April 24, 2012
Hey! Hey! We’re back!
It seems as if this whole cancer thing, including this blog, was a lifetime ago. It’s crazy to know that it was only four months ago that we completed nearly a year’s worth of cancer treatment and three surgeries. Wow, we’ve come a long way! We’ll pick up where we last left off.
Sam completed his 14th round of chemotherapy on December 23rd. Christmastime was a little bittersweet, but mostly sweet. It was such a relief to know that our 8-hour infusion center days and long sleepless nights at the hospital were finally over for the foreseeable future. However, the continued side effects of chronic treatment were inescapable through the holiday season. Around the second week of January Sam started to perk up, thicken up, and eventually his hair reappeared! We got clearance from the oncologist to head out of town in mid-January and we headed south to the Emerald Coast for nine days of beach fun.
Some incredibly generous and loving family friends loaned us their beautiful beach house and studmobile for our cancer-free vacation. Every single day at the beach was amazing. The weather was warm and sunny, Sam’s appetite was back, and our life that once seemed so threatening and complicated was a world away.
Here are some highlights of our beach fun!
And Drumroll Please…
TWO Helicopter Rides!
I feel like the helicopter rides involve some explanation….so here we go. When Sam was sick, we became infatuated with helicopters. If you’ve ever hung out around Vanderbilt, it’s easy to understand why. Vanderbilt Hospital has three helicopters. It seems as if they are always taking off or landing. These helicopters are loud and humongous. Occasionally, we’d see the LifeFlight crew and pilots throughout the hospital. They are like celebrities and wear really awesome jumpsuits. We got so excited and so obsessed with helicopters that I promised Sam that we’d fly around in a helicopter (and not a LifeFlight helicopter) as soon as he felt better. Until then, we were entertained by remote controlled helicopters that we flew in our apartment.
After several months of practicing landing on coasters, harassing the cats with them, and accidentally scratching our tv many times, we were able to get on a real helicopter. We went on an early morning ride and a sunset ride. It was unreal to turn a wish into a reality so soon.
Our nine days of heaven were more than we could have ever hoped for. These days helped settle our nerves and propelled us into our new life together.
Our New Life
Life these days is pretty fun. Wait. Scratch that. Life these days is TOTALLY FREAKIN’ AWESOME! We have a new set of challenges but it’s nice to feel like we have our life back. We’re mostly normal now, with a few quirks. There’s a long list of continued side effects for chemo patients. The two main side effects that directly impact our life are fatigue and short-term memory loss. The doctors say that it will take about one year for Sam to feel like himself again. He can get tired very quickly and his energy levels aren’t what they once were. We combat the fatigue with an early bedtime, naps, and trying not to do too much in a short period of time. Sam goes to his office three days a week and works from home two days a week. These tactics are all helpful in maximizing Sam’s work potential and energy levels.
Working from home looks like this:
The short-term memory loss will eventually go away (Sam disputes he ever had a working short-term memory). We’re able to deal with this by writing lots of notes, emails, and checklists. We also have to exercise extreme patience. A trip to the grocery store might include all of the following for Sam: getting to the car and realizing that he doesn’t have his keys, arriving at the checkout counter and realizing that he doesn’t have his wallet, and leaving his favorite hat in the grocery cart in the parking lot. Doh! Sam always has a great attitude and more patience than anyone I know. He handles all of this with a smile on his face. Cancer has given us the gift of patience and perspective. Most things that were once a big deal or frustrating have become no big deal at all.
These two minor new realities don’t stop us from doing anything. We’re back to doing everything we love. Sam has gone to concerts, movies, mountain biking, and has eaten a million bacon cheeseburgers in 2012. If you saw Sam today, you could never even imagine that he was so sick just a short time ago. Sam is twice as handsome as he was before he got sick. We believe we are both incredibly happier, healthier, and more appreciative now that life has a whole new meaning. We continue to meet people and hear from people that offer us unending hope and friendship.
One Year Ago Today. Cancer Thingies.
One year ago today, Sam was diagnosed with a highly aggressive malignant bone cancer. On this day in 2011, sisters-in-law became sisters and friends became family. It was this day that our world we once knew abruptly came to an end and our new life of battling a disease began.
After eight months of harsh treatment, three surgeries, and countless setbacks and tearful days, we only know one thing for sure. We are thankful. We are thankful for the two oncologists who worked with us and continue to give us confidence, thankful for the endless love and support from all of our family and friends which includes everyone who reads this blog, and thankful that the whole cancer thing is over for now.
It’s easy to get lost in our own thoughts. Usually once a week, all the “what ifs” and the daunting insurance paperwork and medical bills creep into our lives. As much as we would love to put the whole cancer thing behind us, we know we’ll never be able to. It’s a part of our life together, but again, we don’t let it get us down. We tackle everything as it comes up and move on. We have plans to travel to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle this year. Instead of spending the weekends sick in bed, we spend the weekends biking, grilling out, and throwing the frisbee (seriously, clavicles are so useless). Our oncologists tell us to live our life as if the cancer is not coming back, so that is what we’ll do. Party on!
It’s All Good In The Hood
Since we last spoke to you all, Sam has gotten two CTs, an MRI, and had his labwork checked out three times. Dr. Keedy says that there is no evidence of disease. Woo hoo! Sam has also gained more than 30 pounds since his sickest days (thank you Momma Bledsoe). We just got all of this information last week and are thrilled that we can keep on partying on. When we went back to Vanderbilt last week, women from all over the cancer clinic were coming out from behind their desks to check Sam out. They were hooting and hollering. I thought I was going to have to beat them off with a stick. The compliments were flattering and they all said that seeing Sam look the way he does, rejuvenates them. It was a unique experience for us. We have until the end of June before we head back for more scans. Until then, we will just assume the cancer is gone for good and look forward to a year of traveling and fun times to make up for last year.
A Big Ol’ THANK YOU!
It’s hard not to get emotional writing this blog. Thinking about where we were and where we are now makes us feel like the luckiest people on the planet. We owe almost all of our happiness and success to you all. The unwavering support, thoughtful acts, and love is what made Sam well again. We now make it a habit to hug people instead of shaking hands or just waving hello or goodbye. We’ve given out a bajillion hugs this year and we’re just getting started. We have a lifetime of saying thank you, showing appreciation, and paying forward everything you all did for us. Thank you for seeing us through till the end and thank you for helping us get our lives back to this new normal where our fear is limited, our confidence is high, and our happiness is immeasurable. We love you.
Love, gratitude, and a big hug,
Sam, Leslie, Theo, and BB Bledsoe
December 23, 2011
NO MO’ CHEMO!
It’s over. We ALL did it! A MEGA THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO GOT US HERE! If you are reading this blog, YOU got us here. This was an enormous team effort. We did it! We did it! We did it!!!
We had five of the happiest and saddest days at the hospital this week. We’ll miss all of our Vanderbilt friends, but we are overjoyed that our long days of receiving treatment are finally over.
SO WHAT’S THE PLAN NOW?
We will rest happily. Our new beginning has begun. We will start our lives over with a fragile new not-so-normal normalcy. We couldn’t be happier. We know that we will have a new list of challenges for next year, but we hope it will be easier than this past year. Sam will soon be getting stronger. He has his first set of scans in three weeks. We expect the scans to be cancer-free and we plan to take a vacation as soon as we get the “all clear” from the doctor. Life is about to get a lot more fun!
THIS PAST YEAR
Over this past year, we had many bad days and scary nights. Over and over again, I found myself thinking, “If Sam can just make it through the day…” and “If we can just make it through this night…”. I always thought Sam would get better and life would get a little easier. That never really happened. From the diagnosis till now, life has been difficult in so many ways. I can’t imagine many things scarier than the nights we were up all night or at the hospital early in the morning. Sam’s days were plagued with illness and mine with heartache. Every now and then, we got a few good days in a row, or a week if we were lucky, but nothing more than that. It’s strange for us to live a life in which we don’t look forward to many things. Besides visiting with friends and family, we haven’t looked forward to anything but THIS day and it’s finally here. Whoop! Whoop!
Since the diagnosis, we have gotten mentally stronger, wiser, and more patient. We stopped questioning, “Why us?” and started thinking, “We’re going to get through this and we’re going to be a million times happier and more appreciative because of it.” We stopped complaining early on and tried to get through each day smiling if we could.
I spent a lot of our hospital time reading books written by cancer survivors. In one of my favorite books, someone wrote, “Cancer was the worst thing that happened to me. Cancer was the best thing that happened to me.” We think that is exactly what it has been for us.
Cancer has been the worst thing because of the unbelievable amount of stress, horror, and ups and downs we’ve been through this past year. Our world has been grim since April. This cancer will probably be the source of worry for years to come. It’s been the best thing because of all of you. We have laughed so much this year. Once you or the person you love is diagnosed with cancer or any illness, you kind of lose your inhibitions and start living the life you’ve always wanted. As cliché as that may sound, it’s true. Even though we consider ourselves unlucky, we are very lucky for going through this together, and with all of you. Throughout this year, we’ve learned the importance of positivity, family, and love. When you combine that with our desire to laugh and have fun, we have to believe we’ve got a good thing going for us.
This blog has been an outlet and a major source of entertainment for us. It has been a challenging and fun distraction. It’s hard to be sad when someone emails us comparing BB’s rear end to J. Lo’s. This blog has allowed us to keep everyone informed while putting us in touch with new friends all over the world. To every cancer patient, young and old, stay in touch with us and we hope you too can find a way to laugh.
THE FUTURE OF THIS BLOG
The blog must go on. Our updates will not be as frequent as they have been, but we look forward to keeping everyone updated on Sam’s progress in 2012. This blog is a part of us and the cancer community that we love which has given us so much love and hope in return.
MANY MANY THANK YOUS
We can’t thank you all enough for taking this journey with us. We read and reread every comment, email, and card you sent us. From Nantucket to Australia, you have all left a handprint on our hearts and we’ll always be thankful for you.
CONGRATULATIONS SAM AND THANK YOU VIDEO!
Moms, you are the best people on this planet.
With all the love in the world and warm holiday wishes,
Sam and Leslie Bledsoe
December 9, 2011
Let The Countdown Begin!
Hey everybody! We just finished our 13th round of chemotherapy! We had a successful two days of treatment and we’re thrilled to be finished with another round. With the completion of each round comes a bigger smile, so you can imagine, our smiles are pretty big at this point. It sounds awful to wish time away, but when faced with a rigorous treatment schedule and being so sick so often, we can’t help but wish the days away. We only have one more round to go! Sam’s last round of chemotherapy is scheduled for December 19th-December 23rd. Because we are nearing the end of this part of the adventure, Sam and I took some time this week to figure out what we’ve been through this past year.
Sam was diagnosed with a malignant bone cancer 232 days ago. Since then, we’ve had 105 scheduled appointments. He has had 13 rounds of chemotherapy. He has had 3 surgeries. He’s had to get lab work done 58 times. He has gone to the infusion center for treatment 46 times. We’ve spent 10 nights in hospital rooms. I’ve had the unfortunate duty of giving him 78 shots and will give him 10 more before this thing is through. And finally, we hope to be on the beach in 42 days.
This journey has been grueling and incredible. In fourteen days, we’ll finally breathe a sigh of relief. We both fully understand that this particular cancer doesn’t have an expiration date. There will always be a chance of the cancer coming back, but we’ll worry about that if it happens. We’ve done all that we can do and we believe that the cancer will never return. There’s no way we’ll ever be normal again, but in two weeks, we’ll begin to be more hopeful and happier than we’ve been in 232 days. Normal is boring anyway.
Throughout these last several months, we’ve learned that family and friends are all that we need in life and we will never take a day in good health for granted again.
We plan to rest over the next week and stay away from the hospital.
Thank you for being a part of our support team and another thank you for getting us this far. We love you so much.
Sam and Leslie Bledsoe
P.S. Thank you for always making our trips to the mailbox so fun. After two days at the hospital this week, we came home to a mailbox full of loving cards and funny packages. We have new friends in Little Rock and a new friend in California. Christina, keep your head up and stay in touch.
P.P.S. Matt-thanks for the Bob Marley sweatpants from the Philippines. Sam’s wardrobe is now compete.
November 25, 2011
Just Finished Round 12!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are now lying on the couch wishing you didn’t eat all those leftovers! We just finished our 12th round of chemotherapy. Sam had five full days of treatment this week. Everything went as planned and we’re happy to be home from the hospital. We expect a few rough days ahead but are super excited about celebrating Thanksgiving next week.
This week, it seems fitting to highlight the awesome side to cancer and that is the people we get to hang out with so frequently. Over the last eight months, we’ve been surrounded by the most devoted people at Vanderbilt Hospital. Last week, we had three appointments on Sam’s birthday. On two separate occasions at opposite ends of the hospital, several women sang Happy Birthday to him (in a tone deaf but heartfelt kind of way).
The cancer clinic can be a heart-wrenching place to be. Since April, it seems like we’ve lived in the cancer clinic, especially the infusion center. It’s tough. The infusion center will crush your spirit and ruin your appetite for several days. We’re convinced that Vanderbilt only puts the funniest, most charismatic, and loving people in the clinic. When this whole cancer thing is over, the people at Vanderbilt Hospital will be what we miss the most. Consistently, from the time we get out of the car at the clinic, till the time we leave, employees go out of their way to talk to us or to ask me how Sam is doing. A lot of people say something like, “I love you two. I mean, I hate that you are here so much, but I love seeing you two.” Little do they know, we love seeing them too. To everyone at Vanderbilt Hospital, you are all the best part of our days; we consider you family and look forward to stopping by and saying “Hi!” a little less often in 2012. Thank you for seeing us through the good days and the bad days.
Because of our frequency of visits, extended stays, and Sam’s popularity, I refer to him as the Mayor of Vanderbilt Hospital. We are thrilled that he will be stepping down from this role soon.
We hope to receive treatment on December 6th and 7th, so we’ll see you all later that week! Enjoy the rest of the long weekend and thank you for all of the love and support.
Sam and Leslie Bledsoe
November 11, 2011
Happy Friday everyone! We’re back on track with our chemo schedule. Two weeks ago, the combination of illness and chemo led to a pretty rough week. This was preceded by five rocky weeks of either chemo or hospitalizations. But last week we finally had some pretty awesome days. In fact, last week was one of the best weeks we’ve had since the beginning of April. The good days seem to have impeccable timing. Just when we think the days couldn’t get any longer or harder, we’re blessed with several good days in a row. Throughout this last year, we’ve learned to take the good days and run with them.
Last week, Sam felt well enough to carve pumpkins…
He had a well-balanced diet…
It was nice to let our guard down for the week. If you’re wondering if BB has gotten bigger over the last few months, yes, BB is huge. The more we’re away, the more she eats. Let’s explain:
For Those Who Would Like To See The Proof:
Back On Track
We had to go back to Vanderbilt this week and resume chemo. We just finished our 11th round of chemo! It was a routine week of treatment without many complications. We’re happy that we’ve made it to the double-digit treatments and eagerly look forward to wrapping up all of this chemo business. We’ve got a couple of months to go, but we’re getting closer to the beach each day.
We’ve only got three more rounds to go and then there will be…
A Special Birthday Request!
Sam turns the big 28 next week and I was hoping we could all do our part to give back a little for his birthday. Sam has received multiple blood transfusions over the last several months and we’re extremely thankful for the donors who made them possible – they made him feel a ton better. I thought we could use Sam’s birthday as a way to motivate and encourage anyone that feels comfortable with donating blood to do so. A lot of people have told us that they donated blood after we told them how much better Sam feels after a blood transfusion.
We’ve got to send out a WHOOP! WHOOP! to Sam’s uncle Jim who organized a blood drive in Atlanta and gave blood as well. What a good show of hard work and generosity! Here is a link to good info for first time donors: http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/first-time-donors, and you can find upcoming blood drives and nearby Red Cross centers by entering your zip code on the right.
What’s On Tap For The Weeks Ahead…
Sam is scheduled to get five days of chemotherapy starting on November 21st, which means we’ll spend Thanksgiving at Vanderbilt Hospital. The good news is that the hospital will be a lot less crowded because of the holiday week and the better news is that we still get to visit with family and eat a bunch of turkey the following week. We hope that this next week will be drama-free with the exception of birthday shenanigans.
While we’re on the subject of Thanksgiving, we’d like to say thank you to everyone. Over the last several weeks, we’ve heard from a lot of people that have made us laugh and cry. Each time we get a comment on the blog, receive a card in the mail, or read a ridiculous email aloud, the author has made our life better. We thank you so much for helping us smile on a lot of days that we didn’t think we had it in us.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving and know that we are so very thankful for you all!
Sam and Leslie Bledsoe
October 28, 2011
It’s Been A Bumpy Ride…
Hey everyone! We’ve had five rough weeks, but we hope we’re on our way to better days. In the last five weeks, Sam has been hospitalized for infections twice and has received two rounds of chemotherapy. Two weeks ago, we spent 31 hours in Vanderbilt’s emergency department, so the e.d. got us down once again.
The good news is, we just finished the 10th round of chemotherapy, but the bad news is Sam was unable to complete his five days of scheduled treatment. Honestly, we were both really happy about this. Due to illness, he was only able to get three days of treatment. We showed up to the hospital these last two days thinking that Sam would get treatment, but he was just too sick. Instead of getting chemo, he received fluids for a couple of hours and other iv medication to help him sleep which is exactly what he needed.
We’re not quite sure how we’ll move forward from this point on. We hope that Sam will perk up over the next week and he’ll be able to receive treatment again soon. All we want is for Sam to feel better, so watching movies and taking long naps will be high on our priority list.
Lots of love and thanks,
Sam and Leslie Bledsoe
October 7, 2011
Please know that every single comment brings a smile to both our faces, most more than once. We go back and read old ones, read them to each other a couple times, and talk about how thoughtful and funny they are. You are the best group of friends and family anyone could have going through this.
Here’s a short summary video of the last couple weeks.
Greetings everyone! We’re a little off our routine. We had a delay in treatment because of Sam’s lung infection, so last week was chemo-free. We were hoping that Sam would be able to start treatment the week after checking out from Hotel Vanderbilt, but the oncologist said, “No way Jose” (in a medically-big-word-filled kind of way). Understandably, she was worried that Sam was still prone to infection and it was in our best interest to take another week off from chemotherapy. That put us at this week for resuming treatment.
Having a delay in treatment is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it gave us the opportunity to be away from the hospital for the week and live as normally as possible. Sam deserves a major Whoop! Whoop! for working a full 40 hours from home last week. Hooray for Sam, BB, and Theo, for all working together throughout the week. A delay in chemotherapy is a curse because we make no advancements to getting towards the end of all of this. We’re still proceeding slowly though, and we’ll get there when we get there.
We are super excited to get this week over with. This particular cycle is rough on Sam. Fortunately, the FDA puts lifetime limits on certain chemo drugs and this week marks the end of his use of a nasty drug called Adriamycin. Sam will no longer be able to receive Adriamycin and Dr. Keedy has assured us that life will get a little easier.
Now that this week is over, there are five more cycles of chemotherapy. Each cycle is preceded by a week off from treatment, so that is 10 weeks total, if everything goes as planned. One lesson we’ve learned is that everything probably won’t go as planned. For the sake of forecasting though, we’re going to pretend like things will stay simple. That would put the last week of treatment at December 11th – 17th. It would be very cool to wrap up treatment this year, but we’ll just have to wait and see if that happens.
Regardless of when we finish, we will throw what our nurse Laura calls a No Mo Chemo Party. The party will start in the infusion center and it will continue to the beach. The vision of a chemo-free vacation after finishing this part of our lives makes the light at the end of the tunnel glimmer and dance.
Bruce Dan’s Blog
While we were enjoying our stay at Vanderbilt, we happened to read an article in their excellent hospital newspaper, the Reporter, about the late Bruce Dan. He worked at Vanderbilt as a doctor in his younger days, and passed away just this year from leukemia after a yearlong battle. The article linked to his blog at http://brucedan.wordpress.com and we checked it out. His near-daily posts are delightful to read. Leslie loves it when I read aloud to her; all she has to say about it is ‘read another one.’ We recognize many similarities between his experience and ours, and he’s given us some very good, practical ideas. He seems to share a common outlook and understanding with us. His expression of love for his wife and appreciation for his family and friends is touching and instructive. It’s hard to recommend a story with such a sad ending, but if you or a loved one is going through cancer treatment, you might find he gives expression to your feelings and experiences in a way that makes you smile with recognition.
One Hell Of A First Year
We had our first anniversary last week! We celebrated it for the second time. The first time, we took advantage of Sam’s month off after his surgery, and threw down while we were both feeling well. That’s another major Whoop! Whoop! Two celebrations are better than one. For the 2nd occasion, we just went on a walk and curled up and watched a movie. It really doesn’t take much to make us happy these days, a day together in good health is plenty.
We can’t help but think about everything that has transpired over the last year.
Nightmare is the first word that comes to mind. Cancer and chemo are a constant distraction. There are no nights of uninterrupted sleep. We could go on and on about the daily struggles and worry, but it’s just easier to say that the last several months have been scary. We’re usually so frazzled that the cats probably think that we’re the looney ones. We have had a lot of really bad days these last few months. We have an ongoing contest of which day has sucked the most. Sometimes at night, we laugh when we go over everything bad that happened on that particular day. Maybe it’s a little bit of sleep deprived insanity kicking in, but this always snaps us out of our funk and puts us at ease.
Looking out from the vantage of bad days and persistent weariness provides some perspective. Good times become more vibrant and easier to remember. We appreciate each other and our own time much more than ever before. Most of all, we realize that the most important parts of our lives are each other and our family. It’s pretty cliche. But it’s true, and living this way, with constant uphill battles and tons of loving support in fighting them, makes you think about it in a way that changes your actions.
The more we talked about this past year, the more we realized how blessed we are. Sans the whole cancer thing, we’ve actually had a lot of fun. We got married, we traveled some, we added a precious niece to our family, we’ve learned a whole new medical vocabulary, we’ve had a lot of priceless family time and time with friends, and we’ve laughed more this year than we’ve ever laughed. This past year has been crazy and crazy fun. Sam’s cancer has given us all more motivation to have fun and love like hell. Maybe getting a little unlucky has made us all realize how lucky we truly are. Some days we feel robbed, but we’ll spend the rest of our lives making up for this passed year. Here is a video of some of our favorite pictures from this past year:
This video is proof that Sam does own shirts and occasionally chooses to wear one.
Steve Jobs said this in 2005, and it sure rings true in the face of a fight with cancer and midnight E.D. runs:
Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
We think he’s right, anyway =]
Unless something dramastic happens, we’ll update after the next round is done. That may be two weeks or it may be more due to delays. Either way, we’ll see you then.
Leslie and Sam
September 27, 2011
Thank you everyone who leaves comments for us on our blog, you all lift our spirits and give us something to look forward to.
Guest blog post time! Sam here this week, and that’s right, I’m guest posting on my own blog. I offered to do posting duties this week, and Leslie sprang at the opportunity to take a week off. There was some danger and excitement last week, during what I like to call the Pleurisy Adventure. It was a little rough to get through, but Leslie was singularly wonderful, and friends and family were more kind and helpful than we could ever ask for.
The week after cycle eight was uneventful. I was feeling OK and going to work every day. Near the end of the week (which is usually when my white blood cells counts are lowest and my immune system is weakest) I developed a runny nose and a nasty cough. I didn’t think much of it but Leslie was appropriately concerned.
Fast forward to the next Monday morning at 3:30 AM. I’d been thrashing around and groaning all night, keeping Leslie up. I skidded in to wakefulness and realized I was sweating and it felt like my chest was sore. After some very hazy and halfwitted deliberation (“maybe I’m just hot, I should move some blankets… I probably just pulled a muscle or something in my chest”), I took my temperature and it registered at 100.6. We were off to the hospital.
Packing for a stay of unknown length at 3:30 AM while in a state of hurried distress ain’t easy, but we did pretty well. The Emergency Room was empty so we got in right away, and the admitting nurse took my temperature, which was now up to 101.1. He got me a wheelchair and wheeled me over to my room. The nurses and doctors there were all great, and they did some poking X-Raying and questioning, then got me started on antibiotics and medicine for the chest pain, which was now pretty bad.
Doctor Hoot, who did not live up to his name (he didn’t hoot once!) but was a great doctor, was initially worried that I had a blood clot in my lung. He said those are one of the only ways to get a fever that isn’t an infection, which I thought was interesting. He also said that lung blood clots make part of your lung tissue die, which sounded very bad, so I was hoping that wasn’t the situation. After a shift change and getting moved to a different E.R. Room,
(I have to digress here and say that Hospital folks refer to the “Emergency Department” instead of the “Emergency Room.” This means that they talk about the E.D. instead of the E.R., which always makes me think of Erectile Dysfunction. “Emergency Department” may not be as common a term with non-hospital people, but I think the humor of saying things like “the E.D. nurse” outweighs the unfamiliarity, so from now on I’ll say E.D. instead of E.R.)
– ahem – getting moved to a different E.D. room, we waited for and eventually got a CT scan on my chest. It showed that I did not have a blood clot. Yay! The doctors settled on a diagnosis of “pleurisy” caused by pneumonia, but they still weren’t sure what kind of infection caused the pneumonia. Pleurisy was a new word for us and it means an inflammation of the outer lining of the lungs. Even now, a week later, they don’t know what caused the pneumonia.
An extended stay in Hotel Vanderbilt
That all took about 12 hours. It was very distressing and scary. At about 3:00 PM, when we were all sure it wasn’t a blood clot (yay!), I got transported by two EMT’s out of the E.D. to my very own room. Things are a lot quieter up in the normal patient wings of the hospital. We had a succession of wonderful nurses for whom we were very thankful. We are continually amazed by how smart, caring, and competent our doctors and nurses and Vanderbilt are.
For the next three days we were living the high life. Friends and moms brought us delicious meals, nurses got us free grippy socks, and remarkably funny and kind people from the nutrition department brought us trays full of colorful lukewarm inedibility. Towards the end of our stay, I actually got a lot better at ordering from the nutrition department. The key is to think about which foods on the menu take very little expertise to make, and can taste good when served tepid.
Pleurisy is very painful, but the docs and nurses kept the pain well controlled. On Thursday morning the doctors decided that I could come off my IV pain medication to oral meds. They sent us on our way later that day, and we came home to our two smelly cats and our welcoming bed.
The most important part – Looking back and laughing
We knew that getting from a cancer diagnosis to the end of a successful treatment wouldn’t be easy, and this is just one of the bumps along the way. It was scary at times, and definitely less than comfortable. Having Leslie by my side to comfort me and stick up for me made it easily tolerable though, and even fun. I almost want to go back =) I think I’ve told Leslie I love her more times since we got out of the E.D. than in the year we’ve been married (which was lots of times to start with). She is an amazing woman, I just can’t get over it. Rushing to the hospital in the middle of the night with chest pains helped me realize what I’m really thankful for, and she’s at the top of the list. Mom and Dad, and Kate and Neil, you guys are a fantastic family.
Thank you everyone who reads and leaves a comment, or sends a card in the mail, or sends an email saying Hi. It’s great to hear from you guys, and it sure keeps our spirits up. An extended thank you to our Moms and Tara for coming by the hospital and bringing us cheer and (much, much better) food.
Hopefully I’ll be able to commandeer the blog again soon for another post!
September 9, 2011
Sam just finished his eighth cycle of chemo! He had treatment all five days this week, including a Labor Day infusion. We were worried that his treatment was going to get pushed back a week because of his lack of white blood cells and Labor Day, but Sam came through over the weekend and made a few more neutrophils and was able to begin his treatment on Labor Day. Even though a holiday infusion sounds like a drag, it was actually kind of pleasant to be at the hospital without such a large crowd. Vanderbilt only does holiday infusions for the patients in which the timing of the chemotherapy is critical, so we feel fortunate that the holiday didn’t alter his schedule. There was only one other cancer patient receiving treatment on Monday, so we had a rather peaceful Labor Day at the infusion center.
This cycle is definitely draining for Sam. He receives a lot of chemotherapy and spends most of the week at the hospital. Luckily, there’s always delicious food in the refrigerator and naps to look forward to. Click on the following link to view highlights from the week: CYCLE EIGHT VIDEO!
Sam and I joke about our refrigerator. We call it the Magic Fridge. All we have to do is open up the door and (insert oohh ahhh sound effect when reading) it’s filled with meats, pies, quiche, breads, and endless amounts of cookies! We really appreciate all of the help with the Magic Fridge contributions. It makes our life so much easier and it always gives us something to look forward to after being at the hospital all day or coming home from work. Food, movies, naps, and family time is about all we look forward to these days, so thank you all for adding such a variety of food to our days.
If you live in the 37027 zip code, odds are, we have some sort of plastic container that belongs to you. In due time, we will get all of the containers back to the rightful owners. Until then, we’ll spend a majority of our free time wrestling with this cabinet and routinely picking up plastic containers off the floor every single time we open up the cabinet. Funny thing is, I bet you all have this same problem with your plastic containers and you don’t even have a Magic Fridge!
We try to keep our off weeks as normal as possible. It’s not easy. Sam is usually really tired and we’re restricted on what we can do. Sam comes with a rule list about a mile long. Our off weeks usually consist of one or two appointments at the hospital, work, and early bedtimes. We act like we’re 80 years old. Honestly, it’s not so bad. We have an excuse to lay around in our sweatpants, eat at restaurants at 4:30 in the evening, and watch a lot of movies.
Sam is getting strong again! Whoop! Whoop!
So it turns out, the doctor was right! When the surgeon first said that Sam wouldn’t miss his clavicle, we thought she was totally crazy. It seemed beyond our belief that Sam wouldn’t be impacted at all by missing a big bone. His progress has been incredible. When he feels up to it, he works on rehabilitating his shoulder and making it stronger. The fact that he doesn’t have his right clavicle doesn’t bother him one bit and he should be able to do anything and everything once chemo is over.
Here is a short video that shows Sam’s progress. Sam is able to armpit fart with his right arm and raise the roof. Click on this link to see the proof: PROGRESS VIDEO!
Now that I’ve subjected you all to the most absurd video ever, I should thank you. With such a long week, it’s easy for us to see how this would be impossible without all the help we receive. You guys make it so that all Sam has to do is show up to the hospital and tolerate chemotherapy as best as he can. All of you, the doctors, and nurses take care of the rest. Thank you very much for sending snacks, meals, emails, and cards our way. This would be a lonely and difficult ride without you. You Mommas are the best.
Love and gratitude,
Sir Armpit Farts A Lot and Leslie Bledsoe
August 25, 2011
Seven Down. Seven To Go!
We just finished our 7th round of chemotherapy! We have seven more treatments to go and are making some major headway. It was hard going back to the hospital after an incredibly fun break, but we’re back and ready to kick this cancer for good.
Sam has been able to heal really well. The key to successful healing from a clavicle removal is lots of love, good food, a visit from Kate, and some video game time. Theo sat right by Sam throughout his two week video game extravaganza. Occasionally, Theo felt like Sam wasn’t paying enough attention to him.
Life Post Clavicle Removal
Sam met with a physical therapist this week to work on getting his movement back in his right arm. I think we’re all surprised with his range of motion and his strength. Because Sam has restarted chemotherapy, his healing won’t be as quick and easy as it was while he was on a break recovering from the surgery, but we’re all really happy with how much progress he’s made.
We’ve established some goals for his recovery: be able to armpit fart, raise the roof, and most importantly…fit through a tennis racquet! We’ve hit the armpit fart milestone and we’re working on Sam being able to raise the roof.
SO WHAT’S IT LOOK LIKE?
Sam’s wound has been covered for most of our break, but here’s a peek at what it looks like. It’s a pretty big scar. I told Sam that we should tell people that a shark bit him and Sam thought that we should tell people that he got bit by TWO sharks.
When Sam is wearing a shirt, you can’t really tell that he is missing his right clavicle. He’s a little asymmetrical, but we think that being asymmetrical rocks and is way more exciting than being a symmetrical rock.
There was a lot of buzz after our last post about whether or not I was eating a barbecue chicken wing or if I had inserted a post-op picture of Sam’s bloody clavicle. Just to clear the air, it was a picture of me eating Sam’s clavicle.
We realize it was totally gross to post and hopefully his clavicle won’t make many more appearances in the blog. Check out this picture of two dogs that were playing tug of war outside Vanderbilt Hospital.
The pathologist said that Sam has had a good response to chemotherapy. This means that he will not need radiation and we’ll continue with chemotherapy as scheduled. We’re so happy that there is an end in sight to all this madness. After chemotherapy is finished, Sam will have to be monitored closely and rescanned every eight weeks for the next ten years. Even though that sounds like a lot, anything will be way easier than it is now. We’re thrilled that his surgery went so well and are very thankful for all of the wonderful doctors and nurses at Vanderbilt.
Now On To The Fun Stuff…
Our two weeks off were the most fun two weeks we’ve had since the beginning of April. Sam was definitely in pain from the surgery, but that was easily maintained with medication. Sam said it best when he said, “There’s a big difference between being hurt and being sick. I’m just hurt.” We’re normally confined by a million rules and restrictions, but we had two weeks to kick up our heels, paint the town red, and let our freak flags fly. We needed this break and enjoyed every minute of it. We spent most of the time relaxing, hanging out with our families, and eating.
Turn up the volume and watch some highlights from our two week break.
Video Link Click Here: http://vimeo.com/27981147
Brothers and Sisters!
Thank you so much for coming to town! We eagerly look forward to your visits and miss you when you leave. We greatly appreciate all of the packages, emails, food deliveries, and companionship. We love you all like crazy. I think we’ve come a long way since the days of pulling each other’s hair and stealing the last piece of pie and strategically hiding in the bathroom to scarf it down while a furious brother bangs on the door…progress indeed.
To the rest of our families and friends, you are all so awesome and helpful. Your cards and emails always cheer us up. I know we say this a lot, but we spend a lot of our time talking about everyone else. Talking or worrying about cancer is no fun, so we definitely thank you for all of the distractions and encouragement. You help our parents so much as well. We love you all and know that we’d be lost without you.
Blog Updates and Email Notifications
We are not entirely sure if we’ll be able to stay on this every other week chemotherapy schedule. Because of Sam’s white blood cell count, the frequency of the treatments might slow down. We have seven more rounds to go, but aren’t quite sure when it will all be over or when all of the treatments will happen. Now that we have a handle on this whole cancer thing, our goal is to make our off weeks as normal as possible. Yes, we actually look forward to going back to work.
We’re going to update the blog after each round of treatment, which will hopefully be every other week. If you’d like, click on the Subscribe to Posts link on the top left of this web page. This will email you when there is a new post. You’ll receive an email confirming your subscription. Please open the email and click on the confirmation link.
If that last paragraph sounded way too complicated, don’t worry. Just email me at: Leslie.Hackett@gmail.com and we’ll put you on the email subscription list. If you’re friends with our parents and would like to email them, you can give them your email address and we’ll make sure you get added.
Once again, thank you and we love you all.
With all the thanks in the world,
Sam and Leslie Bledsoe