Monday, June 30, 2008

Busy busy

It's been a busy few days...
Mike's had a good week -- really no side effects -- and he has an appetite again, which means he's eating like crazy. I swear one day last week he had a sauasage biscuit for breakfast, a Quiznos sub and a milkshake for lunch and a Whopper and some ice cream for dinner. I am not making that up. He's put on a few of the pounds he lost so I'm sure the doctor will be pleased.

The Casales came over from Naples for the weekend. We had fun just hanging by the pool and being entertained by Julia's antics. She loooves her cousins and was quite the show-off. She did have a bit of a cold though and because I'm a nervous mom I took her in to see a doctor Saturday morning because I was afraid if I left her cough go untreated she would end up with bronchitis. The doctor nicely informed me it just was a cold and just needed to run its course. I'm sure he rolled his eyes at me when I walked out the door.

She's feeling much better now though, so we FINALLY went to get her hair cut. She was bordering on mullett. Now of course, her bangs are too short because she did not care for the stylist to be near her face and made quite a fuss. Overall, she was a champ. She loved watching herself in the mirror.

The after pic isn't that great -- you can't really see the cut -- but Julia loves this place. It's called Snip-Its and there are all kinds of fun toys and treats and bubbles. She didn't want to leave.

And if this hasn't been enough for you, we are now the proud owners of this:

The Fisher-Price Royal Potty Seat. That's right. We're embarking on potty training. Not that either of us have a clue how to do this. We're leaving that to Elmo. We bought a DVD called Elmo's Potty Time. Julia's showing some signs that she might be ready -- even if we're not. So if any of our parent friends have words of wisdom, please share them.
So that's what we've been up to. Tomorrow is our big day at chemo -- 7 hours. Both of us took the day off so that's one less thing to have to worry about. We'll be there from 10:30 until about 6, so send your positive vibes our way.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I hate Tuesdays

Chemo days are no fun.
They start around 7 a.m. when I get up with Julia. We do our Sesame Street/juice/crackers routine, have breakfast and get ready. We drop Julia off at her nana's and head to chemo.
Today's lasted about an hour and a half. Pick Julia up, take her home, get her down for a nap, get ready for work and head into the office for a full 8-hour shift. Come midnight, I am ready to collapse.
And this is me, the one without the harsh drugs coursing through my system. I'm whining and Mike has pretty much the same schedule...
He's the one with cancer and I'm the big baby. Ugh.
By the way, things went ok today. Next week we're in for the long haul with another 7-hour day.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Miss Julia

Before cancer, this blog was all about Miss Julia. I've been a little slack on that lately. So here's the latest on the cutest, sweetest, smartest, funniest toddler on the planet:

She turned 20 months old last week. I keep asking her to stop it, but clearly she's showing signs of stubborness already. Her vocabulary is out of this world. She's starting to speak in sentences. It KILLS me. She blesses people when they sneeze, and when someone coughs or a Sesame Street character (usually Grover, because he is clumsy) falls down, she asks "Are you OK, Grover?" She greets us with "Good Morning" (actually she says it all day, but that is beside the point) and she can name every object on her alphabet blocks including the xylophone. She says xylophone!!! How smart is that? She can count to 10 (although she never says four) and can sing the ABCs through G. She has grasped the concept of up and down, and upside down, and off and on, and even naked. She loves to take a mad lap around the living room post-bath, shreiking "NAKED BABY." She "reads" magazines and loves to eat fruit. Every morning at around 8:30, she comes to me and asks for "strawbabies." She loves fruit so much, that when we've been trying to get her to say her name -- Julia Grace Cherry -- she says Julia Grapes Cherries. She thinks her name is Julia Grapes Cherries! Love that.

The joy she brings to our lives is immeasurable. My heart bursts when I look at her. I can't believe I have been so blessed to be her mama.

(if you click on this picture and blow it up, you can see the filth all over her face. that's right, my sweet precious girl likes to play in the dirt...)

(this is Julia's friend Landon. He came over for a swim date last week... some days she likes him, other days she shoves him to the ground.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chemo mix

I wanted to share the songs on the kicking-cancer's-ass playlist I made for Mike to listen to do during chemo. Remember the idea was angry fightin' music...

*The Distance -- Cake
*Kashmir -- Led Zepplin
*Remedy -- The Black Crowes
*Machinehead -- Bush
*Keep Yourself Alive -- Queen
*Rainbow in the Dark -- Dio
*Enter Sandman -- Metallica
*Wake Up -- Rage Against the Machine
*Alive -- Pearl Jam
*Rebel Yell -- Billy Idol
*My Name is Mud -- Primus
*Ain't Nothing Wrong With That -- Robert Randolph & The Family Band
*Get Off My Cloud -- Rolling Stones

Thanks for all your suggestions. Let me know if you think of more...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The good, the bad and the acne

We had the third chemo today. This was just Erbitux so it was only about two hours, a breeze after last week... I downloaded two episodes of the Stooges onto my iPhone for Mike to watch so the time went by pretty quickly.

So the good news? The tumor in Mike's neck is shrinking!!! He and I each noticed it earlier this week but never said so out loud, mostly for fear of jinxing ourselves but also because I thought for sure my mind was playing tricks on me. But as soon as the oncologist felt his neck, he was like wow, this thing is noticeably smaller. He was surprised because he didn't expect a change so early in the treatment. He said it was "promising" -- he used that word...
So the plan is to keep on with this treatment for 10 weeks and see how things look then. He'll have Erbitux every week and the full-on chemo every three weeks for the next few months. Keep praying and sending your positive thoughts.

The bad news, which isn't really so bad, is that after last week's chemo Mike had hiccups for nearly three days straight. It's apparently a rare side effect, but certainly an annoying one. He didn't have any nausea though. Just some fatigue and loss of appetite. He's lost 9 pounds in the past week or so. The doctor seemed somewhat concerned about this, so I'm making it my mission to fatten him up.

And now for the acne... A cruel side effect of Erbitux is a red pimply rash on the face and neck. And yep, Mike's got it. It's sort of a punch in the gut when you're trying to fight this stupid disease, that's for sure. But we've bought a number of cleansers and creams and it's clearing up. The doctor also gave Mike a prescrption that will help. AND the rash is a sign that the drug is working, the doctor told us. There have been studies that show the drug is most effective in people who develop it. So we say, bring it on!

Friday, June 13, 2008

No guarantees

I am shocked and saddened over the news of Tim Russert's death. I have a Sunday morning ritual -- I wake up at 9 (Mike gets up with Julia), make coffee, sort through the newspaper ads and devour Meet the Press. I'm not sure what I'll do now.

But mostly, I am reminded once again of how fragile and precious life is. Our neighbor's 22-year-old son was killed in a car accident last week. I didn't know him very well other than his music was so loud the pictures on my wall shook (which is not good when you want a baby to nap) but it has really affected me. I have no idea what will happen with Mike. It could be this cancer. It could be something else. Russert went to work like any normal day and collapsed at his desk.

So I'm going to hug a little tighter, stare a little longer and maybe not gripe so much when he leaves his socks on the floor.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The longest day

is finally over....

We survived a good seven hours in the chemo room today. Or I should say Mike survived since he was the one with the needle in his arm. He's feeling OK for now but from what we were told about these drugs, the aftermath might not be so fun. One causes a red rash on the face, the others can cause hair loss, nausea, fatigue, mouth sores and tingling in the fingers and toes. Apparently there is nothing pretty about cancer.

To pass the time, we read, ate hot dogs and watched HOURS of soccer. So much for our wedding anniversary... Thinking about the contrast between that day four years ago and this one is almost unbearable. But one thing has not changed, and that is how crazy mad in love I am with this man... (even if he dumps out his soda can on the sinkful of dishes I just washed).

So I hope you'll indulge me with a few photos from our wedding day:

Oh, and Charles, Mike talked the doctor into letting him have a few drinks during your visit this weekend, so stock up on the amaretto, baby. Or should we get Bailey's? Maybe both.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bathing beauty

I just realized several posts have gone by without a pic of Miss Julia. What kind of mama am I? Here are a couple of her modeling her swimwear collection (and mimicking mama's why-are-you-bothering-me look).

After I posted about Tuesday's chemo, Mike started feeling like crud -- really tired, high fever and chills. The on-call doctor, who took my hysterical phone call, said this was typical. It was not a good night. Wednesday was a little better and by Thursday things were back to normal. We're a little leery about what the reaction might be this Tuesday since all three chemo drugs are in the mix....

We have no plans this weekend and are really happy about that -- we'll probably go out to breakfast, take naps and swim in the pool. That will be heaven after a busy few weeks.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Notes on chemo

We made it through the first one. And as I type this, just hours after leaving the cancer center, Mike is at his desk working...

The two-hour thing was a bit misleading. It takes two hours for the Erbitux, but we were in the chemo room a good five hours. They also run Benadryl through the IV and make you stick around a while to monitor your reaction. But it went ok. Mike ate a hot dog during treatment so he couldn't have been feeling too bad.

So, the news from the day: I wrote in my last post that Erbitux didn't mix with his other chemo. But I misunderstood. Apparently, they just want to "frontload" it, give it by itself the first time to make sure all goes well. Then next week, it will be in the mix with the other chemo drugs, which means chemo will take 7 1/2 hours now, instead of five. So that's how we'll be spending our fourth wedding anniversary -- in chemo recliners from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Luckily, we'll have some good tunes thanks to all your ideas..

We also learned that Erbitux is a weekly drug. So our schedule has changed a bit. Next Tuesday is the real deal -- all the drugs, all day long. We won't have that again until July 1. The weeks in between will just be Erbitux, and they promise us the next time it really will only take two hours.

So, I think that's all the pertinent info.

Being in the chemo room though was a bit unsettling. The nurses all have a sense of humor and it's very bright in there. But it doesn't make you forget where you are. I watched one elderly woman taking care of her husband of probably decades. She cut his sandwich, opened his soda, put a blanket on his feet. She was so loving and her husband looked so weak, it just broke my heart. And I also saw a mom there, scarf covering her bald head, accompanied by her young daughter, probably 5 years old. I ache when I think of that image. That little girl must be so scared seeing her mommy so sick. I said a little thank you that Julia doesn't know what's going on. Right now, her dada is just her dada, same as ever. And that is a huge motivation for Mike to fight this thing and beat it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Slight change

We got a call this morning from Mike's excited oncologist. Over the weekend at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference, data was released on a chemo drug called Erbitux. It's usually used to treat colon cancer and head and neck cancer. Now it appears to be beneficial to patients with lung tumors. So since Mike's cancer is in the head and neck and also the lung, he wants to try this out.

It will be in addition to the regular chemo -- it's basically another weapon in our arsenal -- but it can't be given with the regular chemo. So tomorrow Mike will get the Erbitux treatment, which should only take about two hours. Then next Tuesday, we'll do the five-hour regular regimen.

We're excited about this and we are pleased that Dr. Neel is on top of the latest breakthroughs and is thinking of the best ways to help his patients.

We also want to say thank you to all our friends and families for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers and for all the nice e-mails, calls and comments on the blog. I never thought in all my life I'd get weepy over a Hooter's gift card, but our good friends Todd and Stephanie sent us some last week so we can keep celebrating victories, big and small (see previous post). Love you guys! Marina was here this weekend and Charles is coming later this month. It really keeps our spirits up and makes us feel like we're not all alone in this.