Archive for September, 2011

The Pleurisy Adventure

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.

E.D. treatment

It's one kind of adventure, at least

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.

I'm ready to go, is he ok?!?!

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.

Pleurisy will slow you down

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.

Hi Tu!! You'll make a great nurse at Vandy when you graduate =D

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.

I think I'd rather eat the socks

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

Lotsa bumps

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!


End of Cycle Eight!

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!

Magic Fridge

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!

Off Weeks

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.

This is us!

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.

I guess all of those extra years of school do pay off!


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