Sunday, December 14, 2014

Our Baby Girl Graduated!!!

Warning!!!  Another post with LOTS of pics!!!

This weekend we thoroughly enjoyed celebrating our awesome daughter, who earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music -- Vocal Performance!

It all started with the 400+mile trek through west Texas, to Sul Ross State University in Alpine!

We frantically gathered Saturday morning and anxiously awaited the commencement of the ceremony.
The cheer squad was poised and ready to make some NOISE!!!

The graduate made her appearance and that smile melted my heart!

She graduated with Honors, Cum Laude, and recieved gold cords from the Provost.

Then, received her diploma from the University President!


Walking back to her seat!  She was ALL SMILES!!!


And for those super observant types...the blue and green cords are representative of the Honor Society she belongs to!

The group pic after the ceremony:


Followed by a pic with her MVP, Most Valuable Professor!!!!


On the way to the reception, we picked up her doggie daughter and Toby!  They may have been excited too!



We then had a wonderful lunch reception with the whole gang!!


All in all, it was a terrific celebration throughout the weekend!  We had lots of quality time with the friends and family who were able to make the long trip, laughed way too much!, ate way too much!, some of us drank way too much!, and none of us got enough sleep!!  So I'd call that a SUCCESS!



Who knew in 2009 when we took a train to Alpine to visit the Big Bend National Park with myself, two other moms, one grandma, and 9 kids among us...that Kasey would end up LOVING this area and become so attached to it, that she now calls it HOME!

ÜBER PROUD PARENTS!!!





















Thursday, December 11, 2014

New day, new scans!


The most recent visit to MD Anderson was (in Albert's words) anticlimactic!

He got new chest and body scans.

Also new lab work.

Apparently, all is well.

Very little fluid around the lung, and practically NO fluid around the heart.

Good news, probably even great news.  However, he still has this dang cough.

So, the next question is, how do we get rid of it?  Of course, steroids are not good for long term use, and the cough med he's been taking is no longer very effective...so what do we do now?

Apparently, we wait until the radiation oncologist is back from vacation next week and see what his opinion is.  The good thing is that he will already have all the scans he needs to make a decision.  The bad thing is that this cough is pretty nasty.  So this means a few more days to tolerate this late onset symptom of radiation to the chest.

Also, we only saw the PA this time.   That's more good news, right?  That means his case isn't as critical as others, right?

Speaking of which.  I recognized a couple of newbies in the waiting area.  That bundle of nerves, the fear in each family member's eyes, not knowing what the doctor is going to say, but hoping against all hope that there is SOMETHING they can do!  The mom was the patient.  The grown daughter was home (maybe from college), doting on mom, the daughter still at home was glued to her social media on her phone.  Dad was doing everything possible to appear OK, but was just a jumble of bungled nerves...even forgot his backpack when they called the wife's name.  My heart went out to them.  Thinking of how scary that first visit is; and oh, how far we have come.

Lately, I find myself helping people find their way around the maze of hallways and buildings, giving directions to the pharmacy or the post office...helping them find the cafe that's open at the current time of day.  Yep, we've been there a couple of times!

I've chosen to think of our visits as quality time with my best friend.  Because, in truth, I'd rather be there with him than anywhere else by myself.  Every day together is a gift.  And if I'm still visiting MD Anderson in 4 years, I'll know that my guy beat the odds!!!!  He'll bust through that 0% that have survived before him!

Anticlimactic?  Yes!  and I'll take it ANY DAY!!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thank you so much, to everyone!

This week, last year, Albert had his big surgery to remove Walter White from his chest!

A year later, we can only be thankful.

Thankful to co-workers, friends, and family who visited the hospital...brought food, gifts (including grocery cards and restaurant gift cards), flowers, plants, kind words, and shining smiles!

Thankful for our close circle of friends that took tremendous care of us for several weeks after...brought us food, cleaned our house, and kept us company!

Thankful to my sister and one of my besties for caring for our dog and cat children, EVERY TIME we had be away...including the long months in Houston!!

Thankful to our brother-in-law for keeping the lawn under control for a whole year now!!!

Thankful to co-workers who donated weeks upon weeks of sick time so that Albert could be getting treatments and still support our family!

Thankful to our friend in Houston, who is really more like a mom to us, who insists we stay with her, providing the MOST luxurious, relaxing, amazing suite of hospitality we could ever dream of; a home away from home!

Thankful to everyone who signed up and helped on the care calendar, with our yard and our trash cans, and the multitude of kind acts that were unexpected and so thoughtful!

Thankful to everyone who reads the blog and writes comments here or on Facebook!!!

Thankful for the entire team of folks on his medical journey!  Exceptionally gifted people whose compassion and expertise gave us hope...over and over again!

Thankful for our puppies, our most trusted therapists!

Thankful to RA for forcing me to stay home and be able to care for both of us!

Thankful for our children...they went through hell too...but lived to tell the tale.

Thankful for every new day that we are given to be together! 

We are thankful!  Oh, so very thankful!


Monday, November 24, 2014

They're Ba-a-a-a-ack!


The HAIR and the COUGH are both back, in full force!!!!

In fact, Bert's hair was getting too long for him, dare I say, reaching borderline mullet status!  It's thick and full, and CURLY in the back!  He's got that sexy hair thing going on again!

And with every haircut comes a little visit with our favorite hairdresser, so it's definitely a win-win!
_______________________

Unfortunately, the damn cough has slowly returned!

It started a few weeks back, here and there, a little dry, annoying cough.  It has morphed into the deep, painful, forceful cough that hurts all over and zaps his energy.  Yes, the one from this summer...the one that keeps him up all night...and makes him sound like he's about to cough up a lung!!

Thankfully, we have a visit coming up to MD Anderson in a couple of weeks.  We pray that it's something that can get taken care of quickly, like last time.  But it would also be nice if it wasn't coming back like this.  Last time, they said it was harmless fluid that was a result of radiation to the chest.  

They tested it last time, for cancer cells, but didn't find any activity.

I will be super thankful if his energy and health return as quickly again!  

Thanks for checking on us!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Finally! Some great news!!


Both kids tested NEGATIVE for the MEN1 genetic mutation!!!!

It took forever to find out, and of course, there was DRAMA!!!


The genetic counselor called the house looking for Jacob one afternoon.  But, he was at work!

Albert was still on the phone, getting NO information, because both kids are adults over 18, when Kasey started calling on the other line.  Apparently, she wasn't gonna wait and she called my cell phone.  She was crying and I was scared to death because I thought it had to be bad news! 

But it wasn't, her tears were tears of relief!  She felt so happy that she was in the clear!


The counselor left a message for Jake to call her back! but since he works every night until 10, we knew we weren't finding out that day, <sigh>!

The next morning he called, got voicemail.  Then called in the afternoon before he left for work, got voicemail, <double sigh>!!


Seriously, by the next morning, I was a nervous wreck!  I was cranky and harassing Jake until he called again just to appease me, you guessed it!  We got voicemail AGAIN!  <triple sigh>!!!


Jake was getting ready to head out to work and he stops to tell me, "oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, Ms. Jackson called"...pause...sad puppy dog eyes...I'm a ball of nerves...he's formulating his speech..."she said I'm negative!"

Let me tell you!  I was screaming and wanted to kick his scrawny butt to the moon!


Dammit!  We were on pins and needles for almost two full days...

How could we be happy that KC was in the clear, but what if Jake wasn't?  We couldn't celebrate too hard for her and make him feel like crap if his news wasn't good...

Torture is the only way I can describe it.


Let me tell you!

The celebration, elation, relief, utter happiness was indescribable!  They weren't gonna have to worry about this dreadful disease that was slowly taking their daddy!

Our family genes give us enough to worry about!  Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity...the list goes on!  At least there is ONE they wouldn't have to worry about!


The best part is that they also can't pass it on to their kids!  It's not recessive/dominant.

Albert's DNA had an omission that my DNA filled in!  Now they can only pass on the complete strand.

Thanks for all the prayers, I know they helped!

(P.S. I haven't forgotten to tell y'all about their day at MD Anderson, but I will, SOON!)












November is NET cancer awareness month



NET cancers are NeuroEndocrine Tumors (carcinoids).

Yes, the month is almost over, but I believe that it's better late than never!

The cancer that invaded Albert's thymus and is still inside and around his heart, is a NET cancer.

It's one of the rarer types of cancers, with the bleakest survival rate.

Depending on where it's located, it may or may not respond to treatments.

Every person's NET cancer is different because it can occur in so many different places in the body.

Either they grow very slowly or very aggressively, and usually aren't detected until they are very large or affecting other organs.

You can learn more about them at:  http://netcancerday.org








Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veterans' Day!

December 1988

I know it's late in the day, but I didn't want the day to go by without wishing Albert a very

Happy Veterans' Day.

He served your country while the country was at war.

Not everyone who serves their country comes back home.

Thank you to every service man and woman who has sacrificed comfort, family, limbs, sanity, and life for our freedom.

Albert, I am lucky that you are with me today.





Friday, October 31, 2014

It's REALLY been a YEAR!!!

Our Halloween Graveyard 2011

Happy Halloween Everyone!!

And Happy One Year Anniversary to my best friend:  Albert!!

One year ago, today, yes...on Halloween Day, the endocrinologist called Bert and gave him the bad news.  It was a big word...CANCER...followed by another...hard to hear/pronounce/swallow diagnosis... Neuroendocrine Carcinoma....I had to write it down...to remember it.

I remember the fear.

The immediate zap of hope and future...all in an instant.

We got off the phone and looked at each other in complete shock.

The rest is sort of a blur...

I don't even remember if we hugged, or cried, or even spoke.

I do remember that we turned off our front porch light that night...no trick or treaters that day...we couldn't even handle the door bell ringing...

So here we are...one year later...and according to all the statistics...Bert is one living freak of nature...ok, a miracle!

He survived...against the odds...he is among the living and we will take that bet any day!!!

Thank you friends, family, and followers who have supported us along the way...it means so very much to both of us!

Woody and Jessie-2013


The oxford journals has more on the survival rates; but to sum it up, the 5 year survival rate for his specific tumor type/location...is 0%.





Next Section

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Radiation Follow-up!

(photo: hauling KC's bike to Alpine)

The radiation follow-up visit was interesting.

The big concern was this lingering cough, and of course, the fluid in the lungs...but the damn cough that wouldn't go away was just getting deeper, more painful, more forceful, just not fun.

Albert was complaining that when he coughed he felt like someone was jabbing him in the back, sometimes stabbing him with a very sharp object.  Additionally, sometimes he would cough so hard that he would pop his own back...talk about pa-in-ful!  OUCH!

So the radiation oncolgist decided to give him a steroid, since the fluid had just been drained, maybe it would give him just the right amount of strength to give his lungs a break AND all those muscles that were sore from coughing for 3 months straight.

THE ABSOLUTE BEST PART was when the doctor said he was gonna put him on steroids, Bert VERY straight faced asked the doctor..."but doctor, does this mean that I'm never gonna be able to compete in the Olympics?"  

This is the "god complex" doctor I told y'all about, plus he had 2 observing doctors from China and 1 PA from Australia in the über tiny room, both our kids and us...HE WAS SPEECHLESS!!!  It was priceless!!  (think...exam room the size of an elevator and a momentary AWKWARDness...7 adults all looking at the doctor waiting for an answer...)

Of course, I busted out laughing, and the doc was able to make a nice recovery, explaining the difference between anabolic steroids and what he was prescribing...it was really hilarious for that moment when all 4 professionals in the room couldn't tell if Albert was asking a real question, or just kidding...it was freakin' funny!!

To top it all off, when the doc said, prednisone, Albert thought he said, pregnizone!!! I can't imagine what was going on in his head at that moment...you said, preg- what???  LOL

____________________
Fast forward to today...he's already tapering off the steroids and there is no cough to be found!!  

It's been A-MAZzing!!

Thanks for checking in...next time,  I'll tell y'all about the kids' first visit as patients!!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chemo Follow-up!

(headed to work)

The CT scan revealed fluid in Albert's right lung (the one that is barely functioning because of the paralyzed diaphram).  This is a common side effect of radiation to the chest.

They drained the fluid using a needle through his back and into the lining of the lung...400 ml, almost half a liter!! The fluid was sent to the lab to be tested.

Within the hour, he was taking deeper breaths.

Hopefully this procedure will help him breathe easier and easier, cut down on his fatigue, and give him a shot at getting back to his trail running and 5K fun runs!

Everything else checked out great!  The oncologist is super happy with Albert's progress and overall health.  The cancer area and tumor still seem to show "no cancer activity" based on the CT and the labs!!!

This guy is a survivor!  

Strong, healthy and as you can see above:

he's been feeling well enough to ride to work...woohoo!!!!

Thanks for stopping in, and next time, I'll give you the radiation update.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Endocrine Assessment- Part 2: Blood Calcium

(pic: Bert and KC having a beer at Harry's in Alpine!)


Now it's time for a story...

Most of you are aware that MD Anderson is a teaching hospital.  So the normal process is that a Physician's Assistant will come into the room and go through the visit as though they are the primary doctor.  Ask questions, examine the patient; the whole nine yards.

Then s/he will leave the room, have a briefing with the doctor, and we don't see them again.  Sometimes never, because the PAs are transitional as they are still basically in school.  Later, the 'real' doctor enters the room and we start all over again. 

Most of the time, the PAs are spot on.

This time, she couldn't have been more wrong.  Albert's doctor came into the room and basically said...yeah, whatever she told you...DON'T DO IT!

It almost felt like we were being punked and I swear we must have been on candid camera, because he had an urgency when he told us.  I had him restate his words and so did Albert...it was so weird.

Then we asked him a million and three questions because we were sooo caught off guard.

Even his side-kick student (the one that is not allowed to speak, but only observes), was looking surprised by what the PA had told us.

Basically, Bert is being taken off of some meds to see what his body does on it's own.  With the meds his blood calcium is perfect...the doc wants it to be perfect without meds!

Never a dull moment!!

Thanks for checking in!  

Endocrine Assessment- Part 1


Our current mission is to manage Albert's MEN-1 (Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia-Type 1).

For the next six months, and the REST OF HIS LIFE, we are monitoring disease activity through symptom awareness, frequent blood work and periodic scans (CT and MRI)

Remember, LEAST INVASIVE is always the preferred treatment!

_______________________________

Let's go back to the pituitary tumor we told y'all about this summer.
________________________________

Tuesday's labs indicate that the pituitary tumor is a prolactinoma.  (an adenoma that is producing the hormone, prolactin)

The only reason they think it is a prolactinoma is that his prolactin level is infinitesimally elevated; barely out of normal range. AND there are no other hormones out of normal range, so this is a theory based on experience.

If this tiny tumor is producing prolactin, which is not needed, Albert's testosterone level will drop.

BUT THAT'S NOT HAPPENING HERE!!  His testosterone level is excellent...and honestly, I didn't need a lab test to tell me that!! LOL

**Treatment**

TIME WILL TELL

They will do more lab work in December to see if there are any hormone level changes AND they will re-scan the tumor in early Spring.

The good news is that the tumor is NOT affecting his parathyroids and PTH production like previously suspected.  More on that later, but for now, it's good news.

Thanks for checking in with us, we are truly enjoying our family time...



MEN-1

(pic: Kasey's 'new' Honda Rebel, AKA: Graduation Gift)


Back in June,  one of the results I neglected to share is the genetics research on Albert's DNA.

His DNA has been traveling for 7 months; across the country, then out to Sweden and back!!

The reason he is getting all these tumors (thymus, parathyroid, and pituitary) has been detected/confirmed.

He has a syndrome called MEN-1 (Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia-Type 1).

MEN-1 is NOT CANCER.  However, it causes tumors to develop throughout the endocrine system.  Sometimes the tumors are innocuous, sometimes benign but troublesome, and sometimes cause cancer.

About now, you may be asking: How on earth did he get that????

I'm soooo glad you asked!!!!!

He got it in one of two ways:

     1. genetically from one or both parents
OR
     2. he has a first generation gene mutation that occured in utero (while he was in his mama's belly).

The only way to know for sure how he got it is to have his parents and siblings tested for the same gene mutation.  The family has the option to be tested. (simple blood test)

The scary part for us is that since he has it, our children have a 50% chance of inheriting it from him.

The kids are here with us this week because they are getting their turn becoming MD Anderson patients.  They were assigned to the Endocrine Center for genetics testing.  By simply giving blood samples, a whole battery of tests can be run to determine if either of them inherited the genetic mutation, AND if so, determine if they have any indications of possible (and hopefully early) disease activity.

Remember, MEN-1 is NOT CANCER.  However, if either of the kids does have the syndrome, we will be able to proactively and aggressively prevent lots of problems!  Through routine blood work and occasional  scans, we will be able to address anything that comes up, while it's still small, before it becomes a bigger problem.

For more information on Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia, please visit the MD Anderson Website: 

http://www.mdanderson.org/patient-and-cancer-information/cancer-information/cancer-types/multiple-endocrine-neoplasia/index.html


I think we are all caught up from the June visit...let's move on to the here and now...




Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Back in Houston!


Back in Houston, but this time...with our sweet kids!

Today was a doozie...started at 4:30AM, and just kept going.

Snuck in some family time and a movie!

Today included a head to toe CT scan and labs, meeting with the endocrine team, and setting a schedule for the next few months.

Apparently, I stole the show when I fell asleep in the waiting room during Albert's scan.  According to my daughter I was causing a scene as I was sleeping in a recliner so soundly,  that I was snoring with my mouth open...LOUDLY...and causing people to stare.  A kindhearted nurse took pity on me and covered me with a warm blanket.  I subsequently began to snore LOUDER!  All I know is that I had a pretty good and interesting dream.

Unfortunately, Albert's day tuckered him out and he took an afternoon nap while the kids and I did our grocery shopping.

He woke up this evening, worked, yes, I said WORKED, then passed out again, not too long ago.

I'll let y'all know the medical stuff tomorrow, I'm wiped out as well!

Nite-nite and thanks for checking in!

Monday, August 25, 2014

It's a Jeep thing!


Caught my guy working on his Jeep in the hot sun!

He bought this baby in November of 2001!  It was one of those model year close-out sales.  

It has over 203,000 miles on it, is on its second engine, and Lord knows how many 'rescues'.

He almost always does the work himself, and when he doesn't, he regrets it!

This Jeep is still racking up the miles...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

More catching up! -MRI results


During our last visit to MD Anderson (June), Albert had another MRI.

This time the MRI was looking at his brain! and specifically, his pituitary.  The neuro-endocrinologist suspected that Bert may have a tumor on or near his pituitary gland.  If so, the tumor may be causing pressure on the pituitary and ultimately, the actual cause of the hyperparathyroidism.

Let me backtrack a bit.

Remember that Albert was diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism way back?  This was before we knew he had cancer, and honestly, before he was even taking any of this stuff seriously.

Hyperparathyroidism is when the body is overproducing the PTH hormone.  To make a long explanation short, over time, it caused his hypertension, osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Usually hyperthyroidism is caused by:
     *the parathyroids malfunctioning
     *one or more parathyroids developing benign tumors
     *the pituitary could be sending erroneous signals to the perfectly healthy parathyroids

Initially, the doctors thought one of Bert's parathyroids had developed a tumor.  It took several tests to isolate the correct one, in fact, one of those tests led to finding the cancer.

Last December, (the same day they removed 10 lb Walter White) they also removed one of his parathyroids.

Fingers were crossed that the hyperparathyroidism would go away with it.  But it didn't.  In fact, it's as active as ever, making it very difficult to treat his osteoporosis.  His bone calcium keeps leaking out into his blood and eventually drains out through his urine.

That leaves two options, either one or more of his remaining parathyroids also has a tumor OR, the problem is coming from somewhere else.

The doctors believe it is being caused by another tumor, but not in the parathyroids, on the brain!

Ultimately, the MRI is helping answer the question, what is causing the hyperparathyroidism?

Man, I hope you guys are still with me!

Drum roll, please!  The results are POSITIVE.  Albert does have a 2mm tumor near his pituitary that is putting pressure on the gland and causing problems with his parathyroids.  Whew!!

So what does that mean?  

Best case scenario, he takes medication to hopefully shrink the tumor.
Worse case scenario, they surgically remove it through his nose (septum).

And just so we can prolong the suspense...we won't meet with the doctor to come up with a plan of action until September, possibly December.

Believe me, it has taken much processing on our parts to try to accept that this is where we are.  It's hard to comprehend that the big surgery in December was really just the beginning of our ride.  Funny how life is like that!  Lots of twists, lots of turns, none of the ones you expected.

Maybe that's why Albert loves riding his motorcycle through all those HillCountry back roads like The Devil's Back Bone.  All the unexpected curves and hills make it exciting and adventurous.  They get your heart racing and make you feel alive.

We will keep on taking it one day at a time, leaning into every turn, together.  You guys just keep cheering us on, thinking of us, sending happy thoughts, commenting, praying, etc.  it all helps!

A few more posts should get you all caught up...yes, there's more!

Thanks for checking in!
-Becca 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Initial test results!


Remember I told you that Albert recently had a CT scan of his radiated chest area? 

Well we got "results".

The radiation oncologist told us that the tumor still on his heart is smaller in size.

Before we jump for joy, let's agree to be optimistically cautious about that statement.

Prior to the test, we were told that the tumor could be smaller, larger, or even the same size.  However, size is neither an indicator of improvement, nor lack thereof.  And what does that mean?  It means that the size means NOTHING.  If you're thinking, Huh?  You are not alone.

Apparently, we are looking for 'cancer activity'.

AND, it currently appears that there is no activity.

Yay! Jump for joy, right!?!?

Not exactly.

The doc says that the radiation is still active and working.  Yep, Bert's still glowing!

Soooo, more waiting!  In September, he gets another scan, AND THEN we will know what all this cryptic talk means.

Still confused?  Yeah, us too.

Sometimes, news is just news.

So let's all collectively YAY!!!  No bad news!!!

Thanks for checking in...more catch-up posts coming soon...


Monday, July 21, 2014

Really, this is ridiculous!


My last post was June 6th?  Shameful, ridiculous, inexcusable!!!!!!

I owe you guys a post or six to catch you up on Albert's progress.
__________________________________________________
So I'll start with our last visit to Houston, June 21st - 26th.

It was weird in that his appointments were scheduled for a Saturday.  That day included blood work, and a CT scan of the radiated chest area.  The place was like a ghost town!  

***NOTE TO ALL VISITING MD ANDERSON ON THE WEEKEND***

Patients with weekend appointments get FREE valet parking for the day!  Would have been nice to know that tidbit ahead of time, but at least now we know, and YOU do too!

We treated ourselves to a movie afterwards, and boy! Can I pick 'em!?!

Movie theater: hands down! The best we have ever been to!  
Movie itself:  Absolutely the most timely, yet so close to home that it took us a while to leave the theater...waiting for my nose to stop running and my tears to stop flowing.

The fault in our stars was incredible, and incredibly painful to watch.

The true gift was the profound conversations that took place all that evening.  We talked, we laughed, we planned, we cried.  Our reality is in front of us, Albert has a terrible cancer, with an über bleak prognosis.  But our lives are still filled with hope, and laughter, and plans for a future!  He's right here, right now and that's good enough.

Sunday, we relaxed and visited with our friend and wonderful hostess!

Monday thru Wednesday was a whirlwind of appointments with doctors and more scans.  We thought we would get more "news" but were disappointed.

Most notably, Bert had his last chemo cycle!!!  YAY!!

That last cycle was pretty brutal.  He had lots of nausea, exhaustion, stomach pain, coughing, and couldn't decide if he felt more like he had the flu or had gotten hit by a Mack truck.  Either way, the side effects lasted for about a week and a half, maybe a little longer.  

So, still not as bad as they could of been, or according to doctors, should have been!  Yay Albert, a real survivor!!

To end the visit, he received another injection to boost his immune system.  More than likely, the cause of much of the pain he was feeling.

Today, his only complaints are the persistent exhaustion, painful coughing, and shortness of breath when he attempts even the simplest of tasks.

Thanks for hanging in there and continuing to be part of our support team!
-Becca 


Friday, June 6, 2014

Feeling pretty good!


The cancer center is made up of a complex of buildings.  When you need to travel between buildings, you can walk through the beautiful skywalks OR you can hop on the shuttles!  This place really does care about their patients!

Speaking of patients, my favorite one is back to work today.  He went to bed early and tried to sleep.  This morning he felt only tired.

His medical team is so impressed by how well he is tolerating the chemo.  He hasn't gotten all the issues that most people get.  The most visible side effect is his hair loss.  ( I can't help it, but I think he looks sooo cute with his new do!). The non-visible side effect is exhaustion.  But as you can tell, it's not slowing him down!

This guy amazes me!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ding! Ding! And that's the end of Round 4, Folks!


My guy had a pretty rough go of it yesterday, but he made it!

The IV wasn't viable for the third day of treatment so that meant another stick from the needle.  Not good!

The most horrible, incompetent, patronizing, and rude nurse we've seen to date didn't help the situation at all.  She pretty much created the situation and within seconds, it was hostile!

She did put in a new line, but missed the vein.  OUCH!

So another nurse came in and put a new line, but blew the vein.  OUCH!!

Albert said it felt like it went in at an angle, but the nurse said No!  It was because he was dehydrated?  What!?!? This guy is a one man water guzzling machine!  We insisted he was hydrated, they insisted he wasn't.  WHATEVER!!!

I wonder why all that saline made a huge bubble under the skin?  Hmmmm?!?  Could it be it wasn't in the vein!?!?  Stop shooting in the saline already!!!!  Can't you see it missed?

So by his time, he's got two band aides on one arm from Monday and Tuesday, and three on the current arm.  Those three are bleeding like crazy!  All three swelling and turning colors!

So in goes another stick of the needle!  This time in his wrist...and thank God it went in and the tube got all the way into the vein!  Almost an hour and a half later!

After that, things went well, thankfully there was a shift change and we got one of our sweet nurses back!  Mary was a God-send!

She told us that Albert had been the talk of the nurses station at shift change!  So she took his case and came on in to check on him!  Love her!

She made sure he was comfortable the rest of the night, brought him warm blankets and made him feel good!  Poor guy hates needles, and I gotta tell y'all, through the ENTIRE ordeal he was breathing slow and deep and doing such a good job cooperating.  I felt so helpless!

I'm glad that round 4 is all over and we are back home, enjoying our four-legged babies!!!  

Round 5 is in three weeks, and that will be the last one of this treatment plan so, yay, it's almost over!!

Thanks for checking in on us!!

-Becca 🐸


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Strike Through Cancer!


Yesterday I told you guys that this week MD Anderson is celebrating SURVIVORS AND CAREGIVERS. 

One of the activities is providing a graffiti wall so we can express ourselves.  Very cool idea!  

And you know I can't pass up a chance to take pics of my SURVIVOR!










Monday, June 2, 2014

Ding! Round 4!


Today is the beginning of chemo Round 4!  

Bloodwork this morning indicated that all levels and counts are good and mostly within normal ranges.

So chemo is on schedule today and going very well.

My hero is pretty tuckered out!  I've had a heck of a time getting him to slow down.  I'm super excited that he wants to do all the things he usually does, but thankfully the doctor asked him to slow down!

His exhaustion is the biggest complaint right now, but he is also having some lingering radiation issues.  Namely, more exhaustion and some swallowing complaints.  His esophagus is sore and irritated.  Additionally his shortness of breath is still problematic.

New (or should I say, back) is his deep, painful cough.  The doc did prescribe a cough suppressant; hopefully it helps.

This might all sound like complaining, but it's not!  It's just an update, because I know you care!

The hospital is all decked out to celebrate SURVIVORS AND CAREGIVERS!  It's pretty cool and makes us feel extra taken care of!   

Thanks for checking on Bert and me!

Love y'all!



Saturday, May 17, 2014

A big thank you!

Oops, my first attempt at uploading video, HOPE IT WORKS!

It only took me a few DAYS to figure out!

Here is Albert, celebrating the end of proton therapy by ringing the GONG!!


Congratulations my dear!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Warning! Graphic post!


So I told you guys that radiation treatments are over, YAAAY!!!

It took 7 weeks to complete!  Monday through Friday, every week, for a total of 35, yes 35 sessions!

Some of the early sessions were super late at night, some of the later sessions were super early in the morning.  I think the latest we were there was past midnight and the earliest was at 6 am, but the appointments were all throughout the day.  At some points they were giving him a new schedule daily.  They make things happen for all their patients and so are very accommodating when other appointments run long or test results go crazy!

I think the longest appointment was about an hour, maybe a little longer.  That was the first one.  They needed to make sure the forms were all in place and that everything was lined up.  He was beamed with the laser twice, and at some points three times, per session.  I think the fastest session was 15 minutes!

Albert's treatment area was large.  It started as a mild sunburn and eventually turned into this, crispy, peeling, hot mess!

The white sphere taped to his chest helps with identification/location of the tumor and placement of the beam, as well as a marker for the x-rays.  Albert says it hurts like walking with a marble in your sock.  It created an intense pressure point, pain, and eventually numbed the nerves into accepting it.  OUCH!


We have gone through LOTS of oils and lotions trying to keep his skin moisturized and healing.  Vitamin E oil, aloe vera gel, tea tree oil, intensive cracked skin healer, aveeno intensive therapy, and finally, zimrub!  Finally, something I thought was "healthy" enough, and he actually agreed to wear because it was less 'greasy'.

I went against the doctors on this one, and pretty much stomped my foot with Albert.  But in the end, it paid off.  The radiation oncologist could not believe how good his skin looked and was surprised by the end that his skin was surprisingly in good shape.  Apparently at his level of treatment, the intensity of the beam usually creates a much more severe burn.  (Yay, vitamins and natural oils!)

It still looks pretty painful to me.  Eventually, it will all peel, like this:

The staff at the proton center was very sweet and helpful! 

Some of the smiling faces that got us through belonged to:
Deborah
Dexter
Jay
Jeri
Bailey
Stephanie
Sun 
And one lady tech, whose name is escaping him! (She was transferred to main at the very end)

You guys rock!

Thank you! From the bottom of our hearts!