Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Somewhat better news

Today was a doctor-filled day. The doctors here at Parkview consulted with Marshall's oncologist, Dr. Flaig, all day long. Here's the final results in no particular order (my brain is overflowing):

* Dr. Flaig says there is no reason we need to kill ourselves to get up to see him this week. He says there is nothing going on that can't wait a few weeks. He thinks we should go home, try to relax and regroup and then make a followup appointment. So the hospitalist says that if the pain is still relatively controlled today and tomorrow morning when Marshall wakes up, we will go home tomorrow.

* Dr. Flaig has also told us to discontinue the oral chemotherapy for a few weeks to see if that could have conceivably caused any of the recent problems.

* The palliative care doctor suggested a radioactive drug called Strontium and another one called Xofigo. Both of them hone in on cancer in the bones. We have been asking about Xofigo for quite a while. He spoke to Dr. Flaig and between the two of them they decided that since they think Marshall's main pain right now is low back pain, the Strontium and the Xofigo would probably not help.

* The severe back pain Marshall is having is most likely related to simple low back pain and no matter how they look at the scans and x-rays they cannot relate that pain to cancer. (Marshall has had back problems all his life and had back surgery in the 90s.) The suggestion for that is to use a heating pad and perhaps try alternative things like electrical stimulation or acupuncture. Our chiropractor has a wonderful electrical stimulation gizmo and we will get an appointment with him

* With regard to the other pain Marshall is having (in his right side), the palliative care doctor that spent most of the afternoon with us has recommended 60mg of morphine every 8 hours and then liquid morphine for breakthrough pain.

* They took him off of the IV this evening to be sure he can do well without it so that he can be discharged tomorrow.

* With regard to depression, the palliative care doctor is prescribing Remeron which he says works well with the Venlafaxine Marshall is already taking.

* I spoke with Mario from Sangre de Cristo Palliative Care. He has now received the paperwork from our doctor to get us in the system for care. He says as soon as we get home and get rested, we should call him and he'll come out and we'll go over everything.

* I also spoke with a patient advocate today and she has suggested that we switch our cancer care from University of Colorado (180 miles away) to Rocky Mountain (Dorcy) Cancer Center (60 miles away). She believes that we are at a stage in this disease where the treatments are fairly routine and the lab work can certainly be done in Pueblo so that it really doesn't warrant that long trip (and often hotel stay). She believes that Dr. Flaig could still be our oncologist but give his instructions through the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center. Somehow I don't think it would be that smooth, but it would be a huge relief to stay close to home.

* And lastly, we need to see our primary care doctor (Dr. Bliss) and have him go through the gazillion medications Marshall takes to see if they are all absolutely necessary. With the cancer treatments Marshall has had, for example, his diabetes medication really needs to be overhauled. We have gotten so many prescriptions from so many doctors that it really is time to step back and take a look. It is conceivable that one or more of them could be causing problems. I run them through Drugs.com from time to time, but that doesn't tell me much.

In the meantime, the contractors were at our house today to start laying the floor. Gina says they got there late, took up the carpeting and then left for the day. So what else is new....

Gina will have to leave tomorrow to care for her dad and Marshall and I should be getting home close to when she leaves so that the animals won't be alone all that long, if at all. Here's Gina with her girls (Baby and Annie) and my cutie (Coco).

I think this covers everything. I am so relieved that we now have a little breathing room. I hope all of this has us moving to a calmer, pain-free future.

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Bad night

We stayed up and watched television for a while last night and it was kind of like we were home watching TV, very calm and nice.

He has had a lot of itching around the waistline so before we turned the lights off he asked me to put some lotion on that area, which I did. Within ten minutes, he said the lotion was burning him and we needed to get it off. So we got a wet wash cloth and tried to get all the lotion off. It was driving him crazy.

But from that moment on, he was totally agitated and restless. He wanted his hospital gown off, then back on, socks off, etc. He finally decided to try to sleep and he laid down (and I got settled on my hospital chair-bed). We turned the lights off.

Then I heard him get up and pull his IV stand around. He got the tubes all twisted and we called the nurse in to help get it straightened out. He paced for a while and his breathing was heavy. He refused to put his CPAP mask on. He finally seemed to calm down so I went back to sleep.

Throughout the night I heard him push the call button over and over for pain relief. We will see what today will bring.

I am starting to get worried about our animals. Gina can only stay through Wednesday and then she has another job she is committed to. (Cathy, if Marshall doesn't get released today or tomorrow, I may call you to see if you could run by the house twice a day and feed them and let Coco out -- I'll try to call you later today.)

I may just cancel the guys doing the floors. Way too much to keep track of.

More later.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Still in Hospital

I got back to the hospital today around 10:30 and Kevin and Angie left shortly after that to drive back to Wyoming. They will try to come back at Christmas.

I got a message from the oncologist's nurse Margie and she said Dr. Flaig would like to see the lab work that was done here at the hospital. So I spoke to Marshall's nurse and he says everything got faxed. However, I did not get a return call from Margie.

We saw the hospitalist late today (I will call her Dr. S because her last name is Suryadevera) and she said that the blood counts were off a bit but not so much to be alarmed about. The nurse who called me at home yesterday led me to believe there were some real problems with the blood counts.

Dr. S is more concerned about Marshall's pain. They have managed to get it from a level 10 down to a level 5 by using IV Dilaudid. The doctor did not want to release Marshall until we had a better pain management plan in place. She said that only way she would feel comfortable releasing him would be if he was released directly into the care of his oncologist.

She said that first thing tomorrow morning she will call Dr. Flaig (1) and see if Marshall could stay right here at Parkview and Dr. Flaig could get any tests he wanted done by Parkview personnel, which would be ideal; or (2) see if Marshall could be transferred to University of Colorado Hospital by ambulance so that he could keep the IV painkillers.

This doctor also suggested a fentanyl pain patch - she will talk to Dr. Flaig about that as well.

Marshall is on a liquid diet for the time being and he has actually been eating it.

He seems much calmer and more alert here at the hospital than he was at home.

Our dogsitter can only stick around through Wednesday so I'm going to need to be back at home Wednesday night. I keep telling myself everything will work out, everything will work out....

Kevin brought Marshall a popsicle so that he could have something a little different and yet remain on his liquid diet -- here's a silly picture:

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

To add to everything else, it is snowing!

I got to the hospital last night around 10:30PM. Marshall's nephew Kevin and Kevin's fiance Angie were there and had spent the day at the hospital with Marshall. They left and got a hotel and I spent the night with Marshall.

The plan was that I would come home this morning and get Marshall's medications and then drive back to Parkview Hospital, get Marshall released and drive up to Denver and get a hotel room at the cancer center.

So this morning I hit the road at about 9:30 and after about 35 miles drove into a snowstorm. Visibility was AWFUL. It was clear that I was not going to be able to get back to Pueblo today.

WhenI finally got close to the road that turns off to our house, there was an overturned cattle truck blocking the road and cows were everywhere (poor things, some were limping). There were ranchers on their ATVs trying to corral the cattle and get them off the road. So that was an adventure:

When I finally got home I called the hospital and learned that they are not going to release Marshall today because his blood counts are low. I knew something was going on because during the night they kept coming back to get more blood because they said it was "murky" and they weren't able to do the tests. When they finally did, the counts were low. I'm waiting for the nurse to call me back and elaborate.

So I guess I'll cancel our hotel reservation and cancel our appointment at the cancer center. I think Kevin and Angie will stay with him today since I can't get back there. God bless them.


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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Marshall back in hospital

Last night I went to our firm's Christmas party and had such a lovely time. I walked back to the hotel still enjoying the "energy" of the city. When I got to my room i started getting calls from Gina that Marshall was in extreme pain and wanted more morphine than we were told to give him. She didn't know what to do.

He got on the phone with me and was very very agitated and in pain so I told Gina to give him the morphine that he wants.

She called me back two more times to tell me how agitated and upset he was getting so I told her to call 911 and get him to the hospital. So he is on his way to Parkview Hospital in Pueblo at this moment (9AM Mountain time).

I wasn't able to get a good flight back, but at least there was a flight available. My plane leaves here at 2:00, has a stopover in Houston and arrives in Colorado Springs around 7:00 and then I've got a one-hour drive to Pueblo,. So I should be with him around 8:00 this evening and I'll fill everyone in.

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Friday, December 12, 2014


I got to Chicago yesterday and got checked into my hotel and then met Marshall's cousin Janice and her son Bill (and Bill's partner David). They took me to a Brazilian restaurant called Fogo de Chao and it was incredible. We had a wonderful visit and really enjoyed the meal.

I walked back to the hotel and walked down Michigan Avenue for a while with all the light and music and Christmas shoppers. It was just the best feeling to be back here for a while. When I lived here all those years ago there was a really neat Rock 'n Roll McDonald's. Well, it is now more than twice the size that it was in the "old days":
Today I met my friend Sue for lunch and we decided to take a selfie. I think this is my first-ever selfie (Claudia, we sure missed you!):

And here is awesome city view from my hotel window. I am truly enjoying seeing the big city again. In Colorado my "big city" is Pueblo and somehow that does not do the trick:
I've called Marshall three or four times and he seems to be doing better with me not there. I guess there's something to be said for a change of scenery on both sides of the coin.

Now I'm heading off to our firm's Christmas party! Happy Holidays!

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

No doctor visit today

Marshall was very tired again today and didn't even wake up except for when I woke him up for medications. I tried to get him up for his doctor appointment today with his primary care doctor, but he just seemed too "out of it" so I canceled the appointment. At one point, he looked at me and said, "We don't have to go to that wedding, do we?" I said no, and he went back to sleep.

He was experiencing a lot of pain today. Sometimes I have a hard time keeping on top of the pain medications and I guess I inadvertently cause him more pain. Makes me feel awful.

I got a call this afternoon from a dietician from the University. She called at the request of our oncologist and she wanted to see if she could help figure out a way to get Marshall to eat and drink. So she talked to me for quite a while and asked a lot of questions.

Based on what I said, she thinks he may be dehydrated. She said that dehydration can cause most of the symptoms that he is experiencing right now (exhaustion/sleeping a lot, mental confusion, nausea, loss of appetite, dark urine and minimal urine output, etc.) The only symptom it wouldn't cover would be the pain. So she said I need to really try to get him to drink more liquids. She thought that if he got better hydrated he would perk up a lot.

So at 5:00 when I woke him up for medications, I tried to get him to drink a larger amount of water and he did the best he could but I obviously have my work cut out for me. (And so does Gina because I leave for Chicago on Thursday and Gina will be staying here for those four days).

And on another note (and this might explain the wedding comment), Marshall got a wedding invitation today addressed to just him. Neither one of us recognize the name of the bride or the groom. We are probably going to feel ridiculous whenever we figure out who it is, but if anyone reading this recognizes the names Renfroe or Felker, would you let me know? The wedding is in Denver at the Eisenhower Chapel.

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