Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More visitors and more progress

We had a lot of visitors yesterday - Mrs. Craig brought her two granddaughters over with some flowers and very glittery home-made get well cards. Connie Paris brought some soup and cookies and stayed for a visit. Mom and I managed to get outside yesterday afternoon to walk up the street about halfway, and saw neighbor Gene working away in his yard.

Neighbor Mike was over bright and early already this morning with the mail, newspaper and to check on mom. He and his wife life in the other have of the condo (it's a duplex side-by-side set up) and they are going out today for a little while (just so we didn't worry about where he was later). He's 86 and sharp as a tack.

Another good night's sleep and mom got up by herself this morning and is able to sit in the recliner and even flip up the foot rest without any assistance. She's been coughing and sneezing a little this morning, which is painful. She really hasn't done any of that since she had surgery, so I've been waiting for it to happen. For those of you who know my mother, she has had a persistent cough ever since I can remember. When I was little that was the only way I could find her in a store - stop and listen for the cough.

Her incision looks good - the bruising is fading and there isn't much oozing. We forgot to clean it the other day when we got home but didn't seem to matter. It's healing good as far as my non-medical eye is concerned. It's a long cut - from the bottom of her rib cage, around her belly button and about to her hip line - 8 inches total. The staples are really secure so I'm sure no amount of sneezing or coughing will displace them. Yesterday she got by on some extra strength Tylenol during the day and saved the Percoset (sp?) for the night-time which makes her tired. If we can keep her awake enough during the day then I think that is better for her night-time rest.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Good to be home

Mom had a great night's sleep last night - she slept longer than she thought she would. She was just happy to be home.

Last night Tom came out to pay a visit to his favorite mother-in-law and we had potato soup. Mom had a really good appetite yesterday so we will see if she can keep it up today. Lord knows there is plenty of potato soup in the freezer. I'm going to bake up some potatoes later and then walk over to Fareway to see what they have to work with. Every since the Jewel closed the grocery fare has been slim pickins.

I went out for a run while neighbor Mike came over for a short visit and the neighbor-across-the-street Marion also came over to check in and see how mom is doing. There have been quite a few phone calls and there was also a big pile of cards waiting to be opened. As soon as the wind dies down a little we'll go outside for a shuffle and get some sun.

I'm sure she will make a lot of progress this week!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Back home

We arrived home about 3:00 p.m. and the car ride seemed to go well and mom wasn't too uncomfortable. Got her prescriptions picked up and she's good to go for a few days. Tom moved her recliner upstairs to the living room so she can have a comfortable spot.

Dr. Degeest came in before mom finished her discharge orders. We didn't expect to see him today, as he is a busy surgeon and she has an appointment next week with him to get the incision staples out. He said that he had a chance to look at some of the biopsy tissue under the microscope and that there were still cancer cells present in the ovaries even though he couldn't see it with the naked eye. And, even though the ovaries didn't have a significant mass, that is where the cancer started. So mom pursued the correct course of treatment after all... chemotherapy and then surgery... and if she doesn't continue to keep up the treatment, it will come back. Next week he will have more biopsy reports but those were his initial findings at this point.

She is better off now that she was 6 months ago, but it's not over yet. We knew that the surgery wouldn't be the end of the matter, however I hope the other biopsy reports don't contain cancer cells as well. He did remove her ovaries, uterus, lymph, omentum but he also took tissue samples from areas that he didn't remove: peritoneum wall, bowel and liver (I think).

This week I told her just to rest and recover. She made it through the surgery and she needs to concentrate on that right now. We'll worry about other things later!

Homeward bound!

The nurse took out her IV late yesterday afternoon. Earlier they had given her another bag of magnesium and also had her take some potassium pills because her levels were low again. She wasn't very comfortable when I left. We had only walked two times yesterday, and I was worried about her not getting a good night's sleep.

The good news is that she was nice and perky this a.m. when I arrived, had already been on her first walk of the day and even ordered herself a bowl of Cream of Wheat. The night went well - although she woke up a couple of times, she still had some restful moments. About 20 minutes ago the doctor gave her discharge orders, so when she's ready, we can go home at anytime. Unfortunately she also drank a small cup of prune juice with her breakfast so we may have to wait a little while before she's road-ready. That's fine - there's no agenda for today.

The nurse will be in shortly to talk about instructions, etc., and when she will have to get her staples out. I'm hoping we don't have to drive back to Iowa City to remove her staples and can have them done in Geneseo.

More later...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More progress

Even though she really didn't get a good night's rest last night, mom is better off today than yesterday. Her abdomen isn't as distended and her "inner pipes" are functioning better, so those are all good signs.. and the residents who were around this morning said that she could possibly go home tomorrow if all goes well today. She is still on the IV, but taking the pain meds orally.

She needs to walk around more and can start eating solid food once again, so that is what we are going to work on today. She is tired of being here and wants to go home. The food here at the hospital leaves much to be desired, so I'm going to stock up on some good Jello puddings and make some real Jello from a box, and make sure that we have some quality ice cream on hand. It's the little things. I'm hoping to track down a dietitian today or tomorrow to help with a list of good things to eat for next week until her system is back into full swing. Toast seems to be OK, and she had a grilled cheese and that worked out well. Mom told me the other morning that a baked sweet potato sounded good, so I'm going to get a few of those. We both love our potatoes as good Irish women do so I'm sure I will be making a lot of potato variations in the next week.

Hoping for the best today - thanks for all of the phone calls, emails and prayers! It has done a lot of good for mom's healing process.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Another rough night

Yesterday afternoon things went downhill... the air buildup in mom's abdomen wasn't making its way out and she was very uncomfortable. We were able to get her up and walk about 5 times during the day but her bowels weren't cooperating very well. By the time I left at 8:00 p.m. she was more comfortable, but she did not get a good night's sleep and had a rough morning because of the pain. I got to the hospital late this a.m. and she hadn't even been up to walk so we took a walk at about Noon. They also have her back on the I.V. for fluids and wanted her to stick to clear liquids today. Yesterday she attempted some applesauce and toast and that went down ok.

We'll have to see what the doctors say about her progress when they come around later. Yesterday they were glad that she was walking around and starting to pass gas but not enough progress to go home today. I don't think she will be ready to travel for a couple of days at least, I think the car ride will take a toll. I don't expect them to release her tomorrow, given her bad night and morning. She is resting now.

Chad came home this weekend so he rode along to Iowa City today to visit his grandma for a little while. He was also going to meet up with a friend for lunch and hang out in Iowa City for the afternoon. Mom was happy to see him and that took her mind off of things. She also received a beautiful huge bouquet of flowers from Charley and Cara that brightened up the room. The other lilies are hanging in there and are still fragrant. The new roommate is very nice and QUIET compared to the other woman. I know I made fun of the other woman (HMR) earlier in the week for talking about passing gas all the time, but that's what the nurses want to know. It is such a big deal to them that they write little happy faces on the whiteboard :) for every little bodily function.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Last night was much better. Mom woke up a couple of times, once to use the restroom. She ate a good breakfast and was able to wash up on her own. We went for a short walk while waiting for breakfast and made it almost down the length of the hallway.

Her friends Mrs. C. and Joellen Sharer came up yesterday. They stayed for about an hour and mom enjoyed the visit very much. We were kind of sidetracked a little bit b/c after I came back from lunch (the three of us went up to the dining room on the 5th floor) mom was getting really uncomfortable and was feeling a lot of pain and it was getting worse. At about 2:00 p.m. I called the nurse and told her that mom was in a lot of pain and what she could do about it - and then the nurse said "do you want a pain pill? We took you off the morphine drip." Mom and I both thought she was getting pain meds and she wasn't. So long story short she got a pill of something and everything was fine in a half and hour. With all of the IV cords and such it's hard to tell what is what.

All of the IV equipment is off now and they will probably take out the needle sometime soon. She really wants to go home tomorrow, so if today goes good, that may be a possibility. They aren't making any promises here and just want to take it one day at a time. If she needs to stay one more day then that is what they will recommend.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rough night

Mom didn't get much sleep last night. Her back is achy (arthritis) plus her abdomen is still tender, so she just never got comfortable enough to get a good sleep going. H.M.R. keeps her tv loud plus the other miscellaneous noises I'm sure kept mom up last night... I wished I would have bunked in the room again just to keep the noise level down to a minimum. I heard the doctor say that the roommate should go home today so that's a good thing :)

Yesterday she got up and walked around and sat on the edge of the bed for a short while. It was painful but she knew she had to get it done. After she got back to bed and laid down she felt much better. Today she needs to get up and walk around four times, so as soon as she gets done with her breakfast we're going to go and walk.

She was able to eat broth and a cup of hot tea plus some life savers yesterday. Amazingly the nurse got her on a scale when she was up and it said 105 pounds...!...I about fell over. I thought that since she had some organs removed that her weight would go down slightly but at least yesterday she was still over the 100 mark.

Dr. Degeest came by late yesterday to check on her and see how she was feeling. He said that he was looking forward to the biopsy results next week. During the surgery he detected some areas on her liver, inner abdomen wall and stomach that had scarring - which is an indicator that cancer had been there at one point. He keeps saying how amazed he is at her chemo results and that it could have been much worse if her cancer wasn't detected as early as it was.

A couple of good friends Connie and Lyn came by yesterday and Pastor Ritter came back for a visit. That did her spirits a world of good. The Methodist women made her a quilt and then a knitted wrap that is really neat and fits perfect around her shoulders. I brought up some flowers and balloons yesterday to make the room more cheery. Mrs. C. said she is coming up today (forever family friend from the Hazelwood days) so I know she will enjoy the visit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day after surgery

Mom got through the night OK, woke up a few times b/c of miscellaneous noises and such (HMR!!!). The Dr. and Resident were in bright and early to see how she fared through the night. He said that she could expect biopsy results in about 7 days and will let her know the outcome of the tissue samples that were taken yesterday during surgery.

The nurse said her vitals were good and heard very little sounds from her abdomen. Mom is going to have a busy day today, getting up and walking around, doing breath exercises with a contraption which prevents pneumonia from setting in, eating (clear stuff only) and then at some point taking a shower. Her mid-section hurts more than she expected. I think she will be keeping her morphine drip for most of today and then once she is up walking around then she can get off of the drip and have pain medication orally.

I could tell she was ready to get on with her day - she wanted her funky flower hat and glasses. Her hair is starting to grow back - it's fuzzy but I can tell it's growing in.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Quiet afternoon

The afternoon went by without incident. Mom was very nauseated when they brought her into the room so the nurse gave her a drug called Fenergan (which she also takes for nausea after chemo) so that knocked her out for quite a few hours. We could have shot off a cannon next to her and she probably wouldn't have batted an eyelash.

She has a morphine drip and a little button that she can press if she needs extra medication. She says she is uncomfortable but not unbearably uncomfortable, and really wishes she could have some ice. They aren't going to give her anything for food until tomorrow (not even ice) so I just told her to keep pressing her pain button and then she can just sleep. We watched a "Dancing With The Stars" for about an hour and that was about as long as she could keep her eyes open. I think sleep is the best thing for her right now anyway.

Tomorrow they will get her up and moving around. Dr. Degeest stressed the importance of making sure that no clots have the chance to form, given her past history the last couple of months with clots. The Resident Dr. was also in to check on her and will be back periodically throughout the night. She will get her Lovenox shot tomorrow and will be back on schedule for that, so that should lessen the chance for clots to form.

Unfortunately mom has a H.M.R. (high maintenance roommate) on the other side of the curtain. If she's not raising/lowering the bed every ten minutes, she's on the speaker phone to the nurse station to talk about her bodily function (or not functioning) issues. Right now she wants to arrange for someone to come and wake her up at 3:00 a.m. to go for a walk in the hallway. If I hear her say "I passed some gas" one more time...

Surgery over!

Dr. Degeest came down to the surgical waiting area at about 11:05 a.m. He said that overall everything went very well and that mom is in the recovery area and will be there for about two hours. We aren't allowed in that part of the hospital so we won't be able to see her until they move her to a room.

Dr. D. said that there wasn't any cancer mass to speak of... he took out a lot of tissues for biopsy. He removed the ovaries, tubes, uterus, omentum (part of the peritoneum) and pelvic area lymph nodes. He couldn't see any cancer with the naked eye, so he couldn't even say that the cancer was still ovarian that started it all. He is amazed at the tumorless-ness of it all. The biopsy tissue will hopefully tell more after it is examined. He didn't need to remove any of the bowel either.

Doctor expects her to stay in the hospital until the weekend at least, and then her total recovery period should be about 8 weeks all said and done.

Waiting room

We made it to Iowa City by 6:10 a.m. It was dark driving the ENTIRE way. I think the horizon started to crack some light as we were walking into the hospital. She checked in and then the staff immediately got her into one of those lovely gowns and a paper thin robe (we packed her good one for later) and then put some support socks on her feet that stretched all the way up her calves. She was already complaining about her feet getting cold.

After the usual questions, blood draw and going over forms, the anesthesia-boy came in (he didn't look a day over 20) and two sticks later he had her set up with an IV. Then a lot of people with surgical hats started buzzing around so I left her at 8:00 a.m. with a kiss and hug. She didn't seem any more anxious than usual, and she was comfortable around the nurses. The staff were very talkative and they immediately noticed on her sheet that she was a retired nurse, so there was plenty to talk about.

After a coffee run, Tom and I found a spot in the surgical waiting area. Earlier the nurse said that the surgery was scheduled for 4 1/2 hours tops, so hopefully by noon Dr. Degeest will be down to talk about how the surgery went.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Surgery moved up

The hospital called mom a short while ago and said they had to bump her up in the schedule - so now she is having surgery at 8:00 a.m. We need to check in at 6:30 a.m. which means we have to leave Geneseo by 5:00 a.m. UGH! Let's hope McDonalds has coffee brewing...

Surgery scheduled

The surgeon's office called mom this afternoon and they have her in the schedule for 1:00 p.m. tomorrow. They want us there earlier to check in and so forth, but that's the plan for now.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Waiting for surgery

Mom celebrated her 71st birthday on Tuesday by going out with her Jazzercize friends for lunch and then going out to dinner with me and Tom to Sweet Pea's, a new restaurant in Geneseo. I don't think I mentioned that she was up to 102 pounds, so all this eating is doing her good.

She's trying to get as much done as she can this week... errands, etc. The other night she was stressing out about cleaning and vacuuming and I looked around the condo and thought to myself "It's already clean." The woman doesn't make a mess, so what is there to clean?

Our good friends Bill and Karen were out on a walk this evening with their granddaughter Ella and stopped by to say hi. Bill is the guy who had his 50th birthday last month and wanted to collect some contributions and make a donation in mom's name to an ovarian cancer fund for research/education. He had quite a party - and I've never seen someone so happy to read birthday cards. The donations came out to about $350 and he and Karen are going to donate it to Trinity Hospital where they can use the money for wig vouchers to give women who are starting chemotherapy. The vouchers can be used at a boutique where they custom fit and order wigs for women. Mom got hers there and they did a great job (as seen in photos) and were wonderful to work with.

At this time next week mom will be out of surgery and on the road to healing. I'm sure she will recuperate fairly quickly, she was talking with the nurses at U of I about making sure that they get her up out of bed as soon as possible. She is worried about forming blood clots and wants to make sure that there is no chance of that happening. Her main goal is to try and make it to my niece Samantha's wedding on Oct. 3. I think that is pushing it a little, but when she's determined to do something, she does it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pre-op and prep work: DONE

One word to describe the University of Iowa Hospitals: thorough. I think mom expected to be in and out of there today in about an hour, but it didn't work out that way. We arrived at the Cancer Center for her appointment at 9:30 a.m. and went through all of the steps that we did back in April: visit with the resident, the physician assistant, get a chest x-ray, an EKG, give more blood, talk to anesthesiologist... just when you think you are done there is always one more thing to do. So we got out of there today a little before 4:00 p.m., but she has ALL of the instructions needed and has talked to the resident and signed the surgery consent form (again). In theory she could have surgery tomorrow if needed.

There were a lot of little instructions, like what to eat and when to stop eating before surgery. No vitamins, aspirin or ibuprofen the week before (Tylenol ok). And she can take her Lovenox shot the day before but not the day of surgery.

I'm not going to talk about the "bowel prep" part... that's about as scary as the surgery.

She has an appointment next week at Trinity 7th Street Moline to flush her port cath out again just to make sure that they can access it during surgery. When it goes without use it will get clogged up with misc. tissue and fibers that the body produces when something foreign is in the body. The last thing she needs is problems with the port the day of surgery.

The surgeon's office will call her on Monday, the day before surgery, to tell her what time to report to the hospital on Tuesday. We accidentally walked into the surgery floor when we were wandering around the hospital trying to find the cafeteria, so at least we know where to go that morning. The U of I Hospital is gi-nor-mous and you could spend a week in there and never step a foot outside. One woman we were with in Elevator H said that she hadn't been outside in two days.

She hasn't said what she wants to do for her birthday yet (Tuesday the 15th!!! Get your cards in the mail!!!), but I'm thinking that we will go out to dinner on Tuesday night to a new place out in Geneseo that just opened up recently. She was tired today - and just plain achy.... and ready for this surgery to be over with. She's already talking about trips that she wants to take next year and has signed up for one with her "Classic Club" and is also thinking about a trip to AZ in the spring. It will be nice to see her having fun once again after this is all over.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Surgery date: Sept. 22

Dr. DeGeest had pretty much the same opinion that he had 5 months ago - that the best approach to getting all of the cancer is to have surgery. Even with all of the CT scans and tests, they really don't know what is going on inside her abdomen until they can actually look and see. He will remove her uterus and ovaries and then remove any cancer attached on her abdomen (debulking). He is hoping that there won't be any on her bowel or colon.

He was impressed with the results of the chemo treatments, and told mom to possibly expect more chemo treatments after surgery. She will know more about that after she follows up with Dr. Porubcin 3 weeks after the surgery.

She saw another doctor with Internal Medicine this a.m. to go over a few details about bloodwork and when to hold off on the Lovenox before surgery. There's another pre-operative procedure that she needs to go through, so next Thursday is another trip to Iowa City before the surgery on the 22nd.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Month of Teal

It's officially Ovarian Cancer Awareness month! I still have few "Teal the Cows Come Home" polish to give to my friends. My toes have been teal for the last couple of weeks, so I'll make it through the month fine. I can go two weeks without a touch up. The weather isn't cooperating though – it has been so cold in the mornings for the last two days that I've got shoes and socks on my feet so you can't see my teal. I tried to wear the polish on my hands over the weekend, however it was too distracting. Everywhere I looked I saw my teal nails out of the corner of my eye. If I was stranded on a desert island I'm sure I could have flagged down a jet.

Tomorrow is mom's Iowa City appointment with Dr. DeGeest the surgeon. She has to be there at 9:40 a.m. so I'm thinking we'll leave around 8:15 to give enough time. I'm assuming we'll be there all day and that she'll have to go through another round of tests like before. She has her most recent scans on CD and will bring those along.

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