Monday, January 06, 2014

Dear Friends and Family,

Can you believe it is 2014? I still haven’t gotten used to 2013 and it is GONE! Each year I am more and more convinced that at some point, some new genius will discover a new principle of physics that PROVES that time changes and speeds up; thus, whatever is the “norm” when we are younger, gains in momentum through the years.

Once again, it has been too long since I wrote an update and things have changed a bit. I think I felt like things were in flux and kept waiting for a resolution. Although one still has not arrived I should still keep all of you who are so faithfully praying for us, better informed.

The last blog update I did was in late Sept. At that time, Dan had 7 tumors in his brain treated with the stereotactic radiation. We are very grateful for this procedure but somewhat concerned at the number of new tumors so rapidly popping up.

Because of the increase in number and quickness, the oncology-radiologist had us return in 2 months. It is imperative to catch these tumors early, when they are tiny, so that this treatment can be effective with minimal collateral damage.

We returned to NY for 3 more weeks of glorious fall. The weather cooperated and we very much enjoyed the extra time there. I honestly cannot remember if our last kayak trip happened right before we made this quick trip home or right afterward. But we had a great time enjoying the fellowship and the outdoors. A big plus was having a huge, delicious breakfast at The Hedges on Blue Mt. Lake. They let us put in from the lodge and we paddled down the lake to Eagle Lake and then just barely into Utowana Lake, far enough to see several sea planes take off and land. They were giving folks from a conference center scenic rides around the Adirondacks.

The ABC Ladies (and friends) ready for our Blue Mt. Lake Kayak Trip
(that's my awesome kayak in the background :-) )

The Men needed to be represented too!

This was taken from the porch of the main lodge at The Hedges. They were kind enough to let us put in from their front beach.

That's me on the right, getting ready to paddle from Blue Mt. Lake into Eagle Lake, I think. It was such a gorgeous day!

As we came into Utowana Lake from Eagle Lake, we came upon several sea planes taking customers for scenic rides.

We sat and watched them take off and land for a little while before returning to The Hedges and then back to Speculator.

A little taste of the color we were treated to on our trip.

After our kayak trip, a few of us had a bonfire on the lakeshore of one of our friend’s camp. What a great day!

But it seems all good things have to come to an end and eventually we had to pack up and leave our little piece of “Paradise”. It is always so sad to leave, even though we have a great home to come back to and good friends here. We are so fortunate!!

After being home for 3 weeks, we had unpacked, only to repack for a trip to Florida to visit my mom. She is too far away and we don’t get down there often enough! We had a really good visit and tried to make the most of our short time there. We got to visit friends on the way there and on the way home so that made the long trip more palatable.

My mom's good friend, Ruth, with Dan in the John Knox Village Dining Room.

Mom and me on the other side of the table.

Out to Wendy's for chile and a "Frostie" for a light supper. Both of these ladies are 94. I think they are amazing!

Once home, it was back to reality and time for more tests and as it turns out, more radiation. When Dan’s first MRI was done, they saw 2 tumors for sure and possibly a third. We were encouraged b/c we had been hoping that eventually the Avastin would curtail the growth of tumors in his brain. While it is unusual for chemo to have that effect, Avastin had seemed to prevent it when he was on it two years earlier, so we were hoping it would again. When they compared it to the HD MRI, however, it was not 3 but 8 tumors that had to be dealt with. Needless to say, we were disappointed. The radiation was scheduled for the following week.

The day before his appointment, we got a call telling us that we would need to reschedule because the giant machine that is the source of treatment was “down”. Always before, Dan could have all of the tumors dealt with in one day, but now, b/c of the number of them and b/c there would be such a big backlog of patients to be treated, they would have to break it up into two days.

The first 4 tumors were treated on the following Tuesday and the second appointment was scheduled for early Friday morning. On that day, a large winter storm was predicted. We were very concerned his treatment would be delayed yet again. We called the office and asked how we would know if we should come or not. They assured us that if the county did not close the roads to traffic, THEY would be there, but we were to use our own judgment regarding our safety and to just let them know. That relieved my anxiety somewhat…..but we both still wanted it all finished.

Thankfully, the storm was just beginning when we took off and we were able to get him in and out fast enough to get home before the roads got really bad.

I know this doesn't look like much to you Adirondackers out there, but for SW Ohio, this is a lot of snow!
Most folks here don't have a clue how to drive in snow and ice and while the D.O.T. has equipment, they don't have the same volume of equipment so clearing doesn't happen as fast or regularly, making for dicier driving.

His next MRI is scheduled for February 4th. Please pray that the explosion of brain tumors will recede.

Meanwhile, we were blessed with wonderful holiday celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and friends. Our Thanksgiving included our family and our daughter-in-law’s parents. We had a lovely, relaxed day together with lots of great food. The grandkids are getting older and while I hate to see them growing up so fast, it does make dinner time more enjoyable :-)

The table is ready to set......

Although my granddaughters were unable to help me prepare the food this year, the cranberries still got cooked. It just wasn't quite as much fun.

Christmas prep was greatly condensed by the late Thanksgiving and then additionally by my becoming ill for 4 days right after Thanksgiving with the worst stomach flu I have had in a very long while. Thankfully, Dan only got a slight tinge of it! It seems like we barely got the house dressed up for Christmas and it was OVER!

On the Sunday before Christmas, as we were getting ready for church, I happened to notice something on Dan’s back…..and went to look closer. It was a fairly large tumor on the right side of his back about half way up. I was shocked…..well, we were both surprised. I wanted him to call the oncologist right away but he did not want to, insisting that we wait until after Christmas. I did not necessarily “agree” but understood. He already had his regular two week appointment with his oncologist set up and decided that was soon enough.

For us, Christmas included our church’s Christmas Cantata, visits from South Carolina friends, Dan’s extended family’s Christmas Gathering the Saturday before Christmas, our Bible Study’s Christmas Party at our home, the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at our church, caroling at our son’s house with my brother, sister-in-law (who drove all the way from Iowa!) and some friends from church, the whole family at our home for Christmas Dinner and presents, and another visit from NY friends. Below are some photos from our Christmas Celebrations:

This group of cousins is now officially the most "senior" generation of the Rehme Clan. We gathered in Indianapolis (at Chris and Brenda's home) the Saturday before Christmas.



and Morgan all working hard at decorating Mimi's sugar cookies. They hung in there and finished all of them for our traditional "punch and cookies" after opening presents on Christmas Day.

Jim, Alyca and Dan sitting down to Christmas Eve Brunch of apples, bacon, raisin bran muffins and cheese soufflé'.

Alyca insisted on taking a photo of the two of us in front of the tree. I had not quite finished dinner prep, thus the apron. The kids were MORE than ready for dinner b/c they knew presents were right after the meal :-)

One of our traditions is to have a gingerbread house. It sits proudly on our hunt board from Thanksgiving until Christmas.

As soon as all of the "official" festivities are over, the gingerbread house is fair game. The kids are ready to dig in and yes, they really do eat some of it......just not much. It is pretty stale by this time :-)
(Notice the BIG KID in the back)

On the morning of New Year’s Eve, we headed to the oncologist’s office. I have to admit that I was pretty concerned. I was worried that the tumor would be an indication that the Avastin was not effective enough and they would stop that treatment. I thought we had already tried all of the other known kidney cancer treatments. Well, I was right…….and I was wrong.

Dr. Crane was very surprised to see the tumor. He always listens to Dan’s lungs and this tumor was right were he would be placing the stethoscope so it seemed it had popped up rather quickly. As I imagined, he did take Dan off the Avastin, but said there were several other things we could try. So Dan is now on a drug called “Votrient” (brand name) or pazopanib (generic). It is an oral drug, which is great….doesn’t require an IV stick every two weeks….but our experience with oral chemo has not been good so that makes it harder to be hopeful.

Dan is still struggling with excessive back pain, trying to moderate it with powerful meds that he resists taking; and trying to figure out the source of stomach or esophagus pain. Currently he is on 3 meds to help that with little results. If this last med doesn’t help, he will soon be having a scope to SEE what is going on there.

There is little to report on my medical issues. The one extensive and expensive diagnostic tool the cardiologist wanted to use was rejected by my insurance company and I’m not sure what the next step is. I meet with him again on Jan. 7th. I have done very little in strenuous physical activity since that episode last April but was told I could begin exercising again, very slowly at first.
Because of Dan’s back issues, we cancelled our ski trip out west and I am a bit embarrassed to say that skiing was pretty much my motivation to seriously exercise….so I have pretty much been a couch potato. But now I’m FEELING that and am purposing to do better. I promise to report on that in my next update so you all can hold me “accountable” :-)

With each setback we are tempted to be discouraged, but God is not only faithful, He is faithful to remind us of His faithfulness! We remember the grim prognosis given to us 5 1/2 years ago of 3 to 6 months life expectancy and marvel at His mercy and power. Each one of us is totally in His hands, and NOT relying on our own wisdom or skill or the effectiveness of doctors or chemo. If we are discouraged, it should be in our slowness of truly LEARNING this truth rather than in medical setbacks!

When I was catching up with friends via Facebook today, I saw a post from a former pastor’s wife that talked about goals for 2014. I know she won’t mind if I co-opt her goals and make them mine as well. This is what she posted:

(taken from Colossians 3:1-17) My prayer for 2014 is that I will truly fix my mind on things above- and with His help, put off all the old sinful habits that creep into my life and bring dishonor to God. Then I want to put on that whole list of wonderful God-honoring traits- letting His peace rule in my heart, being thankful, letting God's Word fill my mind and heart- living in such a way that brings Him glory. God help me keep this resolution!

So…that was the rest of 2013 and the opening of 2014 for the McCabes. I am very grateful for the beginning of a new year, for God’s sustaining hand on Dan and me and for wonderful, faithful, PRAYING friends like you! Love, Jodee (and Dan)
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