Sunday, December 28, 2008

TDP - Done with Radiation!

We're finally back home from Ann Arbor, having spent 14 of 16 days there for Tom's radiation treatments. We came home on Christmas Eve, and Tom said it was a really fine Christmas present to be home again.

This is University of Michigan Hospital in a snow storm. We had four storms in the two weeks were there, so we didn't get around to exploring Ann Arbor as much as we wanted to.

Tom had ten sessions in all. From start to finish, his treatment time each day was 20 minutes - they are very efficient at U of M hospital.

He'd walk into the radiation clinic, sign in on the computer just inside the door, then head for the radiation room. By the time he'd walked down the hallway, they were ready for him; he rarely had to wait.

One day I went with him to see the giant radiation machine. That's it below, with Tom being set up by the technicians.

It's pretty simple - Tom would lay on the table, the technicians would line up the tiny tattoo dots on his chest and sides with the red laser beams, and then they'd leave the room and turn on the beams.

Although I wasn't in the room when they were radiating him (no one is allowed in there), the techs were kind enough to let me photograph Tom as they prepared him for his treatment. Had to shoot fast - they had him on the table and lined up in about 90 seconds!

He went through all ten treatments with very little side effects - just a touch of radiation redness on his back and chest, but he said it didn't burn at all. He was tired much of the time, but the hotel was quiet and he was able to get plenty of sleep.

His radiation oncologist told us that since radiation is accumulative, he may see some additional side effects in the upcoming weeks. This has turned out to be true, but so far has been minor stuff.

The good news is that he's been able to eat better, and is able to get nearly all foods down. He's still sticking with mostly soft foods, but does attempt chicken and fish once in a while. He's definitely noticed an improvement in swallowing.

He's become calorie-conscious to the extreme - he writes down everything he eats and how many calories each item is, so he can track the calorie totals every day. On his good days he's managing 2500-2700 cals, and on his bad days he drops to 1500-1800. He's having more good days than bad, and last week he actually gained two pounds.

He's discovered that if he's tired and takes a nap, he can then continue his day with renewed strength. And once in a while, I even sneak in a nap with him . . . caregivers deserve a break too!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas at Arlington


(I wonder why the press hasn't enlightened the public about it??)

Arlington National Cemetery

Rest easy, sleep well my brothers.

Know the line has held, your job is done.

Rest easy, sleep well.

Others have taken up where you fell, the line has held.

Peace, peace, and farewell...

Readers may be interested to know that these wreaths -- some 5,000 -- are donated by the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine . The owner, Merrill Worcester, not only provides the wreaths, but covers the trucking expense as well. He's done this since 1992. A wonderful guy. Also, most years, groups of Maine school kids combine an educational trip to DC with this event to help out. Making this even more remarkable is the fact that Harrington is in one the poorest parts of the state.

Please share this with everyone on your address list. You hear too much about the bad things people do. Everyone should hear about the good things.

(thanks to my good friend, Dan Buckley, for sharing this)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

TDP - Charging Forward - and We're Flexible!

We were in Ann Arbor last Thursday for Tom's next step - getting tattooed for his radiation. They actually do tattoo you - he now has three brand new dots on his chest and sides where they permanently mark you so they can line up the radiation properly.

The plan was to come back this Monday for radiation - daily treatments for one week, then two weeks off, then back for a final week. But Dr Pan mentioned that he felt that Tom could handle a shorter program, a bit more intensified, and surprised us by saying that he could start his first treatment in an hour!

We jumped at the opportunity to get started, and made arrangements to stay an extra day in Ann Arbor so Tom could have his second treatment on Friday. It's quite fast - total time from when he walked into the hospital to the moment he scooped me up from the waiting room was only 20 minutes.

The new treatment plan is for Tom to get ten days of radiation, beginning this past Thursday. They don't do treatments on weekends, so at the moment we're home but getting ready to return to Ann Arbor on Sunday for his next radiation on Monday. He'll continue through the week, treatments every day, and then back again the following week. His last radiation treatment will be on Christmas Eve.

As Tom puts it - "This is my own personal Christmas present - I'm all done with radiation just in time for Christmas! Two down, eight to go." And he said it with a smile.

After only two treatments, he feels he's swallowing easier, and he's hardly thrown up at all today. (Well, maybe a few times, but that's a major improvement so he's pleased.) It's possible that the continued radiation may cause severe irritation when he swallows, but it may also make it easier for him to swallow. They don't have any way of knowing which way it will go for Tom, as each person reacts differently to radiation. But so far, it's been an improvement - hurray!!!

He was feeling pretty good this morning, so we buzzed out for a quick shopping trip. On our return, he installed a new tv antenna - in 25 degree temps and a strong blowing wind. On a ladder. He's not good with ladders, so our neighbor Randey helped out with the installation. But Tom is a determined guy when it comes to doing things, and by the end of today he was planning on seeing some decent tv with a decent antenna - no more of those darned rabbit ears!

So he got the antenna up, wired it to the tv at the opposite end of the house, and - after a short nap - was able to watch good digital 15 channels instead of the one lousy analog channel we'd been receiving previously. He's happy because he found a station that shows old MASH reruns, and I'm tickled that I can actually get in some good PBS and some foodie and travel shows.

So it's back to Ann Arbor for us tomorrow, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that the radiation will make Tom able to eat easier. So far so good - okay, everyone cross your fingers for us!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Kitty Yoga

This video made my day. Instructor Hayward and his friend, Indie the cat, are great partners . . . and Hayward never missed a beat during Indie's "assistance."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Animoto - for Fabulous & Free Custom Slide Shows

The guys at Animoto

When a photographer friend showed me his first attempt at creating his own video with Animoto, I have to admit I was impressed. He was just playing around with some images, and the end result was fabulous. I'm definitely sold on Animoto.

If you are looking for a quick and easy web application to put together your photos for a free short slide show, Animoto Productions is just what you need.

You can create a holiday greetings video - of your pets, your kids, your skiing trip, your office Christmas party - or just about anything else you'd like to share. You upload the photos, use either their music (and they have lots of licensed tunes to choose from) or your own uploaded music, and they'll put it all together in a customized short video that looks just like a movie trailer.

Like hip-hop? Punk? Mozart? Animoto's technology works with your images, taking into account the genre, energy, vocals and instrumentals your selected music needs to match your photos for a one-of-a-kind video.

Based in New York City, Animoto consists of a bunch of techie tv and film producers who create with a wide-screen format with a motion and energy "movie-feel" to them.

The same television and movie skills these veteran-techies used in the film and television industries make Animoto a perfect choice for both personal and business films. Their credentials include the 2003 and 2004 Video Music Awards (MTV); the Katrina Benefit (ABC, NBC, CBS); Worlds Aids Day Concert (MTV); Dr. Keith Albow (Warner Brothers); The Constitution (ABC); Alanis Morissette Concert (Viacom); Peter Jennings: The Kennedy Assassination - Beyond Conspiracy (ABC); Steep: A Documentary of Extreme Skiing (The Documentary Group), and many more industry works.

Animoto videos only take minutes to create, are never boring, and you can share them with family, friends, co-workers, customers or anyone you wish to send them to. Once you have chosen your photos, you can actually create a short video that's embed-able in your website, or can be downloaded or emailed, too. They can even be included in sites like Facebook and MySpace.

Make unlimited short films for free, or you can sign up for their business program. For commercial needs, Animoto creates dvd-qulaity videos for any kind of business. A wide variety of companies have used Animoto, including wineries, real estate brokers, wedding photographers, sports teams, and on-line retailers.

Animoto costs $99 for three months, or $249 for a full year. You can also purchase - or give as a gift - an all-access pass for $30. If you decide to sign in to Animoto, please click on the Animoto button at right, or use my referral number prjusnxl - thanks!

Here's just a few accolades:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Flip!! ¡dılɟ

Every once in a while I run across something fun to play with on my computer, and just for giggles, I've been messing around with Flip.

Flip is a quickie way to turn your typing upside down.

˙sıɥʇ ǝʞıl

It's easy to do - just go to the Flip site , type in whatever you want to say in the top box, and it turns your words upside down in the box below. Then all you have to do is copy and paste the new copy to wherever you want to use it.

A lot of flippin' can make you crazy, though - I was trying out sentences, and it didn't take long before my eyes started to cross. But for short statements which are bound to catch attention, Flip is lots of fun.

Want to drive someone nuts - Flip 'em!

♥♥ ¡¡ʎɐp ʇɐǝɹƃ ɐ ǝʌɐɥ ♥♥

Saturday, December 06, 2008

TDP - Dear Dr Pan, Part 2

(See my previous blogpost, "Dear Dr Pan".)

When I wrote Dr Pan, I had no idea of what to expect. He's a pretty busy guy, carrying both an oncology practice and as an Assistant Professor at U of M. I didn't know when he would see my email, or even when he would have time to figure out something that would help Tom.

But, as Tom keeps reminding me, God works in mysterious ways. (I say it differently: "God is weird but good, and I am thankful.")

Less than 30 minutes after I wrote that email, Dr Pan was on the phone with us. Thirty minutes!! I was astounded.

And here's what he said:

First, he apologized for not making his treatment plan clear to us. He told us that Tom would be starting radiation treatment, and that this treatment would help both with Tom's esophagus and with the lymph nodes and spine, as they were all in close proximity to each other. He did confirm that the bone biopsy Tom had last week showed cancer in the spine.

Dr Pan said that after Tom's radiation treatment, he would begin chemotherapy, the goal being to try killing off any floating cancer cells that might be wandering around.

That's the part that we didn't get. I don't believe it was Dr Pan's fault that we didn't hear that part. When we learned that Tom might also have colon cancer, it was so overwhelming that we just missed hearing Dr Pan's game plan. At that moment, Tom and I definitely went blank, and we missed the full scope of Dr Pan's treatment plan. (But how endearing that he would take the blame . . . )

We completely misunderstood what was to happen, and believed that the only treatment on the table was palliative care through radiation. But - thank you, thank you, thank you, Dr Pan - this isn't what is going to happen, and within the next couple of weeks Tom will be undergoing his first step his fight to live.

Dr Pan talked with us for more than 30 minutes. He wasn't in a hurry, and he answered all our questions, making sure that the treatment plan was covered thoroughly. Dr Pan is my Hero of the Day.

He explained that after radiation, Tom will then start chemo. The good news is that the chemo he will be using is also the type used in colon cancer, meaning that this will overlap and have a positive effect on that too.

Dr Pan made it clear that at this moment, they do not know for certain that Tom has colon cancer. It is possible that the MRI may be showing the colon overlapping itself in such a way that it looks like a small mass, but might not be. He's more concerned about fighting the other cancers, and for now, since it's not causing any problems we've agreed to put specific colon cancer treatment on hold.

Now more than ever, we are convinced that U of M Hospital is the right place to be. Although it means long driving trips for treatment, and more time away from home than we wish, we know that we are getting the best treatment possible. They are People Who Care, and Dr Pan is one of many. In a huge medical system where it would be so very easy to treat patients as numbers, we've found compassion and understanding every step of the way, from nearly every medical professional we've met. We love University of Michigan Hospital.


(Dr Pan, if you read this, thank you for taking such a heavy load from our shoulders. The last couple of weeks were tough, and your call was so welcomed. We realize that there are no promises and understand that there's a long road ahead, but at least now we know that Tom has a fighting chance, and we are so grateful for that. You made our day.)

Friday, December 05, 2008

TDP - Dear Dr. Pan . . .

(Dr. Pan is a radiology oncologist with the University of Michigan Hospital. )

Dear Dr. Pan,

My husband is Tom Pulsipher, patient # 0388x xxx. We met with you two weeks ago, on November 18th, about Tom's esophageal cancer. Since then, he's had a spine biopsy, but has not yet been scheduled for a colonoscopy.

Tom has been seeking help for his illness since June. It's been a long, difficult road of sickness, countless appointments with doctors near and far, plus tests and more tests. It wasn't until we arrived at U of M Hospital a month ago that he felt he was finally getting help. The staff at U of M has done more for him in the past four weeks than all the previous doctors in the 5 months prior. We are grateful.

Although we already knew about Tom's cancer spreading to both his spine and lymph nodes, it was tough to learn about the possible colon cancer. But Tom still feels the same way he did before - he wants to fight his cancer as best he can. He was terribly disappointed and upset to learn that he was only being offered palliative care.

From the beginning, he's been an atypical patient. He doesn't smoke or drink, and he didn't feel any signs of discomfort until late this Spring. He tried so hard to get help, but the diagnosis was missed until October, all the while he was physically suffering from his not-yet-recognized advancing cancer.

He doesn't want give up. He doesn't see that as an option. He's ready to fight, realizing that the treatment will be tough.

He knows that his chances aren't good, but he's prepared to give it his best shot. This past month he's worked hard to keep his weight up as best he can, and has been carefully tracking his calories. Every day he shoves 2500 - 3000 calories into an esophagus and stomach which don't want to cooperate. It's very uncomfortable for him, but he does it because he wants to be in as good a shape as possible.

He feels strong most days, and tries hard to keep a normal schedule. He only wants a fighting chance. Yesterday, he asked me, "What if I was one of those few people who are part of that tiny percentage of survivors? How will I know if no one will give me the chance?" We are people of faith, and we recognize that miracles can happen.

Please - don't give up on him. Give him at least a fighting chance against this mean disease. He's been so patient these past six months, waiting for help. He just needs the opportunity to fight his cancer.

Please, Dr. Pan - Do Something! He desperately needs you to help him.

his loving wife,

Beth Pulsipher

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Newest Member of the Pulsipher Family

She's arrived!! Last night, Shaylen Pulsipher was born via planned cesarian section around 7 pm. She's 7 lbs, 9 ounces and 20 inches long, and with a beautiful set of screaming lungs she announced her theatrical moment on her first day on this Earth.

We received phone pictures of her during her first minutes here, and then later, more lovely photos of daughter-in-law Shannon with Shaylen in her arms. Shawn, you took fabulous pictures of your wife and new daughter!

Today, eighteen month old first daughter Skyla will be meeting her new sister - oh how we wish we could be there for that!