Christmas 2016

Christmas 2016
Celebrating Christmas at Grandmor & Grandpa Bob's

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.