Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day #1 of recovery

The reports from Omaha continue to be very encouraging.  Shelley has had an uneventful day (which is medicalspeak for "nothing went wrong.")  She was taken off the ventilator fairly early this morning and was very glad to be rid of that thing.  She converses a little, but mostly takes long naps.  Her pain isn't real bad, but the morphine is quite helpful.  All the doctors and nurses are amazed at how well she's doing. She is even allowed to take some clear liquids by mouth.  Her face is swelling more and more as the evening progresses, which is just what they said would happen.  They've enjoyed a few visitors today.  Shelley is still in ICU--no real word about when she'll be moved out, but it likely will be soon.  Jim was going to bed down for the night in her room there, hoping for more sleep than he had last night!

Good night everyone!

Shelley, the writer

Shelley has always been a writer. When letters were the main means of communication, hers were always a treat to get--several pages of the details about homefolks that you really wanted to hear about but no one else took the time to put on paper. Pictures were always accompanied by notes in her familiar script.  When electronics moved into the landscape of our living, you could count on lengthy, newsy accounts of family life, much to the delight of the faraway aunties.  When blogging arrived on the scene, Shelley was a natural. Visiting their home, you would see evidence of Shelley's love of the pen and paper--journals, lists, letters.  So, you can hardly be surprised to hear that Shelley has been furiously scribbling notes this morning, frustratingly hampered by not being able to have her glasses.

Jim is very excited about Shelley's alertness this morning, although technically she is still sedated.  She is yet on the ventilator, but they are working toward removing it very soon.  That will be a great relief to her--it's the subject matter for some of her notes!  She looks really, really good for all she has been through.  The incisions on her nose are barely noticeable, and while there is some swelling, it isn't bad at all.

They got to first see Shelley last night about midnight, and then they all dispersed for the night--Shelley's parents went home; Jim and Lynette went to the motel, and Rod and Deb F. spent the night in Omaha, and will return today, likely taking Lynette home with them.

So far, so good!  We all have much to be thankful for, and a crash course in not taking life and health for granted.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Longest Day...

Thanks to all of you who have had Shelley, Jim and their family in their hearts and minds and prayers all day today.  It has been a long day for many, even quite a few medical workers, no doubt.  Just want to report what the surgeon told Jim and the others waiting there--hopefully this is accurate.  It seems a little bit like a satellite system, beamed from Nebraska over to Wisconsin, and then to all points of the earth!

The good news is that as of right now, Shelley is out of surgery!  She will go to recovery for at least an hour, and they'll be able to see her eventually tonight.  She might not respond, being heavily sedated, but who knows?  She'll be going to ICU for a day or so.

The doctor said the tumor had gone through the dura (the sac around the brain might be an easy way to describe that) but it had not infiltrated the brain, and they were able to pull it away from the brain with no disturbance to the brain. They were able to use tissue from Shelley's forehead area to construct a new "dura," that separates the brain from the sinus area. They felt that reconstruction was very successful--good tissue, and they felt secure about the way they were able to connect it. Also, the tumor had infiltrated the orbit of the eye (right one, I think) and was up against the eye, but not into the eye, and also was able to be pulled away. Likewise they felt satisfied with the reconstruction of the orbit.

The only thing they encountered that was more than they expected was that the tumor had invaded the cartilage around the bridge of Shelley's nose, so they needed to make incisions and remove the cartilage there. They inserted a lumbar drain, and a feeding tube, both of which she'll have just for a few days.  She of course has a breathing tube and is on a ventilator, but hopefully that will be just for overnight. Because of the tumor being right up against the brain, she will need to undergo chemotherapy as well as radiation.

Shelley went into surgery with a positive attitude, smiling and joking, and it seems like the day is ending on a positive note also.  We won't add more right now, so it can get out to all of you who are patiently waiting for word.  Thanks so much to everyone for their care and support today!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Starting My Journey

Tonight is the last night for me to be who I was before. 
Before surgery.  
The me who has been healthy as a goat for so many years.
 I've taken it for granted. 
I'm having a very hard time wrapping my head around the word cancer.  That this is ME we're talking about not somebody else, somebody else's life.  
I'm  trying very hard not to think about the what ifs.  I'm dealing with the what is.
And I want to continue to do so, one step at a time.  
I'm also not terribly comfortable with writing about myself in this way, but I wanted to put up one more post and then let my very obliging sister-in-law guest-post on updates. I'm finding it exhausting to tell the same things over again to all the lovely people who want to know, and even then, not everybody gets the same thing. After all, it was Jim and I listening to the surgeons this morning. 

We came to Omaha this morning to have the consultation with the two surgeons who will be doing the surgery tomorrow around noon.  The nasal surgeon is kind, efficient, patient, and answered all our questions before we asked them. We wouldn't have needed to bring our list.  
For the nuts and bolts of what is happening here, I have been diagnosed with one of two types of malignant nasal tumor.  One is a tumor of the olfactory nerve. The other not so easily explained.  The tumor in the lower sinuses will be removed by going up through the nose.  The upper sinuses will be accessed with an ear to ear incision over the top of the head.
(They don't shave heads anymore.)  
The main thing in any cancer surgery is to get all the cancer plus a certain amount of unharmed tissue to ensure a complete removal.  There is a limited amount of tissue to get in such a confined area, so the dura between sinus and brain will be removed, and be replaced with some of my own from another place.  The bone that separated and seals the brain area and the sinus cavity has been destroyed by the tumor and will be replaced with mesh.  The tumor is also right up against one eye, and has destroyed some of the bone protecting the right eye in the area of the bridge of my nose, and if the hole in the bone is big enough it will also be strengthened with mesh. The main thing is to take enough out of me to get all the bad stuff and then reconstruct what needs to be done.
 One thing I didn't know, is that the sinus cavity is not several open holes as I always imagined.  There are little pockets in those sinus cavities  After this, however, I will have one big open area, which while it won't affect my quality of life, will affect how I take care of it. 
Except I won't be able to smell anymore.  That is over. I don't think I'll get fat now, eating isn't nearly as much fun.

So, this is really a pretty big deal, more than I ever imagined.  I will have a six hour surgery, followed by 24 hours in ICU (this is normal), and then a hospital stay of 5-7 days.  Then I will go home to recover.  After an expected six weeks of surgical recovery time, I will have six weeks of radiation.  Just to make sure, you know.
Of course, what knowledge we have now, is subject to anything new that might be found during the surgery.  The nasal surgeon takes care of the lower, the neurosurgeon the upper, at the same time.  
There is some good news.  The tumor does not appear to have penetrated the brain or the eyes themselves.  There is every expectation of a cure.  
Despite all the risks involved in major surgery, and some fear as well, I will be glad to get this out of my head and start making progress to a new me.    

After surgery the tumor is called a neuroendocrine tumor.
Surgery was 9 1/2 hours long.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Changing Times

Did you notice one of the new trends in blogging is to have a guest writer occasionally—husbands, dogs, whoever?  Well, in keeping with the current trend, this blog is getting a guest writer for this post—it’s a new twist, the sister-in-law guest/ghostwriter.

You may have noticed that there haven’t been any posts on this blog for a while, and you may have missed them.  The reality is that my smart, practical, modest, capable, Godly, thrifty sister-in-law Shelley is gearing up for what could be the fight of her life.  She has been having sinus problems for a couple of months, but then, who doesn’t? Several rounds of antibiotics later she was still having problems, and it was also accompanied by the strange symptom of not being able to smell.  This led to an appointment with a local ENT doctor, which led to a CT scan, which led to an MRI, which led to a consultation with a specialist in Omaha. By that time it was apparent that Shelley’s sinuses, and even nose, was full of something that you don’t blow out.  Immediately, on the spot, the high powered Omaha doctor took a biopsy—that was this past Wednesday, the 23rd.  By Friday she was scheduled for surgery, which will take place in Omaha on this Wednesday, the 30th.  There are many unknowns at this point, like the exact pathology of the tumor, the approach and method of surgery, and what can be expected for recovery.  It is known that it is expected to be about a six hour surgery, and the hospital stay is expected to be about a week.

The last few days have been busy with getting the proverbial ducks in a row, preparing for the days when the chief domestic engineer and the head secretarial/accounting worker will be out of the office for an extended, undetermined amount of time. Tomorrow will be filled with consultations with the ENT surgeon and the neurosurgeon who will be performing the surgery. Wednesday is the big day, with surgery likely beginning about noon.  Tonight things have reached the stage where time is no longer dragging, but speeding by.

Embarking on a journey like this is a bit like stepping off a cliff, not knowing if it will be a long time or never, that things will be like they were before.  Faith is more priceless than ever before…..  On behalf of Shelley, Jim and their family, we thank you in advance for your care.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

30 Years Ago

I graduated 30 years ago.
30 years ago, we had the first computer class in my high school, but very few people were interested in taking it.  What would we need it for?
In college I took computer classes, but they were programming classes.  
30 years ago, we had no idea that the computer would be part of our daily lives, that we would hardly be able to  get through a day with out using it.  
We had no idea that we would be able to use it to connect to people not just to our friends, but to a world wide web.

I enjoy my computer, but as with all things it has replaced some other things in my life.  
There are only so many hours in a day.  
I wasted my time before I had a computer, just as much as I can waste my time with it now. 

It isn't so much is the computer a good or bad thing.
It's more about how I am using my time in these last 30 years.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The End of Another School Year

My daughter discovered something the other day.  If you roll up your hair in very small pieces on hot curlers, you really get curls.  
She has beautiful long, thick taffy colored straight hair.  So, of course she wants curls.  

Curls are nice for special occasions.  They give you confidence in hard situations.
Like the piano festival and recital.  
I had my camera with me on festival day, where piano students are judged on theory, ear training, and performance.
Lynette got a 1-, which is a Superior which qualifies her for state in the fall, and earns a medal.

These are her piano teacher's festival students, and our friends.  The other two earned Superior also. 

Curls are also nice for appearing at the Thespian Banquet, during which Lynette received her pin as a member and a Hershey bar as consolation since the One-Act team didn't get to districts due to the weather, and thus didn't have the chance to make State, since they weren't there. 

Good Job, Lynette!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day, Next Year

I love this tribute to Mother's Day.  I'm not sure I like the way I celebrate it now.  Perhaps I should celebrate it differently, this year.

This woman shares the feelings in my own heart so well.
Mother's Day

It is because I have children that I am a mother.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Barry 8 Months

Barry is 8 months old.  He is crawling well, which means Zane's train tracks that cover the living room floor don't work so well.  Barry's idea of playing with trains is to grab the track and wave it around for awhile, and then grab some more. I've been teaching Zane to call me when he gets frustrated with Barry, which he is learning to do.  I also keep a pretty close eye on the situation, just in case. 
I have made Barry his own little track which only lasts as long as he is content to watch the train go 'round.  It ends when he grabs the engine.  
He is also pulling himself to stand.

We have enjoyed our own pool for several years now.  The worst of it, is that every spring it needs scrubbed and filled.  
We are lucky to have such powerful equipment, so it doesn't take long with a power washer to scrub and a vacuum excavator to suck the water back out.  
Jim had good help this year. 

Actually, Lynette helps every year. 
She and her friend celebrated the finish with a boot fight.