Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tony is back to work...yaaaaay!

I know every time I write I say "I know I haven't blogged for a while" but I haven't. It's interesting to me that no one seems to read any ones "cancer" blog if they are healthy. People are so stunned about cancer or trauma recovery or anything bad but no one really takes the time to read a "cancer" blog if the patient is doing well. I'm not mad...I do it too. Isn't it just a shame that once ALL the awful horrible stuff is over everyone thinks it's over. BUT it's actually never over. NEVER. This last set of scans scared the shit out of me. The week he was scheduled to have his last scans...I was soooooo moody. I just didn't want to be bothered with anything or anyone. It's almost subconcious! Kidney cancer seems to always be a returning demon. In our life. In almost every ones life that I know with kidney cancer. The issue I have with blogging is I'm the same as everyone else......well he's done with IL-2, his surgery is over, so everything must be ok....lets not think about it today..and it might not come back. I'm guilty too. Well the scan showed a 3.3cm x 1.4cm x 1.4cm of hypodensity between the tail of the pancreas and the anterior superior aspect of the left kidney. I didn't like this news one bit. The oncologist wasn't crazy about it. BUT the next day the surgical oncologist wasn't "quite" AS worried. He wants to compare it to the last disc. BUT since the insurance company made Tony go someplace else for this last scan the doctor will have to get a copy of the disc and get back to us. He said it could just be some scarring or leakage from the surgery. I can't bring myself to be overly positive or overly negative right now. I HATE this cancer roller coaster more than I have hated anything in my life. It is what is is. I have always hated roller coasters anyway...the constant up and down makes me sick. So does this. I am super upbeat and awesome for Tony..just ask him. He will tell you he's pretty spoiled. Actually we spoil each other! BUT I can't jump back on that coaster just waiting for the fall again. "I" can't. I just CAN'T! Some people can. BUT I bet they haven't been in my shoes.....
The past couple months Tony has been healing, he realized that even if he gets so much as a small sinus infection he has to take more hydro cortisone and Florinef or he will be in bed for a couple days. I really take for granted what adrenalin does for me....Tony doesn't produce adrenalin now since his adrenal gland he is still learning how to take his meds when needed. This will be a long learning process. It is not cut and dry!
I hear him up now. He starts midnight shift our awesome Sunday was cut kind of short so he could get some rest. He only worked 2 days last week so this week he will for sure be tired. BUT he has a lot of vacation time. I hope he uses some every week and doesn't let himself get too worn out. I can tell by looking at him when he needs more rest..I will remind him often!
We are looking forward to our vacation this year...when he was going through all that awful hellish IL-2 and felt like dying..he told me he wanted to go to Maine. So we are going to Maine next month. Staying at a quaint B&B in a harbor town and will be eating lobster and crab all week! Oh yeah...and some really awesome breakfasts! I need some R&R like you would not believe! We both do!
Tony planted his garden this year! Just like last year. Only last year he planted it the day we found out his cancer returned. And we had a few friends and my sissy harvesting the garden because we were at the hospital ALL summer and fall and winter AND this spring. We wasted so much and had to throw away because we just couldn't do it. I am ever so thankful for this year!!! LAST YEAR SUCKED!
I feel so joyful and relieved and fresh when I see Tony outside working in the garden. It just makes me smile. I bought him a new zero-turn mower this year...he had problem after problem with his mower. Everyone that cut our grass last year had problems. SO I bought him a new mower for his 4 yr cancer survivor anniversary. NOW he flies around the yard on his new ExMark and I don't have to worry about him or that damn belt! It makes him happy and whole being outside. And what makes him happy makes me happy. Sometimes when I'm getting ready for work or doing dishes or something near a window, I will look out and see him walking out by the pond...I ALWAYS stop in my tracks and watch him, I get teary eyed and smile and say Thank you to Jesus for THAT man, I thank him for giving me more time with Tony. I thank him for relieving Tony of the pain that he experienced in the past 12 months. I thank God for "US".
Well right now Tony isn't "cancer free", he isn't even "NED" (no evidence of disease) He is just Tony, the strong fighter, the great dad, the wonderful husband and just a really really really really good man! Please pray for the NED thing....please. Too many of my Kidney Cancer friends have died recently.....I can't stand any more death!!!! I just can't! Please keep praying....

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Happy Beautiful Day!

I'm sorry I haven't blogged for a bit. Actually not since Tony got out of the hospital after his adrenal removal. I have been working working working and trying to RE-focus. Anyone in the cancer world knows what it is like to have it take control. It takes over your body, soul and your whole world. I was very depressed for a while after his surgery. It was pretty traumatic for both of us. Tony had gotten so sick after he came home. He was dehydrated and nothing was going right. I was trying to go to work and I really couldn't do it all. Right now Tony is feeling so much better, he is doing a few things outside, not any wood cutting or anything like that but a little bit of riding the mower and cutting back some plants that needed it. He is painting our Adirondack chairs this week and our outside rocking chairs so we will be OH so prepared when it comes to bonfire nights out by the pond. He will be having a CT scan in June....YIKES! June 2010 is when we found out his cancer had returned and our lives were forever changed....once again. UGH just thinking about June scares the shit out of me and makes me tear up! SO I'm changing the subject....
Everyone keeps asking why I stopped blogging...well the fact that I work and have been trying to do some spring cleaning, getting our sun room ready for the season, moving around bedrooms and getting some new furniture, and honestly I need to keep my mind away from cancer right now. FAR away for my own sanity. Right now cancer is still on my mind a lot BUT it as eased out some and I can finally think about something other than cancer! I have spent so many days and nights crying about kidney cancer, the lives that have been taken way too soon. I joined Kidney Cancer Warriors and I love some of the members as much as family. So many of them have passed away...because of the same disease that threatens Tony's life. It breaks my heart to have chatted away with people and became friends and they aren't there anymore. It breaks my heart. And anyone that knows me knows how I protect my heart...I just push away. I keep finding myself doing that with EVERYTHING that has to do with kidney cancer. I really hope no one takes this personally, I just have to focus on me..on Tony..and on getting back my life and making sure he is not overdoing it! because as all you woman do not like to listen to us!!
Tony is thinking about trying to go back to work in June, I guess we will just see how he is feeling. Right now he is feeling good. His hormones and cortisone all seem to be doing what they are supposed to do. I am still worried about him having "Adrenal crisis" and giving him the inject able corticosteroids BUT he of course doesn't worry about that!
Today was a most beautiful day and I am so thankful to have spent it with such an awesome man. He really is a survivor. We both are really. I am so grateful to have taken care of such an amazing human being and I'm blessed to call him my husband. This weekend all of our children will be here and our grandson. Maybe my twin sissy, husband and nieces. I love cooking awesome food for everyone and seeing everyone smile and talk about old vacations and fun times. Hearing our children laugh makes my heart smile. THIS is exactly what family is all about. I love when they all come makes me teary too! I just love them all so much:) Easter Sunday, me and Tony are going to visit my mom and Grandma for a bit...They will be surprised at how much better Tony looks now then at Christmas.
I looked out the window today and Tony was sitting outside putting on his shoes, getting ready to go feed the birds and grocery shop and I looked and then looked again....I just watched him, the wind blowing his hair, the pond sparkling behind him..... I thanked God right then for letting me keep him longer and then I opened the window and said "hey, you're really cute today...I just thought you should know", I think he said "thanks baby...I feel pretty good too". THAT makes me a happy woman! He is planning a fishing trip with his best friends and we are planning our Maine B&B vacation in July. Keep him in your prayers...June will be hard for us....scanxiety will hit us full force. BUT thank God IL-2 is finished and everything is pretty AWESOME right now. I STILL can't read my past blogs. That IL-2 kicked both of our asses!! But right now, I am going to get in the hot tub under the stars, relax and Thank God for another day....and that I haven't had a headache today at all! Thank you Jesus....

"Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and they become more extraordinary because of it"

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us"_

I know I haven't blogged this week but it's just been a busy week. Tony spent 5 nights in ICU (I think) and 2 nights on the regular post-op floor. I found out that during the surgery they removed and repaired some small intestine. They nicked his bowel and it was leaking some, that is what he wasn't allowed to eat. They had to move the pancreas out of the way some and apparently the pancreas does NOT like to be it was leaking some too. They took some samples of intestin and bowel and sent to pathology, everything was good. The tumor on his adrenal gland still had Renal Cell Carcinoma cells even after the IL-2 BUT the mass was so much smaller after the IL-2, they do NOT think that he has anymore cancer in his body, scans in 3 months. Slowly, throughout the week they removed tubes and lines from Tony's poor sore body. Finally on the last day they removed the main line that was sewn into Tony's neck! I removed the bandages from his side and belly, which revealed the deep holes in his body where the tubes were...ummmm I have packed Tony's incisions, cleaned his MRSA holes so I should be OK with this...but for some reason I was just weak. I try to smile and not show this concerned/hurt/worried look on my must have worked. He didn't ask what was wrong. I helped Tony into the shower. I'm thinking how awesome it must feel for him to wash his face, hair, and ummmm everything else without my help. He was still so sore so he just took a quick shower, I dunno...maybe he just really likes me to bathe him???? weirdo lol
The ride home was kind of a chore for me, I drive fast, I have a purpose when I I had to make a concious effort to NOT go over the speed limit, try to avoid potholes which is very difficult in Cincinnati in March! But we made it.
I helped him to sit in the big comfy chair and got him something to drink. Then I left to pick up his meds and a few things from the grocery. He has to take Hydrocortisone and Florinef everyday for the rest of his life, he is now "Adrenal Insufficient". The dosing for these meds vary dramatically, depending on how he feels. He takes some in the morning and then some early evening. He also has a script for a large amount of cortisone IF he is feeling ill, even has a cold or just stressed or notices effects of something called "Adrenal Crisis". He also has a script for Solu-Cortef which is a vial that has to be injected if he gets so sick or stressed and cannot take the pills. I will be ordering him a medic bracelet that has to be worn at all times stating that he is Adrenal Insufficient. If the average person is in a trauma situation we produce a very large amount of adrenalin, steroids and different hormones that help us recover. Tony will never produce these hormones again, he has to take them in pill or injection form. I was a little overwhelmed when they told me all of this, I just thought he had to take a pill, kind of like I take a blood pressure pill everyday. Then I got a little overwhelmed when the pharmacy told me the vial of medication is not covered by our insurance company. I still have to talk to the endocrinologist about this. If Tony needs this and does not have it, then it is VERY life threatening. I went ahead and payed for 1 vial instead of the 10. We will see.
Tony is now still in a lot of pain and very tired. I read that he will always be very tired but we will see. Tony is just an amazing man that always seems to overcome the worst of the worst so I don't really have much doubt right now.
I'm just so glad he is home, it is sooo lonely without him here! My sister and her family brought me pizza one night, and she came another night and bought me dinner. Of course our friends Rick and Jenny came to let Roxy out a lot and I knew Tori would stay here if I needed her to. You guys are just so special to me and helped me and Tony tremendously through everything. Ashley and Meg had to go home last Sunday but they for sure helped me with the loneliness and sadness that comes when your spouse is very ill. Today I had a knock at the door, I saw flowers and thought awwww I wonder who sent Tony flowers, then the lady said for Teri. The card said "Thank you so much for taking such great care of our Dad! We really appreciate it and love you both very much! Ashley & Meghan" It is just the cutest arrangement, a yellow egg with Daisy's and Roses and a little chick. Very Teri like and cheerful! It really made me smile:)
This has just been a very hard year for me, I really can't describe what it is like to be a caretaker to someone that you share your whole life with, someone that has always been so strong, someone that you wake up with and kiss goodnight to, someone I cook for, clean for, laugh with, vacation with, sleep with. Tony has told people that this is harder on me than him. I don't have the physical pain that he has but my heart breaks every time something goes wrong, every time I give him his pills, every time I give him his injections or when I walk by and see him giving himself his shots in his belly. When I look over at my husband right now and see his dark circles under his eyes and see his cheekbones and his clavicle protruding, see his wedding ring almost falling off his skinny finger, see all the bruises, it just breaks my heart. When all I want more than anything is to be walking in the woods holding hands with him or playing Wii with our friends or just doing "our thing". He is sore and hurting but MY heart is BROKE. I try to be strong and smile and jump every single time he needs something...anything. I don't think he realizes that I cry myself to sleep every night just wanting my husband back. My healthy, awesome, funny, cute, laughing, healthy husband.
Well I did some laundry, made some homemade potato soup and now it's time to relax. I need sleep, not like 7 or 8 hrs but like 24 hours of just SOUND sleep. Keep us in your prayers please, I have to go stir the soup:)

"What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us"_Helen Keller

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Well, I am just sitting here in the ICU waiting room, waiting. Along with everyone else here to see there loved ones. The visiting hours are 8:15-9:00 in the evening. So of course I have to stay and see Tony one last time before I go home. He had surgery yesterday. What was supposed to be a 3.5 hr surgery ended up being almost 7 hours. I found out a little more about what they did in the surgery just a little bit ago. They were going to try to remove his adrenal gland laproscopically. They of course ran into a LOT of scar tissue and had to open up the previous incision from his nephrectomy 4 years ago. They did remove his left adrenal gland and a small mass that "used" to be cancer. The IL-2 killed that cancer. They also removed some areas of his intestines and apparently a little of his bowel that they thought looked suspicious and needed testing. Everything that they had tested during the surgery looked to be NONcancerous! THANK YOU JESUS. He was also having a hernia repaired, this hernia was from tissue tearing away from his previous surgical site. Well they actually had to repair several hernias. The poor lady that was having an ourpatient procedure after Tony's surgery with the same surgeon had to postpone hers for at least 4.5 hours. He was only supposed to be in ICU for a day..maybe 2. Now he will be in ICU until at least Monday. He still has an epidural providing SOME numbing medication and pain medication which is administered when he pushes his button on the pain pump. He also has a central line, which is sewn into his neck, I think that is to monitor the fluid levels around his heart/lungs? It really REALLY pains me to see the drain coming out of his incision and also the stomach tube, that is coming out of his nose. It just makes me weak. ALL the wires and He has more now than had 4 years ago. Last night his blood pressure kept falling, they couldn't get it consistent. Some of that is because now he does not have adrenal glands, and they are having some issues getting his hormones, steroids and fluid levels correct. His heart rate is very high today. They are a little concerned about why this is. Tony is now sleeping. They sat him in a chair today for an hour. He wanted back in bed more than anything...well he also wanted some water. They won't let him drink anything at all. They do allow me to use these spongy things to rub water on his lips. He just looks so pitiful right is breaking my heart. I cannot stand to see him like this again.
Thank God my sister and Ashley and Meghan were with me yesterday. Tonys daughters are staying with me until Sunday:)Then I'm sure my sister or daughter will be here with me when I need someone. This is a very very lonely sad experience. Thanks to everyone texting, calling and sending messages about praying for us! We are blessed to have some awesome people in our lives that have been praying continuously for our family. It's really awesome how many people are reaching out to us right now...Thank you so much. If my family wouldn't have been with me yesterday I think I would have fallen to pieces. I almost did.
Keep my awesome husband in your prayers and if you don't mind....keep me in them too.
"Courage is endurance....for one moment more"
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD...Amen

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Teri and Tony! Oh yeah..and Kidney Cancer

I am writing this about my husband Tony, he doesn't type too much lol. He is just an awesome man and I think everyone should know. I would like more RCC patients to be aware of HD if you have metastatic disease, please read.
I met Tony at Ford Motor company, where we both work. I asked him out on a date, I later found out that he was "supposed" to ask me out weeks before but never could work up the nerve. We started dating and just had a lot of fun together. Our first date was at a club with some friends of mine. I bought him a drink. I didn't realize that he had been cutting back and had been a very heavy drinker. I found out later just how heavy a drinker he was....I had no idea. Gradually throughout our dating he drank more and more. One day I came home and he had drank a big bottle of wine (the double size bottle), and was grumpy grumpy grumpy. I told him that I was NOT going to be one of "those" women and if he didn't stop drinking NOW, he needed to move out and find another girlfriend. Tony drank the rest of the night and then did the unthinkable...he then checked himself into rehab the next day. That was 12 years ago. He hasn't drank since. Not one drink. We were married Dec 11,1999. I tell you that little story to show you what a strong man he is, what a fighter he is and what he would do for me. I love him more because of that.
Move ahead to December 2006, Tony had a few days every month where he would just feel bad and get a high fever. But some sleep and ibuprofen would make him feel better. One day he went to the bathroom and his urine was a dark rusty color. Just once. He went to the doctor and the urine sample had no blood. They of course didn't do anything except send him home. He was having back pain for the next 5 months. They did an MRI and it showed a herniated disc in his lower back. He was going to a homeopathic doctor that was doing deep massage, Reiki, etc for his pain. They never suspected cancer. One day he had a headache, NOT just a normal headache but a pain so bad in his head that he could NOT stand it. He was in a fetal position on the couch with a pillow over his head begging for it to stop. I made him take a Vicodin (he won't take pain killers since he stopped drinking, they make him very moody) The headache eventually subsided. This same week I bought him Lance Armstrong's book "It's not about the bike: My journey back to life". I don't know why I bought it...CANCER was NOT in my mind at all. It is an awesome helped me a lot. Lance also has this excruciating headache.
At the time I was working with some people that know Tony, friends of his were always asking about him. I starting telling them that he hasn't been feeling well, that his back and legs hurt. One day me and my friend Matt were talking about Tony since he had just stopped in my lab the day before. He said Tony didn't look too good. I told him that Tony has BEEN looking bad, he looked thin and gray and had dark circles under his eyes....I said "Tony looks like he is dying".......I will never forget that I said said THAT. This too shall pass...I thought.
THAT day after work I went home and Tony called me and asked me to come get him from the doctors office, he said his legs hurt so bad he could hardly walk and he didn't think he could drive. He said "I feel like I've been running up stairs ALL day long". I brought him home, gave him some meds and a soft drink and had him change and get comfy. I went outside to stain the outside of the hot tub since I was having a BIG graduation party for Tori, my oldest daughter in June. Right as I started to open the can of stain Tony came outside and pulled his sweats up and asked me if THAT was normal. I said NOPE. His right knee was swollen and you could see TONS of dark purple blood vessels sticking out of the side of his knee and thigh, it looked like a map. I went in a got a measuring tape. His right knee was almost 2 inches bigger then the left. I said "Ohhhhh I think you have a blood clot..come on baby, lets go to the ER". He said "NO, I just laid down and I'm comfy". We argued about it for a few minutes. ughhhhh I didn't know what to do, I HATE to go to the hospital for nothing, you know what I mean?? go and wait and wait only to get sent home because there is really nothing wrong. I called my friend Karin, in Switzerland. (She used to live here, and we're great friends) She works in the therapy, medical field and I told her about Tony's knee and veins. She said " must take him now or call the ambulance!!" SO I told Tony "either you come WITH me or I'm calling 911 and then you WILL feel silly IF it's "just nothing".
The hospital immediately put him in a wheelchair and did some blood work. It was a LONG wait. They admitted him. May 10, 2007. They came in and told us he was anemic, which they said was aren't usually anemic. They gave him some pain meds and were waiting til morning for a doctor. I told the nurse to have the doctor call me. Tony's leg was WAY bigger now and he was looking worse. Like he was dehydrated and starving to death. The doctor called, I told him that Tony needed some nutrition or fluid or something. "you can't just let him lay here and die". They went ahead and started IV fluids. They did more blood work the next day and Doppler's and ultrasounds. His leg was HUGE. It was so huge he had to drag it when he walked. They eventually wouldn't let him get out of bed at all for fear that the clots would go to his lungs or brain. I watched as they did the ultrasound. I could see that the blood was NOT pumping in his thigh or groin. The tech was nervous as she was moving the probe higher up into his groin and still wasn't seeing any blood flow. That is when they sent him for a CT scan. Hours later, Tony was sitting up in his bed eating and we were laughing about something when the doctor came in. He asked me if I minded stepping out of the room with him. This too shall pass...this too shall pass I kept thinking. I looked at Tony and he just shrugged I think and kept eating his lunch. We walked out of the room and he wanted me to follow him to THE little room where doctors talk to families. Where doctors tell families BAD news. I did NOT want to go in that room with him. I didn't want to hear what he was going to tell me. A MILLION things went through my mind when I was following that doctor down the hall. "Tony's going to die, they are going to amputate his leg, why don't the doctor talk to BOTH of us? He's going to die?, He's going to DIE" I sat down and the doctor was very nice but he looked nervous. All I remember is He said " your husband has a very large mass in his's cancer". Ummmmmm I don't really know what else he said...something about Kidney Cancer survival blurrrrrr.....My brain stopped working. We walked into Tony's room, I was BAWLING and of course Tony knew...something was wrong. I will always remember that Tony was just sitting there eating and looking pretty happy. We walked in and had to tell him... that The world as we know it is about to change. The doctor told him. He took it better than I did. I know Tony's nervous look and he had it! I hated it for him...for me. This too shall pass????? I hugged him so tight. I just wanted to keep hugging and never let go. A urologist that performed MY kidney stone surgery a year before came in and said they were transporting Tony to University of Cincinnati medical center.
They couldn't do the surgery right away, they had to get his leg smaller and his blood flowing. The doctors told us his tumor was so big that it was growing out of his kidney into his vena cava vein and causing a dam, his blood couldn't flow into his leg and now his leg has huge blood clots. He was diagnosed with Deep vein Thrombosis, and also some blood clotting disorders, "Prothrombin Mutation" and "Factor V Leiden". He will always have DVT problems in his legs and still has to be careful. His surgery was May 18,2007. An oncology surgeon and a vascular surgeon performed the surgery. It was about a 7 hour surgery. A radical nephrectomy. They also put in a filter to prevent blood clots from going into his lungs or brain. They stated that his cancer was "clear cell, pT3b". Stage III. His primary tumor was 11x9x5cm in the lower pole with lesions in the mid and upper poles. The tumor extended into the renal vein and muscle branches and vena cava below the diaphragm. He woke up from surgery wanting to die. He begged me to unplug his machines. He begged for more pain killers. I couldn't stand to see him like this. I cried a lot. I have 2 children, he has 3. They were there. This was so hard for our kids. They were 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 years old. His daughters came up from Tenn. Everything was tough, this was such a hard time for all of us. I still don't even know if there was an adult at our house while we were in the hospital, I just don't remember. Everything was just a blur. He developed an infection in his incision, they had to open it back up and put a "wound vac" on, he had to wear compression stockings for his legs. I blocked some of that from my memory so I can't tell you some things. I do that when bad things happen. It's easier for me that way! He was in the hospital a long time. He was discharged May 30,2007. I had our friends pick up ans set up the tent and tables for Tori's graduation party that was scheduled for the Sat. after Tony's discharge. I paid someone to take care of our lawn. My sister helped a LOT! I remember just crying my eyes out because I needed to pull the weeds from my awesome garden around the pool and hot tub and couldn't leave Tony and didn't have the energy if I could. My sister came to pull them, she laughed because she said there were only like 4 weeds in my whole yard. I was just overwhelmed. This too shall pass? She helped..a lot. The party was a hit! Tony walked outside and said Hi to everyone and all of my family and friends were so glad to see him. But he stayed on the couch for weeks and weeks. He was having horrendous leg cramps EVERY night because of the damage the Deep Vein Thrombosis did to him. It was terrible. Putting those TIGHT compression stockings on him hurt his swollen leg and just made me cry! Will this EVER pass?? I was off of work without any paycheck and Tony was on medical leave. Needless to say our savings account dwindled down to zero! But we had each other. Some family and friends helped some. Thank God for our retirement savings plan that we had both had always invested in...or we would have lost everything! This too shall pass...and why worry about our retirement if we need it to survive now...right?
I had to "pack" his incision with gauze and clean it twice a day. This wasn't a regular incision, it was a huge gaping hole in his abdomen. It took everything I had to clean and dress that daily and give him Fragmin injections twice a day. I put those DAMN tight stockings on him because if I didn't they would cramp so bad and he would grab his legs in pain. This went on for over a year! He still wears them on occasion because of blood clots and cramping. He was starting to recover. Maybe a couple months after he noticed a bug bite was bothering him, right where his waistband on his jeans sit. After him complaining a couple days about this I looked at it....ummmm this wasn't a bug bite. It was dark purple and hard. It was maybe 2 inches in diameter and felt bone. But it was in his belly. I took him back to the hospital, they sent us back to the University of Cincinnati medical center and had a room waiting for us when we arrived. He had MRSA. He was in the hospital for another week. They gave him some strong antibiotics and I again had to "pack" this deep hole in his belly twice a day. I thought I couldn't do it. It was deep and not appealing to look at...let alone dig in. But I will do anything for Tony. I'm amazed at how WE become so strong when we don't have any other choice. This too shall pass. Tony was getting tired of hospitals and I just wanted "normal". I went through some deep depression for a little bit. It was now that I sat back and realized everything that just happened, everything hit me like a ton of bricks. I was so strong for 3 or 4 months and NOW I didn't want to I wanted to rest and breathe. I cried a lot.
They were going to put him in a clinical study but his heart wasn't beating normal, he was still too weak, so they wouldn't approve him. He then had scans every 3 months for 1 year and then every 4 months for a year. Then every 6 months.
EVERYTHING was great for 3 years.
Tony wanted a house in the country with trees and a pond. We sold our home with the awesome landscaping and pool. We bought the house in the country and Tony a big shiny tractor! Whatever Tony wants really...I don't care, I am with him. We went to Europe in December (2007)and spent Christmas in Switzerland with our friends. We had plane tickets for June 2007 but Tony was in NO shape! All of our kids graduated from high school. Ashley our oldest daughter got married. Had our only grand baby, Carter. Our life was perfect. We were happy. We tried not to think too much about cancer for 3 years. We did fun things together. We always have fun together! June of 2010 I was having some heart issues and having some tests done. Tony was going to get his CT report from his oncologist alone. We both had appts this day. Tony called me while I was waiting to get my CT scan. He told me he had another tumor, his left Adrenal gland. WHAT??????
I cried all the way home. No no no no no no! We both stayed home from work that day. Tony tilled his beloved garden, I sat out there with him next to the pond and we just talked. Talked about a lot of things. It is what it is...and we will take care of it! This too shall pass. The next doctor appt. his Oncologist Dr.O said she wants him to try High dose interluekin. HD IL-2. She told us there is a 10% chance this could cure him and a 25% chance that it will shrink his tumor and slow the progression. She also told us this IS the only FDA approved cure for kidney cancer. She told us about all of the side effects. Low blood pressure, he wouldn't be able to urinate much, he would get rigors, nausea, flu like, itching skin, etc etc. The side effects are numerous AND severe. BUT the side effects are reversible AND they have meds to treat almost ALL of them. She said he would be in ICU for most of the treatments. We thought for a minute, EVERYTHING else they give you for RCC just slows the doesn't cure it....well we want him to be CURED. I don't want him to just live 2 years LONGER, I want him for 50 MORE years. OK sign us up! We didn't talk about with anyone we just said OK. We didn't even really think about it, just looked at each other and said ok. As far as we were concerned what was there to talk about?? When do we start. They set up the day to enter the hospital for a few weeks away. Dr.O explained he would have 1 round of HD IL-2, which consisted of 1 week in the hospital 1 home recovering. 1 more week in the hospital and then home to recover. Then rest for 8 weeks and have a scan. Then if the tumor shrinks or stays the same. Do it again. 1 week in and 1 out, another week in and then out.
I made arrangements with Tony's daughters, Ashley and Meg, they house sat and watched our dog Roxy for the first week, my daughter Tori house sat the remaining 3 weeks. Tony's son Anthony cut grass and friends and my sister and her family picked our garden several times and helped with things around our home.
We went to the hospital the end of July 2010. He was admitted on a Sunday. They didn't give him his first dose until Monday about 2 pm. I had planned on going home that night. He started having rigors and feeling very bad about 3 hours later. He told me he really wanted me to stay. I stayed. I never left. Ever. I stayed the whole 4 weeks that he was inpatient. Even sleeping in chairs. I had to. The nurses were NOT there with him when he started the rigors so bad. I had to make sure they had Demerol on the floor and would answer my calls asap when he was shaking so bad. I was there when he needed his pan to vomit in. When he needed unhooked from all of the monitors NOW and RIGHT now because he had to go to the bathroom. I was there to change the sheets and cry myself to sleep at night just waiting to help when he cries out in pain or when he needed his 9 blankets back on or peeled off one at a time. I was there when he couldn't make it to the bathroom in time. Nurses just are not there for IL-2 patients...not how a VERY patient spouse is. I was there to make him eat his 3 bites of "cream of potato" soup a day because he was losing so much weight and they wouldn't give him any more IL-2 if he was losing too much..and he needed his IL-2 so I could keep my husband! Several times I looked up in the middle of the night and his blood pressure was 47/26 or something INSANE like that. I would wake him or sit him up to get it higher. I did everything I could to prepare him so they would give him his next dose. Because if things didn't look good they would skip the dose. No matter how bad he felt he never wanted them to skip the dose. I didn't either..within reason. The dosing was every 8 hrs. They would give it to him, and within a few hours all hell would break loose. One night he itched so bad I laid icy cold cloths on him and they gave him as much itching meds as they could give him. And as much sleeping meds too. He was miserable, I sat there on the side of his bed and cried and cried and ask God to give ME his pain and itching just so he could rest. I pleaded with God. I held my hand on his head and just sobbed and prayed and begged and pleaded with God. One night he was having rigors so bad and the nurse said they couldn't give him any MORE Demerol (the only thing that works) She said the Dr. said NO. I took a deep breathe, I tried to sound calm, I had the heat light on directly over his bed, they have them in ICU, I had 9 blankets on Tony, a dry wash cloth on his face to block the blinding light, I was sweating, It was so hot in there. I was laying my upper body over him to keep him from shaking so hard and to keep him warm. I put my sweatshirt over him too, I just had on a thin T shirt now. Tony was shaking and freezing and hurting so bad from biting down and convulsing so hard...I took a deep breath and said as nicely as I could with tears streaming all over my face and red puffy eyes, and I said very slowly "CALL THE DOCTOR BACK AGAIN AND TELL HIM TO COME DOWN HERE AND SIT WITH ME AND WATCH MY HUSBAND BEG FOR MERCY" "PLEASE"....She came back in with more Demerol.
He had convulsed or shook so bad that he couldn't move his arms for a week afterwards. His shoulders were so sore.
Another time I believe his 2nd week they didn't have Demerol on the floor. WHAT???? So after they finally got it, after Tony finally had relief and fell asleep I walked into the hallway with the nurse supervisor and told her that this is the 2nd week we are here and we will have 2 MORE weeks, I said "order some Demerol NOW and do NOT let that happen again, EVER, keep it on the floor, keep it in your pocket, JUST HAVE IT!" They started keeping it in the room or in their pockets as soon as the IL-2 was administered. He is allergic to Dopamine, a med to raise his blood pressure. I thought he was going to have a heart attack or something after they administered it. Thank God it stopped after a while. I really can't talk a lot more about the IL-2 experience because I have this ability to block bad memories out of my head. I wrote on my blog daily about this experience...if anyone wants to read the daily blog here you go I can't read that either, it hurts me. I started to once and I cried and was depressed for a few days. It really was a horrendous experience for both of us.
The medication was unreal, I had to keep a written diary of what he took, at what time for pain, nausea, sleep, diarhea, constipation, itching etc. Then I kept one of the meds that were needed at certain times. He had no idea what he was taking...thank God I stayed home from work for quite a while.
Tony's tumor was smaller after the first round of IL-2. He developed another blood clot in his leg after the first week of IL-2 and has to be on Fragmin injections again. Probably for the next 6 months. We held our breaths and finally could breathe some. After the last IL-2 dose Tony felt very bad. He had a total of 32 doses. He had 12 the first week, 9 the second week. 6 the next week and 5 the last week. Tony was recovering nicely during the wait for the next CT scan. Something happened with his skin in Dec 2010. He started itching so bad. So bad that he put Ace bandages around his knees so his jeans wouldn't rub the back of them...they were raw. I did all kinds of research and read that Adrenal disfunction can cause eczema, vit C deficiency does too. I tried Aveeno baths, Epsom salt, vinegar etc etc. I made him drink orange juice and soak in a tepid vinegar bath. They said he should not use steroids or hydrocortizone on IL-2 patients as it reverses the effectiveness of the IL-2. Christmas eve..ughhhh one of the worst days of my life. Tony was itching so bad I wasn't sure if he was going to be able to survive. YES it WAS THAT bad! It was so bad, he was digging, and bleeding from the severe scratching because of the blood thinner "Fragmin" that he is still on. He was miserable! Yelling and crying and just in excruciating pain..all over his body. I was giving him the highest dose of Hydroxyzine, the dose they give to sedate people. I finally put some 1% cortisone on him. I mean...I had to do was unbearable. UNBEARABLE! He finally fell asleep and I just prayed that he could sleep and STAY asleep. I asked God how much more he was going to give us because this was as much as we could handle. I cried myself to sleep. We woke up on Christmas and did that same routine with the juice and bath or Cervase lotion, a little cortizone and Tony was finally feeling like he could function. He is still itchy now 1-6-2011. BUT it is not all over his body. I think his knees were infected. We do NOT use the hydrocortizone cream anymore. BUT like I said...we had to do SOMETHING!
The latest CT shows the tumor has shrunk so much they no longer even call it that. They call it an Adenoma, it is on his left adrenal glad. They will remove his gland the end of this month or early march. Then they will do scans every 3 months. But right now...they do NOT see anything. Thank you Jesus for IL-2 and being here when we needed you the most! NO ONE can understand what our last 6 months have been like unless they lived here or went through it themselves. Our lives were a living hell....but 6 months of hell for a chance at a lifetime of being NED seems worth it to us.
This whole journey with Tony has made me realize how precious life is. I don't want life to pass me by, I want to live and have no regrets, I want to do what makes me happy and live in the now. You never really know if tomorrow is going to come. So do something wonderful today. Make someone smile and make yourself smile while you're at it. I love Tony with all of my heart. Sometimes I might not want to go for that drive or that walk in the woods but then I realize that I NEED to, I don't know if tomorrow will be I go. And I smile and hold Tony's hand. Thank you Jesus for not taking Tony just yet, we still have a LOT of living to do.

Surgeon visit

I am sitting here thanking God for Tony and everything that we have together. Im off of work this weekend and taking care of him. He has a bad cold and just sounds terrible. I slept late usual because I stay up until about 4am, I got up and a pack of bacon was on the I smiled. I assumed Tony wanted me to make breakfast :) I made him some scrambled eggs with onions and cheese, bacon and biscuits. I LOVE to cook and I love to cook for him. He thanked me and laid back on the couch...he doesn't normally just lay around to often. He has some great cough medicine the Doc prescribed and I'm making sure he is drinking enough fluids. Poor guy!
We went and saw the surgeon this week that will remove his adrenal gland. It is the same surgeon that performed his radical Nephrectomy 4 years ago..we like him a lot. Tony's surgery will be the end of Feb or early March. He also has a pretty bad hernia at his last incision site that will also need to be repaired. I was thinking this surgery/recovery was not going to be too bad but the Doc says Tony will be in the hospital for at least a week. I cried. I'm tired. Tony's tired. BUT we will be just fine..we always are and we always will be:) Me and Tony stick together and help each other with everything...everything is better with each other! I thank God for him everyday and I know he thanks God for me.
My Aunt Martha past away since my last blog so please keep everyone in your prayers!
Hearing that news was hard for both of Aunt Martha and Tony just had this special kind of bond....he has tears as the service right along with me. Cancer sucks! I will be working on our story for the Kidney Cancer Warriors page, to get the word out about HD IL-2 and to show that someone can indeed have some awesome benefits from this crazy hell of a poison that I hope and pray saved my husbands life. A lot of people are so afraid of the side effects that they will not even try it. 10% cure rate and 25% chance that it will shrink the tumor is NOT a great chance...BUT it IS the ONLY cure. So we thought...hell..what do we have to lose. So I am going to try to save some lives and get Tony's story out...goodnight all:)

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Tony had a CT scan last week, today the doctor called his tumor an Adenoma. That is actually a benign growth. They do not even call it a tumor now. He will be scheduled for surgery within the month or so to remove his left adrenal gland. They want to remove this growth. Right now they do not see any more tumors that look cancerous. They will of course biopsy this but they are thinking the IL-2 killed the cancer cells. He will then be back on an every 3 months CT scan plan. And will hopefully be considered NED (no evidence of disease) yaaaaaay! It's been a LONG 6 months of pure HELL and now we need some deep breaths and some rest and some much needed time to reflect!!! Thank you Jesus and Thank you for all of the prayers! I am overflowing with emotion right now...NOW I realize just what all happened and what for. I am praying that Tony falls into the 10-12% of patients that have a total recovery and cure of this awful disease from IL-2. Right now he is for sure in the one quarter of patients that usually benefit from it! We will always be on this cancer roller coaster now that we have boarded..I don't think you EVER can fully escape. But I pray for Tony's cure and for some peaceful comfort for now...Dear Heavenly Father I thank you so much for prayers answered and for bringing us this joyful news today, thank you so much for listening to my daily pleads with you...Tony is a wonderful man and I am so thankful to have him in my life...thank you so much. Please Jesus help ease any pain and suffering my wonderful Aunt Martha is having right now and I pray that you provide everyone close to her some comfort as she will be coming home to you very was such a bittersweet day for me..I get to keep Tony much longer but yet I need to say goodbye to someone so VERY special to me very soon because of this awful disease...please help guide someone to a cure soon, I ask this in your sweet name.....Amen