February 17, 2007

February 15, 2007 - Ice Bats Hockey and Steak

Our friend Marisela, who is a whiz at knowing what's going on and how to get in when there aren't any tickets available, is taking Mark, James, and me (Mom) to see the Austin Ice Bats play tomorrow night. We are fortunate so many friends care about Mark and want to take him on adventures and fill his life with fun things. For those who may not know, that's Fang, the Ice Bats' mascot, pictured to the left.

Mark, always the gourmet cook, is cooking very good steak to build his blood up for next chemo and sticking close to home, except for short adventures with friends, although he would like to be working as a respiratory therapist or on a beach somewhere right now.

February 10, 2007 Chemo takes a toll, just as it has before:
Mark is not leaving the sofa or his bed today , except to periodically go on the deck outside. He has chest pain. His face was red as a beet for two days and he has been so hot he had the airconditioner on frostbite setting upstairs where he sleeps while the heat was on downstairs and I caught him outside barefoot and it was cold outside. He is a little down in mood at times and imagines the worst although it could be reality. He cheers up when one of his friends (Dave, Bruce, Frank) come by. Remember that chemotherapy attacks all the cells in the body and not just cancer cells. When drug research brings us a drug that directly attacks or enters just cancer cells and leaves the healthy cells alone that will be a day for real celebration.
Feb 18 - read this CancerCompass article... maybe they are onto something? http://www.cancercompass.com/cancer-news/1,12158,00.htm )

February 11, 07 Mark signed up for role in Jerry Barret's documentary: My friends Jerry and Christine had the first showing, at the Austin Alamo Drafthouse downtown, of a documentary they directed and produced. Mark is signed up for a role in the next film. His part could be filmed in Bangkok. Jerry and Christine are building a house in Shri Lankra and want to take a trip to Bangkok when Mark and Mom are there to show them around. Jerry is planning to film and show his films in lots of places in the world.

February 06, 2007

Did you hear about Mark's Teddy Bear Pillows? Chemo in Houston again, Making Friends in VA waiting Room, What's Going On With Mark's Sister Stephanie and his Mom?

Mr. Mark's Teddy Bear Pillows
Mark's hair is falling out again because of chemotherapy. He asked Mom for clean pillow cases because his pillows were "looking like Teddy Bears."
Another whirlwind trip to Houston, and Day 1 of chemo yesterday went well. On day 1 only, he gets Carboplatin 563 mg in 250 of normal saline. Days 1 -3 he gets 5FU 1000 mg. and Leucovorin 648 mg. Looks like doses are based on square mm of body surface. Mark's nurse this week is Maria.

Day 1 of Chemo: New Friends Arlene and Bill
Yesterday in the VA hospital waiting room, I talked for 3 hours with Arlene and Bill whom I had just met. Bill is a Viet Nam vet who served in Germany, too. Bill and Arlene go to motorcycle rallies all over the country where she sells "Do-Rags" and purses with feathers and beads that she makes herself. Because of Bill's cancer they are giving up the rallies to go into the paintball business and sell logo items. They'll still sell Do-Rags and purses, so let me know if you need one and I'll put you in contact with Arlene. Bill makes smokers out of dishwashers and has educated me on how to do this and how to dress and cut up a deer and smoke deer meat so it tastes really good. Life in the waiting room is an ongoing education if you pay attention and make new friends.

Day 3 New Friends - We met a young couple and their beautiful little toddler in the VA hospital waiting room. Melissa and Greg live in Austin, too, and have been coming to the Houston VA oncology clinic for some time, but Greg learned on this day that he doesn't have to return to the clinic for 6 months as his cancer is in remission. Greg tells me that he researched treatment options when first diagnosed with cancer and decided that the Houston VA clinic was the best place for treatment for him, even though, unlike Mark, he has insurance and the VA collects it. Keep in mind that the VA is relatively free with just small co-payments if you don't have large enough income or some kind of health insurance to collect from. Many of the veterans do pay with health insurance or larger co-payments. Since Mark lost both his job/income and insurance when he was diagnosed, he pays only a small co-payment (and whatever it costs to get to Houston and to stay over during chemo).
Greg tells me he started a successful business while undergoing chemotherapy and he fathered a beautiful healthy child: two amazing feats. Like Mark, he has lived nearly 2 years after diagnosis and being told he had 6 months to live. See picture of Mark and Greg below.

Mark will celebrate his third birthday (05, 06, and 07) on April 20th after diagnosis of cancer two years ago in Feb. and he was so fearful he would not live to see the first one. It seems like it should be only two birthdays but it is three. Higher math challenges us all.

Mark's favorite and only sister, Stephanie, and Mom - Stephanie is coming from Yokosuka, Japan to Austin on March 28th to be with Mark for two days and then head to Chicago with her mom for the national school improvement conference for four days. Steph will attend and present at the conference - her topic is getting students involved in school improvement. Maybe I will share with her how to make a smoker out of a dishwasher.

Advances in Medicine and small town drivers in the big city-
Being a medical as well as a psychiatric nurse, advances in medicine interest me. James' Aunt Rowena is hopeful she might get a new artificial artery graft with a heparin coating on the surface to improve her circulation. She has peripheral artery disease (PAD) and her doctors have warned her that in time she might have to have an amputation due to clogged arteries and poor circulation. She has had stints and failed stints and has poor veins. She came from her small Texas panhandle town of Olton, so small it does not have a stop light, to stay with her neice in New Braunfels, near San Antonio. It's in San Antonio that a doctor does these artificial artery grafts with a new type of material. Some of her nieces and knephews visiting from the panhandle won't drive on the interstate in New Braunfels. Niece Nancy said an emphatic "NO!" when I asked her to take me somewhere involving about a mile of interstate highway (US 35). She told me in the town she comes from (Abernathy) two cars can park in the middle of the mainstreet and the drivers can chat with each other without disrupting trafic. If you can't picture this happening, there's a photo of Downtown Abernathy to the right of this paragraph.

Yesterday I read about this new procedure/new graft , mentioned above. It is called a Gore graft according to an article in the Texas Medical Center News in Houston. An artificial artery or piece of artery coated on the surface with heparin is implanted to improve circulation and prevent blood clots. This technique may be a Godsend for Aunt Rowena. In addition to doctors in San Antonio doing this technique, there is a vascular surgeon Dr. Alan Lumsden at DeBakey Heart Center in Houston who is using this new graft.