Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Long time no see!

It has definitely been a while since I've had the time to sit down and write about what's been going on which is a pretty good indication of how things have been going.

December has seen an art show, an assignment shoot, a portrait, a wedding, a bunch of church events and friend get-togethers and frankly, the hand hasn't been much of a hindrance which is fantastic! The phantom feelings have subsided as a pervasive experience and now are more of an occurrence when I try to make a fist or am doing something that normally would include that finger. Just the other day I was holding my phone to my ear with the left hand and it seemed like the missing finger was holding it at the top to stabilize. Madness.

Occupational therapy has started and is going well. Macy, the therapist , is a fun torture artist that's been taking care of my gimpy finger and hand and that deserves further explanation.
It all started out with a look-over of the situation. My hand was pretty stiff, the pulled-together skin where the stitches were was scabby in some places and soft others, and my upper palm was crazy sensitive. There were tests on current flexibility forwards and backwards and all that, but it turns out OT also involves scar management. Apparently that involves digging out scabs so tissue can grow together deeper and move up to the surface. Given my hand was essentially split open, it goes pretty deep. Of course they stitched it together inside as well but the surface scabs apparently went down a few millimeters as well in some places. That had to get dug out if it could. That was not fun.
For added emphasis, that was not fun.
But Macy digs it. Pun intended. Now she may "like" it in the sense that she has to do it and therefore is using the power of positive thinking in the same way that I using laughing while having tweezers poke and pull at super-sensitive areas. In any case, in one of the first couple sessions she got to cleaning up the incision areas and it was far from pleasant. Oh the company was fine, and afterward it was fine, but... well I've already made my point.

The cool thing is that it works.

The hand is much more flexible, the incision is healing up really well, and the sensitivity has gone down drastically. I still get what feels like an electrical pulse up the phantom finger whenever I press into my upper palm around the cut line but that is entirely tolerable and either I'm just used to it now or it's not pain.

So I'm wearing some tape and what looks like blue silly tack most of the time these days to massage the scar and keep it from bunching together which would look bad and limit movement. I'm also wearing a splint of sorts during the night to help bend back my fingers to improve flexibility there. Lots going on. (PS. Just noticed that spacer/massager smells terrible now that I've been wearing it for a few days. See image to right.)

Today is the first battery of tests at MD Anderson since the surgery and so far I've already breezed through blood work and my hand and chest x-rays. Currently I'm awaiting the CT scan, and then... well then I can eat. I'm starvin' here. Pro: All tests and meeting with the doc on one day. Con: Had to be here at 7am. Ok, there's another pro... Chris & Courtney were awesome yet again and let us drive in last night and crash at their place which is a very doable 10 minutes from the center. In Houston traffic that's amazing. Shoot, in most places that's amazing. :)

So yes, I should be getting called in to get my IV started sometime soon-ish, then a little later I'll get called in to actually get scanned. Hopefully all this will reveal things are hunky-dory and we can go on our merry way. Could this be Eric without a "c"? Could this blog title be erroneous? Am I now a liar? A seller of counterfeit wares? Hopefully... In this case anyways. :D

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Phantom

Hello again! I'm not dead, I'm just being haunted by the ghost of finger past which is actually fairly manageable. As I type this I'm using both hands at varying degrees of proficiency. Let me tell you it is really stinkin' weird.

The past several days I've been off pain medications completely which may explain the spike in feeling the finger that is not. My senses are apparently so familiar with the ghost digit that my brain is still trying to press keys with that finger. This blog is actually the first time I've tried typing properly with all the fingers I do have. Previously it's been just my thumb or pinkie for various letters or pressing the shift button. Cool. :)

The sensations are sometimes tingling, sometimes normal movement sensations, sometimes the feeling that it is asleep, and sometimes it just throbs a bit. It is intermittent but more frequent, again probably correlating with more mobility and lack of pain inhibitors. Touching the remaining fingers usually helps clear the ghost but it doesn't always and usually not for very long. As I try and move my fingers, I'm sometimes stopped by the missing digit which is quite an odd feeling indeed. It's like my brain and other fingers are sensing the oddity and trying to send alarms through the nervous system. They're probably thinking something along these lines:

Index: Hey! Dudes! Something's funky over here!
Ring: Man you're right! I'm feeling it too!
Pinkie: Huh?
Thumb: Something is up with Middle?
Ring: Yeah, I think he fell asleep.
Index: Probably. Strange I'm wide awake though. Ring, why don't you nudge him?
Ring: Ok. [nudge]
Index: Woah Ring! I said nudge *Middle*.
Ring: I did!
Index: That was me!
Ring: Whaaaaat? No way!
Index: Yes way!
Ring: Holy crap... where's Middle???
Index: [blank stare]
Thumb, Pinkie: [confused side glances]
Ring: Seriously, where is he???
Index: I, I have no idea... I thought he was under that bandage...
Thumb: That's what I thought too...
Pinkie: So... I'm getting a promotion right?
Ring: How can you think about promotions at a moment like this?!?!?
Pinkie: Sorry...
Nerves: Hey guys! What's all the yelling about?
Index: Middle is missing!
Nerves: No he's not. He's moving right now!
Ring: No man, we're all still...
Nerves: Whaaaat?!? Are you sure?!?
Index: We're sure dude... Ohmygosh, Ohmygosh, I'm freaking out man!
Ring: You're freaking out?!? Dude, It feels like Middle is *inside* me!!!
Thumb: This is creeping me out...
Nerves: Woah, I must me losing it... I don't know what to say. Let me get with Brain. Be right back.
[nanoseconds pass}
Nerves: Wow. Ok. Guys?
Thumb, Index, Ring, Pinkie: Yeah???
Nerves: You're not going to believe this... Middle got axed, he's gone.
Index: Gone?
Nerves: Dead.
Ring: Dead?
Nerves: Dead. That 2nd surgery was to remove Middle completely, not just that annoying bump that was causing us trouble.
Ring: Why didn't anyone tell us about this?
Nerves: Brain said he told you...
Index: That actually does sound somewhat familiar now that you mention it...

Anyhow, that's kinda what has been going on there. I'm still trying to keep it elevated when possible but it doesn't seem to make much of a difference in the phantom pain department which makes sense since there's actually nothing there to feel pain. :D
So far so good on the typing though! I'm trying to make a fist to grip but that's still difficult without using my right hand to bend the fingers down a bit. My upper palm is still sensitive so I'm being careful with it. It really does feel like I can't close my fist because my brain is thinking the middle finger is in the way somehow. It's like my middle finger is sticking straight up with a bar connecting it to my ring and index finger at their first knuckles. Just as strange is that when I do get the fingers down, it feels like my middle is still sticking straight up, flicking something off. Sorry...

So yes, that's how things are going at the moment. The phantom stuff is still more tolerable than those headaches and stuff I'd been dealing with a week ago so this feels like progress. Brea gets a little creeped out when I mention this stuff so... sorry honey!

I'm trying to get moving with my business stuff again, self-employed people have terrible worker's compensation. Maybe we should have signed up for Aflac after all. Captain Hindsight to the... well, actually He doesn't rescue much... He's sometimes rescues the future I guess... Oh whatever. Really we're in pretty good shape at the moment. I just hate not being a meaningful contributor. There is a time for everything though. and the corresponding Facebook page are where I'm directing my efforts at the moment. It's been cool that I've been given opportunities to take full advantage of the broad scope that "arts & photograhy" allows. Weddings, portraits, industrial, painting, casting, music, and even some graphic art design. Right now I'm working on selecting things to print and display at an art show Andrew Minnick is hosting. It's set for Saturday, December 11 · 10am - 6pm @ 6102 Cherrylawn Circle, Austin, TX. That's my shameless plug for the day. :D

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Week (or so) After

Wow. This past week seemed like a month.

It couldn't have helped that I was on hydrocodone & tylenol while still dealing with head area pain that may mean a trip to the dentist is overdue. Oddly enough I never felt "high", I just knew I wasn't at 100%. The volume of travel also surely contributed.

We got home from MDA last Wednesday and on Saturday drove up to DFW to see an Aussie friend I hadn't seen in ten years as well as go to a Dallas Stars hockey game together (thanks Andrew!). That was after we grabbed some texan steak and toured Daley Plaza to see the grassy knoll. It was an awesome time but I wound up developing a 101F fever that night that prompted a call to MDA. Thankfully it seemed unrelated to my hand and after a restless night, it dissipated later on Sunday morning. I took it pretty easy as a precaution and though we went out for BBQ (thanks Mom & Dad!), upon getting home I was back on the floor resting. After that it was time to return our friend to DFW and then drive back to Austin ourselves. For those not familiar, both MDA in Houston and the DFW airport are about 3.5 hours straight driving one way and that is all on Brea at the moment. I've felt somewhat out of it but it's probably just this temporarily diminished capacity in comparison to what I'd normally be doing.

Before I forget, upon arriving home for the first time after the surgery, we were surprised by something my sister had organized. A bunch of people had submitted encouragement notes which she wrote down and rolled up on strips of paper which were put in a bunch of balloons. Those balloons were then put on our bed for discovery. I still haven't read them all but I did have some fun popping them. Thank goodness no one called the cops, I think I'd left the window open... :D

It has been a story of stints of doing what I can, resting, and figuring out what I can't do at the moment. For example, it is possible to clip your right hand's nails without using your left hand. It isn't possible (not easy at least, within a few minutes) to zip up a certain sweater/jacket.
It is possible to shower your good side's underarm without using the opposite arm or some bathing apparatus. It is not currently possible to make a fist. Good thing I haven't had the need to punch anyone with my left hand. :)

I was off pain meds on this past Wednesday but went back on lightly after getting my stitches out. Oh yeah, my stitches were taken out Wednesday. A funny story goes with that too. We were on our way to MDA for the first post-op checkup that aforementioned day when the need arose to make a pit stop. We pulled into a KFC and Brea ran in to use the facilities. I went in and ordered some snackers, was joined by Brea, and we got our food after a couple minutes. We picked up our bags as we needed to eat on the go to stay on schedule for our 2pm appointment. Brea then turned to me and asked if I had the keys. I did not. I wasn't sure why she was asking me. After patting myself down to make sure she hadn't snuck them in my pockets somehow, it was sinking in. She checked where she'd been and her own pockets to no avail. The keys were in the car, the car was shut tight. I quickly found a locksmith with my phone and it was looking like it would be quick and easy-ish. About 10 minutes after calling, during a call to MDA to inform them we might be a little late, I got a call back saying the locksmith had a family emergency and wouldn't be able to make it. That set off a new round of searching that wound upsetting us back another hour or so before AAA bailed us out. So with an hour to go, we got back into the car at 2:30p. Thankfully MDA was very understanding and still let us come in at 3:30p.
*Ba-dum, pshhhh*
Hilarious right? :D

Anyhow, we got seen immediately on arrival and I saw another of Dr Lewis' assistants. He confirmed I could get the stitches out and proceeded to get my current bandages unwrapped. That was the first I'd really looked at my hand post-op and the back of the hand looked pretty gnarly. Thank goodness chicks dig scars! Actually, if my finger was any indication, the scar should heal pretty well. A scar actually won't bother me, especially in comparison to, I don't know, a missing finger. :D

The stitch removal from the back of my hand went quickly and easily with minor discomfort. The palm side, while only a quarter as long, was a different story. It was painful to the touch, and there were threads being pulled through. It hurt.

Laughing releases endorphins, so I did that. However, I went back on a light dose of the heavy meds right after. It still throbs a little as I type this. They wrapped the hand with gauze that is to stay on for 3 days before I can take it off.

The drive home was uneventful (yay!), and mad props go to Brea for doing an amazing amount of driving. You have to love her. I do. :)

Of course as soon as we got home it was time to re-start preparations for Thanksgiving company. We wound up with 14 for dinner yesterday including both a South Korean and a Chinese student who were experiencing their first American Thanksgiving in an American home. It was a great time and we got to meet our newest nephew too, a cute little booger named Tristen. Not only that, we also rolled in setting up the Christmas tree. Good times with much to be grateful for. :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

one man, seven fingers, two thumbs

Yes, that's right, my business name now has another tie-in to me. :D I just realized it on the drive out of Houston and was very pleased.

Typing is pretty stinkin' slow for me at the moment so this will be short(er) than it could be.

In fact , I may just post a number of photos from different parts of the past few days to make up for it.

My hand feels pretty good, all things considered. Keeping it elevated and keeping up with the pain med scheduled helps. I also find it useful to just touch and move my fingers with my right hand to control the movement delicately. The "phantom" phenomenon is at at play too which is interesting. The aforementioned touching and moving of those remaining fingers helps dissipate that phantom feeling but it doesn't seem to completely clear it. Part of it may be that I have dressing spacing my ring and pointer finger and that simulates the middle finger presence but the other part is probably just the fact I've always had that finger and there is a certain amount of muscle and sensory memory still associated with it. It seems that my ring finger is the one I'm confusing for the middle the most. It is an odd feeling indeed. :D

I am very grateful for the overwhelming show of support from all over. Friends and family and friends and family of those have been exceedingly kind and stepped up way above and beyond what I deserve. Thank you!

I will tell you that leading up to Monday and on the day, I had waves of thoughts and apprehensions about the impending surgery and it's implications. Each time though, I was reminded of all the reasons I shouldn't be worried. I'm not 100% sure if this Lincoln Brewster number is the song that came and stuck on Monday morning but I'm pretty sure it was.

I just looked up the lyrics I could remember and realized there were parts of it I hadn't consciously remembered but make it an especially appropriate song for my situation. Nice. :)

"Oh Lord my God to you I give my hands"

That was the part I just discovered, the following is what I had in my head.

"In you
In you I find my peace
In you
In you I find my strength
In you, I live and move and breathe

Let everything I say and do
Be founded by my faith in you
I lift up holy hands and sing
let the praises ring"

Rock on.

So yeah, after getting all gussied up in my stockings, hair net, and medical gown, they got my IV set. The gave me the "margarita" of anesthesia and I got a couple final kisses from my baby. I remember getting wheeled through the halls and set up in the surgical room that had all sorts of industrial-looking panels on the ceiling as well as the funky metallic solar panel dish lights (sorry, can't think of another way to describe them :D ). Soon after those observations I was out. I woke up I think in the same place I was prepped in and swung in and out of sleep which was nice. There was some pain but it was pretty easily ignored as I drifted off again. Eventually I was conscious long enough to feel the pain and I got the morphine button handed and explained to me. It wasn't knocking out the pain the first several tries so they gave me the crazy good stuff or quadrupled the dosage or maybe both. Whatever, it finally worked. Brea & Amber made it in and we got to hang out so she could make sure they hadn't maimed me too bad. :) Brea probably has this all explained better than I can in her earlier posts.

It was great to have Brea & Amber there. Then came Brian & Joy (Hatch) all the way from Round Rock, not to mention Eric (Hatch) and of course Stephanie who brought a ton of chocolate deliciousness and introduced us to Smashburger.

The staff on the 4th floor took really great care of us. Putting up with emptying bottles of urine and my half-drugged humor couldn't have been easy. There are a lot of people I'm really grateful for it turns out. :D

To close, here are links to some videos I made while at MDA as well as some pics I hadn't been
able to post until now...

e with a c: video update #1a
e with a c: video update #1b
e with a c: just say no to pneu

Roger, Britain, and I at Sunday night's impromptu jam session. I don't know how this cool lil' dude passed out and stayed out while I was playing 'cause his head was getting jostled around. He'd been drumming with me and then sat back for a moment before nodding once and then crashing.

This was a shot taken as we prepared to head out from Chris and Courtney's Monday morning. Thank you so much for letting us crash at your place at such a crazy hour!

Waiting for Brea's sis Amber just across the Skybridge.

Holy crap! There's cancer in there?!?! Cut it off!!!

M is for morphine.

Amber checking out my sweet tv while I'm passed out. :)

Brian, Joy. and Eric... I can only imagine what Eric was saying at this point....

Apparently I had a room with a view, not that I checked it out until I was getting discharged. :D

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pain Level..about 8 :-( but we got drugs :-)

As soon as I published the last post the volunteers came and got us; both Amber and I were able to go visit my adorable husband in recovery, yay! I immediately counted fingers when I got to him...they took the correct finger and only the correct finger and yes Eric did ask to be sure. We were told that we couldn't have our phones on back there but they didn't say anything about not taking a big D90 camera so I snapped some shots. I showed Eric what his bandaged hand looks like and counted the fingers and thumb for him. (I wish I could show you all now but due to techinical issues I am using a guest computer in the waiting room and can't get the pics downloaded right now, but we'll post them soon.)
Anyhow, Eric is in quite a bit of pain, just before we went back the nurse had notated his pain at about an 8 and had given him some pain medicine,I already forgot exactly what it was. He does have a morphene drip that he is using, it only takes his pain down to about a 5 or 6 when he is able to push the button. He was anxiously awaiting for it to turn green so he could press it, it made my heart sad to see him in pain but he's a trooper. I didn't know he was in pain because he complained only because he answered honestly to inquiries. We were able to stay back there for about 20 minutes or so. Just before we left she asked about his pain level again and between morphene pumps he said it goes back up to 8 so she gave him another dose of the other pain meds.
As we visited he said ice chips have never tasted so good. He was just glad to have moisture in his mouth. He made jokes ofcourse. I asked if he had been entertaining the doctors and nurses and the nurse smiled real big. He managed to hurt himself by shaking his bootie in the bed. (We were discussing a review of body parts not taken at the time, lol.) I told him he could be as silly as he wanted but not if it caused him pain. He made a little pouty face that converted quickly to a smile. He was definately groggy but even in pain and on meds he was smiling. He asked what we had been doing and I told him I spent pretty much the whole time reading words of encouragement from all over the world. Again a big beautiful smile spread across his face.
I told him the details that I shared with all of you in the last post and I think he was comforted that we finally knew a bit more about what to expect. I gave him many kisses and caressed his hair as he drifted in and out between little chats and then the nurse said we needed to let him rest.
So now we are back in the waiting room, they said it could be many hours before he is moved to a room, it will depend on his pain levels and room availability ofcourse. At 6 p.m. we can go see him again for 30 minutes.
Thank you all for your prayers! I can't express how much they mean to us. In addition to praying through the details of today I just remembered another request I would like to share. A good friend of Eric's from Australia, Andrew, is coming to Dallas this weekend. We are suppose to go meet up with him and catch a Stars game. This would be the first time Eric has seen him in a decade and it would be my first time to meet him. He was one of Eric's closest friends in Australia and this visit would mean so much to all of us so please pray that we are able to make it as planned without too much discomfort for Eric.

The Trade- One Finger for One Long Life- Done Deal

So the deal has been done. We traded the finger in for life, when you think of it like that, it's totally worth it. I am functioning on very little sleep so if this blog even makes sense we will be doing good. After a slow journey to Houston last night we finally got to bed at my cousin Chris' apartment around 6 a.m. So when MDA called at 8 a.m. we got up and our brains barely even on. I called my sister and Lord led her straight to us, any of you that have encountered Ambers lack of directionality would know that her getting to MDA without getting lost or even taking a wrong turn is a miracle. Heck Eric and I couldn't even do that the first time we came :-) As we waited for Amber to meet us at the entrance Stephen and Lisa Brown walked in. Such a cool gift from God for us to have a moment with them. They have been fighting a tough battle with cancer for years now. I am so humbled that as they face their own battles they reached out to us to lend support and encouragement. If ya'll are reading this, know that you are precious and are praying for you as well. We checked in and they were ready to take him back before he could put the pen to paper on his pre-surgery paperwork. I asked the ladies at check-in when I would find out more about post-op and they looked a little confused like I should already know. I told them what I thought was suppose to happen, he gets out of surgery goes to recovery and then we go home, and they informed me that his chart had a code that indicated he not only was not an outpatient but that he was to be kept for multiple days. Hello, yet another moment of unexpected information. We didn't come prepared for a multi-day trip but that's okay, I would rather them take care of him properly than give me a doped up, chopped up husband for me to figure out how to care for. So we are to be here until he is up and walking around and taking pain meds orally. She said that could be as early as tomorrow evening but it really depends on him. The doctor was MUCH nicer today and answered all the questions my foggy head could come up with and I had her repeat some of them cause I'm so tired I was having a hard time with clarity. She says she told Eric some of the things that we didn't know, such as this not really be an outpatient surgery. I'll admit, that fella of mine is not always strong on communicating details but I really don't think he knew that, I mean he didn't bring his full camera bag people, he clearly expected to be going back home, lol! Anyhow, they took him back almost immediately. I did start to cry at that point as we walked back to the pre-surgery area. Not because I was scared but just because I hate for Eric to be going through any of this. He stayed strong though, someone suggested to me that perhaps my tears were ones he felt but was not shedding himself. I don't know about that but it sounds good, I mean we are one right. By the way, I have never seen him cry. Not one time since we have known each other. So there just might be something to that theory. As he got changed into his lovely dress and stockings I dried my eyes and we returned to laughter. I then asked if I could pray with him and warned him I was likely to cry again, he asked me to just pray silently. I did start to cry but they were happy tears. I thanked God for the wonderful husband he has given me and the amazing love we have been covered with. I know it's a bit ironic but in the last 48 hours I have found that when I pray I cry tears of joy. I hate that Eric is going through this but at the same time I can feel so much love and see so many reasons to praise God that it simply overtakes me. Anyhow, they took Eric away pretty quickly and Amber and I went to waiting area. In the waiting room I chatted with a lovely lady named Audrey from North Carolina who is here with her mother who is fighting breast cancer. She is confident they will have victory :-) It was wonderful to talk with her as we waited to hear how the surgery went. Just as so many people have been througout this whole journey she looked past her own situation and offered any help that she could in mine. Again I am humbled by the way that God has sent people into our lives to be blessings to us even in the midst of their own situations. I am terrible in that I don't think I ever offer anything in return. I mean to but I don't ever remember saying it out loud. If you have been one of those sweet angels to us know that we do desire to be their for others but in unusual fashion the words don't always make it to my mouth. I get so excited telling people how good the Lord has been to us in all of this and I don't remember everything that I say. As I sit here in reflection I realize that I need to embrace these moments to not only share of His good works but also to be His servant to others in their time of need.

Okay let me get back on track with the events of today... the surgery took about the estimated time of 2 hours. Then the doctor came to talk with us and gave me much more info on what's next so let me share that with you.

He is currently in recovery and will be until a room is ready for him. They usually don't let family see patients in recovery unless they are children but I made sure to tell them that if there is anyway for me to go see him I would really like too. I hate the idea of him waking up and not being there for him. I know he will be fine, in fact he might prefer it, perhaps he would like some time alone to just process what he has been through. She said he will wake up and be groggy but clear minded. I hope he just falls quickly back to sleep while waiting for his room.

After his room is ready we can go see him. They will let me sleep on a cot in his room which I plan to do. They said he will most likely be groggy the rest of today and perhaps even into tomorrow. How long he will stay depends on him. When he has done 5 things he can be released. Between Amber and I we think those 5 things are walk, eat, drink, urinate, and take medication orally. After he does those things we will be released to go home to Austin.

We will return in two weeks, well actually either 9 days or 16 days since she only sees patients on Wednesdays. I'm guessing it will be the 16 days. At that time they will remove the bandage and prescribe therapy. The therapy can be done locally in Austin though.

After that we will return in 8 weeks for a full screening of everything, as long as that still shows everything clean then we will just come in for checkups every 3 months.

His hand should have a bandage around the two fingers on each side of the removal site. She said in order for the scar to heal well and small that he really doesn't want to use those fingers for the next two weeks. His thumb and pinky finger will be free to dance around though.

I'm sure some silly pics will be coming soon.

Well I'm off to annoy the volunteers to see if I can maybe get back into that recovery room to give my sugars a kiss :-)

Again thanks so much for the prayers and encouragement. All day we have been recieving texts, emails, facebook posts, etc letting us know that we are in the thoughts of prayers of so many. I am so thankful for each and every one!!

Love to you all!

Bumped up

It's looking like things will be starting early. There was a cancellation and I got a call at around 8:15a asking when I could be there. I said about an hour. It's go time. Lets get this over with!

Gotta run!

Peace & love homies!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Good times

The time is getting closer. Houston, prepare for takeoff. Soon I'll be unable to eat or drink (plain ol water is also banned) until after the surgery which could be 2pm tomorrow. I'm also barred from using deodorant. Why, I have no idea but it'd your olfactory senses that'll be offended doc... I'll try and not get sweaty.

Today was a pretty great day actually. I got to play the kit for church, got to relax with some football, hang with some of the best neighbors ever for small group, see the Cowboys actually win a game, and to top it all off, jam out with Paul, Charis, Britain, Roger, Holly, Karen, Chris, and of course Brea. Hand percussion won't be easy with a healing hand for at least a month or two I imagine. It was good to say farewell to the finger by using it to play some stuff for the big G.

Just in case things move really quickly over the next 24 hours, I want to say thank you to all of you who have been encouraging, sending sympathies, and laughing with me at this crazy experience. It is amazing to me that there are so many people who care and I am very grateful for the many heartfelt interactions lately. It seems almost silly that all this nuttiness is over a finger. People lose fingers in accidents, people have worse troubles than I by far. It is at the same time a huge thing to face and also nearly trivial in the grand scheme of things.

I'm hanging in the balance between those two views and at this point the best way to deal with it seems to be the band-aid approach. Just get it done and get on with it. I think what makes it seem more difficult is the having to make a decision and intentionally walk into a permanent body alteration. It's not a piercing, it's not a tattoo. Roger, who is also battling cancer of a different sort and is someone I am very grateful for, put the issue into perspective. He said that it is going to be tough because it will serve as a daily, unavoidable reminder of something (cancer) that we'd like to just put behind us. You know the saying about knowing something like the back of your hand. Something that familiar is changing and it is permanent and it will pose challenges and adjustments to some common daily tasks. But hey, it's like getting a brand new toy to play around with. I'll be set for dressing up as cartoons or aliens and who knows, maybe it will actually be an asset for some tasks.

So lets do this. Game on.

Dear finger...

Hey finger, it's me, the rest of your body.

How's it going? I'm doing pretty good...

So hey, it's a pretty rough economy out there and I'm afraid I'm going to have to let you go. No no, I know you've tried hard and been a part of this organization for nearly three decades. No, it's not going to make a difference if you cry. Look, you look pretty ok on the outside but you're like a cancer on the inside and frankly we don't want to lose any more employees to stuff you started. I don't care if it is hereditary and you didn't have a choice, maybe you did. Look, on principle, I'd love to keep you but the fact of the matter is that you're causing trouble and we're in danger of losing one of our biggest clients. Yeah, Hasbro, the owners of Life. So yes, it is a big deal and yes you have to go. Sorry.

You and I have had some good times together though. Typing, climbing, drumming, shifting mountain bike gears... I'm sure I'll miss you but you did get me into trouble a few times too. Don't deny it! Ok, I was pretty much responsible too but you didn't have to go along with it! Jerk...

No, I don't want to end on bad terms with you. I'm sorry.

I do hope you find some new line of work. Maybe you'll find something in the medical research field. I hear they're still having to resort to amputation for a lot of sarcomas. Yeah it's a type of cancer. You're pretty smart, maybe you can lend the field some of your insight or inspire some young doctor or researcher. That'd be cool.

So yeah, clear out your things and be prepared to leave Monday around 2pm. Security will escort you out. Oh yeah, they will be wearing scrubs. Why? It's more efficient and comfortable than the other uniforms out there I guess. Probably easier to clean too. Just go quietly and it'll be ok alright? I'll see you on the flip side.

Best regards,


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Love and Peace

Yesterday as we walked around the medical center I said to Eric "I just love getting to spend the day with you, even when it's under these circumstances, I just love to be with you." At the beginning of this whole ordeal, before we really knew what we were dealing with or had told anyone, I was scared. Scared that this man that I love might not be here with me for all my days. I know that is selfish but the truth is that I'm just selfish. I knew that if this ended up being the absolute worst case scenario it meant that he would be with Jesus and no longer trapped in a fallen world with pain and sickness and I would be without him. The thought of outliving him had crossed my mind in brief moments other times in our marriage, not because of anything in particular but just because I think about all kinds of things randomly, and I would think "I don't want to imagine that, I sure hope I never have to live it." But now, as I sit in the waiting room as he gets his MRI, I'm not scared anymore, at least not of this situation. Eric has shown me such bravery, courage, and faith through all of this.

I used to get frustrated because I wanted Eric to lead me. Lead me in our marriage, lead me in our lives together, and lead me spiritually. Well guess what, he was and is. He is like his creator God in so many ways and one of them is that he can lead in a way that you might not notice. He didn't tell me not to be scared he just told me that he knew that God was in control and as you can probably imagine he said "and what can ya do anyway?" Can you hear it? He's probably said it to many of you as well. :-) So instead of worrying, which is my natural tendency, in the last few months I have had the pleasure of experiencing peace, the kind of peace that only God can give. On my own, I think I would have missed it, but Eric showed me how to do it. He showed me that when I'm scared, I can pray and then my friends and family showed me that even when I'm not praying they are.

Yesterday when the doctors got all mixed up and told us they needed to take 2 fingers instead of one and then left us in the room alone for the next 20 minutes, I wanted to worry, my mind started to go there, and I looked at Eric and he laid there on the examination table with his eyes closed. I didn't know if he was praying or just resting but I knew what I needed to do. I prayed that God would help us to have wisdom and peace no matter what the doctors came back and said. I was tempted to start a discussion with Eric about all the what ifs but I knew that would only take both of us to a place we didn't need to be so instead I just prayed. And when I calmed down I got up and went over to my wonderful husband and I hugged him. Then I walked around the exam room being goofy for a bit until the doctor came back and told us "only one finger" Relief and PRAISE!!

I love so many things about Eric and in this season I love it that he is leading me to find peace instead of fear. Thanks to an episode of The Office I have wondered a lot lately if other couples are as ridiculously in love as we are. It's hard to imagine but I hope that for all of you that read this that you are with your spouse or will be someday. I hope that when you are with them that you just love to be with them no matter what the circumstances.

Eric and I are perfectly fitted because God picked us for each other. Just another example of how He is a GREAT GOD!

Lord, thank you for the love that you have given to each of us to give to one another. Lord help me to be less selfish and more loving in all my relationships. Lord thank you for the partner you have given me to love in the covenant of marriage. Lord thank you for being love and loving us so much that although we don't deserve it you died so that we don't have to be separated from your love for all of eternity. Thank you Lord, Amen.

No Patch Adams

Wednesday's appointments went smoothly for the most part, which is nice. :) I say "for the most part" because as we were reviewing some details right before meeting with Dr Lewis, we got a little scare of the sort that you really wouldn't prefer as you're about to be partially dismembered. One of the assistants was going over the paperwork and part of that was confirming the nature of the procedure. "Left hand, 4th finger" was what we heard. I didn't have time to respond with what surely would have been a "ha! the 4th finger is somehow the left middle finger right?" because Brea jumped all over that really quickly. "No... left 3rd finger..." There were some awkward stares back and forth. The paperwork all mentioned the 4th finger or, in some places, the 3rd and 4th finger.

Whatchu talkin' 'bout Willis? ----->

She said she'd go check.

A few minutes later both the initial assistant and another show up. They double, triple, and quadruple check that yes, it's my left middle finger which by all accounts is my 3rd finger. I point out the scar where the initial tumor was removed and let them know that yes, I'm pretty dang sure, it's that one.

They pop out again after saying that there was something suggesting that I might need to have both removed.

[stunned silence, nervous laughs, prayer]
[/stunned silence, nervous laughs]

10-20 more minutes elapse and the 2nd assistant pops back in. Hey, it is just the 3rd finger we need to take off.

Well that's a relief.

I'm wondering if they're trying to punish me for making lame jokes every time I see them. Seriously. As an example, I'd said that Id learned my tumor was in fact benign on the way to the appointment because we went to elevator B and to floor nine... B9=Be-nign... ha ha ha... no.

Laughter is apparently, in the treatment of cancer, dead last after surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Can't a guy have some fun?

Well anyhoo, we got it all cleared up. They gave me a couple skin markers to mark the finger and keep it marked until Monday to avoid any confusion hopefully.

So that was the rough part of yesterday. The rest of it was really easy. The anesthesia appointment was really something that I could have done over the phone I think and the imaging that was done was just an x-ray of my hand. The x-ray tech declined to let me get one done where I was flicking the bird which really was probably for the best but it is so tempting to have a skeleton hand image giving the finger to cancer. Ah well. I suppose my reluctance to enjoying the freedom of being able to use said finger, even against cancer, is the concept of respecting your adversary. It's not a person but it seems utterly trivial and a bit naive to flick it off because the fact of the matter is it's just a disease. A biological growth can't really have intentional ill-will. It's like giving the finger to a mountain because it had loose rocks that fell on you. I don't know that that opinion of mine is completely logical but it does reflect my posture on this whole challenge. I want to face it with dignity and see how it can help me fulfill a bigger, hopefully divine purpose. With that being said, I'm probably going to engage in some silliness along the way just because that's my leaning half the time. :)

I can just imagine a personified cancer character and I facing off on the main street of Tombstone.
Ten paces.
I draw the finger. It rises up alone in the crowd of other fingers from the left-hand battalion, then fires at the enemy.
"Take that you jackwagon!" I might say if I was a former drill-sergeant-turned-psychiatrist.
My focus shifts to the ground Cancer is standing on. It is littered with bodies, body parts, and of course, my finger. "I''ll add it to my collection" He mumbles as he just chuckles and walks away.

Well that was a little dark. :D

But the fact of the matter is what I need to keep focusing on is that this is actually a pretty good situation, all things considered. I'm reminded of something I was reading last night and glad that I'm being encouraged to have the discipline to read because stuff like this always seems to pop up right when it's needed.

Oh, and that brings me to another point. Thanks to uncle Rob & cousin Robert for letting us crash at their place last night. No to mention the superb dinner suggestion and treating of some Becks Prime which has delicious burgers. Yeah buddy!

That's about all I've got for the moment, I leave you with the following photo: Love in an Elevator. Peace. :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

If I was an astronaut...

...I'd probably be sequestered and reviewing the mission objectives.

As it stands, I'm not an astronaut but tomorrow does mark the beginning of the final battery of tests and consultation before Monday's surgery. More information should be available by tomorrow evening so stay posted. We're getting down to the final lap.

I've got a couple reminder bands that actually work pretty well together when you discount the fact that the AO one is from my frat's 50th anniversary. Living strong thanks to the foundation.

I'm finding myself trying to figure out how to keep working while I'm partially incapacitated and it seems at this point that the best answer will be organizing and hopefully selling prints of photos I've already taken. I'm just not sure how loopy I'll be post-op. Previously I've only employed the hydrocodone prescription lightly after the procedures like my wisdom tooth and tumor removal but I'm wondering if after getting my hand cut into I'll be needing to be knocked out a little more. We'll see.

It's tough not to try and figure out all the questions but the fact of the matter is that I'm sure I'll be surprised somehow during this whole process. It's a definite process of stepping into the realization that it's all out of my control and that's probably a good thing. Shoot, I'm just glad I don't have to cut it off myself like that climber who had to cut off part of his hand to free himself. Interestingly enough, the title of the movie telling that climber's story involves the same slightly re-arranged numbers as my business name...

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Valley of the Shadow

Well folks, the time approaches. Although not totally light and airy, it's not horrible either. I've got dates set for the ray amputation of my leftmost most offensive finger. The world will be a better place. :)

I'd tell you to set your DVRs but I'm pretty sure the surgery won't be on broadcast networks or cable. It's still going down though. November 15th.

It is the same day that back in 1492 Christopher Columbus notes the first recorded reference to tobacco (speaking of cancer, kids, don't smoke or chew). Also in 1904, King C Gillette patented the Gillette razor blade (I don't know if he also invented or made scalpels...). But that's not all! On November 15th in 1960, the USS George Washington, the 1st sub with nuclear ballistic missiles, launched. To top it all off, it's also the day, in 1969, that Wendy's Hamburgers opened.
Now add Eric getting a finger lopped off to the list in 2010.

I say "lopped off" which really is quite crass considering there are 3 days of prep work the week before that will include another MRI, anesthesia assessment, blood-work, and a consultation with Dr Lewis. So it's actually looking to be more of a very precise and methodical surgical procedure that hopefully I will be entirely unconscious for.

Brea mentioned to me that now there were dates set this whole thing got a lot more real. It definitely is real, but it always has been. So now is the time to panic...

I'm kidding! You weren't actually panicking were you? I'm not. I'm on some sort of path that's about to include some fun new challenges. It's time to suck it up and embrace the reality as whatever it turns out to be.

It will be a change of pace I can imagine, it's definitely the biggest injury I'll have suff... oh wait, I've been hit by a pickup truck and fallen 20ft off a cliff face. Ok, maybe not the biggest injury but definitely the most permanent. I was going to ask if I'd be candidate for one of those Droid fingers like in the commercials but I'm pretty sure they're all visual effects.

So for now and until mid-November I'm enjoying some things that might be a little difficult for a few months afterward. Drumming at church, camping, and making art with a 5-fingered hand.

I hope it will all go well but am preparing for challenges. Perhaps it will be a mix. :) I'm in good hands after all.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Consensus: Not political (thank goodness)

I'm a little late in posting this but here's what's been going on...

Those questions that we've been compiling were mostly answered back on Monday afternoon when I was able to talk with my doc on the phone.

The bottom line at this point is that what I'd suspected and been preparing for (the finger being taken off) is the consensus not just with Dr Adler and Dr Lewis, but with every other person with cancer experience that has been asked. I'm blessed to have very gracious and concerned friends and family who have made inquiries all over the place to see what other professionals and friends with experience think and all the replies have confirmed that taking off the primary location of the cancer offers the best chance of killing the disease before it gets out of hand. With that being said, of course there still aren't any guarantees, just probabilities. It's a somewhat somber reminder that despite all the stunning advances in medicine and science, there is still a whole lot we don't know about the human body. It's all based on experiments and practice and typically life throws curve balls because we just don't appreciate the complexities of our "normal" lives.
Right now I'm envisioning Sean Connery saying something along the lines of "Ha! You think you're so smart!"

Anyhow, I got off topic a little bit, sorry about that!

Questions and Answers
(I made notes, then came back and filled in with more complete sentences. The Doc talked really quickly... :D

1. Since we know the margins were not clear but the cancer has been down-graded is radiation on his finger a possible treatment to kill the remaining cells if we decide not to do the radial at this time? Is removing additional tissue but not the whole finger an option at all? (This one I know has been answered and I personally don't prefer it)
No, there isn't enough tissue, radiation is not an option. The pathologist conference concluded I am not a radiation candidate. Apparently it would just "fry" the finger and kill it.

2. Is there a likelihood of phantom pain? Or chronic pain in his hand?
It is not likely and is even less likely with a ray amputation.

3. In low grade sarcoma what is the recurrence percentage in other patients when initial site is not completely removed?
When the original site is not removed, recurrence is about 90% and tends to be either in the original site or the lungs.

4. Since it is considered a less aggressive cancer does that mean it is not as likely to metastasize?
It is not as likely but is still likely

5. If the ray amputation is done will other treatments also be necessary? Radiation, chemo?
No, not at this time. (Would change if cancer popped up elsewhere presumably)

6. Can we have the lower half of his body checked to be sure he does not have the misfortune of having another growth in a place that we have not looked at yet?
No. Apparently it would be in the lungs or in the finger if anywhere else.

7. How long would the surgery be?
About 2 hours.

8. How long is the healing process?
I should be able to get the hand out of the splint and move it after 2 weeks. It should be mostly functional at 6 weeks and fully functional in around 3 months after surgery.

9. The cancer was in his finger for over a year without spreading, what is the likelihood that it will spread now that the tumor was removed but the margins were not clear?
The likelihood would be low because it is low grade and the tumor was small but there is a chance. Usually a spread comes from a large tumor shedding off cells when it reaches a certain size.

10. Is there any reason radiation or chemotherapy isn't an equally viable option at this point while there are only small clusters of cells (presumably)
See answer to question #1

11. What is the stage of the tumor that was removed?
It is not relevant because it was a low grade tumor and there was no metastasis visible at this point.

12. How possible is it that it has already spread since it's been over a month since the initial tumor removal? How might that affect the treatment plan?
At this point, while it is possible, it's not very likely and as such, would not affect the treatment plan which is ideally removing the finger.

13. What is the recurrence percentage when the initial site IS completely removed?
Very low.

14. Would the "watching closely" include MRI, CT scan, chest xray, ultrasound, and bloodwork every 3 months? My understanding is that this would be the same with or without the ray amputation. Are there any more or less tests that would be involved?
I've already had an MRI (baseline MRI) so the watching closely would probably be just the ultrasound and chest x-ray every 3 months. No other tests would be prescribed at this point.

15. If taking the finger didn't close the gate, metaphorically speaking, what would the likelihood be that if it has moved up that you'd recommend taking more of my hand or arm, etc?
It is unlikely at this point because if it did wind up moving elsewhere, just about anywhere else there would be able more tissue to work with and complete removal isn't necessarily necessary.

Other things mentioned in the phone call:
If we sat and watched it, there is a higher risk of recurrence because the initial tumor removal was done improperly. Recurrence usually happens within 2 - 3 years and if nothing shows, one is usually cleared by the 10 year mark.

The next step is to contact the scheduler to setup the next appointment depending on our choice.

So I think I'm out of excuses for not scheduling the surgery. The main concern I have at this point that might be legitimate is the lack of a full body scan. Dr Lewis has been very clear that the sarcoma wouldn't metastasize anywhere lower without being in the lungs or lymph nodes but I still feel (possibly incorrectly) like she's not getting the concern that there may be something that just is/has-been growing somewhere else entirely and separately. Is there any reason why something like that wouldn't happen?

Anyhow, so for halloween I'm thinking I'll dress up like a UPS or USPS delivery guy with a box being sent to cancer and with a bloody finger inside. :) Also, projects like making some left hand prints and or some casts might be in the works just for the fun of it but who knows if I'll have time for that.

Thanks for all your prayers and encouragement! There have been times where I could feel some negative stuff trying to creep up and distract me from the big picture but it's being beaten back and I'm sure your interventions are playing a role in all that. I can't say I deserve any of it because I don't but it is very much appreciated!

Oh, and one other thing, I'm really glad we were able to get out to Brenham this past Saturday to shoot Ashley & Dusty's wedding at a beautiful rose garden. Good times and BBQ!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Questions...I want to cover them all

Hello! Brea here this time. I'm typing up a list of questions to ask the doctor. We just want to be sure that we fully understand the situation as best as we can before actually beginning any treatment plan. We are pretty sure that we will be proceeding with the radial amputation but again we just want to be thorough that we have asked all the questions we can so that our decision is as informed as possible. I mean who really wants to set an appt to "give cancer the finger". So this is what I have right now, I'm sure there are other and better ones to ask but I can't think right now so I thought I would seek help from whoever is willing to offer it. Based on what you know from following our blog, which is pretty much everything we know, what questions would you ask, or in the case of some of mine, ask again? I know that some of mine are kinda stupid or redundant but I would rather look stupid to one of the best doctors in the world than not have the peace of mind knowing that I asked. So please share, if you can't comment on the blog for some reason send us an email or facebook comment or message.

Why is watching it even an option? Isn't that basically waiting for it to get worse since the margins were not clear or is it possible the remaining cells won't actually do anything?

Since we know the margins were not clear but the cancer has been down-graded is radiation on his finger a possible treatment to kill the remaining cells if we decide not to do the radial at this time?

Is removing additional tissue but not the whole finger an option at all?

Is there a likelihood of phantom pain? Or chronic pain in his hand?

In low grade sarcoma what is the recurrence percentage in other patients when initial site is not completely removed?

Since it is considered a less aggressive cancer does that mean it is not as likely to metastasize?

If the radial is done will other treatments also be necessary? Radiation, chemo?

Can we have the lower half of his body checked to be sure he does not have the misfortune of having another growth in a place that we have not looked at yet?

How long would the surgery be for the radial?

How long is the healing process?

The cancer was in his finger for over a year without spreading, what is the likelihood that it will spread now that the tumor was removed but the margins were not clear?

Thanks so much!

Friday, October 15, 2010

I've been called indecisive before... it turns out, my tumor is too. :D

I got a call from Dr Lewis again on Thursday afternoon and she let me know that after that
review back on Tuesday they're still not 100% what to call my sarcoma, other than sarcoma.
She said it showed more of the characteristics of low-grade sarcoma but apparently was throwing them for a loop on the precise diagnosis. In retrospect, I should have asked what characteristics made it so ambiguous but I should be able to call back and ask.

But here's the kicker: I apparently have two options for treatment at this point with a third that is often suggested by us non MDs but probably better in theory than actuality. It sounds like the Dr Lewis was still leaning towards just doing the ray amputation because it's the safest option overall in regards to cutting off (no pun intended) the source of this low-grade(?) but still nasty cancer.
However, she did say another option at this point would simply be "close observation" which I suppose is a fancy way for saying "wait until something bad happens somewhere else or it looks like it's re-growing." The downside to this option would be a heightened chance that it could metastasize elsewhere to a place much more vital than my middle finger. Now I don't know how close this observation would be and whether it's worth it to risk it but the interesting thing is that she listed it as an option.

The third option that Brea asked me about was this: Couldn't they just try and clean up the area and get clean margins? ...And the answer to that is most probably no because frankly my finger doesn't have all that much too it. Add to that issue the concern that digging around there could stir up the bad cells and actually cause it to spread, which kinda defeats the purpose.

I'm not much of a gambling man but I like taking calculated risks every now and then. With that being said, I don't like being overtly stupid regarding serious matters. But here we are with a choice. Dr Lewis said we could give her a call back in a week or so and let her know what we'd like to do.

It is clear that a ray amputation of that finger is the preferred treatment largely because it is the safest known option with the largest probability of stopping this cancer where it began.

The thing is that good news has been coming in and frankly, I know that this could be an opportunity for the cancer to just miraculously go away, but I also know you don't test God. I trust He could do anything really, but the question to me is whether or not the best path is making use of the amazing structure of capabilities provided through the medical complex or if it would be something else entirely. Right now I'm leaning towards doing the surgery because we're in a place where it is an option and dealing with the adversity it brings up is an opportunity to genuinely show that I've got hope beyond the physical. Whatever happens, it's all good and I know things could go a hundred different ways and I'm cool with that. Shoot, maybe they'll take it off and it'll show back up in place when the bandages get taken off, that'd be an undeniable shocker. :D

So there you have it. Call it "Decision 2010" and let the games begin. Should I give cancer the finger and walk off for the better or hold out for something else? Either way it could be a moot point and I could get caught up in a freak gasoline fight accident and the eugoogely might not even mention cancer as the cause. Yes, that was Zoolander, I'm sorry. I don't know what's going to happen but we'll have some fun any which way this story takes us. :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Smiles :)

Hey there friends and family!
So you know that good news you've all been waiting for? I think some of it came in more officially just a few minutes ago...

Dr Lewis called and said that the pathology of the tumor that they (MDA) performed seems to suggest that the diagnosis be downgraded from synovial sarcoma to a low-grade sarcoma (less aggressive). The implications of this for that finger are still not clear because it was found at the margins of the biopsy (the tumor that was cut out) but with all things considered, it's still great news. So what's going to happen next is that Dr Lewis is going to go to a sarcoma conference tomorrow and maybe call Dr House (I kid) to confer with her fellow associates and (I'm pretty confidently assuming) experts in their fields. She may call me back late tomorrow, I may call Wednesday, it all depends on what all may happen with the conference and some other lab that is coming in that I forgot to ask about.

So needless to say Brea and I are pretty happy about the downgrade and even though the finger may still be a goner, I was able to ask and confirm that treatment wouldn't start until probably the beginning of November. That means that I'm especially happy because I'll be able to fulfill my commitment to photograph a wedding (Lord-willing, barring any unforeseen bumps in the road) that is coming up soon. By the way, many thanks to Ashley who knew about all this (thanks to fellow Eric H) and did not flip out (to my knowledge :D) as really she'd have every right to when your wedding photographer suddenly gets cancer and you find out the month of said wedding.

On top of all this, what has been a side note due to the prospect of the whole thing getting lopped off, my finger has been healing nicely from the surgery that exposed all this sarcoma nastiness. As you can tell from figure B to the right, it is pretty discreet already just 31 days afterward. So yeah, smile people!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Good news?

This is just a quick update because we actually haven't heard back from the doctor yet. I did, however, get the MRI report and disc of images.

Without a medical eye for this, I have no idea what this actually means but it sure sounds good! Here are the "impression(s)" from each of the reports I have so far:

Ultrasound - Unremarkable left upper extremity ultrasound without evidence of pathologic adenopathy or mass.
X-ray - Negative chest
CT - No evidence of metastatic disease
MRI - Presumed post-surgical changes with no definite residual disease.

It would seem that this means that my condition is not very advanced which would be fantastic... but this isn't official word from the docs so I'm not holding my breath. :) Still, with nothing jumping out with alarm bells, I can't help but think that prayers are being answered.

So maybe we'll hear from MDA Monday, maybe... either way I'm not worried. It's the weekend baby yeah!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The radiologist held me up! I kid... I kid...

Yessiree, it's me again.

Yesterday involved a rocket-run back to MD Anderson for the last piece of the diagnostic puzzle for now (Lord-willing). That MRI that's been talked about everywhere (aka, this blog) finally happened.

At my very first MRI I have to say it was pretty much what I was told it would be and aside from my arm falling asleep on a first pass and my neck cramping on another, it was pretty cool. There was the jackhammer, the nuclear meltdown warning honk, the whale song clicks, and what I think was the machine playing duck-duck-goose without ever getting to said goose. I got in at 4:15p to check in and by 4:30p they had me in scrubs and waiting to get the IV line in. I lost track of time after that because of all the magnetic stuff going on, I couldn't bring my phone or watch with. National Geographic is an awesome magazine by the way. It'd be fun to get some photos in there actually. Perhaps I'll get to working on that...
Anyhow, I finally got called in and got to see the machine. This one was actually open-ended to load either way which is a little different that I'd expected but nice. The doc/tech wound up trying a couple different positions before I wound up lying on my left side with my arm out in front, sort-of superman style. They had my hand on/in some sort of cupped contraption at first and it wound up not working (was told it was fuzzy) after who knows how long. They stuck it in-between two plates for what I'm guessing actually worked. :) Afterward while waiting for the IV to be removed I had some quick but good conversations with some patients who were about to go in for their MRI. Good times. I was back in my own clothes by about 7:30p or so and then it was time to head back to ye olde Austin.

Oh, and before I forget, I got copies of the CT, x-ray, and ultrasound tests which are pretty cool to look at, not that I know what to look for... This chest x-ray is the inspiration for this post's title. It is not of me surrendering, the radiologist just told me to lift my arms is all. :)

So now we wait. As mentioned in the last post, they probably won't have anything for me until late this week so life goes on. I know I've said it a lot but the toughest part of all this really is just not being able to plan with any amount of certainty. I suppose it's for best and really, I've never been big on planning anyway. I've always known life to be unpredictable and while there might be a direction you're going, you might have to switch a couple lanes along the way. Hopefully everyone else's week is going well? :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Just chillin'

Since I last posted the main thing that's happened medically is the ultrasound of my left shoulder and upper arm areas. It was pretty cool actually. The monitor showed what looked like a moonscape at times and I could see strands of glands and sheets of tissue and muscle and whatnot. Maybe I'll be able to get copies of those images and show you what I mean.

But yes, that has been the extent of progress to this point. Coming up tomorrow is the next bit of fun, the MRI. This'll be a first for me and as the comedian Stephen Wright has said, "I'm gonna have an MRI to find out whether or not I have claustrophobia." Well that and whether or not there's any sign of cancer in the more important parts of me. :)

While trying to find out anything more about the timeline of things post-MRI, I sent in an email to the docs and got the folllowing reply:

I spoke with Kristi, Dr. Lewis' PA and we are not going to schedule you for a follow up appointment at this time. They want to get all the testing done, get the reports in, review your case and set up a treatment plan. I believe that Dr. Lewis instructed you to call several days after the MRI is complete. Since your MRI is scheduled for next Tuesday, you could call for results on Thursday. Not sure they will have answers on that day, but you could get your call in and they will call you back when a plan has been formulated.

Let me know if you need anything else.

Thanks for your patience,

We're thinking that means next Wednesday is the soonest we'd probably be able to go back in for a face-to-face meeting with the doctor and probably the first we'll get a fully definitive diagnosis, letting us get the ball rolling on treatment.

In all honesty my main concerns have been how all this is going to fit in with things that were planned months ago that are now fast approaching. I'm supposed to be shooting a wedding on the 23rd and we were going to make a trip to California to pay respects to my Mom's mom as well, tickets were purchased already and everything. I certainly don't want to stress out a bride or be a distraction on her big day and I've already missed the actual funeral for my grandmother(s) so it would be ideal to push any treatment out until the last week of the month if possible.

Anyhow, what will be will be. This whole situation reminds me of a passage in James that feels especially applicable:
Jam 4:13Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

So I'm keeping on my toes. :)

Brea pretty much mentioned all the other stuff that's been happening around the medical hoopla so I'll just mention my own gratitude for all the family that has been showing such great hospitality in letting us stay at their homes and beating me to the punch at paying for meals and all that good stuff. Thank you!

There is one other thing actually. We wound up watching "The Social Network" and I can't stop kicking myself for not snapping a screenshot and posting it on Facebook during the movie... It's for the best I'm sure... :D

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Well we can't get it tomorrow

Chik Fil A that is. Which is what we just picked up for dinner as we head back to Austin for a few days.

We don't have too much to update on the medical part of this situation but I'm feeling a little chatty (or shall I say typy) so I'm gonna expand on how God is taking care of us through this time after a brief update on the current diagnostic status.

Eric had his upper arm ultrasound yesterday and the tech told him that she didn't see anything. While that is pretty much an unofficial statement we were happy to hear it. We were not able to get his next test, an upper extremity MRI, scheduled until next Tuesday so we decided to head back home for a few days. Since we won't get to hear any official results or discuss treatment plans until all tests have been done and reviewed we are still pretty much just in a discovery and waiting stage. We are hoping that we will get a call about results on next Wed so we can finally know the fullness of this situation but we were told it may be a few days after the MRI so we really don't know.

Everyone has been asking, "So how are ya'll doing?" Ironically we are doing very well and have actually been able to enjoy a good portion of the last few days. The last few days have been full of time with different people in my family in situations we don't have the chance to enjoy barely ever. Wednesday we spent the entire day with our Aunt Loretta, and while we waited hours and hours to see the doctor we actually filled most of the day with laughter. Then we had dinner with her, Uncle Rob, and cousins Chris and Courtney. We barely see my cousins except for holidays and we got to spend the night with them which gave us the opportunity to see their home and time to just chat and although I was having a hard time processing the doctor appt it was truly wonderful to be surrounded by loving family. Thursday, after we finished up at MDA we went to Cosentino (my company's corporate office) and I got some work done. They gave me some space to work and again reminded me that I really didn't need to worry about it. But I wanted to and was glad that I could spend a bit of time at the office. I've been with the company for 8 years and Wed morning was my first time to make it to the corporate office and to meet many of my co-workers face to face. Working was actually great both because it was a distraction from the heavy subject of cancer for many hours plus I'm kinda workaholic so I was glad that I was able to get some work done. We then headed to again meet up with cousins Chris and Courtney for dinner. We had some awesome chinese food, I think the place was Hollywood Chinese and Viatnamese, it was off Montrose, soooooooo good! And as some of you know chinese food is always a good way to make me happy. And then we headed on to finally catch up with my sister Stephanie and family. We chatted some, relaxed and watched some tv. Again, spending time with family that we rarely get to see outside of holidays and we just got to join into their evening and be there together. Friday started early, I got a text from my sister Amber at about 5:30 a.m. asking if she could come spend the day with us. I responded with "Absolutely!!" A few minutes later we got a call from Australia from our crazy bloke Ben and Eric's sister Karen. I stirred Eric so he could chat with them a bit. We slept a little more and then my sister arrived and we headed out to grab some breakfast. We ended up getting to spend the whole day together. I did a little bit more work and then we headed out for Eric's appt. That went pretty quickly and we got to finally meet up with Jacque. My boss' (Chester) brother in law who works at MDA and has offered to help in anyway he can. Just knowing that people we have never meet want to help us is so amazing. On that note I should also mention the incredible love that we have felt from our dear friends the Padula's as they have reminded us daily that they are there for us and praying for us and that Ben even mentioned us to the CEO of his company who is a former oncologist and also offered himself as a resource. God is so good to surround us so completely in love in so many ways. After leaving MDA the three of us decided to catch a movie before we met up with Stephanie and family for dinner. Again, I mention this because we don't get to spend this kind of time with my sister that has four kids. It was a precious time for us to just enjoy each other and while the reality of why we had the opportunity to do so did not escape us we still got to laugh and talk. And I should let you know, we have laughed at cancer a lot. Weird right?! Well, we have decided to not let cancer steal our joy but rather to increase it. After watching The Social Network (which we all liked) we meet Stephanie, Felipe, Lauren, and Seth for dinner at Carinos. Over dinner we decided that we would all stay to catch the kids homecoming game the following morning (this morning). We went back to the house and made brownies together, got a preview of the mother daughter dance, and watched some TV. This morning we rose early, headed to the football field and got to see Lauren cheer, Stephanie dance, Seth play football, and Felipe coach. Eric was taking pictures the whole time, shocking right! And us three sisters got to chat and hear about being a cheerleader and football mom and the drama that can come with that. After 4 hours of taking all of that in Eric, Amber, and I headed to Tomball to see her family. While seeing Amber and family isn't usually rare, we haven't seen them since before our trip to Australia in May, so we were long overdue! I rode with Amber and we had wonderful conversation. We talked about prayer and aligning our hearts with Gods plan in both the good and bad things. And about how much of a blessing Eric is to our family and how him joining our family has been such a delight for all of us. She said she has always felt like he is the diamond in the rough in our family. I think that is such a perfect and beautiful image. In the years since God brought us together He has used Eric to teach all of us so much. Eric is always showing us what it looks like to be a person that rests in the peace that God and it's so amazing to see him to stay faithful to that in the face of this trial. We had the time to just be sisters and share our hearts with one another. Eric was probably a bit thankful to have some alone time for the first time in many days. He didn't ask for it but if I could have an hour or so away from me every couple of days I would take it :-) We finally got to see Jason and the kiddos plus Erica, John, and family. I played dolls with the girls a bit, Eric played some Legos and then most of us watched a movie together. And then we pulled ourselves away and are now headed home.

I am so thankful for all of our family and friends. We didn't have time too dwell on what could be over the last few days, we were just too busy as you can tell from the above.

As we head home I can assure you that we feel the power of your prayers. Days that could have been filled with tears have been filled with laughter. God is good and we trust in Him. He has been faithful in giving us peace, courage and so much more. Our prayer for all of you is that if this situation has made you sad, scared, or angry that you would find peace in Him and that you would recognize all the ways in which He gives us reasons to delight in Him each day.

Thanks and Love,