God, all this is yours, sort it out and be done with it one way or the other”. Fell back to sleep not knowing what the answer would be. Bad dreams filled the night. One had a nurse cutting Bobbi’s ponytail with a table saw.

In the morning I woke up about 8:00 and Bobbi was laying back in the recliner. Awake but exhausted. She started to eat more, as tough as it was so this is a good sign. We talked about the last seven weeks and all they contained. Three ER hospital trips, two hospitalizations, diagnoses, 4 meetings, two different stent procedures, six scans and imaging tests, a port being placed, 3 different cities and 2,000 miles of mileage in the car. We had a good talk. We knew that faith and trying to remain positive, even when your down for the count, had to be the focus. We opened up some packages from friends and family and felt very blessed. Thank you. Haven had time to directly respond but they have certainly helped a great deal.

Lori and Jim stopped by this morning after our talk and it picked up her spirits more. I missed most of the visit because I continued the oxygen and slept after we talked. She’s now sleeping again, it’s about 1:00pm but she asked to be awaken in 2 hours.

So quite the roller coaster. But it feels like the biggest loop is coming in for a rest. I’m slowly lowering the nitro each hour and feel much better. We still don’t have a new family doctor, since our last one retired, but have an appointment on Monday here in the Soo. After having such a wonderful one on Drummond Island we’re hoping for the same. If so it will save a lot of travel time and ferry rides. With winter coming it may be for the best.

Sometimes you just have to keep swinging. Roll with the punches, take a few, but ultimately have to get back up. Neither one of us are quitting anything. Going to simply use this weekend eating right and preparing for another chemo trip on Wednesday. Oh boy, really looking forward to that. Not.

Things are getting better. Doesn’t sound like it but they are. Could be in worse shape, and many others are. Like they say, we all have a mountain to climb, yet it doesn’t need to be conquered in one day. We are a long ways from the finish line. I keep in mind the serenity prayer, and know this too shall pass. Can’t see a rainbow without seeing the storms. She WILL beat this.