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!