Thursday, May 29, 2014

Those Little 'Aha' Moments - The ones where you learn a little more about life

"If you have tears, prepare to shed them now."
~William Shakespeare

A mother, probably in more ways than a father, has a tender heart for her children.  Not that dad doesn't, but I think it is just different.*  Late last night as Tiffany and I were talking, she burst out into some tears.  I can't say its unusual nor is it a common occurrence, rather, under the circumstances, it comes as often as it should.  And while the contents of the discussion will remain close to me and her, I will divulge but only a part of it, because I think it shows a grand gesture to parents, and more specifically, moms.

You see, as she is going through this process, she has those moments that do come, where she wonders what is it that she is going through, why she might be doing so, how long it will last, and in her case, what she might be able to learn from it.  However, as is often the case, these questions are not easily answered.  No doubt she gets on her knees to ask for answers.  And no doubt she gets answers.  But here in mortality, we sometimes either don't like the answer we get or we just get enough to move onward, which, in our mortal imperfect state, can sometimes be frustrating.

With the recent issues we have been dealing with lately, Tiffany's normally positive state of mind has taken a beating.  The pain and suffering she has had to go through, both the acute and seemingly long term (for example, the throat pain is recent, and should go away soon, though some of the neuropathy in her hands and feet, may stay for quite some time), creates a constant barrage against her big smile and happy disposition.  Though she does amazingly well, especially from my viewpoint where I get to see first hand what she has to go through, a beating takes place still the same.

So last night, in one of our long talks that we enjoy, she shared with me a little bigger window into the pain and agony she has recently been going through.  But no, that isn't where the tears came, not this time.  She shared with me the thought running across her mind and it was this...

That she was so grateful that her kids did not have to go through the trial that she was, for she would not be able to bear it, not even for a moment.

But, herein again, tears did not come.  It was the thought that followed that required a box of Kleenex...


It was this... That although she did not have to watch her own child go through this... Her own mother does.

Tiffany being a mother herself, came to realize what her mother was going through, or perhaps maybe just a glimpse.  But it was her sorrow for what her mom must be going through made the tears freely flow.  Tiffany shared with me a little gem, as she often does.  It helped me understand why her mom sacrifices her time from her home, her husband, her life, to come and stay with us time and time again, likely feeling powerless in the situation, but doing whatever she can to try to make it better. 

Maybe just like any mother would.



Cheers,

Nathan

* (Please do not run rampant suggesting that I think moms are better caregivers than dads or whatever.  I am just saying that I think moms have a more tender heart for their children - feel free to discuss in the comments below).

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

She is Home!

For those concerned individuals out there, I just wanted to share with you our joy as Tiffany has arrived home after a 6 day stay at Huntsman.  She had her moments up there that we were very grateful to have a wonderful facility to go to and grateful for the doctors and nurses who looked after her.

A special thanks goes out to Tiffany's siblings who have helped by either taking the kids or have stayed a few nights with her at the Hospital.

After having been in the hospital for 6 days, Tiffany was a little concerned that she would have to go back today (Wednesday) to start the second round of this treatment she is undertaking.  But, in contacting Dr. Glenn and her staff, we are pleased to find out that she will likely be home with us recuperating for the next week before she needs to go back and start that treatment.  Which we are indeed grateful to have that time.  Being the last week of school and with Logan's Birthday coming up on Saturday, she was worried she would miss some of the many activities the kids had planned.

But instead, she does get to enjoy them, and we are grateful that she can.

Cheers,

Nathan

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Case of the Appearing Flowers and Other Recent Mysteries

"Every man at the bottom of his heart believes he is a born detective."
~John Buchan


(To be read in a low, dark, detective-like voice - like the narrator of a kids crime show)

It was May 7, 2014.  The elongated shadows were showing that the day was almost over.  Me and my companion had spent most of the day together, being interrogated by a host of individuals, intent on finding out who this Tiffany was and what her story might be.  Each person came with a specific request, question, or hankering to give her some information, such as, what the chemo regimen was going to include, how it was going to start, the hope to finish in a few days, and perhaps how to order dinner from room service.

It was a new day for us.  Neither one of us had ever been admitted to a hospital since we solemnized our relationship 14 and one half years ago (aside for the birth of four wee little ones) in the temple of our God.   Though the excitement of the day came with trepidation, a caution to move forward.  We weren't really sure what to expect and the multitude of individuals, doctors, nurses, etc, who came to talk to us quickly overwhelmed us.  But, a break came in the interrogation; Tiffany's sister arrived.  Her entrance gave us some sort of reprieve; that there was another ally who could intently listen and try to make sense of what all these various parties were getting at.

With her arrival, it gave me the opportunity to leave for a time as she would stay to take care of our dear Tiffany.  I was to head to our humble abode and see if the children had infiltrated our home at the completion of their day at school and had destroyed the place.

They hadn't.  Thanks to a meal that was provided by some good and friendly neighbor, the ravenous little people hadn't done much more than eat, and start to watch a picture show.  I had no sooner arrived at home when I looked out the window and to my astonishment, a gaggle of young women and their leaders had penetrated the front yard and were in the midst of exterminating any unwanted plants, mostly in the form of weeds.  They didn't get too far before I was out and among them.  Finding myself surrounded, there was nothing that I could do, but assist them in undertaking their deed.  They accomplished their mission in record time, eliminating the noxious weeds and leaving a grateful, but proud husband and father with a broken heart and the feeling of inexplicable humility.

In as quick as a time they arrived, they departed and left in their wake a front yard that had been a blight to the surrounding community and transformed it to a seemingly simple beauty and a home with nice curb appeal.

But our story takes a turn into more mysterious fare.  You see, this said front yard was devoid of flowers.  Plants yes, flowers, not so much.  But, as life for this family had turned the way it had, flowers, nor the time to plant said flowers, was not found on the list of priorities.  Instead, I had to head back to the institute that held my wife captive.  She needed a companion, and thanks to good family members who graciously took the children, I was indeed able to go and stay with her.  (See here and here to find out more about her stay).  Leaving on a Friday evening, I went to stay with her for the course of about 48 hours.  It was during this time that, like thieves in the night, somebody had come and planted a very plentiful and abundant amount of flowers, for upon our return home, Tiffany was pleasantly surprised to not only find the weeds gone, but in found my surprise exhilarating as I saw that in the weeds stead were these beautiful flowers.

And, here we are a few weeks later, the culprit has not been found.  Oh, I have used my detective skills and have searched high and low.  I myself have interrogated a few.  But to my chagrin, no suspect has come forward to claim this as their work.  Which indeed is a tragedy, for the flowers have truly brightened the front yard and the artist should get credit for their work.

And again, three weeks later from this just-described mystery, another clandestine act has happened.  While Tiffany was again locked up in the infirmary, with me at her side, somebody, if not the original criminal, struck again.  This time, with a heavy dose of machinery as they mowed our lawn.  Once more I seek to find out who has done this act of service on our behalf.  I hope to track you down and give you thanks.

But alas, this may never be.  Sometimes (or in our case, often, as seems to be the case lately) we are flooded with these types of mysteries.  There is just not enough time or personnel that I would need to find out the concourses of angels who continually serve and take care of us. 

But if we could, we would thank them.  For they are quite frankly giving us joy in what is lately a crazy journey through life.

Cheers,

Investigator Miller

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Nice Relaxing Day!

"The time to relax, is when you don't have time for it."
~Sydney J Harris

Tiffany relaxing at Hunstman - Terrace Level
It is Sunday afternoon.  We spent the better part of the early afternoon on the terrace.  It was a very nice relaxing time, admittedly, here at Huntsman.  The umbrella up, chilaxing in the reclining chair, the cool breeze wafting across the scene.  Tiffany turned to me and says,

"This is when cancer makes me feel guilty!"

My reply (with tongue planted firmly in my cheek),

"Yes, I am very sure that everybody would trade places with you, just so they could be out on this terrace enjoying this moment!"

That Tiffany.  I probably give her too much credit and boost her up more than I should, but the problem for me when I talk to people, is this is one of her only flaws; That she feels like she isn't deserving of something good.  To think that she should not enjoy her time out on the terrace on a nice Sunday afternoon.  Yes, we have good people taking care of our kids, dog, and more (like a sister-in-law running off to buy some more clothes for Tiff as the stay here at Huntsman has lasted a bit longer than we expected).  And that is what she feels guilty about.  But they are doing it, not because they need to score brownie points or check off a list of things to do, but because they know that what she is going through, she (we) needs some help.

"Besides," I had to remind her, "remember that bloody nose that lasted two hours last night?  The one where the 6 different nurses were busy working on you and ended up having to transfuse a bag of platelets into you blood stream to get it to stop?  Or how about the blood count dropping and needing a blood transfusion at 3:00 am - just a few hours after the platelet transfusion?  Or then there is the throat pain you have had for a week!.  Want me to go on?"

I didn't think so.

I could have gone on, putting her back in her place.  You know.  They way sometimes we husbands have to with our wives.  But enough was said.

Four days in the hospital, unsure as to why platelets and blood counts are dropping.  We expected them to drop the first week or two after the treatment.  But this third week, we were expecting a rebound in both blood counts and energy.  But, as seems to be the case lately, it wasn't going on based on our plan. 

We are crossing our fingers that we can go home tomorrow, but it is probably best not to plan for that.

Until then,

Thanks for the prayers and well wishes, we truly appreciate them.

Cheers,

Nathan


Friday, May 23, 2014

2 Confirmed!!!!

This is just a quick note, for those that may be interested; Tiffany has 2 confirmed donors!

We don't know who, where, or anything other than that we have been told that there are two confirmed donors.  Due to patient confidentiality, we do not know who.  I would imagine that one day we may be able to find out.  And we hope so.  But for now, the news that we have two is wonderful news indeed.

For those still interested to donate, please do so at Bethematch.org.  There may be others out there needing your marrow.  Give the gift of life, donate today!  (I should be a spokesperson :) )

It does sound like the donors are not in the Salt Lake City vicinity as the coordinator suggested that the donors would donate on one day, the marrow would then be transported fresh, and then Tiffany would get it the next day.

To all those who have signed up to be a match for Tiffany - thank you.  That means the world to us.

Cheers,

Nathan

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Admittedly, Never a Dull Moment

Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.
~Alfred Hitchcock


 A faze, a fog, a blurry memory.  All this describes what the last few days have been like.  A part of me isn't even sure what made it so.  Though, I can say, it has been quite the whir.

Tiffany's white count dropped to almost nothing on Monday, which was somewhat expected after the chemo infusion.  The chemo is essentially targeting the fast growing cells in her body - part of the reason why chemo patients hair falls out - but also the mucus membrane that protects your throat.  It also then targets white blood cells and takes your immunity down substantially.  Well, with the white count down and when your throat is very painful and you can't eat or drink, and you can't take medication, you become very susceptible to infection and fevers.  If Tiffany gets a fever, off to the hospital she goes, as she has no self-fighting immune system to ward it off. 

Yesterday, Tiffany had called her doctor and nurses and they told her to get another prescription that they hoped would take the edge off and allow her to eat.  I think it only induced her into some sort of subconscious state.  She would be awake talking to you for a minute and mid sentence, she would doze off.  A few seconds later she would reawaken and remember that she was talking to you, but wouldn't remember what about.  She would try to take some sips of some broth or yogurt, and halfway to her mouth she would fall asleep.  The poor girl even sometimes had a mouthful of food when she fell asleep.  I had to wake her up on many occasion just to be sure she finished the mouthful.

Well, last night she woke up at about 2 am crying with pain.  She fought through the pain to get some medication down and after what seemed like forever, it took effect, calmed her down, and put her to sleep.  In that same time we took her temperature and it was just over 100 degrees and caused us to be on the ready to head down to Huntsman.  Her temperature reduced slightly as she was falling asleep and we opted to wait till the morning.  She actually had an early appointment already scheduled down at Huntsman and had a good friend scheduled to pick her up at 7 am for the hours drive down.

Well, as I almost expected, after getting her labs and getting checked out, her fever was up above 100 degrees and they made the quick decision to admit her into the hospital.  They want to watch her and make sure they can control the low grade fever, pain, and food intake before they let her go.  What I was surprised with, however, was that they are suggesting she will be here for possibly a week.  Basically, they want her to be in the hospital until her white count rebounds back to a 'normal', whenever that is. 

Never a dull moment in our household! 

A big thanks to Tiffany's sisters and family for the help with kids and helping to keep Tiff company.  They quickly dropped their own plans to assist.  As have many others.   We feel loved, and in this time of craziness, nothing feels better than to know others have your back.

Though - to be honest - I hope we don't need it for too long.

Cheers,

Nathan

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Truth that Hurts


You want the honest truth?

She ain't doing so well this week.

The chemo has come and wrought havoc upon my Tiffany.  We have had some not so fun weeks in the past, but this one seems to take the cake.  Oh - she will get through it, she always does.  And somehow, the rest of us will too.  And we will all be happy when it is over.

Going into this treatment the doctor was concerned about giving her this new round of chemo drugs.  She had just gone through 10 days of radiation treatment that gave her some esophageal pain and the doctor suggested that the chemo treatment we were about to start into would exacerbate that pain.  Tiffany at the time had said she could handle the pain.  

Here we are, almost two weeks from that date and I am positive she almost wishes she hadn't said that.  Her words today; 'It's like swallowing fire'.  

Swallowing has become not only a chore, but one that is feared.  Her regimen of pills - some of which are big horse pills - causes her to not only pause, but indeed, second thoughts about taking them.  Even the pills that are supposed to help give relief have been pills she struggles taking.  We have resorted to only taking the pills that she absolutely needs.  

We are three days into this heavy pain, (though five days since it started hurting). and she has not eaten a lot of food and drink.  Up until now, she has almost complained that her appetite is too big for a cancer patient, now we worry she is not getting the nutrition she needs.  

She goes back to the hospital tomorrow for a blood check and possibly another platelet transfusion (she had two if those recently - last Thursday and on Monday) and we are hoping that the nurses and docs will help find a way to give her relief, because even some of the 'good stuff' she has been taking, isn't giving her the relief she needs.

So for all those out there asking what can you do... please offer a prayer of relief for her... that she might be able to make it through this new pathway along this current journey.  That the pain will subside quickly, and she can make it back to a normal level of life before we have to start the second round of this contrarion drug...  On one side - it gives her pain... but the other side of it... hope for a better future.

Nathan


Monday, May 12, 2014

5,000 + word Essay: Tiffany and the Huntsman

A picture is a poem.  Without words.
~Horace

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then below is my 5046 word essay on Tiffany's most recent stay at Huntsman

The Before.

The preparatory IV

Doing exercises in her chair (this ended up causing her a lot of back pain the next day).

The view of SLC out of the waiting room during infusion.

The view of the zen-like rock garden out of her room.


Cheers,

Nathan

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers Day 2014

When a child is born,
                      So is a mother.
                                      ~Anonymous


If you think you have the best mother, you don't.  Sorry, world, she belongs to me.  But then again, my own children can make a case against that one - oh, and Tiffany could make a strong case for hers as well... OK, so I know and love the top three mothers in the world (I believe they are tied for first, I can't say one is better than the other [either that or I am playing some pretty good PR :) ]).  I know that is not fair for the rest of you, but 4th and 5th place is still up for grabs... maybe yours can take those spots.  That's still pretty good when you consider there is probably somewhere around 2+Billion moms out there.

On this mothers day, I wish to fall from the heights of thanking my mother and wife for all they do.  That is a noble thing, for sure.  Gratitude for them is a most important, and very rewarding, thing to do.  But I hope they know that I love and care for them in the most serious of ways.  I hope that I do not need to publicly do so, for I believe that it is in the confines of our relationships do the most sincere thoughts of love and gratitude should come through.  Or, as a wise old sage (aka, Dad) has said, 'show it, don't say it'.

No, I wish to share with you the love of a mother to her children. 

I sit here on a cozy Sunday morning looking out the hospital windows looking upon a cloudy and gloomy spring sky.  It has been raining most of this week, with but only a few breaks in the clouds and stormy weather.  Tiffany is sleeping and the moment is a very melancholy and reflective moment. 

Tiffany arrived here on Wednesday morning, feeling great and ready to start the next phase in fighting this cancer.  She has gone through radiation treatment the previous two weeks having had a series of 10 radiation treatments to get rid of the tumor that was found next to her spine.  The process seems to have worked, though only another MRI or CT scan will determine for sure.  But her right arm has started to get feeling back into it, which should be proof that it is working.  Of course, however, side affects from treatment have been acting up, with pain swallowing; effects of the radiation being shot through her body, and though targeting the tumor, also impacted her esophagus.  In talking to Dr Glenn that morning, she was concerned about admitting Tiffany and putting her through the new chemo regimen, as the new treatment is known to cause inflammation/deterioration to the gastrointestinal tract, adding to pain already in her esophagus.  She allowed Tiffany a moment to consider if she wanted to act, or wait for some recovery time, before they started the chemo treatment.  Though Tiffany said she thought she could handle the pain, her blood labs came back and showed a decrease to her platelet levels, with no good reason for them to drop.  The theory; the cancer is causing them to drop. 

So no matter what Tiffany ended up desiring, the blood counts caused us all to say, 'to heck with pain, we need to kill this cancer'.  So up the stairs Tiffany went to start her next round of chemo.

Now, you will note that I have not brought up anything about the love of a mother to her children... and I will continue on this story without bringing it up... yet.

So up to the room she went, and hooked up to the IVs she did.  With the new drug they are using, the biggest issue and cause of Tiffany to have to stay in the hospital is the concern for her kidneys.  As this drug goes through her body, the kidneys will do their best to filter out the drug, and we want this.  But the concern is if this drug stays in her kidneys, it will crystallize and then we have bigger issues at hand as kidney failure would be a concern.  So to combat that, they set her up on a huge bag of bicarbonate dripping through her IV.  This, to me, is an amazing process alone.  This bicarbonate, essentially raises her pH in her blood, which causes the kidneys to flush through faster (trying to stabilize her pH) and in so doing, creates a continuous flow that won't allow the drug to stay long enough in the kidneys to crystallize.   I am sure there is more to it that that, but in laymen terms, that is what is going on.  Of course, there are other reasons to need to be admitted into the hospital, for one, they gave the main chemo drug over a 24 hour drip, and then the secondary chemo drugs they had to give her every 12 hours for a couple of days. 

She has been a breath of minty fresh air, I am sure, around this floor in the hospital.  It is the Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) floor of Huntsman Cancer Institute and though we are not getting a BMT at this time, this is what we are working towards.  There is no doubt a sense of gloom as many of the patients are getting some very serious treatments.  As you see a few here or there in the halls or glimpses of them in their rooms, one cannot but feel the pain they are all feeling, and the nature of the beastly cancer they are all fighting.  But I cannot say it is a place of despair.  It is one of hope, tempered with the obvious concerns.

But in comes Tiffany.  She has had a bright smile on her face.  For the first couple of hours, one by one, we had what seems like a dozen different people come in and introduce themselves to us; the nurse, the nursing assistant, the head nurse, the nurse practitioner, a couple of doctors, the pharmacist, hospital spiritual advisor, and on and on.  Each one came in and each time, Tiffany had this most sincere, most genuine smile to each of them.  I cannot get across how she looked or the tenderness she gave to each who came in, but there was something special they could all see.  No pain, no treatment, nothing is too much for her.  Or at least this is what they got from her.  And every time they came in during the last four days, they have seen it again and again.  The genuine smile, the good attitude, the breath of fresh air.

For the first three days, all was well - no seeming effects of the treatment.  The last 24 hours, her steroid has worn off and some pain, mainly due to her original tumor in her lower back, has flared up after she tried some exercises the therapist suggested (another person that came in that first day).  She still is smiling, but unfortunately, you can see the wear and tear the treatment is having on her. 

But, you see, here is the thing.  At 4am this morning, as she was getting up to take another restroom break, she turned to me, and said,

'Happy Mothers day, thank you for making me a mother... I love my children.  All my life I wanted to be a mother and my dreams have come true.'

And then she dosed off with a smile on her face. 

Who knows what the future will bring.  Who knows what pain and suffering she will have to go through.  But this I know... the love that Tiffany has of being a mother, brings her the most supreme joy.  No matter what pain or agony she has to go through, the desire to be there for her children in the years to come, she will do any treatment, handle any pain, and do it with a smile on her face.

For why else would you go through what she is going through?  I know not.

Happy Mothers Day,

Nathan