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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fun in the Sun...Punctuated by Pesky Chemotheraphy

Today begins round #11 for Zach.  We have switched his treatments from Fridays to Wednesdays for the remainder of the summer.  This will help him recover in time for the trips we have planned which all fall on the Sunday following treatment.  

Zach is feeling pretty good.  After he recovers from the side effects he has 5 or 6 good days.  Then he gets "anticipatory nausea" the day or two leading up to the next round.  His port is cleaned with rubbing alcohol and then flushed with saline.  He can taste the saline as it flushes through and makes him feel terrible.  Thinking about it too much beforehand can bring on the same nausea.  Medication is helping some.   

I asked Dr. Dan the difference between cure and remission and what they meant in Zach's case.  He said that a cure means the cancer is completely gone, never to reoccur.  Remission means that the cancer has shrunk and is being managed but it will reappear again down the road.  Dr. Dan considers Zach in partial remission while only 2-4% of patients with esophageal cancer reach full remission status.  Zach's type of cancer makes it particularly difficult to reach full remission.  We will rescan the end of August for continued confirmation he is in partial remission.  

We have being enjoying our summer to the fullest!  It has been full of lively family activities, BBQs, swimming, trips to the zoo, picnics and lots of digging and dirt.  

 Only the cutest of baby boys can wear purple diapers and get away with it.  

 Max and Sophie enjoying the sun and sand.  


 Uncle Nate and Oliver getting ready to visit the zoo.  

 Zach and Max sporting their patriotic colors for the 4th of July!

 Oliver was quite interested in the animatronic dinosaurs...

 ...and a bit fearful too.  

"At least they can't get me if I'm hiding on Grandma's shoulder..."

 Grams, Oliver and Nate.  

 Checking out the giraffes...which Oliver called horses.   

Grams and Max!

 Mitch and Jessica joined in the fun.

 The Ingersoll boys.  

Mitch and Zach.

 Visiting the penguins.  They were harder to climb on than Oliver initially thought.  

 Mitch and Oliver riding the carousel.

 Max grinning and looking adorable as usual.  

 After the zoo we went out for lunch and enjoyed hamburgers and ice cream at Westside Drive-In.  Max stuck with the healthy stuff.  

 Oliver's first ice cream potato!

 Max chewing.

 Oliver lounging.  Who needs clothes when it's 100 outside?

Oliver is a very focused little boy.  The big machinery demands it!

 Max trying roasted sweet potatoes with spices.

 He likes them!

Oliver refers to this as "Max's boat" and desperately wants one too.  

 A perfect day to swim!

 Max can't help but light up with he sees Zach.  


Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday the 13th is Our Lucky Day!

Zach's cancer is responding well to this treatment!  He had a PET scan on Wednesday and we received results this morning.  Before the PET he received an IV of radioactive glucose.  The glucose lights up the areas of cancer and makes them appear orange.  Orange is bad, black is good.  We looked at side-by-side images from early April and this week.  The tumor in his esophagus wasn't even visible on the most recent scans--black.  This doesn't necessarily mean it is gone completely.  But it was a relief not to see his body lit up like a Christmas tree.  The tumors in his lymph nodes had also noticeably shrunk--more black, less orange.  

The doctors measure the metabolic activity of the cancer--how busy it is feeding, growing and being active.  Zach's metabolic activity has decreased by 80%.  So while this doesn't mean 80% of the cancer has been eradicated it does mean the cancer cells are less active and responding to the treatment.  Zach will continue with the current treatment for the next 3-4 months and another PET scan will be done to monitor things.    

Since it has been over a month since Zach has needed to use the feeding tube, he was given the okay to have it removed last week.  It was a quick outpatient procedure; they literally pulled the end of the tube out of his stomach and small intestine.  And if it sounds like that would be painful--I can assure you it was.  But Zach recovered quickly and is healing well.  With the tube gone I immediately noticed a difference in his level of physical activity with Oliver and Max and his attitude in general.  While it was pretty slick to "hook up" and feed all night, there were several complications the were frustrating and demoralizing for Zach.  

I am still getting used to the idea that cancer is something Zach will likely LIVE with.  We have been told there is nearly no chance of completely curing the cancer but I know, believe and trust that God is capable of anything.  Many prayers have been answered!  We are so thankful we don't have to leave home this summer to seek clinical trials.  We can enjoy our summer as a family!

This week a friend asked me how I keep it "all" together with a sick husband, 2 busy little boys and everything that falls under the "mom" title.  First, I assure you I don't always keep it together.  (When I do fall apart I generally imagine how nice it would be to have a pint of Haagen Dazs peanut butter and chocolate ice cream nearby to turn to.  Then I remember I purposefully don't keep that stuff in the house for this very reason.)  My answer was not complicated--God holds me together and lifts me up.  I believe Jesus died for my sins and because He died death is no longer a punishment for those who believe.  We live such a temporary life on earth.  This battle with cancer is a minor road bump before an eternity in heaven.   

We went to the zoo the day after Zach's feeding tube was removed--it was a perfect day!

 Oliver was both enthralled...

...and a bit scared of the monkeys. 

 The dinos were a big hit--even if they were a bit scary with their large yellow eyes and loud sounds.  Oliver's phrase since then is "dino loud!"

 Feeding the goat.

 Max and me.  I love that his blue eyes are clear here.  Hope they stick around...always wanted a blue-eyed little one :)

 Mom Kris and her boys.

 Nick, Zach, me, Ben, his girlfriend Jenny, and Nathaniel.  Jenny's plan was to move from Seattle to Boise to attend grad school and be closer to Ben.  But Ben received an unexpected offer a couple of weeks ago to return to the University of Arizona where he attended school and be a part of their coaching staff.  So Nathaniel took over the lease Jenny had signed for an apartment here and Ben and Jenny headed to Tucson for their next adventure.  It was nice to have the brothers in the same town for all of about 3 days!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

May Updates: A Busy Month!

I have not posted in awhile because May is a crazy month for our family--Mother's Day, countless birthdays including Zach's and mine, and our anniversary.

Zach has had a few complications with his feeding tube this month which included a trip to the doctor on his birthday.  Nothing says "Happy Birthday!" quite like spending an afternoon in the doctor's office to work out the kinks.  But Zach hasn't used the tube in nearly a month.  He is able to eat normally and is had been very good about cutting out dairy, most breads and sugar.  

Zach's 7th round 2 weeks ago came and went with few side effects.  What a difference Irinotecan is compared to the toxic DCF earlier this year!  His 8th round begins tomorrow morning (Friday).  PET scans are scheduled for Wednesday, June 11 and we will know the results on June 13.  We continue to hope and pray (as I know you do too) that the cancer in the lymph nodes is responding to the Irinotecan.  

Last weekend Zach and I enjoyed a wonderful trip to San Diego thanks to a dear friend, Bruce Christiansen.  Bruce and Zach had originally discussed a "guys' weekend" to see the Cubs and Padres play. When we found out their 3-game series would be played over Memorial Day weekend (our anniversary) Bruce offered to take care of our flight and hotel so we could enjoy the weekend.  We spent time at the beach, visited the San Diego zoo, toured the USS Midway, enjoyed amazing food, spent some time with my aunt and uncle, and cheered the Cubs on to a win.  We've seen the Cubs play 3 times before in Chicago and each time they lost.  It was fun to finally witness a win--miracles DO happen!  

Nathaniel is now home and living with us for awhile. Go visit him at the downtown Lucky Fin's! 

Zach and Oliver enjoying the morning outside.

Max posing for the camera.  Unlike his big brother he LOVES a photo opportunity!

Max.  A chubby and perfect 7 month old.

Oliver wearing his favorite accessory--Max's chew beads. And he's SMILING!

Zach and I celebrated his 35th birthday with a massage and Thai food.

Max chowing down on frozen bananas.

Oliver "bonking" Max on the head. A favorite pastime of Oliver's...not so much for Max. Go figure. 

Oliver and Max came shopping with me (how nice of them to join!) and Max hammed it up for the photo op. 


Oliver eating bark chips. We get creative with snacks in this house!

Oliver built a pillow fort.

Max sat on his own for the first time on my birthday.

What a great present for this mama!

Birthday selfie with Max.

Selfie with Oliver who actually smiled!  Which is why I look so stinkin' happy.

Oliver and me on Mother's Day morning.

Zach's brother Ben, Max and great grandma Laura.

Zach with his birthday cake!  We celebrated his birthday a few days early on Mother's Day with family.

Oliver enjoying a giant slice of heaven.

 Cousin Brett and Max!  Such cute boys.

5 generations--grandma Shirley, great grandma Laura, Zach, Max and mom Kris.  

Max snuggling with me for another Mother's Day photo op.

Max taking a bath.  Santa bought him a new sink for Christmas and finally installed it in May. Better late than never--he loves his new "spa!"

Grampy Pat and Oliver planting.  I thought my dad would bring over a flower..instead he brought over a watermelon plant.  I'm sure it won't get THAT big, right?!

Zach and Kris.

The hubs and I went out to celebrate my birthday.

My brother Mitch and his girlfriend Jessica.  We take my mom to lunch on the river in Horseshoe Bend every Mother's Day.  Although we celebrated it a week late this year we had perfect weather.

Max and mom.

The Ingersoll Family! No one is crying, squirming or throwing a fit.  Success!

Max and Zach.

Mitch, my mom Kathi and me.  

Mitch and Max.

Headed down to San Diego!

 My dear Aunt Kathy and Uncle Carl.  They treated us to a fantastic lunch, great conversation and a personal tour of the USS Midway.  Carl is a navy man and knows it all. A perfect afternoon with them!

Touring the USS Midway.

Kathy, Carl and Zach.

 At Petco field cheering the Cubs on to victory!

Baseball selfie!

A happy ending to a great night of baseball.