Monday, June 30, 2008

Randy's Visit to the Radiologist

Today my mom and I accompanied Randy to the UW Cancer Alliance to meet with his radiologist, Dr. Shilpen Patel, for a consultation. We were first met by a young medical student who went over Randy's treatment since his cancer was discovered in March. After a thorough review, his radiologist arrived, a young, personable doctor who acted like he had all the time in the world for us. He explained what type of treatment he plans to do with the radiation and how it will be used in conjunction with the chemo. Right now it looks like Randy will have about 8 weeks of daily (Monday through Friday) radiation treatments that last about 3-5 minutes each. His first scheduled treatment is on Monday, July 14. Even though the actual radiation treatment lasts only a few minutes, he said Randy can expect to be at the hospital for the treatment for about an hour because it takes a good 40-45 minutes just to get him and everything else ready. He also went over all the possible side effects and what Randy can expect. He said that the first 3 - 31/2 weeks will be pretty much side-effect free in terms of the radiation. He might have a little redness and possibly a little fatigue, but nothing very noticeable. After that, however, things start to change. Redness of the esophageal area and his back will occur, he may experience a feeling of a sore throat due to the burning of the esophagus, and he will feel fatigued. He emphasized that he needs to exercise daily for 30 - 60 minutes (nothing extremely strenuous, but he needs to run, walk, bike, etc.), eat well, avoid alcohol except for a glass of wine once in a while---and he needs to get enough rest. Also, he'll be having another round of chemo in conjunction with the radiation this time. They'll give him one at the beginning and another at the end. The only thing the doc said about the chemo side effects is that they will amplify the radiation side effects. A lot just depends on the type of chemo he gets and right now he doesn't know exactly what that will look like. He meets with his surgeon, Dr.Wood, for the first time since his surgery this Wednesday. Mom and I plan to go with him again and get the lowdown.

After answering all our questions, Randy was escorted by a very friendly technician named Lee to another room where she explained exactly what she was going to do (hook him up to an IV and give him a "contrast" where they inject dye in his veins to find out exactly where the tumors are so they know where to aim the radiation), and then made an alpha cradle--a pillow-like contraption that will be formed to his body so that when he goes for the radiation, he will lie on it/in it and they'll be able to exactly pinpoint where to aim the radiation. Lots of things to do to prepare for these treatments.

While we were meeting with the medical student, Randy was scratching his left calf and noticed that it was bleeding. It took a while to get it stopped and he said it had been itching the night before and he thought he'd been scratching it in his sleep. His other ankle had been itching, too. Then, after he had the contrast dye, his skin flushed pink so the doctor decided to give him some Benadryl to take care of the reaction which it did. He said that when Randy needs more contrast dye treatments he'll have to have Benadryl and some Prednisone beforehand to prevent this reaction. 

Randy seemed to be handling the news in stride, but as we were leaving he said he now knows how he'll be spending his summer. He was a bit discouraged, but trying to keep a positive outlook. The doctor seems optimistic and went over every possible side effect--he said he didn't want to hide anything from him. I asked a few questions as did my mom and between the three of us, I think we left feeling like we knew a lot more than we did going in. As Randy has mentioned before, the people at the UW are amazing--every single person we came in contact with was upbeat, positive, smiling, caring--just the kind of person you would want to be taking care of your loved one. He's in good hands!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Randy comes home from the hospital

I've never seen a hospital room with so many flowers!

Randy was very happy to leave the hospital today. I picked him up just after noon, and we headed back to his apartment in Kirkland.
Frankly, I was amazed at how much Randy had recovered since Monday! The color had come back to his cheeks and he was zipping around like the proverbial spring chicken. (Someone needs to explain to me some day how the term "spring chicken" came about. I'd also like to know where the term "as easy as taking candy from a baby", which MUST have been coined by someone who has never tried to take candy from a baby. Anyway, I digress...)

Otto (Randy's cat) was definitely glad to have him home.

We had a quick cup of tea and I headed home.

The next stage is to wait 3 - 4 weeks before Chemo and Radiation. This will give Randy the time he needs to recover from the operation.

More in a bit...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

a change of strategy

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
The surgery yesterday began a lot later than planned. It was probably well after 7:30 before it ended.
Candy and Jenja were there to talk to the surgeon, who explained why they decided not to remove part or all of Randy's left lung.
The tumors had grown in a way that made it a bit more difficult to remove them, and decided that a combination of radiation + chemo would be more effective at this juncture, and they closed him up without removing anything just yet.
The good news is that his right lung is totally clear of cancer - which had been their biggest concern - and also, they know now that Randy responds well to chemo because the three original rounds of chemo shrank the tumors significantly.

Even drugged with painkillers, Randy's first questions were about how much they had removed. He was naturally disappointed when he learned that they hadn't scooped out what was left of the cancer yet.
Still, they now have a much better understanding of where exactly the cancer is located and will be able to target the radiation very effectively. The best understanding they get is when they are able to look directly at the tumors, etc..

I'm in Tully's on Dickerson - my favorite Seattle-side Tully's because of all the space - for a few hours, then I will visit Randy. Brad said he'd be there for the later shift.

I don't know visiting hours yet, but it seems like it is ok to drop by. If anyone would like to visit and would like to call, feel free to call me or Brad:
Liam: 425-985-4464
Brad: 206-650-0480

More in a bit...


Monday, June 16, 2008

The Big Fella goes to the Fight

Randy does some final email checking before heading into the University of Washington for his surgery today.

He asked me to add this card to the blog, so here it is. I hope you can all read it ok.

Click each image to see a bigger picture....

It's about 11:30am now. With a bit of luck, the surgeon is already well on his way to removing the remaining cancer from Randy's body.
I'll head back in to the hospital in an hour or two, and post phone numbers, visiting hours, etc., to this blog as soon as I learn what's what.

Say a little prayer everyone. Your friend (son, brother, father) is in good hands.

The best gift of all

This weekend I was blessed to have spent with my kids and have the very best of Fathers Days. My friend Karin who works @ the Bellevue Westin made sure we had the greatest of everything and provided the perfect backdrop for us to play, relax, be entertained, laugh and most of all, be completely connected for 24 straight hours.
It was the very best of weekends.

We saw movies, did spa treatments, had room service (too much room service), swam, laughed, wrestled and just plain hung out. A weekend to remember for sure. Riley went so far as to say, 'Dad, we need to do this monthly'. It was great.

On Sunday, Emily and Riley were struggling with what to get me for Fathers Day. I told them to surprise me. So off they went to the mall with two of Emily's good friends, (Hana & Ashley who had joined us).

While they were gone, I went to the gym and swam a few laps in the pool. During this time, I realized they'd already given me my gift, a gift of a lifetime. I realized in that moment they had provided the gift of Life as that is exactly what I had received in abundance!

I am blessed beyond words to describe my feelings of joy. It was the finest of Father's Days gift a father could have possibly imagined.



Sunday, June 15, 2008

Be a Tiger...


Happy Father's Day...I'm just so happy that it's Father's Day and happy to wish you Happy Father's Day!
I bet that you are happy that I am happy and that we both hope that all fathers everywhere are happy today.

Just left you a voicemail ... we are all thinking of you as we know tomorrow is your surgery day. We will be thinking of you, praying for you and will be focused on nothing but the best outcome. Thank God and dedicated researchers for the advancement in cancer treatments we now have today. My mother is a perfect example of someone who has survived because of the new technology and treatments.

Be a Tiger!!

All our Love...Greg, Nancy, Grant and Andrew:-)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Houston, we have Lift-off

Surgery is scheduled for 10:45am next Monday. 4 hours later I trust I'll be cancer free.



Dirk Brandenburg to me

Hi Randy, I just wanted to know that I am thinking of you a lot. I am sure you are receiving a lot of support from your many other very good friends. I just wanted you to know that I am out here quietly giving you all my support. I look forward to you getting through this long difficult process, you will.

As you know, only with the "intimate understanding" that we really will not live forever can we understand and live our lives authentically. Along with everything else, I am sure that you have gained a great understanding of what is important to you. What a great gift you have received. Don't you wish there were an easier way...? Hang in there buddy!!

Dirk Brandenburg

My bro Claude

We will all be there on the 16th bro. I wish I was in town personally but I will be ringing you to get an idea how you're doing and what the new designer narcs are like....snag a few for your friends for the recovery party....

PS: I am told that it is good practice to take some Viagra prior to the surgery...that way you send the right message to all the nurses and gets you extra care (with a smile)...

Peace brother and speak to you later.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

A slight change of plan

Monday June 16 will now be the day they remove the lower lobe of my left lung and along with it the shrunken tumor. Prior to doing so though, Dr. Wood will perform a bronchoscopy to make sure nothing is in my windpipe and a mediastenoscopy. The latter is a couple of cuts above my breast bone to extract some of the lymphs, dip them in some liquid nitrogen and freeze the little suckers to see if they're 'active'. Bottom line, further diagnosis of the illness to determine treatment. All things looking good, off with the lower lung we go. I'm either in there for 15 minutes or 4 hours...the latter being the optimal scenario of which I'm confident will be the procedure.

Dr. Wood gave me the option of waiting the full 6 weeks following final chemo or pushing us ahead as he feels I'm in good enough shape to take on the full effect of lung removal. Thus, a positive and I'm treating as such. Also, I figure by the time I recover from this, summer will have finally arrived in Seattle making it all the better to enjoy my convalescence in a more meaningful environment and use "Junuary" as the down time.

The procedure will occur @ the UW Medical Center, 1959 N.E. Pacific St., Seattle, WA 98195. I will be there 3 to 5 days all depending upon how fast I recover. The main number is 206 598-6334. I don't plan to be on line nor have my Cell phone as the hospital frowns upon the latter. I'll be on the 5th floor of the Pavilion Surgery Center. I'll have my own private suite so if you want to plan a party, I'm in. Just keep the 'Free Bird' CD @ home as I recall that one always calling the cops from the neighboring parties.

If you wish to visit, park below the center and bring your parking ticket with you for validation. It's not 100% covered but it is discounted.

I had scheduled a trip to go to Puerto Vallarta on the 22nd of June for nine days and relax in the sand to ready myself for the July timeline. But seeing as how my focus is on defeating this affliction, I opted to take the battle to the cancer and alleviate any possibility of it being the other way around.

God willing, I'll make it to Mexico as I know it will still be there when I'm ready and it will be all the more rewarding as I will have accomplished a major feat.

The doc's tell me it's a 60 day recovery period to get to 90%...little golf or tackle football in that time frame but that doesn't mean I can't take everyone's money again come September. I quit playing tackle football about 35 years ago so that's not a problem.

Thanks all for your love, devotion and most of all your prayers. God is listening and he's not ready for me to lie down in his lap just yet...He told me the other night during a prayer vigil there's a few more things HE wants me to tackle on HIS behalf on this planet between now and then.

Much love and faith in all that is good. Wishing us all a speedy recovery.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Childs Surgery

Two little kids are in a hospital, lying on stretchers next to each other outside the operating room---the first surgeries of the day. The first kid leans over and asks, 'What are you in here for?' The second kid says, 'I'm in here to get my tonsils out and I'm a little nervous.' The first kid says, 'You've got nothing to worry about. I had that done when I was four. They put you to sleep, and when you wake up they give you lots of Jell-O and ice cream. It's a breeze.' The second kid then asks, 'What are you here for?' The first kid says, 'A circumcision.' Whoa!' the second kid replies. 'Good luck buddy. I had that done when I was born. Couldn't walk for a year.'

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Reflection from Jazz Vespers

Hi Randy,
This evening Steve and I attended a Jazz Vespers at our church that was really wonderful. I wanted to share with you and your readers some of the timely and meaningful pieces that were in the liturgy. I found them especially comforting and uplifting and I hope you do, too. 
The opening prayer is: Loving God of all that is, help us to be still. Loosen our grip on our cares and concerns; clear away all stresses and frustrations. Quiet our busy minds; open a space deep within us; fill us with your grace. Help us to see all you have made as holy, the earth and people as sacred. Help us to live our lives with you at the center. Guide us, encourage us, resource us to articulate your kingdom, in partnership with those who differ most from us. Surround us with your love that casts out fear. Fill us with your hope for the world as it might be. Amen.  

Another wonderful piece is one by Fred Buechner: 

Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.
In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness:
touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it
because in the last analysis all moments are key moments,
and life itself is grace.

The last one is from A New Zealand Prayer Book:

Eternal Spirit,
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts that we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and forever. Amen

God bless us all! Amen.


Friday, June 6, 2008

The Journey

Every step of the journey is the journey. And the first step to the journey is to lose your way...

Mi Amigo Karl

Randy, Thanks. Your blog is on my favorite list. The blog is full of incredibly well said thoughts. I think of you and pray for you every day. I am so sorry this had to happen to my extremely good friend, Randy. And I am enthused to hear some positive news, I know that you have Angels watching you and that you will win.

I want very very much to spend time with you soon. I would welcome the chance to see you anywhere anytime, either doing something fun or nothing at all. I am good to go for any oportunity to be there and help in any way I can. It is sure good to know that you have some of the finest friends that ever walked on this planet. I am honored to be among those that love you forever.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Next steps; surgery planned for week of July 10

I'm pleased to report I survived the final chemo treatment with flying colors. It lingered a bit longer than I expected with the typical nausea & fatigue but all in all, it wasn't the worst thing I've ever experienced. That said, I'm not exactly recommending it nor do I wish more in my future.

The good news is I am chemo susceptible which translates into it did what it was suppose to do and that was shrink the tumors / affected lymph nodes. The doctor didn't specify the exact amount of the reduction but both the oncologist and the surgeon concur it did a good enough job to take me to the next step in the process of removing the tumor(s) in my lung via surgery.

The plan as it currently stands is to have surgery to remove the lower lobe of my left lung and the affected lymph's (3 or however many they find once they go in). The surgeon likes to wait six weeks following the last chemo treatment. That puts us into the first / second week of July depending upon the surgeon's schedule. I don't have an exact date but my guess it will most likely occur the week of July 10.

Convalescence from this type of surgery looks like 4 -5 days in the hospital with 60 days to get back to 90 percent. But during this time I should be able to function fairly well and get about my daily routine fairly quickly. They want you up and about, not lying around. So while it will be a gradual recovery, it should prove fairly non invasive from a life hindering debilitation standpoint. At least that's how I'm interpreting it and planning on it to unfold.

In the meantime, I'm continuing to work and will get myself as physically fit as possible in the next 4 weeks to be on top of my physical game when they start carving me up.

I'll have a nice C shape scar on my left side under my arm that wraps around my back I'm told. It should prove a nice match the one on my right hip from last years hip replacement.

After all of this, please let me know if you know any casting directors looking for a middle aged guy for any horror flicks where they're wanting to save a little on scar make-up artist fees. I should fill the bill nicely.
There is also a new iPod docking station holder and GPS they install into your ribcage these days and since the insurance covers most of that, I'll get that new kit too.

My spirits are good and so between now and then will be gearing myself up for this all important next round.