Saturday, August 3, 2013

Wondering what happened 4 months later

It's been just over four months since Lynn has been gone.  As described in her obituary, we established a fund at OSU in her name.  Realizing how blessed we are to live in a generous community, I have all but decided to establish a permanent named endowment.  The funds donated so far will remain as seed money until sufficient money can be accumulated to justify the creation of an endowment.  We will have the opportunity to be involved in deciding to what kind of research we should direct the endowment's earnings.

As I reflect upon Lynn's illness, I'm struck by how aggressive it was.  When you receive the dreadful diagnosis of cancer, you have to quickly become familiar with all the ways by which doctors classify the disease.  They use experience under the various classifications to decide the most proven treatment regimens.

Dimensions by which cancer is classified include:

  1. Location of the cancer: not just breast, but is it ductal, lobular or any of the many other rarer manifestations?
  2.  Is it contained ("in situ"), or has it spread ("invasive")?
  3. Pathological expression: does it react to estrogen, progesterone or her-2/nu?
  4. Cancer is broadly "staged" (from 1 to 4) based upon tumor size and whether it has spread elsewhere in the body.
A measure of growth rapidity seems absent from these classification categories.  Staging may be a weak proxy.  However, it doesn't differentiate between a case in which cancer grew slowly and was detected late or a case in which cancer grew quickly.  Lynn had just undergone a breast exam by her OB a month prior to diagnosis.  In that time, her cancer went from undetectable to a 5 cm tumor graded as stage 2, bordering on 3.

The breast specialist who diagnosed Lynn did remark upon the aggressive nature of the cancer.  He assured us that aggressive cancers actually respond well to chemotherapy.  As I'll discuss below, he was right.  However, this was the last time that the quick growth of Lynn's tumor was discussed in connection to front line treatment options (more on this near the conclusion of this post).

Two separate doctors described the same treatment regimen based upon Lynn's very common cancer diagnosis.  Comforted by such a common diagnosis along with a tried and true treatment method, we quickly launched into treatment.

Doctors told us that outcomes are found to be statistically identical for Lynn's type of cancer whether surgery or chemotherapy is done first.  Both doctors suggested "neo-adjuvant" chemo before surgery.  Radiation therapy was to be done after to be as certain as possible that the cancer would not return locally.

Lynn received two regimens of chemotherapy.  The first was a combination of adriamyacin and cytoxan (A/C).  This was the nasty stuff that made her horribly sick and caused her hair to fall out.  The second regimen was Taxol.  This one was comparatively milder.  However, it is one candidate for a culprit leading to the cancer's spread to Lynn's brain (more on that shortly).  You may recall that we were overjoyed to discover after surgery that chemotherapy had produced a "complete pathologic response".  This means that no signs of living cancer could be found in the tissue removed.

We proceeded to radiation full of optimism.  However, I have since learned that the complete pathologic response may not have been so good news as we had thought.  You can read here how Taxol may contribute to the spread of cancer to the brain.  Briefly, as I understand the issue, the drug first breaks up the tumor, disseminating cancer throughout the body.  It is then effective at eliminating cancer cells wherever it can find them.  Unfortunately, if cancer cells reach the brain, Taxol does not cross the blood brain barrier in sufficient quantities to be effective.  It seems to me that this hypothesis could still be studied further.  Though we may never know in Lynn's case, this is one avenue to which we might direct research.

Besides the question on Taxol, I wonder if work could be done to develop measurement criteria for how quickly cancer cells grow.  As I wrote above, doctors stated that research had found outcomes to be identical whether surgery or chemotherapy is done first.  Would the same be true if cancer were identified as aggressive?  Accounting for rate of growth, the following questions could be considered.

  • Would it be best to remove as much cancer as quickly as possible if it is fast growing?
  • Is Taxol a good drug to limit dangerous metastases to nearby organs when cancer is slow growing?
  • Is Taxol dangerous for brain metastases for more aggressive cancers?

I know that smarter, more informed minds than mine have been thinking long and hard on how to beat cancer.  Maybe my questions have been considered.  But these are some questions that I would pose to the research doctors who treated Lynn.

Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis has been described as having growing common incidence because people are living longer from their primary cancers.  However, that statement suggests a slow development.  Doctors told us that brain metastases from breast cancer are not unheard of.  However, to happen so quickly as in Lynn's case is very rare.  Everything about Lynn's cancer was so dramatic and rapid - both the successes and, tragically, the progression.

This makes me wonder what doctors didn't understand about her disease.  I feel good that we may be able to influence research down avenues that could help someone in the future.  Maybe doctors could treat differently a person who suffers from a manifestation of the disease that is similar to what took Lynn.  I hope that researchers could discover ways that Lynn's cancer was different so that alternative treatment methods might have been used to save her life.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Race for the Cure!

It seems sureal to think about last year's Race for the Cure when Lynn walked the 5K route despite being on her second round of chemotherapy.  I'd like to think that she will walk it again in spirit.

Please consider joining us May 18 to honor her memory by participating in the Race for the Cure.  Some of us will run while others will walk.  Last year, I was able to run and then join up with the walk.  So there will hopefully be an event for everyone.

Click here to register with team Lynnsanity

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Few Words

There are not many words left.  I think that we pulled off a wonderful ceremony on a beautiful day to celebrate an extraordinary person.  Thank you to so many of you who traveled the miles and years to say goodbye to my unforgettable wife!


Monday, April 1, 2013

Our plans to say goodbye

In this photo, Jacob is unseen and watching over Lynn.  Now, Lynn is unseen.  But maybe she is watching over us.  I want to thank the many people who are helping us prepare for her services.

Here is the obituary that we are submitting to the Columbus Dispatch:

Dale Lynn Stoutenburg (née Peyton), age 32, died at her home in Powell, Ohio on Easter morning, March 31, 2013.  She was surrounded by loving family and friends.  She finally rested after a courageous year-long battle with breast cancer.  Born November 4, 1980, in Parma, Ohio, she was the oldest daughter of three.  She is survived by her husband, Joe; children, Lauren and Jacob; parents, Jerry Peyton and April (Smith) Peyton; grandmothers, Joan (Salsman) Smith and Naomi (Wiseman) Peyton; sisters, Carrie (Peyton) Hanna and Katie Peyton and loving extended family and friends too numerous to count. Graduate of The Ohio State University and The New York Institute of Photography.  She worked as a professional photographer and was a loving wife and mother.  Dale Lynn lived a life of vitality and had a gift to make people laugh.  Her far reaching exemplary influence will be felt for generations to come.
Visitation will be from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Wednesday April 3, 2013 at RUTHERFORD FUNERAL HOME AT POWELL 450 W. Olentangy St. (Powell Rd./St. Rt. 750/one quarter east of Sawmill Parkway), Powell Ohio 43065 (614-792-1471).  Funeral service will be 1 p.m. Thursday April 4, 2013 at THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS 450 N. Liberty St., Powell OH 43065.  Burial will follow at Cheshire Cemetery, Delaware Ohio.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Dale Lynn Stoutenburg’s memory to The OSU Wexner Medical Center to fund #311812 Neuro-Oncology Research Fund, specifically for the research of Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis, and sent to:
Office of Development, 660 Ackerman Rd., PO Box 183112 Columbus, Ohio 43218
In the memo line of the check, please write in fund #311812/Dale.  Condolences may be sent to

Sunday, March 31, 2013

"H" is for Heaven

Lynn's sister Carrie suggested this title to keep with my recurrent reliance on "H" words, and it is appropriate on this Easter day.  We mourn today for my best friend and wife who finally rested from her battle with cancer.  I see people often referring to death as "losing" a battle.  We didn't get the outcome for which we hoped, but there were many victories.  If you know Lynn, you know her competitive spirit.  She would never want me to concede defeat for her.  And though there is pain and loss against which we struggle, this is only a passing and not an end.  Lynn died from her cancer.  But it never beat her!

With the most recent diagnosis, I knew from the start that there are really no permanent cures.  And remissions are short-lived.  So while I hoped for miraculous healing along with everyone else, I vowed that I would do all within my power to safeguard Lynn's dignity as far as possible given the devastating effects to her brain.  With so much support from family, close friends and community, I feel like we succeeded.  She died in her home, surrounded by family and friends with overflowing love and respect.

I want to share a few stories associated with her last times and my experience with it:

Not to be confused with the last time I wrote about this, we have another story about Jeni's ice cream.  Last night, someone brought some home.  Lynn opened her mouth wider than she had for some time when offered some.  She had a smile on her face as she enjoyed a last taste of her favorite treat.  Before this, she was very unresponsive.  This was an awakening of monumental proportions at the time, barely half a day before her passing.  This experience touches me to the core as I reflect upon Lynn's great capacity to enjoy life.

The next is my experience.  This is a somewhat sacred experience that is only one among several that we have shared together.  Since it is mine, I feel entitled to share it with you.  It brings peace to my soul, and I hope that it does so for you too.  At 3:00 this morning, I woke from a deep sleep feeling like I was about to cry.  I have done my share of crying before and after Lynn's passing, but this would have been my first time to awaken and cry in the middle of the night.  However, just as soon as the feeling came, it was suddenly replaced by a feeling of peace.  I lay in bed for not more than a half minute before her mom knocked on the door to tell me that Lynn was declining.

This has been a trying day, and I want to express my heart-felt gratitude to the family and close friends who stood by Lynn and me through it.  Thank you also to so many of you who offered encouragement and shared memories.


We do not know definite times yet.  However, we intend to have opportunities for viewing on Wednesday at the Rutherford Funeral Home in Powell.  The funeral will follow the next day on Thursday at the Powell L.D.S. chapel on Liberty Rd.  We will communicate exact arrangements when they are known.

I know that some of you may wish to travel from afar to join us.  I wanted to provide dates so you can make plans.

In lieu of flowers, we would like to invite you to donate to an organization benefitting cancer research.  We are trying to locate one to address the complication that took Lynn's life.  I have learned that, as primary cancer treatments become more effective to control the initial disease, this leptomeningeal carcinomatosis is starting to become more common.  There are significant challenges to treat it, and many medical research papers state early on that current treatments are inadequate.  Having made good headway on other aspects of cancer treatment, we would like to see headway made to deal with this complication.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Remember when...

I appreciate the out-pouring of love and support that we've received.  Lynn has touched many lives.  And I am grateful to have so many still in mine.  A number of you have asked if Lynn is accepting visitors.  Each of these requests has come with an appropriate expression of understanding that we may or may not be comfortable with many visitors.  I want to respond to those requests and provide an avenue to communicate that I hope will be meaningful for both you and Lynn.

Though they've increased in number, requests to visit are not new.  I have wished at times that we could throw open the doors and welcome anyone who wants to come.  However, Lynn has chosen to take this journey with some deal of privacy.  Family and a relatively small number of her closest friends have constantly been by her side.

Anyone only slightly acquainted with Lynn knows that she has lived a life of vitality.  Having that slip away would be hard for anyone at any stage in life.  It certainly has been so for Lynn.  She does not want to be remembered for her sickness but for the fullness of life that preceded it.  Now that she is less able to express her wishes, I have no reason to believe that desire has decreased at all.  We are therefore going to limit visits.

One of Lynn's former college roommate contacted me.  As often happens, though they were once close, they had drifted apart.  She asked me to share some fun memories from their days together.  I thought that was an appropriate, considerate expression and would like to suggest that you consider also sending your memories.  Let's fill her last mortal waking moments with loving and laughing memories.

I feel like I should also provide a note on timing.  Based upon comments from doctors and hospice nurses as well as my own researches, it seems clear that Lynn has only a week or two.  So please don't wait to send your notes.  I promise that we will try to share them with Lynn at times and in ways that bring her comfort and confirm the connection that each of you shared with her.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"H" is for Hope

I really agonized over how to title this post and decided that this is the right way.  We have brought Lynn home and have brought out hospice.  This event may appear to be the antithesis of hope.  But only from a limited perspective.

This decision was difficult but finally became easier when we understood that the decision to begin hospice is revocable.  One compassionate doctor was very articulate, describing it as an insurance status formality that enables us to qualify for certain expanded benefits.  The aim is now the comfort of Lynn and everyone involved in her care.  Meanwhile on hospice, curative treatment is ceased.  Lynn is not strong enough to tolerate the difficult chemo treatments that, based upon our experience so far, would only have slim chances of prolonging her life.  However, if she thrives on hospice care and bounces back, we can switch her out of hospice status and resume normal treatment.  I've never thought much about hospice, and this is something that I had not understood.  Hospice treatment is less about death and more about an emphasis on comfort rather than cure.

Lynn's hospital stay had achieved its purpose to stabilize her even if it was not as much as we would hope.  Her one most constant thought was an urgent desire to return home.  At times, she would not remember where she was, why she was there, why should couldn't walk or even the fact that she couldn't walk.  But she always remembered that she was not where she wanted to be.  Now she is, and she is so much more comfortable and happy.  We are seeing bright glimpses of her whit and humor!

I feel like I owe it to all who love her who read this to be very clear.  We do not expect Lynn to recover.  While we can and do hold out hope for some kind of dramatic turn-around, it would be nothing short of a miracle at this point.  The more likely miracles will be to find joy in Lynn's memory and to let her influence define us for good.  I think of my kids most when I write this.

Lynn is not in pain at all.  Right now, she is enjoying some Jeni's ice cream.  Seeing her enjoy one of the little comforts is one miracle enough.  The next miracle, and the one on which our hope ultimately rests, is that Lynn will peacefully pass and that her spirit will soar to its rest.  We can hope that what most defines us does not end at death and that there will one day be a reunion with those who have preceded us.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Another "H" Word: Hospital!

On Friday, Lynn started becoming more confused than before and quickly became unresponsive.  We couldn't rouse her.  We realized that she had not been getting enough fluids.  So whatever else was going on, she was probably dehydrated.  We were not going to be able to get enough fluid into her, so we decided to transport her to the hospital.

A couple of days later, she is much more responsive.  They've given her fluids intravenously.  Meanwhile, they discovered a urinary tract infection and have begun treating her with antibiotics.  This kind of infection can cause confusion absent anything else, so we're hopeful that she could get back to her previous baseline once the antibiotics take effect.  Scans also do indicate additional swelling in the brain, so we are also increasing her steroid dose (decadron, 16 mg per day).  It's sometimes tough to let the nurses manage her medication when I'm so used to being on top of it.  It is possible for them to miss things.  I've had to push for medications that I knew she had been getting and once caught them miss an important pain med.

Still, Lynn remains far below where she was just a few days ago mentally.  She doesn't always know where she is and has seen an assortment of animals while in the hospital -- from squirells to snakes to bugs.  Friday night, she was convinced that she was pregnant and was worried that the baby would not be okay.  Then, she believed that she had to leave for a wedding (maybe Kate's who was married about a year and a half ago).

Ever since, her most frequent single-minded purpose has been to leave the hospital.  Now you can't blame anyone for wanting to leave a hospital.  But she has wanted to leave at that instant.  She has pulled her IV from her port and has tried to stand (she hasn't been able to walk unassisted for a couple of months).  She quickly becomes frustrated when we don't cooperate to help her leave.  At one point her mom was hemming some pants for Lauren, and Lynn wanted to put them on so she could walk out.  Poor April could not convince her that the pants would not fit (Lauren is 8!), and Lynn was angry at her lack of "cooperation".

So we're hoping to see a rebound if some of her symptoms are caused by the infection.  Regardless, this is certainly not where we want to be.  Her chemo treatments have been suspended for now.  And we will see her neuro-oncologist on Monday.

Thanks to all who have helped in so many ways: watching the kids, doing things at the house, bringing meals and so many expressions of encouragement!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The "H" word and finding the positive

This is Joe.  Lynn has been receiving a number of texts but hasn't been very responsive.  I think that it's time to update things here.  First off, if you are trying to contact us to coordinate something that needs a response, contact me.  If you do not have my contact info, leave a comment here and I will find a way to get it to you.  Otherwise, feel free to continue to send Lynn messages.  On good days, she may still check messages and might enjoy getting messages of encouragement.

Now for the tougher business... Lynn has experienced some new disturbing symptoms.  While she has done really well working with physical therapy to regain some of her strength, she has begun to experience cognitive effects, mostly mental confusion.  Sometimes she just says things out of the blue that are kind of off the wall.  She is up and down; sometimes she is just about all there.  But you can always tell that she is in a bit of a fog.  There's a lot more that I could say.  And tonight she had some more things going on, but we're going to chalk it up to fatigue and see in the morning.

This last Tuesday, we had a few doctor appointments to switch to a new intrathecal chemo drug regimen: methotrexate and cytarabine.  Doctors had seen progression while under the first drug and decided to switch.  I knew that the failure of one drug treatment is an ominous sign.  But Lynn had made clear that she wasn't interested in talking about the negatives of her prognosis.  Regardless, one of her doctors decided that he was obligated to tell her that he would recommend hospice if this next line of chemo fails to stop the disease progression.  We knew from the start that this is a devastating diagnosis with few treatment options.  But it was still a shock to hear that we could be that close to exhausting those options.  I have wanted to be informed and have not been able to resist researching Lynn's disease, so I had an idea that we could be near this point.  But Lynn was not prepared to hear this hard possibility and took it hard.

I am sorry that the news isn't better.  I know that so many of you have been praying and expressing your faith in other ways.  We're continuing to focus on the positives.  Our doctors are ethically bound to be realistic with us.  While realism portends poor chances, it also requires us to see that there is a chance for a good outcome.  Our doctors have been adamant that they would not treat if they did not perceive a reasonable chance of benefit.  The new drugs may work.

Positive factors in Lynn's favor:
  1. The primary cancer was a breast tumor.  For whatever reason, metastases from breast cancer portend better responses than others (such as lung cancer or melanoma).
  2. Lynn does not have significant cancer in other parts of her body.  The medical literature states that, when this condition is treated, death usually occurs due to other systemic factors since this tends to be a late stage metastasis.  Lynn only has bone metastases which are manageable in the very long term.
  3. She is young and otherwise healthy.  She has demonstrated via her physical therapy progress that she is strong enough to overcome the damage that the cancer has done.
It's how I've explained to our children (with what I hope is an appropriate level of transparency): some people do die from this condition.  Some get better.  We still hope that Lynn can be one of those who get better.

Monday, February 18, 2013

My dad can beat up your dad!

HA HA!  Well he probably can.  Dad came down to Columbus so he could build me a ramp so I can get out of the house without relying on someone to carry me.  Now Katie and I can go out and about!  I should mention that Joe helped him too.  Thanks dad you are the best!  I LOVE YOU!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ommaya reservoir

Lynn just came out of surgery to insert an ommaya reservoir.  The doctor said that everything went well.  Amazingly, despite having an object insert into the middle of her brain, this is considered a routine surgery.  As with any surgery, the greatest concern is infection with no more than 1.5% of such complications.

This device will allow doctors to administer chemotherapy drugs right into the brain.  Not only will this allow preclude the necessity of painful spinal taps, it will also administer the drugs directly to the location at which the cerebrospinal fluid is produced.  Hopefully, this will allow the medicine to be more widely distributed.

Very cool stuff!  We continue to be very grateful for the medical miracles that are employed to Lynn's benefit.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The past few weeks

Well some people might think we are crazy but we booked a Disney Cruise back in December (to celebrate my good health HA HA!) and we still decided to go even though I knew I would have to spend the whole time in a wheelchair.  
The medicine I am taking along with the full brain radiation has made me very week.  I can't go upstairs without Joe carrying me and walking is difficult.  It was hard to not be the hands on vacation mom I'm normally used to.  Joe did everything including taking care of the kids and me.  I was so week I could not go to the bathroom unassisted.  
We had a lot of fun on the cruise.  The kids had a blast and it was fun watching them enjoy themselves.  Thanks to the child care on board Joe and I were able to have some time to ourselves.  Disney made us so happy we would do it again in a heartbeat.  Next time we will leave the wheelchair at home!
  I think I have fallen more in love with Joe every day on that trip.  Honestly at this point I can't even think of words to write to express my feelings to him.  His support means everything to me.  As I was taking a bath I told him how sorry I am that I am sick.  Joe said it is his pleasure to take care of me.  We have been married for 10 years and we have a great marriage.  I think this cancer has brought us even closer if that is possible.

I met a woman on the cruise who had stage 4 breast cancer and she is in remission.  I was so happy for her.  I hope to have that someday.
I get a lot of cards in the mail cheering me on.  Sometimes they make me cry, not because they are not appreciated but because they remind me how sick I am.  Don't stop sending them though!  I love to get mail.
I am in awe of all the people who are continuing to help us.  While we were gone a group of girls came and cleaned our house.  It felt so good to come back to a clean house.  People bring meals most nights.  They are really good and they fit my new dietary restrictions.  Everyone around us is always asking what they can do to help.  My sister quit her job so she can help us with the kids.  She is so kind for making that sacrifice for us.  My other sister will be spending a week with us as well later on in the month.  My parents are here every weekend.  We feel so blessed to have our family close by while we deal with this cancer.
Now to the not so fun stuff.  I'm having brain surgery on Monday at 11am.  It's supposed to be a simple procedure.  They are placing a port in my brain so they can deliver chemo right where they want it.  I have to spend the night in the hospital and should go home sometime on Tuesday.  I had my first treatment before we left on vacation and the doctor had to do a spinal tap to administer the drug.  I think the port is going to be more user friendly for me.  The spinal tap was not pleasant.  So after the port is placed I will have chemo every 2 weeks for the next 5 months.  They will spread it out towards the end.  I haven't been given all of the details yet.  Dr. Shipiro may give me another kind of chemo.  We will see when we meet with him.

I was reading over my blog and I can't help but think that I sounded a little ridiculous at first.  Especially when I lost my hair.  I don't have any hair right now and I don't care.  Right now all I want is to be in remission and to walk and drive my car and cook dinner.  If I could do all those things and not have one strand on my head I'm sure I wouldn't give it a second thought.  I was also very confident.  That is something that I need to get back.  That is why I posted the quote.  I have spent a lot of time scared and crying this last month.  Confidence is a quality that I had before but I can feel it leaving. I may have to find a self help book for that one :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Being alive

Still Joe... (seems I've highjacked Lynn's blog - I hope that you and she will pardon me)

Jacob woke up over an hour ago to tell me that he had a bad dream.  I walked him back to his room, tucked him in and sang him a song.  He was asleep again in moments....  I'm still awake.... with my mind racing.  I've stolen some of Lynn's Ativan, and I'll soon sleep too.  In the meantime, I wanted to put to paper some things that I wanted to say to Lynn.  Of course, there are things in these circumstances that are too private to write in so publicly.  But I have some philosophical thoughts that, while some are deeply personal, seem like they could be okay and applicable to whatever place you may find yourself.

In a phrase, I want Lynn to live.  Of course, that means the literal sense that I want her to survive, to beat this illness and to enjoy all the experiences of a long life that we all anticipate.  But I also mean it in  an immediate sense that I hope she can attain even if we don't get to enjoy this life together as long as we had hoped.  I want her (and us, all of us no matter how affected by this or whatever other crisis may afflict us) to get out of every moment every bit of life that is available in it.

It would be stupid and insensitive for me to communicate this sentiment as an expression that she should not ever be sad, to just buck up and be happy.  There are moments when grief is the most living feeling that we can experience.  Most of the time, I've settled into a management mode of helping to keep track of medicine and to learn of methods (both conventional and "integrative") that could help Lynn to become healthy again, not to mention keeping up with my occupation and managing the everyday affairs of the home [many thanks to all of you have helped in those regards].  The moments that I've been least alive have been when I have numbly went about my busy work without feeling a thing.

I've had my moments.  Holding Lauren's hand while she cried herself to sleep the night that we told the kids that Lynn was sick again.  Random moments: losing it for no apparent reason one morning when getting ready for the day.  There was one morning when, instead of my normal exercises that I've been doing (trying to take care of myself), I laid flat on the floor and performed some simple yoga relaxation exercises that I learned in a college class.  I listened to a Pandora station playing the kind of soothing New Age music that you might hear in a massage parlor.  A song came on titled "Saying Goodbye".  In that relaxed state with all of my guard down, when I saw the title I wept as I had not wept since the days almost twenty years ago that I grieved my mother's unexpected passing.  When my weeping had passed, I was able to resume and finish the exercises with a clear spirit, cherishing the things that have been lost, could be lost and (we hope) may be regained.  I also felt keenly how so many blessings that I still maintain and felt joy for them mixed with my grief.

Moments to acknowledge our fears and sadness seem healthy and cleansing as long as we do not let them consume us.  Honestly facing those deep emotions allows us to connect to the values of why they are so deep.  If you never grieve over a thing lost, you never really valued it.  And I think that a person incapable of grief may also be incapable of truly valuing the good things in life.

On the other side, I suppose that a person too filled with grief could be similarly accused of not valuing the good things that surely must remain.  Joy seems a much more valuable and positive way to express the value we assign to our blessings.  It's hard as well as inappropriate to judge what is the proper mix of these polar emotions in hard circumstances.  If we think that a loved one has too much grief and not enough joy, we may share in their grief and do what things we can to introduce joyful moments.  I promise to do that, to grieve when that is what's needed and to introduce moments of joy by word and action in every other moment for which I have the energy.

Lynn has been courageous in her response to her illness.  There is no rebuke meant in any this.  Nor is there any particular thing that Lynn has said or done to prompt this flow of thoughts.  I have been heartened to see her be healthy enough to entertain friends and to spend time with family.  There have been other times when she has not felt well enough to do those things, and all of those who love her hopefully respect how she has been working through her grief, physical ailments and every other mix of emotion and pain that is so personal to her.

I fear that my thoughts have rambled, but I'll leave this as a stream-of-consciousness piece (maybe the only possible writing style at 4am).  To give some closure to my wandering thoughts, I intend to cherish life no matter how it is served or who is allowed to share it with me.  If the contemplated nutritional lifestyle changes work, I am hopeful that we will enjoy levels of health and fitness greater than we knew prior to Lynn's illness.  We may fear that she could live but with lingering serious health concerns.  If that is the outcome, I promise to find ways for us to live with the most dignity, love and joy that can be had by the circumstances.

And if cancer takes my dearest best friend, I will draw near to my children.  I will keep my friends close.  And I will grieve.   I also know from experience that grief does not last forever.  Though I remember and cherish my long passed mother, I only remember her now as a warm positive part of who I was and who I've become.

Lynn wants to be more than a memory!  I will fight to help her.  But if we live in fear of the bad outcomes against which we hope, we will never truly live.  Grieve and fear when we must.  But let's be sure to push grief and fear aside and have joy while the sun lasts (as it soon must rise whether I sleep or not!).  It's not enough to maintain a living, healthy body.  I want to live, to exist and to be happy in whatever circumstance I find myself in this life or in the next.  I hope that Lynn and all of you who are so dear to me can share this philosophy with me (wandering as it must be) and squeeze all of the joy out of the lemons that have been given us in life!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Integrative medicine and diets -- IMPORTANT INFO IF YOU ARE PROVIDING A MEAL

Joe again...

Lynn's radiation treatments continue.  All in all, she is doing pretty well.  Her headaches are gone, and her vision has dramatically improved.  She had been blind in one eye, and now she can see with that eye with just a little blurriness.  On the other side of things, she has had some muscle weakness in her legs.  Still, she is able to get around and out of the house every now and then.

This past week, we visited an OSU doctor in the department of integrative medicine, Dr. Glen Aukerman.  He focuses on diet as a way to treat a variety of illnesses, including cancer.  He claims to have had a terminal form of cancer in 2001 that went into remission due to diet changes.  And he has treated a number of cancer patients whose cancer disappeared after several months of adhering to his regimen.

Dr. Aukerman's thesis is essentially that it takes many years (he throws out 10,000) for the human body to adapt to new sources of food.  Over the past 500 years, we have been able to start transporting food around the world.  Over the last 50 or 100 years, that process has exploded, augmented by genetic modifications and other changes to increase yield but perhaps with hidden health costs.

Check out his book:

We're adopting Dr. Aukerman's program.  He performed some pretty extensive blood work (he took 15 vials!), and he has recommended a number of supplements and dietary changes.

So we're relying upon traditional treatments to calm the immediate symptoms and to extend her life while we hope that a permanent cure can be had from the dietary changes.  It's a plausible hope, and hope is as necessary as any medicine to treat this disease!

So if you're reading this and you are planning to bring a meal (thank you!), you have some home work.  The diet is essentially gluten free.  Beyond that, take a look at the hand-outs that he provided.  We may be able to accommodate some non-compliant meals as the kids and I ease onto this same diet, but Lynn is going to begin to comply with it.  We're still learning our own way, so communicating could be challenging.  If you have any questions, please ask.

There is a notice at the bottom of these hand-outs, "Not for Duplication".  I'm not sure in what situation this was put in for, but I'm guessing that no one is going to threaten a cancer patient who is just trying to coordinate her meals!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sinus pain, backaches and blurry vision

This is Lynn's husband, Joe.  A few weeks ago, Lynn started to experience sinus headaches.  Since it was accompanied by congestion, we hoped that it was a sinus infection.  The clinic prescribed her an antibiotic.  Dayquil completely eliminated the pain.

Then she started getting backaches, and her vision began to get blurry in one eye.  By then, we were truly worried and got her in to see the cancer doctors and to get an MRI.  The scans came back and indicated that the cancer had moved to the spinal fluid that flows between her brain and her spine.  This is very bad news!

We started Lynn immediately on whole brain radiation.  She has had seven doses out of fifteen.  Her symptoms became progressively worse.  Her vision in her one eye blurred to the point that she needed to cover it.  And we're medicating to treat pain and nausea.

I guess that I'm to the point at which I'm in busy-mode.  Thankfully, her mom is able to be with us.  We are keeping a log of medications to help make sure we stay ahead of the symptoms.  And we have the cell phone numbers of multiple doctors.  [So thankful for the quality care that we are getting!]  There have been moments, of course.

We told the kids last weekend.  Jacob, who is only five, doesn't quite get it.  Lauren is eight.  She cried when we told her.  Later, as she was going to bed, she asked Lynn what "level" she is at.  Lynn told her that it is 4, and Lauren understands that means it is bad.  She was hit hard.  I prayed with her, provided a father's blessing, and she fell asleep holding my hand.

Meanwhile, our church has organized a group fast for Lynn's benefit.  I appreciate all of the expressions of faith and support.  Despite all of the pain and distress that we've experienced, we have been greatly blessed.  I try to take the philosophy that, whatever happens everything will be all right.  That's hard sometimes and especially hard for Lynn who is grappling with the possibility that her kids (especially Jacob) could have only passing memories of her.  I've promised her that, if it becomes necessary, there will be many of us who will remind them of the courageous soul that is their mother.  They will know her too through the wealth of photos and video that we have recorded over the years.

I almost wanted to delete that last paragraph.  I hope that you and Lynn will forgive the private view into these poignant fears.  We are dealing with the reality that this condition only sometimes responds to treatment.  At this point, I am hoping for one step at a time.  We have a vacation scheduled in the start of February to go on a Disney Caribbean cruise.  Serendipitously, Lynn's final dose of this round of radiation is scheduled the day before we are to leave.  The chemo medicine that is most likely to be administered (we need to complete some more scans before settling on the proper medicine) is administered bi-weekly, so she would not have to miss any treatments.  We just need to get her symptoms under control.  I'm praying first that we can take this family vacation.

UPDATE: About a week has passed since I began drafting this post.  I updated a few facts (seven doses of radiation rather than two).  And I guess that I'll leave the slight glimpse into our fears and immediate hopes.  I am happy to say that Lynn has responded well to the palliative treatment.  Her backaches are gone.  Her headaches and nausea are manageable.  Her visions has even gotten better.

Yesterday was a good day.  We were able to go to see a movie -- Lynn and me with my sister, Nancy.  And Lynn went to eat Jeni's ice cream with some friends.  It's great to see her up and around, and I'm becoming much more hopeful that we will be able to go on this family vacation.

Thank you for all of your many little acts of service and love.