November 8

November 8, 2012 – one year ago today – was the scariest day of my life. It was the day that Andrea had her cancer surgery…and I remember the feeling of helplessness I had as soon as she walked through those doors to the OR. She was in the operating room on her own, and I was just left with this lonely, helpless feeling. Sitting in that hospital room, on a cold, grey November day. Just waiting. It was honestly the worst day of the whole cancer ordeal, for me, because it was the one time that I could do nothing to help. Even at chemo, or during our marathon hospital stay, I felt like I could always contribute something – even if it was just getting Andrea a glass of cranberry juice, or distracting her from the needle while Dr. Smith inserted her IV. Doing little chores like those made me feel a little more in control of the situation..even though neither of us were in control of anything.

My strongest memory of that day, though, is the feeling of pure, absolute relief that came over me when then Dr. Runi came in to our room after the surgery and reported that it was a success. That Andrea was OK, and that we had taken one very big step towards beating her cancer.

Here’s the post I made as soon as it was over:

Andrea is out of surgery and resting comfortably. The surgery went very very well – no complications and most importantly, no evidence that the cancer spread to her lymphnodes, etc. This is great news! Now we just need to rest, recover, eat some ice chips and keep the pain meds flowing.

Looking back on that day one year later….it feels like soooo long ago. Much more than one year; almost as if when we reminisce about the events of diagnosis, surgery, chemo, we’re talking about two totally different people: friends of ours who went on a long, strange trip together. I suppose that it’s a good thing. A sign that we have started to live a life together that’s not centered around cancer, doctor appointments, hospitals and worrying (or maybe I have, anyway). Many times, I just like to forget about all of it. I’m just happy that the treatment phase of cancer is in the past, and want to focus on enjoying the life that we had to put mainly on hold for that year. Days like today help put it all in perspective a bit, and remind me that in a strange way, we accomplished something together. Most importantly, I want to remind people that are going through the same thing – especially people that we’re close to – that it does get better and that there is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

On November 8, 2012, I was really really happy to report that Andrea made it through surgery. And was really proud of her for taking a 200 yard long walk around her hospital floor under her own power. On November 8, 2013 I’m really happy to report that we really did survive, and made it through the last year of treatment. And really proud of Andrea for all that she’s accomplished: getting better by the day, keeping an awesome attitude through all of the shit, and even getting ready to go back to work. We’ve come a long way!

Update..

I wish I had some good news to report – or any news, really.  We’re still in the hospital (have been camped out here since Thursday), and still no answers.  Andrea’s still experiencing intermittent fevers, which are probably the result of an infection of some kind.  But the doctors have yet to pinpoint the cause of the infection or find a way to treat it.  On the upside – she’s feeling a little better, has more energy, and her heart is not racing quite as much as it was a couple of days ago.  She’s also been able to keep her positive attitude, for the most part.  Which is the most amazing thing, to me.  We had a ray of hope last night after the doctors performed a CT scan.  They thought they detected some evidence of infection in her lungs, which would indicate walking pneumonia.  This caused them to add some new drugs to the mix.  We’re currently on a steady diet of three different high spectrum antibiotics (Zosyn, Zithromax and Vancomyicin)…but no luck yet.  The fevers keep coming back.  So the wait continues.  It’s frustrating and makes us feel very helpless.  We’re basically trapped here until we have some more firm answers.  The doctors don’t want to risk releasing Andrea, on the chance that her infection (?) could develop into something worse.

Being stuck at the hospital totally blows.  It’s uncomfortable, depressing and scary.  The food’s bad, sleep is elusive and the nurses come in at all hours of the day and night to poke, prod, take blood samples, prick you with IV needles.  In between the prodding and poking…you just do a lot of waiting and worrying.  And I think the hospital we’re in is one of the better ones I’ve seen.

After four days of this, I’m personally starting to go a little crazy, and I have the luxury of getting up and walking around sometimes…even leaving the hospital to run an errand home or go get us some food.  I couldn’t imagine being confined to a bed the entire time like Andrea has been.  Through it all, though, she has been in really good spirits.  It’s amazing, bordering on super human.  She’s taking all of the uncertainty and discomfort in stride and taking her medicine (literally) without any real complaint.  She’s also on top of everything – as usual….she’s memorized all of her medicines, dosages, administration times, temperatures, etc…and stays on top of all of the nurses to make sure they’re doing everything right.  She did a blog post, has been talking on the phone to family to keep them updated and even took time to pay some bills yesterday (prior to their due date..).  I like to think that I am standing by to support her – in every way that I can.  But in reality, I’m just trying to keep up most of the time.  Her fight, attitude and resolve keeps me going when I get tired.  No kidding.  She’s the real deal, and I can’t tell you all how proud I am of how she’s dealt with this episode…and really the whole shitshow that is cancer.  Truly amazing.

That’s all for now – we’ll keep you updated as best we can, and will post some more news as soon as we have it.

In the meantime – I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a big, huge, thank you to all of the people who have been writing, calling, texting, facebooking…Your thoughts and prayers are the fuel that keeps us going.  It’s been really great to hear from SO many people that we haven’t heard from in years.  The messages that start with:  “I haven’t talked to you in years” or “you don’t know me and we’ve never met…I’m friends with Paul, and just wanted to say…”  are awesome.  You know who you are!  Thank you!

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Benadryl: the husband’s best friend. And other thoughts..

Chemo Tuesday again.  It’s weird how normal that’s starting to sound to me.  After several months of living in the trenches of battling cancer, I’m sure there are a lot of things that we both are completely used to that would have seemed very strange or scary not that long ago.  Like me doing a little bit of lite work email from the chemo suite.  I wrote a bit about this on my blog a couple weeks ago.  I guess we can adapt to anything, given enough time…

So where did we leave off?  On this week’s episode of Chemo Tuesday – I’d like to introduce you all to the simple pleasures of IV Benadryl.  Or as I like to call it, the “Husband’s Best Friend”….Dr. Smith administers Benadryl to couter-act some of the allergic reactions that Taxol (our current chemo drug of choice) can cause.  A “side effect” of Benadryl is extreme drowsiness.  This side effect is apparently amplified when you administer Benadryl via an IV….and it works FAST.  Lemme walk you through the process…

IMG_1270  Step 1: I don’t know what’s about to hit me…:  Andrea arrives at Dr. Smiths’s office, looking really pretty in her chemo outfit.  (Seriously, she plans out the outfit the night before.  Some things, I will never understand).  She really does pull off the bald look with a lot of panache, don’t you think?  I think she looks awesome.  At this point, all vital signs are normal.  She’s worked up a little appetite, and is ready for some pre-infusion yogurt.  She’s chatty, visiting with the nurses, talking to Dr. Smith, making a to-do list for the rest of our week in her head.  Little does she know what’s about to hit her.

 

 

 

 

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Step 2:  Let the good times flow…:  The lovely and talented Tasha readies the IV bag.  A few hundred cc’s of pure, sweet, unadulterated Benadryl.  Street value – priceless.  She hooks up the IV line to Andrea’s port, and starts the sweet juice flowing.  I sit back in my lounge chair, and begin the countdown….  Wait for it.  Wait for it…

 

 

 

 

 

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  Step 3:  zzzzzzz:  And….action.  90 seconds later.  I kid you not.  Out like a light.  The crazy thing is that we’ve tried all sorts of solutions to help Andrea sleep at home….Ambien, something else made for horses…nothing really works.  Except Benadryl.  It brings on the most peaceful, un-interrupted, deep sleep I have ever seen in Andrea.  No tossing and turning, no waking me up in the middle of her sleep to ask if I remembered to lock the front door, or take out the dog.  Zzzzzzz…..How do I get some of this for home, I ask you??  It can’t be that hard?  Tasha, hook me up!

For other husbands out there – I’d highly recommend mainlining Benadryl for your wives.  You can turn it on, go out and play 18 holes, come back home and she will be none the wiser.  She’ll also be well rested, a little groggy, and quite docile, at least until dinner time (based on my experience).  I’m sure that this wasn’t the use case that Benadryl intended – but other great things like silly putty and post it notes were discovered by accident too, right?!

I need to get working on this idea…..I have a few spare hours right now, in fact.

The First Cut is the Deepest

Paul here again! I think she looks awesome, don’t you? Andrea has a really cool looking head, which is proudly on display. Plus new new ‘do shows off her cute ears, which used to be hidden from view! I come from a long line of Polish barbers, and am quite proud of our handiwork…

Seriously – I won’t tell you that shaving Andrea’s head wasn’t a traumatic experience. It was – as she detailed in her earlier post. But it wasn’t the end of the world. Just another crappy step in this crappy journey that we’re on. And in a few short months, all of this will be completely behind us. As I said to Andrea yesterday: Hair gone, Cancer gone. The hair will grow back.

I get that it is a big deal though. So much of women’s identity is tied up in the haircut. Shaving your hair off is huge hit to this. People act uncomfortable around you. It announces to the world that you’re “sick”. I think this is all BS. As I said to Andrea – and would say to anyone else that has to go through this – shaving your hair off is bad-ass and announces to the world that you’re fighting cancer off. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Just the opposite, in fact. Wear it proudly. So what if you look “different”? You are different. And stronger, and wiser, and tougher. Take that.

One thing I did (in addition to the half baked motivational speeches) was make Andrea cut her own hair, at least at the beginning. She didn’t want to do it, but I thought it would be great to take control for once. Even for just a minute. The cancer process is very scary, largely because so much of it is out of your hands. Things just happen to you. Picking up a pair of clippers and cutting your hair off before cancer gets to it first is one small but important FU to cancer. You might have a hard time getting started – but once you make the first pass with the clippers, there’s no turning back. And then it’s a little easier. Andrea whimpered a little bit, but as she kept cutting away, she calmed down a lot. I stood behind her the whole time and after the initial trauma passed, she got a look in her eye…it may have just been a look of perfectionist concentration (go figure), but I like to think that it was the steely determination of a woman who knew that she would overcome anything life put in her path.

Pretty bad-ass, when you look at it that way.

Reminded me of the video that Andrea mentioned in her post. It’s of Demi Moore shaving her head from the movie GI Jane – here’s the clip: