Tuesday, June 16, 2009


It is a blessing to have so much GladWare. Even if it's piled up too high, spilling out of the cabinet, and so abundant that you finally just give up and put the whole stack out in the garage to be dealt with later.

It is a testament to all the people who love you and served you by bringing meals to you when you needed it most. It is the remaining symbol of everything that was prepared, warmed, seasoned, blessed, and brought to your home. Thank you to everyone for your care for our family, whether it was tangible or intangible. We felt loved the whole way along. I won't talk about the extra five pounds sitting on my hips from the wonderful desserts that came with those meals. I'll just say thank you.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

All Clear

Big sigh of relief. Jumping up and down. Hugs and kisses all around. Prayers of thanks. All clear.

Dr. Minow called about 15 minutes ago. Reese's PET scan showed a "complete resolution" of the two lymph node tumors. Poof, they're back to normal size, thanks to the chemotherapy. He did see some mild lung fibrosis on the scan, which is the scarring we were worried about from the Bleomycin. However, he said it should resolve and just needed to be watched with no treatment necessary.

The next step will be a blood test on June 22nd (Happy Birthday to me -- what a great gift!) to make sure Reese's tumor markers are still normal, and then an appointment to go over everything a week after that. From there on out, he'll be back on surveillance. God has been so good to us. Of course we would have walked through whatever challenge he laid out for us, but we're just so happy we don't have to do another round of chemotherapy. Reese might even have enough energy to break out the cake and party horns now.

Friday, June 5, 2009

No news

No matter how sternly I glare at the cell phone, cursing at it in my mind, it refuses to ring. "Ring, would you?" I think. Still, no phone call from Reese's oncologist. We know that the PET scan was read by the radiologist, received by the office, and faxed to Dr. Minow at his hotel today. Poor guy, he deals with cancer patients all day, so I know his vacation is well earned. He could be hiking in the Alps or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, I don't even know. I just want to find out if my husband still has cancer or not. I'm no good at waiting.

The bright side is that Reese is definitely perking up, physically and mentally. Chips, salsa, and the first beer you've had in 10 weeks while watching the Lakers with your brother will do that for you. He's only had a little bit of pain the past two days and has slept well, which makes a big impact on his mood. He's getting his sarcasm back, which is always a good sign.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Is that a light at the end of the tunnel, or just an oncoming train?

I know. I'm neglecting the blog. I know I need to write an update, but I really don't want to. It's been so nice to be free of appointments and waiting rooms, letting things like sewing projects, laundry, and vacation bible school decorations take up my thoughts instead.

Reese has been gaining ground little by little -- very little, actually. He's sleeping a lot. He worked for a bit on his laptop today, but quickly ran out of steam and needed a 2 hour nap. He still has quite a bit of muscle and joint pain that just doesn't seem to be going away. Dr. Minow referred to it as "residual chemotherapy pain". I don't know if that's really a thing, or just something they say to make you feel like what you're going through is normal. He didn't seem to be worried about it.

Tomorrow morning, Reese will have his PET scan to see if the tumors in his lymph nodes are gone. His doctor is leaving on vacation, so we may not find out the results until this weekend. He told us that he feels there's a 90% chance that the scan will be clear and Reese will be done with chemotherapy. We're trying to focus on the 90%, but that 10% is hard to not think about. They blocked off an appointment for another round of chemo for him on Monday, just in case. I tried to talk him out of his anxiety by saying, "Of course they just want to write it down because he'll be out of town and that would be a big hassle if they weren't prepared, but remember he said only a 10% chance, and nobody really thinks you'll need it...yadda, yadda, yadda." The truth is, Reese just can't even stand the thought of his name being pencilled into that book. It's hard to be done, but not really done.

Thanks so much for your prayers and good wishes. We'll report back as soon as we hear anything.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Oh happy day!

He's done. Finished. See that little calendar widget over in the right hand column? It's blank! I feel like I should post something eloquent or introspective on a day like this, but frankly I'm too exhausted and shocked to think straight. You'll have to wait for something more poignant later! I just wanted to get this information up as soon as possible because so many of you are waiting for the update.

Reese's pulmonary function test did show a mild to moderate decline on several factors, so Dr. Minow insisted on discontinuing the Bleomycin. Cancer is nothing to mess around with, but so is pulmonary toxicity, and he felt the risks to Reese's long term lung function were too great. As you know, this is not really the news I was hoping to year. I wanted to be able to continue the Bleomycin and for Reese to get every bit of treatment that we'd originally planned. Reese, however, was understandably thrilled! He's been in horrible pain all weekend, so the news of no more yuck being pumped into his body from this point on was just what he was looking for. Nobody wants him to be subjected to any more chemotherapy than he needs, but I want to make sure we've done the prudent thing in combating the cancer cells. Dr. Minow assured us that when he's managed "good risk" patients like Reese who show signs of possible lung toxicity, the experts at Indiana University have advised that skipping the Bleomycin for the last round is acceptable. He also felt that adding another whole round of Cisplatin and Etoposide to substitute for the Bleomycin was far too aggressive. I made him say it several times and in several different ways to me -- he was very patient, checking and rechecking to make sure I was confident in the plan. I didn't let him off the hook easily, and I think he was a little glad to see me walk out of the office today!

The plan, moving forward, is to get in for another PET scan later this week, and then meet with the doctor the following Tuesday to go over the results. We're expecting to see that the cancer is completely gone from the lymph nodes, which would mean that Reese would be back on a less extensive surveillance protocol. If the PET scan shows anything is still going on, we have more options and will come up with the next step.

So, he's done. Well, sort of done. The chemotherapy medications definitely saved their best for last. This past weekend was the worst Reese has had, by far. He is really wiped out, and struggled even to make it across the parking lot from the office to our car today. We're going to hold off on the cake and party horns at this point, and I don't think he's quite up to beginning his training for the Tour de France just yet. I expect he will be firmly planted on the couch for the better part of the next 2 weeks, but we should begin to see steady improvement in his energy level after that.

Anybody want 4.97 pounds of protein powder? He hated that stuff anyway.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


These conversations always happen in the car. When they're not restrained by seatbelts, my children are too busy running, jumping, crashing, pushing, twirling, and generally getting into things. When they're in the car, they talk to Mom.

The other day we had to drop Reese off early for his infusion. The nurses graciously offered to get his IV started before their 8:00 AM staff meeting, so he would be done in time for his 1:00 PM pulmonary function test. Cade and Collin, who are usually at school during this routine, were in the car. Cade was the first to pipe up after Dad walked off into the building.

Cade: Why does Dad have to go there every day? (Said in a bit of a huff because he'd rather be home eating Captain Crunch than riding around in the car at 7:45 AM.)

Mom: Well the chemotherapy medicine works better if they give him a little bit every day, instead of all at once.

Cade: Why can't he take his pills at home?

Mom: They're not pills, they're liquid medicine, remember? Every day they have to poke Daddy with a needle, and that needle is connected to a long tube, and that tube is connected to a bag of liquid that they hang up on a metal pole. All day long, it goes drip, drip, drip, down the tube and into Daddy's vein. That's how he gets his medicine.

Cade: Wow, he has to get poked every day? I wonder why they can't just put him to sleep for the whole time.

After a long-winded and logical explanation of why they can't do that, I realize, "Oh duh, Mom, that's not the point." The point is, I think, that everyone here wishes there was something they could do to make Dad not hurt so badly. Around this time in the treatment cycle, I think Reese wishes he could just sleep for a long, long time too. This weekend, everything hurts and sleep doesn't come easily.

Cade is always telling us about the things he'll invent when he grows up: computers that write out your homework for you, an elevated walkway from our house to the Timblins so you wouldn't have to look before crossing the street, and special suits so you could go down inside a volcano to see the lava firsthand. Maybe some day he will invent a way for people to sleep through their whole chemotherapy treatment. They would wake up in two months or two years and hardly remember what their bodies had been through. That would be a good thing.

(Yes, he's laying ON the dog bed here. He's finally found someone, in Sadie, that he can't outcuddle.)

Friday, May 22, 2009


We are still waiting...waiting...waiting to find out Reese's pulmonary test results. I don't really have any answers on this front, but I wanted to post because I know so many of you are checking the blog and calling for updates.

On Wednesday, Reese had his pulmonary function test to assess whether the Bleomycin is damaging his lungs. We don't know the results of that yet. When we find out the results, we aren't sure if this will keep him from receiving the Bleomycin for the rest of his treatment. If that were to happen, we don't know exactly what impact the omission would have on his prognosis. We are just waiting.

Thank goodness I have 10 minutes in the car with a quiet 3 year-old and loud praise music to get my mind straight every morning after dropping Reese off. Letting him out of the car and watching him walk into the medical building alone is one of the most frustrating things I have to do during infusion week. Not knowing how the treatment will go, what unexpected complications may pop up, and what new test results will come in is scary for me. This morning, as I drove and listened to Ben Walther's version of Mighty to Save, I was reminded of something I'd read on a great blog a few weeks ago. When the blogger's tiny son was in the hospital with severe cardiac complications, a friend encouraged her that no matter what happens, this is not God's Plan B. There is no Plan B with Him. It's all still Plan A.

Even though I fret and get thrown by the twists and turns, He is neither surprised nor shaken by complications. Not only has He seen the road map, He wrote it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

When I get there

We are working with Ellery on giving up her pacifier. I know, I know, it's long overdue. Maybe because she's the baby of the family, or maybe because she's so darn stubborn, I have put this off for far too long. I gave her the big speech the other day on the way to Costco. I don't know what I was thinking. I do not generally recommend this. It went like this:

E: Mama, I want my pat and fluffy. (her paci and lovey blanket)

C: Oh Ellery, you don't need that paci any more. We'll have a nice churro at Costco and you can leave your paci in the car.

E: Mama, I want my pat and fluffy! (more frantic)

C: Ellery, when you fell on your tooth it made it all wiggly and so the paci is not good for your tooth. You can just have your fluffy and leave your paci in the car.

E: No, Mama. I want my pat and fluffy! (wigging out now)

C: (with visions of a Costco meltdown in my mind) Ellery, you are a big girl now, you will be just fine.

E: No, Mama. I am not a big girl, I am just a baby!

Well, to my surprise, the conversation about the paci has been the worst part of it. Can you believe it? She has not used her paci during the day since we had our talk. We still let her use it in bed, but the minute she gets up, she tosses it in the crib and that is that.

It made me think about myself and how I approach things that I don't want to do. Things like cancer. The thinking about it and anticipating it is so much worse than the doing it.

Before Reese got his diagnosis -- when cancer was something that only happened to other people, rather than something that was happening to us -- I couldn't even fathom what was ahead. I remember hearing the garage door open about an hour after his appointment with the urologist. My heart sank. If everything had gone well, he would have called me on his cell phone en route to the office, right? He would say, "Oh, I just need some antibiotics" or "It's just a cyst that will go away." But if there was bad news, he would come back home to break it to me in person, and that's what was happening. He sat on the bed and said that it was a tumor (there must be a mistake!) and that it was almost certainly cancer (there must be some other explanation!).

I remember thinking, "Oh, I hope he doesn't need to have surgery", which turned into, "Oh, I hope it's not really cancerous", which turned into "Oh, I hope he doesn't have to have chemotherapy! I don't think I could handle that." The list goes on and on, and there are still fears about the future.

The one thing that is true and constant is that I have not faced any one of those fears and found Christ lacking. I may be thinking "Oh, I could never do that," and in my own strength that's pretty accurate. I can't do that, but He can. When I obey and trust, he gives me the grace to handle whatever fear I'm facing when I get there. The thinking about it and anticipating it is so much worse than the doing it, because His power is unleashed not in the worrying, but in the doing.

Ellery, Mama has not figured it all out. I want to avoid painful things and go back to what's comfortable. There are times when I want to be a baby and not a big girl. Fortunately, God loves me and He is big enough for me even when I feel small...especially when I feel small.

Isn't it amazing that a three year-old paci toting, tantrum throwing, tutu wearing baby girl can teach her Mama about obedience and grace in such a powerful way? This post has been rattling around in my head for about a week, but I finally put my thoughts together in order to chime in on Tuesdays Unwrapped over at Chatting at the Sky. For more thoughts about finding everyday inspiration, go have a look at Emily's wonderful blog. It's one of my favorites.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Another round

Today marks the start of Reese's third chemotherapy round. The last one. Yay. To be honest, I'm having a hard time mustering up as much excitement as I anticipated I'd have. Although we have had a good week, Reese definitely hasn't bounced back as well as he did the previous time. As we'd been warned (but were somehow hoping we could escape), the drugs are gradually working away at his body's reserves, as well as the cancer. The monotony of feeling "better, yet not that great" is wearing thin. It's only Monday and already he said, "I really do not want to go in today". Giving him a hug and telling him that cancer stinks, it's not fair, and he's very brave are the most I can do about that. Off he went with his iPod and lunchbag for another day in the infusion room.

Would you pray along with us about some specific things? His red blood cell count was quite low last week. If that's still problematic today, they may address it by giving him a medication called Procrit. In layman's terms, Procrit is to red blood cells as Neulasta is to white cells. It stimulates the bone marrow and, as you can guess, can cause more bone pain. If you're reading this morning, please pray that his RBC counts have rebounded and there won't be a need for the Procrit. If he does need it, we're hoping that the pain will be manageable.

Another issue that we've been praying about is our anxiety as the end of treatment nears. Soon, Reese will be having tests to confirm that the chemotherapy has worked. In all likelihood, the drugs have already done their job and the cancer is gone. The therapy he is receiving is the gold standard for good risk testicular cancer metastases. However, there is always a very slim chance that more treatment would be needed. Please pray for peace of mind and endurance as Reese finishes out this last cycle.

We're so thankful that we have a God who can give us peace beyond our circumstances. He sees the path ahead of us, even when we can't.

*Edited to add* RBC's are holding steady and they will keep a watch on them. There was no need for Procrit today. In other unexpected developments (you know how Reese likes to be exceptional), he has some signs that could be suggestive of toxicity from the Bleomycin (a slight cough and skin rash on his hands). Just to be cautious, Dr. Minow has ordered another lung function test to make sure that all is well before administering the Bleomycin part of the chemotherapy. Please pray that the test results show that everything is fine with Reese's lungs and that he can continue on with the planned schedule of chemotherapy. We'll have updates on the results some time after Wednesday. Thanks for the prayers!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A generous gift

Over the past few months, our family has received a number of "get well" gifts. We have been amazed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of so many as we've answered the doorbell to find fruit baskets, flowers, catered dinners, books and DVD's, t-shirts, and other gourmet treats. I wanted to take some space, however, to highlight one specific gift that we recently received. The other day, FedEx delivered a box from The Dignity Foundation.

The Dignity Foundation is a local organization that serves cancer patients nationwide who are struggling with hair loss and the body image issues that it can bring about. A letter we received along with the package outlines the foundation's mission, "The Dignity Foundation specializes in providing affordable, stylish, and comfortable quality headwear, wigs and hair pieces to patients experiencing hair loss," and "we will continue to service the needs of cancer patients in Orange County, and ensure their inner beauty continues to shine."

Our thoughtful loved ones sent us a Men's Sample Kit. It was beautifully packaged.

We were so excited, after reading about the products' high-quality "mono-top and fully hand-tied styles" which feature both "state of the art technology and handcrafted quality."

Wait a minute! What the...?

Are these from Spencer's? Hey, hold on! The letter is signed by "April Furst", like...April Fool's?

Our "sample kit" included the Tacky Toupee, The Dred Wig, and The Super Mullet Wig.

Collin did not want to participate in the modeling. He said, "Are these pictures going on facebook?" He was not having any of it, but did enjoy Cade and Daddy's fashion show.

In truth, there is no Dignity Foundation. This is the handiwork of our good friend, Garet Binckes -- practical joker extraordinaire. Garet, you've certainly outdone yourself this time. If Nortel doesn't work out, I'm sure you can always find a job on Punk'd, Candid Camera, or maybe some branch of the CIA where they spy on people while fronting a fictitious business.

It's true. Laughter is the best medicine.