Friday, July 31, 2009

Busy Couple of Days

It's been a busy couple of days. The rest of Thursday went off without a hitch (so to speak) and she actually got in to Proton Therapy only 15 minutes later than her appointment time. A new record, I think. After that, we went over to the Galleria Mall again so Charlotte could watch the ice skaters. She really enjoys this. Plus it's nice and cool by the ice rink. We also found a Sanrio store (home of Hello Kitty!!) and had dinner at Rainforest Cafe. It was good food and Charlotte liked watching the animatronic "wild" animals putting on a show with their noises and antics.

After that, we went back to the camping truck because Juanita's son Phillip was going to appear on the Speed Channel on the show Pinks All Out. It's a drag racing show and this episode was in Texas (he lives in Lubbock). He raced his green pickup truck (most of these cars are classic, souped up dragsters) and actually made it into the top 8.

Went back "home" and Charlotte wound down with an evening of books, videos, and playing with her horses. That has become a favorite diversion. She puts them in the green drawstring bag. Then she takes them out and puts them in the "barn" (the wooden shadow box they came in). Then she takes them out and moves them around the room. Then she puts them back in the bag. It's like the shoelaces but a new obsession.

We got some great packages in the mail including a set of about 30 craft projects with all the materials (conveniently placed in individual ziploc bags) from my Aunt Shelley. Just have to get her interested in those. She did like that they came in a plastic container with a pink and purple lid!!

She refused to take her accutane last night (I didn't do a very good job of hiding it). Oh well. This morning I had to wake her up and she started the day kind of grumpy. Again, I couldn't get her to take the medicine (this time in applesauce) and about the time Grandpa showed up, she had gone into a full-blown crying jag. Just very emotional. She screamed, "I MISS MY DADDY!!" and just sobbed. Poor thing. She has been so much more emotional lately. Some of that is actually a side effect of treatment (especially the accutane) but I think it is more a side effect of just STRESS. Her life is so out of control and I think that a lot of it catches up with her at odd moments so that the least little thing sets her off. It's become kind of a pattern. She usually calms down after a little while but I've learned not to push her to do something unless it's really vital.

We decided to head off to the Science Museum anyway and see how the day went. She definitely calmed after getting in the car and once we were to the museum, she was fine. Thanks to our Houston connections, we pretty much had free tickets to the exhibits we wanted to see. We spent the morning checking out the main exhibits (dinosaurs, other animals, a great Native American exhibit, a fantastic seashell collection, and a gem and mineral collection that was beautiful). We also went to see the butterflies. Very impressive as well and I think this was her favorite part. Charlotte was tolerant of most of the events but if I stopped at any one exhibit for too long she would say (from the stroller) "Keep pushing, mom!".

We left the museum after a huge rainstorm (that we thankfully missed) and headed over to the PTC. One of the patients (an older gentleman) who was having his last treatment was treating the other patients and their guests to a concert. He and his wife are musicians. She played piano and he played saxophone and fiddle and sang with a drum track behind them. It was pretty good and the crowd was lively. Charlotte even bopped to the music a bit. She went in kinda late again today (not too bad) and we did our "old routine": Go get some lunch, run a few errands at Target, etc. and head back to the PTC. She woke about 4 and we went back to the camping truck for dinner. I did manage to get BOTH doses of accutane into her by the day's end so that was good. Now she's reading her books and settling in for the night. I think we're going to head to Galveston tomorrow while we have family and a car available.

Good night all!! One week down, one more to go (for me) and 4 more to go (for all of us).

PS: Charlotte Says, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUNT B!!!!"

Rachel

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cleaning up from the POOP!

"When the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers." --Karen Blixen in Out of Africa

I woke up at about 6 AM this morning as I usually do. Turned on NPR, laid in bed, listened to the construction sounds outside our window (they are building a road and bridge near RMH and start working early due to the heat...just starting to take in the day. I got up to check on Charlotte and saw that while she was still sleeping, her diaper had busted full of POOP and had leaked all over the bed. I proceeded to get her cleaned up, including a fresh diaper, removed her nightgown, and moved her (naked except for the diaper) to my bed while I cleaned everything up. She went right back to sleep.

I went downstairs thinking that at this hour, we would have plenty of empty washers. My mistake. 4/5 of the washers were occupied (at 6:30!!!) and the other one was out of commission due to service needs. I went to ask the front desk attendant what she wanted me to do with the soiled mattress pad since we aren't supposed to wash that in the regular washers. She went ahead and took the pad and the sheets and put it in the commercial washer they use for the big jobs so my laundry could wait till later.

I went upstairs with a new pad and sheets, remade her bed, and heard Charlotte awaken, telling me the plot of some Wonder Pets episode. I fudged the NPO rule a bit so she could take her accutane with some applesauce. It was early enough that we should be ok. Then we got ourselves ready and headed into the clinic. I like our walks to MDA. It gives me a good chance for exercise and Charlotte gets some fresh air. We told Reh about the good news (yay, poopie) so the enema was off the table (hooray). They drew her labs. Counts are still low but OK and Dr. Vats checked her out. The stiffness in her legs seems better today so he wasn't too concerned. We decided to just keep going with the accutane the way we are giving it (rather than compounding it) and he gave some tips for helping us make sure we get the right dosage out of the capsule.

So we headed back to the house until our PTC appointment later today. Grandpa and Bonita are meeting us here with Charlotte's new scrubs. Daddy wanted her to have some scrubs so he found a pattern and Bonita found some cute fabric and she set to work. I think Daddy is getting a matching set. Rumor has it, Broncos fabric is on the way too.

She is now enjoying PBS (Word World and Barney).

So the prayers for poop can subside a bit. How 'bout just prayers for regularity? That'll do.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Another Good Day

Another good day...except NO POOP (I feel like I'm becoming a broken record).

She slept in again this morning and barely got up when we were jetting off to the clinic. Had a nice walk over to MDA and they got us in almost immediately (plus we were early!). Dr. Wolff spent a great deal of time with us following up on things. We are still trying to track down the MRI that Joann sent so while we were talking with Dr. Wolff, he zipped an email off to Dr. Khan, Joann, Dr. Mahajan...pretty much anyone involved in her care...trying to track down the MRI. Also found out that she should have been on the accutane over the weekend. Again, typical hospital miscommunication where we thought we were waiting for the meds to be compounded and they assumed we would give it to her ourselves with our stash. I told him we would start giving her the meds this afternoon and he wants to see us again tomorrow to get the Accutane situation straightened out. He also said that he wants to get her blood drawn at least 3 times a week instead of just once per week (just in case). He was concerned about the non-poop issue and wanted to order an enema. He said I could give it myself but I didnt' feel comfortable doing that for multiple reasons:
1. I'd never given her one myself (just witnessed and assisted the nurses when she'd had them before) AND (more importantly)
2. I don't need her associating MOMMY with any more negative procedures.

The only problem was, we were only about an hour away from her proton radiation time and they didn't want to give her an enema and then have her "lose it all" on the radiation table. That could cause a whole host of problems. So we left with an appointment for 8 AM tomorrow and a prescription for lactulose which she started this afternoon. Fortunately, she took all her meds (the accutane went in the applesauce and the lactulose went into the chocolate milk) so we're good for tonight. Who knows. Maybe she'll poop before tomorrow (we can only hope...)

After the clinic, we headed over to proton center and didn't have to wait TOO long. They only took her 15 minutes late today. That's progress. Unfortunately, someone was celebrating the end of their treatment. Good for them, I guess, but there was food EVERYWHERE in the lobby. Charlotte didn't seem to mind but I really just about lost it when this very chatty woman who was waiting for her husband came over with cookies and some kind of pudding in her hand. She not only offered food but when I politely told her WHY Charlotte couldn't have any food, she continued to hold the food in front of her face and engage me in a huge conversation about her life. Oh joy. No offense to her, but I didn't really want to hear her life story and I REALLY didn't want her hanging food in front of my daughter's face (or mine for that matter since I was hungry myself).

Sometimes I really understand Charlotte's seemingly antisocial behavior. She's really not antisocial, per say, but she definitely likes her alone time. And I can totally understand that. Sometimes it's nice just to sit there with a book or a puzzle and not talk about cancer or medical treatment, or...whatever.

Anyway, after she was called in to the gantry and put to sleep, Grandpa and I went to get her prescription filled and get me some lunch. We timed it all just right and came back to find her in recovery. We were out of there by four pm. I think that's a record.

We came back to the house and she took all her meds (as mentioned) and ate some good lunch/dinner. Now it should be my turn for dinner soon. Rumor has it Ronald McDonald is coming to visit tonight!

Update:

POOOP!!!!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Charlotte has pooped. Maybe the lactulose finally kicked things into gear. (Plus all the "prayers for poop"!) It was kind of small (considering the amount she's consumed in the past week) but NOT hard (yay) and things are finally moving again. Maybe we can even avoid the enema tomorrow. See what the doc says.

She also ate even more tonight, having some cheese, chocolate milk, and bread crusts from the garlic toast (she likes the crust, not the soft middle). She watched the Ronald McDonald magic show from a distance but didn't want to get a picture with him or meet him.

On a slightly concerning note (it's always something, ain't it?), she is having trouble bending her knees. She's refusing to bend down to pick anything up or bend down to be changed. Have to check again with the doc about that. Apparently, pediatric PT services are hard to come by at MDA so I'm not sure what we can expect.

Have a good evening, y'all!!

Rachel

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

She is Doing Pretty Well

Another good day...except NO POOP!! Otherwise, she is doing pretty well. She slept about 11 hours last night. I let her sleep as long as she wanted to reduce the amount of time that she is NPO and she got up a little after 9. That gave me the morning to write a few thank you notes, read my book, and toodle around on the internet. Plus, I got to eat my breakfast without having her watch me.

We got up and decided to walk over to the MDA main building for the shuttle to the proton center. She walked over a block all by herself (her choice). While she was slow, she did a great job. It actually wasn't unbearably hot as there has been a steady breeze blowing for the last 24 hours. Still hot but at least breezy and the walk from RMH to MDA is pretty well shaded. We caught the shuttle and made it over to the proton center with plenty of time and they got her right in for her appointment with Dr. Woo. The ladies at the center (all the nurses and assistants) make such a big deal over her. Today she was extra cute with her superstar sunglasses. Dr. Woo didn't seem ultra concerned with her lack of poop and was happy that her weight was stable and she doesn't seem to have any other aversive symptoms related to the proton therapy. After he was happy seeing her, we were given the option to go back to the lobby or hang out in the exam room. CJ chose to stay put so I read my book while she read books and watched videos and was greeted intermittently by the proton therapy staff.

Grandpa and Juanita arrived around 12:30/1 PM and she went out to greet them. Then she decided she wanted to go upstairs and check out the playroom there. Boy, was our timing good. The child life specialist had just arrived with some new toys, one of which was a pink and purple doodle-pro that she said she picked out "with Charlotte in mind". Charlotte played with that for quite a while and then read a few books. Finally, around 2:30 (an hour late...again) they came to get her. Off to lunch again for mommy and she went to be irradiated.

We came back and she had just gone into the recovery room and woke up about a half hour later. We went back to the "camping truck" at the RV park for dinner and Charlotte ate a whole ear of corn, some chicken, and some chocolate pie. She was pretty talkative and has been in a relatively good mood (despite the constipation).

While exploring the camping truck, Charlotte found a honeydew melon and decided it would be fun to put a hat on it. Then we found some markers and decorated it. Result: Grandpa Honeydew. Pretty cute and we all had a good laugh.

We came back to RMH and a gift was waiting for us: Aunt Lynn had donated one of those Koala Care diaper changing tables for the RMH and the company had matched it with an additional gift (and covered the shipping). Hooray and thanks, Aunt Lynn. I am sure the folks at RMH will be appreciative.

Now Charlotte and I just finished having a heart to heart about pooping. I am becoming more and more convinced that she is holding in her poop as she talks about "I don't like to poop. I only like to pee.". We have talked about how necessary it is to poop to stay healthy and that if she doesn't poop she's going to end up back in the hospital. Sigh. We'll see if it works.

Talked to Roger briefly but it sounds like he has had a good day. We are back to the clinic and then back to proton therapy tomorrow. At least we have a routine.

Rachel

Monday, July 27, 2009

An Update

Doing a whole lotta nuthin' sure makes me tired!

Charlotte didn't settle in to sleep until after midnight last night (sheesh). I did manage to get her to eat a few veggie straws before bed in hopes that it would sustain her a little longer during the day. I woke up and got myself ready, going downstairs while she was still sleeping to eat breakfast. I figured a hearty breakfast would help me hold out till proton therapy so I ate the leftovers from Roger's Mexican lunch the day before. They were good....and filling!

Then I roused the princess and we set off for the children's cancer center. We didn't have an appointment but Roger insisted that I should just "show up" and they'd work us in. About 10 AM they got our labs (we had come in about 8:30) and about 11:30 Reh, our nurse, let us know that her labs looked pretty good and instead of seeing a doc at the clinic we should just go ahead over to the proton center. Her weekly "checkup" with the radiation oncologist was scheduled for 11:30 and Reh figured as long as some medical professional was following up with her, they didn't need to see her till Wednesday.

So we trudged over to the proton center. The shuttle ride was not bad, actually. Got there, checked in, they took her vitals, and we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally I asked someone what was up and they looked into it. Turns out that Dr. Mahajan is out this week and so Charlotte is supposed to see Dr. Woo and HE is seeing all his patients on Tuesday. Nobody had told us this, but it was on our newly revised schedule. BUT the newly revised scheduled had not been posted online. I was told the solution to this is to get a new printout of the schedule every Monday morning to assure accuracy. I'm not sure how I can get a printout before coming TO the proton center for my Monday appointment but somehow that has escaped everyone else's logic. Maybe the radiation gets to their brains a little in this place.

Anyway, so we were just MEGA early for her proton appointment that was scheduled at 1:30 (and of course, in true form, they didn't see her till 2:30). I did ask about moving up her time slot but they don't have anything available earlier for two weeks when she will then have a 10:30 AM slot.

Through all this, Charlotte never complained once. She never asked for food. Never said she was hungry. We did snuggle and cuddle a few times, which was nice given the cold shoulder she usually passes my way. We read some books and she entertained herself in the play areas. Finally it was her turn and Grandpa and I headed off in search of lunch for me (at 3 PM). She finally roused around 5-ish and we headed back to RMH for dinner. She did eat some cheese slices, applesauce, and a bunch of crackers tonight. And some chocolate milk. Her belly is getting VERY full and kind of rigid. She has not been able to bend down all day and she tells me that it hurts her tummy. the kid needs to POOP!! We keep giving her mag citrate and getting her to walk as much as possible. She told me that she "doesn't like to poop" so I hope she's not holding it in voluntarily. That could be a problem. I told her that she doesn't get to watch her "new favorite" goodnight video until she goes poopie so hopefully we will get results soon.

Other than that, she doesn't seem to be demonstrating any ill effects from the radiation (knock on wood). She is full of storytelling today and the bulk of our conversations revolve around her retelling some facts or plot points from Dora, Diego, Sid the Science Kid, SuperWhy, etc. It's very cute! Especially when she says things like, "Condors are the largest flying birds in the world."

Today I was the chauffer (stroller pusher), chaperone, and master chef. Plus I got in some light reading. Nabbed a book from the book exchange that has been very good so far. It's the newest Wally Lamb book and I've enjoyed his other two novels. We'll see. Oh, and I did payroll. The romp n' roll employees will be happy. Thank goodness for remote internet and quickbooks online. So I actually did some "work" today too.

Charlotte looked absolutely ADORABLE in the dress Aunt Phyllis sent. She wore it today and wowed everyone. She was a purple princess today. I will attach a photo. In this picture, she is making a grilled cheese sandwich using an iron. Very creative, I thought!

We did get to end our day with a skype chat with Daddy. That was fun and Charlotte was actually engaging for a few minutes. Seems like things are going well in VA as well. One day down....how many more to go? September seems a LONG way away.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rachel is in Houston Too!

My turn!

The trip out to Houston was mostly uneventful. The flight coming into Richmond was late so I made my connection in Atlanta (to Houston) with only minutes to spare. Fortunately, I only had to walk about 8 gates to make the connection. I also upgraded to business class last minute (yee haw) so it was easy on/off the plane.

On the second leg of the flight, I sat next to a mom with a 3 1/2 week old (!!!) and across the aisle from a couple with a 10-month old. If I didn't miss my daughter before, MAN!!! I was getting some serious Charlotte withdrawal so I thought the plane couldn't land fast enough.

My Houston Ground Angel was waiting for me when I got down to the terminal and in just a few minutes, I was "home sweet home" at RMH. Roger and I left Charlotte with her grandparents and headed out for a last-minute date. we ended up just going out for some good ol' Texas BBQ and talking. These are the best dates, in my opinion, because we rarely get a chance to really just talk with each other without tons of distractions. Plus: major bonus when the restaurant served Fat Tire beer. We hardly ever can get that in VA. It's a Colorado favorite!!

We came home late and relieved our wonderful babysitters then settled down for a quiet evening together. It was SO nice to have all three of us under one roof...if only for an evening. We slept in late (if you consider 8 AM late...it is in our house) and then got up for breakfast. Roger made eggs and Charlotte didn't eat much. She explored the play area and walked around downstairs.

Then we decided to take advantage of the car we have for the weekend and headed over to the Galleria. This is a mall to behold! Quite the experience and a nice, cool indoor place to window shop. We did make a few purchases. I had a Godiva gift card burning a hole in my pocket so we bought some chocolate covered strawberries and a few yummy truffles. Charlotte did a good number on the strawberries. Yay calories! We also stopped in Borders and Charlotte found a Melissa and Doug horse playset with 12 different 3" felt horse figurines. We got this for her and she has spent the evening playing with them. She decided that I got to sleep with the "grown up horses" and she is going to sleep with the "baby horses" (the horses are all the same size but somehow she decided that some are grown ups while others are babies. Whatever!

So back to the mall...we made our way down to the ice skating rink where we met up for lunch with my friend Cara. Cara and I went to high school together and we have kept in touch loosely through the years. The "keeping in touch" part has been made immensely easier lately with Facebook so when we found out that she would be spending her family vacation in Houston about the same time that we would be here, we decided to try to meet up. She got to meet Charlotte and we got to chat while eating at a Mexican restaurant by the ice rink. I think Charlotte's favorite part of the day was watching the kids ice skate. We might make a return trip to the Galleria just to do that again.

Time was getting short so we made our way back to RMH so Roger could pack last minute essentials and get ready to meet his ride (another Houston Ground Angel...actually the same one that brought me in last night.) We said our goodbyes and as far as I know, Roger is making his way home.

Charlotte spent the rest of the afternoon in the playroom with me, Granpda, and Grandma Bonita. She spent a LOT of time resting on the giant stuffed cow (it's practically lifesize and very comfy). A youth group from a local church came in to make dinner (burgers, dogs, and salad and YUMMY brownies and cookies). Charlotte's dinner consisted of a hot dog bun, about a dozen pickle chips, and a brownie and a cookie. So nutritious but at least she's eating. We said goodnight to the grandparents and headed up to our room to settle in for the night. Now she's watching Diego and resting in bed. What a day!

Tomorrow will be full of follow up appointments, her next radiation treatment, and (of course) a day full of NPO. Let's see what I can get into her by 6 AM. Hopefully, she and I will find a rhythm soon enough.

I almost forgot to mention that we actually had "coordinated outfits" today. Miss Devon (or Charlotte's Devon as she is sometimes called) sent us a great care package with a purple Dora shirt for Charlotte (that says Princess Power), a pink Peace Frogs shirt for me that says "Faith, Hope, and Love" and a big pink shirt for daddy that says "Tough Guys Wear Pink". We couldn't resist the opportunity and decided to all wear our Devon shirts today. You can see our full ensemble in the picture.

So that's all I have to report.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Charlotte has Done So Well today!

Charlotte has done so well today! She didn’t eat much of anything this morning before she had to go NPO but she did drink a container of apple juice at a little after 11. (fudged the 11 o’clock cut-off just a little). The sugar in the apple juice must have set her off because she came alive after that. Chatting and telling everyone plots of shows/books, who in our family is related to whom, and general CJ stuff like that. When the Bonitas came by, I walked to The House and did some domestic stuff including making CJ’s bed, check the mail, stuff like that. Also got a change of clothes for me. The Bayer folks were providing lunch today and were handing out bags with little teddy bears in them. They also gave out little squeezy stressball eagles. Who would need something like that? :-P
When I got back to CJ’s room, I heard that she had taken the Bonitas on quite the little jaunt. She had been on a ride around the floor in the wagon already but when they took her out to go back into the room, they found she wasn’t quite done and she led them off on a walking tour of the floor this time, followed by yet another ride in the wagon.
Then it was time for the ambulance ride to the proton center which has already become old hat for her. The crew was different and the woman could have been our neighbor, Abby’s, big sister. Charlotte didn’t see the resemblance.
At the proton center, Charlotte played in the toy area and made me give up my shoe for “lace time.” She has the most disgustingly sweet, Shirley Temple, cavities for the rest of your life way of asking, “Daddy may I PLEASE play with your shoestring?” Then after she completely deconstructs my shoe, she turns around and asks, “Is it ok if I play with your shoestring?” I mean, who can resist it. The police should isolate it and use it as a non-lethal weapon. “Mr. Bad Guy, would you PLEASE freeze?” “If done right, no can defend.” (Movie trivia time…)
After a while of great playtime, she ran out of steam and just wanted me to hold her on the couch in the lobby. But not just any couch, mind you. It HAD to be the couch we had chilled on (“on which we had chilled?”) every day we had been there. So we got settled with her wrapped up in the sheet we got from the recovery room and I must admit, I don’t mind doing it. Unfortunately, we had been settled no more than 10 minutes when they called us in.
The traditional singing of Frosty ensued. They’re starting to get pretty good at it and CJ sang along. Of course, it’s all about making her going to sleep a good experience. “If they go to sleep well, they wake up well.” It’s kind of a mantra here. All these treatment places have traditions and ways for patients and their families to stay focused on the end like the bell that chemo patients ring at the end of treatment (Dog! Dog! Dog!) Anyway, the proton center has a gong and they make these calendars for the patients that count down to the last treatment and they made a beautiful one for Charlotte.
Side note: That was actually the second time Frosty had been sung to her today. The other ambu-guy, Doug, had an earworm going that was really odd. “Santa Clause Is Coming To Town” was going through his head so I decided to manipulate him a little. I told him about Frosty and CJ and I sang the first verse. Buy the time we were done with the first set of “thumpity thump thump”s, we were at the center and Doug had a new earworm! (how does one do an evil face?) Olive Sacs would have a field day with this guy!
Treatment #4 (29 to go) went very well and we headed back to the hospital.
Then the munchy flood gates opened! After we got resettled, I pulled out mac n cheese, she ate it. Mandarin oranges? Gone! Snuck in some magnesium citrate. No hesitation. She ate pretzels, brownies, an entire chocolate milkshakeshake, a tortilla and she took her senna with almost no trouble!
This is a tale of two Charlotte’s. The difference between three days ago and now is so profound, even Dr. Wolf was forced to reconsider things. He came by last night (does the guy ever go home?) to see about CJ and was very happy with her progress. The neck is still stiff but whatever was making her nauseous and not interested in eating has passed. Yea! Looks like we may get out tomorrow (Saturday).
(It’s now Saturday and I will see my wife in just a few hours!)
Accutane is definitely the chemo drug happening starting Sat (today). Dr. Wolff wanted to start it last night but there wasn’t any in the hospital. Also, they’re going to compound it so we don’t have to worry about cutting the top off the pill and mixing it with something. The MRI from just after the third surgery hasn’t showed up yet so it’ll have to wait until next week to do the comparison.
Off to left field…Watching Pres. Obama talk about the newest education initiative. Lots of big ideas and fancy talk but I have yet to hear him say much about music. When is everyone going to realize how essential the arts, music in particular, are to education? More and more research comes out all the time saying how important music is to brain development, socialization, gross and fine motor skills, you name it. Multiple areas of the brain are utilized when experiencing/making music, parts of the brain actually grow larger when one studies music. You want a cause to support, get school boards and other LOCAL government officials to make the arts a priority in public schools instead of always making them the first thing to go.
OK, I’m done. Have a nice day. Fly safe and comfy, Dear.

Friday, July 24, 2009

All is Much Better

We all had a much better night last night and day today. We keep getting rides in ambulances and I think Charlotte is developing a thing for one of the "Ambu-Guys," Isreal. It must be the ponytail, goatee and earring. Hey, wait a minute!!! ::-)
The Bonitas are uber-helpful as usual. When we got settled in the hospital room, Juanita stayed with Charlotte and Dad and I went to get dinner downstairs. It was wonderful because I got to have Chick-fil-a for the first time in 2 weeks or so. It was also bad because I haven’t had hardly any fast food in that amount of time so the fried food sure did a number on me! Still working that out (so to speak).
Sitting down with Dad was so strange. Mostly because I wasn’t sitting next to Charlotte and I wasn’t freaking out about anything. And boy, did I feel tired!
So this am she ate a little and we had a relatively quiet morning. She still seemed a little sullen but her fluids sure are "fluiding."

The ambulance folk showed up at about 1:30 to take CJ to the proton center this time Isreal came with Laura (who reminded me a huge amount of one of our fellow Romp n’ Roll franchise owners). This time we got there very early and waited for about an hour until our appointment time. Grandpa held her on his lap for most of that time. She sure loves her Grandpa!
After she went in (with the accompanying rendition of Frosty. I hope she doesn’t get sick of it but her little hand out for “STOP!” just tickles the staff to no end) the Bonitas and I went back to The House so I could check mail (stuff keeps coming in, thanks), get a few things, and eat. Juanita made me some amazingly good stew and we were treated to another big o’ hairy thunderstorm that dumped a large amount of rain on our area.
Radiation treatment #3 went fine and CJ was in the recovery room when we got back. The Bonitas (isn’t that a kind of sport fish?) had to go check on the dog and awnings on the RV so they left planning to meet back up at the hospital.
Not much else happened until the ambu-guys showed up to take us back. It was Laura and Isreal again (that guy keeps showing up! Gotta go clean my shotgun! If I had one, that is). One thing I’m going to say about the drivers, they have to have super senses of direction because the maze that is MDAnderson Cancer Center is mind boggling. I do pretty well with directions and I’ve been so turned around multiple times, if I had been alone, I would have ended up like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
Charlotte was actually feeling much better and was chatting up a storm. Laura had never seen the real Charlotte and was amazed.
So after we got resettled in the hospital room, Dr. Wolff came by to do what he does and work out what he thought might be a good plan of action. The short-term plan is to keep watching her at least one more day, do the new routine of hang out here, ride the ambulance ( Isreal is off tomorrow so I don’t have to worry about him!  ), and see how she improves. He was happy with the looseness of her legs but her neck is still stiff. She interacted with him pretty well and smiled for him. It definitely helps that he’s a friend of Dr. Kahn, “one of my favorite doctors!”
As far as the chemo goes, he is deferring to Dr. Mahajan (radiation oncologist) who feels uncomfortable having her on the multiple drugs for which her protocol calls so I think they will only be doing one. Dr. Wolff mentioned Acutane but that’s the one that really dries out the skin so that may not end up being the one.
After Dr. Wolff left, the Bonitas came back and Dad and I turned right around and went to the Target for sinus headache stuff for me (nothing happening now but just in case) and a Clifford video. We didn’t find one but I found a cheap Thomas video and one with several Nick Jr. characters doing bedtime stories including, but not limited to, Wonder Pets, Blue, and Dora. Perfect.
We got back to Juanita teaching CJ about swimming in chocolate pools (not a bad thing at all) and to say “AWESOME!” (could be a bad thing). She was feeling restless so we went for a walk!!! She was raring to go and didn’t have to asked twice. It’s the first walking she’d done since Wednesday and that wasn’t much. I guess it was the first real walking since Tuesday night.
The rest is actually nice and boring. The Bonitas left, Charlotte and I snuggled on the bed for a bit, I got into my jammies, and here I am typing the update. I can deal with boring for a few days.
There! Got it done in under 3 pages!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Charlotte Admitted to the Hospital

I know everyone is probably chomping at the bit for some kind of update. I can't do it justice so Roger will need to give the full rundown but suffice it to say it's been a rough 24-48 hours or so for Roger and Charlotte.

Here's the brief update:
First day of radiation ran late and really long.
She got nauseous and started vomiting about 1 AM.
Had second day of radiation BUT also saw oncology doc and there were concerns that she might have some kind of bug. She got admitted to the hospital so they could give her fluids and monitor her progress. Hopefully won't be admitted for long.

That's about as much as I know.

Also (fortunately) Bob and Juanita are now in Houston so Roger has some backup support.

I will let him supply further details. Last time I talked to him, he was really tired. I'm hoping he got some rest.

As for me, I'm hanging in there. Working a lot and can't believe it's almost my turn to go to TX. Had a really good meeting with Dr. Matt yesterday (always helps) and work has been going well. I've had some great angels bringing me meals, flowers, and other bits of sunshine to brighten my days.

Gotta go get ready for another busy day.

Rachel

Update:

Guess what? This one’s tipping 5 pages in Word! Rachel's post was pretty much IT in a nutshell so if you only want shells, that's all you need. Go get some coffee. If you want nuts keep reading. And go get a whole pot!
MAN! I hate it when I'm right (and I'm right so rarely I should appreciate it).

The last couple of days have been brutal. I haven't felt awake enough, or had enough free time while awake to post on CB but hopefully my little blurbs on Facebook helped some of you get at least a partial fix. Not sure I can make it long tonight. (Actually I didn’t. I had to put down the laptop and sleep. It’s now 4:45am)

So we're in the hospital. I mean the actual hospital, admitted for observation because Charlotte isn't eating and threw up four times today. including once right in front of Dr. Wolff.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Yesterday (Tuesday) started her proton therapy treatments and Charlotte had trouble from the start. We had to wake up at the buttcrack of dawn to try and get her to eat something before she went NPO at 5:30am. No-go. She wasn’t interested and I don’t blame her. My problem at the time (and there were many on Monday) was that she wasn’t going to get to eat all day and there is always food floating around The House. I wanted to minimize CJ’s suffering by at least getting her to eat something. As I Said, no-go.
So I let her sleep and she didn’t eat all day. It really wasn’t an issue because she hasn’t been eating much and she didn’t ask for anything. Her appointment at the proton therapy clinic was (supposedly) at 2:30pm. On MYMDAnderson.com, it actually said 2pm and, as I have since found out, the clinic had 3:30. But I didn’t know that so let’s not taint the post too early.
She slept in again and I didn’t disturb her to make the time between awake and food as small as possible. When we finally got up, we did the usual, watch a video, go downstairs, play with shoestrings, etc.
I mentioned her “stiffening up” before and it has been slowly but steadily getting worse. I was going to mention it to the Drs. at Wednesday’s appointment. She’s getting to the point that she doesn’t like to sit up. She’s also very lethargic which isn’t a good sign.
There are shuttles that go around the medical center from The House and the only one that would get us to the proton center on time for the 2:30 appt. leaves at 12:45 so we had to take that one and get there early. Not a problem, I always have stuff for her to do. She hasn’t really been the mood to do anything except be held or play with shoestrings anyway.
So we got there very early and checked in. Who knows? Maybe they could get her in early. (Writing that now I think to myself, “you silly, na├»ve little man.”) At least they got her in to get the vitals. Then we went out the lobby and waited. And waited. And waited…(Remember the John Houston version of the story of Noah?)
Finally, at about 3:30, I asked someone to go check and they came back and told me they were backed up (REALLY?!?) and Charlotte is up next. Well in proton radiation-speak, that could mean a long time. Most of these treatments are at least an hour long, the place has a steady flow of patients, and there are three “gantries.” The hours stack up. Which is why we were sitting there at 4pm waiting for what was originally supposed to be a 2:30pm appointment. Charlotte never complained or told me she was hungry the whole time. She was not feeling well I could tell and I just bundled her up and held her on my lap while she slept and I stewed. It was a very hard time sitting there letting my thoughts spiral around like they will do when I get riled. It also let in the “what if” demons and a couple times I just about lost it right there in the lobby. What really bugged me was that no one seemed concerned enough about us to at least keep us informed.
And then, with a lobby scattered with patients, many of whom are almost assuredly NPO (couldn’t eat), one of the doctors actually comes out and starts offering people chocolate! WHAT?!? I’m sure it was a gesture made with the best of intentions but incredibly unenlightened.
FINALLY after 4:30 (Charlotte was going on 20 hours since she ate last), they took her in and hardly anyone apologized for the delay and the sorries I got were superficial and insincere. I was livid by the time I carried her in to the Gantry that I had a hard time even talking to anyone. I wanted to break stuff, call people names, and write nasty emails. They know from before that CJ love Frosty so they had the lyrics already printed out and waiting and even that didn’t help. Charlotte wasn’t feeling great anyway so we didn’t sing. I really wanted to appreciate the scope of what was about to happen to her but I just took a couple pictures and left. Man! I was mad.
Now that she was in, I could eat something and when I went to get a snack, insult was added to injury. In retrospect, I realize this is a very silly thing to get upset over and a waste of energy but here’s where my head was at the time: In a rare attempt to eat healthy, I was going to get something other than the honey bun I got last time and realized the only thing remotely healthy was a little bag of peanuts and I just didn’t want that. I noticed anything of any “heft” was $1.25 so I stuck my $1 in and pulled out another dollar to chase but the machine wouldn’t take more than one dollar at a time. I didn’t have a quarter. Apparently neither did anyone else around me. It didn’t take $5s. There was no change machine. Internally, I blew up. My thoughts went from dark to biggest, meanest, hurricane storm cloud black. Had anyone spoken to me, or worse, asked me how I was, I think I would have just screamed in their face uncontrollably. I mean, these guys are supposed to be the absolute best IN THE WORLD at what they do and they have taken pains to make the environment as calm and “healing” as possible but they couldn’t think of a little detail like a freaking change machine or machines that take more than a dollar?!?
THEN! Noone called me back to the recovery room once she was done so it was almost two hours later (reminded of the time by my lovely wife) before I popped my head in to ask what was up. She had already woken up in the back and was getting her wits back. Talk about “when it rains it pours!” Things kept piling up so much I was beginning to think I had been set up.
Breathe. In-out-in-out
OK. Now you know how my annual freakout works. As I’ve said in a previous post, it’s turned into a monthly occurrence. I’m actually keeping a close eye on myself to make sure I’m not seriously losing it. That in itself is probably a warning sign, eh. Need to ask Matt about that. I’m doing “guitar therapy” on myself, staying very focused on CJ (once she was out of my control was when I melted down so I will need there distraction of working at Romp n’ Roll all the time) and trying to stay connected to everyone. Not doing regular CB updates takes its toll too. I’m telling you, it’s therapy.
Moving on, I did write that nasty email to MDAnderson and actually got results. They actually have a patient advocate and she filed a complaint in our name which is fine especially if they refine their policies.
OK, I said moving on. Charlotte went through her first therapy with no hitches and when I got back to her, she ate a fruit cup. The process had taken so long, we missed the last shuttle back to The House so they called us a cab. It’s not far and only cost $5 or so. I’m not sure but the woman (and her little boy) who rode back with us paid the fare and wouldn’t take any money from me. “Next time,” she said.
When we got back, they were playing BINGO and giving out some really amazing donated prizes. Charlotte wasn’t interested of course and just wanted to go into the playroom. That didn’t last long and it was off to bed. Good because we had an early appointment in the morning at the main hospital. I was feeling pretty wrung out so I just closed everything up and was asleep by 10.
Now there are few sounds in the world that strike fear into the heart of a parent than the tell-tale gurgling of a child about to throw up; especially in the middle of the night. I heard those sounds at around 1am. It yanked me from my sleep but I wasn’t fast enough with the bucket it went on the bed. I held her up, let her finish, and then got her cleaned up and gave her a zofran. I also stripped the bed and started a late night load of laundry (Man, is THAT a nice perc of The House.)
She threw up again about 4:45 and once more at around 6 but there was no fever and I figured it was just a little side effect of the proton therapy. I think in the end might have been part right. After the last episode, we just got up and got ready.
We walked to the main hospital because for some reason, CJ refused to get out of her stroller to get into the bus. No biggie, I need the exercise. When we got there, what I thought was a regular Dr.s visit ended up being an opthomology assessment. It was a bust because by now, CJ has become the most anti-social, uncooperative patient ever. It didn’t help that the eye doc kept shaking toys in her face and asking her 5 questions in a row without waiting for an answer and she asked “bad” questions at that. Rachel would have had a field day with her. Finally, I had had enough of it and ended the pointless berating telling her we would have to reschedule. My observation: a drawer full of toys doesn’t make you good with kids.
Can you tell I’m becoming disillusioned with MD Anderson at this point?
Next I went next door full of my daddy self determined to get some answers and see some people who, for some reason, weren’t communicating with us after we made it abundantly clear multiple times that we needed that. I checked in, told the receptionist that I really needed to find out what was going on with the chemo schedule and what we needed to do next. She got us squeezed in to see one of the nurses who took blood from CJ and then they put us in a room to wait for Dr. Wolff whom I had already seen running around looking very busy. I wasn’t feeling optimistic.
Then Dr. Wolff went and spoiled my mood. He single handedly renewed my faith in our purpose by coming in relatively soon, bringing his crew including Nurse Reh, who is his version of Dr. Tye’s Joanne, and did what I like second best about him (the best being that he’s a darn good oncologist), he sifted through the crap around the story, compiled information in his brain out loud right in front of us, and in a very short time, convinced me that CJ was actually dehydrated, had a bug that was probably easily treated, decided to admit her for observation and noticed the stiffness without my help. He actually said it was a classic sign of meningitis or a related condition although he said if it were really full blown meningitis, she would be a lot sicker.
He also asked me questions about what I think! Imagine that! I told him the impression I had gotten from my discussion from Dr. Vats about the tumor growing and the cancer cells in the spine. I think what I said jibed with his discussions with Dr. Vats so he finally told me what he thinks. He doesn’t think the tumor has grown but he needs the previous scan to tell for sure. Dr. Kahn was supposed to have sent it but no one can find it. Rachel is going to try to get a copy on disc to bring with her on Saturday.
(And now for something completely different: my belly makes a great laptop table!)
OK, I’m back. Dr. Wolff also suspects the cells in the spine have been there longer than everyone thinks. Another clue that it probably isn’t growing. He also said something interesting. He had mentioned how busy they were and the lack of rooms and I said I was sorry for throwing a monkey wrench into his day.
“Nonsence!” he said. "She’s a sick child, I love to treat sick children. The sicker they are the better.” I don’t think it came out quite right but I know what he meant. He’s up for it.
He didn’t want to interrupt the proton treatments because if it was actually something caused by the tumor, he didn’t want to get in the way of that. So Nurse Reh arranged an ambulance ride for us! Charlotte got to ride on a gurney through the halls and then in an ambulance to the proton center. First time I’ve ever been in an ambulance too. No lights or siren though. Oh well, I’m actually thankful we didn’t need them.
Before we left however, they hooked up a bag o’ fluids to her and she got rehydrated. Talk about a difference! She perked up and became quite chatty. By the way, she can see fine. She can see tiny pictures up close and identified pictures out in the hall from inside the room.
Day two at the proton center was like Charlotte after she poops (I just couldn’t have a post with no poop references!), completely different. We actually got there a bit after we were supposed to be there but right on time for the appointment and they rolled her right in. I carried her in to the Gantry and this time she was into the singing of Frosty (me too). She even did the “STOP!” with her hand when we got to that part. Then the happy juice kicked in and the last I heard was, ”That’s my favorite {zonk!}
In anticipation of the upcoming slumber party, I took the MDAnderson shuttle back to the main hospital intending to walk over to The House to get provisions from the room. I called my dad to see where they were in terms of getting into town and they said they were just getting ready to park at the main hospital! That was handy. So we met up, drove over to The House and I got stuff. We drove back to the proton center just in time to go see Charlotte in the recovery room. When she woke up and saw Grandpa KATIE BAR THE DOOR! I hadn’t seen that much energy out of that girl in a week. She sure loves her men. Grandma Juanita Bonita was all over her too “gettin’ lots o’ sugar.”
We got another ambulance ride back to the hospital and got settled in to our private room with shower. By the time we got here, she had closed back down and I don’t think she’s very happy to be here. Nice facilities, though. That’s another post.
Last night she had some juice and this morning she ate 4 crackers, a large pretzel, and most of a bag of 100 calorie pack Girl Scout cookies so at least something is going in.
So here we are at 8:15am, she went back to sleep pretty easily after some Blue’s Clues. Can’t wait to show her the playroom here. Pretty boss dude! Think she may need a diaper change.

Update:

A relatively short update:

The end

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

This One Will Be Another Epic

Wow! Y'all had to wait nearly two full days for an update. Sorry it took so long. This one will be another epic. In Word it was 4 pages long!

Just got done trading harrassments with my wife so now I'll concentrate on the update.

To start off, Katie Udell down under, the t-shirt was made by the mother of one of our friends and Romp n' Roll regulars, Megan Blake (also, and most unfortunately, another Caringbridge member). I told her she could start a little cottage industry making those. By the way Megan's mom, any way we could get a new pink one in a 5-t for Charlotte (her's is getting a little grimy and she loves wearing it) and a matching one in Large for a woman here at The House? I'll GLADLY pay for both. I'm telling you, they would be lining up if they could get them out.
OK, wow, where to start. Yesterday, we sort of slept in and still noodled around part of the morning after we got up. I was going to try to go the big dog show that was going on at the Reliant Center just down the road. If figured CJ would like it and I knew I would totally love it. Especially if I got to see some of my favorite breeds up close.
Things were progressing nicely, we were getting dressed, snacking, reading, watching videos…Then I tried to get CJ to brush her teeth. Holy Mother of Rhodes! Saying she had a melt-down is like saying the QE2 is a big boat! And we had been doing great up till now.
Thus started about a two hour wrestling match during which I actually got her to promise that if I didn’t make her brush her teeth, then she had to take her vitamins. That lasted until she got a vitamin, which she used to LOVE, near her mouth. Melt-down Part Deux! Then it just dissolved into crying and screaming for no apparent reason. She told me that. I asked her why she was crying and she said she didn’t know but she certainly was shedding a river of tears. I tried to take her downstairs to play…no deal. When I finally did get her down to the lobby, she found occasion to cry at every turn. She wasn’t mad at me as she clung to me on the couch and didn’t want to let go.
I had spoken to a woman earlier about bringing her daughter with us and “carpooling” to the dog show (her daughter was to undergo brain surgery on Monday-today) but I wasn’t sure we’d even get out the door the way things were going.
When it got to be now or never time, Charlotte settled down and told me she still wanted to go to the dog show so we packed up and headed out. I wasn’t feeling very optimistic that CJ would last very long but one cute thing she did was leave Mickey on the bed saying that Mickey was a mouse and we were going to a dog show. Then I suggested we take Rompy and she thought that was mildly amusing.
From here out, she was an angel. Guess she just had to get it out of her system. She sat in the stroller and actually wanted to be where Calle and her mom were and paid attention to the dogs we were viewing. She really like the obstacle course where the dogs jump steeples, go in and out of slaloms, and zoom through tunnels.
We saw dogs of every shape and size including a great dane that seriously considered devouring Rompy and I got to see some of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen in my life. Alaskan huskies, bull mastiffs (one was 225lbs!), and the biggie, Bernese mountain dogs! Ah, yes. Go here and feast your eyes. http://www.google.com/search?q=bernese+mountain+dog&rls=com.microsoft:en-us&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&startIndex=&startPage=1
I didn’t get to see any Irish wolfhounds which are the other favorite of mine but there we lots of Bernies to behold. There were booths with the various breed rescue organizations and I saw the beagle booth but they only had one very old beagle that wasn’t very representative of the breed. Seemed kind of strange. I saw no other beagles the whole time we were there. Beagles and beagle mixes are just about the most common kind of shelter dog (at least around Virginia) and they make awesome pets. We’ve rescued all of our animals and totally recommend everyone do the same. I love looking at the purebreds but in the end, a shelter dog is a better choice for us.
So, back to the story, after a bit, Charlotte actually got out of the stroller and walked quite a while. We then decided the kids had seen enough and we headed back. It was a very nice event and the fact that it was 5 minutes from The House was bonus.
Later that night we went to the airport to pick up the Beazleys and relinquish the truck. It was coming up on 9:30pm by the time we picked them up and started back and Charlotte zonked on the way. In the confusion of the load-out at The House, I left my cell phone in the truck! Talk about fortuitous circumstances, I didn’t have either of their numbers memorized and almost panicked BUT, it just so happens that I had started compiling a list of our Houston contacts “just in case.” I was actually going to leave the Beazleys numbers off because, hey, they’re already programmed into our phones…Good thing I ignored that impulse. They just happened to stop off at a nearby drugstore and were still close so it wasn’t a big deal to swing back around.
Silly me. Lucky me!
Now to today (which by now is yesterday!).
This morning I woke up at 3am wide awake and it took a long time to wind down. Then as I was dozing back off at about 4, Charlotte decided to wake up. And I mean with vigor! She started talking and singing loudly, very clearly and very wide awake, and as soon as she realized I was awake, she just HAD to be in my bed. So over she came. Fortunately, she fell back asleep sometime around 6 (not sure because I dozed too) and slept in until almost 10!
She had about as lazy a day as ever while I puttered around doing laundry (did the sheets, pillowcases, etc…as well), playing online and cleaning the room. I figured we need to straighten things up and clean for when CJ’s counts plummet which they’re supposed to. Back to germophobe 101.
One of the better events of the day, as usual, was poop. Three sizable poops to be exact and every time, she turned into a different Charlotte, a little bit happier each time. Quite honestly, I can’t say where it all came from. It didn’t seem she had eaten enough to account for all of it but I’ll take it.
Another thing she’s been doing is taking my running shoes (it HAS to be the running shoes) and pulling out the shoelaces. She plays around with it for a while and then re-laces the shoes, CJ style. This activity has taken up HOURS of her time the past week. It’s good for her fine motor skills, keeps her in one place, I don’t mind wearing one shoe at a time around the lobby.
The one not so good development I’ve noticed is that she has gotten stiffer in her legs and although I’ve been stretching and massaging them, she needs a real PT/massage therapist to work on her. I’ll check into that tomorrow.
Speaking of tomorrow…The past 3-4 days have been days I'll never forget for as long as I live. I didn't think I could bond with Charlotte any more than we already had but especially today, it has been filling me up. We’ve been doing very little, actually, but the whole “vibe” today has been next to magical. Just little things like honking noses, following each other aimlessly around the lobby, her telling me over and over, the subplots in her Dora and Blue's Clues videos, etc…
There's a certain bitter-sweet quality to it and the last part of the movie "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" keeps intruding into my thoughts, the part where the androids bring the “mother” back to life for one day so the “son” can see her again and have that one perfect day and, of course, nobody in the audience wants it to end.
These have been her last few "good" days before starting up the proton radiation/chemo and I can’t help but dread the inevitable downward spiral (which, by the way, is becoming her favorite shape. How deep is that?) waiting for us as treatment, and the family fun side effects, begin to take their toll. I’m so appreciative of having these special days with Charlotte. I’m sorry Rachel wasn’t here for them since she will be coming back after the treatments begin and will have to deal with the “sunburn,” the chemo, the oh-so-fun temozolomide (there are chocolate bars in the bin in the fridge) pretty much as soon as she steps off the plane.
I just want to hold her and kiss her all the time (I think she’s getting irritated with the kissing part). It’s 1:30am and I don’t want to go to sleep, even though we have to get up super early to eat something before she goes NPO at 5:30am, because she’s over there less than three feet away from me sleeping like a little angel and I can’t get enough of her.
Fortunately, there will be support here for us during the most trying times as Grandpa and Grandma Bonita are headed this way and the New Mexico contingent will be here the 8th of August. We are also developing quite the Houston based network of people who know people following Charlotte’s progress.
The letters and packages are starting to come in. Thanks to all for those.
Now for something COMPLETELY different! I NEVER do these sorts of things on Facebook (surveys, quizzes, junk like that, especially where you’re supposed to tag people to do the same quiz or whatever). I really LOATH doing those, but one finally caught my interest. It’s the “put your ipod on shuffle and make a list of the first 15 songs that come up” game. Now, I had seen this before and I was like, “Whatever.” But local Richmond musician, Desiree Roots did it and sent her list to me. Her list was so cool, I figured she'd appreciate mine. I didn’t “tag” anyone or anything like that. I just put there for her and all to see. And it came out very cool! Here’s what came up…
1) Bills, Bills, Bills - Jonathan Coulton
2) London Bridge Is Falling Down - Romp n' Roll training songs
3) Union House Branch - Allison Krauss & Union Station
4) Digging In The Dirt (Live Version) - Peter Gabriel
5) Southern Soldier Boy - Southern Horizon Civil War Band
6) Simplicate - Upper Left Trio
7) On Your Way Down - Little Feat
8) Happy Trails - Veggie Tales
9) Hold On - Yes
10) Bangs - They Might Be Giants
11) Story Of Little Boy - Tommy Emmanuel (story, not a song)
12) At The Still Point - The Story
13) A Token Of My Extreme - Frank Zappa
14) In A Silent Way (DJ Cam Remix) - Miles Davis
15) Come Over To My House And Play - Veggie Tales
16) Speak Low - Dianne Reeves (bonus due to 11 not being an actual song)

So we step into the next part of the journey in just a few hours. I can't tell you how much we appreciate all the thoughts, prayers, beams of gold and silver light, etc...sent our way. We certainly don't feel alone.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Journal Post from Rachel

So I realized that I hadn't done a journal post in quite a while, so here it is...

Life without hubby and daughter is surreal, kinda lonely and VERY quiet. I'm definitely busy with work so when I come home I pretty much just veg out in front of the TV or on Facebook or something brainless like that.

It's funny how much longer it takes the dishwasher or laundry basket to fill up and it's SO much easier to keep the house clean (especially when nobody is living in it). It helps that my parents and Kolbey did a major house cleaning while we were in TX so I came back to a sparkling pad (thanks).

I have really appreciated all of the kind words and support that have come to me through emails, facebook updates, folks stopping in at romp n' roll, etc. I've had invites out and meals cooked for me (thanks, Beth!) and I am really feeling nurtured and supported. That is great. I think I am also (finally) accepting the fact that it is OK for me to take some time to do NOTHING on occasion. That's not a natural way for me to live my life but constant stress will help you realize how important a break from work and daily activities can be. I'm learning how to "treat" myself and put myself first every once in a while. As any mom can tell you, that's not an easy thing to do.

Yes, I'm still sad. The news of the week was definitely not a morale booster. This cancer keeps hanging heavily over our heads and our hearts and it still makes my heart (and body) ache. I am convinced that we are in the right place and I think of all of the fortuitous events that got us here:

If Charlotte had been older, we would have started radiation immediately (rather than waiting and starting chemo first). If that were the case, we would most certainly have stayed at MCV and probably would never have explored the option of proton beam radiation. It probably wouldn't have even hopped up on our radar (yes, pun intended!). By going the chemo route first, we have been able to see how aggressive and mean this tumor is but it has enabled us to connect with the amazing doctors at MD Anderson. I am grateful to Dr. Khan for his knowledge, experience, and connections to such a fabulous facility. I don't think we would be in Texas right now if it weren't for him. Also, while it's hard to be away from each other right now, I think Roger and I have now developed a better rhythm in terms of how we are dealing and coping with this event on our lives and that makes the separation a little easier right now (as opposed to six months ago). Yes. Tomorrow will be SIX MONTHS since her diagnosis. We have reached the half year mark.

I just want to segue for a moment and brag about my husband. Yes, he is a GREAT DAD. You all know that and helped to get him the recognition he so deserves. He is also my partner, my teammate. We've been married for almost 12 years and we've been together for almost 15 years. That's a long time. We don't always agree and we frequently drive each other crazy but I could never imagine my life without him and we wouldn't be dealing with all of this as well as we are without that strong bond. I just wanted to take a moment to get "mushy" (as Roger would say) and acknowledge what a great person he is and what a great team we are.

Ok, collective: AWWWWWWWW....

I must switch gears, close up shop, and get ready to go to work. My next "day off" from romp n' roll will be in a week. When I will be in Texas. Crazy life we lead....

Rachel

Saturday, July 18, 2009

We Watched the Sunrise

Charlotte woke up bright and early this morning and we watched the sunrise through our window. It was pretty nice but already very hot so no chance of early morning playground activity.

A needs request: The Ronald McDonald House here is in need of fold-down, plastic, wall-mounted, Koala brand or similar diaper changing tables in at least the two downstairs bathrooms. All they have is a dresser in the hallway between the two that they call a diaper changing table but it has no rim or safety strap or anything. It's just a dresser.

I can probably install them myself and with my dad coming, I think I could probably enlist his help with that. If anyone knows of a company somewhere in the Houston area that supplies that sort of thing and would like to donate two, please let me know. I'll also work on it from this end.

Back to our story...After a while we went downstairs for applesauce and chocolate milk. We got a call from a friend of a friend who works at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and he offered to hook us up with some passes! HECK YEAH!

The Beazleys let me use their truck while they are out of town so I took the opportunity to head over to a nearby Target and spend some of the gift cards we've been given. some fresh books and videos for CJ and a new of cheap sunglasses for me since I can't find the ones I brought with me. I do that a lot. That's why I buy cheap ones.

Then it was off to the museum. (I'm getting to know my way around town pretty well!)

The museum was very cool and we got to see dinosaurs, a mammoth (maybe a mastodon - not sure), a giant sloth that makes the one in Daytona Beach look puny, animal displays that reminded me disturbingly of Night At The Museum, the very cool Terra Cotta Warriors, and the coolest of all, the butterfies. There were some amazing butterflies in there.

Charlotte pooped out before we could get to the Diamond display but she, surprizingly, liked the Terra Cotta Warriors mostly because of the horses they had. She also found the concept of someone made up like one of the statues and scaring the crap out of people as they walked by very amusing.

When we came back to The House, there was food being served by yet another organization and I chowed while she played in the toyroom. She's eating a little so I'm not hyper concerned but it ain't much. Applesauce, some dry cheerios, and she's drinking plenty. Stop obsessing Roger.

We came back to the room with our new found treasures and after a little Dora, she was out. For three hours.

We have most of the flights back and forth set with

Update:

Not sure what was up with the partial journal post. Must have gotten distracted. (Who, me???)

All I was going to say was that we got most of the flights booked with ride requests in to the Houston Ground Angels.

I wanted to let you know that it's now 11:45pm Houston time and Charlotte barely turned over to go to sleep 15 minutes ago! 3-hour naps will do that to ya. So she'll sleep in maybe.

I also wanted to share another story. A family of 4 daughters and their parents, the mother expecting her 5th(!) a boy this time, came to The House the day before us and we've been passing pleasantries and watching out for each other's kids and all that but tonight I finally met them.

The boy, Connor, is the patient! He has a blocked bladder and they have been perfoming surgeries (3 now) in utero to place shunts to help drain the bladder. Connor keeps pulling them out. Mom said the last sonogram was a pic of Connor with his eyes open, toungue sticking out, and the end of the tube dangling defiantly in his hand. I told her I want a copy of that one!

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Couple Days Off

Wow, a day off. A couple actually. I'm planning to have quite the weekend with Charlotte if she'll let me. I actually have a little planning to do.

Harry Potter was very good. They really messed with the ending so if you're planning to go see it, don't expect the book. There were at least two major plot revisions and one sizable inconsistancy that I think they did on purpose. We'll see how they resolve it in the last movie.

Merrilee said Charlotte was nigh on perfect and the easiest babysitting gig ever. I'm not surprized.

After the movie, I accidentally (there are no such things as accidents, right?) took the other exit out of the parking garage and found myself needing to turn around to head back to The House. I figured I'd just turn at the next light and head back in that general direction. That's when I saw the COSTCO. I found a COSTCO! And it was beautiful. Bananas, really good bread, Horizon organic chocolate milk, cheese, more cheese! AH! Some people need chocolate, some need drugs and alcohol. COSTCO helps me cope.

There's a carnival today after lunch and I'm thinking there's some mini skeeball in our future.

Charlotte is resting at the moment. Not sleeping but doing her quite, self amusement thing she does sometimes. She didn't want to leave the room today so I honored that. Her appetite sure isn't what it used to be lately. I did at least get her to eat a cup of applesauce. Fluids aren't a problem. The apple juice (thanks Merrillee) and the chocolate milk (thank you, COSTCO! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!...ahem...sorry) are flowing liberally and the diapers are heavy. No luck potty training but at least she's now letting me brush her teeth every day. Small victories.

I did laundry last night which makes me feel good. Especially the folding part. Very zen. I picked that up from Gregory Hines. Well, not PERSONALLY. He said it in an interview on 60 Minutes or 20/20 or something like that many years ago and it stuck in my head.

Gotta go plan the weekend.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Some Bad, But Not Unexpected News

Hi all,
Huge post ahead.
Some bad, but not unexpected news: While Charlotte was in her neurocognitive assessment playing games with the two ladies (whose names I've already forgotten, sorry), I got to look at the latest MRI scans with Dr. Vats (Dr. Wolfe's colleague). We didn't have the post-3rd surgery scan for comparison but the tumor is definitely still there in bits and pieces and possibly still growing. I'm going on the assumption that it's growing.

Dr. Vats also said that there was evidence that it has spread into the upper spine (again, not altogether unexpected) although the computer he used to show me the scans didn't have enough resolution to pick up what he saw on his own computer so I didn’t actually see it. I’ll take his word for it.

Now, before anyone totally freaks out, it's certainly not good news by any stretch of the imagination but the proton radiation protocol has already accounted for the possibility and now we know that it was necessary to plan for head and spine after all. That starts next Tuesday.
Dr. Vats was still very positive and confident that we’re headed down the right path. He did say that he would bring Charlotte’s case before the “tumor board” on Monday to elicit opinions and also that he would explore the possibility of injecting chemo drugs directly into her spine via an LP once every two weeks, adding to Dr. Tye’s recommendation of “throwing the book at it.”
On a good note, CJ wowed them in the assessment with her vocabulary. They’ll get back to us with the official results of the testing as soon as they tally up everything. Dr. Vats was also happy with the recovery of CJ’s left side.
I’ve had several messages from people worrying about how I’m doing emotionally and all that. First off, thanks for the concern. It does mean a lot to me to have so many folks concerned about us.
I’m hanging in there. I’m nowhere close to thriving and I have my off moments but I feel like I’m dealing pretty well. I’ve been thinking very deep and hard about my/our situation and I feel about as focused as I’ve ever felt in my entire life. Crisis sure brings perspective down to a pinpoint, doesn’t it? Nothing else matters besides my daughter’s fight against the cancer. If I have any concerns for myself, it’s how I will deal with things after everything plays out (however it plays out). Different scenarios (best and worst) run through my head all the time but so far they haven’t distracted me from the here and now. I guess I’ll have to figure that out when I get there.
I can’t really speak for Rachel but I think she’s doing a little better. Today’s news didn’t help but she’s using her resources at home, MCV (mostly Dr. Matt), and within the circle of friends & family, and finding more solid footing. Romp n’ Roll is keeping her occupied (my turn when we switch) and Meredith orchestrated a day at Diva’s for her so that will help too! Anyone wanting to donate to that cause can send checks to me.
We will need support in Houston as the proton therapy and chemo kicks in and leaves CJ less functional. My dad has offered to come out as early as next Wednesday and stay for about a week. If anyone was planning to come out, we could use someone after that. Don’t ask me when we want you; tell me when you’re available and willing to come out between then and the end of August and I’ll plug you into the schedule.
The Beazleys have been fabulous and will continue to be. Merrilee is watching CJ tonight so I can go see Harry Potter (Brought my “Muggle” t-shirt and everything, just in case!) and they’re letting me borrow a car this weekend in the guise of having me take them to the airport tomorrow.
Now back to the important stuff, Charlotte. We went to the circus last night and although she liked the pretty horses and she got downright excited to see the elephants, she didn’t make it to the intermission. She was pretty mellow through the pre-show stuff but perked up when the lights went down. Unfortunately they were definitely trying to be Cirque de Parfait which didn’t work in such a large venue and they lost CJ pretty early on. The ringmaster was actually a pretty good Broadway-style singer from Houston who had been with the circus for a couple years now. There was a lot more song and dance stuff than I remember from the one time I saw Ringling Bros. before. There was a moderately silly Jets vs Sharks thing during the Act I finale but one thing really grabbed me. One group of clown “henchmen” came out bouncing on what I can only describe as innertubes with saddles. They did some very cool flips and such off and onto them and now I want one for my own. They also did the motorcycles in the ball trick but they kept adding more and more riders until there were 7 in there. I can’t for the life of me figure out how they all fit in there without knocking each other’s ankles.
Throughout Act I, Charlotte became more and more clingy and finally just climbed onto my lap facing me, put her head on my shoulder and zonked. She slept through the extremely loud finale so I just grabbed everything and headed out when the lights came up for intermission. I was quite the site heading up the stairs with CJ’s unconscious body in one hand, the stroller in the other, and the backpack on my back. At least she was awake on the way down to the seats.
I was going to just call a cab and go back to The House but I just happened to run into the manager of the outing and she called the bus to come get us.
A nice side line, the bus driver told me her story as we rode back to The House last night. Her son was diagnosed with leukemia back in 2000 and spent the next 4 years being treated at MDAnderson. She lived in The House for 4 years while he was treated. She gave up everything to be with him including a successful business and most of her friends and family back home. He’s now 18 and going into college and she now drives the bus for The House. She feels such a connection to the families here that she’s always willing to come in on her day off to help or cover shifts or whatever it takes to make the families’ lives just a little easier. Yet another inspirational story out of a sea of them.
So keep the positive vibes aimed at Houston (with a little left over for Richmond). We’re keeping up the good fight from our end.

Love to everyone,
Rog, Rach, & CJ

p.s. I'm using Facebook for photos and Caringbridge for updates (mostly). If you don't have Facebook and want to see pics, please have someone show you. I don't want to fool with photobucket or the others.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Good Appointments Today

Oi! I keep not learning my lesson.

Had a really long post done and I had even highlighted and copied it just in case but the computer updated itself when I was doing something with Charlotte and restarted, which I guess reset the clipboard. Drat!

Suffice to say we had good appointments today including audiology and a followup with the Children's Cancer Center.

Charlotte will NOT have to be NPO for chemo which means she can eat breakfast.

Her topotecan will be administered via IV just like at MCV.

Her temazolamide (sp?) will be compounded into liquid form. (More chocolate for breakfast!)

She won't have to tace accutane while on proton therapy due to its effect on the skin.

They hadn't read the MRI scans as of her appointment time but it should be available on Mymdanderson.org very soon if not already.

Tonight we are going to the circus at Reliant Stadium courtesy of THE HOUSE. The tree huggin hippie in me says we shouldn't go because of animal rights issues but the exhausted dad in me says my daughter will love it so we're going. I'll try to re-compose the long update later.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Update from Houston

Let's settle in for a nice long one, shall we?

I'll try to get this done by midnight.

The day started off pretty good with Rachel getting off at a decent time (thanks to Robert and the Houston Ground Angels for the lift to the airport). I understand she upgraded to business class. The ticket agent offhandedly quipped, "you deserve it." and Rachel said, "You have no idea!" You got that right!

After that, I got to get ready at a leisurely pace since our first appointment wasn't until 10:15am. I woke up Charlotte, got her ready, and we walked over to MD Anderson to start our day.

The first appointment was a chest x-ray on the 3rd floor by Elevator 7 (the world of MD Anderson revolves around what elevator your appointment is near). We got there super early and I expected to wait a very long time but I guess they didn't have all that much to do and they got us right in.

The only drama was when CJ saw the actual x-ray equipment. She's had x-rays before but this looked a little more intimidating than the other times and she started getting scared but she's smart and after I explained what was going to happen and how I PROMISED it wasn't going to hurt, she was game. They actually made her stand, which was a new one, and she did whatever the x-ray technician told her to. I got to wear this big o' lead-lined glove to both protect her lower back from the x-rays and my arm from frying while I helped hold her in place. She thought is was funny.

BTW, she has started picking up the phrase, "big o' (whatever)." She used it twice today. Sometimes she adds "hairy" to it like I do once in a while: "Charlotte, you've got a big o' hairy stinky diaper!"

But I digress

So the chest x-ray was pretty easy, early, and painless so then we tooled over to Elevator C 7th floor which is the Peds clinic where we went before to see Dr. Wolfe. We wew actually slated to go to teh second floor but they re-reouted us to the 7th floor because that's where we were supposed to be anyway. The 2nd floor is for adults.

The place was hoppin. The playroom was full of kids, the music therapist was there and he had the kids wrapped around his finger. I was a little soso on him the first time but he was jammin' today. The child life specialist from last time was there too and she remembered us, remembered where we were from, and even some little details about Charlotte's favorite things. That always impresses the hell out of me.

This segment of the day went well too. Miss/Nurse Toni drew the blood, gave CJ a little Snoopy dog (she got a "Fleece" Beanie Baby before the chest x-ray and a platypus Beanie Baby at the Proton Center yesterday!), and we headed back to the "Imaging Center" for the scheduled MRI/assessment starting at 11:30.

Now things started slowing down. It seems there was a problem with one of the machines so they were running behind. Remember that Charlotte was NPO for the second time in as many days. No food all morning and it was getting to be noon-y. Never once did she complain. We read books, watched Sid The Science Kid and Blues Clues videos until the battery in the DVD player petered out. and talked to a couple other patients there. I think the batteries petering out scared them into doing something for us so they at least let us go in the back to wait. I plugged in the DVD player in the back and we finished the Blues Clues that got interrupted out front.

Then before you know it, it was our turn. We went into the MRI room, CJ was holding on pretty tightly but not really freaking out. Again, I told her what was going to happen and it helped, I think. She got the goofey juice, she conked out and I got the next 45 minutes to myself. I went and got lunch!

The time was just after 2pm. It was supposed to start at 12noon. And the MRI lab was pretty chaotic because other doctors were trying to cram other patients in an already full dockett. Like at the Proton Clinic, CJ slept far longer than normal and this time, they had her hooked up to saline for fluids, and by the time I changed her diaper, it was a big o' hairy saturated diaper!

Well my eyes are fighting me so I'll try to finish this tomorrow.

Buenos noches and adios amoebas!
Rog

Monday, July 13, 2009

Interesting Day Yesterday

I never heard from the media folks at the Houston Astros so we decided to just go and buy tickets. They have a cool deal for the summer that children get in free. We drove down to Minute Maid Park and found a tremendous parking spot right across from the Left Field entrance. Cancer really, really sucks but some of the percs are very nice, like handicapped parking!

We got in an got settled in our very nice seats. The weather is extremely hot and humid and we were "angsting" about where we would sit so the sun wouldn't be shining right on Charlotte and where we could retreat from the heat if it got too overwhelming. We held up the line at the box office trying to get just the right seat. Turns out we didn't need to worry; the roof was closed and the weather inside was fine.

All morning long, CJ had been kind of lethargic and I was starting to get worried that maybe she was getting sick or something. The "or something" part was actually really worrying me. It's been a brutal couple of weeks within the Caringbridge community and several of the children whose stories I've been following have passed away. Whenever I hear of a child passing, I go back in the journals and read several of the posts leading up to the passing annpouncement to see what happened and how things progressed. Yesterday that practice kind of haunted me as Charlotte's energy level kept going down and I got more and more worried about what might be happening to make it happen.

At the Astros game, we went into the store to get her a hat or jersey (pink, of course) but she would have none of it. She just wanted to be held and bury her head in my shoulder.

She had no fever, she wasn't feeling sick, she wasn't in pain, and she was eating (certainly helped make a dent in a bag of popcorn and some ice cream). She even wanted to walk after a bit (bored I guess) and we walked about 3/4 of the way around the stadium before she petered out and made me carry her.

So I was at a loss to figure out what was wrong and the fear was threatening to take over.

We lasted until the 7th inning stretch and then headed home. Charlotte conked out on the way back to the house (the only other warning sign) and I took a nap too. When we got up we headed over to our hosts, the Beasley's, home for dinner. Charlotte was STILL lethargic and I was wondering if we were going to have to take her to the emergency room. The thing was, other than the low energy and the nap, nothing else stood out.

So my habit of checking out the lead-up posts on all those other Caringbridge sites was backfiring on me because I was starting to go through worst-case scenarios.

Then, all of a sudden, she seemed to brighten up remarkably and told me, "Daddy, I pooped!"

That was it. Rachel remembered her mother saying something about that kind of pattern before and we also realized that it had been multiple days since her last BM. It all made sense.

So it all comes back to poop. The theme of our lives.

After that, Charlotte was like a different kid. She was sitting on the couch, entertaining herself like usual, singing to Mickey, rading stories to herself, watching the occasional video...

We headed back to the other house (where their daughter lives) and tried to get to bed at a decent time because we had early Monday appointments. Of course CJ was now wired and we had to set her up with books and videos while we rested. Fortunately, she took my word for it that we needed to go to sleep so she let me clear things off the bed and pull up the covers.

This morning we headed out early and got the MD Anderson in plenty of time for our whirlwind day of waiting.

I keep trying to put my "day of fear" into some kind of perspective and I just can't right now. It was mostly irrational fear fed by looking at other kids' sites, most of whom had conditions not related to the PNET in Charlotte's head. I need to digest it a while longer. I also don't think I'm describing it adequately. I don't even think Rachel has a clear idea of how I was feeling. Guess she will now, sort of.

The best news of the day is that we called Ronald McDonald House and they have room for us!!! We'll be heading over tonight to get settled in. SO that means we need to contact the Hoston Ground Angels to see if they can give Rachel a ride to the airport tomorrow on very short notice.

I'm on it!

Update:

Welcome to our new home away from home. We have been admitted to the Ronald McDonald House and can be here for the next 45 days if needed. At only $25 a day, you can't beat the accommodations! It is fabulous with a play area, lots of space for cooking, we have our own room with 2 beds and a bathroom, and even the "house dog"...a labradoodle named Mogie.

We can receive mail while we are here. The address is:
1907 Holcombe Blvd
Room 27
Houston, TX 77030

The morning was pretty much spent with paperwork and an anethesia assessment and now we are just resting before our trip over to the proton center at 3 PM. Charlotte had to be NPO at 5 this morning because of the anesthesia they will use and, of course, she did not get up at 5 AM to eat so we are all trying not to eat in front of her. But mommy and daddy have to keep their strength up so we are sneaking bits of cracker and granola bar here and there. She is holding up pretty well. We will have to FEAST tonight.

I'm very glad that we have the housing settled before I have to leave tomorrow morning. I am not looking forward to leaving the 2 most important people in my life for almost 2 weeks but we do what we gotta do!

I think we're off to play and explore so we'll talk to everyone soon.

Rachel

Update:

What a long day. A good day. A productive day. But a L-O-N-G day.

As mentioned earlier, we have found our lodgings here at the Ronald McDonald House. It's such a great place for families in our situation. We are about a mile from the main MD Anderson campus and the shuttle can take us pretty much anywhere we need to go. It even goes to the grocery store once a day. They have full kitchen facilities for us to use and lots of community items like seasonings, eggs, condiments, etc. so that cooking is pretty easy and doesn't always have to be ramen noodles!

Plus, almost every night, a community group comes in to provide dinner and sometimes even additional activities. Southwest Airlines is bringing a group tomorrow and rumor has it that their events are not to be missed. Some of their volunteers are already here starting to roast the brisket for tomorrow night (can you tell we're in Texas?).

After we left RMH (as we will probably refer to it in future posts), we took the shuttle over to the proton center which is pretty much on the other side of the hospital area. It's about a 20-30 minute ride by shuttle. Charlotte was pretty quiet and mellow most of the day. She hadn't had anything to eat since last night and they'd only allowed her about 4 oz of juice after 10:30. Amazingly, she only told daddy one time that she was hungry. When he told her she couldn't eat until after she saw the doctor, she never asked again. What a trooper. I, on the other hand, was famished!! But didn't want to eat in front of my NPO child.

We got to the proton center and had very little wait. We immediately met a string of professionals including our Nurse Practitioner, the oncology fellow, and then Dr. Mahajan who is her radiation oncologist. We discussed the treatment plan, they went over all the possible side effects, and then we discussed the fact that she would be having whole brain and spine radiation after all. Roger and I were confused for a little while, mainly because Dr. Wolff and Dr. Khan had maintained that proton therapy was not necessary for whole head and spine radiation and that we were going to focus on the tumor area. Turns out that's not exactly the case and in fact, she stands to benefit more from whole head/spine radiation due to the location of her tumor and should receive less effects from the radiation on areas such as her thyroid gland and other vital organs by receiving the proton therapy.

After we met with the radiation oncologist, the anesthesiology crew came in. Dr. Porche is her primary anesthesiologist and she is such a sweetheart. She just swooped Charlotte up in her arms and began to sing to her and ooh and ahh over her. So nice! The nurse anesthetist (sp?) also informed us that while she was receiving proton therapy, they would change her dressing twice a week, do all the line flushes, and basically take care of anything else that needs to be done with her lines. Hooray.

Finally it was off to the simulation. Charlotte got to actually "administer" her own juice by starting the pump and pushing the syringe to flush the line. As tired as she was, she was out in no time. Then we got to meet with the research nurse to go over permissions for them to study Charlotte's blood and DNA as well as participate in a longitudinal data study for basically the rest of Charlotte's life to help them study long-term outcomes of proton therapy. This means that data such as hormone levels, cognitive tests, etc. will all be collected at regular intervals on her. Anything that will help kids down the road, that's what I say!

We also met the Child Life Specialist who told us about some upcoming kid's events and offered some ways that their services could be helpful.

Did I miss anyone? There were a lot of people to meet. Soon enough, Charlotte's procedure was finished and we went to meet her in recovery. It took her FOREVER to wake up but she finally roused (with some assistance from us) and we shuttled her back to RMH with some dinner. Roger took Merrilee's car (she had left it for us at the proton center) back to their home in Jersey Village and collected all of our belongings and made his way back to RMH all in one piece.

We must make yet another (although I'm sure it will not be final) note of thanks to the Beazley family for their most gracious hosptiality and help with this process. they have gone above and beyond and we are grateful to them as well as to Mitch and Meredith Hayes for making the connection.

So we are basically "moved in" and settled. Clothes are unpacked and put in dresser drawers. We have a moderate supply of groceries and snacks that will last until the next grocery trip. I have given Roger many final instructions and reminders on her appointments, etc. (I tend to be the "manager" of all that information. Surprised?). I am leaving early tomorrow morning and only taking my big purse/tote bag with me. No clothes (they can stay here for my return trip), no diaper bag (whoopee), no stroller. Just me, myself and I.

See many of y'all back in Richmond. I've got a lot of work ahead of me and Charlotte and Roger have quite the adventure ahead of them.

Rachel

Saturday, July 11, 2009

We're in Houston!

Well, the flights were good, the weather is hot and humid, and the family putting us up for the time being is amazing. Thanks Meredith for this connection.

Charlotte was a dream and we couldn't have asked for a more well behaved girl.

We're currently staying in an area northwest of Houston called Jersey Village. Nice little neighbourhood, but oh, is Texas flat!

After we dropped off our bags at the house, we went to get some Italian food nearby. Then back to the house and some crashing.

I hate to admit it but I'm feeling a scratchyness in my throat that usually means a cold coming on. Great. There's also a gauntlet of pioson ivy just outside. Why are some of the coolest plants so dangerous?

As I said, our hosts have been wonderful, not letting us pay for any food or the Italian lunch. They also informed us that an "anonymous donor" heard our story and arranged a $1000 donation to the cause. WOW!

We had a great dinner of rotisserie (sp?) chicken (YUM!), fruit, and angelfood cake. Charlotte finally got to see the Tinkerbell Movie. Twice. It's actually moderately funny in places with some adult humor and good "bad" puns. CJ was glued to the TV for both viewings. Then she came into the bedroom, read several books we brought along and then zonked for the night.

Tomorrow looks like a Houston Astros-Washington Nationals game is in the works for us. Whether or not I cover it officially, we'll be there.

Thanks for everyone who came to the party last night. "Successful" is an understatement.

More positive vibes and supportive energy need to go out to another of the families I follow on CB. Zac Talley passed this week. Those DIPG tumors are wreaking havoc among the CB community. His site is www.caringbridge.org/visit/zactalley
Time for bed for me. Need my strength.

Rog

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Big Day

Big day followed by big day.

Charlotte did very well yesterday considering her anti-social tendencies these days. The football player visit at the clinic ended up being very cool and video of the crew singing "Frosty" was on CBS 6 yesterday. She was singing right along.

Then we headed back to RNR to get things set up for the concert. We cut things a bit close but it all worked out. Even the weather cooperated!

When I couldn't be at the concert last night, CJ hung out with Uncle Kolbey or Mommy. She was very excited to see "Mr. John" John Robison who heads up Southern Horizon (my Civil War era band). When Rompy showed up, Rachel had to tell her it was Daddy before she would come close.

Rachel already gave you the numbers but it doesn't really tell the story of how cool the vibe was last night. Everyone was having a good time and I think we surprised the Chick-fil-a folks with how successful the evening turned out.

Thanks to everyone involved. Definitely a group effort. And today will be just as nuts!

Now for get well wishes to someone else: our wonderful utility infielder and ebullient front desk staffer, Margie Madrigal has been quite under the weather and is recovering at Henrico Doctor's Hospital. Please put her on the lists.

I'm including a photo of the 501st Legion of Vader's Fist, Rompy, Mommy, and the princess in front of the VA Blood Services bus. The storm troopers kept aiming their weapons at Rompy for some reason and Obi Wan tried to "fix" Rompy with his light saber!

A very good time and more will be had tonight. Hope to see you all there.

Update:

What a great party! I don't think Charlotte's birthday party could have been much better. Thanks to everyone who was able to come out and give the princess her send-off to TX. We had a GREAT crowd and I think even Charlotte had fun for a bit. She certainly ate a lot of cake!

There are many people to thank. First, thanks to Jeni for making the beautiful (and yummy!) Tinkerbell cake and to our NM/CO family for ordering the yummy DQ ice cream cakes. There is some (but not a lot) left over. That goes to show you what a crowd we had!

Next, a HUGE thank you to our staff, many of whom were there tonight and worked hard to make this party a success while being "off the clock". Roger and I appreciate the time and effort you all put into your work and especially the time you put in "unpaid" on Charlotte's behalf. The party would not have been quite the success it was without you. BIG thanks to Annette for guarding the desk, Anna and Lindsey for guarding the moonbounce, Anthony for doing a lot of cleanup and blowing up balloons, Kolbey and Annette (and Michael and Babz too!!!) for assisting big-time with cleanup, and I'm probably forgetting specific things but THANK YOU to all the Romp n' Roll VCM staff who were able to be there tonight. This warrants a further shout-out to Margie who is still very under-the-weather. We missed you this week and wish you a speedy recovery!!

Another big thank you to the family and friends who just helped with every little thing tonight (putting out napkins, blowing up balloons, taking out the trash...you name it!). Many of you have future careers leading romp n' roll parties...

Thanks for the cards and (yes there were a few) gifts. Some of you even got sneaky and brought presents "for Roger and Rachel because you only said no presents for Charlotte." Nice. Some of the cards that were handmade by the kids are really great! I got an extra SPECIAL present this evening. A bunch of you (and you know who you are) all chipped in and got me a FULL SPA DAY at Divas which I plan to use sometime after I come back from these first few days in Texas. What a very special and much needed gift. You bet I will use it!!! I understand Meredith was the Queen Bee organizing this effort but thanks to all who contributed as well.

So we are home. Charlotte is asleep. We are (mostly) packed. Just down to the final few items and then it's time to get a few hours' sleep before a big trip to the airport EARLY in the AM.

Our next post should be from TX.

Rachel