Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Regensburg, Bavaria

Marshall woke up with a few back pains this morning, so he didn't attempt to go into town.

I have learned that even though I thought we have been progressing down the Danube River, for the past three days we have simply been navigating the canal and the 21 locks we had to go through.  Today we finally reached the Danube and we hope that the scenery will get more interesting.

I joined the walking tour of Regensburg, one of the oldest cities in Europe, with lots of medieval buildings.  This is the town that contains the oldest restaurant and bar in the world.  In English it is called The Sausage Kitchen.

The walking tour was very crowded because the town is small and every boat that was docked here had 8 or 9 tours of 20 or 30 people each.  It was much like being on a Chicago street during rush hour, so a lot of the quaint qualities were lost.

The streets were rough cobblestone (mostly laid by the Romans) and VERY narrow.  And although it appears that the bicycle is the vehicle of choice, there were still plenty of cars and when a car came down a street that we were walking on, we had to literally squeeze ourselves to the walls of buildings to avoid the cars!

We saw a medieval cathedral (that was being renovated), an 800-year-old stone bridge (that was being renovated) and a medieval city hall (that was being renovated).  At the end of the tour I went to the Swarovski store to buy souvenirs.  They had cuckoo clocks (which you would expect in Bavaria) and beer steins (which you would expect in Germany in general), so lots of things to buy.  I now need a new suitcase which I will try to get tomorrow in Passau, the last city in Bavaria that we will visit prior to entering Austria.

Then I went to The Sausage Kitchen to get Marshall some of their famed sausages.  It is billed as the oldest restaurant in the world, but what that means is that a stone wall of this restaurant withstood the years and the restaurant was kind of rebuilt around those stones.  It was a popular place to get these sausages, but Marshall was not impressed (smile).  He thinks the sausage in the good old USA is much better.

Tonight we were at a dinner table with a couple from Scotland and another couple from England and it was a totally enjoyable evening.

Here are some representative photos from today:
Our ship -- showing the balconies on the staterooms

Medieval cathedral

This is the building where Napolean recovered after being injured.  He used Regensburg (and this building) as his headquarters until he was well enough to leave.  The plaque on the front of the building has NAPOLEAN on it.

This is one of the streets in Regensburg and all of these people are part of the various tours.  This line went very far to the front and very far to the back.  It was fun to see the city but fighting the tour crowds made the tour less pleasant.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Nuremberg Tour

Today was the bus tour of Nuremberg.  We were driven through the city and many buildings were pointed out.  Then we stopped at Hitler's Rally Grounds at Zeppelin Field.  It was fascinating to stand in the spot where such awful history took place.

The sun was brilliantly bright today so it was very difficult for me to get a good picture.  This is the best I could do.  Hitler's "podium" is kind of dead center in the picture.  Our guide is in the process of telling us a story.  He said that he brings tours to this area every day and quite often he will see young people up on the podium raising their arm in the Nazi salute, which he thought was in very poor taste.  Then one day he took a better look and realized that what these young people were doing was taking "selfies"!  He is demonstrating that in this photo.

After Zeppelin Field we were dropped off at Market Square to do some shopping.  They made sure Marshall was comfortable (he is sitting close to a McDonald's talking with a guy he met from Michigan...both waiting for their wives).
The boat sailed shortly after we got back on board and we started going through a series of locks.  Here is a photo of Marshall relaxing on our verandah while watching the locks open and close.
Tonight is the welcome dinner.  And right now I have no idea what tomorrow's plans are.  I think we will be in Regensburg and supposedly that town contains the oldest restaurant and bar in the world.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

We are in Germany

This is interesting.  I opened the blog so that I could type up a post and the whole blog was in German!!  So I am hoping for the best.

The driver that drove us the 2 hours to the ship was full of information.  For instance, Munich is the capital of Bavaria and Bavaria is part of Germany.  Our driver was Bavarian and he filled us with information with regard to the differences between Germans and Bavarians.  It was very interesting.

And our drive to the ship was on the Audobon where there isn't a speed limit to speak of.  He was driving at 120 miles an hour.  Yikes.

The trip was very long and we are exhausted.  When they showed us to our room, I got unpacked and then we both took a long nap.  Marshall is still napping.  Tomorrow we should be raring to go.

We are docked right now in Nuremburg.  Tomorrow before we sail away from Nuremburg there is going to be a short bus tour of this area.  Marshall should have no trouble handling a bus tour.  The captain and the program director are awesome.  When I explained Marshall's situation they said they would do everything they could to make it possible for him to participate in more of the shore activities.

Tonight while Marshall was still sleeping, I went down to listen to the safety/informational briefing and then they announced that dinner was starting at 7PM.  I asked the program director if I could just bring food to the room because I knew Marshall wouldn't want to walk the length of the ship this evening.  The captain (Captain Horvath) heard me and he brought me a menu and he delivered the food himself.  That is incredible service!

I should have known -- but somehow spaced out -- that it is Oktoberfest in Germany so everyone at the airport (and also our driver) was dressed in traditional German dress.
Marshall with his wheelchair driver at Munich Airport

Our living room -- another ship is docked right behind ours.

Bathroom with window to the Danube River
I didn't take any pictures of the Danube River just yet because it isn't very pretty at all at this spot where the ship is docked. 

Marshall has been feeling pretty good, just some slight travel pains.  It has been challenging adjusting his medication schedule (cancer drugs need to be kind of precise) with the 8-hour time difference, but I think we got a handle on it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Getting ready for Europe

We have spent the last two days getting packed and ready for the trip to Europe.  Marshall is still doing pretty good -- from my perspective, that new medication is helping a lot.

However, he is starting to experience more and more intermittent pain so I will have plenty of Advil with us on the trip.  And I'm bringing the Percocet as well, just in case.

We head to Denver on Friday to spend the night near the airport and then we head to Munich on Saturday.  Not sure if we'll be able to update the blog from the boat or not but if we can, I will try to post every few days.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Last day of reunion

Today will be the closing ceremonies of the reunion, ending in a farewell barbecue.

Last night was the formal banquet and silent auction.  It went well.  Everybody got a bottle of the special ale that was brewed for our group and each man's bottle had a label containing the logo and information for his unit.  They also had a memorial service putting aside a bottle of the special ale for each man who died in Vietnam in their unit and on each of those bottles they attached a dog tag with each of those men's names.  It was very very moving and the guy making the dedication speech could barely get through it.

Today Marshall and I went to the Sandia Casino.  In under an hour, I won $400 at the slot machines and he won $200, so for the first time in my gambling experience, we took our winnings and left!

After the barbecue tonight we're going to load the motorcycle into the trailer and get ready for an early start tomorrow back to Colorado.

Now, a word about this hotel.  It is the MCM Elegante on Menaul Street in Albuquerque, and they advertise themselves as a 4-star hotel.  Ha!  The carpet in the hall is stained and dirty.  The rooms are less than clean.  There was a large black bug that someone had killed in the elevator -- it was there when we checked in on Wednesday and it is still there now.  The elevator doors have greasy black fingerprint marks on them. I don't know how they can call themselves 4-star.

However, the staff was nice and the food was good.  They let Marshall park his bike right in the front of the hotel so everyone could visit around it.  Some of the families of the men who died were here and they are really touched when they see the replica of the Vietnam wall on the front fairing of the bike that includes their loved ones' names.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Enjoying the military reunion

Marshall has really been enjoying this reunion -- swapping lies (!) with all his buddies.

We did not make it to the casino yesterday and I blame a certain Colonel for that (who shall remain nameless).  It was disappointing, but we had a nice dinner and came back to the room to watch the football game.

Today we were up bright and early to go out to Kirtland Air Force Base where we were greeted by a bunch of young airmen who basically waited on our group hand and foot.  These airmen are in the same positions as the men in our group -- so it was interesting for the young and the old to hear how the other did their jobs.

They gave tours of the Osprey and then they cooked us (all 250 of us) a wonderful lunch.  Here are some photos of a great day:
Airmen from 58th Special Operations Squadron cooking lunch for us.

Marshall couldn't walk the "tour" so his buddy Joe sat with him at the tables.

One of the aircraft close enough for me to photograph.

Lining up for lunch -- the young airmen were wonderful and spent a lot of time talking to our veterans.
Tonight there is going to be a dedication of a special beer made just for our group and then some of the families of men who were lost are going to join Marshall at his motorcycle to take photos and talk.

Marshall did really well all day -- great mood, better than usual energy.  He rode his bike out to the Air Force Base.  I had to ride the bus because I don't have a base ID card.  But I was able to ride back with him on the bike (they are very particular about who enters the base, but not so particular about who leaves!!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

We are in Albuquerque

We had a very nice drive to Albuquerque today.  Good moods, fun conversation.

When we got to the hotel we had to unload the motorcycle from the trailer.  (Every year he brings his bike to the military reunion and the hotel has always allowed him to park the bike right in front so everyone can see it.  I'll try to get a picture and send it along tomorrow.). Anyway, unloading the bike was a little challenging for several reasons, but Marshall and a few friends got it off the trailer and it is now parked right in front.

Then we had to unhook the trailer from the car and park it in the back of the hotel.  Marshall was exhausted by the time all of that was done.

But we came in and mingled with some of the others who arrived today and we had a lovely evening.  All in all, a very nice day.  Yay!!

Tomorrow's activity is going to the casino.  One of my favorite things to do.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Psychiatrist visit

Marshall got up today in the same depressed state he was in yesterday. Didn't want to talk, didn't want to eat.

We saw the psychiatrist around 3:00 (Dr. Bonney) and Dr. Bonney decided to stop the Ritalin and instead put Marshall on Provigil for two reasons. First, the VA will pay for it; and (2) he thinks the Provigil will provide the same benefits as the Ritalin without the heightened anxiety that Ritalin can cause. The Provigil is supposed to help with depression and to provide energy. We will start the Provigil tomorrow.

We asked about Abilify and he said he thought that was a great idea and a great drug but the VA does not approve Abilify so it would have to go through our regular supplemental insurance. Dr. Bonney said that Abilify costs around $800 a month, so we will need to see what our insurance will pay before we go that route. I will try to call and find out in the next few days.

Dr. Bonney wants us to call him on Tuesday when we return from Albuquerque and let him know if we see any improvement by using the Provigil.  Depending on how the Provigil works, we can revisit the use of Abilify.  Dr. Bonney said he will gladly write the prescription if we have a reasonable copay with our insurance.

By this evening, Marshall was a little bit perkier, probably looking forward to his military reunion and getting caught up with his buddies.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Cancer Center

Well, Ritalin can take back seat to today's cancer center visit. (Although we started out with another good day on Ritalin, it ultimately went to hell in a handbasket...)

Last month his PSA was 11.2. Today it was 20.8. The minute he heard what the PSA was he went into a deep depression. And this was after taking THREE tranquilizers.

The nurse practitioner, Kathryn, said the medication Marshall has been taking for the past 17 months is no longer working and the cancer appears to be growing. Marshall has been having some intermittent pain in his ribs and in his leg. Kathryn looked at the last scans and said that's where it looks like the cancer is growing. So she wants Marshall to have new scans done just to compare them to the last ones and be absolutely sure what's going on. She said we could do the scans after we get back from Europe.

At first Marshall got upset and said how could he go on trips with cancer growing inside him like that, but Kathryn said that even if the PSA went up while we were gone, as long as the pain is almost nonexistent, that means there's time, so Marshall said he would think about it. (By the time we got home, he decided we should take the trips.)

Kathryn also said that sometimes there can be tiny random cancer cells that are very very slow growing and these cells can sometimes be the cause for a rise in the PSA -- she said it takes at least 100,000 of these little cancer cells to group together in order for them to actually show on a scan, so that is why she wants new scans to compare to the old ones. I hope I understood that correctly. It was very hard to concentrate on what Kathryn was saying with Marshall disintegrating in front of me.

So on October 14 -- after we get back from Europe -- we go back for Marshall to have the CT scan and the bone scan again. There is a chance that they might be able to just do radiation on the ribs and the leg and see if that kills the cancer that is growing in those two spots and stops the pain and maybe bring the PSA down. But it is likely that Marshall will have to have chemo in October.

Kathryn says that in a lot of cases, when a guy fails on a drug and then gets chemo, the body gets "reset" and the patient can go back on the drug again. That would be great.

Right now Marshall does not want to talk to anybody. He is very down. Tomorrow we go to see the psychiatrist and then Wednesday we head to Albuquerque. Right now, I am thinking that when we get to Albuquerque I will sleep for at least two days. I am SOOOOO stressed out and tired. I feel so guilty saying that when I'm the healthy one.......

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ritalin - Day Five

Marshall stayed in an upbeat mood today and had a better than usual energy level. Went to breakfast this morning and then took his bike out for a while.

Tomorrow is cancer center day and he usually starts stressing about that the night before but he didn't appear to be fixated on it this evening. He did mention that he was starting to worry about the blood work that will be done, but that was it.

I'm starting to think the Ritalin is really doing some good.

Stay tuned for the cancer center report tomorrow evening.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ritalin - Day Four

Marshall woke up this morning (well, closer to noon) in a good mood and actually wanted to get out and about.  So we drove over to Canon City and did some shopping.  He stayed upbeat all day.  The energy level wasn't much better, but the mood sure was.

Tomorrow he has plans to get his bike out and meet a friend for breakfast.  It sure feels a bit better around here.

Monday we go back to the cancer center for blood work.  That is normally a pretty stressful day.  And Tuesday he sees the VA psychiatrist who prescribed the Ritalin (and we will ask him about Abilify).  Wednesday we leave for Albuquerque.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ritalin - Day Three

Marshall got up perkier today than he has in a while and stayed in a good mood all day long. His energy level wasn't all that much better but the mental attitude was quite a bit better. Is it the Ritalin?

Tune in tomorrow for another report.

In the meantime, here's a picture of Jerry after he fell asleep midstream again. He's a little tornado but he's so darn cute.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ritalin - Day Two

Ritalin does not seem to be doing anything beneficial for Marshall. Today was the same as yesterday -- deep in depression. I can't even imagine what our upcoming trips are going to be like if he does not improve. We'll probably both have to be institutionalized.

A dear friend of ours called today to suggest that we ask Marshall's doctors about perhaps prescribing Abilify. He said it has worked wonders for him. We see the oncologist on Monday and we see the psychiatrist on Tuesday, so we will definitely ask.

In the meantime, I took care of my mental health today by going shopping. Spending money does the trick for me every time.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ritalin - Day One

Marshall started on the Ritalin today. If one day is any indication, it did not "perk him up" at all, but instead appeared to me to make his depression even deeper.

We'll see what Day Two brings.

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Monday, September 8, 2014


Well, Marshall's primary care physician (Dr. Bliss) and his VA psychiatrist (Dr. Bonney) have put their heads together and they believe that Ritalin might benefit Marshall. They think that it will give him a better energy level and it will also help the antidepressant work better. So they asked me to get the oncologist to approve it.

I contacted Dr. Flaig and he checked to be sure it wouldn't interact badly with all the other medications Marshall is taking (the other doctors did that, too) and Dr. Flaig gave the go-ahead.

So tomorrow Marshall will pick up the Ritalin and we will see...

In the meantime, I have a very close high school friend who was a pediatrician for many years and then went to work at Eli Lilly. He was the inventor of a different ADHD drug (Strattera) and he also worked with many ADHD kids over the years. So I contacted him to see what he thought of giving Ritalin to Marshall. Johnny said that he thought it was a very sound idea and if he were Marshall's doctor he would not hesitate to give it a try. He saw no downside. (Jane, if you read this, I'm talking about John Heiligenstein.)

So I have high hopes for Ritalin.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

A better day

Marshall got up today feeling better, thank goodness!! We had a very lazy rainy Sunday. And the Broncos won!

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Depression has not abated

Marshall is still in this deep depression.  We had to go to Pueblo today for an appointment and we usually make that a fun trip.  We always go to lunch or dinner and have a nice time.  Not today.  He couldn't really eat what he wanted because his dentures hurt too much and he was depressed all day.  When he pulls his hat down over his eyes I know it's going to be an utterly miserable day so when he did that, I probably should have suggested that we just skip lunch.  His depression always rubs off on me and then I have trouble functioning.  All I want to do is sleep and dream about better times.  Sleep is a great escape.

We couldn't get an appointment with Dr. Bonney, the VA psychiatrist, because he was off all week.  But he did call and he wants to put Marshall on Ritalin-type drug.  Something called Provigil.  He believes that will help Marshall with his low energy level and at the same time might help the antidepressant work better.  We should get that next week sometime.  God, please let that work!!

PS:  We had satellite internet installed and it is SOOOO much better than CenturyLink's DSL!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Depression continued

Marshall is still extremely depressed.  I thought it would get better over the weekend, but it didn't really change.  So tomorrow we will call for an appointment with Dr. Bonney, the VA psychiatrist.

Tonight was the scheduled night for the support group conference call and he didn't feel like participating.  I think it might have helped him, but oh well....  He has to fight his disease in his own way and I have to accept that.

And by the way, the dentures aren't working out.  He still has pain.  So we need to make appointment with the dentist again in a last ditch effort to see if more can be done.  This is also depressing since the cost for these dentures was pretty high.

Also tomorrow, we are going to have satellite internet installed.  Our CenturyLink DSL has gotten worse and worse and even the technical support person I spoke to thought that switching to satellite might be the better way to go.  CenturyLink just doesn't care much about the small market that we live in.