Christmas 2016

Christmas 2016
Celebrating Christmas at Grandmor & Grandpa Bob's

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good news

Got good news from the doctor last night. I'm doing so well that I will not need another round of chemo and should finish up around the 15th of December. That means the stem cell transplant, the heaviest part of this treatment plan, will occur just after the first of the year. If all continues so well, in 6 months, other than my monthly check-ins, this should all be a blur in my rear view mirror. Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Transplant approved

Good news this week! I got word that my stem cell transplant has been approved by the insurance company. Not that I was ever in doubt that it would be, but it is always nice when one more hurdle is overcome. My stem cell transplant will be an autologous transplant which means they will be harvesting my own stem cells. It is the kind of transplant most commonly done for patients with multiple myeloma and has the least complications.

I'm about halfway through my chemotherapy treatments so the transplant will be here before I know it--most likely just after the first of the year. The hospital has already provided me with an extensive binder about the transplant, containing information on what to expect before, during, and after the process. I've skimmed through it and am impressed with the information provided. It looks like there is a pre-transplant period of 4 weeks when I am prepped for the transplant followed by a hospital stay of 2-3 weeks for the actual procedure. From what I understand they like to harvest approximately 40-50 million stem cells, enough for up to 5 transplants. Technology is certainly amazing!

It's probably time to dig into the binder in a little more detail in case there are any issues to discuss. High on my list is a room with a view of Lake Michigan while I am in the hospital. What better way to take my mind off this process. If you have any other suggestions on how to pass the time, please send them along.

The stem cell transplant is the key to my treatment. If all goes well, the cancer should go into remission following this procedure and I can get on to leading "a long and productive life" per the doctors. My guess is that it is probably the most grueling part of the treatment as well. I know the heaviest doses of chemo are administered prior to the actual transplant. I've learned to take this challenge one day at a time so I guess I will tackle the transplant when the time comes. I'll keep you posted as that day approaches.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend Getaway

Went up to our Michigan home last weekend but who knew we would be running into lake-effect snow on the way. What a surprise! Fortunately arrived before the snowfall got heavier. Heard from some friends that there were white-out conditions on the road later on. We enjoyed the snowfall from the comfort of our home. Woke up to a winter wonderland. The weather and the temperature did improve and we were able to get lots done around the house in preparation for winter. Ended the weekend with a beautiful walk on the beach. Definitely a great getaway for Terri, Elizabeth, and me!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Thanks to all of you for the emails, cards, phone calls, visits, meals, gifts, help, words of encouragement, and prayers. An illness like this can really cut you off from the rest of the world and it is so great to remain connected, and, in some cases, become reconnected in these ways. While this blog will hopefully let you know how I am doing, please don't hesitate to stay in touch in these other ways. A phone call is always welcome. It's great to hear how you are doing!

Terri and I also wanted to share a very practical article we recently read on helping out when something like this happens to a family. We have had so many offers of help, but we know how difficult and awkward it is for you to know how you can help as it is for us to tell you how you can help. Hopefully you will find this article useful. The article is entitled Care for the Caregiver. The link can be found at the bottom of the page under More Information but I am also providing it here:
Just copy and paste it into your browser and it should take you to the article.

Again, many thanks for all you have done for Terri and me. We truly appreciate your care and concern for us.

My personal advocate

Elizabeth, Terri, Michael, Marty, Bob, Sue, and Heather
Andrew, Katie, and Anna

For those of you who don't know, my daughter Elizabeth is a nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Children's Memorial Hospital which is associated with Northwestern where I am getting my treatments. With her medical knowledge and love of doing internet research, she has been a terrific advocate in working with the doctors. She has helped Terri and me navigate through this challenging and complex journey of symptoms, health providers, medications, side effects, treatment options, and proper care, and does not hesitate to go toe-to-toe with the doctors and health professionals to get the answers we need in order to make the most informed decisions each step of the way. In fact, I know on the days she cannot accompany me to the doctor that I better be sure I have all the answers to the questions we have or I'll face the third degree when we connect later on. The doctors have been most impressed with her knowledge and have welcomed her involvement in the process. I don't know what Terri and I would do if we did not have her checking up on us all along the way.

But I cannot forget the rest of the family who have been a blessing to me during this time. In addition to watching over me and making sure that I do what I should be doing during this time--and don't get into trouble, Terri has taken on additional responsibilities around the house to make sure that everything is running as smoothly as it can. We have faced this challenge as a team and her love and support and hard work have helped me cope with the myriad of issues we have faced. God certainly blessed with me with a very special angel on the day we were married.

Andrew and Katie keep tabs on us from Minnesota on a regular basis.  Just hearing about all that they are doing with little Anna or skyping with them so we can she how she is growing brighten our days. And we get regular emails with photos of all the events in her life. Walgreens is getting to know me quite well as it is one of the outings I make often to pick up the photos. And Terri's brag book is always up to date!

And I can't forget about Elizabeth's husband, Mike, whose good humor and cheer are always appreciated. He has a way of always keeping everything light.

And, finally, my siblings and their families have been great in so many ways including meals, videos, drives to appointments, consultations, and help with tasks around the house. 

(The pictures were taken at Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation 5K events in Chicago and the Twin Cities this fall. Elizabeth and my niece Heather organized a team in Chicago in about 2 weeks and were able to raise $2000. Andrew, Katie, and little Anna were able to walk in the event in Minnesota. A great time was had by all! Thanks to all of you who supported the event.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What About Bob?

For a long time I've been meaning to start a blog as a way for family and friends to follow my progress during this challenging time in my life. I know that many of you are hesitant to call (although I do appreciate the phone calls) so hopefully you will find this helpful. Please don't hesitate to post your own comments as I would love to hear from you as well.

For those of you who might not know the whole story, this has been a rather eventful year for my family and me. I was struggling with lower back pain last spring and was getting muscle manipulations throughout the summer for relief. However, in late August, the back pain came back more severely than before so I arranged with my doctor to get an MRI. It showed a mass compressing my spinal cord so I was hospitalized and had emergency surgery to remove a tumor.  I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood plasma cells that affects the bones. The good news is that it was caught very early--I am a a low stage 1--and the prognosis for people with multiple myeloma is very good.  I should be able to lead a "long and productive life," as one doctor said, once the initial treatments are complete. If you are interested in learning more about multiple myeloma, I have attached a link to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation on my blog.

One of the symptoms of multiple myeloma is that it weakens the bones causing lesions and small compression fractures in the spine that produce back pain. That has been my biggest challenge during this time.  Since the initial surgery, I had one more hospitalization in early October for a procedure to relieve the pain but find that the back pain still comes and goes with no rhyme or reason. Just when I think I have it licked, it comes back! This is one of those weeks. Pain medications, however, can do marvelous things so I am able to control the pain with them.

I have also begun chemotherapy treatments at Northwestern Hospital one day a week and those are going well. I have had very few, if any, side effects, and actually feel quite good on the day after the treatment. Those will continue for about another 6-10 weeks.  At that point I will prepare for a stem cell transplant of my own stem cells which will require a hospital stay of 2-3 weeks. After that, the cancer should be in remission and I should be able to get back to a more normal life.

This has been an eventful year for Terri and me in another much happier way. Our first grandchild, Anna Evelyn Douglass, was born to Andrew and Katie in the Twin Cities on June 16. She is a beautiful little girl whom we just treasure. The picture above was taken at her christening--just 3 weeks after my initial diagnosis and surgery. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when the doctor said I could make the trip.

We skype with Andrew and Katie often so we have been able to see little Anna grow. Andrew and Katie are also good about sending us pictures so we can keep our grandparents' brag book up to date. Terri is Grandmor (a variation of the Swedish) and I am Grandpa Bob. We are thrilled that they will be down for Thanksgiving and can hardly wait. We will have much to be thankful for on that day.