Friday, February 25, 2011

Sunshine, Rain, Wind and ..... Snow??

The local meteorologists say we may see snow at sea level tonight!  How crazy is that??  Currently it is about 50 degrees, sunny with patchy clouds.  We will keep you posted about that snow.....

Mom has had a very good week.  It started out on Sunday with some uncomfortable neuropathy in her hands and feet, but that has since passed.  The skin on her neck continues to heal nicely.  She is getting good rest at night and takes frequent naps throughout the day.  When she is awake, her spirits are bright!  We just love seeing this!!

Bridge Buddies
Elaine Waechtler, Mom and Joyce Brown
Thursday, February 24th

The doctor visits with Knister and Mirda both went well.  They were pleased to see her excellent progress.  They pretty much told us to "keep up the good work" and "we'll see you again in a few weeks".  The process of CT Scans will begin in about 1 month.  They need to wait for the site where the tumor WAS to completely heal first.  Otherwise, the pictures would not be clear and show too much inflammation and scaring.

And so ...... our job is to patiently wait and rest and heal.

Next week, we will have visits with Dr. Manubens (cardiologist) and Dr. Ryan (UCSF- ENT).  Mom also has an appointment for late March to consult with a Speech Therapist for swallowing.

Happy Friday to Everyone,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February 22nd - The Story of the Tulip Tree

Some of you may know the story of Grandma's Tulip Tree, but for those that do not - we would like to share with you the miracle of the Tulip Tree.

Mom and her sister's Jean, Margaret and Marty, had a brother that was born on February 22, 1929 - his name was John Anthony Bertain.  John died at the very young age of 7 on February 27, 1936.

With the money in his savings account, Grandma and Grandpa purchased a tulip tree and planted it at their home on Jefferson Street.  The tree bloomed each year on the week of his birthday.  When they moved to Green Valley Road in 1952, the tulip tree was taken with them.  That following year in February, the tree bloomed one week late.

In November of 1985 when Grandma moved in with Mom on Beckworth Drive, they transplanted the tree once more, to be with Grandma.  The tree continued to bloom within a few days of his birthday each and every year.

When Mom began this journey last November, it struck me that the tulip tree would be blooming about the same time she would be finishing her treatments and on her road to recovery.

Today is February 22nd - John's birthday - and the first blossom is opening up on this beautiful, sunshining day!  It has always seemed miraculous to me that this tree blooms on or near this day each year.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Almost No Radiation Burn Remaining!

Mom had a restful President's weekend.  Her neck is looking fantastic!

It is so amazing to see how quickly her skin is restoring itself.  I would have never guessed it would heal so fast!  There are just two small spots that are still open and painful.  Maybe by the end of the week ..... we can stop slathering her with the Silvadene.  She definitely has outstanding genes when it comes to the quality of her skin!

Her saliva is still very thick and continues to cause her difficulties.  Apparently this is normal and we hope will pass soon.  Because it is so thick and she cannot swallow well, she needs to cough and spit it out.  Not much fun at all.  It can actually be frightening for her - as she senses herself choking.  She is such a "trooper"!

She has good days and slow days, something we can expect for awhile.  We will be seeing two of her doctors this week.  Dr. Knister on Wednesday morning and Dr. Mirda on Friday.  I know they will both be very pleased with her recovery progress.

We await the blooming of the Tulip Tree ..... she looks forward to this each and every year.  It's almost as though we know when it blooms, that will be when it is time for her to "step outside".  Sunday Mass will be one of her first outings.

We definitely have many prayers of thanks to give!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Healing Phase

We are midway through the week following the completion of all treatments.  Her body now has a chance to recuperate from all the trauma it was subjected to over the past two months.  It is so encouraging to see the changes in her skin.  The burn definitely is better and we assume the same healing is occurring on the inside too!

Today she has had visits from two of her friends.  First, Joyce Brown stopped in for a quick visit so that she could report to the Thursday Bridge Group on how she was doing.  The group meets tomorrow for their monthly game.  Hopefully by next month, Mom will be back in attendance!

Soon afterwards, Rae Williams came over from Santa Rosa.  She has been a friend of Mom's for 50 years - she was our neighbor from across the street for a long, long time.  How nice it is for Mom to have these visits from friends - thank you to all of you!

From the day she was first told that she had a cancerous tumor on her vocal cord, Mom has maintained a positive attitude.  Her strength and resolve has been an inspiration to everyone.  She has endured the past several weeks with dignity and courage.  Never once has she complained.
She is our hero!

Friday, February 11, 2011


Mom has completed her final day of treatment!  What an accomplishment this amazing woman has made.  35 radiation fractions and 8 chemotherapy infusions, a terrible sore throat and painful radiation burn, pneumonia and exhaustion - but she did it!!!!  We are all so, so proud of her.

She has had such wonderful support from all of you and we as a family are so grateful for this.  Having this awesome support system made these long days bearable.  Your words and prayers of encouragement have carried her through!
She did it!  Mom with her Radiation Graduation Certificate
I have put together a small collage of photos from today to share with all of you.  It was an emotional day for all of us.  We are so thankful she had such wonderful care from the staffs at both Queen of the Valley and Redwood Regional Medical Group.

(Click to enlarge)
Row 1
Packing up for her final day
Going to radiation
Mom and I at radiation
Beth and all of us

Row 2
Margaret and Mom at radiation
Dr. Knister and Mom
Mom and her "mask"
Dr. Knister and Mom

Row 3
Leaving radiation
Mom and Margaret at chemo
Pam getting chemo started
Mom and I at chemo

Row 4
Robbie and Mom
Chillin' at chemo
Finishing up at chemo
Back Home!!!

Now we begin the the healing process.  In about one month she will start a Cancer Wellness program at the Queen.  This will be a multi faceted program that will help her regain her strength both physically and mentally.  We are looking forward to beginning this process.  But first, the radiation burn - inside and out - needs to heal. 

I will continue to update this blog as we progress through the coming months of healing.  Thank you - everyone - for your support and prayers.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Final Treatments

We met with Dr. Mirda this morning.  Her lab work looks great and he concurred with the other physicians that she should finish off the last of her treatments.  And so, today and tomorrow she will complete her 34th and 35th radiation fractions.  Tomorrow will also be her final chemotherapy infusion.

By early afternoon tomorrow she will have successfully reached the end of treatment!!!!!

Dr. Mirda stated again how pleased he was with how well she has responded to all of her treatment.  Her labs, skin and general health have remained amazingly strong for a women her age.

We will soon be headed out for radiation.

Strongest Woman on Earth!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another day of rest

Mom has had a real good day of rest.  We both got a lot of sleep last night, trying to get caught up from the last few days.

Seeing how well she does on these "rest" days is encouraging.  By this time next week, she will be part way into her recovery "out" of treatment.  It will be soooooo nice to just focus on recovery.

I am so proud of her - the way she has battled through this cancer, the treatments and all the side effects.  Every single medical person she comes in contact with is amazed at how well she has handled all of it.  She has been a Pillar of Strength. 

It certainly is teaching all of us to be thankful for what we have and recognize the truly important things in life.

We will be meeting with Dr. Mirda in the morning.  I will post an update following that appointment.

Have a nice evening,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Back Home!

Mom was released from the Queen about 10:00 am this morning.  At the moment, she is napping in her recliner.  I know that she is VERY GLAD to be back in her own home!

Three doctors stopped into her hospital room early this morning to check on her.  First, Dr. Jewell - her primary care physician.  Mom had not seen him since just after her initial diagnosis.  It was good to go over things with him and have him answer our questions.

Dr. Knister poked his head in next.  He was pleased to see her progressing on the antibiotics and assured us this often happens to cancer patients undergoing concurrent treatments.  He strongly supports her finishing those last two radiation fractions and would like to see her have these on Thursday and Friday of this week.

Dr. Dugan, standing in for Dr. Mirda came in about 9:00 am.  He informed us that the Neupogen shot yesterday had done its job!  Her white blood count had tripled in 24 hours.  He prescribed one more shot to be given before we left and wrote a prescription for the antibiotic to be continued for seven more days.  He scheduled us for a blood draw and office visit with Dr. Mirda on Thursday morning.

So........ the schedule for the week is TENTATIVELY as follows:

  • Today:  REST
  • Wednesday:  REST
  • Thursday morning:  Blood draw and office visit with Dr. Mirda to discuss her blood count levels and provide his opinion on completion or discontinuing the final treatments.
  • Thursday afternoon:  Radiation treatment #34
  • Friday morning:  FINAL Radiation treatment #35
  • Friday mid-morning:  FINAL chemotherapy infusion

Mom and I are soooooo looking forward to a quiet evening AT HOME and a good night's sleep in our own beds!

Thank you for all the prayers,

Monday, February 7, 2011

Responding well!

Hello everyone -

Even though Mom does have pneumonia, she is responding very well to the antibiotics.  Her blood pressure AND temperature has been consistently normal.  We saw several doctors today; most importantly Dr. Manubens, her cardiologist and Dr. Dugan, standing in for Dr. Mirda - her oncologist.

Dr. Dugan gave orders for her to have an injection this afternoon of Neupogen that should return her white blood cell count and Neutrophils to a more acceptable range.  They will check her lab work tomorrow to be sure this does it's job.  If it has, she will be sent home!

As of right now, we do not know exactly what the plans will be for any future radiation or chemotherapy treatments.  I anticipate we will see Dr. Knister sometime early tomorrow (he was working in Vallejo today).  Dr. Mirda will be back in his office on Thursday.  Continued treatment options will be decided after consultations with both of these oncologists.

It is very encouraging to see Mom respond so quickly to the antibiotics.  Combined with medicine and all your prayers, Mom is definitely on the road to recovering from this setback.

I will update tomorrow as we get more information.  Let's hope I will be posting from Beckworth Drive instead of Queen of the Valley.

Love to all,

Setbacks are no fun ....

Dear everyone,

Mom started out having a reasonably restful weekend - considering she got a break from radiation on Friday and was looking forward to a 4-day weekend.  Saturday, we got her hair done, got some clothing alterations finished and watched the movie "Secretariat".

Unfortunately, Saturday night/Sunday morning wasn't as kind to her.  She struggled throughout the night with excess saliva and mucus ..... and was unable to get a good, restful sleep.  By mid-day on Sunday, I knew something wasn't quite right.  After double checking her blood pressure, which turned out to be too low - I took her over to the Queen to be checked out.

A chest x-ray showed that she has a case of early-stage-pneumonia.  They put her on antibiotics and admitted her for the night.  Her temperature was 101 upon arrival and as of this posting, is down to normal.  We will know more in the morning, after her oncologists see her.

Most of you probably know .... a trip to the ER on a weekend can be NO FUN.  Even so, it was what needed to be done and we are glad we came so they were able to catch this bug early.  Naturally, Mom knew the attending nurse on duty in the ER - Katie Dykes, a classmate of Tom's!  The aide that brought Mom to her room, Elsa - was a student Mom had tutored many years ago.  How wonderful is that?!

While sitting in the ER, waiting, waiting..... she kept asking for updates on the Super Bowl.  Of course she had multiple "squares" in more than one Pool.  And of course, she won a quarter in both pools!!!  That certainly put a bright smile on her face on an otherwise DISMAL day.  I think her take home for the day was somewhere around $175.00!!

I will post more details for everyone tomorrow morning after visits with the doctors.

Please keep this wonderful woman in your prayers.


Friday, February 4, 2011

A Brief Respite

Happy Friday to Everyone,

Mom's radiation treatment for today has been postponed until next week.  Her skin has become so burned from the treatments, Dr. Knister wanted to give her a break for an extra few days.  She will not have treatment today or Monday.  We are scheduled to go in Tuesday morning before chemotherapy.  The doctor will check her again and make a decision as to whether they should give her a treatment or postpone another day.

So ...... unfortunately this will prolong things by at least two more days.  But it's good that she will have a long four day weekend to allow her skin to heal a bit and also give her body a chance to rest.  Dr. Knister assures us this will not have a negative impact on the success of her overall treatment plan.

Not long before Mom began her treatment, the Cancer Center at the Queen had a very important piece of equipment installed.  This photo below is from a recent article showcasing this equipment and the staff.

The outstanding group of individuals providing treatment to Mom daily
(click to enlarge)
 We hope all of you have a great weekend!  Go Packers!?!?!?!?!  Go Steelers!?!?!?!?!