Two Weeks of Ups and Downs

Gideon with a towel to prevent sticking to the chair

Ah, the scholar as he sits in his recliner, with books in the background and a towel to keep his head from sticking to the leather upholstery, and the wise, kind smile of a . . . well, what would you call it?

Anyway, I didn’t get a post up last week before the e-mail updates went out.  We had re-set the time to check something and so the deadline was earlier than usual.  There wasn’t much to report anyway, which is always good.  Boring is better, as I think I’ve already said somewhere in this blog.  We did have a totally useless and time-wasting doctor’s visit last Thursday.  Somehow we had a miscommunication about when Gideon needed to go back for a followup visit to our “crazy spine surgeon,” and we were told when we got there that they really couldn’t tell us anything and that we needed to come back in six weeks.  Gyp!  Gideon ended up missing his afternoon class because of this visit, so it was doubly irritating.

Last Friday wasn’t very much fun either, as Gideon had his second PET scan.  He had to wait a long time because a staff member was out sick, and since they used the same chemical to flush out his port as they did when he had his chemos, he felt pretty nauseated afterwards just because of the smell.  But we didn’t have any results that day, although we assumed that they were probably fine.  We knew that we’d find out what was what today, when Gideon had a followup with Dr. Rifkin.

Yesterday the spine surgeon’s office called to say that Gideon had a new compression fracture on his lower back.  Although we hadn’t ended up actually seeing the doctor last week they had automatically sent Gideon to get an x-ray as soon as he walked in.  That scan was supposedly showing that he had this new break, news which was pretty unsettling and also very puzzling.  How could he have something like this without any symptoms?  I relentlessly quizzed the poor nurse who had to call me, but she really couldn’t tell me anything other than that we needed to check with our oncologist right away, which was already going to happen today.  So we weren’t really sure what we were going to be told this morning.  It didn’t seem possible that things had gone south, and indeed they hadn’t.  Dr. Rifkin had a few choice words about this idea that there was a new fracture which I will render a bit more genteelly than he did as “horse manure.”  He even got hold of the spine surgeon in the operating room!  Pretty impressive.  He has a lot of pull.  I’m still not clear on what exactly happened, but the important news is:  the PET scan looked great.  No negative changes from the last one, which showed no active malignancy.  So, for now, Gideon is in the clear.  He’s off all medications, he’s through with his chemo, and now he needs to get out of his braces, get some physical therapy to strengthen the core muscles that have been underused for so long, and have checkups and scans at longer and longer intervals.  He’ll have yet another MRI in three weeks and see Dr. Rifkin again in four, and at that point he should finally, finally be told he can get out of those horrible things.  I just hope they hold together that long.   We are very thankful and relieved!

The braces are off and the hair is back!


I said that there would be one more post on this blog and then, unless there’s something big to report, that would be the end of it.  Of course, no story on earth ever really ends.  “And they all lived happily ever after” won’t be true until we get to Heaven.

HOWEVER, this part of the story is over for now.  I’ve been waiting and waiting to use the title for today’s post.  Yesterday we finally got into see Dr. Anant Kumar, Gideon’s spine doctor/neurosurgeon, and he gave the go-ahead for him to take off the braces completely.  While Dr. Rifkin, the oncologist, is a total ray of sunshine, Dr. Kumar tends very much to the darker view of things.  He said that Gideon’s Tae Kwon Do activities are probably now in the past, that there will always be weak spots on his backbone, and that the readings of scans are always a result of human interpretation.  He pointed out a space on Gideon’s tailbone that still has not grown back, saying that represented a “lesion” that was still there.  To me, the word “lesion” means “tumor.”  I usually find myself trying to argue with him when he makes these rather dire statements, and yesterday was no exception, but what’s the point?  He thinks what he thinks.  I was a bit down in the mouth after this appointment, to be honest, but Gideon was quite upbeat.  He pointed out something I’d forgotten:  the tailbone tumor (or TT) did not get radiation therapy back in May since it wasn’t threatening his spine and they were trying to give him as little radiation as possible.  So that tumor didn’t go away completely until well into chemo, several months later.  I would hope that in a few more months that bone will have regrown, too.  But there’s a limit to how many scans can and should be done.  There’s a third PET scan this Friday and the monthly visit with Dr. Rifkin next Wednesday.  We expect there to be no new news from either of those.  Now comes the anti-climactic but almost harder part:  getting back to normal physically.  Dr. Kumar gave Gideon some neck-strengthening exercises to do, as he hasn’t been able to turn his head since May.  He suggested swimming, so we need to get going on a rec center membership.  School starts on Tuesday for Gideon, and he’s taking 18 hours.  The internship that he didn’t get to do last summer is pretty much on for this one.  We’re through this chapter of the story, but there are lots of new ones to come.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and expressions of concern.

We are very thankful today!


We are down in North Carolina for Thanksgiving visiting our wonderful relatives with whom we used to spend every Thanksgiving and Labor Day weekend.  Dear Uncle Gordie had called Gideon while he was in the hospital this summer and urged him to visit.  So we decided to come for this week.  I know I said that Gideon had signed on to a picture a week while his hair was re-growing, but his patience is pretty limited for this type of thing.  So this isn’t a very good picture, as it’s kind of distorted, BUT YOU CAN SEE HAIR!!!  He’s starting to look more like a Marine and less like a chemo patient.  The braces will still be in place for a few more weeks.  But it’s probably just as well that he kept them for this trip, as we’ve done a TON of walking  plus getting in and out of the plane and also a very small rental car.  Gideon’s back was bothering him a little bit, not from any cancer problems but just from doing much more activity than he’s used to.

People have been so kind!  We had three get-togethers while in Virginia and DC, with our friends making great efforts to include unexpected guests in the outings.  I’m writing this while digesting dinner.  And what a dinner it was.  Just in the sweet potato/squash department we had three entries.  I made my dressing recipe and it was a great success, although the sausage I used was pretty spicy.  Head on over to the entertaining section and see what the finished product looked like.

We have two more days here and then we’ll be back in DC for another wonderful Sunday morning service at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  Unless something drastic happens, I probably won’t post

The Last of the Chemos!

I waited a day to do this post so that I could include how the final chemo went.  We all (especially Gideon) were somewhat dreading this one, as numbers 4 and 5 were absolutely no fun.  The doctor’s office said that they’d give Gideon a bigger dose of the anti-nausea medication in his pre-treatment infusion.  They also gave him some new anti-nausea pills to take at home. So with all that he said this time hasn’t been as bad as the last.  Which is not to say that he’s out running a marathon!  But at least he’s not throwing up, and he’s been able to eat a little.  I was so hoping that he’d be able to come to my concert last night, but it was not to be.  (If you get the weekly e-mail updates you’ll have a link to the post about the reception after that performance.  New posts about our Christmas concert will be appearing soon.)   Jim took him in yesterday since I was hip-deep in reception preparations, and he wasn’t looking any too good when he came home.  But it’s just so great to know that he’s all finished with this long process.  He’ll be getting out of his braces, we hope, in a couple of weeks and having his second PET scan in three.  Right now he has no hair, no eyebrows, and hardly any eyelashes.  It’ll be so much fun to watch his transformation as all this regrows.I’ve gotten rather tickled at the very kind people who say things like, “Well, I’m sure you’re very busy taking care of Gideon.”   I’m not sure what it is that I’m supposed to be doing.  When he first came home from the hospital I did do a fair amount of waiting on him, and I have also had a daily two-round-trips-a-day trip To the Auraria campus that has eaten up around 2 1/2 hours, but even that is coming to an end.  This week Gideon started taking the light rail home.  I’ll probably go back to taking him both trips for the first part of the coming week, but soon he’ll be back to his usual schedule on that.  As I often say, life moves on.  You can’t just sit, and it would be terrible if you did.

Only One More to Go!

This morning Gideon had chemo #5.  Nothing much to report, which is good.  The same nice nurses, the same procedures.  Gideon got to talk to Dr. Rifkin, which is always a treat as he’s so cheerful.  He was quite pleased that Gideon was at least out of his lower back brace.  And now we’re back home, and Gideon’s upstairs in his recliner working on his laptop, and I’m getting this post done and then going shopping for the chorale breakfast I’m organizing tomorrow.  Life marches on.

Thanks to all of you who have faithfully read these posts and prayed.  I may take a break for the next two weeks since there won’t be much to report–we hope.  I’m adding some new blogs on this website, one about food and entertaining (with the breakfast being the first event posted) and one about the music we’re singing.  I may also finally get some videos done.  Be sure to check those out–they should show up in next week’s e-mail.

And if you’ve bought a copy of my book, keep an eye out for a downloadable version of the study questions I’ve now added.  If you haven’t gotten one yet, the answers are now in the updated version.  Either way, you may want to use the digital version.  Feedback is always welcome!