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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Friday homecoming.

Friday, August 13, 2010, I picked up Carl from Froedtert hospital around 4:30PM. His 5 days of inpatient chemotherapy was over for now. Friday was a beautifully hot summer day, with the emphasis on hot. I had the children scattered about so Carl could come home to a relatively quiet and relatively clean house and go crash in bed. (We were dog-sitting Cali. Two dogs happy to see Carl isn't exactly quiet.)

After getting Tom, Nathan and Miranda to the Logemann Center's Friday the 13th party (with costumes), I tried to clean up the house.

  • The kitchen & dining room looked like four teenage raccoons had eaten whatever stuck their fancy, leaving unfinished food and wrappers everywhere. The half eaten poptarts alone could feed the hungry children of a minor African country.
  • The living room looked like four teenage poltergeists had had a slumber party for a week, leaving bedding and clean and dirty clothes strewn about, with the occasional food items tucked here and there. (Empty bowls and cups.)
  • The foyer, car, and bathrooms were decorated with wet (car-foyer) and dry (bathroom towel bar, overloaded) swimwear and towels.
  • Shoes and water shoes were mounded in the foyer like an Indian effigy mound, perhaps as a monument to the beta fish (Shannon) that died during the week after a month of listlessly sleeping on it's side in it's bowl, and then fluttering it's fins apathetically for a minute or so whenever I shook the bowl to see if he was dead. I think it was the chlorine smell from the pool gear that eventually did him (Shannon) in. (Colorful beta fish are usually male, in spite of whatever your children name them.)
Anthony discovered that the local gas station Kwik Trip will trade his lawn mowing money for glazed donuts, milk shakes, and chocolate pop-tarts, all items I pretty much refuse to buy. He generously bought some for his siblings, and left milk shake containers everywhere - car, garage, basement, kitchen - everywhere except the kitchen garbage can. We discovered that the dog we were babysitting (Cali) will eat mini carrots from the ice cream bowls if left near the XBOX controller - It probably looked like a dog food bowl to Cali, who I believe sees only in black and white.

I cleaned up the house and brought Carl home. Then, I went to pick up three of the four children. (Anthony was already home.)

I had planned that Carl would come home and crash and rest in bed, like he has on other weeks after inpatient chemo, but the summer weather, or the extra light out, or whatever, made Carl come home with extra energy and a desire to not lay in bed (because, after all, that is what Carl has been doing for the last 5 days, 20 hours + a day)
So, while I went to get three of the four children, Carl made a meal for Anthony. After the children were home for 20 minutes, and had snacked, the house pretty much looked like it had before I cleaned, only now there were costumes as well in the living room.

We all went to bed that night, the first time in a week all of us were sleeping under one roof. That was nice.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thursday - the low day.

Well, Radiation is a cake-walk compared to chemotherapy.

I visited Carl twice Wednesday, August 11, 2010, and a little bit on Thursday afternoon, August 12, 2010. On Wednesday his voice was getting a bit hoarse, but he still used the stationary bike for way more then 30 minutes. Thursday is the worst day when he is getting the Adromycin - Ifosfamide chemotherapy combination. Carl basically won't eat today and will try to sleep most of the day away. There is an array of auxiliary drugs that he got for the side effects, but he still is feeling horrible.

Chemotherapy is like watching Carl age two decades in one week. He goes in fit, lean and lightly tanned, and then ages visibly each day. At least we know he will recover - after the chemotherapy course is over. Tomorrow (Friday) Carl will be lifted by the thought that he can drag his weary body out of the hospital, get disconnected, and go home to be left alone by the medical professionals.

Here is another funny thing about the inpatient chemotherapy. The third shift staff has to take blood daily between 11:00 PM to 3:00 AM. So Carl basically tries to stay awake until they come in so they don't have to wake him in the middle of the night to take the blood sample. Crazy, huh?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Surreal Moment.

On Monday, August 9, 2010 Carl went into Froedtert to start a course of chemotherapy treatment, basically for 5 days non-stop. (They do disconnect him to take a shower, would that be considered a break?)

Miranda and I took him in, leaving the house before 8:00 AM. It wasn't planned that Miranda would come along, but she wanted to, so of course I took her. At the hospital, staff did the patient intake.
The nurse tried to access Carl's port for blood work. This is done by injecting a saline solution into Carl's port, and then trying to suction back blood. It frequently happens with Carl that they can't draw back blood, and this was the case Monday. Then the nurse must order up something called TAP(?), get it from the pharmacy and defrost it, inject it into the port, and let the drug sit in the port for 1 hour. It dissolves any blockage, but is an automatic 1 hour delay from the time it is injected. Ugh.

The Doctor was paged with Carl's weight and vitals. The Dr. calculates the dosages, etc, and places the order. The chemo drugs were ordered and being worked on by the hospital pharmacy when Miranda and I left around noon, but chemotherapy drugs hadn't started. It did start before 1:00 PM. (At 1:05PM I was dropping Tom off at his 8th day of his job at the Logemann Center, and I was 5 minutes late. Sigh.)

Carl was in good spirits when Miranda, Anthony, Tom and I visited him for a dinner at the hospital that night. (Nathan was at a birthday party.) After our little entourage left, Carl was going to bike on the stationary bike for 10 to 20 minutes, but the MP3 player's Guns and Roses music was so good he biked for 1 hour. Chemotherapy off to a good start.

On Tuesday, August 10, 2010, I had a surreal moment as I was driving home after a long day of driving the children all around. Tuesday seems perpetually to be the busiest day of my week. At 8:10 PM I was driving home from Cedarburg; home to where Tom would shortly be dropped off by a friend after Tom's busy day at state fair, a friend's house, and another activity that ended at 8:00PM. Tom had been gone from the house from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

As I drove, Miranda, Nathan and Anthony were talking to their dad (Carl) with my cell phone after a day of lessons, friends, swimming and more.
I listened in on their conversations over the cell phone as they told Carl about their day, and asked Carl about his day. (What did you eat for lunch, what did you eat for dinner, where are you in the book you are reading, etc.) They were each wanting to add something - 'I get to talk to dad again after you are done'. Anthony was the briefest on the phone, answering questions from Carl instead of asking questions, but then suddenly coming up with something more after he was done "talking".

My surreal moment was this. I have no clue what it feels like to be a child, talking to your dad in the hospital, getting treated for cancer, after a long day of fun and busyness, when you haven't had time to visit your dad, but you miss him nevertheless. I usually try to empathize with my children, put myself in their shoes and imagine how they are feeling, but here I find myself at a complete loss - I have not been in this situation as a child. I have no clue what they are thinking or feeling. And I am unwilling and or afraid to ask them about it.

P.S. I do know that I wish I could have easily visited Carl in the hospital today. Carl said I should think of this as him being gone on a business trip - I wouldn't feel compelled to visit or call. But I feel that I didn't take care of Carl the way I could have/should have. Last sigh for the evening...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Boy Scout trip and a swollen leg.

July flew by. Carl went to Garner Dam Boy Scout camp (in Wisconsin, North of Shawno) with Tom, Anthony and Nathan for 1 week - Leaving Sunday, July 25 and returning Saturday July 31, 2010. They survived mosquitoes and tornado warnings and the food prepared by the Boy Scouts. (Meat sometimes burnt, sometimes raw, always an adventure, I gather.) He had a great time in the great outdoors, sleeping with critters crawling under his tent. Carl returned with fuzzy gray hair and a leg swollen up like a watermelon. (OK, maybe it wasn't swollen up quite that big.)

On Monday, August 2, 2010 Carl went in for lab work and to get some chemotherapy. Because his leg was so swollen, they gave his leg an ultrasound to see if there was a blood clot in his leg. Good News, no blood clot. Bad news (or is this good news?) no chemotherapy, at least this week.

On Wednesday, August 4, 2010, a bunch of Doctors discussed Carl at Froedtert's "tumor board". The consensus after the meeting of the Doctors was to continue with chemotherapy.

[Here is a fun aside. The Doctors have three main options for treating cancer. In some cancer patient's terminology, Doctors can Slash, Burn or Poison the cancer. "Slashing" is surgery, "Burning" is radiation, and "poisoning" is chemotherapy. I believe Doctors rarely refer to these options with the cancer patient's slang.]

On Thursday, August 5, 2010, Carl went to the oncologist's PT (Physical Therapy) lymphatic system lady. (OK, I should find out her real title). She showed us how to wrap up Carl's leg to ease the swelling, and a massage that may help his lymphatic system.

So tomorrow, Monday, August 9, 2010, Carl will be getting chemotheraopy. He will be returning to the five days of inpatient chemotherapy, featuring the drugs Adriomycin & ifosomide.