… from whence we came

Dawne had her second chemo treatment yesterday with the replacement drug, the lower dosage, less toxic chemo drug which she will take weekly until March 31. Best I can tell food is tasting better to her. Dawne seems a little more “with it”, although negative side effects remain. I’m trying to imagine what it is like to go through this amount of physical stress and then add the additional stress of losing your job (I think officially today), selling your home, and packing and moving 500 miles away. As one adds each of these to the mix, you’re inclined to wonder what it takes to maintain a positive attitude. Dawne does.

I’m grateful to Cousin Lona who picked Dawne up at the airport in Southern California yesterday day and took care of Dawne as she took chemo while I finished unloading what is almost 40 years of collective junk into mom’s garage in Northern California. Four gorilla-styled metal racks worth of stuff. If ever I needed motivation to do a life purge, I have it now. Consider this booked as soon as we are done with cancer surgery and treatments. Did I mention March 31st is the last chemo treatment? Big day coming up. Doc says it will most likely take 4 to 5 weeks for Dawne to recover from chemo and then surgery. So, looking to the end of April for surgery which will be done in Southern California.

Cancer, like most of life’s unexpected challenges, brings with it opportunities to redirect your life. Out of pain can come gain, if you allow yourself to be open to change. There is no doubt Dawne and I will be leading significantly different lives as we complete this journey. Reconnecting with our family and friends in Northern California is one of those gains. It has been almost 25 years since I moved the family to Southern California. It was surreal to be driving our stuff back north this week. Very emotional for me as I drove through the night alone hazing at the almost-full moon and cranking the window up and down using the cool night air as medication to soothe my tired butt and wake me up from time to time. Ya, life’s unexpected challenges do bring painful moments.

But, then again! The night air and moon only hinted at refreshing things to come. Nice surprises and pleasantries do have a way of easing the pain, even making it disappear for a while and hopefully forever. An angel dropped in on us when I pulled into Carmichael. An angel who had appeared before. Listen in, you’ll meet her.

Twenty-seven years ago a young adult was assigned by her company to care for our ailing mother who had ALS. This young lady, Lynn, was our mom’s favorite caretaker and quite frankly ours too. Lynn, noted we were back in Carmichael and she came to visit us – all the way from Morgan Hill, California. Within seconds Lynn was schlepping boxes and pieces of furniture and helping me assemble those heavy metal storage racks. What a life saver! What a special visit! We caught up on 27 years and emptied a 26-foot uHaul truck. At the end of the day we were physically exhausted, but our spirits were lifted. Thank you Lynn. Lynn reminded me that productive people are happy people. Lynn reminded me that friends are forever and time has a way of endearing our friends to us in ways quite unexpected.

You’ve heard Dawne speak about my Cousin Danene, generationally could be called Aunt (she is my dad’s 1st cousin). Danene moved to Carmichael with Dawne last summer before the Thanksgiving surprise – Dawne’s diagnosis. Danene has been a mainstay throughout and a principal advocate for healthier eating. Her impact on Dawne is immeasurable. Dawne and I say goodbye to Danene this week as she moves on to the next stage in her life. She will travel to and live in the State of Washington. Her brother comes into town to assist her with her travels. The house will feel emptier without her. We wish her well and we thank her for being a brief partner in this, our transitory time of our life.

Well, today is going to be one of those butt-grinding days. I return the rental truck in Sacramento, sit and wait while uHaul rigs the little car with a little trailer hitch! then back to the Carmichael home to pack in the last bit of stray pieces before driving back to Southern California to pick Dawne up and head back to the Aguanga home. It is sold and escrow is scheduled to close on Friday. Last minute fixes the buyer requires. Last bit of packing and moving. The a final clean sweep and we say good-bye to what turned out to be a short four-year experiment in high chaparral living.

Keep your thoughts and prayers coming for Dawne. The doc says the real big day is surgery day when the pathologist’s report will tell us just how affective the pre-op treatments have been. We wait with bated breath – I think that is the proper way to say it. In the meantime, we’ll keep looking for golden moments that otherwise would not have come but for this nasty thing we call Cancer.

Good day to all.


“What does the Fox say?”

Good morning! This is William, aka the Hubby, the Fox.

Nice technology this It notified us that we have not reported out much in the last week or so. Call it a lull. Well more than that; call it difficult times. In clinical terms it is mid-cycle in the pre-operative treatment regime. In human terms it simply sucks. I see Dawne struggling at just about every level we call life. We know all the rationales for staying positive, for thinking long. We do have hope, we do have confidence. It is tested for sure.

As I sat staring at the walls late last night before bed, and then again at 3am this morning, I wondered about how we are responding to friends who inquire about Dawne. These wonderful and welcomed contacts that remind us Dawne is not alone in her struggle.  There certainly has been a place for straight up honesty. Life is altered when undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. It is a guarded place. We are concerned. We do not wish to dwell on the negative. We are by nature upbeat people; although speaking about hurdles has seemed proper.

My father was a very candid man, yet he spoke little of his health. Friends ask. “How are you doing?” Some write or call expressing compassion. They wish Dawne to know she is loved. I assure you those moments brighten her day. Some query; it is an in-depth perspective they seek, as they learn about breast cancer. It is in these moments Dawne is allowed to forget about herself and help friends. Some friends having lived cancer, personally or otherwise, they look for common ground offering sage advice. All of these gracious contacts give hope and confidence a big boost. Most importantly, they warm Dawne’s heart. All are immensely welcomed moments.

So forgive me my candor this morning. I do not speak of me. I speak of precious Dawne. Let me assure you that today she is not stuck in hell, but she surely feels for the moment like she is living in it. There are glimpses of hope – the softening of the tumors and a sense that these buggers are getting smaller. I hear these things from Dawne and hope her mind isn’t playing tricks. She is beating this ugly disease, right? Against that backdrop I can assure you that the chemo is also trying to kill her. This is the reality she fretted over when considering her options moving forward. I spare you the details, but there is little in her daily life today that resembles what was our happy, blissful life.

Dawne wrote earlier this week, “Cancer is not for wusses.” Amen! I add today, cancer reminds you daily of love, of family, of friends. While chemo “kills you to save you”, “how are you doing” is the best antidote. Care cures cancer! Thank you for your calls, notes, cards, emails, and posts. Thank you for adding your voice to Dawne’s Choir. Thank you for kindly listening and smiling when this singer, me, is a bit off-key. Bless you all. While it may well take a village to raise a child – I’m convinced it takes a world to beat cancer. You all are Dawne’s world and your choir rocks!

I share with you today one of the many bright lights in Dawne’s life; that would be one out of the many which are you all. It is our granddaughter Frankie Vaughn Lee. She turns two on February 13th. Her mom and dad created, shot, edited and produced her birthday video. I asked, “What does the Fox say?” Don’t ask unless you wish to volunteer for Frankie’s year three birthday video. Hooked!

“… waooohhh …”

Translated, “Care Calms and Cures Cancer!”

Tears in My Eyes, Hope in My Heart

Tears in my eyes tonight, hope still in my heart!

Today’s workday was a struggle … the heart was willing, the body and thinking mind not. Common sense caught up with my heart and asked passion to give it a rest. The doctor’s office called late afternoon. The doctor is placing me on medical disability through the balance of 2014. The call to my boss at the close of business was difficult for me.

Writing my formal notice about moving from intermittent to continuous leave was no easy task. The letter expressed my sincere desire to be re-selected for a job I have done for 13 years, while at the same time having to explain my need for continuous medical leave. I understand the medical necessity of disability leave through 2014, yet I still hope for a real chance at returning to work and my company sometime this summer. It’s not out of the realm of medical possibilities.

  • Keep rooting with me for these anti-Her2 drugs.
  • Keep listening for magical words – “pathological complete response.”
  • Keep hoping I’m eligible for breast conservatory procedure.
  • Keep thinking out-patient procedure.
  • Keep praying post-operative treatments are easy on me.
  • Keep positive thoughts about re-selection by my old boss.
  • Pray William and I get creditor cooperation on our financial workout plan.

William, Danene, and I travel together this coming Thursday to begin the sequence of needed tests and appointments for Cycle 3 treatments. I will return to our temporary home in Carmichael with Danene after chemo treatments. William will stay behind to finish packing the high country ranch house in Agunaga. The present plans have me stopping in for a day or two to say goodbye to our lovely home as we list it for sale.

I’m reflective tonight. We hoped-against-hope that my newish chemo regime wasn’t too powerful a personal adversary, while believing it to be the ultimate adversary for my Her2 Cancer bug. It is a worthy endeavor. There is ample reason to conclude that my personal struggles with this chemo regime means I’m kicking cancers butt. I have no way of knowing for sure for a couple more Cycles, but the tumor does feel softer and less attached to my breast bone which it pressed against. Did I write about this before? The doctor mentioned at my Cycle 2 appointment my tumors seemed to me smaller already. It’s a crude measurement, but I’ll take it.

We will do this!

Rally call:

  • Remember – pCR!
  • Remember – Remission!
  • Remember – Re-Selection!
  • Remember – I love you all!

Waiting on Doctor’s Counsel

Tomorrow ends my first week back and today was the hardest day yet. I had to make “that” call to Dr. Marglieth today. I’m waiting to hear his counsel, as he was off today.  Tonight, my thinking brain collides with my heart and common sense; and there is no place to hide.  My body speaks clearly.  Tomorrow more than likely changes the rest of my life. When I thought I could whistle past the grave, so to speak, I was thinking superwoman could survive cancer and not have a consequential impact on her career too.  I’m afraid and I’m learning.

I’m afraid to explain, my total package is not “on-line”. My heart is so into succeeding with this intermittent work approach. The rest of me is failing the test. Boo! I’m guessing chemotherapy drugs saturate your body and over time the killing-effect accumulates. There must be truth to the common expression that chemo kills you to save you.  It’s the choice I did not want to make. I feared its outcomes.

I know this, I’m in the lucky generation.  I’m receiving one anti-HR2 drug as a replacement for old school chemo drugs, but still must take at least one chemo drug with it.  I will be adding a second anti-HER2 drug this coming treatment – Cycle 3.  The previous generations did not have this option.  I also benefit from having chemo before surgery where tests show exactly how effective, or ineffective, these drugs have been. I’m reminding myself that by surgery time I have no less than a 39% chance of complete shrinkage of the tumors. Previous generations had a 17% chance at best.

This week I learned this, peace, tranquility and positive focus matter greatly when fighting cancer, particularly through chemotherapy. When you progress through the day and then pass your heart and soul off to the night genies, you don’t want to be carrying unnecessary or weighty burden’s beyond the obvious frailties. The regular stresses of work can be a problem; for sure, extraordinary pressures from a company in transition while undergoing chemotherapy add an extra layer of stress. A layer that weighs on me.  In those moments at night when your body says sleep, your thinking mind races considering choices and outcomes – outcomes which are incredibly huge as pertains to livelihood and losing your entire life savings and job, possibly even a 13-year career.

Good night friends.

Yet Another … Sleepless in Sacramento

4:30 AM!

This is seriously getting old.  Sleep, oh sleep, wherefore art thou!

Scorecard [Day 4 of 10]
Body ............. 1 day reasonable
Simple Brain ..... 1 day reasonable
Thinking Brain ... 2 days decent
Memory ........... 3 days decent
Common Sense ..... 4 days confounded
Heart ............ 4 days strong

“Thursday Workday” on the docket in 2 hours and it’s not looking so good.  Feels like today is going to require extraordinary effort. I continue with doing testing. Follow-up with my doctor looks to be a good idea. My energy level is on the floor this morning. The fog is still hovering. Time to get an expert opinion because my heart is telling me one thing and body and most aspects of my brain another. The question has to be is this it? Is this normal? Is this my new reality for the next year?

Truthfully, sad this morning. I really-really wanted to do this. Call me crazy, but I love my job. Trying out this Intermittent Leave program sure made sense. Keeping a 13-year job knowing you can do 7 more years and happily retire after a 20 year career in one company means a lot to me. Being placed on continuous disability for a year would not be my wish. Common sense tells me though that as an alternative it beats the heck out of losing my battle with cancer. What a strained win it is? Life is good. Life without a job and therefore certain economic disaster is not so good?

Forgive my reflections my friends. It must be a normal process. William went through tough times a decade or so ago and he reminds me that unexpected changes due to medical disability are very hard. He reminds me that I encouraged him to let go, to let the family gather around, to take the time to heal. Hard as it is, it just might be time to take my own long forgotten advice.

Moving forward and trying not to look back.

Weepy Wednesday

I wish I had more in me.  The best update I can give is I hurt all over.  My brain even hurts.

The very kind ladies who serve as Breast Cancer Docents, wonderful women who have survived chemotherapy and surgery and live to survive cancer, spoke about a “fog” coming over them.  It’s a good description.  Let’s hope my fog clears by morning.

To those ladies who find themselves walking this road today or tomorrow.  I’m experiencing something I did not expect.  You get through 2 Cycles of Chemo and you think your body is tolerating the drugs quite well.  It has been a week now since Cycle 2 treatments.  There is something new going on these last two days and especially throughout the day.  I finally broke down today and had to pull out the big guns – prescription drugs for nausea and anxiety. Week 5 is turning out to be tough. Is this my future reality?

I’m off to bed early again. My day is done-done!

Early-Morning … Hump Day

4AM!  Arg! …

That heart of mine isn’t doing so good this morning.  It is being chased by a mean ghost.  My body complains more and more.  Possibly the most interrupted sleep I have had since starting chemotherapy.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have an App that scanned your entire body and reported where the system failures and kinks were so you could adjust these and move on with your day.  No matter, head up!  I need to do this!

Today is a big workday.  For those who know me well, you know I am laser-focused on my job, meaning the company and those customers I work for. Important meeting today with the boss.  It is an odd place to be – chemotherapy, surgery, post-surgery treatments, total recovery, and a company in transition once again.  Against that backdrop, there is more testing to do to keep projects on track with important deliverables.

How does that old expression go – mind over matter?