Friday, December 5, 2014

Scan Report, 12/5/14

Dear friends and family (all readers!),


It was a week of trying to trust God, but frequently giving in to worry, stress, fear, and binge eating chocolate to calm my nerves.  At last the moment was here and off we went to the hospital this morning.  After drinking two large bottles of contrast solution, with another shot of it in my chemo port just for good measure, they CAT scanned my entire torso.  We then went straight to the oncologist's office to await the results. 


After the assistant took my blood pressure and other notes, my hero, Dr. McGonigle, briefly poked her head through a crack in the door.  We held our breaths and locked eyes with her, trying to read the news in her face.  Then came forth the two best words we could possibly hear: "It's good!"  We breathed, broke into huge grins, and began to thank God together while waiting for her to come back a few moments later for her full visit with us.  Oh my goodness.  I am still in remission from my advanced ovarian cancer!


The long and short of it all is that the scan showed no cancer and the one worrisome clump of lymph nodes remain stable.  I will continue with my maintenance infusion of Avastin every three weeks (which starves cancer cells so they can't grow), and barring any new symptoms or bad blood work, I get to extend my three month chemo break this fall with another 18-week chemo break!!! 


That means I won't be nauseous, sad, or fearful at Christmas, at New Year's, on Valentine's Day, on my 55th Birthday [2/18 if anyone's wondering ;-)], on Daniel's spring break, or on Daniel's birthday (April Fool's Day). 


I will close this short report with two HUGE thank you's.  First, I thank with all my heart (with every fiber of my being!) those of you who have prayed with me and encouraged me in a million ways on this unwelcome journey.  I honestly don't know how I, or my family, would have made it through the past two years without you.  And second, I offer unending glory, praise, and thanks to God my heavenly Father, who is always in the boat with me during stormy seas, keeping my head above the waves, calming my fears, and without whom I would have no hope, peace, or purpose for this life or the next. 


"He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then they were glad because they were quiet.  So He guided them to their desired haven.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for His loving kindness.  And for His wonders to the sons (and daughters!) of men!  Let them extol Him also in the congregations of the people.  And praise Him at the seat of the elders.  Psalm 107:29-32


Love, joy, and peace to you all this Christmas!  Now I'm off to watch a cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie which will have just what we need after the week we've had--a happy ending!


Gabrielle



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It's that time again

Dear Family, Friends, and all the people who have read our blog that we don't even know (!),


Gabrielle here.  For those who follow the church calendar, last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent.  Advent's Latin root means "coming."  (I don't know Latin...I read that in my Advent study book!)  And in my church on Sunday, we began our yearly time of remembering what Christmas is all about--that Jesus came to earth to show us God's love, reconcile us to God, and bring us hope.  Thanks be to God!


But there is another thing "coming" for me--in just three days.  My next ovarian cancer scan.  Scan week is something we start to dread when we get about two weeks out, and the fear and anxiety for me starts to snowball when I get to the final few day's countdown.


So I thought you might be interested to hear how I tried to calm myself down on this cold, sunny Tuesday in December.  I awoke late, after much trouble falling asleep last night, threw on my swimsuit and sweats, ate some breakfast, and went to my 10AM appointment with my therapist.  She and I first met when I needed some help accepting my diagnosis of Lupus ten years ago, and over the years, I have headed in for "tune ups" as we call them, whenever I feel the need for a little extra help.  After a great session relieving some burdens with her, I headed straight to our public pool and swam for a solid hour, praying the entire time.  It was very calming casting all my cares, for myself and others, on God, knowing He cares for us all.  (1 Peter 5:7)  And if you are a swimmer, you know the peace you find as you immerse your head, the noise of the world drops away, and you feel the whoosh of the water rush over you.


With my hair dripping wet, I headed to Costco because we needed some bottled waters and toilet paper.  Never, never go to Costco when you are starving and worried about your cancer scan!  I couldn't believe the "0's" I saw when the final item had rung up.  Retail therapy.  Gotta love it.  After unloading the packed car, I ate some lunch and sat in a comfy chair to read my devotional readings for the day.  But after, I was still having anxious thoughts about the scan.  What if the cancer is back?  How will I tolerate a third five-month round of chemo??  How much longer do I have on this earth?  How should I be ordering my days?  And on and on it went.  So next I did one of those relaxation exercises Daniel had on his I-Pod to help with med school stress.  It lasted 12 minutes and you relax your entire body, focus on your breathing and try to let go of your stresses.  I don't normally believe in that stuff, but research has actually shown it helps, as it calms your brain into releasing less cortisol (stress hormone) and sick people do better.  I did feel better.  But not better enough.


So I went and had an hour-long massage with my favorite massage therapist, Dee.  Wow, my third therapy of the day.  That tells you how anxious I've been, for sure.  And Dee, being her sweet, giving self, handed me a bag of homemade rolls she made today to take home to the family for dinner. 


I arrived home to cheery Christmas lights, and a little gold box with a drawer in it, suspended from my golf ball on a string that keeps me from bashing my car into our refrigerator as I enter our garage.  A note on the box said "Mom--Open This."  Inside was a beautiful note from Daniel, telling me how much and why he loved me, naming some of his blessings, and with a wonderful Scripture verse that I will share with you in a moment.  I then ate a lovely dinner with Steve and the kids, including 1-1/2 of the BEST homemade rolls you have ever tasted.


And now, relaxed, full, and decidedly more peaceful than in earlier stretches of this day, I am writing this blog post.  I am asking once again for your prayers that my scan might show "no new evidence of disease" on Friday morning.  What a blessing that would be for my family and me to enjoy a FOUR-month chemo break, after the glorious three-month break we have just had. 


I am guessing you have some worries and anxieties this Advent season as well.  In the past week alone, I have encountered friends and family who are homeless, in poverty, in poor health, without jobs, worried about their kids, and experiencing loss and loneliness.  Most nights of our lives are not like in Silent Night, where all is calm and bright.  But God came.  He came for me, and He came for you.  He loves us.  He is with us.  In Him we can find hope and peace through cancer and all of life's trials (with a little therapy thrown in now and then for good measure). 


Now here is the verse on Daniel's note to me:  "I have told you these things, so that in Me, you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  John 16:33


Love to you all,
Gabrielle



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Can you help?

Dear family and friends,

Sorry to post twice in one day!  I just wanted to say, one of the things that has really been stressing me out, aside from cancer and my Mom's sudden passing this week, is the near homelessness of my sister, Xan, her daughter (my niece), Molly, and Molly's new baby, Jericho--one of the sweetest babies you could ever know.

Please take a peek at this link my niece Maggie put together (Maggie is Molly's older sister) and see if you can help, even in a small way.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.  I love you all!

Gabrielle

www.youcaring.com/helpmargitte

Friday, October 17, 2014

Joy and Sorrow

Dear Friends and Family,


This past week, I have been thinking a lot about joy and sorrow, which C.S. Lewis said are two sides of the same coin.  If you love someone, you will experience the greatest joys life has to offer, but also the deepest sorrows.  Both are part of "the deal."


First, let's talk about joy.  I just spent a glorious two weeks in Altea, Spain, at the home of my beloved Aunt and Uncle, Julianne and Oliver.  The first week, Renee, and my dear friend, Maribeth, accompanied me.  The second week, Steve joined me.  We had marvelous sunshine on all but one day.  We walked, hiked, swam, talked, read, learned about the battle of the Christians and Moors at the Alhambra, visited numerous other small towns on the Costa Blanca, and bought way too much beautiful Spanish pottery.  We also ate the world's best paella and I ate my weight in hot, freshly made churros dipped in warm, thick, chocolate sauce at Spain's famous chocolate shop, Valor.  Lastly, my brilliant daughter and aunt both whipped me at Scrabble! 


From intense joy, to the deepest sorrow, I returned home Sunday night, slept a little, then received a call early Monday morning that my Mom had been taken to the ER.  For the next 24 hours, I was there with her at Northwest Hospital, and she died Tuesday morning at 7:30 AM.  She had a septic infection, blood clots, falling blood pressure, and respiratory failure.  Here is what I wrote about her on Facebook this week:


"My Mom died an amazingly peaceful death on Tuesday, October 14th, at age 75, surrounded by family.  I miss her already, and after 24 sleepless hours in the air and another 24 in the hospital, I am depleted.  Mom was one of the smartest, most generous women I knew.  She was a pioneer in a formerly all male field, running successful advertising, marketing, public relations, and public affairs firms until age 70.  She taught her three daughters they could grow up to be or do anything they dreamed of, and deserved equal pay for equal work.  She gave up alcohol and cigarettes, then helped countless women she sponsored in AA to change their lives for the better.  She loved her four siblings, three children, 10 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and many wonderful nieces and nephews.  She also loved good food, mystery books, the Serenity Prayer, Fox news, all things Republican, Cannon Beach, family dinners, having her hair done and her toes painted, shopping, laughing, a good rom-com, and making babies giggle.  She gave up her four-year art and national merit scholarships half way through Stanford to give birth to me, raising me courageously as a single parent for the early years of my life in an age when many women would have chosen to abort.  I have always been thankful for that gift of life, love, and sacrifice from her, as well as her stellar career mentoring advice.  Please raise a toast of your favorite non-alcoholic beverage to my dear Mom."


Steve sent me a comforting quote from theologian Charles Spurgeon, from his sermon on Psalm 31:15, "My times are in Thy hand."  It goes like this:  "The close of life is not decided by the sharp knife of the fates; but by the hand of love.  We shall not die before our time, neither shall we be forgotten and left upon the stage too long."  How comforting to know that indeed, our times are in His hands.


From deepest sorrow, springs forth a glimmer of joy.  On Wednesday, the day after my Mom's passing, I went to the Oncologist's office for the infusion of my maintenance drug, Avastin.  My blood work, including my ovarian cancer tumor marker CA-125, came back perfect.  As was my physical exam.  Thus, my doctor extended my nine-week chemo break for five more weeks!  My next scan will be just before Thanksgiving.  My Mom must be smiling down from Heaven at this good news.  One additional burst of great joy occurred two nights ago, when my sister-in-law, who it was thought might be permanently paralyzed after a spinal surgery five weeks ago, WALKED into our home for dinner with just one crutch!


I will close with an experience Maribeth, Renee, and I had in Spain.  We were walking home late one night after watching a parade as part of the Christians/Moors festival, when the most amazing lightening storm began.  We raced to a lookout point near our home in Altea that gives a panoramic view over the Mediterranean from north to south.  This lightening storm was like nothing we had ever seen before.  It had both bolt lightening and sheet lightening and it lit up the mountains, the sea, the towns, as far as the eye could see.  I wish you had been there.  It took your breath away.  As we watched, God brought a Christian radio song to mind, the words of which I will write for you here.  I sang it to Maribeth and Renee as we marveled at the gift of this storm.  The lyrics to "Light Up the Sky":


When I'm feeling all alone
With so far to go
The signs are no where on this road
Guiding me home
When the night is closing in
Is falling on my skin
Oh God will you come close?


Light light light up the sky
You light up the sky to show me You are with me
I I I can't deny
No I can't deny that You are right here with me
You've opened my eyes
So I can see you all around me
Light light light up the sky
You light up the sky to show me
That you are with me


When stars are hiding in the clouds
I don't feel them shining
When I can't see You beyond my doubts
The silver lining
When I've almost reached the end
Like a flood You're rushing in
Your love is rushing in


So I run, straight into Your arms
You're the bright and morning sun
To show Your love there's nothing You won't do


Light light light up the sky...chorus continued.


Through cancer and in my Mom's death, God lit up the sky to show me He is with me.  Thanks be to God that we are not alone in this life.


Thank you for your continued prayers for my good health and our family in this time of joy and sorrow.


Love,
Gabrielle

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Renée's spin on the ice bucket challenge

Hi, friends.  Steve here.  Renée has come up with her variation on that really fun ice bucket challenge that has been making the rounds.  She has made a video for your viewing enjoyment and here it is!  Enjoy!
Renée and the egg 

video

If you have any interest in taking the challenge, or donating to the cause, that would be great.  The link for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund is: www.ocrf.org

Thanks!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hallelujah, praise the Lord!

Dear friends and family,


Gabrielle here.  I am overwhelmed with joy, gratitude, and relief that my scan today was good!  The only thing in the entire scan that was still larger than normal was one lymph node.  It's not "way" bigger than a normal lymph node, but they do think it had cancer in it before.  It has shrunk by more than half, but the last round of chemo did not shrink it more.  But neither did it grow.  It is "stable," which in the cancer world is good news.


The oncologist said I get a nine-week break from chemo, effective immediately because of this good scan!  I will receive (and had the first one today) an infusion of Avastin every three weeks as a maintenance drug.  It is the drug that prevents the formation of tiny blood vessels that feed cancer cells.  In most cases it has few side effects, though two it does have are bloody noses and possible increased blood pressure.  I have to just live with the bloody noses, but they will keep an eye on the blood pressure.  If you see me roaming Seattle in stained t-shirts, it's from the bloody noses that I don't always catch in time!  Gross!  I hope you are not eating as you read this!  ;-)


Another bit of information you might be interested in is that my genetic screening came back and they found one--and only one--gene mutation in me.  I am a "carrier" of this gene mutation.  It may or may not have made me more susceptible to cancer.  Thus, Steve, Renee, Daniel, and I will be getting genetic counseling at the U of W to learn more and see whether or not Steve is a carrier (pray he is not) and how it may or may not affect the kids in the years ahead.  Please pray it won't!


Lastly, my CA-125 was back down to 12.3--the level it was at last time I was declared in remission.  So hooray for that too.


Would you please continue to pray for my complete healing, which would be a major miracle?  Let's let God show my oncology team that a "three-year or less" life expectancy is only a statistic...and neither you nor I are statistics!  :-)


Off I run into the kitchen now to prepare a celebratory dinner of my favorite protein in the world--King Salmon.  Our friends and neighbors, Laura and Jerry, will join us and fierce rounds of canasta will follow our feast.  "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever."  Psa. 107:1


Love and hugs to ALL!!!
Gabrielle


P.S.  Please continue your prayers for my friend, Jeanie, that her upcoming surgery on Sept. 3 will be able to take place as hoped for.  Thank you!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Home again--scan tomorrow!

Dear family and friends,


Gabrielle here.  I'm home after two glorious weeks of vacation!  First, Daniel and I went on an Alaska cruise.  Highlights included a rainy hike at the Mendenhall Glacier past many waterfalls and creeks, watching the glaciers calving in Glacier Bay National Park, soaring from treetop to treetop in a zip lining adventure in a forest overlooking the sea, and boating close to rafts of female otters, floating on their backs with their little babies on their stomachs!  And, of course, eating nonstop!  Oh--there was one other fun challenge.  When we bought our cruise tickets we were given $100 of free drink credit on the ship.  This is pretty hysterical since neither Daniel nor I care much about alcohol.  We were actually quite stressed figuring out how to use it up!  How many lattes, hot chocolates, and virgin foo foo drinks can you get through in a week anyway?!  I ended up spending much of my share on bottled water to bring with me on shore excursions and to drink throughout the day, which tasted much better than the ship tap water. 


When we landed at the dock back in Seattle, Steve and Renee met us and had me dump all my dresses, make-up, and nice shoes on our boat next door at Elliott Bay Marina.  Then we hopped on I-5 south and headed straight for our week at Cannon Beach!  We were blessed with an amazing week there--sunshine every day.  With one exception.  We went on a 5.5 mile hike from Seaside to Ecola State Park on a beautiful forest trail that runs parallel to the ocean cliffs.  On that particular day, it was socked in with fog and rained.  And it must rain often in that forest because two-thirds of the hike was in ankle deep mud!  Steve fell twice.  My sneakers kept wanting to get stuck and come off in the mud.  We were quite a muddy mess when we arrived at Ecola.  But what a joy that I had the energy and blood counts to complete the hike!  Other highlights of the week included Renee's girlfriend, Riley, joining us for four nights, long beach walks and bike rides, reading good books (no TV where we stay), great talks, huge ice cream cones pretty much daily, canasta wars, puzzles, mini golf, and REAL golf!  Daniel and I played our first short nine "post golf lessons" at the Gearhart golf course.  Let me just say, we are much better at our short game--pitching, chipping, and putting--than we are at our long game!  More time at the driving range is definitely called for.  Lastly, perhaps one of the greatest surprises was seeing, for the first time in over 40 years of going to Cannon Beach, the arrival of thousands of beautiful little blue and clear velella jelly fish on the beach!  They are also called blue sails as they look like little sail boats and they float atop the ocean instead of swimming in the ocean.  You must google them if you haven't seen them.  They were a stunning reminder of God's creativity in designing our world!


It was so great to have time away enjoying nature with family to forget about cancer for awhile.  Now it's back to reality.  Tomorrow (Tuesday the 26th) is my scan.  I drink two large bottles of contrast solution at 7:00 AM, go in at 8:15 for the scan, get a blood draw, then meet with my oncologist at 11:30 for the scan results.  If the scan is clear, I will get an infusion of just one of my drugs--Avastin.  It will be a maintenance drug every three weeks, as it's the drug that prevents the little blood vessels from forming that can feed cancer cells.  If the scan is not clear, I will get my normal two-drug chemo--Carboplatin and Avastin. 


Please pray with us for a clear scan!  We hope and pray it will show no evidence of disease.  But if not, we know God will give us the grace to continue on with chemo as needed. 


Also, will you please pray for my friend, Jeanie, and her sweet family?  She has had a rough battle with breast and pancreatic cancer and is having a very serious surgery for her pancreatic cancer on Sept. 3.  Thank you so much!!


With love and gratitude for all of you walking this journey with us,
Gabrielle


"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."  Psalm 9:9-10

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Chemo news and such


Steve here. 
As before, we were quite anxious about those platelets of Gabrielle’s which have been in short supply of late.  Platelets had been in the low 30’s and they needed to be over 100 for chemo to be a go.  Happily, and with a great prayer of thanksgiving, they were about 109.  I know…I probably didn’t get the number exactly right, so Gabrielle can correct that.  Dr. M. adjusted the regimen such that she is dropping off the Gemzar which she figures is the culprit.  So that means that she only needed two drugs yesterday, making the day not quite so long.  Unfortunately, one of the other drugs was increased and that gave her a little more nausea than expected.  She was also loaded up with massive doses of Benadryl and promptly came home and had a nice long nap.  She said that she was out like a light—so good in fact that there was a pool of drool on her pillow.  Apparently that is a good indicator of being out cold, which is what she was after.  Well done, Gabrielle!  Of course she paid for it by staying up half the night watching Teen Jeopardy (and getting most of the questions right, I presume, though I cannot say for sure as I was already creating my own pool of drool on the pillow by 10:30). 

The plan going forward is to stick with just two drugs for now and see how things are.  Next week, more labs and a very pleasant “bye week” before a much anticipated cruise to the Alaskan wilds with Daniel.  Toward the end of August, she gets another CT scan to see where things are.  If it’s good, she will get a break from chemo, which would be wonderful and that’s, of course what we are praying hard for.  The chemo, this time around, has been much tougher with more fatigue and disruptions in her platelets and red blood cells.  Having a break would be a good thing, no doubt.  Despite the fatigue, she continues to have boundless energy for things like golf (see prior post), hosting parties, seeing friends and cleaning our clocks at canasta. 

So that’s a quick update.  I just have to end by saying that yesterday, mid-morning, I came out of a room after seeing a patient and was greeted by an oh so cheery bag of nothing but green M&M’s and a wonderful card from a dear patient and her daughter.  So thanks so much to…let’s see now, have to be HIPPA compliant…thanks to Burnett and Canon.  It came at a very good moment and cheered me no end.  I even exercised uncharacteristic restraint and brought the bag home to Gabrielle and turned it over to her…unopened!!  Can you believe it?  Thank you so much.  Love those green M&M’s.  Maybe they are indeed as magical as people say and have platelet reviving properties on top of everything else.  Of course, Cousin Rob (HIPPA not necessary in his case) certainly weighs in with his own extra generous supply of resveratrol (aka chocolate) to help things along.

Two other quick notes of thanks.  First is to my brother John who has been sending me wonderful letters that detail observations he makes in the little hamlet of West Richland.  They usually involve things like cows grazing in the fields or something else in nature: sunshine, fish, etc.  He often draws pictures which are a big treat as it is fun to see somebody who is about my skill level at drawing…we should play Pictionary soon!  So, thanks, John and hoping you stay cool over there in the heat.  And thanks to Laura next door who sent a card detailing her spin on “F” words for Gabrielle’s cancer struggle:  Fighter, Fierce, Fantastic!  Yep, that’s Gabrielle!  And with that, I am going to tear open those green M&M’s and pop on down to Edmonds for a dip in the Sound.  Cheers!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Of M&M’s and platelets


I just read an opinion piece in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).  It was very well-written by an older doctor who is battling colon cancer.  She proudly proclaimed several times how she has no faith in anything other than hard science and material facts.  After all, she was raised without faith and that’s how she is living her life and apparently how she plans to end her years.  The last paragraph started out, “I’m in a foxhole and I’m still an atheist”.  Well, what’s this got to do with M&M’s, you might ask.  Simply this: she plays a little game with herself from time to time.  She grabs 20 M&M’s and makes sure the mix only has one red M&M.  Throughout the day, she’ll randomly grab one, hoping and hoping that it isn’t the red one.  Apparently, in this scientist’s world, she has been given a 1 in 20 chance of having the cancer come back (for those into percentages, let me grab my calculator and figure it out for you…will get back to you in a moment…5%).

So this scientist without faith in God or a divine plan is relying on a bag of M&M’s for comfort and solace during a terribly trying time in her life, and that makes me very sad.  She clearly understands that there is no connection between the tasty candies (she prefers peanut, by the way) and her cancer outcome.  Equally, if Gabrielle were to play that game, she’d have to toss a few more red M&M’s into the mix as her odds aren’t quite as rosy as only 5% recurrence rate.

But I’ve got a different spin on that same game:  all the M&M’s are green, every last one of them.  That’s because we can all rest easy knowing that there is a God, whether you are in a foxhole or not, or if your parents raised you without faith, or if you are battling cancer.  Gabrielle is right where God wants her to be, and for that she gets a big green light (or M&M to continue in the candy vein).  God is real and He is there, no matter the outcome.  This isn’t a silly crutch that the materialists accuse Christians of having; this is reality.  I am reminded of the words from the Bill Gaither song, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.  Because He lives, all fear is gone.”  And to that, I’ll gladly pop green M&M’s all day long, for I know full well that there is a Guiding Hand behind all that Gabrielle is going through, no matter where her path takes her.

So that’s my spin on the M&M game.  As to bringing you an update on Gabrielle’s health, she had some labs yesterday as she was feeling fatigued and winded when going up the long stairs at Richmond Beach Park with Daniel.  Turns out her blood count remains low at 27, but not enough to get a transfusion (historically, this has been when it was around 25).  Her platelets are quite low at 33, a darn sight lower than the normal range of 150-400.  So, whoever was successful in praying those platelets into the normal range last time, have at it again, if you wouldn’t mind (might help to take some green M&M’s into your prayer closet).  Her doctor told her to avoid anything that might involve falling or bleeding—no horseback riding, skydiving, bicycling or even tennis this week.  She even tried to tell me that since her platelets were low, she shouldn’t be chopping vegetables for dinner, even though I have never seen her cut herself in the kitchen, ever!  That’s my department.  Fine.

She is getting a lot of bone pain from the Neulasta shot, but that is starting to subside.  Fortunately, this is an “off week”, so she doesn’t need chemo today.  Instead, she is going to take advantage of her Friday off by looking at slabs of granite with Daniel (toying with new kitchen counters).  I tried to tell her that such an activity is potentially quite dangerous as granite, if it falls on you will almost certainly involve bleeding and perhaps quite a bit of being squished as well.  On the other hand, a kitchen mop is so soft and fluffy and nobody ever bled to death from a mop.  She is not having any of it and will head out soon. 

And that’s my update for today.  One last M&M story and I’ll be done.  When we were first married, Gabrielle gave me a throw pillow that was of a green M&M, so I have always been fond of the green color in particular.  Back in the 1980’s, magical properties were ascribed to the green ones.  So, go find yourself a bag of M&M’s, toss out all but the green ones, and pop a few on Gabrielle’s behalf.  While you’re at it, pop one for that doctor who wrote about her own cancer in JAMA.  There’s hope for her yet.  Have a great weekend. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Just say no to crab

Dear friends and family,


Gabrielle here.  I am delighted to report that single chemo last Friday came off without a hitch.  The only thing off about my counts is my hematocrit is dropping again--from 35 after my last blood transfusion to 28.  The hematocrit is the percentage of the volume of whole blood that is made up of red blood cells.  As mine drops, I have less oxygen pumping through me and I get winded and my heart pounds upon going up inclines or exerting myself too much...as in, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, etc!  ;-) We will keep an eye on it and I'm guessing either this week or next I will get another transfusion.


Daniel went to chemo with me Friday because Renee is on a mission trip with her LYONS (Lutheran Youth of North Seattle) high schoolers.  They will be doing a variety of inner city ministry/service in beautiful, foggy San Francisco.  I hope she brings me back a home made tube of salami from our favorite SF deli--Molinari's.  If you ever go to SF, you must eat a made to order sandwich at Molinari's.  Seriously--it's the BEST. 


We had a special treat over the weekend, with a visit from my junior high/high school friend from Chicago, and her daughter, from Dallas.  We went boating, but didn't take them crabbing because after Steve has caught 40 crabs in the past two weeks, I can't stand the thought of crab!  I was eating it all through a bad week of nausea last week and now have developed a strong aversion.  I realize this is a "first world, 1% problem!"  :-)


Thank you for your continued prayers, love, and support.  We love you back!


Gabrielle

Friday, July 11, 2014

It's a Friday Miracle!

Dear friends and family,


  Gabrielle here.  Well, your and our prayers were answered.  At 8 this morning, my head oncology nurse drew my blood and sent it off to the lab.  She didn't look too hopeful.  As you recall, my platelets this Wed. were 61, having risen only 10 points in the entire week before that.  Now they had to get to 100 in two days in order for me to have triple chemo today.  After 30 minutes, we got the results.  My platelets were at, drum roll please, 138!!!!!!! :-)  Glory to God for this miracle of answered prayer and thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, to all who prayed so diligently for this amazingly great outcome!!!


  There with me to witness this miracle was my dear friend, Maribeth.  The smile on her face, and her rapid texts to all her friends who had been praying, multiplied my own joy.  Then Maribeth proceeded to pull out our project for the morning.  Learning to knit.  Me, not her.  Maribeth is a great knitting teacher.  I understood what she was saying and demonstrating.  And every now and then, I had a successful stitch (or knit or knitten or pearl or whatever it's called)!  But the end result, my two rows of knitting, left more than a little to be desired.  I will have to practice a few more times before deciding if knitting is my "sport," or not.  But kudos to Maribeth for her patience, and for choosing a coral yarn color that perfectly matched one of the stripes in my t-shirt!  :-)


  When Maribeth had to leave for work, my aunt Julianne came to relieve her as my usual chemo buddies, Renee and Daniel, are both in Portland today through Sunday for two weddings.  When Julianne arrived, we switched to a sport I am more familiar with--you guessed it--Scrabble!  Julianne is my ridiculously brilliant, articulate, and well-read relative, who also happens to hone her Scrabble game--and nurture her above-average little gray cells--by playing frequently against her computer.  After all our trash talk about how we would each beat the other into the ground, Julianne proceeded to destroy me by 70 points.  And I didn't even get Benadryl today, as a built-in excuse to make me sleepy and wreck my game.  In my defense, Julianne did get all the best letters--X, Z, Q, and J, for Julianne, who apparently is Scrabble champion of the world, masquerading as my aunt (only 14 years my senior) who resides, depending on the season, on Capitol Hill or in Altea, Spain.  As she sealed her victory, I quickly made a rule that the Scrabble winner had to buy lunch.  So off she trotted, hopefully feeling guilty for beating a poor, helpless cancer patient, but more probably, gloating all the way, to bring us back two types of sandwiches, kale salad, and kettle chips.  I may have to keep losing if this is what I get for losing!


  I have to tell you, I was amused yesterday, to get a sweet e-mail from my awesome college friend, Janet, from California, about how to raise my platelet count naturally.  She attached several websites telling me that I needed kale (good pick, Julianne), garlic, water, vitamin K, etc.  And then there was a very big admonition to REST the day before chemo for the best chance of the platelets growing.  I read that e-mail just after I had a) hiked 2.5 miles (one of which was all up hill) with my childhood friend Renee (for whom my Renee is named), b) canoed for an hour and gone swimming in Lake Washington with Daniel, c) gone to a dentist appointment, and d) gone to the pharmacy and grocery stores.  Oh, and the night before, Daniel and I attended our second of eight golf lessons in 82-degree heat.  Janet--please forgive me!  Forgive me again for ending chemo today by heading out crabbing with Steve in the 88-degree heat instead of staying home to rest.  I can't seem to help myself!  Rest is just so boring!  But now, while Steve is shelling four mammoth Dungeness crabs on the deck, I will close this blog post, take a cold shower, pop an anti-nausea pill, and head to the basement for a small crab salad, a nectarine, and a Netflix movie that arrived today (forget the name, but something French). 


  I wish you all a wonderful, healthy, weekend, with relief from the heat (if you are experiencing it where you live), and a renewed belief in miracles.


  "“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”
C.S. Lewis


With love and gratitude for you all,
Gabrielle

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Urgent Prayer Needed for Platelets!

Dear Family and Friends,


Gabrielle here.  You may have heard of "chemo brain," which is a the episodes of brain fog that can hit cancer patients after months of chemotherapy.  Well I experienced a big one today.


I thought today was Thursday, when in reality it is Wednesday.  So I jumped out of bed and raced to the hospital for my blood work to determine if I can get chemo on Friday or not.  After the blood work, I went on my one hour walk with my neighbor/friend, Laura, and during our conversation I mentioned that I hoped the blood work I did today would allow me to get chemo "tomorrow."  She asked why I was getting chemo on a Thursday instead of my usual Friday?  Oops!  I goofed!


When I returned home, I called my head chemo nurse and told her of my mistake.  She looked up the results of the blood work and I got good news and bad news.  The GOOD news is that my white cells and red cells are fine and that my CA-125, the ovarian cancer tumor marker, had dropped from 16 to 12.3!  Yippee and praise the Lord!!!


The BAD news is that my platelets have only risen 10 points in the past week, from 51 to 61.  Normal is 150 to 400.  Mine need to be at least at 100 in order for me to get chemo on Friday.  So the nurse told me to come in Friday morning at 8 AM as usual and they will do my platelet count again to see if it has risen to 100.  This is a mighty big long shot that they will go up 39 points in two days after only rising 10 points in a week, but I know that if God wants me to have chemo on Friday then those platelets will appear! 


So please pray with me today, tomorrow, and Friday morning that my bone marrow will jump into high gear and make 39 points worth of platelets by 8 AM Friday morning!


"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever."  Eph. 3:20-21


Thank you SO much!


Love,
Gabrielle

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Half liter bags and 24 calorie bottles

Dear friends and family,


Gabrielle here.  I'm sorry to have taken so long to do a post!  I WAS able to get my single chemo a week ago and offer thanks to all who prayed that my blood counts would pass muster.  The week following was/is my "week off chemo."  During that week, there are only two days of nausea and three days of bone pain from the neulasta shot to increase my white blood cells.  Well, the one other thing is--after single chemo, I'm at the place in my chemo cycle where my blood packs its bags and disappears, with white cells, red cells, and platelets all kissing me goodbye. 


Thus, last Wednesday I went for a vigorous walk with my next door neighbor/friend, Laura, and practically passed out on the inclines. I knew my blood was off, so I went straight to the oncologist's office after the walk.  Sure enough, I was down one full liter of blood!  Not enough red cells to pump the oxygen to my muscles on the hills, not enough white cells to fight infection since the neulasta shot hadn't kicked in yet, and my platelets, which clot blood, had dropped from a healthy 250 to 50.  Normal is 150 to 400.  If you see me and look closely, you will note I am covered with bruises from the missing platelets!


On Thursday I received two large bags totaling one liter of donated blood.  I am so grateful for people who donate blood so people like me can renew our strength.  As I was receiving blood on 4th of July eve, I was also feeling grateful for all who have shed their blood for our freedom and safety. We are so blessed to live in America, the land of the free and the brave.


On July 4th itself, with a full load of blood, my newly energetic self hopped into our boat and headed to Blake Island where I enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch, the world's BEST chocolate chip peanut butter cookies, and a vigorous 3.5 mile walk on the island trails.  My dear friend, Maribeth, joined us, and we had a blessed time chatting away as we lounged in the sun on the beach.  In the evening, Daniel and Renee's friends, Philip and Riley joined us, and we headed to Lake Union for the firework show.  It was spectacular.  Along the way, Steve ran into a patient family of his on their boat.  We had fun trading mini snickers bars for starburst candies by throwing them between the boats.  :-)


The last few days have also been full of CRABBING!  We have caught 24 crabs!!  Tonight we make our second huge batch of crab cakes which we both eat and distribute to neighbors and family.


In other news, my niece Maggie is visiting us from San Diego so she can meet her nephew, my great-nephew, Jericho, who is now weighing over five pounds!  He has the sweetest, easiest disposition of any baby I've known.  And my great-niece, Ariana, is being born as I write this!  What a blessing to see the new generations being born and to kiss the soft cheeks of these precious babies.




Would you please join me in prayer this week that my platelets, white cells, and red cells will all multiply like the loaves and fishes so that I can get my triple chemo this Friday?  And for patience with the four to five days of nausea and fatigue that will follow?  Thank you SO much!  I love you all!


Lastly, when I babysit my great-nephew, Jericho, who was a preemie, we feed him tiny preemie bottles that have one scoop plus two teaspoons of formula in them to make each bottle 24 calories.  As I was feeding him this past week, I was reflecting on how this round of chemo has not made me lose weight like the first round did.  Instead, I am up five pounds!  I am the one who should be restricted to 24 calorie bottles!!  Part of my problem is my inability to pass up the wonderful chocolate and desserts people so sweetly (pun intended) give us.  So my plea for right now is--we are good in the chocolate and desserts department for awhile while I tackle these five pounds!  But I reserve the right to change my thoughts on that at any moment!!  :-)




Love,
Gabrielle

Friday, June 20, 2014

Record time on triple chemo today!

Dear friends and family,


Just a quick note to say I made it through triple chemo today in only 4.5 hours!!!  This is a new record time!  It's partly because I had the best chemo nurse, Janelle, and partly because I started at 8 AM--before the hospital pharmacy got too backed up.  And since you are probably wondering, I beat Daniel at Scrabble.  :-)


Once I got home, I have felt quite nauseous and "had to" lie down for three Frasier episodes.  Renee joined me on the king bed for that little bit of luxurious rest.  I can see a Frasier for the 10th time and still laugh all through it.  The best sitcom EVER.


When Steve got home, he and I managed a short walk to the pharmacy for some anti-nausea pills (the little ones that melt on your tongue) and some Excedrin (for the headaches the little nausea pills give you).  We also grabbed fixings for amazing wheat bran/wheat germ muffins.  My chemo makes me chronically low in magnesium.  Two pills a day, as they prescribed, makes my guts too sick.  So they told me to take one magnesium pill a day and to up my intake of high magnesium foods.  Number one on the list is bran!  A little further down the list is wheat germ.  I just ate a muffin, warm out of the oven, and it was so good!  That's dinner tonight, along with a few apple slices and some herbal iced tea.


I am so, so grateful I was able to get treated today.  I will think of that every time I notice my nausea and weakness this week.  And this sunshine doesn't hurt my mood either.  Thanks be to God for all His blessings!


Love,
Gabrielle

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Triple chemo eve

Dear Family and Friends,


Good news!  After chemo was delayed a week due to low blood counts from the bone-marrow stimulating neulasta shot the hospital forgot to order for me, my counts are finally high enough to get triple chemo tomorrow.  Hooray!  Sort of.


It's such a weird thing.  You praise God and celebrate that your counts are good so you can go be filled with three poisons that will kill your cancer.  But with that comes your counts dropping back down to energy-sapping, potentially dangerous levels, and days of nausea and weakness.  Bittersweet, that's what chemo is. 


Dr. M decided to reduce my dosage tomorrow by 10% since my counts dropped so low last time.  My platelets had dropped to 28, for instance.  Normal is 150 to 400.  Ten or below is life threatening for an internal bleed that can kill you.  So she is adjusting my drug dosage to give me enough medicine to kill the cancer--but not me!  I'm all for that!


As usual, I have been living it up during these past couple of non-chemo weeks.  One highlight for me was tracking down my old college roommate, Shannon, and having lunch together on our deck after not having seen her for 25 or more years.  As I knew we would, we picked up right where we left off and had a great time.


A highlight for all four of us was spending Father's Day weekend at the home of a good friend on Shaw Island.  We explored beaches and trails, had a campfire with roasted marshmallows, read books, saw deer, seals, baby geese, and eagles, and of course, played lots of Scrabble.  During one late night game, Renee was constantly falling asleep.  When it was her turn, we would nudge her, she would stir awake, play a 40 or 50 point word, then snooze again.  She can beat us even in her sleep!  We started calling her an idiot savant for this amazing ability, which over the course of the weekend, got shortened to just idiot (spoken with great jealousy).  :-)


Daniel, the scientist, had a wondrous archaeological find on Shaw--a perfect dead deer skull.  Well, perfect except that the two jaw bones had disengaged from the head.  He soaked it in bleach and it's now sitting proudly on his dresser at home, soon to have the jaw bones wired back together.  To each his own.  The only things I want sitting on my dresser are a few photos, and perhaps a box of See's dark chocolates. 


Daniel and I have had two good adventures this week.  First, we played an hour of tennis the other day.  I haven't played in about 7-8 years.  It was SO much fun to play again, though now, due to lower blood counts and chemo, I had to rest every 10-15 minutes to catch my breath and re-hydrate.  Then yesterday we played Frisbee golf at a park that is a designated Frisbee golf course in north Seattle.  It is a super fun course with very long holes and challenging trees/bushes to go over, around, or in many instances--through, to get stuck in the middle.  We tied in Frisbee golf, but Daniel beat me 6 games to 3 in tennis--and that is with him going VERY easy on me.  Goal--to improve my tennis game to pre-cancer levels by playing once a week for the rest of the summer!


Renee is leaving this Sunday for a service trip with her junior high kids for a week.  They are going to a native American reservation in Yakima where they will do a variety of service while also learning about the culture of the people they are serving.  She hasn't been feeling too well this week, so please pray for her health and the health and safety of all the group as they head out on this trip.  I'm guessing she won't be resting much while there, in a cabin full of teeny-bopper girls.  Daniel thinks I'm the only adult on the planet who still says "teeny-bopper."  But I'm guessing some of you reading this remember that term. 


I will see if one of the kids can attach some photos to this blog post later.  Steve's very old laptop is no longer letting me attach photos!  Hence, I will be buying myself a new laptop in the next month or so, and Steve can borrow it from time to time if he plays his cards right (spoken by the woman who is earning $0/month and spending his earnings, our savings, and our insurance company's money, at a rate of about $8,000 per chemo treatment)! 


As I head into this triple chemo day and week, I am claiming God's promise of peace.  Peace for my mind, spirit, and gurgling tummy.  "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid."  John 14:27  I wish you peace, health, and many adventures this week!


Love,
Gabrielle



Sunday, June 8, 2014

My Unremarkable Wife

For those of you who are interested in a few more medical details, we got a copy of the CT report in the mail yesterday afternoon.  The word that kept cropping up over and over again was "unremarkable".  That's Gabrielle, all right: unremarkable.  In medical parlance, that's a very good thing!  Here's the Cliff Notes version of the report:
The lungs are clear.
The heart, great vessels and mediastinum are unremarkable.
There are no abnormally enlarged lymph nodes anywhere in the chest.
The visualized skeletal elements are unremarkable.
There is resolution of the previously noted mass in the left lobe of the liver.
The liver is unremarkable, the spleen is unremarkable, the adrenal glands are unremarkable, the kidneys are unremarkable, the pancreas is (wait for it...are you seeing a pattern here?) unremarkable, the l'il ol' gall bladder is...yep, another unremarkable.  The bladder is mentioned as being full of urine and unremarkable.  It is not exactly clear if the radiologist is alluding to the bladder or the urine itself, but I think I will go out on a limb and say that what they heck...they can both be unremarkable in my book.
The largest lymph node has shrunk by half and two other lymph nodes nearby have had complete resolution.  Oh, I forgot one other one: the bowel is...unremarkable


It's funny when a word that usually has such negative connotations ends up being so positive and affirming.  If I went to a ball game and the pitcher had an unremarkable time on the mound, that wouldn't be all that great.  If someone had an unremarkable performance review at work, he'd be pretty bummed out.  If I was told by my financial planner that my investments were yielding unremarkable returns, it would be reason to find another planner.  On the other hand, I am reminded of a joke my dad used to tell about a remarkable pig.  It was one incredible pig, not a mediocre one (for details, should you want to punish yourself, I am including it at the end of this post and you too will see that it is one remarkable pig).


But that's medicine for you.  If something is positive that's bad.  If something is negative, that's good.  Nothing like a good negative X-ray to cheer someone up.  But anyhow, the message on the CT report came through loud and clear.  Gabrielle opened the mail, sat down and read it through a couple of times, stopping on each "unremarkable" and positively glowing and then she got a big grin on her face and said, "It's even better than Dr. M. had said.  I guess God wants me around a little longer."  To which Daniel corrected her and said, "A lot longer!"  Amen to that!


So, thanks once again for being on our rope team, in our corner, and for being such a remarkable set of friends, colleagues, prayer warriors for us.  You are more precious than you will ever know...and that's a kind of remarkable that I would like to see.


Well, before I end this unremarkable post, I need to tell you about a certain pig that was encountered by a traveling salesman...
This salesman shows up at the farmer's house.  In an effort to feign interest in the guy's place, prior to selling him a set of encyclopedias (or whatever else suits your fancy), he asks for a tour of the farm.  Horses, check.  Cows, check.  Ducks, check (Daniel wants one by the way).  Sheep, check.  It's like a scene right out of Babe.  However, when he comes to the pig sty, there's a pig in there with only three legs.  Guy naturally asks why, to which the farmer goes into great detail about what a remarkable, incredible pig it is.  He starts by telling him that once the pig broke out of his sty to alert the family that the house was burning down.  Remarkable pig.  Next, little Billy had fallen asleep right in front of the combine and the pig raced back and forth in front of the combine to stop him from threshing little Billy and turning him into a hay bale.  Remarkable pig.  Depending upon Dad's mood at the time, the set of amazing feats this little squeaker performed could go on and on, sometimes for 20 minutes in the telling, always with the refrain that it was indeed some remarkable pig.  Of course, we all knew the punch line and we sometimes would chime in with stories of our own, like how there weren't enough farmhands to harvest the apples, so the pig climbed the tree himself.  We'd all shout out in unison: "that's some remarkable pig!"  You get the drift.  Finally, the exasperated salesman says, "Yes, I understand all that, but it still doesn't explain why he only has three legs."  Farmer replies, "a remarkable pig like that, it would be a shame to eat him all at once." 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Good news on the CT scan front!


Steve here. 
Today was the much anticipated, and equally dreaded CT scan.  We were delighted to get great news on the follow up CT scan which Gabrielle had this morning.  The scan went off without a hitch and then we killed time waiting for our appointment with Dr. McGonigle by wandering over to the nursery at Northwest Hospital where I got to meet my great nephew, Jericho for the first time.  Molly even let me feed the little nipper which was a big treat for me.  Last time I held anything that weighed so little was when I reached for a Talking Rain bottle (something I admit to having a slight addiction to).  Yep, Renee told me that when Jericho was born, he weighed exactly the same as a 2 liter Talking Rain bottle.  OK, on with the “even better than meeting Jericho” news…

We were ushered in to the exam room, complete with a lovely field of lavender displayed on the ceiling, so recipients of Dr. M’s exams would have something pleasant to look at.  Fortunately, no exam today, as we were there for, as Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts, Ma’am.”  It took a while to get the results, as the CT scan hadn’t been read yet.  When they did come in, Dr. M. had a big smile on her face and said that this was great news.  The previously seen spot on the liver was gone.  That’s the word she used: “gone”!  Just had to say it again, as it was such a delight to hear.  Also, the largest lymph node (near her stomach and pancreas) had shrunk from over 2 centimeters to about 1 cm…that’s a reduction by over half!  We don’t have the full report as it hadn’t been dictated yet, but that’s about the size of it.  We left on Cloud 9, unless there are any clouds higher up the cloud scale than that, because we were on them.  Hugs all around and a very emotional time, knowing that this was some great news after such an unpleasant setback a couple of months ago.  So, I guess the chemo is working and she’ll continue with more of the same for the time being.  Next dose is scheduled for after Father’s Day weekend, so we have a bit of a respite there.


We are all so thankful for your prayers and kind thoughts.  Gabrielle told me that everyone she used to work with at Seattle Pacific gathered for prayer for her right at the time of her CT scan…way to go, guys!  I have also gotten countless messages from many of you telling me of your continued prayers, lifting Gabrielle’s health up to the throne of grace.  It is truly humbling to be the recipients of so much kindness.  We are all dedicated to follow the great example you have been to us, and look for ways we can reach out to others in a similar fashion.  That’s what it’s all about: community, mutual support and kindness.  So don’t be shy about asking for prayers for your own needs.  We are happy to step into that ol’ prayer closet for you. 


Another bit of great news today, which is a little aside…and no, it’s not that Talking Rain is on sale somewhere, though that would be good too.  I just got word this morning that I passed my family practice board exam which I took back in April while Gabrielle was frolicking on Maui (see prior blog posts).  As some of you know, this was a huge stress as it only comes around once every 10 years and is quite time consuming to study for and take.  It is also expensive, costing well over $1,000 to take.  Now I’m done with it for another 10 years.  Very thankful to be done with that.  You don’t have to call me Sir or anything like that, though it’s fine if you do.  They call him “Sir Paul McCartney” after all, and he never passed a board exam. 


And so now, Gabrielle is resting on the couch.  The bone pain has just kicked in from the Neulasta shot she got on Monday and she also has a touch of…how do I put this delicately?  Well, let’s just say that I got sent to the store for some Imodium and let you fill in the gaps.  I guess that’s what swigging a liter of barium contrast material will do to you.  She is quite worn out and reading a library book called The Thin Woman which she says is pretty good…nice relaxing fare on a sunny afternoon. 


So that’s it for now.  I’m still walking in the clouds.  Now, get out
there and enjoy the sunshine! 


Friday addendum.  It goes without saying that the first recipients of our prayers are with the individuals and families involved in yesterday's shooting at SPU.  We are numb from it all.  So sad and cause for much prayer. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Happy June!

Dear Friends and Family,
 
Gabrielle here.  It's a beautiful, sunny Monday morning and I am so thankful for the gift of life today--and for a free day with nothing on my calendar!  I get to rest, do little errands, read, walk, and if I have enough energy, I plan to make "Greek Cod Gabrielle" for dinner.  Yummo!


Last week was a whirlwind.  I did a "bit" too much, though all of it fun.  In the last four days I have had single chemo, gone to see the ballet Giselle, cheered on the Mariner's, enjoyed dinner and canasta with our neighbors, gone boating, and attended a beautiful wedding.  I loved it all (except the chemo), but boy, am I tired. 


A little glitch occurred on Saturday.  The day after "day 8" in the chemo cycle, aka single chemo day, I am supposed to go into the hospital outpatient surgery center to get my neulasta shot to build up my blood counts.  They called me at 1 to be sure I was still coming at 2:30.  I showed up at 2:30.  They put me in the chemo chair, took my blood pressure, and said they would run to the pharmacy to grab the medicine.  They returned (two nurses) saying the pharmacist had the order but forgot to order the drug and there was none in the hospital.  Very frustrating. 


So first thing this morning (Monday), I went into my own oncology office and got the shot, but now my triple chemo is going to be pushed back by five days until the 17th.  The three days of bone pain from the shot will be on Thursday, Friday, Saturday this week, so I will plan accordingly.


On a very happy note, my little grand-nephew, Jericho, was born to my niece Molly last Thursday while I was watching Giselle!  He came a month early, weighing 4 lbs, 3 oz.  He's in the infant ICU at the moment, with an oxygen assist.  To feed him, they put a tiny bottle nipple in his mouth, then squeeze in half a syringe of milk into the nipple for him to learn to suck out.  Please pray for him to gain weight, breathe well on his own, and have a safe, healthy transition home, which may be as soon as this coming weekend. Pray for Molly too, as she is a single mother and needs all the help she can get.  By the way, Jericho is the cutest little miniature baby you every did see! 


Looking ahead to this week, I have a huge prayer request for Thursday.  I have completed three cycles of chemo and Thursday at 9:45 I get my contrast CT scan to see if the drugs are working or not to shrink my cancer.  We meet with the doctor at 11:30 to go over the results.  We all have pits in our stomachs because most of the time, scans don't seem to produce the happiest news.  Please pray for some encouraging news on Thursday and for God's peace to rule in our hearts and minds this week.  Thank you!!


One other important piece of news is that both Renee and Daniel are now officially moved back home!  Hooray!  It is such a joy to have them here with us so we can support one another on this cancer journey.  I will say, our house is a bit of a disaster zone at the moment with stuff from both their households scattered about as we try to assimilate three homes into one.  If you stop by, just ignore the chaos!  Also, I'm pleased to report that Daniel finished his first year of med school last Thursday, acing his finals (90-100% on all) and he is now officially an "MS-2."  Today he began his summer job at Children's doing research with the pediatric otolaryngology team.  They will be studying laryngeal clefts in infants.  Questions?  Ask Daniel! 


Thank you for all the kindnesses that came our way this last month.  The cards, meals, flowers, desserts (!), etc. have been SO appreciated.  I am not going to name them one by one anymore, as I am too afraid of missing someone.  But believe me, we have been so blessed to know you are walking this journey with us and supporting us in so many loving ways.  Thank you again and again!


"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you."  Isaiah 41:13


Much love to you all,
Gabrielle

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Chemo update

Hi, friends.  Steve here with a brief update...
Gabrielle had her dreaded triple chemo yesterday which was an all day affair.  It took an extra hour on the front end because there was a backup in the lab mixing concoctions for other patients (and you'da thunk she'd go to the front of the line by now).  After that, she needed an additional drip of magnesium as that's a tad low.  But after all was said and done, she rolled home about 5:00 PM and the first words out of her mouth (apart from the much anticipated, always dreaded, "wipe your feet") were "let's go for a power walk as I've been sitting all day".  So off we went!  I could barely keep up with her.  I don't know what Dr. M. but in the juice she gave Gabrielle, but I could use some of that pep about now.
We are delighted to report that Gabrielle's CA-125 has dropped!!!  As a reminder, it had a low of about 12 after initial diagnosis of around 130.  This recent recurrence saw a rise to 16 then to 20 in early April.  Right now it is around 14...a drop of 6 points (yep, I'm a math whiz), which is very encouraging.
So the plan is for another single treatment next week and we'll see how things go after that.
Need to dash along now.  I will leave a more complete blog to Gabrielle when she gets rolling.  As for me, I have to dash off to get my haircut then go for a brisk dip in the sound.  I'd tell you more about my adventures at the barber shop, but they have absolutely nothing to do with chemo, so will remain taciturn on the subject. 
Cheers.
Steve

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Yes, we have no chemo; we have no chemo today....

Dear family and friends,
Steve here.  Try singing the title to the tune of that silly song about bananas and you'll get it right.  Of course you have to be at least my age to remember that song.  Anyhow...
Sadly, Gabrielle's lab tests revealed that her cell counts were too low to get another much needed, eagerly anticipated (and dreaded at the same time) dose of medication yesterday as we had planned.  That's the second time she's been "too low".  I'm not liking this limbo stick game of how low can you go (sorry, another reference to an old Calypso song).  So instead of getting the medicine, she got a shot of Neulasta which stimulates the bone marrow to squeeze out extra cells.  From what I gather, it is significantly more potent than Neupogen which she had been getting periodically up to this point.  I understand it is a tad on the pricey side, so much so that they won't let us give it to her at home.  She had to go in and get it at Dr. M's office yesterday.  It is associated with about three days of pretty significant bone pain that will most likely kick in today or tomorrow (happy Mother's Day).  But for now, she is doing all right.
This has been a rougher than average week, post chemo and all.  She has been nauseated every single day and had very little energy which has been unlike her.  Yesterday, we went for a delightful walk around the neighborhood (her first in three days, which for her is very unusual).  It was the highlight of my day, walking and doing my best to keep up with her.  I always enjoy my walks with her as we have a chance to walk, talk and enjoy the scenery (lots of wonderful spring flowers out in the neighborhood...love those rhodies!). 
On our walk, among other things, we had a chance to catch up and reflect on the many blessings we have and I would like to share them with you, though I am sure that I am leaving some out.  If so, I apologize for the oversight.
First of all, she had enough energy to attend a Children's Hospital luncheon yesterday with Renee as guests of Luanna at her table.  Gabrielle remarked on how Bill and Luanna are very dear friends and I agree.  They even sent cards home for each of us.  Gabrielle had a chance to visit with some of her former colleagues and friends (not "former" friends...they are still that!), though elbow bumps only.  No hand shaking or hugs with her counts so low.  She had a wonderful time.  She was absolutely beaming about the event when I got home. 
Thanks to Loretta for bringing amazing lemon rice soup yesterday which was oh so tasty.
Thanks to our niece, Katia for shipping us the most amazing pots that she had made, one of which was turquoise...the ovarian cancer color.  They are now gracing our fireplace.
Thanks for meals from Sandy, Mary, Bryan and Kristin, Dean, Stohn, Joan, and Alison.  You guys are keeping us amply fed and it's such a blessing to not have to stress so much about what to buy, prepare, and clean up for dinner now and then!  Oh--and the most amazing chocolate cake you have ever tasted walked up the hill with our friends/neighbors, Laura and Jerry, and we have eaten every last morsel!  Just pop those anti-nausea pills then cut a nice slice of cake and add a dollop of vanilla ice cream. A taste of Heaven!
We appreciate the cards and letters of support, cheery e-mails and many prayers on our behalf.
Thanks to Pastor Blake for taking me out to breakfast at The Pancake House (they do breakfast good up there).  He was kind enough to offer up a prayer of absolution such that the calories didn't count...I like that. 
We also are being increasingly made aware of how precious a gift it is to have the community of friends to walk this journey and have a renewed sense of our desire to pray for and help others.  That's been a blessing too...to be able to reach out to others as the needs arise.  I am especially looking forward to "ministering" to Tom by inviting myself down to his boat someday and firing the engines up and making sure the batteries don't run down.
Oh, and thanks to Matt and Ami for putting up with my marginal boating skills and agreeing to ship out on this, my second annual shrimping venture.  It would have been miserable pulling those pots all by myself.  And thanks for buying me lunch at Maggie's Bluff while the shrimp pots soaked.  Speaking of soaking, we got soaked on the outing but had a lot of fun.
Well that's it for now.  I want to end by wishing you all a wonderful weekend and especially want to send warm greetings to all the mothers out there:  Happy Mother's Day.  To my mom, Abby.  To Gabrielle's mom, Gloria, and to Gabrielle...three of the best moms I know and to all the other moms as well.
Till next time, please keep those prayers coming.
Love,
Steve

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Post-chemo update (can't think of an interesting title)

Dear Family and Friends,
  Gabrielle here.  I am very pleased to report that after three days of neupogen shots in my stomach last week to boost my immune system, I was able to get my triple chemo day drugs on Friday!  Oh, it was a L-O-N-G day.  It took six hours from start to finish.  First the blood work and waiting for the lab results.  Then the pre-meds--anti-nausea, steroids, things to help me not react badly to the chemo, etc.  Then the first chemo drug.  Then the second chemo drug.  Then the third drug that helps prevent blood vessel growth to feed tumors.  I was blessed to have both Renee and Daniel with me and as you might have guessed by now, we played Scrabble (I won at the very last second by adding an "S" to Renee's word "quads" and it crossed a triple word score.  Woo hoo!).  We also watched the old movie "The American President," which Daniel had never seen.  I came home so happy to have received cancer-killing medicine--but I was truly wiped out.
  Since then I've had a lot of nausea and fatigue.  And still some depression.  It's tough adjusting to all this again, and my days can get long and a bit lonely.  But we continue to do three things:  Keep our eyes on Jesus, order our days well, knowing how precious they are, and look for joy in each day. 
  Today's joy came in the form of a lovely walk/prayer time in the sunshine, and "deep and real" conversations with some dear friends and family members.  It also came in the form of dinner being brought to us by Dean--that we are just now going to enjoy! 
  In closing, remember when I told you during last year's chemo that the chemo kills off hair cells?  Well, the hair on top of my head is still clinging to life, while the hair in my nose is gone.  The hair in one's nose plays a crucial role of keeping the snot where it's supposed to be--in your nose--most of the time.  Take home message--never, never bend your chemo nose over the tray of salsa, avocado, and chips you've just set out for your family for Cinco de Mayo!  Gross!!!
  Thank you for all your kindnesses--meals, cards, flowers, treats, and most important of all, your prayers.  You are precious to us.


Love,
Gabrielle

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Aloha--I'm home!

Dear Friends and Family,

I just got home from Maui at 11:30 last night.  I had a wonderful week away!  God blessed me with pretty good energy and I was able to snorkel every day (crystal clear this time of year--like being in an aquarium), walk (and lie) on the beach, sit by (and swim in) the pool, and enjoy good books and conversation with my sister, Marti, and good friend, Kristi.  It was sunny and about 82 every day.  The sunsets from our condo deck were amazing. 

One special thing that happened was that I hoped we could spend one night at the Grand Wailea Hotel, to enjoy their waterpark-like pools and slides, and their blue and white striped umbrellas and chairs on gorgeous Wailea Beach.  I spoke with a woman at the front desk named Daisy.  I told her about this special trip on my break from chemo and she lowered the room price for us by a LOT, she waived our parking and resort fee, and she upgraded us to a water view and deck room!  I told her she was my angel--it made me so happy!  We had two great days enjoying the hotel's amenities and Marti and Kristi let me spend the night there alone when it was time to sleep--so I could get a really luxurious rest.  Ahhhh.  It was heavenly.  Oh, and courtesy of Steve, we girls enjoyed Spa Day at the Grand Wailea with exfoliation, massage, and lots of soaking pools, saunas, and steam rooms!  :-)

On my flight home, I met another angel.  My flight attendant was a Christian and she was so kind to me and asked my name and said she would be praying for me.  She gave me a big hug when I deplaned (sp?).  Like my chemo nurses ordered, I wore masks on my flights both ways to and from Maui, and it turns out that it was a good thing I did.  Why, you might ask?

Well, this morning Renee, Daniel, and I all showed up for triple chemo and they drew blood for my labs.  The labs came back with counts much too low to get chemo.  I need one of the counts to be 1,500 and it was only 500.  Had I not worn those masks, I might have pneumonia by now with counts that low!  I was kind of depressed on the way home from the hospital, as I know that the chemo is what will keep me alive and thus, I need to be able to get it!  But today, God has been with me and given me a perfect, sunny, relaxing, and encouraging day that has restored my peace.

I had NO energy today after the trip and travel day yesterday, so Renee, Daniel, Riley (Renee's girlfriend), and I enjoyed a picnic Renee made in the sunshine on blankets in our back yard.  We ate and laid around reading, talking, and doing crossword puzzles.  Half-way through the picnic Daniel jumped up full of energy and cleaned off our patio and deck, did some gardening, then cleaned the kitchen.  He's taking a break from med school today after two hard exams yesterday!  Fine by me!!

In the midst of lazing around the backyard, I opened a lot of cheerful mail!  Cards from several of Daniel's med school classmates arrived, including one that they all signed with class photos enclosed!  What caring future doctors he is privileged to know and study with.  There were other great cards from Steve's brother John and dear friends, one containing an Amazon gift card so I can get Kindle books!  And my friend Bill Moyers (yes, the famous one you can watch on PBS) sent me a hand-written note and a DVD of a special he did on the hymn, Amazing Grace.  It's his favorite special he's done and said it reminds him of me and my testimony.  Steve and I met him in Mexico and had lunch with his wife and him.  They are lovely people!  Then I received the nicest e-mail from Dave McKenna, who was president of SPU when I attended school there. And lastly, sweet Mary Nygard brought us a wonderful dinner with gourmet ice cream bars for dessert--perfect for my throat! 

So a day that started out in sadness, unfolded with joy, love, peace, and renewed hope.  Just like the Lord, don't you think?  My Psalm today was Psalm 10.  Verse 17 says "You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry."  If you are also going through something hard today, I know He is listening to you too, and that encouragement is just around the corner!

Heartfelt thanks to you all, my prayer warriors and faithful encouragers.  You are the eyes, ears, hands, and feet of God through which He speaks compassion to our family during this very difficult time.

I have one special request before I close with some Maui photos.  I was wondering if you would consider sending a card to Steve, Renee, or Daniel in the next couple of weeks.  So much of the focus is on me during cancer, but they are suffering too, as you might imagine, and could use a boost of encouragement.  It would help them to know you are thinking of them too, and praying for them.  If God lays this on your heart to do, thank you SO much!  And if that's too hard for you right now, please say extra prayers for them.  Thank you! 

With so much love and gratitude for you all,
Gabrielle


This is my favorite snorkeling spot--the Ahihi-Kinau Marine Preserve.

Dinners on our deck, with Kristi's magic touch on the BBQ!

Ulua Beach.  A great reef for snorkeling--and bobbing around with your $5 floaties!

One of the many pools at the Grand Wailea.

Kristi in front of the dolphin fountains at the Grand Wailea.

Marti holding up the MOUSE we caught in our kitchen!  Gross!!!

Warm, gooey cinnamon roll with cream cheese icing, raisings, and mac nuts.  Yummo!

Marti and Gaby modeling our Grand Wailea Spa totes!

Beautiful lobby of the Grand Wailea.

Me, "swimming" with the dolphins.  LOL.