Sunday, September 24, 2017

Another Update!

It's been over two months since my last update.

Andy had surgery on August 28 to remove a handful of cancerous lymph glands in the abdominal area. It is a pretty invasive surgery so he stayed in the hospital for five days. His parents came to visit for his surgery and were a big help in driving back and forth to the hospital. There are only a handful of surgeons who perform this kind of surgery in the area and you want someone with lots of experience so we went to the big hospital a little further away.

The surgery itself lasted for six and a half hours--very meticulous--but went very well. The surgeon was very pleased.

Andy was discharged that Friday and all was going well until the following Tuesday when we noticed a significant amount of drainage from one spot on the incision.This did not seem normal so we immediately called the doctor. He told us to come right in to get it looked at.

I was going to drive Andy in to the doctor myself but Andy insisted I call a retired friend of ours to help. It was a good idea because Andy was moving extremely slow at this point (big incision!). I figured some extra help getting him in and out of the van would be helpful.

When we finally got in to see the doctor, he took one look at it and declared that something was not closing correctly and Andy would need emergency surgery to reopen the incision and then re-close it properly.

This was right around noon by now and surgery was quickly scheduled for 3pm. We were assigned a hospital room and quickly escorted over to the hospital which was right next door. Andy got settled in his room and they began prepping him for surgery. Thankfully, he had eaten very little that morning and had only drank some water. I stayed with Andy in pre-op until they wheeled him away to surgery. I then met up with our friend who had come with us. I was so glad that we had asked him to come as he sat with me in the surgical waiting area during this unexpected surgery.

Again, the surgery went well. The doctor was so busy that he called me on the waiting room phone instead of coming out for a consultation. He said there was a good amount of fluid built up and had it not been caught right away, it could've gotten very infected and caused much worse problems. They put a wound vac on the incision to dry out the area before closing the incision back up.

Andy was in the hospital until Friday again. Before discharge, the surgeon came up to remove the wound vac and then staple the incision closed again. Call me weird but I enjoyed watching the process! It was fascinating.

While the surgeon closed him up, he said "Oh, by the way, the pathology report came back and there was no sign of cancer in the lymph glands. Just dead scar tissue." This was the best news! We were so thrilled and give God all the glory for this!

Andy has been home for over two weeks now and is doing good. Recovery is slow but coming along. He sees the surgeon on Tuesday to get his staples removed.

He had an appointment with his oncologist on Friday. Everything is looking good. He'll have some more CT scans coming up just to make sure everything is clear. The oncologist still wants a specialist to take a good look at the nodule on Andy's lung and possibly remove it. We are waiting to see what will come of that. Our "lymph gland" surgeon says there is over a 99% chance that it is also dead scar tissue as everything seems to work together in this kind of cancer. Even though it is most likely nothing serious, the oncologist wants to be thorough and we appreciate that!

Thank you for your prayers!




Saturday, July 22, 2017

Post-Chemo Cancer Update

Andy had an appointment with the oncologist yesterday to discuss the results of his most recent CT scans. Basically, these scans were to show us whether or not the chemo had done its job!

We were happy to hear that the cancerous abdominal lymph glands had shrunk considerably in size. As expected, they have not shrunk to normal size so surgery to remove them is still in the near future.

Several other spots that were seen before on the lungs are not there now, which is good news. However, there is one spot that is questionable. It could be something but could also be nothing. The oncologist suggested possibly a PET scan to get a better look and see what is going on there. Because of how these scans are done, sometimes it is difficult to see things accurately.  He was going to discuss it further with the head of oncology and get back to us.

Andy is doing very well. His energy level continues to rise little by little and he is feeling more and more like himself. At this time, we haven't really noticed any lasting side effects from the chemo which we are grateful for. He does still have that dry cough but it doesn't seem to be as bad as it was.

Thank you for your prayers and support!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Frugal Friday

In the midst of decidedly not-frugal chemo, doctor appointments, hospital stays and surgery plans, we still try to be good stewards of what God has given us.  Making good decisions with our money and using what we have to its fullest potential saves us money and also prevents waste.

Here are some ways we've saved money and lived frugally here recently:


  • Accepted loads of garden produce from neighbors and friends. We've eaten fresh green beans, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers and corn on the cob. I have a crockpot full of green beans cooking for dinner tonight using this recipe.  We were given over a dozen ears of corn so I shared half of it with our neighbor as the two of us couldn't eat it all. 
  • Used a store coupon at Petsmart for a FREE small bag of dog food. We also had $5 in rewards to use online so we used it to buy some dog treats and selected to pick up in store instead of paying for shipping. I picked up our online order at the same time I got the dog food. Willie is happy.

  • Went on a date to Olive Garden and used a gift card to pay for most of our meal. Also, we had enough leftovers to take home and eat for lunch the next day. 
  • Used several coupons when grocery shopping.
  • Sam's Club runs specials each month where select items are on special. This month, several items that we buy regularly were on special. So I stocked up even if we didn't need them quite yet--$3 off laundry detergent and $5 off dog food. Both are items that I would be buying next month so I saved $8 by buying them now. I also got $1 off a bag of avocados and $.50 off cheese. 
  • Submitted some medical receipts for reimbursement. 
  • Hung most of our clothing up to dry instead of using the dryer. Still using the dryer for sheets and towels as I don't yet have an outdoor clothesline. 
  • Cut buttons off a couple old sweaters before discarding them. The buttons can be used for other sewing and craft projects. 

  • Repotted some tiny basil plant "babies" that were in my big planter of basil. I plan to share these extra plants with friends. Also made pesto from some of the basil. 
  • Eaten a lot of odds and ends from the freezer. I noticed we had quite a bit of food in there that should be used. I've been planning my menus from the freezer and pantry then only buying what we still need from the store. I plan to clean out and defrost the freezer in August so eating down the freezer is a good idea! Some of the items are only a serving or two but I group a few things together and no one goes hungry!
  • Painted our hallway. I have had the paint and primer for a while and have not had time to get to this project.(I got the supplies right before Andy's diagnosis.) I had the week of July 4th off from work so made time to work on it then. The walls are paneling so this took a little more time and effort  than just slapping a coat of paint up. But the final result is very much worth it! Why is this frugal? Well, I didn't hire someone to do the painting for me. Plus, painting is much less costly than ripping out paneling and putting in drywall! (Although that is in the "someday" plans.)
  • Requested a book through our library's inter-library loan program. Within a few days, I received notification that the book was ready to pick up. I combined stops while running errands and ran into the library while driving close by there anyways. My library has started something new and now includes on your receipt how much you saved by using the library that day. I saved $24.99 by using the library over buying the book at list price. 

How have you lived frugally this week? Please share with all of us in the comments!

Friday, July 07, 2017

Done With Chemo!



We are done with chemo!

Andy went through three 3 week cycles of chemo. The doctor wanted him to do a full 4th cycle but due to a bad cough that could be caused by one of the drugs, they decided to do only one week of the 4th cycle. Even though all tests for toxicity to one of the chemo drugs came back negative (Praise God!), the oncologist wanted to take precaution and eliminate that particular drug from his regime. 

The first week of each cycle is five straight days of 7 hours of chemo each day. By the end of the week, you can imagine how worn out a chemo patient would be! 

This "heavy week" is what Andy's last week of chemo was and by Friday, he was exhausted and not feeling very well. We were pumped that it was his last day though! 

Unfortunately, he began feeling quite ill in the afternoon and by evening was running a fever and throwing up. Because he couldn't even keep meds down and a fever with chemo often indicates an infection, the doctor put in an order for him to be admitted to the hospital overnight for observation. 

I was so glad we didn't have to sit in the ER waiting to be seen. Within 30 minutes of talking to the doctor on the phone, Andy was being settled in the hospital room! His fever was higher by this time so they gave him meds to reduce fever and got him started on IV fluids to combat dehydration. 

Andy ended up staying at the hospital for 3 nights and was discharged Monday morning. By this time, he was keeping bland foods down and able to get enough fluids. His blood tests looked a lot better too. He was treated for a mild UTI but the doctor was unsure he actually had one. 

So now he's home recuperating and getting better each day. 

He has CT scans scheduled for next week to see the results of the chemo. He has an appointment with the oncologist toward the end of the month to discuss the results of the scan.  We are hoping for a good report! 

Thank you for all your prayers!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Chemo Update: 3rd Cycle Done!

Andy has now finished the 3rd cycle of chemo. He had a much harder time with the 3rd cycle and felt pretty rough for the full three weeks. He caught a bad cough during this cycle and has felt generally very run down.

Due to the cough, Andy wasn't able to finish the last treatment of the 3rd cycle. The chemo drug he would be receiving is known to cause lung issues so the nurse consulted immediately with the doctor as to what they should do. No chemo that day. He was sent to get a chest x-ray and a pulmonary function test. Later that week at a routine appointment with the oncologist, he was ordered to get a CT scan done on his lungs. This was to check for toxicity from the chemo drug. All tests came back clear and show no signs of anything wrong.

They believe the cough is most likely due to a suppressed immune system. He is using cough medicine and it seems to be improving slowly. They gave him this week off from chemo with hopes that his body will recover some.

From what it sounds like, the doctor plans to have him continue with a 4th cycle of chemo. We will find out more details at his appointment on Friday.

Once chemo is finished and he is strong enough to have surgery, he will have some cancerous lymph glands removed. We are hopeful life will return to "normal" by the end of the summer!

We are grateful for the strength the Lord has given us so far as we have traveled this journey and continue to rely on Him. Thank you all for your prayers!

Friday, June 09, 2017

Chemo Update: Cycle 2 and Cycle 3 Almost Done

We survived the 2nd cycle of chemo!

There weren't really any surprises this round. Thankfully... Andy handled the treatments very well again. He did get nauseous and threw up a bit once after the first week. This was the day he also ran a low-grade temp which kept crawling up to right below the "call the doctor" threshold. I was grateful when suddenly his temp was back to normal. Praise the Lord!

His white blood cell count was down in the last week of the 1st cycle. It was back to excellent numbers on the first day of the 2nd cycle which was an answer to prayer. This is a very normal part of chemo and seems to happen for Andy on the 3rd week of each cycle so far.

The big reason we did not want the beginning of the 2nd cycle to be delayed was because of an event that was scheduled. Andy has prayed and desired to start a Southern Gospel quartet for many years. In the past year, it has begun to come together. The quartet had their first performance scheduled for last Saturday. (Scheduled before diagnosis.) Had the beginning of the 2nd cycle been delayed a week, he would not have been able to perform. But, he was able and it went very well!

Time flies and now we're almost at the end of cycle 3 as well! He had a rougher time with nausea during the first week of the 3rd cycle. We actually used the at-home nausea meds for the first time.

The first day of cycle 3 landed on Memorial Day so the chemo center was closed. Because the regime Andy is on requires 5 straight days of chemo the first week of the cycle, they sent him to the local hospital for treatment that day. He was in a room in the oncology unit and received the infusions as usual. We were there for 10 1/2 hours instead of the typical 7 hours at the chemo center. We knew going in that it could take a good bit longer  just because of the difference in processes and they might need to keep him overnight if infusions went past a certain time. Thankfully, they didn't and he could come on home that evening! We're grateful that is behind us and hope treatment doesn't fall on another holiday!

He does seem to have caught some kind of chest congestion with lots of coughing. With his immune system being down, this is quite normal but we need to be careful to watch that it doesn't get worse. Our weather could also contribute to this although Andy doesn't usually suffer from seasonal allergies. I know he would appreciate your prayers that this will clear up.

When we first got the diagnosis, the oncologist said there would be three 3-week cycles of chemo. We then switched to another doctor within the same network in order to do chemo treatments close to home. The new doctor says that four 3-week cycles of chemo are protocol for the type and stage of the cancer Andy is dealing with. So the two doctors are discussing whether a 4th cycle is needed. We appreciate the doctors being thorough. The new doctor said he could see why the first doctor only prescribed three cycles but because four cycles is protocol, he wants to be sure and make the best decision. We are praying that they will have great wisdom as they make this decision!

So that, in a nutshell, is how the past few weeks have gone!

And just for fun, I leave you with a picture of our cute little Willie!


Saturday, May 06, 2017

Chemo Update: Cycle 1

Cycle 1 of Andy's chemo is complete!

Each cycle is 3 weeks long. The first week is the most grueling with 5 straight days that are 7 hours each. The second and third week have only one short treatment each week.

Andy did surprisingly well during the first cycle. He has not experienced much sickness. The first week left him completely wiped out with little to no energy and a desire to lie in a dark room with minimal lights and sound for a couple days. He has felt much better during the last 2 weeks of the cycle. He's had an increase in energy and has been able to get out and about some.

His appetite tanked during the first week of treatment. He managed to stay hydrated and eat small meals and snacks but didn't want to eat much. His appetite has increased significantly in the past week and a half though and has been able to eat a very healthy balanced diet.

Andy had an appointment with his oncologist yesterday. So far everything seems to be right on track. He had lost a good amount of weight and at yesterday's appointment his weight was up a little again which is good. They don't want too much weight loss too quickly.

The oncologist said that most patients react similarly to each cycle of chemo so we are hopeful for another fairly smooth cycle. Andy had extreme pain during the first night of chemo which they call "tumor flare". This is when the chemo drugs find those areas that are or were affected by the cancer. The cancerous cells get very "angry" causing extreme pain. Fortunately, this pain completely disappeared within 24 hours and hasn't been back. The chemo nurses said that it could come and go but the oncologist believes it is unlikely to return this time around. We do have a plan in place to deal with the pain should it happen again but it was very scary and quite horrible to see him in such intense pain.

Our concern right now is that his white blood cell count will continue to rise so as not to delay chemo. On Tuesday, the white blood cell count was lower than they like--not dangerously low--but low enough to delay some of the chemo treatment is it continues to drop. They drew blood again yesterday and his white cell count had increased some. Not quite enough but definitely headed in the right direction! The doctor feels that between Friday and starting treatment on Monday, there is enough time for it to get to normal levels. We pray for this to happen! In the meantime, we are following the precautions that the chemo nurse gave us. I also did some quick research for some foods that can help provide needed nutrients to help elevate white blood cell counts. We've added some of these foods in to every meal since Tuesday. Lower white blood cell count in cancer patients is quite common and can be caused by chemotherapy.

Meanwhile, we continue to pray in hope. We are so thankful for the peace of God that has been present in our hearts since the beginning of this ordeal. We have felt the prayers of God's people around the world and I know they have helped!

We've received a lot of cards and packages which has been so much fun! The picture above was sent by a friend. So appropriate for the season! A few days after we received this picture, my aunt sent me a letter which included this same verse (Isaiah 41:10). She went on to say that this verse was what helped my grandmother (Dad's mother) through many difficult times. I have really loved this verse but now it holds even more special significance to me. Isn't it wonderful how God's Word brings truth and comfort down through the generations and is always relevant to our lives?