Finally, the end is near…….

From the Friday before Christmas until now……”we” have been dealing with Pneumonia/Bronchitis. My honey spent one night, in the hospital, and I think the IV fluids/antibiotics did wonders to help turn him around and begin to get better. He isn’t great about “sharing” information (I’m still searching for that class in ESP or mind-reading), but when you’ve lived with a man for over 50 years, you begin to be able to read some of the signs. He’s talking more, and it doesn’t seem to hurt so much when he gets up out of a chair (lungs are getting better).

He was supposed to use the Isometer every hour that he’s awake …..and I’m just sure he’s been awake for more than 2 – 4 hours in a day…..but that’s about how much it has been used! I’m not sure why he hates that little device so much – but he does.  My “Hester” stubborn streak (one of the things I inherited from my mother) appeared, and I decided that he is an adult…..knows he needs to do it…..so I’m not saying a word!! Thank goodness, he’s getting better without it. 

His appetite is non-existent and food makes him nauseous. This isn’t anything brought on by the Bronchitis, so it’s probably a side-effect of one of the antibiotics. Thank goodness, there are only a few days remaining. We’re currently on an oatmeal, grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken noodle soup diet.

If he HAS to be sick, winter is such a good time. It’s a great time to stay indoors – lots of pajama days in front of the fire. How miserable it would be if the weather was good, and he didn’t feel well enough to be oustide.

Now, not that I’m a pessimist, but I have to wonder…….what’s coming next?  We’re finally nearing the end of this Pneumonia/Bronchitis thing……and I’m just hoping that there’s nothing else planned (God’s plan) for him, in the near future. Dear God….please let him be well, for a little while.

The Meaning of Drat

“Drat!” I snarled with unhappy emphasis.

“Did you just say ‘drat?’ asked my wife. “Nobody says drat anymore. Not since Snidely Whiplash died.”

“He’s dead?” I was shocked. I’d grown up watching old Snidely putting Nell on the railroad tracks in early episodes of Rocky and His Friends. Ofr course, Dudley Doright always saved the day, just in the nick of time. He was inept, of course, but Nell always survived. I guess that’s the power of a performance contract.

“No, he’s not dead. His future is just unwritten.” said my wife intelligently. “Why are you dratting?”

“My fever is coming back. I’m hot and feel like my head is filled with Jell-o.” She came over and felt my forehead.

“Yeah, you feel hot. Have you taken any aspirin?”  I had, and said so. Four days ago I had her take me to the VA hospital. I was concerned that I’d caught pneumonia again –or at least bronchitis. I was still sore from the visit. Claiming I was dehydrated, the ER nurse had taken seven tries to get an IV into my vein so they could dump a couple of bags of saline into me. I looked like a bruised pin cushion still, with little dots surrounded by angry purplish bruises tinged now with a bit of yellow. The nurse had tried again and again, choosing a new spot with each try. He finally gave up after six attempts and stuck me on the back of my hand where my veins are raised and entirely visible, and where I had suggested he drill in the first place. He was at least abashed at his failure and apologized profusely. I forgave him; he was a nice sort with a great sense of humor. He just sucked at starting IVs.

The doctor had sent me to get my chest xrayed and then gave me a nebulizer breathing treatment before sending me home with a packet of Zithromycin against the possibility that whatever was wrong with me was bacterial. Having ingested the last pill in the morning and was still feeling lousy, I assumed that my issue was viral. I’ve spent the week breaking out in heavy sweats as hot flashes threatened to set me on fire and left nasty headaches in their wake. I had other problems, but to mention them would be TMI (too much information) and since it’s the holiday season still, I’ll spare you. But I’ll pass it along that I have body aches making my muscles feel like they’ve been insulted by actual strenuous effort, which is hardly the case. My disability prevents anything too taxing.

“I can’t believe you said drat.” My wife can be relentless at time. This was one of them. “Why would you say drat when there are lots of other things you could say.” She stared at me daring me to reply. I did.

“I felt like it.” I said, showing my erudite make up. “Drat seemed to contain all of the elements I was trying to conjure with my expression.”

“Yeah? Like what?”

“Like an impending sense of doom.”

“Nell felt the impending sense of doom. Whiplash said drat because he was foiled …again.”

“Okay, well, that actually fits. I should have said an impending sense of failure.” I was becoming petulant. I get cranky when I don’t feel well and someone is catching me saying something ridiculous. Like drat.

“Alright. I guess I can accept that. Your health has foiled you yet again.”

“Yes.” I said. “Aren’t you supposed to be all empathic and consoling about my infirmity? How come you’re picking on me?”

“Because you said drat. Nobody says drat, what’s the matter with you?”

“I’m sick!” I said imploring pity. It was not forthcoming. Instead, I was told to go take a nap or watch some television or read my Kindle. I sat still and stared into space.

“What’s wrong now?” my wife asked without a shred of concern.

“I can’t decide which of those things to do. I think the fever is giving me brain damage.”

“Hrmmm..” she hrmmed. “You may be right. After all, you said drat.”

“I think I’ll just stay here and keep you company.” I said.

“Drat.” she replied.

An unwelcome surprise….again

My honey had been doing great – working in his shop, building beautiful Christmas gifts; oak serving trays, and oak hand mirrors with beveled glass.  On Friday, December 2, he sat again in the Cancer Center….for almost 5 hours …..getting his monthly Zometa and IVIG infusions. The Zometa to strengthen his bones and the IVIG to boost his immune system.

Just 3 weeks later, on a Wednesday, he felt great. The next day, he didn’t feel so well and by Friday (a couple of days before Christmas)  in spite of the IVIG infusions to boost his immune system…..he had pneumonia, again.

We were in the Cancer Center and Dr. H. came into the waiting room to listen to his chest. He prescribed what I called “high-octane” antibiotics (2,500 mg. per day) and didn’t think he needed to be in the hospital.

The kids weren’t coming home this year, since the girls have been here several times to help when their dad has been in the hospital, so we’ve had a quiet Christmas (which is really what he needed).

I questioned why the IVIG would not have prevented this, and I was told if he had not had them, it might have been worse. He still doesn’t feel good. His lungs hurt when he moves, or takes a deep breath, and his throat is sore …. but he isn’t anywhere close to being as ill as he was in October, when he had to be helped from the bed to the bathroom.

Because the kids weren’t coming home, I had made an “executive decision” not to put up the Christmas tree. It was very hard for me to do, alone, and Bob was unable to help.  I had searched, without success, for a table top Fiber Optic tree, and finally decided this house would decorate…..without a tree. After he got sick, and my mind began to have those thoughts that one should never have, I decided that I needed to put up our tree. Mind you, this was just 2 nights before Christmas…..but in days of old, trees were put up and decorated on Christmas Eve!

So, on Friday night, after my honey went to bed…..out to the storage room I went (ignoring the fact that the Bobcat, or Panther, of Cohay Creek might be lurking).  I told a friend, “I’m sure God has His hands full just trying to “redirect” my decisions”. First, I couldn’t get the storage room door completely open, and second there was no light. Needless to say, with all the obstacles there was no way the tree would get from the storage room to the living room. In the end, I think I was happy that God, or fate, had intervened.

As it turned out, we didn’t need a tree. It was a quiet, peaceful Christmas Day at our house. And, I continue to be thankful for each day….and hope there will be many more…..days…..and Christmases.  

Changes and Surprises…..among the colors

Thursday was another “trip to Hattiesburg” kinda’ day. On the drive back home, the brilliant afternoon sun shining from a cloudless sky,  made the beautiful changing colors of the trees appear even more vibrant. The brisk fall wind, sent leaves floating across the highway. As I drove while Bob napped, the words rushed around in my head …… just like the leaves rushing toward the ground. Sentences wanted to flow so badly, from my head to my fingers……but those fingers were otherwise occupied with a steering wheel!

It was a day of change. Long before Bob was diagnosed with cancer (that’s how we now define our lives…..before cancer, or after cancer), we had both discussed the need to find a new family doctor. And so, after his diagnosis, that’s just what we did. We later learned that we’d chosen a doctor without hospital privileges (the doctor’s choice). I was concerned that he did not do hospital admits, and of course, no hospital visits. How could he stay up-to-date with my honey’s needs and progress? So today we changed, again….to a doctor who specializes in Geriatrics, and has hospital privileges, and had attended him in the LTAC unit.

I was impressed that this new doctor didn’t send in a nurse to ask all the questions – which usually must then be retold to the doctor. He came in and checked his B/P (which was low) and listened to his chest. And, he said that honey’s lungs no longer sounded like a “bowl of Rice Krispies” (I may never eat those, again!). He wrote an order for blood work to try and determine if the pain in Bob’s thighs is caused by a loss of muscle mass. And, he wrote an order for a Chest X-ray, just to ensure that his lungs are really clear.

At the hospital, while providing information for Bob’s chest x-ray, there was a discussion about drawing blood, and I commented “Bob’s lucky, he has a port”. Lucky?? Really, did I just say that?  He has a port, because he has cancer. It probably wasn’t the best choice of words, but at least he doesn’t have to get stuck everytime.

Our day, at the Cancer Center, ended with a most wonderful surprise. We have two burgundy Multiple Myeloma car magnet ribbons, ordered from http://www.choosehope.com/, on the back of our car. I didn’t notice that a car had followed me into the parking lot, but I soon saw a face that I thought I recognized. It was the daughter of another Multiple Myeloma patient. She had followed our car, because of the ribbons. We had spoken, months earlier, when her dad was just beginning his treatment…..(and our wonderful Dr. H. is also his doctor). I had often thought of her dad, and wondered how he was doing, but had not seen him at the Cancer Center on the days we were there. As many of you know, I’m such a believer in “God puts us where we need to be….when we need to be” and “things happen for a reason”. I’m not sure why Lee Anne and I reconnected, but I’m so happy we did. She is so warm and has the sweetest smile……and her dad is in my prayers. (And, she now has MM car magnets on the back of her car!)

A day of change and pleasant surprises amid the beautiful fall colors.

Good news, at a bad time………..

M-Spike is Zero!! That good news could not have arrived at a better time. Even though my honey was still spiking a fever, and felt terrible, it did bring a smile to his face…..and tears to his eyes.

It has been almost two weeks (tomorrow), and we’re still taking up space in a hospital room. We’ve changed floors, and daughters, and are still fighting the Pneumonia and Staph infection…….and we’re glad the MM decided to take a break!

On Saturday, he was moved from the Telemetry Floor to Regency Hospital (a hospital within a hospital). Regency is the Long Term Acute Care, on the 5th floor of FGH, where he can continue to receive antibiotics, breathing treatments, and physical therapy, and get well enough to “eventually” go home. (So far, he isn’t to the point of having that discussion.)

He still has pneumonia in the lower lobe of his right lung, but his breathing is much better, and the Staph infection is still prevalent. The Infectious Disease group is collecting blood and growing cultures, and believe that the Infusa Port is the source of the Staph Infection. If that turns out to be correct, there will be surgery in his future….to remove the port, and try to clear up the infection. In my opinion (and you know how much that is worth) that has to be the source…..otherwise, with all the antibiotics in his body……surely it would be cleared up.

And, because his stomach is so sensitive (and he’s had so many antibiotics), I’m wondering when the C-Diff (caused by antibiotics) is going to show up!! (Not that I’m a pessimist…..I just know this man, and his stomach!) And, once one has had C-Diff, it usually recurs.

We’ve had such a week! I ended up in the ER on two separate nights, in horrible pain. And….wouldn’t you know  one of the ER docs was one my honey had (before pain control). One of those that thought we were in for drugs……which we were!! So now, “the old lady” is back, in pain…..”my, my”. As it turned out, my pain was an abscessed tooth that took on a life of its own. And, my face looked (and felt) like I didn’t win the fight. Almost one week later, I still have a “puffy” face, my lips are numb and tingling, and my mouth is sore…..and I’m minus two teeth and one permanent bridge (yep, the teeth were anchoring the bridge).  I had really hated that bridge……but I just didn’t realize that God was going to put me thru such misery so I could get rid of it! So, in this instance…..I didn’t “blame” God……I thanked Him!!

On Sunday, we had a changing of the guard around here. Youngest daughter, Robbie, had to return to TX and her little family, and work. Our eldest daughter, Gale, was glad to escape the colder weather of PA and come to our aid. And, since she’s still recovering from her own illness and accident, the timing was perfect. I don’t know what I’d do without these two and their helping hands. We’ve all learned that when one is tired enough, a hospital “bed chair” sleeps pretty well. Thankfully, my honey is well enough to be left alone these past few nights.

MM is usually the underlying cause of many of our problems. We’re so happy it didn’t join this fray and cause additional problems.  It was nice to have good news…….some sunshine behind those dark clouds.

An unexpected detour…….

Early last Thursday morning, my honey awakened me with chills and fever. He was extremely weak and needed help to navigate from the bed to the bathroom. I had also begun to see a pattern of 1,000 mg. of Tylenol having more success with his pain than 4 or 8 mg. of Dilaudid. I was also almost positive that the location of his pain (right, upper back just under his shoulder blade) was probably an indication of what I feared most – pneumonia. Coupled with my fear that he was getting dehydrated and beginning to have kidney problems, there was no doubt we were going to a hospital.

There were two or three hospitals within a 15 – 20 minute drive of our RV Park, but I made the decision to get him back to Hattiesburg, and the hospital where all his medical records exist. In his weakened condition, my concern was whether he could withstand the 1 1/2 hour drive. Friends helped him down the RV steps and into the car (I had barely been able to help him get to the bathroom – so I knew that trying to help him down the narrow RV steps could put us both in the hospital.)

With the flashers going, and my heavy foot (NASCAR drivers would have been so proud), we pulled under the ER canopy in about 45 minutes. Even though the ER waiting room was filled to capacity, he was bumped to the front of the line because of his age and his condition.

My worst fears were soon realized: Pneumonia and Acute Renal Failure. Little did I know that the news would soon get worse. He was moved, not to the Oncology Floor but to the Telemetry Unit (patients that are seriously ill or in danger of developing complications).

The Hospitalist on duty informed me that he was stopping Bob’s Chemo (Revlimid) because his blood counts and platelets were dropping.  Just 6 days earlier, his Platelets were 158,000 and now they were 78,000 (two days later, they were 43,000).  He would be headed toward a Platelet Infusion and probably a Blood Transfusion, if the numbers didn’t begin to correct. (Note: His last dose of Revlimid was on Thursday morning, prior to our hospital trip, and his Platelets today were 52,000.  Still not great, but an improvement.)

On Friday, we were told that he had some type of unidentified blood infection, which is causing chills and fevers (almost on a 12 hour schedule…..usually at 4 p.m. and 4 a.m.). And today, I was told that there is a concern of Acidosis (excessive acids in the body fluids) which is being caused by the deteriorating condition of his lungs and kidneys. The bags of antibiotics and fluids, hanging on the IV pole at his bedside, seem to be having a hard time battling the unknown infection attacking his body.

An Infectious Disease Specialist was called in and has identified the infection as Staph (thank goodness, not MRSA), and added more antibiotics to his IV pole. The origin of the Staph is unknown, but the ID Specialist is leaning toward the Infusa Port (for administration of chemo, etc.) Cultures have been inconclusive.

A Pulmonologist has been consulted and is concerned that very little progress has been made, in treating the pneumonia, (in both the upper and lower lobes of the right lung),  even with all the antibiotics. He will perform a Bronchoscopy (use of a flexible fiberoptic tube to view the insides of the lung) and obtain samples, tomorrow morning.

On a positive note, his kidney functions seem to be improving  and the stoppage of the Revlimid has allowed his blood counts to begin to correct (some needed to increase and others to decrease). The good Dr. H is having his M-Spike checked……just to keep track of the Myeloma. We pray that it is taking a rest while all the other battles are being waged, in his body.

Needless to say, he is very weak and has begun to sleep much of the time. Just a short walk to the bathroom is tiring.

Thankfully, our daughters are now old enough that they feel they don’t have to listen to me (everytime). Robbie arrived from Texas a little before 10:00 p.m., last night. How wonderful to have support – both physically and mentally. Gale will come, when Robbie has to return home. 

We are so thankful for all the calls, text messages, emails, FB postings, visits, cards, and goodies…..and especially for your concern, thoughts, and prayers.

What a journey we’ve been on, this past year. Just when it seemed that we had gotten over the bumps, and around the major roadblocks, it appears there’s a detour……….praying that we get back on the right road…..soon!!

Ferraro developed pneumonia

This is from the AP. Other reports mentioned only “complications,” which we now know to be pneumonia. It’s very common for myeloma patients to develop pneumonia.

Ferraro died at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she had gone Monday for a procedure to relieve back pain caused by a fracture. Such fractures are common in people with her type of blood cancer, multiple myeloma, because of the thinning of their bones, said Dr. Noopur Raje, the Mass General doctor who treated her.

Ferraro, however, developed pneumonia, which made it impossible to perform the procedure, and it soon became clear she didn’t have long to live, Raje said. Since she was too ill to return to New York, her family went to Boston.

Raje said it seemed Ferraro held out until her husband and three children arrived. They were all at her bedside when she passed, she said.

“Gerry actually waited for all of them to come, which I think was incredible,” said Raje, director of the meyloma program at the hospital’s cancer center. “They were all able to say their goodbyes to Mom.”