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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Marshall finally got to Ohio

Our internet was out again for almost two days, no idea why.  Probably another lightning strike.  I am so glad to have the Blackberry because at least I can still get email.

Marshall left for Ohio on Friday morning (he was flying to Detroit and then driving the rest of the way).  Well, Detroit had some very bad weather, so Marshall's flight was diverted to South Bend, Indiana, where they sat on the tarmac for over 4 hours and then they allowed everyone to leave the plane for another few hours and then they finally made it to Detroit.  He took the shuttle out to Budget very late at night only to find a line winding out of the building.  So it took an hour and a half to get the car.  He got to his sister's house after 2:00 in the morning.  A very long day.

Today is visitation and tomorrow is the funeral.  Marshall will probably come back on Thursday (I get an additional two days of "me" time) and we plan to spend the night in Denver and attend a small birthday gathering for my boss and friend, Fred.

Dr. Flaig called Friday morning to discuss the lab results since they came in after we left the hospital on Thursday (we were able to check the PSA online while we were in the car).  Dr. Flaig said that he is very pleased that the PSA stayed at 3.9 and is still under 4, but when we go back in six weeks, if it still hasn't moved, he thinks a bone scan is in order sooner rather than later so we can stay on top of it.

Our friend Bill is at our house today staining the deck that he made for us.   I walked up the hill a little bit and took a picture from a higher spot to show the deck, the garage, the greenhouse, our house (kind of), and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. And I was out there this morning with my tea and realized that the solar panels also act as a form of shade for the deck.  Bonus!  As soon as the deck dries, maybe by this evening, I can put the lawn furniture on it -- you can see I'm already bringing it out.




Friday, July 27, 2012

Random thoughts

I was tired last night so I made my blog entry kind of short.  But, interestingly, the tiredness went away when I got a challenging assignment from my job.  I love the way doing things for my boss can be so rejuvenating! It does a lot for my self-confidence and frame of mind.

Yesterday at the doctor's office, Marshall asked Dr. Flaig specifically about the use of the PSA test to determine whether or not the tumors are shrinking the way we hope they are.  After all, the PSA test faileld him miserably in catching the cancer in time.  Dr. Flaig said that the PSA is proving to not be the best tool with regard to diagnosis but that he believes without a doubt the PSA is the absolute best way to track how the cancer is growing or shrinking.  However, he also said that if Marshall wanted it, we could do periodic scans and that Marshall would be eligible to have a full body scan around the end of the year.

Dr. Flaig cautioned, though, that sometimes the full body scan can be hard to read.  If I understood him correctly, he said that if the bones are busy beating back the tumors, that very "activity" can show up as a problem area when, in fact, it is an area where things are working well.  So we are learning fast that there are no sure things in this cancer business.

We talked to Dr. Flaig at length about exercise and he is very middle-of-the-road with regard to exercise.  He says that most men undergoing prostate cancer treatment, if you tell them to exercise, they want to get all macho.  They will go out and run 5 miles and come back and be so tired that they are bedridden for several days.  He believes that works against you.  So he stressed the fact that Marshall should consider getting on the treadmill regularly and at the most do a mile but should not overdo it.  He thinks a mile on the treadmill would give Marshall an energy boost that could help him throughout the day rather than knock him out for the day.

He explained again that in men, the energy, as well as the muscle strength, all come from testosterone and the whole purpose in the cancer treatment is to stamp out the testosterone so it doesn't continue to feed the cancer.  So extreme fatigue will be a part of Marshall's life for the rest of his life.

With regard to muscle strength, he believes in the same principle:  do not go lifting extra heavy weights.  Take it very easy but do some weight work -- or resistance exercises -- that will help keep the muscles from totally atrophy.

I mentioned to Dr. Flaig that while Marshall is so fatigued most of the time he has to rest after walking less than a block, when he is on the motorcycle -- or even visiting the motorcycle -- there is a high energy level and a huge spring in his step.  The doctor said that is very common and comes from adrenaline and the mental stimulation that comes from doing something you are passionate about.  But it is a temporary "high" and cannot be sustained for long periods of time.  We still need to be careful to not overdo.

Marshall is planning to return from Ohio on Tuesday so that means I have 4 days of "me" time (I don't mean to be disrespectful to Red's memory and the rest of Marshall's family's grief, but I need some me time so that I can be there for Marshall when he gets back). 

Today is Pet Project's monthly pet food distribution at the Care & Share so I'll be there all afternoon.  This evening I'll be cuddling with the boys and watching old sitcoms.  Tomorrow a quick trip to Canon City to check on our booth at the Marketplace.  And then just a few days of doing nothing, puttering, and napping.  Maybe a professional manicure/pedicure.  Who knows?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Visit to oncologist

The PSA remains at 3.9, so it hasn't moved at all since the last visit.  It's an odd feeling.  On one hand, we were really hoping for another drop, even if it was small.  On the other hand, staying the same is very very good.  Dr. Flaig says that anything below 4 is excellent.  So we left there feeling pretty good.  Marshall even had a spring in his step ... literally!

A week or so ago, Marshall had discovered a good-sized lump (a little smaller than a golf ball) in an intimate spot near the tailbone which had been concerning us.  Dr. Flaig looked at it today and he feels that it is definitely not cancer related -- could perhaps be an ingrown hair -- but we will be watching it over the coming weeks.

We also asked the doctor about the new hair growth on Marshall's bald spot.  He had no explanation for that.  Interesting.

Dr. Flaig agreed to postpone the bone strengthener for six more weeks so that Marshall didn't have to worry about any surprise side effects on his trip to Ohio.  Our next appointment is September 13, for a PSA test and for the first infusion of Xgeva (bone strengthener).

Marshall's brother-in-law was taken off the respirator last night and died within 15 minutes.  The family is gathering in Ohio (Marshall will get there tomorrow afternoon) and the funeral will be Monday.

I left Marshall at a motel near the Denver airport so that he could catch his 10:00A flight tomorrow and then I came back home.  Just as I got to Wetmore (about 30 miles from home) there was a spectacular lightning show and then as I got closer to Westcliffe I drove through a blinding hailstorm.  Very scary.  But I am home safe and sound cuddling with my boys.  They looked for Marshall for a while and then decided I would do.  :)   Now I am praying that none of those lightning strikes started any fires.....

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cancer

Tomorrow is Marshall's next doctor visit and hormone treatment, as well as another PSA test to see how things are going.  He is also supposed to start on a bone strengthener (Xgeva).

Yesterday we got a call from Marshall's sister that his brother-in-law (Red) is in the hospital after a long battle with lung cancer and they are going to take him off the respirator tomorrow.

So Marshall will be heading to Ohio first thing Friday morning to be with family.  We are going to ask Dr. Flaig to postpone Marshall's Xgeva treatment for a few weeks to avoid the possibility of any unanticipated side effects during this next week or two while he's out of town.

And we are hoping that the PSA results are good so that he leaves here knowing his treatments are still working and he can put his own cancer in the background during this sad time.  Marshall spent his high school years living with Red & Audrey so they are not only sister and brother-in-law but they also had the role of parents for a period of time.

I will post the results of the doctor visit when I get home tomorrow.  Marshall is going to get a hotel room near the Denver airport tomorrow night so he doesn't have to get up so early for his Friday flight.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Another visit to the motorcycle

We went to visit the motorcycle again today.  The tank is pretty much done, except for clear-coating, and Tom has started on a fender.  He put the US flag on the tank blending in with the POW artwork.  The flag is very very subtle -- almost like a hologram -- so that it kind of appears and disappears depending on how you are looking at it.  And the illusions will be more intense after the clear coating.

Then he finished air-brushing the scorpion (Marshall's squadron patch) on a fender and we got to watch the air-brushing ... that was cool.
The Harley's tank with the oh-so-subtle flag.  This flag will extend onto one of the side panels of the Harley.

Tom is airbrushing the scorpion on a fender.

The completed scorpion.

Tom and Marshall discussing the remainder of the design.

Monday, July 23, 2012

My new deck

After Kevin left yesterday, our friend Bill showed up and finished building the 12x12 deck behind our greenhouse that Marshall arranged for me.  This is going to be the GREATEST quiet getaway place. Can't you just imagine how nice it will be to come out in the morning with a cup of tea and water the plants and then just sit on the deck and enjoy?  He still has to level it, stain it, and build steps at the greenhouse end since it had to be built a bit higher -- finding level places up here is not easy. But it won't be much longer.

We bought furniture for the deck at a thrift store and I can't wait to get it out there.

Today our new neighbor, Tony (who just bought the cabin just down the road from us), came down and brought a friend with him and they are working on our road.  The recent storms washed out a few places a little bit.  Marshall provided the tractor and Tony and his friend provided the labor.  We've sure been lucky this week getting help.  We feel very blessed.

And last but not least, the artist told Marshall this morning that he has made a lot of progress on the motorcycle.  So Marshall is going to visit his Harley again tomorrow and will have more pictures.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Weekend visitor

Marshall's nephew (actually great-nephew) Kevin came down for the weekend.  He and his fiance live in the Aurora area and he told us that he and Angie came very close to going to the Batman movie over the weekend.  They decided not to go because Angie was heading to Minnesota on Saturday morning.  Close call.

So Angie went out of town and Kevin came to visit us for a nice "relaxing" weekend.  He brought wine which we enjoyed on the deck.  I enjoyed it way too much.
Kevin and Marshall
Then he cooked dinner -- he is a fabulous cook!  Part of it he cooked in the kitchen and part on the grill.


And then on Sunday he fixed our roof for us (getting anyone in Westcliffe to come out to fix anything is a near impossibility).  Recent storms ripped a few shingles off.

Fixing the roof.
I slept in this morning and Marshall took Kevin to breakfast and then Kevin headed back up to Aurora.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Arkansas River

Today we had to transport a newly-neutered kitten from the vet to the kitten's owner over in Howard, so we made a day of it and spent some time on the river watching the white water rafters zipping by.   Marshall says he would like to try this, so I imagine you will see photos of us having fun on the river in the not too distant future.


 And at some point during the day Marshall noticed that hair was growing on his bald head.  Can you believe that?  I did some research and can't come up with anything that indicates hormone therapy will cause hair growth.  This is wild -- let's see if the picture I took shows it well enough.
Hair growth caused by hormone therapy?  Really?

And on the sad note of the day, we are thinking about and praying for the families of the victims up in Aurora.  The University of Colorado Hospital is where Marshall goes for his treatments -- that's where the shooter went to school and that's where most of the wounded were taken for treatment.  What a very sad and tragic day in Aurora.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We visited the motorcycle[parts] today!

First Stop:  Pike's Peak Harley Davidson to visit the innards of the bike.  The wonderful people at Harley took the bike apart for us and delivered the body parts to the artist and they are storing the main bike until the painting is done.

The innards of Marshall's Harley
Second Stop:  The artist's shop.  He has stripped the body of all paint and applied a primer which had to cure for a week and then he started on the actual artwork.  When we got there today, he had gotten a good partion of the tank started and it is AWESOME!
This is just the beginning of the design that will be on both sides of the tank

The artist -- Tom Stack -- working on the tank.

Tom and Marshall

And then on the way home, we passed a wildfire that was just starting to pick up speed.  The firefighters were on the way and they were hoping that one pass with the helicopter would put it out.  I really do find myself longing for winter.

Wildfire near Wetmore, Colorado

Monday, July 16, 2012

Greenhouse

Below are pictures of how the veggies look as of today.  This is very exciting for me -- I've never had a garden before.  And not only is it healthy food, it keeps my mind occupied and off of some of the sadness that can creep in.

My job is wonderful, too.  That, more than anything else, is a sense of "normalcy."

And I'm diving back into making jewelry and doing crafts shows, etc.  When Marshall gets the motorcycle back, he will be totally occupied with that, so it will be his mental escape.

The hot flashes have started to die down a bit, but he's been so fatigued.  It's like a double edged sword:  the fatigue is mainly caused by the lack of testosterone but the whole goal of his treatment is to kill the testosterone.  When he has the motorcycle he is able to count on adrenaline a bit more and push the fatigue aside for long periods of time.

Cherry tomatoes

Two green beans

Strawberries

Zucchini (I figured if I couldn't grow zucchini, I should give up...)

Peppers

Hard for me to see it now, but this is the starting of a cucumber!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bluegrass Festival

We went to breakfast in town today and here are some photos of what it was like -- and this was the last day of the Festival, so most of the people had already left town.  There were campers parked everywhere.  We usually attend but this year we let it get away from us.



Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lazy rainy day

Today it kind of drizzled on and off all day long.  We really need the moisture.

Otherwise, it was a blah kind of day.  Marshall didn't feel great, so he napped a little bit.  I went to town to get the mail (and coffee!) and found myself dodging traffic.  I forgot this weekend is the annual Bluegrass Festival and it is a huge deal.  There were people EVERYWHERE.  Good for the Westcliffe economy.

It was pretty much a lazy day for us and tomorrow promises to be the same.

Friday, July 13, 2012

VA Evaluations

On Monday, Marshall received a notice from the VA that he needed to be at St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City on Tuesday AM for lab work as a result of his application for Agent Orange/prostate cancer benefits. Thank goodness we checked the mail on Monday or we would have missed it. Nothing like cutting it close.

So we got to the hospital nice and early on Tuesday and got that done. We still don't know what the lab work was for. After all, it wasn't likely that they were going to say, "Oh, it's a mistake, you don't have cancer." But we assumed they would at least be checking the PSA and testosterone levels.

On Wednesday we got a notice to see a doctor in Pueblo on Thursday (again cutting it very close) for a further evaluation with regard to his claim. So we hightailed it to Pueblo yesterday to see her. She asked him a bunch of questions and at one point she said, "You seem upset." He said, "I have Stage IV Cancer, how do you think I should feel?"

He asked the doctor if she could tell him what his PSA was from the lab work on Tuesday and she said they didn't check the PSA. Go figure.

So these two "Evaluations" were puzzling, to say the least. But now we wait for the VA to make a decision on the claim for benefits.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Catching up...

Did you miss me?  For the past two weeks we have been without the internet much of the time and without our landline phone sporadically due to the horrific storms we've been having.  A lightning strike also fried a printer and our DSL router, so that took a few days to resolve.  And this past Sunday there were two wildfires started by lightning strikes on the property that adjoins ours.  Thank goodness we've had a bit of rain (finally) the past week and the fire department got the fires out within a few hours.

And when we weren't dealing with lightning, fires and electronic issues:
    
    Another Pet Project volunteer (Glenn) helping to unload the food (see below for story) into Pet Project's storage shed.  There's barely room left in there to stand -- hopefully the mice won't find it!
  • Our animal welfare group, Pet Project, got a call from the Pike's Peak Humane Society asking if we wanted some free pet food.  It seems that during the evacuations and Waldo Canyon fires in Colorado Springs, so much pet food was donated that the Humane Society was overrun with it.  So we drove to Colorado Springs two days in a row to pick up approximately 4000 pounds of pet food each time.  We do a pet food distribution once a month for people who are having trouble feeding their pets and this influx of food will allow us to distribute more often during the month.  See photo -- we filled a trailer and the bed of the pickup truck each time!
Marshall helping the Humane Society volunteer load the truck
  • Marketplace Shops (the store where we have rented booth space) had their Chamber of Commerce reception which was very successful and then the Grand Opening. We sold $100 worth of stuff on day one, so that bodes well
  • Marshall's claim with the VA for Agent Orange benefits (Agent Orange is known to be a risk factor for prostate cancer) got active with various evaluation meetings being scheduled.  We have one of those meetings later today.
  • Our generator, which is the backup for our solar power system (automatically kicks in whenever we have a series of overcast days and the batteries get depleted), developed a "bad board" and one night last week we had no power at all.  The guy who maintains our solar system came out and brought us a loaner generator to keep us going until he can fix ours.  Fortunately, we've had a lot of sunlight this week and there has been no need for the generator other than that first day to recharge the batteries.  
  • The motorcycle paint job is still a work in progress.  Now that the storms seem to have calmed down Marshall will probably go visit the motorcycle someday soon.  We applied for vanity license plates (STNGR -- referring to the Stinger Gunships from Marshall's time in VietNam) and it got approved so they are on order. 
  • The greenhouse is still doing well.  We had a spinach salad the other day with greens from the greenhouse.  More strawberries are forming.  The green beans are finally producing.  The herbs are awesome.  We've had quite a few of the delicious small cherry tomatoes.
  • Marshall still has bad days where the fatigue is overpowering, but he keeps on going.  He says this cancer is not going to keep him from doing the things he wants to do.  Yay Marshall!  The oncologist prescribed a very mild dose of an antidepressant which he says in most men helps to minimize the nighttime hot flashes and that appears to be working quite well.  In my opinion, it is also causing Marshall to sleep later every day (he sleeps till about 9:00 now instead of the previous 7:00AM).  That is not a bad thing.
So now we are all caught up!