Thursday, February 26, 2009

If it weren't for the ups and downs, my life would be normal?

Tom had his second chemo last week, and things seemed to be pretty normal afterwards. Considering he's only had chemo once previously, we don't have a whole lot to compare with. But it was mostly the same heavy-duty weariness as before, although he managed to get some chores done around the house and went out for a bit visiting friends. Pretty normal, as far as we could tell.

Until yesterday. I should warn you - this post is not for the faint of heart.

He'd not been feeling well all morning, suffering from severe constipation. We tried everything (unfortunately for him) - 2 enemas, various over-the-counter medicines, magnesium caltrate, prune juice - and the situation was getting worse instead of better.

Poor guy - he was in a lot of pain. Finally, a call to his oncologist, who - after hearing what we'd tried unsuccessfully - suggested we just go to the emergency room and find out what the problem really was.

Patients who take morphine have this problem, and - coupled with not enough liquids in their diet (something Tom's had a hard time with) - things turn ugly and one ends up with severe, painful constipation. So we spent 6 hrs at the ER last night, where they initially were concerned that he might have a bowel obstruction. After x-rays, they learned that there was no obstruction (whew!!) and that he was just completely blocked across nearly all his lower intestines. I keep telling him he's full of shit, and for once, I was actually right. Big time.

The ER doctors fixed him with - are you ready for this??? - a milk/molasses enema. Honest. Really. I just couldn't believe it when they told me what they were going to use, but it worked. He's feeling much better today, and all those concoctions he used yesterday - plus the milk/molasses special - finally caught up with him. Amazing how weird food combinations can make one's day . . .

However, Tom now has a very special claim to fame at Bronson Hospital. Turns out he's the only patient the ER has had where this goofy concoction didn't work on immediately. The nurse told us that in his twenty-year career, Tom is the only patient who didn't respond within 15 minutes (usually it's about 5 min for the average person). Tom's now been named the Anti-Enema King - it took him nearly 2 hours. The drs and nurses were all walking around shaking their heads, not believing anyone could last that long. He actually fell asleep during this time period (they couldn't believe that either!).

Me, well . . . I decided to wander down the hall to a quiet little family room that I could have all to myself, and spent the time knitting. Couldn't really do much else, so I nearly finished a baby cap instead.

I love the Anti-Enema King. And he's promised to drink a whole lot more liquids, considering the alternative.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mapping of the Cat Brain

Just had to share this - if this isn't an explanation of how my cats think . . .


Friday, February 13, 2009

TDP - Feeling Better

Just a quick update on how Tom's doing, as we've had several friends ask post-chemo.

He's doing much better than we expected. The first ten days after chemo were difficult - extreme lethargy culminating in several naps a day, the resulting lack of energy, difficulty in getting minimal food down, severe indigestion accompanied by pain, etc. etc. etc.

But he made it through that time without nausea, thanks to the several different medications his oncologist gave him. This past weekend we started noticing several good signs - he was eating more both in quantity and in frequency, his indigestion was much less, he's not taking more than a nap a day (and yesterday no nap at all!!!), pain has lessened noticeably, and his energy level has improved. So whatever is happening inside all those cells, it's making Tom's life better.

Yesterday he spent much of the day on his own, running errands and shopping. Well, maybe we should call is drool-shopping, since he wandered into a tool supply house and dinked around for a couple hours drooling over all the fabulous tools he covets. He had a great time doing the guy-thing, I had a great time catching up on much-needed housework, and all is well in Pulsipher-land.

That he could even manage a full day out and about, driving, walking, and talking for several hours is a major accomplishment. Two weeks ago that was impossible, even pre-chemo. But now things are looking up, and he's feeling better.

Just in time for his chemo treatment next week - but since each time can be different, we've decided not to worry about it, and to deal with each change with strength and perseverance. We've come this far, and we're ready to go farther.

God Bless all of you for your prayers. Prayers work, and Tom is proof.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong Cancer Foundation

Most everyone knows the wonderful story of Lance Armstrong, 7 time winner of the Tour de France bicycle races.

At age 25 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which quickly spread to his abdomen, brain and lungs. He had ignored the early warning signs, something often done by young healthy men. Testicular cancer, if found early, has a 90% recovery rate. But Lance faced a major uphill battle with his multiple cancers, and is here today to share his success, positive thinking and hope through his Lance Armstrong Foundation.

He took a Survivor's approach - not only did he educate himself specifically about his cancers, but he combined a strong support system with his natural competitive spirit. With aggressive treatment, he beat cancer and today is back to racing again.

Lance has dedicated his life as an advocate for people living with cancer and as a world representative for the cancer community. The Lance Armstrong Foundation's LiveStrong is a testament to this dedication - for those with cancer, it offers hope and information toward becoming well again.

His site includes a search section for cancer trial studies, his own blog, and detailed information about the doctors, treatment and drugs he used in his own battle against cancer. For a guy who's had aggressive chemo treatments, brain surgery for two cancerous lesions and surgery to remove his cancerous testicle, you might say that Lance Armstrong is one tough, determined man.

He's on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter (@lancearmstrong). YouTube has a zillion videos of him (actually, there's 111, but that's a whole lot of Lance and his positive message getting out to the public).

The Lance Armstrong Foundation has a new home in Austin, Texas. His new building is made of many recycled materials, and he used an old mill for it's foundation. He's also announced last Fall that he's returning to professional cycling.

Lance is one busy guy. And he's doing it for people like my husband Tom. He doesn't know Tom, and it doesn't matter. Lance Armstrong stands as a beacon of hope for people like us. We're fighting cancer and and it consumes our lives. We need to know that cancer can be beaten. Lance Armstrong proves it can.

For Tom and me, Lance is our hero. He's not only beaten cancer, but he's forged ahead both personally in his cyclist career, but also in using his life's experience to help others in their own cancer battles. He chooses to live strong, and his confidence and positive attitude is a monument to his personal resolution to fight and win this war against cancer.

On February 22, Lance returns to racing at the AMGEN Tour of California. GO LANCE!! We're rooting for you!

Monday, February 09, 2009

TDP - The Best News Yet

Take a close look at Tom. He's smiling. And he's hugging a simple piece of paper worth more than $75,000.

Yup. It's a really expensive, absolutely wonderful piece of paper. We've been waiting for it, praying for it, for the past two months.

It's the official notification that we received today from the University of Michigan Hospital that they have accepted us into their M-Support program.

M-Support is a special program for those who are in desperate need of major medical treatment, but do not have health insurance or money to pay for treatment. That wonderful form letter that Tom's holding announced that all his medical bills through U-M will be covered through August 2009. If there are continuing bills after that date, we'll need to apply again.

We'll worry about that bridge when we come to it, but for now it's the best news yet on this curvy, winding, hairpin-turn road of cancer. We are SO thankful that U-M is willing to support us during these difficult times.

For now, we can sleep a bit easier now. All those medical bills that have piled up over the past few months, currently around $45,000 and climbing, have been covered. There's really no way to know how much his treatment will eventually cost. It depends on how well chemo goes. But there is no doubt that we don't have that kind of money.

This wonderful letter is truly proof that God is taking care of us.

HURRAY!!!!! (and THANK YOU, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN HOSPITAL for this grand gift to Tom. We are both so thankful.)

Prayers answered. Life is good.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

For My Knitting Friends - Knitpicks is Fun

Imagination 2009 Paper 1024x768Wine Lace Paper 1024x768As I grow in knitting, I've discovered there's a whole Internet world out there for those who love playing with yarn. Although I've just scratched the surface in knitdom - and the same with knit-Internet - I thought I'd share my latest find. Many of you longtime knitters probably already know about Knitpicks, but it was a huge discovery for me! KnitPicks is a knitting

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community that offers many different interests for yarnfolk. Starting off with a catalog offering patterns, needles, kits, books, and of course, yarn. But beyond that, there are podcasts and video tutorials, a blog, and special sales (their 40% book sale is on through February 13th), too.
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There's even freebies at Knitpicks - all the photos shown here are free for you to download and use as wallpaper on your computer. There's also free patterns available - hats, scarves, afghans, shawls, leg warmers, bags, even a couple of different sock patterns (hope to try one of those soon). What fun - there's a bowtie pattern! (Now if I only knew a bowtie-wearer - and it's definitely not Tom.) If you don't find what you're looking for in the free patterns section, there's Designer Exclusives patterns available for downloading for only $1.29 each.

Lots to learn yet about Knitpicks - it's one of several knitting places that have recently caught my eye. Hope you have as much fun there as I have!

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

White Balance Lens Cap

What a superb idea - a lens cap that replaces your gray card, and makes a photographer's life a whole lot simpler in gaining proper white balance! These caps are meant to replace your regular lens cap, making it quick and easy to get proper white balance right out of your camera bag, without digging around for a gray card.

They come in various sizes to fit your specific lens, and cover a huge pricing range. Don't know why the major price differences, but am guessing that quality has something to do with it since it's a pretty simple item. has a good selection at competitive prices.

They range in price from around $10 to more than $50 (that's the Brno version, which comes with interchangeable domes to accommodate warm and neutral modes). Some come with a handy loop so you can connect it to a camera strap so you won't lose the cap.


It's easy enough to use - turn on your camera, then just leave the lens cap on, point your camera at your subject, and diffused incoming light will create an average white balance for your shot. Okay, so some smartie will probably point out that you are shooting with your lens cap on, but who cares? It'll be an excellent conversation starter, right? (And a good time to have a few biz cards to hand out . . . )

You can even use it over a protective filter, and some have a bayonet adapter if your lens has a bayonet mount.

This one's on my wish list - the short list, not the big huge wait-til-I-hit-the-lottery list. And for now, I think it'll probably be one of the $10 models, at least until I can use it enough to decide if I need a fancier version.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

TDP - An Update

My fun-loving husband, goofing for the camera. > >

Tom's now into his seventh day after chemo, and the results are mixed. The good news is that he has had minimal nausea. He was given anti-nausea meds during his nearly seven hour infusion, plus two different anti-nausea meds to be taken for three days after chemo and then on an as-needed basis. So far, so good - nausea hasn't been much of a problem.

Since it was his first chemo treatment, they slowed down the delivery of the three drugs (one trial-study experimental, two standard cancer drugs) to make sure he could tolerate them. That went well, and he had no problems during his infusion. The next time he has chemo, they'll speed it up a bit, and his infusion will probably only take about four and a half hours. Since he slept through most of it the first time, it just means he's going to have a good long afternoon nap. (I managed to get a lot of knitting done that day.)

He's struggling with some short-term pain from eating. Funny thing is that it's not his esophagus that hurts (which is what we anticipated), but instead his stomach. Most likely it's from him trying to eat as much as possible so he won't lose any more weight - his stomach just isn't happy with all those small meals he forces down just about every waking hour.

While Tom was receiving chemo, two of U-M's nutritionists visited with us. They gave us detailed hand-outs on things that Tom should try to eat, with a heavy emphasis on calories, protein and liquids. They even figured out exactly how many calories and protein grams he needs daily to maintain his current weight, as well as what he'll need to gain weight. That's the new goal - to pack a few more pounds on him, and he's giving it his best shot.

Since meat is something he still can't tolerate, it's been a challenge to get enough protein in him, but we are learning. I've been sliding tofu into his milkshakes (sure am glad he doesn't read my blog!), and we've discovered that HagenDaz ice cream has nearly twice as many calories and protein as regular ice cream. We should probably be buying stock in HagenDaz. He's now even eating cottage cheese, which has always been on his hate list. We temper the cottage cheese with peaches, which he loves. We should buy a peach farm too.

He's been close to or above all his eating goals nearly every day, and he's starting to feel a bit better too. That comes and goes - lately he's been sleeping a lot, which is what his body needs. One minute he's bustling around doing things, and then suddenly he plops down on the sofa and goes nappy-time. Unfortunately, we haven't figured out how to feed him in his sleep, so - being the dutifully mean and loving wife - I wake him up every couple of hours to feed him.

He's holding strong mentally, and is trying to do something every day - lately it's been cleaning his gun collection, doing a few loads of laundry, stocking the woodstove, and similar lightweight chores around the house. He's never been good at just sitting around, although lately he's discovered some tv shows he never knew existed before. Last night he even went for a short while to the Masonic Lodge he belongs to, and had a nice visit with the guys. They've been calling him, wanting to know how he's doing, so this visit was good for both Tom and his Masonic brothers.

We're slowly seeing him feel just a little bit better as each day passes, and we've learned to expect the unexpected. It's definitely been a roller coaster ride. Our main concentration is on staying strong and being there for each other - we both believe in that special vow we shared nearly 21 years ago: "For better and for worse, in sickness and in health."

One day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time. It's okay. We can do this.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Blenko Glass Closing It's Doors

It was announced last week that Blenko Glass is shutting down production. Blenko Glass was started in 1893 in Kokomo, Indiana, and eventually was moved to Milton, West Virginia in 1921. Although the company will no longer be making glass, the Blenko Visitor's Center will remain open.

The Milton, West Virginia based manufacturer of handmade glass was sued by Big Two Mile, it's former gas supplier, four years ago due to a payment disagreement for gas used at the factory. A court found in favor of Big Two Mile, and entered a judgment against Blenko for more than $500,000 in 2005. In the meantime, several settlement proposals were made by Blenko, but none were accepted.

On January 15, 2009, Big Two Mile seized "all amounts, deposits and moneys" in the Blenko bank accounts, including payroll and withholding accounts. Blenko first learned of Big Two Mile's action on January 23, when Blenko's bank reported that the accounts had been emptied. Blenko's gas supplier has refused to supply gas for the glass making process after January 31, 2009.

Sadly, Blenko has had to shut down it's furnaces. Some of them will be destroyed due to loss of heat. The company is consulting with it's legal counsel, and is considering filing for bankruptcy.

Blenko employs approximately 50 employees. Said Walter Blenko, President of Blenko Glass, "I want to thank and pay tribute to the many loyal employees of Blenko Glass who worked diligently and faithfully again bad economic conditions to keep the company operating and producing world reknowned Blenko Glass up until the last day."