Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mid-week update

Dear Family and Friends,

Gabrielle here.  This will be brief since Steve pretty much told you about my week in his last post.  I am SO glad to be rid of the infected abdominal port that has given me nothing but grief since I got it in January.  It's 3:30 PM Wed. and so far today, no pain pills other than ibuprofen!  Hooray!  I "think" the horrible pain on my right side is going away too now that the port is out.  Maybe it was referred pain from the infection and/or port. 

I am also really glad I got the blood yesterday.  It takes forever for it to drip into you, but we watched Runaway Bride and played Scrabble, so the time passed pleasantly.  I feel so much better today!  Pink cheeks (instead of white), energy, not dizzy when I stand up, etc.  Thank you to every one of you who donate blood so people like me can have some! 

I enjoyed a wonderful luncheon with my friends Jan and Sue today.  Jan brought the delicious meal and we celebrated my b-day (belatedly) and Sue's b-day (next week). 

Now I am about to put on my rain pants and coat and go for my exercise walk with Steve, who got off work early today!  While we are out, Daniel, who just returned from the gym, will be making us chicken pot pies for dinner.  He is doing everything in his power to fatten me up!  My mom will join us for dinner too, but alas, Renee is very ill with the flu, so can't come over yet.  Please remember her in your prayers if you will.

Lastly, I wanted to share this Scripture and thought from my friend Laurie.  It is from Isaiah 43 and it inspired me.

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior

Says Laurie, "The nice thing about the storm he calmed when He was in the boat with the disciples on the sea was that they saw Jesus' power.  But this reminds me of His presence when the storm doesn't subside and we still have water up to our necks or smoke in our eyes."

I've had days in the last two months with water up to my neck and smoke in my eyes and I can say with 100% certainty...He has been, and remains, with me through it all.  Thanks be to God!

Love,
Gaby

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Abdominal port out, a unit of blood in

Steve

To continue on the sea voyage metaphor, the going has been a little rough the past few days.  As Gabrielle mentioned, over the weekend, she got word that the abdominal port was infected and needed to come out [aside…this “port” is not the left or larboard side of a boat, nor is it a safe haven from a storm, but rather the access part for the drugs…oh to have that safe harbor about now].  I was reminded of that silly song about Port Out, Starboard Home..P-O-S-H from the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  Supposedly it speaks of the origins of the word posh, but it is indeed a mystery to me why so many people on that boat would need to have their abdominal ports out.  Though Gabrielle indeed was sitting on the starboard on the way home.  So here's to port out, starboard home for Gabrielle!

She went in yesterday and had the pesky piece of hardware removed.  She needed to go to the operating room (OR in Grey’s Anatomy speak) but didn’t need to be knocked out, just had some sedation.  Dr. M. said it was indeed infected and was glad that she had had the port cultured a second time just make sure that she wasn’t missing anything.  I am reminded of a line from a Sherlock Holmes story I recently read.  Sherlock finds a telltale clue in the midst of a field and holds it up to all astonished observers.  They wondered why they had missed it and he had found it.  He retorted that you have to really look for something.  That’s what Dr. M. did…she really looked for that infection a second time and we are glad she did.  She’s thorough.

Sadly, in the midst of her visit to have the port taken out, they did another blood test and Gabrielle’s red cells had dropped another point to 26 (normal being 34 to about 46) which means she’s on the books for a blood transfusion today.  She’ll get one unit which should bump her number up about three or four points.  On the one hand it was quite discouraging…first the port, then the transfusion.  We had really been hoping for some smooth sailing during these couple of single drug treatment weeks.  Not so.  But on the other hand, we are trying to stay positive.  Perhaps the infected port was in some way responsible for Gabrielle’s abdominal pain.  We are hoping that this will improve as the residual infection clears up…no word on that yet from the pretty Missus as she is still in her bunk below deck (OK, she’s above deck, but below deck is where most sailors sleep, so give me a little license here…at least she’s got better digs than the poor sap who wrote Two Years Before the Mast…before the mast was where you didn’t want to be…no turn down service, no chocolates on the bed, no drawn bath each night).  The other bit of hopefulness is that when she gets a transfusion, maybe she will have a little more energy.  She has been completely drained and enervated during this entire weekend.  Feels faint when she stands up or walks from the living room to the family room.  Want to see a little more spring in her step.  Why not?  Isn’t blood doping all the rage amongst certain performance athletes who have bent the rules?  Look how well some of them did…till they got caught. 

So, prayers for today would be for Gabrielle to have improved abdominal pain and more energy after the transfusion.  It is especially important for the energy to pick up.  After all, it is garbage day today and it just breaks my heart to see her crawl up on the garbage and jump up and down on it before hauling it out to the street.  Last week was especially tough, what with dry heaving and all and the rain coming down so hard.  So tough, in fact, that I almost put my afternoon tea down and threw open the window to tell her to do it in two trips…now that’s serious.

And that’s all the news so far on the Gabrielle front.  One quick follow up story on me.  For some reason, people have been loving my buzz cut.  Patients glance at me and get these odd looks on their faces, not sure if they should laugh, cry or ask if I have joined the Marines.  A couple of people have wanted to rub my new “doo”.  I recall a picture of some little visitor to the Oval Office a year or two back.  President Obama was a good sport and bent over to let the little nipper feel his hair.  I haven’t been as magnanimous as the president, however as I have been charging folks for the privilege…25 cents.  Made 50 cents so far!  Andrea, our receptionist, asked if it was for a single time or all day.  I felt generous so said “all day” and she made full use of her quarter.  Every time she came back to drop off a chart or pester me in some other way, she extracted a little more value from her quarter. 

I feel a little bad, however, that this new opportunity to feel the doo is limited to those who are actually physically in my presence and have decided to extend this offer to those far and wide…even worldwide, if the info on this blog counter is correct.  For a limited time offer, I am opening up this rare chance to all comers for the value price of…not a quarter…not even fifteen cents…but for one thin dime!  You heard me right…a dime!  What else can you buy with a dime?  That and a buck and a half will get you a cuppa Joe in town.  Here’s what you do:  scroll back to that picture of me a couple blogs back and rub my hair to your heart’s content…all day long if you so desire.  At the end of your session, pop a dime in the mail and we’ll call it good.  See how trustworthy I am?  You can pay at the end.  Of course, there are some problems to this approach.  For one, it costs 46 cents to mail a letter.  Can you believe it?  46 cents!  So you’re actually paying 56 cents (what with the dime and all, in case this early in the morning you’re having trouble with the math).  That’s the domestic rate.  For those two folks in Australia who check in from time to time, it may be more.  Sadly, I haven’t signed up with Pay Pal yet.  But wait!  Have I got a deal for you (I feel like the Ginzu knife salesman on late night TV)!….for one thin dollar…just one picture of George (sorry, I don’t take Rands, Euros, Aussie bux even though they come in such pretty colors), you can “rub the buzz” for not one week, not two weeks, but a full three weeks!  You won’t find a better deal than that out there!  And remember, it is all for a good cause…Steve’s afternoon tea fund while he supervises the trash being taken to the street.

Oh, as an added bonus, the hygiene factor is certainly much higher through this virtual buzz rubbing.  After a sweaty bicycle ride and such, I don't think Andrea really knew what she was getting into.  I try and stay clean, but you never know.  On the other hand, the screen rubbing is guaranteed to be as germ free as you want to make it...most likely somewhere between rubbing the bubble gum wall at the Pike Place Market and kissing the Blarney Stone.

Cheers!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Abdominal Port Bites the Dust

Dear friends and family,

Gabrielle here.  Today we received a call from my oncologist saying the fluid they removed from my abdominal port has a staph infection.  So she started me back on antibiotics and said to report to the OR Monday at 2 to have the port removed.  She is going to discuss the pros and cons with me of putting another one in at a different spot--under my rib cage--versus just using the shoulder port from here on out.

Of course I'm disappointed the port didn't work out, but it has given me so much pain and grief, now I can't wait to get it out of there on Monday!

On a happier note, the pain in my right side seems to be responding to the muscle relaxer pills, so perhaps it was a pulled muscle or tendon.  The only problem is--those pills make me SO sleepy!  I have barely had the energy to move off the easy chair all day, though finally MADE myself go for a half hour walk. 

My boss, Gordie, and his wife, Mary came over for a short visit this afternoon and it was really great to see them.  They brought some nice cards and beautiful flowers.  And we all ate one of Daniel's Oscar sugar cookies.  Yummo!  And our friend Karen from church brought us a lovely dinner of curried soup, bread, and brownies.  Can't wait!

My friend Ted send me a great verse for today.  It is Joshua 1:9: 
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

God is indeed with me wherever I go--to chemo, back to the OR, when I can't get out of the easy chair, when I go get my head shaved (probably on Tuesday).  I am grateful to have the God of the universe leading my rope team!

Love,
Gabrielle

Friday, February 22, 2013

And another one bites the dust!

Dear friends and family,

Gabrielle here.  Let me share with you the good news of my day!

First, I had a brief nice visit with my mom and sister this morning right before chemo.  I tried on the wig for them and they liked it.  Now I am seriously thinking head shaving day might be Monday or Tuesday.  It's just such a mess everywhere as it falls out so quickly now. 

When I got to chemo and they checked my blood counts, they told me they were good enough to get chemo #5.  Yippee!  They aren't "great," that's for sure.  Please pray I develop more red and white blood cells.  The doc did says as my hematacrit drops (# of red blood cells...today, 27), that there will be a blood transfusion or two in my future. 

Next, before the chemo started, my nurse Leah came in with more great news.  My genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes came back. I do not have either gene!!!!!  These are hereditary genes that can cause breast and ovarian cancer.  So I got my ovarian cancer some other "fluke" way--not by being a gene carrier.  Since I don't have the gene, neither do Renee or Daniel.  If I had it, there would have been 60% chance that both I and Renee would get breast cancer.  Not anymore!  This is a HUGE answer to prayer.  I am so grateful to God for this news--particularly for Renee.

After the chemo was dripping away into my shoulder port, the doctor and my nurses Janelle and Trinity came and took ONE MORE fluid sample from my abdominal port to send to the lab and make sure it's not infected.  It takes three days to culture it.  If NOT infected, they will use the port two weeks from today for the two-drug chemo.  If it IS infected, they have to remove the port and won't put one back in.  Please pray it will be free and clear to use!

Lastly, regarding the pain on my right side, my doctor examined me and called my primary doc to discuss together.  They don't think it's cancer related at all, they don't think it's a kidney stone or it would have shown up on the CT scans done a few weeks back of my organs. They think it might be a bad muscle pull as I've been overcompensating with my obliques when my center abdominal muscles have been healing at the incision site.  So they are trying out a muscle relaxant for the next three days.  If it hasn't improved a lot by Monday, I'll go in again and they will probably do a scan.  I HOPE and pray this simple fix will work!  This muscle relaxant makes one sleepy so I will probably doze right through the Oscars on Sunday!

Now I am home, tired, on a Friday night.  Steve is sitting across from me, looking cute in his buzz cut, and working on his cancer journey macrame chord.  Daniel just made us an appetizer of guacamole and chips (avacados are one of my top five foods in the world).  Now Daniel's making noodles with pesto, parm, and pine nuts with asparagus for dinner.  With all the i/v anti-nausea meds, tonight is the night to EAT.  Renee is on her way home to join us.  I just opened several more beautifully written cards from dear friends, as well as my third hand-knit hat from Evy in California (beautiful green one)!  I also just opened a HOMEMADE nail polish color created just for me by my niece Maggie in San Diego.  It's called "Gaby's Ocean" and is a beautiful turquoise sea color with some sparkles, along with a lovely card from her.  I am gazing at some gorgeous flowers that arrived yesterday from my friend, Nancy, and remembering with fondness the dinner OUT we had last night courtesy of our good friends/neighbors, Laura and Jerry.  It was my first meal in a restaurant since I got sick and I enjoyed it so much.  Great food, wonderful conversation, and feeling like a normal person!  I am so content at this moment and feeling incredibly blessed.

One Scripture verse came up twice in two different devotional books Daniel and I were reading today.  So this is my verse for the day.  It is perfect.  "Cast all your cares on Him for He careth for you."  1 Peter 5:7 

Love,
Gabrielle

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesday Greetings

Dear Family and Friends,

Gabrielle here.  I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while.  I've had kind of a rough week since the double chemo last Friday.  Aside from the terrible nausea, I've had a "mystery pain" in my right side (right where your waist goes in if you are a woman, just below your rib cage).  The pain has gotten more and more severe and lasts all day/evening.  Every day I would ask Steve--what in the world is going on in there?  Is it my gallbladder?  Is it my appendix?  Is it inflammation in my intestines? Well, after the pain being at a 5 or 6 on the pain scale for days on end, I went to my oncologis'ts office yesterday.  My own doctor was out but I saw her partner.  He did a lot of tests to rule out anything wrong with my kidneys, lungs, etc.  He said it wasn't my gallbladder or appendix or intestines.  He satisfied himself that it is nothing too serious but doesn't know exactly what it is. It could be some scar tissue or adehesions tugging on the nerves by my liver.  It could be a pull in my muscles or tendons in there.  He said to take Tylenol, put heat on it, and the "tincture of time" should heal it.  Well, after not being able to fall asleep with it hurting so bad last night, I broke down and took a pain pill left over from my surgery.  This morning after breakfast, I took another, as the pain was making me cry.  Long story short, I have called again and asked for my own oncologist to check me out on Friday when I go in for one-drug chemo #5 and she will do that.  I don't think I conveyed adequately to the other oncologist how severe the pain actually is.  So this paragraph is my "poor me" news.  I would very much appreciate your prayers that whatever that pain is it will go away SOON!  Thank you!

Now for happier news. Today, Wednesday (after the pain pill so I wasn't suffering all day), I have had a good day!  I woke up very weak from not eating much over the past few days (lost three pounds) but after hydrating and eating organic peanut butter toast and a fruit/yogurt smoothie, I got a small burst of energy and Daniel and I went on our normal half hour walk, including the big hill. Then I did a few arm weights.  It felt good!  Next, my good friend Anna came for lunch.  We ate Daniel's amazing lemon, faro (sp?), chicken, veggie soup, apples, and chocolate chunk cookies.  We had great conversation and I modeled my wig for her.  She said it looked great, which was a relief to hear.  After she left, Daniel and I watched a Sandra Bullock movie (The Proposal) while munching on potato chips and a couple more cookies.  I know, chips and cookies doesn't sound too healthy, but they told me to eat any snacks I am in the mood for just to gain some weight!  I am just so happy to have been able to eat today.  Next, Steve came home with his head buzzed!  We will post a photo below.  I am getting very close to doing the same as I'm tired of cleaning up hair everywhere.  Stay tuned...

During our daily Bible reading today, Daniel and I read the story of the disciples being in a boat in a furious storm while Jesus slept.  They were terrified of drowning.  Jesus awoke and calmed the seas and reminded them to have faith.  I keep telling myself that cancer is like being in a boat on stormy seas.  It can be terrifying and all that rocking around can make you nauseous!  But I find peace when I remember that Jesus is IN the boat with me.  He is here, He can calm the stormy seas, calm my fear, and help me get safely to the shore.  Here is the passage in case you want to read it:

Mark 4:35-41

New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Calms the Storm

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
I want to close by thanking all of you who have sent me Valentine and birthday cards, gifts, and flowers.  Though I was sick on my birthday, I was surrounded by love.  Special thanks to Annie for the delicious meal on Sunday!  I love and appreciate all of you and thank you for your continued prayers and support not only for me, but for my family.  When I tore off the pink paper link from our chemo countdown chain last night, it read "day 100."  That means as of today, we are in double digits.  If I don't miss any chemos due to low blood counts, I have just 99 days to go.  Thanks be to God for light at the end of this long tunnel!
Much love,
Gabrielle
Steve
Well, here's the new "do"...

Four out of five doctors surveyed agree:  this "works"!  Chilly, but that's OK!  As an aside, when I asked my barber for a buzz cut, she asked why.  She got a big grin on her face when I related Gabrielle's story and then she told me that her 72 year old mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer almost a year ago and is doing great!  Love to hear those stories!  Oh, and she battled the nausea with a marijuana cookie every night till about a month ago.  Whatever it takes!

Haircut day...for Steve that is!

Steve

Well, the hair is falling out right and left at the Dudley household. Thought I would do my part to try and keep up. Off to the barber this afternoon. Here is a pre-haircut pic:


Stay tuned!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Birthday greetings to Gabrielle!

Steve

Today, Gabrielle celebrates her fourteenth 39th birthday!  Many happy returns of the day!  Those were the words that Pooh used in wishing Eeyore a happy birthday.  Never exactly understood what “many happy returns” meant.  Does it mean that when you take that ugly fuzzy sweater with sewed on pom poms back to Target because it’s just not your style, the clerk takes it back very cheerily and thanks you for coming in?  Or perhaps when your husband gives you an iron for your birthday and you wrap the cord around his neck because it wasn’t something more romantic, will the clerk take it back, even though it has blood on it?  Like I said, many happy returns of the day!  Here's a picture of the announcement that her very artistic mother put together to signal the big event:


Isn't she a cute little tyke?

But back to Pooh and Eeyore.  I just got through reading the story about Eeyore’s birthday again.  As those folks who write movie and book reviews love to say:  SPOILER ALERT!  If you don’t want to know what Eeyore got for his birthday, stop right here and skip down one paragraph to see how the birthday gal is doin’…Anyhow, back to Eeyore…He’s quite sad because nobody remembered his birthday.  No candles, no cake, no pink sugar.  But Pooh comes to the rescue, even though he is a bear of very little brain.  He grabs a jar of honey.  Also tells Piglet who comes up with a big red balloon.  Sadly, things don’t work out too well.  Pooh succumbs to temptation and eats all the honey and Piglet’s balloon pops.  But they give the gifts to Eeyore anyhow.  Pooh tells Eeyore the empty jar of honey is now a pot to put things in, but he doesn’t have anything to put into the pot.  Then Piglet gives him the popped balloon, which serendipitously just happens to be the perfect thing to put into the pot.  The chapter ends with Eeyore contentedly putting the balloon into the pot and taking it out over and over again.  He’s one very happy donkey.  And I suppose that’s what gifts and birthdays are all about.  You may not get what you were expecting, but somehow, things just seem to work out, possibly even for the better.  After all, a full balloon wouldn’t have fit into the pot to put things in.  And what possible use could a donkey have with a jar full of honey?  Ever seen a donkey eating honey?  For that matter, ever seen a donkey putting a balloon into a jar?  But that’s beside the point.

So back to Gabrielle, and her amazing birthday.  It’s not shaping up to be what we would really like.  She has horrible nausea today and nothing that I am encouraging her to eat has any appeal to her.  She is sitting across from me with a glass of prune juice and a water chaser, hoping that it will soon work its magic (will leave it at that).  She has pretty bad abdominal pain which is bearable much of the time till she moves or breathes deeply, then it gets worse.  This has been going on since before the dual chemo treatment on Friday, but has gotten more intense and is much more discouraging.  We are hoping for a big improvement today, as it is her birthday and all. 

As for birthday plans, those are up in the air.  She and Daniel went to Swanson’s nursery yesterday where Daniel bought her a yew tree in honor of the Taxol and all.  We are going to plant it today.  And I get to start asking questions of Daniel and Gabrielle such as “what’s new with yew?”  And “how are yew?” “What do yew want for your birthday?” and wishing her a “Happy Birthday to yew!”  I’m going to try to get her to eat one pancake, but good luck with that.  I suspect the day will involve a couple of walks and lots of TV time.  As we aren’t having a huge celebration (though we will indeed find some ways to dress up that prune juice), we have decided to postpone the festivities till all this chemo stuff is over and do a “half birthday” bash six months from now in August.  Won’t that be fun?  So today, I’ll let her pick the card games we play, the TV shows we watch, and she can even boot me out of my favorite chair.  And I won’t make her do the laundry, mop or scrub the toilets till her birthday is over.  After all, I am a caring and attentive husband.

So, here’s to you, Gabrielle!  You’re strong, you’re beautiful, and you’re gonna have a great year!  You’ve done so many amazing things since your grand entrance into the world in Yakima way back when.  Now, bottoms up with that second glass of prune juice!
Oh! Breaking news! Got her to eat breakfast! Here it is, complete with plastic fork (hates the taste of metal these days)...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saturday after chemo #4

Dear family and friends,

Gabrielle here.  Well, today hasn't been too bad!  A little weary, a little nauseous, but not nearly as bad as the first time I had the two drugs.  I do recall that the Sunday was the worst day that time, so extra prayers for tomorrow would be most appreciated!

I awoke to one of my favorite breakfasts from Steve--his homemade multi-grain pancakes topped with fresh blueberries and maple syrup and chicken apple sausages.  I could only eat one pancake and one sausage but boy were they delicious.  Around 11:45 we took off for a few errands.  We dropped off a prescription for a new anti-nausea drug that might not give me headaches like my current one and picked up my new wig!  Wig #2 is the one.  It is a good color and style and we bought it!  It's nice to know it's here when I need it.  More and more hair is falling out on pillows and in the shower and when I comb it.  But I'm not bald yet!

After those errands, we ate a picnic lunch in the car on the way to a movie.  We saw a matinee of a very sad movie called "Amour."  It was a beautiful film, wonderfully acted, about a very sad subject of the health decline of a spouse after a long marriage.  But the great part about the movie is that it showed what it means to love one's spouse unconditionally, in sickness and in health.  It reminded me of friends of mine who have loved in this way their spouses with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, and who modeled this love for me.  I am thankful for a spouse who loves me this way...and children who do too!

Last night we were blessed with a fabulous dinner from our friend, Justin!  Great breads, cheeses, salads, and homemade gingerbread cake that was PERFECTLY baked and hit the spot.  Thank you, Justin!  And thanks to everyone who sent cards yesterday and today.  Just in case they are birthday cards, I am saving them to open on Monday!

I have some very good news to share.  One of my oncologists called this morning to report that the fluid they drew from the abdominal port is NOT infected!  Thus, they will let it rest until three weeks from yesterday and then they plan to use it for the start of round three.  Hooray and thank you Jesus!

Let me close with a verse that was in my devotional, Jesus Calling, today. 
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

Cancer has put me in a position to be still and know that He is God.  To be weak and completely out of control, so that I can receive His strenght and be reminded that the God who loves me and created me is in control.  I am learning to keep my eyes on Jesus and to trust Him with my every breath.  This is just one of the many blessings in the midst of this difficult journey.  God is with me (us) every step of the way.

God bless you all with rest and good health and something fun to do on this long holiday weekend!

Love,
Gabrielle

Friday, February 15, 2013

Exciting News!

 Dear friends and family,

Gabrielle here.  Today Daniel and I got the best news as we left chemo number four.  Backtracking, I'll just say that chemo number four went fine...about 5.5 hours total.  Our nurse today, Leah, is the nicest person ever.  We watched a rom-com movie--The Holiday.  And I made many trips to the rest room since my blood pressure was too low and they kept pumping me full of extra fluids. We just got home and I'm feeling pretty good so far with all the strong i/v anti-nausea drugs in me.  Tomorrow may be a different story.

Now for the encouraging news.  At the start of our chemo visits they run all my blood count numbers and they come back pretty quick from the lab.  The one count that doesn't come until the end, because it takes longer, is the CA125.  This is the cancer tumor marker count in my blood.  When I began this journey back in January, my CA125 was 142 (the top of the normal range is 35).  Today, after three chemo treatments, before chemo number four, my CA125 was 32!!!  Completely in the normal range!  My nurse, Leah, couldn't stop smiling and was so happy to see that.  So were Daniel and I!  Later, after three to four of the chemo cycles are done, they will do body scans to look for any remaining cancer, but this is an incredibly encouraging sign this early in the game.  Thanks be to God, our Great Physician, for this sign that the medicine is doing its job.  And thanks to all of you prayer warriors out there for keeping my name and health ever before the throne of God. 

To top off my happiness today, when we left chemo it was sunny and gorgeous outside, so in a few minutes, we will leave for a walk at Richmond Beach.  Can't wait. 

Steve mentioned a few kindnesses but let me reiterate them and add a couple.  Thanks so much, Aunt Peggy, for the amazing box of Rocky Mountain chocolates!  And thanks, Lisl, for the very sweet note with a bag of Dove dark chocolates!  Yummo to both those chocolate gifts and to the dessert our neighbor Kevin made and shared with us last night.  He's a 20-something that can truly bake Julia Child worthy desserts and we enjoyed the visit with his mom and dad, our friends Laura and Jerry, as they brought the dessert to us last night.  Special thanks as well to my friend Dee who gave us a box full of pasta, Bolognese (sp?) sauce, her unbelievable homemade bread, pears, and big, delicious ginger cookies!  Thanks to cousins Robbie and Becky for cute matching nike hats for Steve and me when we are both bald, and to Steve's nurse, Lynn, who sent me homemade Valentine cookies yesterday.  Thanks to Shannon, who works at Steve's office, and delivers me things that people drop off there so Steve won't have to carry them home on his bike.  And thanks to everyone who has sent me a note or card this week.  These have come from as far north as Stanwood, to as far south as California, to an old friend in Boston whom I worked with to put on an event at the White House for major donors to children's hospitals.  If I have forgotten to mention your kindness, please forgive me.  They call it chemo brain and sometimes I am a little foggy.  It will go away when chemo is over.  But I am so, so grateful for every prayer and act of kindness!

Let me close with Psalm 118:24:  "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it."  My heart is overflowing with gladness for the CA125 count, the sunshine, all of you on my "rope crew," and to God who is answering our prayers, giving me strength and hope to endure this, and meeting all our needs.  God bless you all on this long holiday weekend!

Love,
Gabrielle

Another dual chemo day!


Steve

Well, today’s another one of the biggies:  a two drug chemo day, which we have all been facing with a little trepidation.  On the plus side, it means Gabrielle has successfully completed one of the six cycles and this is the beginning of Cycle 2 (yesterday being Day Zero again).  Last go round with two drugs was complicated by some leakage from her abdominal incision which won’t happen for two reasons.  The first is that her incision is all healed up, and the second is that both drugs will be administered through the portacath near her collarbone.  This is because the abdominal one is still being a bit persnickety.  Two days ago, she went in for another ultrasound of the abdominal port which also included an attempt to aspirate fluid from the area around it.  It was a long day, what with ultrasound, talking to the radiologist, then Dr. M. and the aspiration.  You might say that her aspirations were that she wouldn’t have to stay so long, and that when she was all done, she was exaspirated (just giving punster Daniel a run for his money).

But she’s most likely in good spirits, as far as I can tell.  Am not sure exactly as I haven’t seen hide nor hair of her yet this morning.  There is a strange sound akin either to the sawing of logs or a lyre bird calling from the bedroom (see Daniel’s amazing entry on birds and watch the video on the lyre bird…just not when your boss is watching if you check this at work).  A quick update on Valentine’s Day.  It went OK.  I know she said that she just didn’t feel up to going out to Canlis, but the truth of the matter is that she knows that her husband is a bit of a cheapskate and she said she wanted to stay home just to help me save face and a few bucks (though we did miss being waited on by Kyle).  We had a great dinner of baked potatos (is that how Dan Quayle spells it?) with all the trimmings and the most amazing steak from Omaha Steak Company…a birthday gift from my mom that had been just itching for the right occasion.  Dessert was courtesy of our next door neighbor, Kevin.  I don’t know what it was, but it was chocolaty and gooey and really really good.  So good, in fact, that I was only able to eat one of the three pounds of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Candy flown in courtesy of Aunt Peggy (oh, was it supposed to be for Gabrielle?  My bad!).

Now for a little aside.  I personally am feeling a little left out by all this talk of chemo for Gabrielle.  What most of you don’t know (and probably would rather not know…especially if you’re one of my patients) is that I have just completed a round of “chemo” myself.  As we used to do in junior high, I will compare and contrast our chemo treatments for you, so you will be fully up to speed on the goings on at the Dudley household.  Here, in table form is all the skinny:

Gabrielle’s chemo
Steve’s chemo
What it’s for
Stage 3 ovarian cancer
Toenail fungus
Regimen
Once a week, 18 weeks…126 days overall
120 days of pills...a horribly long time for this non pill person
Means of administration
By kindly nurses accompanied by snacks, warm blankies, a devoted son, in a comfy chair
A pill hastily thrown back with nary a swig of water
Side effects
Nausea, weight loss, hair loss
Nasty taste in my mouth if I don’t swallow the pill fast enough.  Weight gain (how else can I explain gaining 5 pounds this past month?). 
Purpose
To kill those nasty cancer cells
To give my toenails that “fresh from the pedicure look”
Other benefits
Tell the folks at Canlis you are on cancer drugs and you get a reservation, no questions asked.
Tell the folks at Luisa’s Mexican Restaurant you’ve got toenail fungus and they put you at a table by the dumpster and make you jump on the trash when it gets too full.
Cost
This where the Visa commercial would say “priceless”!
Ten buck co-pay
Current spokesperson for specific disease
National Ovarian Cancer Coalition: Nani E. Vinken, German TV celebrity
Nail fungus: a cartoon blob that makes that green slime on the Mucinex commercial look downright stunningly attractive
Chance of being spokesperson for said disease
Very high.  Gabrielle has the “it” factor: charisma, charm, wit, grace, beauty.
What would happen if Slim Whitman married the Flying Nun:  Slim and Nun
What happens when people find out you are on chemo
Amazing outpouring of warmth and love that is hard to fathom
The neighbors pull their cats indoors so they won’t get infected with claw fungus.

Well that’s it, folks!  We’ll let you know how round two of dual drugs goes later on.  Thanks for all your prayers, support, goodies, Oregon Dux caps (you know who youse is), candy, dinners, and so much more.  Blessings to all. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Birds


Hello! Daniel here!

I haven't posted in a while- as our days have been very busy... doling out medications, going on walks around the neighborhood, watching Downton Abbey, visiting our friendly medical team at NW Hospital, and shopping for wigs! So much to do every day of this cancer journey- my mom and I are beginning to wonder how we ever had time for jobs before all this began!

Well I had a thought a couple days ago that has continued to weigh on my brain and heart, so I decided to share it with all of you. Birds! Aren't these magnificent creatures?  I just love them. I like to look at birds in whatever region of the world I'm in, and I'm astounded by their beauty, their ingenuity, their sounds, and their movements.

As a biology major, here are just a few fun facts I'd like to share about birds:
Scientific classification:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves

Some birds are very smart! In 1970, a psychologist named Gordon Gallup Jr. developed the "mirror test", in which an animal is placed in front of a mirror and observed. If the animal is capable of recognizing itself in the mirror, it demonstrates a higher level of cognitive functioning. For most animals, they see just another animal that looks like them, which they may be scared of, or more amusingly, become infatuated with (parakeets love to do this, as did my former pet cockatiel Simon). Animals that can recognize themself in the mirror are few and far between. Some primates (e.g. chimpanzees and orangutans), bottle-nosed dolphins, humans (by 24 months of age usually), and elephants are consistently shown to pass the mirror test. This research article discusses the findings in 2008 of the first non-mammalian animal to pass the mirror test, the magpie: Research article 

Go magpies!

Another thing that has always amazed me about birds is their migration patterns. Many birds travel around the world, summering in nice places (the Pacific Northwest for example), and then returning to the warmer, lower latitudes. While some people I know in the Northwest "snowbird" by traveling to warmer locations in the fall and winter, and returning to Seattle in the spring and summer, I wonder if they would keep up this tradition if it meant walking for weeks or months to get to their winter location. Sooty Shearwaters migrate almost 40,000 miles from New Zealand to the north each year, powered by their own wings, and animal instincts. Wow! National Geographic Article 


My freshman year in college my animal biology professor Dr. Long played this clip about the incredible lyrebird. It has stuck with me as one of the coolest specimens of the animal kingdom. This bird from Australia has an incredible ability to mimick sounds of other birds. The sounds that came out of this bird seem as if someone is hitting play on a recording of various birds, and mechanical sounds. I am astounded by the variation in sounds among birds around the world. While we sometimes hate them early in the morning when we would like to stay asleep, I can't help but be pleased and delighted when walking through the wilderness and hearing a symphony of avian tones. Lyrebird


                                                     
But my favorite thing about birds, and what has been on my mind these past few weeks, is their lack of worries. I have been hearing this verse since I was a small child, but never has it meant so much to me as it does now.

Matthew 6:26 "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"

We have these bird feeders outside our house and little birds come by all the time, especially in the winter, to feast on seeds and suet. They get enough to eat, and they find places to nest and burrow, all without worries. I am prone to worry, as I think a lot of people are. In school I worry about grades and tests, at home I worry about doing the laundry and cooking and DVR-ing the correct shows (a big deal in my family). At work I used to worry about finishing everything in a timely manner, returning emails promptly, and keeping my bosses and clients happy. Worry worry worry, I was riddled with it. When this cancer thing started my worry went off the charts for a few days. I delved into prayer and scripture and accepted the love and support of family and friends. God reminded me that He gives me strength each day, and we are not called to be worriers. The birds don't worry and they get taken care of, and I know God values his children far more than the birds. Each day I look at the blessing of a new day, I thank God for this time I get with my family, and I ask for strength to get through the next 24 hours. Tomorrow will have new problems, so I will deal with them then.

Matthew 6:33-34 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

One last note about my mom: She is the strongest, kindest, most loving person I know (tied with my dad and sister of course!). Each day she greets me with smile and cheer. She wants to keep everyone around her happy and encouraged, dismissing her own needs and interests as less important than everyone elses. I don't know how she does it. Her humor lifts my spirits, and her generosity and selfessness is unending. She is tough and she is a fighter. She has climbed Mt. Rainer, she has birthed two children without epidurals, she has been the top fundraiser at Seattle Children's hospital for many years, she is the most-loved person I know. She is going to beat the s%@# out of cancer! I love my mom so much!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hair Loss--Phase One

Dear family and friends,

Gabrielle here.  Well, today was the day.  Hair on the pillow.  Hair in the shower.  Hair on the comb.  Hair on my clothes.  It has begun!  So Daniel and I went straight to the cheapest hair salon and had the stylist cut it SHORT!  Now as it falls out, there will be less of a mess.  It was a little sad watching her take off so much hair, but I keep telling myself it is a small price to pay for healing medicine.

Sadly, Steve and I decided to cancel our Canlis reservation for Valentine's Day.  I just can't eat that much in the evenings and am pretty tired out by then too.  Fear not, however, dinner at home with my sweetheart will be just fine...and perhaps I'll make him suffer through a romantic comedy. 

I am pleased to report that Renee and Daniel made it safely to and from Spokane Sunday/Monday for Daniel's U.W. medical school interview.  He was interviewed by three doctors and he feels like it went well.  He loved seeing the new facilities in Spokane--just built in 2010.  If he gets into U.W. and is assigned to Spokane for his first year, he will do just fine.  He raved about the awesome anatomy lab with cool spaces for four students per cadaver.  Gross!  Thank you for your prayers that God's plans for Daniel and med school will unfold in just the right way and time.

So many kindnesses that I fear I will forget to mention some since I don't blog every day.  But off the top of my mind I am thankful for good visits yesterday with my friends Doris and Loretta, and on the phone with Maribeth. And thanks, Doris, for the yummy lunch and cookbook!  We enjoyed a dinner-time visit with my sister-in-law, Tania, last night and she is doing our taxes for us (she's a brilliant CPA/MBA)!  Dee, a cancer survivor and new friend I haven't even met yet (we were introduced via e-mail through another friend) has sent me a great devotional book and two books to help me eat well through cancer.  Evy has sent me a beautiful hand-knitted blue hat.  Colleen and Mike brought over homemade yogurt and granola today.  I will eat some at my mid-afternoon snack time!  (Daniel's phone barks like a dog when it's time for my meals and snacks, and I, like Pavlov's dogs, dutifully make my way to the kitchen!)  Our friend Helen brought us the most yummy dinner--chili, cornbread, salad, strawberries, and chocolate cake! And to the card senders--you know who you are--what a joy to get mail.  Thank you all!

Lastly, I opened a card today from my mother-in-law, Abby, and it was actually a birthday gift!  Had I known it was that, I would have saved it to open next Monday, when I turn 53.  My family is frantically asking me what I want to do for my birthday.  Three days after the two-drug chemo, I have NO idea!  So we'll play it by ear and no matter what we do or don't do on that day, I will be thanking God for the gift of another day of life and the start of a new year.  And I will be thanking Him for all of you on my "rope crew," helping me climb this mountain one step at a time.

Love,
Gabrielle



Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunny Sunday

Dear family and friends,

Gabrielle here.  I am happy to report that my Saturday after chemo was pretty good!  Just a little nausea here and there.  In the morning, while Steve and our friend, Dean, swam at Golden Gardens, I walked up all those stairs from Golden Gardens up to 85th street.  It was the first exercise in a month where my heart pounded and I breathed hard and though I was slow, I made it! 

After exercise, Steve and I did some errands.  We bought him new swim goggles (that hopefully won't leak) and then we went to a bead store where he picked out some wooden and black beads that he is putting into a macrame string to represent each chemo treatment.  It was the cutest thing ever to see my husband as the only man in a bead store full of women picking out supplies to do his "craft!"  :-)

Then we went to the wig shop.  Unfortunately, the wig I ordered in the first go around didn't look great in the color it came in.  So I ordered another one in a bit darker color and it will be in next Friday.  I hope my own hair holds out until then.  This morning, it is still all here!

I can't tell you how precious it is to do these simple things in my Saturday.  Spending time with my husband, talking, being out and about.  I am reminded to be grateful for each new day of life and even for the ability to do the simple tasks of daily living!

Some kindnesses in my Saturday included a beautiful hand-stitched needlepoint card from a friend at church, a visit from my good friend Sue with the most wonderful dinner that Sue and her husband Steve made for us.  Chicken crepes, roasted vegetables, salad, and apple crisp with vanilla ice cream.  It was divine!!  And in the evening, Renee's friends Kayla and Dani came to visit.  Kayla had made me a box of all her favorite ways to treat nausea!!  It had lots of ginger drinks and tea, great crackers, peppermint gum, and for when I'm NOT nauseous, cookies made by Kayla and Dani.  So thoughtful and practical!

One more kindness from this weekend involved sewing.  Some of you know I'm not very crafty.  In junior high sewing class, I got a "D" on my very first project--the Mother's Day apron.  I gave up on sewing very quickly after that.  Well, one of my favorite, softest pillowcases had a bad tear in it and my good friend Anna sewed it for me and gave it to Dean to give to me yesterday.  In addition to mending the tear, she embroidered my name on it and a Scripture reference for Psalm 27:13 which says:  "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."  Thank you, Anna!! 

Today it is a beautiful sunny day in Seattle!  Steve and I will walk along the water at Edmonds and then enjoy visits from Frank, Heather, Marti, Merle, Anthony, and Kaylah.  Then there will be time to rest (I get weary around 4 p.m.) and in the evening, Dean will join us for dinner and Downton Abbey.  Today I am indeed seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living and I couldn't be more grateful.

Love,
Gabrielle

P.S.  Steve is going to try to input a photo here of me sitting amongst some of the cards I've received!  As I have mentioned before, I love getting cards as they are so uplifting and encouraging.  We are all deeply touched by your warmth.  In the background to my left, there is a little brown bag with supplies from Fweedom (see prior post "Magic Man") along with a basket of tasty items for when I get the munchies.  Steve hopes I get the munchies soon so I can put on a few pounds.  Never been in the "must gain weight" mode before, but I'm trying.  Really I am.  Now, time for my walk.