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.

Cancer!

August 24, 2017
An MRI was done this morning and the results were not good. The doctor later came into the room and said that his team went over the results and there is a tumor in her pancreas thats blocking her bile duct. He shared with us that his team suspected that it was cancerous. What a eye opener this news was. Hit us like a freight train. He explained that they’d put in a stent, later that day, to open up the gallbladder duct, to relieve the pressure. They would take brushings of it while performing the procedure.

The doctor was very straight to the point and immediately after hearing the news a nurse closed the curtain separating her bed from the patients bed next to her. We couldn’t believe we actually heard the news we heard. Pancreas cancer? There must be a mistake. We each shed tears and tried to make sense of all of it. This was a long way from suspected gallstones causing the problems. We were shell shocked. Her sister Lori came into the room and knew something was wrong when she seen the curtains closed around the bed. When she came in we explained what the doctor said, and I knew it was important that the two spent sometime alone. I took a walk outside in a daze. It was too much coming in at one time. You have got to be kidding me I thought. Pancreas cancer! No, it wasn’t, but yes it really was. As I walked outside the hospital the tears just flowed. I cared little who saw. I knew that she and her sister were experiencing grief and disbelief. When I walked back into the room their faces showed it. Everyone looked exhausted and spent.

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Later in the day they took her into surgery and placed a plastic stent into the area they said. The doctor took brushings from the tumor at the same time, to confirm his diagnoses. The procedure lasted about a half hour. She was sleeping when they wheeled the bed into the recovery room. I took my finger and slowly rubbed the side of her temple as she slept. Slowly she awoke and became more aware of her surroundings. The doctor came in and confirmed that the tumor was about the size of a walnut to plum in diameter. He could give no prognosis until other tests were done.

She eventually was transferred back to her room and we talked about the battle ahead. Her attitude was positive. She said that she was a battler and would kick its butt. It was important to keep a positive attitude and she and Lori tried to put on a brave face. When Lori left Bobbi and I continued to remain as positive as we could. When visiting hours ended it was back to the hotel. I called Shay and Sean and shared the terrible news. They were the most difficult calls ever made. I called my sister Charlie in Colorado as well. I couldn’t believe how everything changes in seconds. I stayed up until late in the night, looking out the motel window in a daze. Traffic and cars continued to pass on the street. The world just kept going, people going on with their lives, and we were wondering what ours now would bring. I eventually fell asleep on top of the bed, not drawing down the blankets or changing. I couldn’t imagine what was going on in her mind. She was a nurse for the last 40 years, recently retiring a year and a half ago. The last 5 years caregiving me, during my cardiac battle, and my  palliative care. It seemed so unfair. Anger, disbelief, shock, grief, all mixed into one feeling. Rage.

Gallbladder Problem?

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August 23, 2017
We got up early, packed a few things and went to the hospital. Her labs had come back from the blood work and her numbers (enzymes) were off the chart. The hospital decided that it would be best for her to be transferred to another hospital down state in lower Michigan, Petoskey. They knew there was a problem taking place in her gallbladder and thought a stent being placed in the duct would at least provide relief, while other tests would be done. I went home, packed some clothes, and met the ambulance there. Her sister Lori I contacted and she and her husband Jim were also present. Because of her unusually high enzymes a MRI was ordered. She was taken off all foods and feed through an IV. Her attitude was good but her discomfort was strong. I checked into a nearby motel because the staff at the hospital said the MRI would be done the next day. I stayed with her until visiting hours ended then drove to the motel, still thinking there was a problem taking place in her gallbladder and hoping they’d figure things out tomorrow. People have trouble with their gallbladders all the time. Sometimes they are taken out, hopefully it was nothing serious and we’d be home later in the day.