Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ten down, twenty-five to go...

Here's a great picture of Ken and Jesse from yesterday during Ken's combination chemotherapy treatment/spa day. He had a private room with two meals, t.v., blankets, pillows, the whole enchilada. The day began at 7:30 a.m. and ended with a radiation treatment at 7:15 p.m. Glad we only had to have radiation this morning at 6:45 a.m., followed by a doctors appointment. Home by 11:00 a.m.

I just want you all to know that Ken Alward is officially my hero!!
Every day I watch him walk down the hall and into the room with the big doors that close automatically behind him. I hear the clicking sound as the machine begins to track out his therapy map, and then the big sign outside of the room lights up with the word BEAM as a loud and steady buzzing sound continues for 10-12 seconds. This continues for twenty minutes. Ken's treatment is the longest in our group. When the magic door swings open again, and I see Ken emerge with that smile of his, all I can think is that he is some kind of amazing. He willingly subjects himself to all that comes with radiation and chemotherapy...for us.

On the lighter side: This morning (5:00 a.m.) Ken comes to me and says, "I feel good today, but I must be more tired than I think I am. Look at my feet." He had put on two LEFT shoes, and hadn't noticed for quite awhile. Gotta love it.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Putting this day behind us...

If you can imagine a day where every single thing you tried to accomplish was deemed impossible, and then add not being able to get a radiation treatment because the machine was down again, that was our eighteen hour day today.

We are not going to dwell on this day. Moving forward to our long day Tuesday with hopes that all treatments will be given and be well tolerated by Ken.

Humor from Ken: "Hey honey. There's an upside to having my saliva get thick and ropey. I really don't need water to take my pills anymore. I can just drop 'em in the spit and they kinda get dragged down my throat all by themselves." EWWWWW! Thanks for sharing??

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012


Ken's prayer shawl
Waiting for radiation.
 As of today, Ken has completed seven radiation treatments and two chemotherapy treatments. He has tolerated everything fairly well thus far, little problems like swollen lips, sunburn, slight nausea and the like are not fun...but, not dangerous either. Had to wait from 6:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for the radiation treatment today. Machine went down and we had to wait for it to be brought back online. Good news is...Ken didn't have to miss a treatment. Unfortunately, quite a few people had to have their treatments put off until Monday.

Ken received a wonderful package from our friend Jan Heckman from Superior, Wisconsin. She took the time to write a very sweet poem of encouragement for Ken (and framed it),and made him the beautiful prayer shawl you see him wearing in the picture above. He was very touched by both gifts.

The other picture is yet another "waiting Alward" photo. This was from our wait in radiation this morning.
So, now you are completely up-to-date. The sky is about to open up and rain and thunder and lightening, so I will say goodbye for now.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's nice to be home again...

Ken was released from the hospital late this morning, after having another successful radiation treatment (five down, thirty to go). We received a stack of medical information about all of the new medications we would have to pick up at the pharmacy on the way home (and yes, as usual, our insurance denied at least one prescription). Before this diagnosis the only things in our medicine cabinet were vitamins and aspirin. How things have changed.

The gals on the oncology floor were glad to see Ken get to go home, but were quick to remind him that they were looking forward to seeing him again on Tuesday. What?? Oh, it appears that Ken will be receiving his long chemo treatments on the oncology floor of the hospital  instead of in the infusion room from now on. So, he won't be sharing a room with fifteen or so other folks...our Kenny will have a private room with a cable ready t.v., private bathroom, and food service. Where do I sign up?? (No, seriously...where do I sign up?) Hahaha.

We hope to be back on track starting tomorrow morning. Glad we only have two more super early trips to the hospital this week. Something tells me that there is a "sleep late and stay in pajamas all day" kind of day coming up this weekend. Next week will be here before we know it, and it'll be time to start again.  But, we are very grateful and relieved that Ken is home where he belongs!!!

Take it easy, y'all,

Monday, February 20, 2012

Three down, thirty-two to go...

Ken has completed three radiation treatments! We won't know whether he will be able to have his chemo treatment as scheduled (tomorrow) until the medical oncologist checks him out in the morning. If she feels he still isn't recovered sufficiently to handle a treatment, they will try again Wednesday. But, it is possible that he won't have that treatment at all this week. ( We hope that is not the case.)

We do know that Ken will be in the hospital at least until Wednesday sometime. He is still having some pain, but the majority of his blood work is looking better. Hopefully, he will get some  rest tonight. Had a talk with the nursing staff, and they will try to not wake Ken up to have his vitals checked. He is stable enough to be allowed to sleep!!!!

Looking forward to having my family all together again soon. I guess that's my cue to get some meals put together, and some laundry done...


Sunday, February 19, 2012

The hospital has valet parking...

Good morning. I apologize for not checking in yesterday, good excuse except being too tired.

Ken is still in the hospital, and no one has a Get Out of Jail Free card. His blood counts look pretty good, and his pressure and heart rate are almost normal. The good news is that he is gaining weight and ambulatory. I am bringing some sweat pants this morning so he doesn't feel so exposed while he does his laps around the floor.

A special thanks to our friend Jan H. for giving her church a heads up about our situation. While I have not yet had opportunity to call Pastor Joel, I really want to thank y'all for supporting us in thoughts and prayers.

I tried to talk Ken into allowing a photo, but, until he can get his hair under control...

Anyway, I am going to head up to the hospital in a minute and see how our patient is doing. We are very thankful that he has had such great care, and that everyone on the oncology floor has been so very, very kind and thoughtful. It is pretty cool that the hospital has valet parking when the lots get full. Sure saves time when you are trying to get inside in a hurry!

Just a note: my phone is acting up so another one had to be ordered yesterday. Hopefully, I will actually receive my calls as people place them and not have them go straight to voice mail. Now I just need to have someone at the house to sign for it. We'll figure it out.

Have a wonderful day, and thanks for caring.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Glad it's today, looking forward to tomorrow...

I must admit that my knickers were in a twist when I blogged last night. But, it was understandable, right? The good news is that today is a better day because Ken is a whole lot better. He will probably be in the hospital another day or so, but he was able to have his radiation treatment today, and his infection was caught before it went septic.He says he is feeling so much less pain, and will be able to rest tonight.

The hospital wanted to call the doctor that had inserted the feeding PEG to come and check it out, and I said NO! We requested a different doctor, and he was very kind, intelligent, patient, and understanding as to why we requested someone else (even though they are from the same gastro group). All I had to do was show him the surgical notes, the full color CT pictures of the esophageal tear, and let him know that no follow up appointment was deemed necessary. Glad that the new doctor was able to get the tube moved around and cleaned out so Ken shouldn't need any exploratory surgery, or re-seating of the PEG. WHEW!!

Can't believe how close this came to being really, really bad...but, grateful and relieved that it is looking good.
Can't wait to get Ken home (where he belongs)!


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Looks like we made it...not....

Since I am now on hour twenty of this long day, I will enclose a picture or two and a brief description of why Ken is in the hospital. The first radiation treatment was over by 7:00 a.m. We headed home and all was well until about 11:00 a.m. Ken started to shake uncontrollably, and couldn't get warm. I checked his temperature, and he was a bit elevated. I called the doctor and left a message for someone to get back to me. While waiting, I checked his temp again at fifteen minute intervals. It continued to rise. When it reached 102.8 degrees I told him we were going to the emergency room. The oncology nurse called and concurred. Ken was treated with four simultaneous I.V.'s with large bore needles loading him with fluids and lots of antibiotics. It seems that his feeding peg is infected, and they are treating him in the hospital for a few days. He is on the oncology floor now, but his blood pressure keeps bottoming out, so we don't know if he will be able to have his treatment tomorrow or not. Also, they may need to have surgery look at his tube to see if there was a problem with the insertion. (Remember the problem with the gouged esophagus???) Anyway, he will be moved to intensive care if his pressure doesn't stabilize tonight.

Ken's spirits are almost too good to be believed. We still hope for treatment to continue, and this to be a mere bump along this journey.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We couldn't make this stuff up...

This morning bright and early we shuffled off to the Cancer Center to begin Ken's first chemotherapy appointment. It was to begin at 8:00 a.m. and would run until mid to late afternoon with a break at 2:30 p.m. for his radiation simulation. We had been told yesterday that his radiation appointments would have to take place at 9:00 p.m. initially, and would hopefully be able to change to  a more reasonable hour within the next few weeks. The chemo nurses were very nice, the lunch (a lovely chicken salad salad sandwich, chicken noodle soup, and orange cake for dessert) was completely devoured, and Ken tolerated the treatment very well. The only glitch was that his I.V. infiltrated his arm at the end of the treatment. Luckily, it was only the saline solution involved, so a new I.V. was inserted and that was that. His simulation went off without a hitch, and we were offered the time slot of 6:45 a.m. for his treatments instead of the late nights, and we were very happy indeed. So, after the day at the hospital, and another hour or so at the pharmacy to pick up another round of medications, we headed for home at about 5 p.m.  I swear, I do not make this stuff up ('cuz who would believe it)...we just got a call from the hospital telling us that Ken's radiation treatment won't happen tomorrow-----because the machine just went down!!!  Seriously?? Are you kidding?? We are supposed to call tomorrow to see if we will be able to start by Thursday.

Yes, the clock is ticking. The chemo was supposed to happen on the day he has radiation, or by the next day in order for the drugs to do the most good. So, whatta ya gonna do? We are The Alwards. We wait.

I snapped this picture of my handsome hubby for y'all to enjoy.

Oh yeah, Happy Valentines Day...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Congrats, Ken...

Since my mind is going in a few too many directions this morning, my update will be short (I hear those sighs of relief!). Ken went in to work yesterday, and noticed an awful lot of people had shown up for the morning meeting. When he looked around he saw that Jess was there, and that not being the norm, he wondered what was up. Well, it seems that there had been ballots circulated throughout the company a while back allowing for votes for Employee of the Year. Yep, you guessed it, Ken was chosen and was so very, deeply touched. Kind words were spoken, and many of the folks went out of their way to acknowledge that Ken was the choice PRIOR to his diagnosis. Thanks to everyone for acknowledging Ken and his efforts.

And, thanks to Billy B. for your surprise care package. Yesterday was a very special day, indeed.

One more day (Sunday) of work for Ken before the hoopla begins. Please keep us in your thoughts as the journey towards cancer eradication begins. (And extra thoughts for Jess and me, as Ken used his last nicotine patch yesterday!!) HAHAHA.

Remember those extra hugs as Valentines Day approaches.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Like the first day of school...

Good Morning! The first order of business shall be the pronouncement that Ken will begin his treatments on February 14, 2012. Happy Valentines Day!! We are getting geared up to get this thing underway, and hope everyone involved brings their "A Game" each and every day!

We received a packet of information, along with more forms to fill out, from a doctor we didn't know we were going to be seeing. I called to find out what this was about, and we were referred by the original doctor that had told us we wouldn't be needing an endocrinologist. Surprise! They had made an appointment, but I will let them know if it will work once we have final time for radiation, etc. Gotta love those little surprises, right?

Speaking of surprises, Ken had a lovely one when he opened his email a couple days ago. He had received the sweetest note from Jaclyn Smith (think original Charlie's Angels). She had worked with Ken a few years back, and a little bird let her know about his situation (tweet tweet), and she didn't hesitate to reach out and let Ken know that her husband's mom had had something similar, and Brad (her husband, a pediatric cardiologist) would be more than happy to talk with Ken about things any time. She had her own fight with breast cancer a few years back, and is VERY involved in anything related to cancer research and fund raising, etc. Ken had told me she was a very special person...glad to be able to agree!!

Now for today's humor-  Ken and Jess went off to work together this morning, so I wouldn't have to make the trip (and they could catch up on Jess's birthday escapades). After my usual litany of, "Do you have your wallet, watch, keys, lunch, everything???", and my usual exasperated response of, "Yeah, gotta go.", I had a thought of grabbing my phone to snap a quick picture of the boys heading off (like any mom would do on the first day of school, right:). Of course, as I reached for my phone I saw the stack of papers for work, the thank you note for a special co-worker, and the mail. So, I ran to the garage with all the forgotten stuff in hand, raised the garage door, and ran like a mad fool down the driveway (about 1/10th mile), waving my arms and yelling, "Stop!!!", at the top of my voice. They didn't even slow down. I ran inside and sent a text to Ken, but his phone is turned off. (Why????). I sent a text to Jess to tell his dad that he forgot all his stuff, and asked that he let him know I would bring it by later. Arghhhh... so much for saving mom a trip! Go ahead. Chuckle. Sure hope the neighbors didn't see me in my jammies...

Here's hoping for a glorious day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work Ken goes...

Ken had an appointment with his ENT surgeon this morning. The doctor is good, but he must have mild ADD, because he was in the middle of a sentence when he decided to step out to get a prescription pad and never came back. A nurse arrived a short time later with the prescription (that needed to be pre-authorized by our insurance, and wasn't), and Ken had to ask her if his appointment was over. We may have the prescription in the next five to seven days...

I had eluded to the fact that Ken was wanting to get back to work a couple days ago, and he talked me into taking him to Walmart for groceries on Sunday, as a trial run.. I didn't want to go to Walmart on Sunday, and Ken was sorry he had gone as we were swept up in the madness that is Walmart on Super Bowl Sunday. Oh, the humanity!!!
Anyway, he was pretty tuckered out, but determined to try to work on Monday. Ken managed to go in for a few hours (totally losing his voice), and felt good for having tried to get some work done. Barring any complications, he will try to work from Thursday through Sunday. This is all dependent on whether or not he continues to get stronger, regains some of his weight (lost due to the surgery), and if the Radiation/Chemo begins the 13th or 14th as planned.

Jess turns twenty-two on Wednesday. We sent him packing off to Pennsylvania to spend a couple days with his friends. Sure hope he has a good time!

Well, I have started to stockpile my Russell Stover chocolates for the nurses. Always a good idea to keep those hard-working gals happy. Especially when they're taking care of my sweet husband!!

Hope your day was special.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Workin' for the weekend...or not...

This is Saturday, right? Ken was released from the hospital yesterday morning, a little lighter (boo), and with some new pain with which to deal. His throat is much more sore than it had been and his side is real tender. We expected the latter. This morning we will have a visit from a home health nurse (for the life of me, I have no idea which doctor ordered it, or if our insurance approved it). Can't wait to show Jess how to "feed" dad this evening. Didn't anticipate using the feeding tube so soon, but, we gotta get some weight back on our boy. Maybe he will be able to eat a little better today so the tube won't be necessary. Here's hoping!

Ken is starting to make noises about working again tomorrow...hate that this is even a thought at this point. We will see what the nurse thinks about this idea. Sure hope she can read my facial expressions!

This picture shall suffice as our humor for today. Ken received this lovely hat from Kat, a gal he works with. I think it is spectacular! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Luck of the Alward's...

The good news is...the PET scan didn't show anymore unexpected surprises. Yay!! So after an extremely long day yesterday (blood work, appointments with medical oncologist, nutritionist,social worker,the CT simulation, and our nurse navigator), we looked forward to a "simple procedure" to insert his feeding PEG this a.m. Well, ain't nothing ever easy when it comes to Ken. The nurse came to get me from the waiting area and brought me to a special area to allow the doctor to talk with me privately. He was very sorry, but there seemed to be some bleeding that would require a CT scan, and then we would talk again. After the scan, the doctor brought the beautiful full color pictures of the tear he had accidentally made in Ken's esophagus as he was retracting the tube. The bleeding was  controlled, and the tear had not perforated the esophagus, however, there appeared to be some minor infiltrates in his lung that would require some antibiotics and NO FOOD today, and an overnight stay for observation to make sure that he didn't develop pneumonia. Really? Seriously? C'mon...where's the camera?

We should be able to get Ken home tomorrow morning. Let's just hope he doesn't fall out of bed and sprain something! I am heading back to the hospital with a nicotine patch to get him through the day (he didn't use one this a.m. because we were supposed to be home by ten o'clock). It is getting harder to keep his weight gain on track when the doctors keep depriving him of food, but we gotta go with the flow. For now.

Nothing is set in stone as to the official start of the festivities, however, we have a tentative start date of Feb. 14th for chemo's first strike. Oh yeah, we were told initially that the chemo once a week would be about four hours. Surprise, it will be eight hours after you add in the extra time needed for fluids and anti-nausea goodies. So, one day a week will be extra, extra long. Thankfully, the Kindle is loaded with books, games, t.v. shows, and the like to keep our boy entertained. We will try to keep y'all updated as dates are finalized and we swing into action. In the meantime, we bask in the joy of that "no surprises" PET scan.