Christmas 2016

Christmas 2016
Celebrating Christmas at Grandmor & Grandpa Bob's

Thursday, December 25, 2014

"For unto us a child is born."

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Big Day: Testing

Tomorrow I have what the doctors call my restaging tests. They will run all day from approximately 8:45 AM until 5:45 PM and will determine how successful my stem cell transplant has been in controlling the multiple myeloma. The tests include a couple lengthy ones including an hour and a half MRI and a 2 hour PET scan which is similar to an MRI. Fortunately one is in the morning and the other late in the afternoon.
As you can probably guess, I am a little anxious about these tests for a number of reasons and would appreciate your prayers for patience and calm as I undergo the tests and for successful results which indicate that the cancer has gone into remission. There is a 50/50 chance for that to happen. Terri and I will continue to wait through the Christmas season as I will not know the complete test results until early January. As a friend pointed out, I guess we will certainly understand the meaning of the Advent season this year.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Good Report

Terri and I got some great news when we went to the doctor this past Wednesday. He said that my most recent blood tests have indicated that two of the blood markers for multiple myeloma have gone down to levels that are almost indistinguishable. That certainly brightened our day! 
Please pray that the all-day series of tests I have scheduled for next Wednesday will confirm this good news and that they will show that the multiple myeloma has gone into complete remission. We won't know the results of those tests until early January, but what a wonderful Christmas present that would be.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Wonderful Week

While I am still fighting my way back to normalcy with low stamina and strength, a skittish appetite, and slow weight gain, this turned out to be a very nice week. The doctor is so happy with my progress that he gave me a pass on my weekly visit. He also loosened some of my health restrictions which allowed me to really enjoy the week with my family.
Andrew and his family came down from Minnesota on Tuesday. Wednesday was a dad and kids adventure to the Chicago Children's Museum organized by son-in-law Mike with Andrew and our three oldest grandchildren--Anna, Norah, and Drew. All grandpa had to do was sit and watch them burn off the energy. What fun!
Thursday Terri put on a traditional homemade Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings--turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallow, red cabbage, banana bread, jello salad, pumpkin pie, and a green bean casserole courtesy of Elizabeth. Even though, as I said, my appetite is skittish, I enjoyed that meal greatly. Brother John and some of his family came by later in the evening to add to the celebration. Our niece Heather brought homemade pies for us all to enjoy.
Friday was a big family wedding as nephew Dave Douglass married Emily Lagatuta in a lovely ceremony filled with beautiful music at the chapel on Elmhurst College and a delicious and enjoyable reception in Oak Park following. It was my first venture out to a special event and all went very well. I really enjoyed myself and survived all the festivities.
Andrew and family left for home on Saturday and while we were sorry to see them go, it was time for us all to rest and recover.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Very Good Friend

When I was hospitalized three and a half years ago, I was very blessed to meet and become good friends with the chaplain of the stem cell wing of the hospital, Jeanne Wirpsa. She was instrumental in keeping my spirits up during that long recovery.We have stayed in touch during the intervening years and I was very happy that she was still the chaplain when I checked in for this treatment. I was especially glad to hear that she has recently received the Patient First award from the hospital. If anyone should receive that award, it most definitely should be her. While I was in the hospital, they did a photo shoot for an article that included a conversation between Jeanne and me. All went well except I wish I had checked my wardrobe prior to the shoot. Oh well! Congratulations, Jeanne!

A Birthday Celebration

So glad I was able to enjoy my grandson Drew's 2nd birthday on Sunday. The party was at our home and I was able to greet all of the guests in person, although still without any any physical contact such as handshakes or hugs. It was great to see everyone, including 8 very active children under 4. Drew was thrilled from the moment he arrived. He loved the balloons, the streamers, and the decorations which all had a cars and trucks theme. His cake with sprinkles and balloons was a big hit, and it included a little pre-dessert swipe and quick mouthing of the frosting. Once he learned that the presents had wonderful things such as toys, books, and clothes with cars and trucks on them, he thought they were very exciting too. Everyone seemed to have a good time and I have to say that I had as great a time as the birthday boy. I can't wait to play with all of his new toys with him. Just missed having his cousins Anna, Norah, and Greta there as well. We'll have to wait until Thanksgiving next week to celebrate with them.

Here are some pictures of the fun. Guess it was easiest for me to take pictures during present time.

Some zoo animals

Present time

Wow-a play blender to make smoothies

Opening a gift from Aunt Sue & Uncle Marty

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Day 37, Continued Improvement

Sorry I haven't written for awhile, but there hasn't really been much about which to write. My appetite while not fully back continues to improve. However, it is still difficult to maintain my weight and I have lost about 20 pounds from my pre-stem cell transplant weigh-in. I hope to get accustomed to the appetite supplements, such as Boost, as a way to put back the weight. We'll see what happens.

My doctor is very happy with my progress--so much so that he has said I can skip a week of check-ins. So we won't have to fit in an appointment during Thanksgiving week as we get ready to host the entire family for the holiday. Andrew and Katie and their three girls will drive down from Minnesota for Thanksgiving. Then we will enjoy the wedding of nephew Dave Douglass Jr. and his wonderful fiancee Emily that Friday. It will be my first venture out to a big event with lots of people and I am hoping that all continues to go well in the days leading up to it so that Terri and I will be able to attend.

Terri and I did drive up to the stuga ( our summer home) last Sunday for the day to meet our friends, Marcia and Larry Anderson. Larry was nice enough to install a wireless thermostat and we needed to take some final steps to see that it was connected. Now I can monitor the temperature from home which is a good thing given the recent drop in temperatures. All is well. We did also feed the birds and take a short walk while we were there. It was definitely good to get out.

I have also taken some small trips out. Terri and I did some limited shopping at the drug store. On Veteran's Day, brother Dave drove me to the cemetery so that we could put a flag on our grandfather's grave. He was a veteran of the Spanish-American War! We also placed a wreath on Mom and Dad's grave as their anniversary is this week. Then we stopped at a nearby deli so Dave could pick up some chicken soup with matzo balls for us to enjoy at home. The soup was delicious, but I learned I'm not a fan of matzo balls. It's been great to get out and have a change of scenery from time to time. Otherwise the days can seem quite long.

Actually, after finishing this post, I guess there was much about which to write!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Day 23, Some improvement

I am seeing some improvement. My biggest challenge is still fatigue. One or two small activities, be they physical or mental, are about all I can handle in a day. My appetite IS better as my taste buds seem to be distinguishing some flavors. I enjoyed banana bread and corn bread, chili and apples, and pumpkin pie for Halloween. Luckily I still don't have much of a taste for sweets, so the Halloween candy is safe.
Drew as a train engineer (his current interest)

Terri and I did get to see our grandsons in their costumes and we were glad to receive photos of our granddaughters in their costumes from Minnesota. I love the smile on each of them.  (The cold weather in both cities affected the look when they went out to trick or treat, but I am amazed at how well the costumes still looked with the addition of their outer garments.)

Zachary in his monkey suit (his pumpkin costume underneath)

Greta as a pumpkin

Anna as Rapunzel (her hair is a wig)
Norah as a strawberry

Yesterday I had the pleasure of face timing with some former co-workers at our annual/bi-annual (?) brunch. The date had been set long before my stem cell transplant, but everyone understood that I was unable to attend. They suggested that we face time instead. What fun to see them and laugh together. They also graciously invited Terri to attend even when I could not and she had a wonderful time as well. Thanks, guys, I really appreciated our time talking. 

If you are interested in chatting, face timing, or skyping for a short time please let me know and we can set up a time to talk. Releasing those endorphins while we talk will really help with my recovery and add a boost to my day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Day 20, Still slow, slow, slow

Nothing much to report except that I continue to recover very slowly at home. My immune system is still significantly suppressed with the various blood counts moving up slowly or shifting back and forth. As a result, it is wise for me to remain home-bound and be careful in my contact with others. I do have a home-health nurse coming by every other day as well as a physical therapist coming twice a week. Thursday I make my weekly trip to see my oncologist downtown at Northwestern. 

The days are still long because I really have little energy or interest in doing anything other than watching old sit-coms and Westerns on TV. (And that gets old, too.)  I do try to manage a couple small tasks each day. With the beautiful weather we have been having, Terri and I also walk a short distance each day which is encouraged by my medical team as a part of my recovery. 

One of the hardest issues for me to deal with now is eating. It seems that my taste buds are still in shock from the chemotherapy. Very little sounds appealing or tastes good. I do try to eat 3 small meals each day. I was surprised this morning when we had rice pancakes and they actually tasted quite good. Let's hope my palate will expand as the days go by.  

Thank you for your prayers and good wishes. Please continue to pray that my recovery goes smoothly and that my stem cell transplant is a success. That won't be known until December. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day 17, Slow But Sure

While I am glad to be home, the first couple days have been rather trying. I suffered from bouts of severe dehydration and nausea which made it difficult to keep anything down. My menu was limited to jello and gatorade. Fortunately today seems better.

It seems to go that way with each phase of my recuperation. I made great strides in the hospital so they could release me only to go home and feel like I've been knocked back a lick and to start all over again in rebuilding my energy and strength. Please pray that I continue to do so.

It was nice to have Andrew in town for those couple days to help Terri with my care as well as to get done some outside projects in preparation for winter.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 14, A Beautiful Day

Sunrise over Lake Michigan, Day 14
 Today began with a beautiful sunrise over Lake Michigan which actually woke me as the sun came streaming into my room. I leave my curtains open each night as I enjoy watching the illuminated U.S., Chicago, and NU flags flying on top of the Northwestern University Law School building outside my room as I go to bed. And I look forward to seeing the sunrise each morning.

The day continued to be just as brilliant and I enjoyed the unusually large number of private motorboats, sailboats, and sightseeing boats weaving around the harbor as well as the huge freighters plowing through the water far out on the lake. And . . .  I received the good news from my doctor that barring any unforeseen issues, I would be going home tomorrow!!! Whoopeee!

My blood counts while still quite depressed are no longer considered neutropenic, or abnormally low. I am still very susceptible to infections and will need to be very careful to follow good hygiene to avoid them. To that extent, Terri and I will also be following a quarantine/confinement of limited interaction for the next few weeks until my counts are stronger. Home health care will be out 2 times a week to check my blood counts, vital stats, and general health to be sure all is well. I will also be going into the outpatient clinic weekly for a checkup.

Today my grandson Drew also had his adenoids out at Lurie's Children's Hospital just across the street from me. He and I had the chance for some Face Time from our hospital rooms. What fun as we haven't talked much since I went in to the hospital. His procedure went well and from what his mom told me, he was having so much fun playing in the full size fire engine afterwards that she thinks he forgot about the surgery. Of course, the orange popsicle and Cars movie he enjoyed while we were talking might have helped, too. Hope he is still feeling well tonight.

I wasn't that lucky until later in the day when Terri and Andrew came to visit and brought a French Dip sandwich, sweet potato fries, and a root beer for supper. The first day with the first supper that has tasted so delicious in almost 2 weeks. And I ate almost all of it. A visit from Pastor Joe Schultz of our city church, Edgebrook Lutheran, topped off the day. So now I am just looking forward to the final details and the likelihood that I will go home tomorrow. Please pray that all goes well.

Oh, and there has been one other change. As with my last stem cell transplant, my hair did fall out so I decided to shave it all off. Here's the new look. What do you think? It will be interesting to see how it grows back. Now I see where some of my grand kids got their ears. :)
Who is this?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 13, On the Road to Recovery (Revised)

Well, I am finally feeling well enough to write and to let you know exactly that--that I am feeling better. It is amazing how well the doctors have dialed in this process even to the point of knowing how you will feel each day--and they were right. Suffice it to say that I was not seriously ill over the past week, but I certainly didn't feel too doggone well with little energy to do much more than lay around and rest. I suppose that has been the best for me.

And the staff here has been fantastic--from the doctors, nurses and their helpers, the patient care team, to the food service staff, the housekeepers, and the chaplain, my good friend Jeanne Wirpsa. Every one not only knows what to do and performs it well, but they are always quite cheerful so I can look forward to one or more interesting conversations throughout the day geared in length and depth to how I am feeling. They are quite respectful of that. 

Dr. Mehta, my primary oncologist, has been his usual personable optimistic self, updating me on how things are going medically, responding to any concerns I might be having, like controlling my need for pain medication by hooking me up to a personal care attendant (PCA), and reassuring me that all is going well. 

And to lift my spirits on those days that seem to go on forever, all I have to do is look around at the photos and artwork of Anna, Norah, Drew, Zach, and Greta, hanging in the room. That is certain to bring a smile to my face. 

Greta Margaret

Zachary Michael Robert

Andrew Michael

Anna Evelyn and Norah Ruth 

Artwork from my grand nieces and grand nephews and photos of my nieces, nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews participating in the MMRF races help to brighten even the gloomiest of days, too. 

One highlight of my day has always been going through the cards I have received with Terri. Thanks to all of you who have sent them with prayers and notes of encouragement. Keeping them on the chest at the end of my bed, has helped to boost my spirits time and time again. Brief calls or texts have also helped to pass the time and keep me pushing forward. Thank you for caring and praying for me and my family. God is certainly good!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Stem Cell Transplant, Day 5

I haven't posted anything in the last few days as there really isn't much to say other than I don't feel very well. In short, the chemotherapy makes me feel lousy with lots of fatigue, nausea, lack of appetite, and other GI issues. Definitely no fun. I need to be careful, too, as my blood counts are dropping and my immune system has bottomed out so the danger of infection is high for the next several days before the new stem cells kick in. Sometime around Day 11 things should begin to improve. I CAN'T WAIT! So I guess this week I'll spend my time laying around trying to pass the time. Not much is of interest! Please continue to pray for a successful transplant and that each day I begin to feel a little better.

Friday, October 10, 2014

My Stem Cell Transplant

Terri and I thought you might be interested in what actually happened when I had my stem cell transplant. She and Elizabeth were fascinated by the process and took pictures as it occurred which we are sharing. I was just happy to lie on the bed and let things happen. Please note that although it is not shown we did have the stem cells blessed just before the infusion by the hospital chaplain, Jeanne Wirpsa, who has become a good friend of ours after my 2011 stay in the hospital. It transformed the transplant into a holy event given the significance of new life it is offering to me in the reintroduction of healthy stem cells into my system.

A stem cell transplant is NOT surgery. And it was done with my own stem cells harvested back in 2011 and kept frozen since then. It was done in my hospital room by the attending nurse and the stem cell transplant technician through a pic line in my arm. I can liken it to getting an IV, but I know that it is much more complicated than that. It is all quite painless, but when we think about what is happening we realize that it is not just a standard medical procedure but quite an amazing event. Over 6.6 million of my own stem cells were reintroduced to my body. And I still have over 6 million still on ice.

Of course, I couldn't show you these pictures without letting you know that the bloated look of me that you see is the result of lots of hydration prior to the transplant. Even a guy can be vain once in awhile.

1.  Getting ready for transplant

2. Delivering my cells from 2011 harvest in dry ice shipper

3. Opening shipper to retrieve cell bags

4.  Thawing frozen cells in hot water bath

5.  Massaging the cells to speed up thawing

6.  Hanging the first bag of thawed cells

7.  Hooking up the bag for stem cell transplanting

8.  Preparing 2nd bag of stem cells

9.  Finishing up with the stem cell transplant

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Stem Cell Transplant Day 2014--Day 0

Sunrise over Lake Michigan
Moonrise over Lake Michigan

If the beginning and end of the day were any sign, God is watching over us today. The photos don't do any justice to either the sun rising over Lake Michigan this morning or the moon rising over the lake this evening. They were both phenomenal as seen from my hospital window. And the stem cell transplant seemed to go quite well too. I'll try to have more on that tomorrow. Just know that they transplanted back approximately 6.6 million stem cells harvested from me in 2011. And slowly they will rebuild my immune system. I still feel fairly good, but the real test will come around days 4-7 from today's transplant when the side effects from yesterday's chemo blast kick in and my immune system is at its lowest. As I recall and as the doctors and hospital staff keep reminding me, I'll feel quite crummy so don't be surprised if you don't hear much if anything from me on those days. In the meantime, please continue to pray and hope with us for the best--remission.

Checked in and Ready to Go

Greetings, All!
Having problems with my blog so not sure how often you will hear from me but just to let you know I checked in to hospital yesterday, got the chemo blast, and all looks good for the transplant today. I am waiting for doctors to come in and give final ok. The chaplain who is now a good friend of ours will come in and read a blessing for the stem cells. Please pray that all goes well. Peace!!

Saw a beautiful sunrise from my room which faces Lake Michigan but I haven't figured out how to upload photos yet. Hopefully Elizabeth will be able to figure it out when she comes in.