Archive for July, 2011

End of Cycle Six and Surgery Mode!

Sam received chemotherapy all five days last week.  It was definitely exhausting, but I think we have finally figured out how to make this whole cancer thing suck less.  Originally, this experience was off the charts on the Cancer Suck-O-Meter, but we’ve become experts at figuring this whole thing out.

We’re more versed in medications, doctor communication, scheduling, and Sam’s diet.  The five days of treatment went smoothly and we even got another visit from Maddie the therapy dog.  We’re ecstatic about getting a break from chemotherapy for awhile and will not miss going to the infusion center…no offense Maddie.

We’ll spend the next two days at Vanderbilt Hospital (five appointments in two days) going through pre-op, getting scans, and meeting with the oncologist.  Sam will be put through a couple of machines (a sandwich and a taco) and will be poked relentlessly.  Because Sam’s cancer is super aggressive, it’s important for him to get rescanned frequently.  A couple weeks after his surgery, we’ll have a good idea of how much progress he’s made.  I’d like to assume that his scans will be void of anything suspicious and they will look something like this:

Surgery Mode!

We are getting ready for surgery next week!  Sam’s surgery is scheduled for 9:30 am on Wednesday, August 3rd.  The last time we were in the hospital for a few days, we were totally unprepared.  We forgot a cell phone, computer, snacks, and a change of clothes.  In fact, at the beginning of our extended retreat, Sam asked me if I packed any snacks.  I confidently sifted through my backpack only to find a wet bathing suit and a pair of goggles.

We’re ready this time.  We are loaded down with food, have a squeaky clean apartment to come home to, our suitcase will be thoughtfully packed, and the bathing suit is staying at home!

It’s time to say goodbye to Sam’s right clavicle and other surrounding muscles.  It’ll be an adjustment for Sam and he won’t look as symmetrical as he once did, but we can’t wait to get this cancer-infected thing out of his body!  It’ll be a relief to have all of the cancer removed and begin the healing process.  The surgeon tells us that the clavicle is the most dispensable bone in the body.  Sam will not miss it and he’ll also have some funky movement capabilities once he feels better.  He’s convinced that he’ll be able to fit through a tennis racquet.  We will totally put this to the test as soon as we can!

The same doctor that diagnosed Sam (gave us the news that turned our world upside down)

will remove his clavicle and hopefully all the cancer from his body.  Can we get a Whoop Whoop for Dr. Halpern?  WHOOP!  WHOOP!

WARNING:  Giving blood and receiving blood causes big goofy smiles.

More Inspiration To Donate Blood!

You just can’t imagine how much of a difference the blood transfusion made.  Not only did it help Sam feel better instantly, but it also made him stronger for his five consecutive days of chemo.  He felt so good that he insisted that we swing by the grocery store on the way home from the hospital after getting his transfusion.  A steak was on his radar.  He carefully selected the perfect filet.  As we left the grocery store, a pizza also sounded appealing.  We picked up a large pizza with hamburger meat, pepperoni, and sausage.  When we got home, Sam cooked several pieces of bacon and grilled the steak and added to the pizza toppings.

Let’s Review:

If you’re able and are not terrified of needles, please donate blood.  It made an enormous difference in Sam’s energy, happiness, and appetite.

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We thank you all for reading this blog.  It’s provided us with an outlet and is a great means of support and communication.

Let’s Hear It For Sam!  Can I Get Another Whoop Whoop For Sam?  WHOOP!  WHOOP!

Sam has endured a lot of bad news and pain over the last three months.  He has never complained or once felt sorry for himself.  He keeps showing up at Vanderbilt Hospital with a good attitude and a smile on his face.  Occasionally during treatment, that smile turns into an open-mouth snore, but you know what I mean.  He is courageous, compassionate, and loving.  He’s been my rock for years and has continued to calm me and lead me through this turbulence.  He deserves all the credit and admiration in the world.  All of you have acted as heroes and saviors and I think we can all agree that Sam is the real Superman.

Audience Participation! 

As we approach a pivotal point in this process, we are reminded of all of the love that helped get us here in a calm (mostly) and positive fashion. To everyone, we wouldn’t be as happy and thankful as we are without you.  Your encouragement helps propel us through each day.   Please feel free to post a comment* (Don’t be shy; If an elephant can do it, so can you.) and wish Sam luck as we turn a page in this cancer-killing book.  We thrive because of YOUR support.  We sincerely thank you all for everything.

*If you’re not sure how to post a comment (cough…Momma Hackett…cough), it’s easy.  At the end of this post, click on the link that says:  Leave a Comment.

Mom, don't click on this one. This is just an example. Click on the link at the end of the post.

We will end this post with our good luck song.  Whether it’s getting through a long night plagued with some of those chemo horror stories proving to be true or trying to lighten the mood while we’re sitting in a chaotic emergency room, we’ve continually sung one song (chorus) to put us at ease.  It goes like this:

You are my sunshine

My only sunshine

You make me happy             

Though our kitty is gray!

We will update the blog towards the end of next week and let you know how the surgery went and how Sam is doing.  Thanks again for all of your support!


With so much love,


Sam and Leslie

All Aboard The Crazy Train!

Cancer is a WILD RIDE! Strap in!

What a crazy week!  We were all super excited about this week.  Well, maybe 90% excited and 10% nervous.  We were pumped about Sam’s blood transfusion.  Each week, Sam gets weaker and more tired.  There’s nothing fun about acting like a sloth.

We were assured that the transfusion of two pints of blood would boost his energy.  We were also told that there shouldn’t be any problems with the transfusion.  I think the exact words were, “I mean it’s rare, but it does happen.”  We had an early start for the blood transfusion so the minute the blood started flowing (slowly dripping), we turned the lights out to sleep.  About two hours later, a nurse came in to remove the empty bag and hang a new pint of blood.  She turned on the lights and whoooooa!  We had a problem.  Sam was covered in hives!

This was only the beginning of the craziness.  Sam was injected with multiple rounds of steroids and Benadryl to try to eliminate the hives and control his adverse reaction to the transfusion.  It took over three hours for Sam’s new look to revert  back to regular ol’ Sam.  The good news was that he was hive-free, but the bad news was that Sam was unable to receive the second pint of blood.  Rats.  If they would have only kept the lights off!  We entered the hospital at 7:00 am and left around 5:30 pm feeling pretty defeated, confused, and frustrated.  Even though a total breakout of hives is not good, we knew that Sam needed the blood.  On the way home, Sam looked at me and said, “How do we even begin to explain what happened today?”

After spending all day Wednesday at the hospital, we were right back at Vanderbilt at 7:00 on Thursday morning.  We really needed good news.  By 7:30 on Thursday morning, we finally heard something that we wanted to hear!  We went over Sam’s most recent MRI with the musculoskeletal oncologist.  Here it is.

How AWESOME is this:

What's Up Now Stupid Cancer!

Sam’s cancer has responded well (awesomely) to the chemotherapy.  Honestly, we couldn’t have asked for any better news.  This was everything the doctors were hoping for.  His surgery is scheduled for August 3rd.  His surgery will be an intense surgery, but the doctors don’t anticipate any complications.  He will have a majority of his right clavicle removed; some of his rotator cuff cut out, and the doctors aren’t going to be shy about taking out other muscles in the surrounding area.  Here’s some more awesome news:  the surgeon said that Sam should be able to do EVERYTHING that he was able to do before the surgery.  It’ll be several months before Sam is at full strength, but at least we know that the surgery isn’t going to stop him from one day carrying two pizzas and a case of beer up the stairs.  Sam and I were so relieved to hear this.  We’ve been worried for months that we’d have to permanently cancel our friendly (and sometimes not so friendly) racquetball games and put away our mountain bikes forever.  We definitely have a long road ahead of this, but this was the best news we’ve received in a long time.

Just to refresh your memory, this is the plan to cure Sam’s cancer:

We met with the oncologist after meeting with the surgeon and there’s no doubt that she was perplexed by Sam’s reaction to his transfusion.  Sam needed more blood in order to have five days of treatment next week.  What a conundrum!  A team of oncologists, blood bank employees, and people from The Red Cross all got together on Thursday afternoon to determine what might have caused the problem.  I like to refer to Sam as, “a mound of paperwork.”  They all determined that the blood that he received was close to the expiration date and the almost expired blood could have grown something that Sam was allergic to.  Huh?!?!  I guess that’s their specialty, so we’ll go with what they said.  They scheduled Sam for another transfusion on Friday and he is only allowed to have the freshest blood.  Sam deserves the finest even if it is just a bag of blood.

The transfusion today went a lot smoother.  Sam was given steroids at the beginning of his transfusion and they ran the blood very slowly so they could monitor him closely.  He should feel great this weekend.

Calling All O Negatives!

Sam’s blood type is O Negative.  This is a rare blood type.  O Negative is the universal donor, but Sam can only receive O Negative blood.  If you happen to read this blog, live in the Nashville area, and have O Negative blood; please go to The Red Cross and donate.  You will be handsomely rewarded with soda and cookies after you donate.  If you have no idea what blood type you are, please donate anyway.  The Red Cross has a great website that answers any questions you might have about blood donation.  Cancer patients need a lot of transfusions.  Even if you don’t directly help Sam, somebody will feel a lot better after receiving your blood.

More From Our Wacky World

Sam and I are both enjoying his baldness.  We spend a lot of time trying different looks.  These past few weeks,  he has worn a straw hat or a headband.  We don’t go out in public very often, but when we do, it’s a total trip.  Sam has no shame.

When Sam wears his straw hat, I call him a struggling hair farmer.

The Headband Look!

Actually, we both dress like Richard Simmons these days.

Our Latest Nonsense Purchase!

We recently purchased a Kitty Cam!  We spend so much time at the hospital and we decided that it’d be nice to know what’s going on at our home.  We’re able to watch the action live from our computers and we even caught the two of them fighting!  Bad cats!

Check out what goes on while we’re away.  Please forgive the mess.  It’s been a really long week:  Video download link


Sleeping is a vital part of recovery.  Someone or some kitty is always sleeping in our apartment.   Look at Sam, Theo, and BB in (non-)action: Video download link

A Shout-Out To The Mommas!

Thank you both for ALWAYS filling our refrigerator with delicious food, doing our stinky laundry, and helping us in every possible way you can.  We know you worry constantly and work really hard to make our lives comfortable.  I don’t think we could function without the two of you and your superhero superpowers!

This week wore on our patience, but even three full days at the hospital on our “off week” can’t overshadow the news about Sam’s cancer diminishing.  Sam will receive chemotherapy Monday through Friday next week.

We’ve got a long week ahead of us and we’ll need to start getting into surgery mode.  We’ll update the blog in two weeks before his surgery.  Thank you all for reading this blog.

Also, thank you to everyone for helping us so much.  I always look around the hospital and know that Sam is the luckiest cancer patient and I am the luckiest wife of a cancer patient.  Your support is what carries us through our tiring days, sadness, and rapidly changing schedules.  We have such an amazingly intelligent and humorous support system.  You are all our heroes.  We love you.


Thank you for everything,


Sam and Leslie

End of Cycle Five!

Another Week Down

After getting an entire week off last week (with the exception of lab work) we had a full two days at Vanderbilt this week.  These two-day treatments are only four hours long, but we had additional appointments this week.  Sam got a repeat MRI on Wednesday.  We expect a lot better results with this do-over.  Here is a picture of his previous MRI.

We will meet with the musculoskeletal oncologist next Thursday.  Ten weeks ago, we couldn’t even pronounce the word musculoskeletal.  After the meeting with the musculoskeletal oncologist, we meet with our oncologist.  We should have a better idea of Sam’s progress next week.  Even though we have a long way to go, it’s nice to know that we’ll get some medical insight on how Sam is doing and how much headway he’s made.  We should also learn about the surgery that he will have in about a month.

This will be Sam after his surgery!

Because Sam has had so many scans and has been put through several different machines (all with complicated and forgettable names) in the last few months, he started referring to machines by the food they resemble.  Certain machines are sandwich machines while others are tacos.  An MRI is a Mega Ridiculous Iced doughnut machine.

 This Past Week

The two-day treatments are nice because we’re at the hospital a lot less, but Sam has some pretty bad side effects with this particular set of drugs.

He’s been feeling pretty weak the last few days and it’ll be a couple more days before he perks up again.  As we go through each cycle, we get better and better at controlling the harsh side effects.  Sam also tries more prescription drugs as we learn more about what works and what doesn’t. It’s reassuring to have more confidence as we go through this rigorous process.  It’s also comforting to know that we can alter the drugs in specific ways to maximize Sam’s happiness and minimize his pain. Sam is currently taking two million different medications.  He even takes medication that medicates his medication.

We’ve come a long way since his first treatment.  I think we were at home for only 15 minutes after his initial treatment before we were frantically calling the oncologist’s office asking questions.

Next Week

Next week should be an informative and helpful week.  In addition to the two meetings, Sam should receive a blood transfusion (there’s a chance he might not need one).  A blood transfusion sounds a lot worse than it actually is.  Getting a transfusion takes several hours, but it should really help Sam.  His blood counts get lower and lower each week.  New blood will combat his anemia and relieve him of some fatigue.

The blood transfusion should help Sam’s color. He’s pretty pale these days.

Sam Is Famous!

A couple of weeks ago, this blog was put on the I’m Too Young For This!  blogroll.  Here is what the I’m Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation has to say about themselves:

A TIME Magazine Best 50 website and FOX News Top 10 Healthcare Blog, we support a global following and hundreds of  thousands of friends, fans, readers, listeners and members. Since our launch in 2007, we have helped bring the cause of ‘cancer under 40’ to the national spotlight and rallied a brand new crop of activists to give a much needed voice to our forgotten population.

We have a lot of time to read these days and have thoroughly enjoyed reading other blogs and articles on this website.  It’s freaky how similar all of the blogs are.  Sam and I always laugh when we discover that someone else has the same quirky habits or rituals as us.  If you have any free time, we can recommend this website.  The blogs are all impressive.

Every single day, Sam and I talk about how lucky we are.  There’s no doubt that cancer totally sucks, but we can’t do anything about that.  A lot of our days are exhausting and stressful.  Everyone makes our life so much better.  We can’t imagine going through this without the unwavering assistance.  We used to only receive bills in the mail.  Now, going to the mailbox is an exciting adventure.  Our mailbox is consistently loaded down with entertaining gifts and thoughtful cards.  I have to bring a pack mule with me to the mailbox.  Thank you for filling our days with humor and love.

All of the mail weighs down our pack mule.

We are eager about next week’s appointments and expect for Sam to have a stellar progress report.


Lots of love,


Leslie and Sam


P.S.  Senseless pictures:

Brazilian Tarp Hats

We Finally Found Organic Bacon!










A Great Week!

We were cautiously optimistic about this week.  I would have to say that this week turned out to be a solid week.  It was a pretty normal week with the exception of daily shots, a bajillion medications, and Sam’s fatigue .  We both worked every day this week.

We had a lot of fun working on this blog together.  We’ve created some charts that detail our new ways of life.  To get a better look, click on the graph.  Hit the back button to get back to the blog.

Where Did All Of Our Money Go?

No More Manners…

Pillow Fight!


A Sincere Thank You To Everyone


This week enlivened us.  We’ll use this long weekend to relax and eat.  Sam is scheduled to have chemotherapy on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, but we’ll worry about that next week.  For now, it’s time for food and fun!



With a lot of love and appreciation,

Sam and Leslie

P.S.  Sam making the graphs:

P.P.S.  We actually bought two Brazilian tarp hats.