Fab Friday Five

I've been particular busy this last week and didn't manage to spend much time on Pinterest (what?!) But I do have five...so at least there's that!

Pug paws... so cute
Oh thank God it's Friday....I'm pooped!  Unfortunately, my evening at home will be MUCH busier than my day at work as it's Aria's first trick-or-treat experience, plus we're doing our usual family festivities at our house....and I have a 30-45 minute commute home.  Blech.

how to write on a chalkboard without making a fool of yourself!
I recently got some chalkboard contact paper (that I'm SUPER excited about) to put up on my pantry door...and wherever else I feel like putting it...and knew that I was going to occasionally want to do something artsy-fartsy on it.  I see all these chalkboard signs on Pinterest and all I can think to myself is "HOW do they do that without smudging anything?!"  Well, this tutorial (check it out >> here) explained to me, in pictures, how to do it.  I can't wait to get going on this project!
(Not like I need any more projects...)

Legit! (shop for this sign >> here) There's nothing better than a bath, a book, and some wine!

A friend.
OK folks...this is for real.  To be a real friend, you've got to do this.  Let's say you've got this friend who's a complete mess (lets be honest, we all have at least one).  But guess what?  That complete mess is what makes your friend so great!  And behind that craziness is most likely a person with one of the most beautiful souls you know.  There are times when you've just got to suck it up, look past all that extra stuff she's got going on and just love her for everything she is! 
(and she might not always know it, so tell her...tell her often!)

" Respect people who find time for you in their busy schedule, but love people who never look at their schedule when you need them."
This speaks to me.  I was raised by such wonderful people.  My parents taught me (and showed me, time and time again) that if there is somebody in need, you help....no questions asked.  You help every time.  Even if there's nothing you can actually do, you still offer.  If asked, you say "yes, absolutely, what can I do?"  It doesn't matter what else you've got going on...it's your duty, as a good person, to help those in need.  You have to be there for people, whenever they need you, as often as they need you.  And you absolutely cannot go into it with the mindset of getting something in return.  That's just selfish and horrible.  You can't say to yourself "Well I'll help so-and-so this time so the next time I need help with something, so-and-so will have to help me."  No.  That's not appropriate.  Expect NOTHING in return aside from knowing that you'll feel good about yourself because you did your part to help out a friend, family member, coworker, or stranger.  
My parent's STILL teach me this lesson.  

We have a family friend who's all by herself and sometimes needs help with some yard work....whens she asks if my dad or brother can help, they always say yes and are there by that weekend.  
While growing up my brother had a friend who desperately needed a home....my parents took him in, no questions asked....they never asked "How long is he staying? When is he going to leave?"....they just let him stay as long as he needed. (if they did ask, I didn't know about it)
My dad always graciously accepts the request from Shepeard Blood Center to be the mascot (Buddy the Blood Drop).  Even though he's old and it gets TOO hot in that suit, he walks around outside in the middle of July for hours.  He doesn't get paid for this; he doesn't need to.
See...my parents are awesome!

So hopefully by now, I've made my mom cry (YES! NAILED IT!)

Have a Happy Halloween, y'all.  Stay safe (and my Wisconsin friends, stay warm).  Enjoy this time with your loved ones, whoever they may be and whatever it may be that you're doing.  
The holidays are upon us...it's to time to start living, giving, and loving!

**Update on Dave:  He wanted to have "Family Shave Time pt. 2" yesterday.  He noticed every time he ran his hands across his head, he had little hairs all over them.  He noticed hairs stuck in his hat, making his head itch.  So we went ahead and shaved his head and face again yesterday. I think this was the last time we'll have to do that.  When I was helping shave his head, I noticed that it seemed as if there was a LOT of hair up there...and I thought to myself "his hair isn't this long right now, I don't get it."  That's when we realized that the razor wasn't cutting through the hair.  The slight force of dragging the razor across his head was actually PULLING the entire hair out of the follicle, like tweezers or waxing, but without the pain.  I'm not sure how he felt about it, but it put me in a somber sort of mood for a little.  We're hoping that by next Monday his white count is up high enough to continue with the treatment plan.  I think we're both just ready to move forward.


Pushin' It Back

Dave was scheduled to begin Cycle 2 today.  His body apparently had different plans.

On the first day of every cycle, labs are drawn to make sure that all of his counts are where they should be.  Once the labs come back, then the chemo can be hung.  Today, his counts were unacceptable and thus his whole treatment cycle shifts back one week.

His white blood cells (WBCs) were too low.  They were at 3.3K/mm3 (cubic millimeter).  According to the reference on the page, they need to be at least 4.8.

His absolute neutrophil count (ANC) was also too low.  It was 990 and it needs to be at least 1000.  (Fun fact:  A 'neutrophil' is a particular type of WBC that leads the fight against infection.) With a low neutrophil count, you are extremely susceptible to infection.  We have to treat his health like a newborn:  go to the ER if he has a fever of 100.5 or higher.

So chemo this week has been cancelled.  His doctors are giving his body another week to increase it's WBC production.  If all goes according to plan, he will have chemo next week instead.  Then, at the end of next week, he'll get a shot called Neulasta.

Neulasta will boost his WBC production.  It will, most likely, cause an aching pain in his bones.  The packet of information does not indicate how long that pain will last, so that's super fun! This is the same type of shot you're given if you're a bone marrow donor and you're selected to donate Peripheral Stem Cells via blood donation.  (Check out the National Marrow Donor Program for more information on registering to be a bone marrow donor >> here)

So in the meantime, I get an unexpected night off from cooking (and some unexpected grilled chicken) and Dave will earn an unexpected paycheck.  It also means that Dave will have enough energy to go trick-or-treating with Aria for her first time.  So you see, there's always a silver lining!

On the flip side, assuming things stick to the new schedule and don't get changed again, Thanksgiving is a chemo day   :(    Bummer.

For one of my oldest friends who is now fighting cancer for the SECOND time...I just hope if this ever happens to me I have her positive attitude and sense of humor! This sounds like something she would say.


Fab Friday Five

Sure, that'll work for now!

Five things that spoke to me this week........

Rice Krispies Chocolate Scotcheroos – It’s fun to say. They’re fun to make. And, thanks to the chocolate, butterscotch and peanut butter, they’re even more fun to eat.
Scotcheroos!  (recipe >> here)  I've really been thinking about these a lot lately.  I'm hoping that one of our coworkers has to deliver over by whatever bakery he gets theses from REAL SOON!

farts :)
The fart chart :)

This sweet little baby elephant!

that's about right

This is BEAUTIFUL. I love the colors, and I love the message. What is something you would do if you had enough nerve?
I love a good hand-lettered quote paired with beautiful, colorful art.  I think it's just perfect.  And this quote y'all, seriously....nothing is impossible.  Always tell yourself this.  And tell your kids this; kids should not go through life thinking that some things will never happen.  If they have enough courage and drive to get it, they'll achieve anything and everything!
(order this print >> here)

Happy Friday, everyone!

**Next week starts another treatment week.  We're gearing up for it, having baked ziti for dinner the next few nights (because my pan will feed a family of 3 for 3 days; message me if you want the recipe...FYI: there's nothing healthy about it other than it's homemade).  We're hoping that having a big, hearty meal for a few days will help his body feel strengthened and ready (or as ready as one can be for receiving 4 straight days of extra-toxic poison).  In terms of his hair, he is starting to lose some of his body hair.  His head hair and facial hair has started to grow back in from the shave, but it's growing VERY slow.  It's too early to tell if it's growing back in patchy or not.  He's thinking that maybe the chemo next week will "finish the job" on his hair.**



(Let me preface this post by saying THIS IS NOT ME BEING UNGRATEFUL!!!!!!)

Lots of people offer to help all the time.  The two biggest things offered are "Can I bring you a meal?" and "Give me a call if you want me to take Aria for a few hours."  That's great and very much appreciated (I really do have some of the BEST coworkers and friends!).  But why doesn't anybody ever offer to help with the things I REALLY need help with?  I can handle cooking...what about the rest of the stuff...like chores?!

"Would you like me to come over and do your dishes for you?"

"I'm heading to the grocery store and then coming to your house, do you need any supplies?"
(such as trash bags!)

"Can I come over and do your litter box tonight for you?"

"I'm going to stop by and do a load of your laundry.  Would you like for me to put it away, as well?"

"Tonight is trash night for me, when is your trash night?  I'll stop by and take your trash out."

"I noticed you haven't bathed your kid in over a week...Can I come help you with that?"
(Gosh I'm such a bad mom)

"Would it be OK if I came over later today and helped you look for all the missing spoons?"
(yes, I am missing most of my spoons.  I suspect most are under the couch)

"I'm making some sort of dessert, I'll bring you some!"
(although, Beth did bring some cake that I accidentally left at her house, so that's AWESOME!)

"Can I come over and BE you for a solid 2 hours so you can relax outside (or wherever) with some wine/coffee and a book and pretend like nothing else in the world exists except the characters?"
(there seriously was one night last week when I took the trash out and then stood outside in my driveway watching the rain for a good 10 minutes...simply because I needed the fresh air and quiet.)

These are all the things I really want help with....I never hear any of those questions!

(In all fairness, I know nobody EVER offers any of these things to anybody...that's just crazy.  Who the hell wants to go to somebody else's house and do chores?! That's ridiculous!)

**I hate chores. Chores chores chores.** 
(when you read that, you have to read it in your best Ron Burgundy voice.  What, you don't know who Ron Burgundy is?  OK...watch the video below with sound and you'll get it.  And then, in your spare time, watch the whole Anchorman movie -- but not the second one, it's stupid.  If you hate it, then I apologize, but at least it will be one more obscure movie reference you'll understand....and all other subsequent references from this movie that you'll notice after you watch it.  Just give it a shot!) 

--- Sorry for that extra rant....wow, that escalated quickly!  
See what I did there?!...If you've watched the movie, you'll get it!

And no, I won't let you (not a specific "you"....this is for anybody who offers to take her that isn't family) take Aria....she's a handful and, if you're not used to her, she'll end up tying you up and locking you in the closet.  You'll be dropping her back off within the hour!
You can't handle her, I promise!

Seriously though, to everybody reading this, please don't start asking me what kinds of chores you can help me with.  I really don't need help, it's just things I think about while doing the chore itself (because, like every other working mother in the world, I'm too busy and too tired for all these damn chores).  I'm not complaining and appreciate ALLLLLL of the 
offers for help and am gracious to accept whatever is offered! 

Thank you to all who have offered to help in any way, and to all who have already helped.  Your kindness and generosity has really helped in the last few weeks 
and Dave and I thank you so very much!


Family Shaving Time

As mentioned in my previous post, Dave noticed in the shower that his hair was beginning to fall out on Monday morning.  He decided that when he got off work, he would head to Great Clips to get it all shaved off and then he'd come home and shave his beard off.

There is a wonderful program at Great Clips called Clips of Kindness .  This program, which went into effect at ALL Great Clips locations just this past July, offers free haircuts for those who are facing hair loss due to cancer treatment.  According to the website, "It's a small gesture in the big fight against cancer. But, it's Great Clips’ way of trying to make things just a little better."

So he left home yesterday morning with all his hair in tact (well, aside from the bits of hair he had already lost in the shower) and a full beard on his face.  Upon arriving home from work, he had a bald head and a bald face.  Aria looked at him and said "Daddy, you look funny"... Leave it to a 3 year old to point out the obvious!

After dinner, we took part in "family shaving time".  Aria and I crowded around Dave as he shaved his head and face until it was smooth.  I even got to help (OH JOY!)

When it was time for Aria to go potty before bedtime, she came running in her bathroom with her shirt up saying "mommy, shave my belly!" Not like she's furry or anything...that would be weird...but apparently she felt like she wanted something shaved like Daddy.  She's so weird.

So here he is, in all of his "Uncle Fester" glory.  On Facebook, he captioned this picture as "CANCER CAN SUCK IT!"  All I could say about the picture was that he should have smiled in the bearded picture (because he likes having the beard and it makes him happy) and looked like he was in super-d**k mode in the other picture (because nobody likes losing their hair to chemo, or so I've been told).  He claimed he had a straight face in the beard picture because "it makes me look BAD-ASS!".  I disagree.

My cousin so lovingly commented on this picture with "at least you still have your chest hair."  Oh yes...lets all be thankful that he still has ALL of that going on....mm hmm....(seriously though, when will THAT fall out...because I'm really looking forward to that one!)

And here's this...because I found it fitting, with the "shaving" theme of today's post :)
Even though he doesn't use Gillette...he uses Dollar Shave Club.  
Guys, go check it out! 
Ladies, go check it out for your men! (Well 'man'...unless you're into the idea of "men"....that's your mess, not mine!)


Gurgle Gurgle Gurgle

This weekend I had my first soup making experience. Last Saturday when Dave was feeling pretty low, he said that all he wanted to eat was his mom's matzo ball soup.  So I, being the super awesome wife that I am, texted his mom to get the recipe. Upon receiving the recipe back that started with the word "easy"... I realized I had NO idea what I had asked for!

Let me preface this by saying that I'm a baker, not a cook.  I can bake all kinds of super tasty things that involve sugar and flour. But regular, standard cooking...it's not my forte. So when the first ingredient for this soup was a whole chicken....a whole, raw chicken....I freaked. I've never made anything involving a whole bird before....I don't even like eating chicken on the bone. Just the thought of  a fork scraping the bone makes my skin crawl, so the idea of raw chicken bones...all in my food...blech! 

I'm going to be perfectly honest, I asked my mom to come help because I knew I was going to struggle.  I'm glad she was here!

I was fine at first.  I had all my ingredients out on the counter and I started the prep of peeling and chopping vegetables...lots of vegetables. Easy peasy.  But then it came time for the chicken (and I blame my struggle on the lady at the meat counter at Kroger who refused to cut up my chicken for me).  If mom hadn't been here, this is where I would have likely given up! I got the chicken out of the packaging, tried to take the goodie bag out of the middle....then it made this horrible gurgling sound and I was done! By the time I looked back over at that ugly thing, my mom had one hand in one side of the chicken and one hand in the other...I thought I was going to vomit!

Once everything was in the pot and simmering away, I thought to myself "OK, it'll be easy from here!"  I was wrong.  I mean, as usual! (Yes, I'll freely admit that I'm a lady and I tend to be wrong....unless where Dave is concerned...then I'm ALWAYS right!)  It came time to fish out the herbs, some of the veggies, and all of the turnip to put into the food processor to puree into oblivion.  I thought I had been smart when I cut up the veggies and left the turnip pieces pretty large so they'd be easy to find.  Well guess what?  Once they've been in a soup cooking for 2 hours, they're all underneath the damn chicken and there's no way to get them all out! So my puree consisted of the herbs and some veggies, some turnip pieces included.  Oh well, it is what it is.  So as I'm getting ready to put the puree back into the soup, my mom says "well aren't you going to strain the soup and get the loose bits of skin out?"  Say whaaa? Uh, no...I had not planned on that...the recipe didn't mention straining the soup out, so the answer is no.  Fun fact:  when making chicken soup, no matter what the recipe says, you have to strain the damn soup.  As soon as mom showed me a piece of the skin floating in the broth, figuring out a way to strain the soup became her job!  (I don't have a stock pot with a strainer, and the only other two pots I had that would have been good for straining broth back into were about to be used for noodles and matzo balls...what a conundrum)

The matzo balls....those aren't for me.  I made them from a mix, followed the instructions on the package (except I used EVOO instead of vegetable oil because vegetable oil is disgusting and I don't even keep it in my house).  Dave had given me a tidbit about separating the egg whites from the yokes and whipping them and some nonsense, but I wanted to do it exactly as the package directed.  Let me tell you, I didn't like 'em.  They tasted like how they smelled (which is odd...like old cornmeal or something).  There's no spices or anything in them...just a bland ball of mushy "bread".  Maybe it's something you've got to be raised on or something, I don't know...but next time I make this stuff, I'll leave the matzo ball out of my bowl.

I will say...the soup was really good.  Considering that I DO NOT like chicken noodle soup, it was pretty good.  But, to be fair, I had only about an inch worth of broth in my bowl with all my chicken and veggies...it was more like a sauce for me than a broth.  Something about that greasy sheen on top of that odd yellow color really just turns me off.  It's nothing personal, I just don't care for chicken soup.  I don't even remember liking chicken noodle soup when I was a kid.  To be honest, I don't really like soup at all.

An interesting experience.  One I'll repeat, but with a few modifications and better preparations.

Sunday was pumpkin carving day and the Packer game (GO PACK GO!)

And this morning, while in the shower, Dave noticed that his hair had started to fall out. 


....... Friday ...... ?

Maybe I'll come up with some sort of fun, witty title by next Friday...we'll see!

Anyway.....here are some of my favorite Pinterest finds from this week:

No-Bake White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecakes - A Family Feast
This white chocolate peppermint no-bake cheesecake dessert....mmmm!

baby <3
This sweet little baby sheep! Aww! 
(technically it's a lamb...I know...but it sounds cuter to say "baby sheep"!)

A nice gesture, but rarely well-received.
There's this card game that I REALLY want....it's called "Cards Against Humanity" and it looks super inappropriate and hilarious.  I just know my whole family would ROCK this game!

Inappropriate and Hilarious Elf on a Shelf ideas for ADULTS (we don't all have kids, ya know!) MM's rendition of this, use playdoh for the ones in the toilet, color them with sharpies and let dry (same color as the pills) write the memo on the toilet lid seat with a dry erase marker.
This super-inappropriate "elf on the shelf" idea.  (It is funny, though!)

Get a print, help fund an anti-bullying program!
Last but not least, this quote.  Write this one down.  Remember it.  It's a good one.  
Teach your kids this....it's important!

Have a pleasant Friday!
(now off to lunch to eat some hot dogs...YUM!)

Good Days Ahead!

Cycle 1, Week 2 - 1st full week of rest

This has been a GREAT week!  Dave woke up on Monday feeling great.  He came out to Mexican Monday and had dinner and good convo with the fam (well, I thought it was good anyway).  He ate quite a bit (yay for the return of his appetite) and felt great all the way up to bedtime!  Today he did, however, develop some mouth sensitivity and the beginnings of mouth sores.

Tuesday was a lazy day at home, but that's alright.  He had planned on going back to work on Wednesday, so he was getting some extra rest to prepare.  I had stopped at the store and bought him some soft-bristled toothbrushes and Biotene (a recommended mouthwash).  He used it that night and said it was great!  He has since told me that in using it in the morning, it cuts the soreness for most of the day, so that's good. (FYI:  oral hygiene is EXTREMELY important when going through chemo)

Wednesday was his first day back at work and he did awesome!  He ate dinner with my parents (because Aria and I were at our Wednesday play date) and he ate a TON of food.

Thursday he didn't work (they didn't have any loads available for him).  He was finally feeling well enough to help me with some chores :)

Friday (TODAY! I did it...I caught up!) he has a lab appointment to check how the chemo is affecting his system....make sure his cell counts are all where they should be, make sure his kidneys are still functioning properly, all that jazz.  Then he's going to work right after and he offered to grill me something for dinner...yummo!

Tomorrow I'll be attempting to make his mom's matzo ball soup (which...from a non-jewish standpoint...is basically just chicken noodle soup with a dumpling).  I've never made soup before and I'm feeling a bit intimidated by the idea of the whole chicken, cut into 8ths, and placed into the pot...bones and all.  I'm just picturing bones everywhere.  I'm picturing the meat coming off the bones and then the bones are floating around among the veggies. Yikes!  It's an all-day affair if you include the time it takes to peel and chop all the veggies.  Not gonna lie....I'm not looking forward to making this!! But Dave asked for it last Saturday when he was still feeling sort of "blech" and it will be something good for him to have on treatment days when he's not really hungry.  I don't even like chicken noodle soup...so I'm not as excited as he is.  Mom is coming over to help me and/or to entertain Aria....THANK YOU!

Today I have to go to a memorial service.  My first one for somebody my own age.  I'm less than excited.  I don't do well at funerals...and I've only ever been to funerals for old people, never somebody youthful and vibrant, and never for somebody who was a direct friend of mine.  I'm quite saddened by this whole situation but I'm hopeful that this young lady has found some peace.  You were beautiful and brought so much joy wherever you were, you will be missed!

I'm going to post again later today with some fun stuff (some links and picture and things of that nature).  I'll try to do it every Friday.  Fridays are great days because it's the end of the week, but for weeks like treatment weeks, it can be the best blessing in the world!

I just heard from Dave...his labs came back and are looking good!  His kidneys and liver are functioning properly, his cell counts all look good.  His white blood cells have decreased by half since starting treatment, but at 7-10 days after treatment, that is to be expected.  He's still a "go" for his next treatment week being the week of Halloween.


The First Weekend

Friday October 10, 2014 - First day of rest
The last day Dave had worked was September 4th.  He'd been out for 4 weeks from the surgery and now had started chemo.  He was DYING to go back to work the first day after chemo.  So he woke up today, feeling "not good, but OK enough to try to go to work".

I thought that was a terrible idea.  Not that I don't have any faith in my husband, I just thought it was a horrible plan.

He didn't even make it at work more than an hour.

I went to pick him up. My dad came along to pick up Dave's truck. On the way home he admitted that it was a bad idea to have tried to go to work, he "just wanted to do something to make him feel normal".  I get that...but the first day after chemo is not the right time!

After that, he told his boss he'd give him a call on Wednesday.

He was pretty tired that evening.  I recall he had eaten a little for dinner, but I'm not sure what.

Aria spent the night at my parent's house (THANK GOD!) and my mom and I decided that on treatment weeks, Aria would start staying at my parent's Wednesday evening and she'd stay until Saturday.  It would just be easier for all involved.

Saturday October 11
Lazy day on the couch at home.
Nothing big to report on.  Dave felt OK.  Not great, but OK.

Sunday October 12
Today we drove to Atlanta to surprise Aria with "Disney's Frozen on Ice".  Dave wasn't sure if he'd be able to make the drive, so I drove instead.  It was a pretty uneventful trip, aside from the fact that Aria didn't nap...at all.  What sort of kid doesn't nap on a 2 hour car ride?!

Aria had a BLAST! Dave did very well, also.  We had been prepared for him to feel tired during the show because it was the most he had done in a week, but he did great.  I think Aria's joy was enough to keep him up and smiling.  He even volunteered to go buy her things when she asked.

After it was over, we had dinner in ATL.  Dave's appetite was finally back! He ate his whole burger and most of his fries.

He even offered to drive home.  In hindsight, I'm glad that I accepted his offer because I definitely fell asleep a few times on the way home!

Today was a GREAT day!

We know one of two things will happen tomorrow:
1.  Dave will wake up feeling refreshed and great because of all the exercise, fresh air, and food he got today.
2.  He'll sleep late and his body will hate him for all the activity today and he'll feel like ass.

Here's hoping for scenario numero uno!

As of today, the metallic taste continues, the neuropathy continues, and the tiredness continues...though not at all extreme like during the week.

(Yay, I'm almost caught up in time so I can start writing concurrently!)

The End of the Beginning

Thursday October 9, 2014 - Cycle 1, Week 1, Day 4
Dave had a very hard time getting out of bed today.  Like...barely able to move enough to get out of bed.  As mean as it may have been, I told him he HAD to get himself out of that bad.  But then I paired it with "just think, tomorrow you can sleep in and I won't be harping on you to get out of bed!" That helped a little, I think, and he got up and out of that bed.

Today he decided before we left that he wanted to stop at McDonalds to get an egg mcmuffin.  I told him I thought it would be better if he just got a biscuit and some jelly.  Well wouldn't you know it, by the time we got to McDonalds, that mcmuffin was no longer wanted and the biscuit and jelly was the winner.  I believe he told me later in the day that he had to really struggle just to finish that biscuit.

I picked him up after treatment that afternoon and we went to get Aria and head home.  I don't know what Aria was doing, but she was whining about something...so Dave got mad.  When he got mad, I got mad.  This super awesome time continued when we got home.  It's difficult to take care of a toddler who's acting a little extra bratty.  It's difficult to take care of your sick husband who feels so debilitated by this whole experience.  It's EXTRA difficult to take care of both at the same time and still maintain your own sanity!  Today was the first day that I asked my mom for some help over the weekend.  I just needed for her to keep Aria for one night....just one night was all I wanted.  I found out the next day that had Aria not been ready for bed yet, mom was going to come get her then and keep her a couple nights.  I really do have the best parents!

My sweet friend Beth brought her family over tonight and also brought Dave and I dinner!  Super yummy homemade food from the Little Dutch Bakery here in town.  DELISH!  Dave was able to eat 2 helpings of the chicken and rice casserole, a piece of bread, and one twice-baked potato.  I also think it was good for him to be able to converse with friends.  And it gave Aria some time to play with her friends and burn up some of her energy, so that's always a plus!

(FYI:  I'll NEVER ask for food or help from anybody...but if you just show up with something, I certainly will not turn you away!)

Dave went to bed early (like, 730 early) tonight...and Aria helped tuck him in.  She told him a story and sang him a song, then she gave him lots of hugs and kisses, turned the light off, and closed the door.  She's so cute sometimes.  I have no doubt in my mind that it lifted his spirits some.

I stayed up until after 11 tonight because, well, just because the peace and quite sure was nice!

So here we are at the end of treatment for the 1st cycle.  The side effects we've seen are:
- queasiness and nausea
- constant metallic taste in mouth
- fatigue
- neuropathy (extremities first, then whole body)
- reddish tinted skin
- EXTRA fatigue
- depression
- general weakness and soreness (like when you've got the flu)
- loss of appetite

We have not yet seen vomiting or hair loss, but we understand that this is just the beginning.


Up and Down

October 7, 2014 - Cycle 1, Week 1, Day 2
Dave decided to drive himself today as he felt well after treatment yesterday and felt well this morning.  I agreed it was a good idea, but told him to call me if he needed me.  Truth be told, I expected him to call me around lunch to bring him food as he's not allowed to leave the floor once the chemo is dripping.  But he said he wasn't very hungry at lunch time and opted out of lunch.

After treatment, he drove around a bit before going home to get some things done.  He said he felt GREAT! Which, obviously, was good to hear.

Today he noticed the metallic taste attributed with chemo (because, fun fact, some chemo medicines are made from metal).

I remember he ate dinner well and went to bed at a regular time.

During the night, he woke up telling me he wasn't feeling good and that he thought it best if he took a phenegran.  He also said that he thought it would be a good idea if I drove him to and from treatment tomorrow.  Before falling back asleep, he asked me if he was remembering correctly....that neuropathy was one of the symptoms.  It was, and he was feeling it.  OK, no big deal....

October 8, 2014 - Cycle 1, Week 1, Day 3
Today was NOT a good day!

He had a hard time getting out of bed.  Of course, the phenegran in the middle of the night was still working...but he also had a sense of extreme body fatigue, not just tiredness.  After he finally did get out of bed, he made a comment "My arms are so tired and heavy...it feels like I've been working out all night long."  Well that's interesting.

Today he noticed a reddish tint to his skin, which is apparently a noted side effect of Etoposide.  I didn't really see it, but it's not my skin.

He did not want to stop and get breakfast on his way to treatment today as he just wasn't feeling up to it (even though he's supposed to eat before going).

I picked him up right after treatment and we went straight home after getting Aria (our 3 1/2 year old who has no understanding of this whatsoever).  Dave was already feeling lousy.  He said that he had slept through his entire treatment, but still felt like he was exhausted.  And he was slightly queasy.

He didn't eat much for dinner (just toast and grape jelly) and went to bed early....like 730.  Then the emotions started running rampant.

Dave's depression regarding this whole ordeal hit a low point on this day.  There were tears, words of inadequacy, fears of resentment, and just a general weak spirit.  Truth be told...I don't really know what to do in these types of situations.  While I'm a very compassionate person, I don't know how to console somebody when they're like this.  I'm more of a "put your big boy panties on and deal with it" type of person. I don't coddle.  I'm not going hold your head in my lap and tell you that everything will be alright.  I'm going to tell you to be strong...I'm going to tell you that we can't do anything but try to move on.  I'm not going to say "oh sweet baby, here, let me make you something to eat and let you curl up in my lap while I rock you and we wallow together in your pity party."  See...right there...I don't even know how to fake it! You can't tell somebody they're having a pity party if you're trying to be consoling! I'm just no good at it.  It's a life-skill I never learned.  Maybe it's because I am a strong, independent woman and I expect other adults to be the same way.  I don't know.  So obviously I was feeling uncomfortable in this moment. I spooned with him for a bit and rubbed his back until he calmed down, but didn't offer many words of encouragement for fear of sounding harsh, or like I don't care, or like "I just don't understand."

Finally, I left out of there, and Dave slept.



October 6:  Cycle 1, week 1, day 1
Day 1 of chemo...there was little joy in our house that morning.  We were late, for starters.  We were supposed to be there by 8, I wanted to be there by 730, we got there at 830.  Oh well...it is what it is.

The 6th floor of the Augusta VA houses the infusion room. This floor also houses the hospice wing...in case you ever need to know!

The room is bare-bones and is meant for patients only.  In fact, it's arranged in such a way that there is no space at all for loved ones, not even one.  Walking into the room was a shocker for me.  I'm guessing it was a shocker for Dave also, though he had walked in the room to check in at his last followup appointment; I sort of wish I had walked in also so that I wouldn't be so anxious on this day.

We funnel through the room until we get to an empty chair in the corner.  Not a nice, big, comfy chair you see in pictures when you google 'chemotherapy', but a standard, fake-leather chair that resembles a blood-donor chair (if you've never donated blood, google it...you'll see the chair....also...GO DONATE BLOOD! One blood donation can save up to 3 lives, and you might be lucky enough to donate blood for babies!).  His chair is in front of a window with a decent view, but the back of his chair is to the window, so that's a wash.

In his section of the room, there are two older gentlemen across and next to him, and one younger guy diagonal from him.  Well...at least he's not stuck in a room with all old farts, maybe that'll help!

Here is the schedule for the day:  start IV, draw labs, hang 1000mL saline to be administered over 2 hours, hang 1st chemo drug, hang 2nd chemo drug (after the first day, these two can be mixed in one bag), hang another 1000mL saline to be administered over 2 hours, be processed out, leave.

Fun fact:  Cysplatin can cause kidney toxicity.  Hydration is a MUST! (yes! no more soda!)

The IV didn't go well...his vein rolled and the nurse had to fish around for it (ouch!)  Even writing this, one week later, there's still a nasty bruise at that site! (which reminds me...at some point, I hope to be caught up and can write as to what's happening NOW, as opposed to what happened already) Once the IV is started, tubes are drawn to check all his levels to see if he's healthy enough to receive the chemo (they won't hang the medicine until his labs come back, and if they're no good, they'll postpone a week).  Labs are drawn the first day of every cycle.

Once the labs are drawn and the saline is hung, I can't stay any longer (unless I want to stand in front of him for the next 8 hours...no thank you!) so I duck out to get us some breakfast.  He's supposed to eat before he comes, but like I said, we were running late, so breakfast had to wait.

After getting breakfast I retreated to the waiting room right across the hall. This is where I would spend my day (oh yay).  After today, I won't spend all day here...there's no need for me to take a whole day off work if I can't even be in the room with him to support him, ya know?

I went back in when they started his first bag of chemo.  Prior to that, he had received an anti-nausea medicine and a steroid (to also help with nausea).

Throughout the day I heard some very strange things....a "code gray" across the intercom, and laughter....lots and lots of laughter.  As it turns out, the younger guy in Dave's area was around his age and was also being treated for testicular cancer, though this was not his first cycle, as evidenced by the loss of hair.  Apparently, he and Dave were getting along very well and were keeping the room well entertained... which is GREAT!

We left the VA around 430.  Dave was feeling great.  He drove home, he went to visit the people at his job, and he wasn't sick.  He felt a little nauseous later in the evening (took a phenegran), but ate dinner just fine and didn't get sick.

It was a good day! Dave had been hoping to go through this and come out the other side like a super-human....things were looking up!

Cue decision to drive himself to treatment in the morning.

The Follow-Up

September 22, 2014
Follow-up appointment at the VA.  Healing just fine from surgery...yes, we already know that....now let's get down to the meat and potatoes of this visit.

Tumor was 2.7 centimeters at it's largest point.  The tumor had not spread outside of the testicle itself, which is great!  Type of tumor:  seminoma.  I'm not going to lie...I've researched seminoma vs. non-seminoma extensively and I just don't really understand the difference.  Google it for yourself, maybe you'll grasp it a little more than I did.

Prior to surgery, his tumor markers were up past 450.  That's too high....much too high.
After surgery, his tumor markers were less than 2.  You may be asking "so does that mean they got it all?  What about those swollen lymph nodes?  What's up with that?"

According to the doctors, it means there are still some cancer cells in those lymph nodes, but they are inactive right now.  GREAT! Let's kick them while they're down and get them the hell out of there!

And now you're asking yourself:  What's the next step? Lymph node removal surgery, radiation, or...God forbid... chemotherapy?

September 25, 2014
Follow-up appointment with the Hematology Oncologist (hereafter referred to as "chemo guy").
Treatment option of choice: Chemo.  2 types of drugs, given for 4 cycles.

Hold on now....what's wrong with the other two options?

According to Chemo guy, if they did surgery to the remove the lymph nodes, they could leave behind just ONE little cell.  One itty bitty, barely even viable cancer cell.  Well....given enough time and the space...that cell could do whatever it wanted and divide and conquer.  So that's not an option until something else has been tried first.

Radiation apparently melts testicular cancer away like butter on a hot Georgia day.  BUT, the kicker....radiation causes cancer.  Usually lymphoma.  Now, it generally takes 30-40 years before this happens, but it happens.  Radiation, as we've been told, is more reserved to older folks who, lets be honest, may not be around another 30-40 years.  Radiation, in Dave's case, is apparently the LAST thing they want to do.

So as you can see, chemo is the only logical choice.  They'll do the chemo, which should kick those remaining cancer cells in the ass.  If for some reason it doesn't, then removal of the lymph nodes ought to take care of it.

Dave's treatment plan is as follows:
4 straight days of chemo (drugs:  Cysplatin and Etoposide)
2 weeks of rest
repeat 3 more times
(FYI: the 4 treatment days followed by 2 weeks of rests comprise 1 cycle)

Assuming his labs all stay good and his health doesn't change, his last week of rest of his last cycle of chemo is the week of Christmas.  So....Merry Christmas to him, he'll be done with chemo!

Treatment will begin October 6.  I'm such a bad wife, I told the chemo guy about Dave's cold symptoms because Dave HADN'T told him....oooh I got a dirty look from that darling husband of mine because he wanted to start treatment right away on the 30th.  Oops :)

Cue 1 audiology test (because Cysplatin can cause long-term partial hearing loss and they needed a base line) and 1 week of agonizing waiting.

(We had a "Farwell nut" party the Friday before chemo....a lot of gag gifts and margaritas were had.  We also had a date night the Saturday before chemo....saw Gone Girl [oh my god, go see the movie AND read the book!] and then shared some appetizers and a bottle of wine at Olive Garden...super great night!)


In the Beginning

2 years ago
Dave (my husband) found a lump on his left testicle.  He called me right away freaking out because he knew, without a doubt, that he had, as he was so eloquently calling it,  ball cancer.  He absolutely knew this because he had spent hours already picking the brain of Dr. Google and he knew for a fact that he had ball cancer. Naturally, he was all over that sucker like white on rice until able to get to a doctor.

The doctor thought it was a spermatocele (an infection) and prescribed antibiotics, but recommended getting an ultrasound "just to be on the safe side".  With being an over-the-road truck driver, ultra sound appointments that fit the VA's schedule are difficult to come by.  By the time he was able to even consider an ultrasound appointment, the lump went away.  So obviously it must have been an infection and the antibiotics took care of it, right?

Spring 2014
The lump reared its ugly head again....same place, same size.

Return trip to the VA...diagnosed as prostatitis (a common condition among truck drivers) and sent him home with some anti-inflammatory drugs.  But, again, recommended getting that ultrasound "just to be on the safe side." And, once again, being an over-the-road truck driver leaves little time for scheduling such things as ultrasounds because, lets be honest, ultrasound machines apparently don't function on weekends.

This time, however, the lump did not go away.  It did, in fact, grow in size.

September 5, 2014
Dave has now had a local job for a few months and is FINALLY able to get to the doctor for an annual exam. (Yay for local jobs, by the way.)  While at his regularly scheduled appointment, his doctor notices that he never was able to get that ultrasound, so they go ahead and send him "just to be on the safe side."  He's told the doctor will call him back sometime next week to review the results.

September 6, 2014
A fine Saturday morning interrupted by a phone call from the Urologist at the VA telling Dave that he needs to come in first thing Monday morning to discuss his results.  Uh oh.  Doctors don't call on Saturday's if it's good news...especially VA doctors.

September 8, 2014
Lump in testicle is, in fact, a tumor that is most likely cancerous.  Blood work (tumor markers) and a CT scan will be scheduled for the afternoon, then admittance to hospital, then surgery to remove the testicle the following day. Awesome.

(Speeding ticket on the way back to the VA for admittance:  not scheduled!  FYI: the Georgia State Patrol does not care that you're headed back to a hospital to be admitted for surgery to remove your suspected cancerous testicle...they'll write you a damn speeding ticket anyway.  Bastards!)

Tech doing the CT scan said that (even though he's "not really able to say anything") he didn't see anything abnormal on the CT scan besides, of course, the testicle.

Well he sure was wrong!

September 9, 2014
During morning rounds, we were informed that the CT showed two enlarged lymph nodes in his abdomen...indicative of the spread of testicular cancer.  Whatever was said after that, quite frankly, was a blur.  I have no idea what the doctors said after that.  Surgery was scheduled for that afternoon and, pending the pathology report on the tumor, chemotherapy was imminent. Begin the conversations about fertility after chemo, sperm banking, "were you planning on having more children?", adoption, more sperm banking, insemination....blah blah blah.... (that's a lot of gross words, I apologize!)

Surgery went fine.  The doctors removed the testicle and part of the tubing (epididymis).  Stayed overnight in the hospital (against the doctor's wishes) and was ready to go home the next day.

Cue 2 weeks of recovery before follow-up appointment.