Saturday, December 25, 2010

'Twas a Merry Christmas

Grandsons Lane, Luke and Jasper
playing with some of their new toys.
John and I made our annual Christmas Eve trip to his parents and sister's homes.  They live on some beautiful acreage in Yelm where we watched Laura's small heard of fostered Icelandic ponies, the neighbor's sheep and llama, and Mom and Dad's chickens.  Laurie played short-order cook and made everyone a wonderful breakfast ... farm fresh eggs, bacon, sausage, cinnamon rolls ... yummm!

By the time we got home, son-in-law Cameron and grandson Jasper had arrived to spend the night and get ready for Christmas.  Jasper left out cookies, milk and carrots which were all munched up by Santa and his reindeer.

Our tabletop Christmas Tree

On Christmas morning we followed tradition; all of our children and their kids gathered at our home for breakfast* and to get their stockings from Santa.  The grandkids were showered with even more gifts.  It was pure chaos!

John's new hat with hair!

Our ham dinner got delayed this year.   Our kids went to visit other family members; John's parents stayed home because they weren't feeling well; and our friend was in the hospital because she got in a car accident. (Get well Gail!)   So, instead, John made us some egg salad sandwiches from a few hardboiled eggs (detoured from becoming deviled eggs).  Tomorrow, when we are more rested, I'll bake the ham which we'll munch on throughout the week.

Gretchen dressed
up for a Christmas picture.

This was a merry Christmas for us.  I hope yours was very merry as well.

* For the last several Christmas mornings, I've made a breakfast casserole for everyone.  It's become a tradition.  I learned to make this dish when I was a trail cook for High Country Outfitters.  We made it in a dutch oven for our guests.  Here is the basic recipe. 

1. Crumble and brown 2 pounds maple sausage,
2. Cube 1 large loaf of day-old French bread,
3. 2 cups shredded cheese (swiss and cheddar this year) 
4. Beat together 20 eggs, 2 cups milk, and salt/pepper to taste,
In a large greased casserole pan, make 2 layers, each with cubed French bread, cooked sausage and shredded cheese.  Cover everything with the beaten egg mixture.  Let stand at least 30 minutes until the bread is thoroughly soaked.  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Serve with salsa.

You can also add other ingredients that you enjoy, like herbs, spices, onions, peppers, sour cream, etc.  This recipe made 12 large servings.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2nd Opinion & Storage Units

Clinic at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
 The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance oncologist recommended the same follow-up as did John's primary oncologist.  That is, we will monitor John's swollen lymph nodes with a CT scan in 3 months.  I'm glad that SCCA's recommendation was the same; it's much easier to make a decision about what to do next.

John just bought a couple of abandoned storage units on auction.  We use to buy these units all of the time, sorting through them, finding the good stuff, and then garage-selling the rest.  John stopped doing it when he started to have bad back problems.  For these units, John promises me that he won't be lifting more than he should, with the help of his brother, daughter and son-in-law.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Welcome Winter!

Start of Lunar Eclipse
Fall City Back Deck
Cloudy Skies, 12/20
Happy Solstice to all!  In a few more hours it'll be Winter!  Tho', in this part of the woods, you would have thought winter had already arrived ... snow and temperatures in the teens in November, and then, just recently, enough rain to make our rivers overflow their banks.  Over the last few days, we've been having high winds, too.  Thankfully, we are on high ground and stay plenty warm in our home.

John and I are getting ready for Christmas.  I'm decorating our little tree and wrapping presents today.  John is doing some last minute shopping.  We'll be continuing our traditions -- spending Christmas Eve with John's family and Christmas morning opening presents with the grandkids -- such joyous chaos!

John has been caring for his chicken flock more and more.  He is only half way into his 6-week recovery period and the lifting & bending restrictions are becoming frustrating to him.  Tomorrow, we go to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for a second opinion on John's treatment options.

I'm starting to plan for a road trip to Arizona in January.  During the winter, Quartzsite is a snowbirders haven ... with hundreds, maybe thousands of RVers staying in the area.   I'll be joining a group of my traveling friends for a rendezvous.

May this Christmas be your merriest!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Next Steps

John saw his medical oncologist this afternoon to decide on his next treatment steps.  The doctor wants to take a wait-and-see approach.  So, in 3 months John will get some blood tests to check the function of his remaining kidney, and a full-body CT scan to check the lymph nodes under his liver. 

For Stage II Renal Cancer, the other possible option is adjuvant therapy which uses drugs to keep any remaining cancer cells from making more tumors.  But these drugs have some side effects and are so new that their effectiveness for early stage cancer is not well documented.

We are going to see about getting a second opinion to make sure the wait-and-see approach is the best for John right now.

Tomorrow John has his staples removed.

Since John has been home he's been busying himself caring for his chickens as much as he can.   We are also making plans for the holidays.  As usual, we'll be spending Christmas with family.  But, our outside Christmas lights will be scaled down this year because ladder climbing is not part of John's recuperation regimen :).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thank You's

As John continues to recuperate, I wanted to give our thanks to all who have generously helped us out.

Thank you to Jim, Sue, Tammy, Scott and Roy who are the primary chicken helpers as John heals up ... taking the morning and evening shifts, and going to the grocery store to pick up the discarded produce & bread.  Also, thanks so much to sister Laurie for caring for John's special needs hen.  And, thank you to all of John's customers for putting up with a bit of delay in getting your eggs.

A huge thanks to daughter Echo and brother Billy for being with us at the hospital, offering your help and moral support.  Also, a little birdie tells me Echo has made some frozen dinners for us ... yum and thank you!

And, thank you to all my traveling friends who have offered their positive thoughts, prayers, and good wishes ... Karen, VJ, Pat, Charlene, Cheryl, other VI2's, VanTramps, and more.   As well as a big thanks to all of our family and friends who have kept touch through the blog, facebook, and by phone & email ... Mom, Dad, Laurie, Cameron, Jasper, Gary, Mary, Char, Leon, Lisa, Connie, Larry, Lynne, Margaret, Marikay, Sunny, Glen, Ginny, Kay, Larry, Albertson's Produce and Bakery Depts, Fall City Espresso, and more.

I tried to remember as many people as I could.  So, if I forgot your name, please know that your love and friendship mean the world to us.

This is what John said this morning on his facebook wall: 
  • Well, it's Monday! Cool!  Ha, I made it through surgery.  Thanks to my wife and to all my family, friends, and for all the prayers people have asked for me, and the Big Guy who listened.  So, all that thought of me and helped me, I can't thank you all enough. Thanks friends.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

John's Home

John came home from the hospital this afternoon.  He wanted to be home early enough to watch the Apple Cup (UW vs. WSU) ... you know he's got to be feeling better.  I'm so glad to have him home.  Go Huskies!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pathology Report

John got the pathology report from his urologist this morning.  The great news is that the cancer is fully contained within the kidney's capsule, Stage II, T2.   (Prior to surgery, the doctor had suspected that it was at T3, Stage III.)  It's clear cell, the most common type of renal cell carcinoma.  The tumor was large at 7.5cm.   Usually a kidney weighs about 1.5 pounds; but, John's diseased kidney weighed 3 pounds.

If you'd like more context, go to the Kidney Cancer Association web page About Kidney Cancer.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Update on John at the Hospital

Christmas Tree in waiting room on John's floor.
Tonight will be John's 3rd night in the hospital.  He's healing up and getting stronger.   But, he really didn't think he'd feel as bad as he does, and heal as slowly as he is.  The nurses and I keep reassuring him that he's making good progress. 

Most of his tubes have been removed.  His appetite is slowly returning.  Both his blood pressure and blood sugar have been higher than usual ... but, both are heading downward.  Once his intestines begin working, we'll be on our way home, I think.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

John's Next Day

Night view from John's 5th floor room. 
Looking west into downtown Bellevue.
Today John has been recuperating from yesterday's surgery.  He's enjoyed some nice emails and phone calls.  Echo visited today again.  And his brother Bill blasted his big air horn when he passed the hospital 3 different times.  John knew right away that it was his little brother's truck.

John got up twice today, first to sit in a chair, then to take a short walk.  I figure that his increase in complaining means that he's getting better.  :)

John returning from
his stroll
He may go home tomorrow, but I suspect that Friday is more likely.