Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Childlike faith

Ellery has a routine conversation that she begins most every day after we drop Daddy off at Dr. Minow's office. By the time we're pulling out of the parking lot, I usually hear her gravelly morning voice from the seat behind mine:

E: Mommy, where's Daddy going?

C: He's going to the doctor's.

E: Did he get sick?

C: Yes, he got sick. He got cancer.

E: Oh, they will listen to his heart and give him a shot and he will be all better!

C: All better, honey. Daddy will be all better.

Oh to live in a world where three-year old reality was true -- a world where shots always worked and always made you better! She doesn't think in terms of five-year survival rates, side effects, complications, and relapses. She just thinks about Daddy being the coolest, strongest man in her life and how much she loves him.

There is something in our every day conversation that comforts me. I sometimes get caught up in doubt, but am encouraged by Mark 9:24 where the father of a sick boy says to Jesus, "I believe, but help me not to doubt!" Jesus, I believe, but help me not to Google too much or lie in bed at night and think about worst case scenarios. I believe, but I kinda don't believe sometimes (or at least act like I don't believe), and God is okay with that. Childlike faith isn't perfect faith, but a faith where belief always wins out in the end. It's an assurance that God is going to be enough for me and I can trust his word, no matter what happens.

Reese is doing about as expected for day 3 of the second cycle -- pretty yucky. He's back into his all Chicken Noodle Soup all the time phase. I bought some protein powder on to make smoothies for him. I ordered the 5 pound size, thinking that it couldn't be all that big. It is BIG. It is taller and wider than the blender itself. I guess I got a little carried away, but it's a testament to how badly I wish I could make him feel better. My wishes are not wimpy 12 ounce zip-top bag wishes, they are 5 pound plastic canister wishes, baby! Big wishes. Unfortunately, there's only so much that my efforts (including protein powder) can do to take away the pain and sickness, and that's frustrating for me.

That same faith-filled, rambunctious three year-old decided that there wasn't enough trauma (and drama) in our household last night. She tripped and fell on the concrete patio, chipping several of her teeth. The dentist patched her up as well as she could and told us that time will tell if they survive or if the Tooth Fairy pays Ellery a very early visit.

It's been a long 24 hours and I think I'm looking forward to it being tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Done, done, on to the next one

This past weekend marked the end of round one and beginning of round two -- Reese is 1/3 of the way there! He felt really good on Sunday, which made it doubly hard to start all over again, but every day down is one he won't have to face again. Reese's blood counts were stable yesterday, so he got the go-ahead to begin his treatment. Thank you for all your prayers on that front!

As we'd anticipated, the side effects seem to have kicked in sooner with this round. We had a great tri-tip dinner with the Martins last night and it was downhill from there. We're hoping that some fine tuning of Reese's anti-nausea medication can help. I also bought him a bunch of different ginger lozenges and chews toward the middle of last round, which are reported to help with nausea. If they don't work for him, maybe I'll hold a give-away on the blog for about 7 pounds of ginger candy!

I never got back to sleep after helping Reese out in the middle of the night, so I had a few quiet moments to myself in the early morning. I just opened my e-mail to news that our good friend Stephanie is headed down south to be with her father -- diagnosed just last week with Myeloma (a blood cancer) and now hospitalized with pneumonia. More dear friends of ours lost a father last month to Mesothelioma (a cancer of the protective organ lining caused by asbestos exposure). Reese's parents also have a very good friend who is undergoing chemotherapy for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (a cancer of the blood and bone marrow). Please join us in praying for these men and the families that love them. Collin and I were in the car the other day and he said, "Mom, I have a lot of scary things going on in my life right now." I know what he means. Cancer sucks.

My household is starting to wake up for the day, so it's time to go get lost in the busyness of cereal pouring, backpack stuffing, and locating matching socks. Thank you so much for loving and supporting us. We feel it deeply.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


He likes my blog. I have to say I'm surprised, but Reese likes my blog! It's a surprise because Reese usually doesn't get internet stuff. He doesn't really understand the fascination with facebook, twitter, blogs, flickr, forums, picnik, online browsing, and the like. Give him 15 minutes to check his stock quotes and fantasy football stats and he's done. The other day, he was so bored, he asked me, "So, what exactly do you do all the time online?" I gave him about 10 suggestions and he didn't really like any of them, so he shut his laptop off and read a book. But he likes my blog.

He thinks my blog is funny. He thinks my blog is well written. He has even, on occasion, been known to read parts of my blog out loud to nurses and random people.

If Reese ever started a blog, which I know he wouldn't, I would like it too. I would bookmark it, check it every day, add it to my Google Reader, and even leave him comments about how awesome he is. He is the funniest, most true person I know and he has a great vocabulary to boot. Alas, I'll have to blog for both of us.

In other news, the hair all came out today. It was starting to come out in little tufts and covering his pillow every morning, so it was time to deal with it once and for all. He scrubbed most of it out in the shower, then took the Timblins' clippers to it, and finally shaved the rest. He has a really nicely shaped head, I have to say - no big bumps, ridges, or freckles. Bye bye hair, see you in July.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cruel to be kind

We are in the midst of enjoying the calm before the storm. Life seems about 75% normal in this second half of week three: Reese has some energy, a pretty good appetite, and hair that is holding on (though barely). We've been enjoying football games, our home fellowship group, walking the dog, and even a tour to a new private school we're considering for next year. I offer up a silent prayer of thanks every time I hear him growling to Sadie as he plays a game of razzle or laughing deeply at Ellery's antics. Normal sounds. Sounds I'm used to.

In the back of our minds though, the minutes are ticking down to Monday morning when he'll be back in the chemotherapy chair, ready to endure the whole cycle over again. Although I'm thankful for this break, it seems almost cruel to let someone get mostly happy and healthy before slamming them all over again with such an arsenal of chemicals. The house will grow quiet once more and the kids will be shushed, "Settle down guys, Daddy's resting."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Picking up speed

After being the ultimate couch potato for the past few days (with good reason) Reese is off to the office for a few hours again. You can only eat so much chicken noodle soup (thanks Binckes family!) and watch so much Chronicles of Riddick (thanks Weber family!) before you go a little nutty, so the outing should do him some good. Plus, it's Administrative Professionals' day and I think he didn't want to miss the chance to wish Christina, the most awesome assistant ever, a happy day and thank her for putting up with him! He promised he'll be back home by lunch time, but I'm not holding my breath.

He felt pretty run down over the weekend and up until yesterday when he finally got some good solid naps. The boys are back to school now that Spring Break is over, so that certainly helped. He compared the tiredness to how you feel after you've cleaned the garage all day long, except that you haven't done anything but sit around the house. It's just that bone-deep kind of tiredness that calls you right back to the couch after you fetch something from the kitchen, and makes taking a shower seem like a huge task.

His Bleomycin infusion was fairly uneventful on Monday. He had less aches and pains from it this time and no fever. His platelet count, however, was so low that the nurses had to get confirmation from the doctor before giving him his treatment. So, he won't be playing any broom hockey or running with scissors, and we're praying that he won't have trouble with nosebleeds, which he gets frequently (nosepicker! just kidding). Hopefully, that problem will resolve by Monday, when he starts all over again with the etoposide and cisplatin regimen. It's hard to believe that he's practically on to cycle #2.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hat shopping

It's time. The last few early mornings, Reese's cheeks have been baby soft, when they are normally so prickly I wrinkle up my nose when I kiss him. His poor little hair follicles are saying, "We surrender!" He had a hair cut appointment previously scheduled and considered cancelling it altogether, but instead had John cut it super short in preparation. He's hoping this way the drain won't get clogged up in our shower when it starts to come out.

Do you know how hard it is to find a soft knit hat in April in Southern California? Luckily, I am the Queen of Internet Shopping. If you Google "chemotherapy hats", it actually pulls up quite a few options, but some of them are definitely NOT going to work. Here are just a few from a site that specializes in hats for people dealing with hair loss:
too jaunty

too Euro

too Gangsta

too, uh...elvish?

Can you imagine him in some of these? I promise I will NOT turn to Photoshop to give you a visual. Reese is really not a "hat guy", so maybe that's why this is proving particularly difficult. I mean, when he's golfing or we're in the sun all day long at Disneyland, he'll wear a baseball cap (usually with a Grateful Dead logo on it), but those are a bit scratchy. I can't imagine him wearing a cap all that frequently after he loses his hair, but that treatment room in the oncology office can get pretty chilly. It's just one of those things we'll be getting used to. Our new normal. We'll let you know what he ends up picking.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pressed on every side

We've been learning about science in our house. Not just the kind of science you might be thinking of: platinum based chemotherapy, white blood cells, PET scans, vasovagal episodes, and all that. We've been learning about egg science, rather "how to keep an egg from cracking under pressure" science. Last week, the boys' school hosted an Egg Drop event for all of the 2nd grade classes.
Each student was asked to create a special vehicle/cushion which when dropped from the roof of the school (by the principal) would protect a raw egg and keep it from splattering all over the tetherball courts. The boys came up with all sorts of ideas in their brainstorming: hair gel, confetti, sewing the egg inside a football, paper towel rolls, rubber bands...which would work best to keep that egg safe?
They came up with some pretty great ideas and were very proud of the end result. Cade named his "Cade's Cactus Cooler Cushion" and Collin's was "Collin's Clorox Collision Craft", in honor of the outer plastic containers they each chose.

It didn't matter what kind of creative vehicle was chosen, every single egg that day got thrown off the roof. There was no avoiding that. Life is like that, and there's no escaping hardship somewhere down the road: cancer, a rebellious teenager, a marriage that's been given up on, a layoff notice, the loss of someone much loved. Why me? Why NOT me? It's bound to happen sometime. The difference that day, for those eggs, was not in somehow preventing being thrown over the edge, but how they were cushioned. Helping Dad through cancer is teaching us all about cushioning our own hearts too.

II Corinthians 4:7-9 says: "But this precious treasure-this light and power that now shine within us-is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don't give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going." These past six months, I've certainly had times when I felt pressed on every side by cancer...hunted down, even. It's a tough one to shake, and there is truly nothing about me that is capable of withstanding such a blow. In my own power, I'm about as good a cushion as a thin layer of Kleenex. Any resiliency I have is because no matter what, my very fragile heart is being protected in the most amazing way by God's constant presence. He is more than enough cushion, and he is proving that day after day to Reese and me.

Reese is continuing to have a pretty good week, all things considered. He even felt well enough to go into the office for a few hours today (partly because he needed to pick up a new laptop power cord since the dog chewed through it, and partly because he just can't stay away from those guys!). They were about ready to bar the door, or at least make him wear a germ-free breathing mask, but they know as well as I do how stubborn he can be once he's decided to do something. He appreciated everyone's good wishes for continued recovery and made a fairly speedy exit after taking care of a few things. We also enjoyed a great head-to-head flag football game tonight between Cade's Cal Bears and Collin's Indiana Hoosiers. It was one for the history books, for sure! When I go downstairs, I'm sure that I'll find he's fallen asleep on the couch after such a long day. We're looking forward to a restful weekend.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

R & R

We are enjoying doing absolutely nothing around here. Absolutely nothing. We are shuffling around in our PJ's, eating off paper plates, and watching Everybody Loves Raymond reruns. It's kind of like vacation (except that it's about cancer), and this morning I had that weird thing where it feels like Saturday, but it's actually a regular old weekday. We are recuperating and trying our best, with relaxation and lots of fluids, to wash the yuck of the last week out of our systems. It's working well for me, and I think it's even working for Reese. Thank you so much to Dave & Steph and Nana for watching the kids, Reese's team for holding down the fort at CKE, and everyone else who is pitching in to help us flake out on all of our other responsbilities.

Reese had a little discomfort last night from the bleo treatment. He had the expected fever and aches, but by the time he got up this morning, he was feeling much better. I am pleasantly surprised at how well he's doing today. He's not excited about food, but he's eating it. He can go a couple of hours without a cat nap. He hasn't watched too much bad TV (although he did watch the same episode of The Colbert Report twice today).

A family friend e-mailed me a link to her blog where she's posted a precious snippet of dialogue between her daughter and herself and thoughts about cancer. Lisa, her husband, and two daughters are good friends and next door neighbors to my mom. Cade and Collin enjoy playing with the girls whenever they visit Nana's house, and always return home with tales of their adventures together. You can check out Lisa's post at Books on the Brain. Since Reese's diagnosis, we've also had some very enlightening and funny conversations with our kids about body parts. I think you'll like this one. While you're over there, click around and soak up her wonderful blog -- it's a treasure trove of resources, discussions, and reviews for any lover of books. Enjoy!

Monday, April 13, 2009

What a difference a day makes

Reese is feeling so much better today, what a huge improvement! Yesterday was really rough and I got to thinking that if this was just the start of the peak, the rest of it was going to be unbearable. Fortunately, the nausea and exhaustion seem to have tapered off quite a bit. In fact, I think I can hear him downstairs, unloading the dishwasher. I should probably go stop him and make him get back on the couch...or maybe not. Thank you for all the prayers and kind notes. He's still popping his pills every eight hours, on the dot, but they are actually helping now.

His brother Dave is taking him to see the oncologist and have his Bleomycin infusion today. This medicine has some nasty side effects (usually fever and chills), but they should be short-lived. Thank goodness it does not usually cause too much nausea. Some people have asked for a way to track Reese's treatment schedule (it's pretty confusing), so I've added a little calendar widget on the right hand column, so you can see what's coming up. Not everything is scheduled with the office yet, so the times for future appointments may not be accurate, but the days are set.

The boys are on spring break, so we are off to do some fun things this morning and then prepare for about 3 days of playdate/sleepover mania (at other people's homes). They are pumped!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My Redeemer

But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last. -- Job 10:25

Today, I am thinking about how glad I am to have a Redeemer. Not only has Christ conquered death and redeemed my soul, but because of that, he can redeem any situation I face. There is no pain, no anxiety, no weakness, no bitterness, and no fear that he can not ultimately recover and use for his glory. He takes horrible things and turns them into something beautiful... valuable... honorable. On a day when my favorite person in the whole world is too tired to help the kids hunt for eggs and too sick to enjoy Easter dinner, I am finding strength in my Redeemer. Happy Easter, everyone.

**Adding** Many of you have mentioned having trouble leaving comments on the blog. I've fiddled around with the settings, and I think you should be able to now. Right below here, where it says "posted by Cara 2:10 pm", click next to that on COMMENTS, then choose "Name/URL" as your option for "Comment as". Enter your name (skip the URL), hit submit, then enter your comment. Give it a try and let me know. Thanks!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


If any of you pregnant ladies want to commiserate over symptoms with Reese, he's game. The therapy has turned him into a nauseated, swollen insomniac who is sensitive to smells and a little bit crabby. He must have octuplets in there, because it's worse than any pregnancy I've ever seen. Luckily, we're looking at 9 weeks of it, not 9 months.

The good news is that the nurses have given him the okay to celebrate Easter at church tomorrow with friends and family, as long as he's feeling up to it (and that part is still TBD). So, if you see him, refrain from big slobbery kisses and handshakes, but know he's very glad to see you!

Reese is updating our Netflix queue so he'll have lots of DVD's for the week ahead. Anyone have good suggestions? (not you, Garet...I kid, I kid!) We're off to the doctor's office in a bit to get his Neulasta shot which will help keep his white blood cells up . Please pray that he doesn't have too much bone pain, which is often associated with this drug. It works by revving up the bone marrow to make more WBC's and can be somewhat painful. Thank you!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Quote of the day

A brief picture of how we're feeling today...

Reese: I don't want to go. I'm tired. I think I'm cured already, probably. I don't think I need any more chemo. Can't I just stay home today? (said while sitting on the couch with his best two-year old whining impression).

Me: Come on! Last full day, it's Friday! You can do it! (said with her best peppy cheerleader impression).

Reese: *grumble, grumble* Okay, okay.

Yep, that's about it in a nutshell.

The truth is that there is nowhere I'd rather be than sitting on the couch with him with hot ginger tea and pretzels, watching James Bond movies or DVR'd Amazing Race and not thinking at all about cancer. But that is not going to happen. So off we go, into the car and down the street to the red brick building where they are both making him miserable and saving his life at the same time.

Please pray for Reese as he goes into the weekend. His body will be very susceptible to infection around this time, and it's hard to balance taking care of himself with wanting to celebrate Easter with our friends and family. Cade and Ellery have both come down with Fifth Disease, which is not even really that bothersome to most kids and adults, but not a good thing for an immuno-suppressed person to have. They aren't contagious now, but obviously have been in the past week or so. There's only a remote chance that he would be affected by it anyway, but it's a vivid reminder that our Daddy, who can usually survive the whole day on 5 cups of coffee, 2 echinacea tablets, and a 6 Dollar Pastrami Burger, is more fragile right now than we're used to.

Thank you SO much for all of your wonderful e-mails, blog comments, facebook posts, cards, prayers, and phone messages. We definitely feel all of your loving arms around us, even if we're too busy or tired to get back to you. You are all an incredible blessing to us, and your support is felt deeply.

Sorry I don't have time to type out more details, but know that Reese is doing fine, considering where he is in the process, and is well taken care of. He's very tired and in a bit of a fog, but using his medication to combat much of the other side effects. Spring classroom parties for the boys, sewing an Easter dress for Ellery (I know, nothing like the last minute), and a rambunctious puppy keep me from blogging more! Love to you all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

There really are chemo drugs in there

Yesterday was a great day for Reese. He took the dog for a walk in the evening, ate a great dinner, and even assembled Ellery's birthday present (a wooden doll highchair). He went to bed pretty early, but I chalked that up to wanting to avoid watching Dancing with the Stars with me. Today it's apparent that yes, they really are putting chemotherapy drugs in those little I.V. bags. He's pretty tired out and feeling a bit nauseous. Nothing a ($80 per pill!) Zofran and a nap can't cure, but definitely noticeable.

He also had an episode today where his blood pressure plummeted when they put in his I.V. (likely related to why, as my labor coach, he almost fainted watching my epidural). We're going to hope that doesn't happen again, but the nurses took it in stride and simply accused him of trying to liven up the day just because he was getting bored with Sudoku.

On a side note, happy birthday to our sweet girl, Ellery, who turns three years old today. Thanks baby for being such a source of joy and a great distraction from all things cancer. You are Daddy's couch cuddler, edamame nibbler, Madeline's Rescue listener, home from work hugger, and all-around sidekick and we love you very much.

Monday, April 6, 2009

1 down, 62 more to go

The first day of chemo was completely uneventful, which is exactly what we wanted. Other than Collin staying home from school with a sore throat and cough (which magically improved under Nana's care and White Chocolate Mocha therapy), all went as planned, and we were out the door and checked in by 8:30. Reese picked the most comfy looking recliner from the hodge podge of eight that were assembled in the back room of the oncology office, and settled in for his 5 hour day. There wasn't much that I could do to help, and the recliners started to quickly fill up with other patients, so I left after seeing how well taken care of he was. I guess five full-time oncology R.N.'s can handle him if they all pull together! After a saline drip, anti-nausea meds, steroids, bleomycin, cisplatin, etoposide, and more fluids, he was cleared to go home for the day. Mental note: bring the cord for the DVD player, because the 2 hour internal battery is NOT going to cut it.

Although he offered to give the dog a bath when we returned home (who had decided to dig a muddy hole in the back yard this morning), we shooed him upstairs where he's been dutifully resting on the bed, working on his laptop. A quick trip to pick up his repaired car from the dealership and a wonderful dinner, provided by good friends, broke up the monotony.

Reese is scheduled for three cycles of chemotherapy, each three weeks long. Dr. Minow (our oncologist) told Reese that the effects of the chemotherapy will be much like a dimmer switch on a light. In the beginning, he won't feel much, but as this first week draws to an end and the chemotherapy begins to accumulate in his body, he definitely will. Extreme tiredness, nausea, and an increased susceptibility to infection are the main concerns during week two. Then, he'll start to perk up around the third week-- and maybe even feel almost normal -- which means it's time to start the process all over again with the next cycle.

I have a mental calendar in my mind of the next 9 weeks -- one day is checked off and we're on to day number two.

Friday, April 3, 2009

What does "Better Hands Now" mean, anyway?

Last fall, I heard Natalie Grant perform at the Women of Faith Conference in Anaheim. She has a beautiful voice, really strong and powerful, but with an incredible sweetness. One of the songs that really stood out was "In Better Hands". It's a song about coming to the end of yourself and handing over to God the things that you'd really rather try to hold tightly in your own control. When you do, you see that those things are in much "better hands" than they ever were before. I wouldn't fully appreciate the truth of that song until Reese was diagnosed with testicular cancer about a month later. My favorite lyrics from the song are:

I am strong all because of you
I stand in awe of every mountain that you move
Oh I am changed, yesterday is gone
I am safe from this moment on
There's no fear when the night comes 'round
I'm in better hands now