Sunday, November 30, 2014

Shine A Light on Lung Cancer 2014

Thank you to all of our friends and family who joined us from near and far to help bring awareness to Lung Cancer. xoxo

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

One week ago, Dan was hospitalized again. Our experience taught me many things.
#1, of course, again, is that everything around us is beautiful and luxurious. We are so lucky to have everything in place as it is, and enjoy it how we can. The comfort of our own bed, the taste of ice water, the moment when the dog nudges us in earnest, the laughter of Raine. We have a beautiful home. We have a car that isn’t causing us trouble. We have doctors who are a formidable and passionate team. We have each other. There are hard moments where I feel like I can’t reach across my anxiety and fear to get to Dan, but I find a way; I try to bring joy into the moment, I try to confess, I simply touch his beard. I just keep trying.
#2 is that the brain radiation and chemotherapy (Cisplatin/Pemetrexed/Ruxolitinib) is doing exactly what we need it to do–reducing the tumors. After the trauma of learning about his cancer, I was still anticipating more bad news. I was afraid that nothing had changed or that the tumors had grown or multiplied in his brain. Anyone who needs to treat tumors knows that it is a process–Scans/tests, treatment, waiting, repeat. My friend Tina likes to call it a “hurry up and wait” situation. I am a bit of pessimistic waiter. We weren’t expecting to have scans and feedback for another month, but the circumstances that landed us in the ER demanded it. So we are THRILLED that the CT scans and MRI tests showed the reduction of the tumors in his brain. Dan is a very fortunate man to have small side effects from radiation and chemo–some hair loss, a distaste for sugary things, fatigue the first few days after treatment. This is great news that his initial treatment is working and also not causing him to be sickly with side effects.

#3, however, is that Dan has swelling in his brain. This caused his brain to shift off-center in his head. These things caused symptoms of nausea, vomiting, headache/pressure, and affected his handwriting, movements, and thinking. This is actually a side effect of something that is good. A neurosurgeon came on board to consult with the oncologist and radiation oncologist regarding this area of his brain. With an elevated temperature Wednesday, our team had to rule out infection. They did. (Good.) Then together, Dr. Gore, Dr. Duffy, and Dr. Louie agreed that the swollen tissue is caused by the dying/shrinking tumor that it surrounds. The question became, Could steroids alone control the swelling? They hoped so. Dr. Gore gave us time. They sent us home for the next few days to allow the steroids to treat the swelling. We went home with the understanding that if the swelling increased while he was on the steroids, he would need an immediate awake craniotomy, a very “House” or “Grey’s Anatomy” type surgery, where Dr. Gore would remove the tumor while Dan is awake to have cognitive functions preserved.  An MRI was scheduled for Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

This is how happy we were that Dan got to go home. And we were also happy because #4.
Dan’s genetic mutation results from Foundation I came back and Dr. Duffy had just informed us that his tumor has the ALK variation. Dan initially tested negative for this mutation, but the full DNA sequencing confirmed he is one of the 5-7% of NSCLC patients who are ALK positive. Dr. Duffy actually wanted to jump up and down for joy but she refrained. I joked about throwing an ALK celebration party. (I actually might have if I wasn’t so tired…)
Here is a nerdy description of ALK:  “Tumors that contain the EML4-ALK fusion oncogene or its variants are associated with specific clinical features, including never or light smoking history, younger age, and adenocarcinoma with signet ring or acinar histology. ALK gene arrangements are largely mutually exclusive with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) or KRAS mutations [2]. Screening for this fusion gene in NSCLC is important, as “ALK-positive” tumors (tumors harboring a rearranged ALK gene/fusion protein) are highly sensitive to therapy with ALK-targeted inhibitors” (UpToDate).
“ALK-targeted inhibitors” is one of the best phrases I have ever heard in my life. It is difficult to explain the bittersweet relief/joy about learning this information. Dan still has metastasized NSCLC adenocarcinoma. There is still no definitive cure. We have still been given a shorter timeline together than we ever expected. But the best way we know how to describe the good news about this information is that our oncologist now has additional tools in her belt that she didn’t have before, which give us More. Time.
This is the best news we have heard since Dan’s diagnosis.
There are two research hospitals in the U.S. that have been doing groundbreaking work on ALK (MGH and UCD). These hospitals have helped discover and tweak the drugs that have a targeted ability to destroy ALK tumor cells. (Meaning, Dan gets targeted chemotherapy drugs and not just standard drugs that attack healthy cells in his body. SUPER AWESOME.) Currently MGH is researching ways to solve the problem of ALK cells eventually resisting some of these treatments. For example, some patients on 1 particular drug find it effective for only 7 months. Others benefit for up to two years! And there are numerous drugs available to us now already–as in, not in clinical trials or awaiting trials. And, we are keeping an eye on everything that MGH and UCD are doing so that when there are clinical drugs at times when Dan needs new treatments, we can use them. There are many more possibilities now for treatment than there were before. I no longer feel the sensation that we are trying to nail jelly to the wall.

I’d like to take this opportunity, on Thanksgiving, to say how grateful I am for science. How grateful I am for nerdy people who spend their entire lives obsessing over these vital components of our biology. I am grateful for research. I am grateful for medicine. I am grateful for Dr. Duffy, who has spent her career devoted to this science and the stars have aligned for her to treat Dan and help him. We recently learned that Dan and she are linked by two mutual friends. Such a small world we live in, and I find these stars that have aligned to be very bright. I am thankful that she called us today, on a holiday, to tell us that Dan’s swelling has reduced and he does not need surgery.
I am thankful that tomorrow, we will take Raine to Brownen and he will play happily and confidently while Dan resumes chemo. I am thankful that I will get to see the same beautiful trees out the window and while we travel, breathe the damp Oregon winter air. I am thankful that doctors, social workers, counselors, accountants, naturopaths, acupuncturists, massage therapists, dietitians, nurses, friends, family, and even strangers are helping Dan and I with the planting of seeds for cultivating our new reality. It has been a sprout at a time, each day since September 15th–buds in dirt, growing, giving us everything that we need. It may not be the crop I expected, but I will remain grateful for every fruit, trunk, blade, or vine.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Two Weeks in Photos 11/11-11/25

Look at these adorable nuggets! Raine had ten days with his cousins, Logan and Lexi, and major fun was had by all. They went to an indoor play center, played at our house, swam at their hotel, and played at the park. These photos were taken the afternoon that we got a package in the mail with handmade Ninja Turtle stocking caps by Pat LaPorte, the mother of one of Dan’s childhood friends, Ed Kulzer. Raine was beside himself with excitement at getting a package in the mail (will he ever understand that most families/kids don’t get so many packages!?) And so Logan and Lexi were SO excited for Raine; they were all wiggling and shouting as I opened the box. Of course, the hats were designed for Dan, Raine, and me, but instantly the kids picked their colors, wore them, and ran around like Ninja Turtle goofballs. If you are reading this, Pat, these special little hats went home with Raine’s cousins to Illinois. I love that they are all a part of their special little cousin Ninja Turtle club. (We kept the green one for Raine!)

I continue to believe that I live in the most perfect, beautiful place in the world for me and my family. This view is from Anne Amie Vineyards, in Carlton. Like Dan, my father loved the yellow leaves of the vineyards in autumn, so I was happy to take him and the rest of my family with Hattie to this one in our hometown with such a gorgeous view. It took me 9 years to find my genuine sense of home in Oregon, and that view of the mountain range beyond our town here in Yamhill county is it. It is a view that brings me a sense of belonging and peace in a way that I felt as a child looking out at the cornfields. We have a little sliver of that view of the Coast Range from our bedroom and living room windows. I cherish it.

My LuLaRoe Trunk Show + Fundraiser with Republic of Jam was followed by another fundraiser by the owners of Barrel 47, a lovely little gastropub here in Carlton. I designed the posters and most of the businesses in town had them in their doors and windows. The day before the event, Carlton Growler Boys / Carlton Corners reminded everyone about the fundraiser by putting a message on their marquee. Dan shyly asked me if there was going to be a time (sooner rather than later) when his face and name weren’t going to be plastered all over the place. I smiled and made no promises. Despite his reservation about being in the spotlight, we are so grateful for everything everyone here in our community is doing for us. To date, we have received donations from Barrel 47Republic of JamOmero CellarsValley EmporiumFarmhouse Romance BoutiqueViolet RoseKen Wright Cellars, and many, many kind citizens of Yamhill County.

By his third week post-chemotherapy treatment, instead of feeling normal again, Dan began to feel worse. He slept as much as he did the first few days after treatment but became increasingly slow in his movements and some of his cognitive processes. I kept excusing symptoms as part of fatigue, but by Wednesday the 19th, I was afraid that something else was going on. He had vomited for the first time, and then didn’t have an appetite all day so didn’t eat. That night, after I put Raine to bed, I talked to him about how he felt and checked his notes. He writes little descriptions in a small notepad every day to keep track of any changes in how he feels. I wasn’t concerned about what he wrote—I was concerned about how he wrote it. His handwriting was smaller than usual, the spacing was cramped, and full of errors and scratches. He told me it took him longer to write it than he expected, too. In light of a climbing temperature and these findings, I spoke with the on-call doctor and then took him to the ER in Newberg. He was admitted to St. Vincent’s in the middle of the night and stayed until Friday.

Thank you to Patrick, and everyone who continues to support us via social media and old fashioned phone calls and texts. Thank you also to Melissa for staying at our house with Raine Wednesday night. To Julie and Steve, who checked in on Rocco for us and did dishes. To Abbie and Bronwen for babysitting Raine. To Lorri and Carmen for letting me crash on your couch Thursday night and bringing us food. To Gayle who cleaned, picked up prescriptions, managed Raine, and cooked us dinner.
Did I mention that we feel extraordinarily blessed?
See, every kind thought you have for us matters. It is keeping us held together and taken care of by one another and our friends and family.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Our First Lung Cancer Awareness Month

We had no idea there was a month for lung cancer awareness, but now we do. And it’s almost over.
I debated whether or not to write a post / attempt to “raise awareness.”
44 days post-diagnosis and it’s Our Month!?
This is fresh stuff.
Did you know November has been lung cancer awareness month since 1995? I didn’t.
Lung cancer awareness has an official ribbon color of white. I also didn’t know that.
This year is the 6th Annual “Shine a Light on Lung Cancer,” the largest lung cancer awareness event in the world. It takes place in 200 cities across the US and in multiple countries. I had no idea. Was I just not paying attention or are they not promoted very much in media or social media? Have you ever heard of one?
Currently there is no “Shine A Light” event in Portland or near our communities in Yamhill County that I am aware of...

I still have a hard time telling people Dan has lung cancer. I don’t know if I am ready to identify ourselves with it yet. In fact, I am not. Look at the description on my blog: “I am Leah Ruth and these are my handsome boys. We are living a lovely life with stage 4 cancer.”
I just say “Stage 4 cancer” because after all, it has metastasized. Who cares where it started? It is difficult enough to admit he has cancer. I often don’t have the energy for The Look or The Question if I say lung cancer. These don’t come from loved ones—If you love someone who has lung cancer, nothing matters. But if it is a stranger….We can’t help ourselves, can we?
I get asked, “Did he smoke?”
Lung cancer seems to be the only cancer that I can think of that produces such a deprecating tone from others when it is talked about. I assume it is the stigma of the connection to smoking cigarettes, which implies that a cancer patient has, well, just gone and done it to themselves.
If the person that I am talking to has never smoked, I suppose they need to hear the assurance that Yes, he did smoke; he smoked heavily for ten years. 1-2 packs a day. He was a total smoker. So don’t worry if you don’t smoke…!
Except, anyone can get this cancer. NSCLC – Adenocarcinoma happens to people who have never smoked a single cigarette in their life. And despite Dan’s smoking history, it is still quite an awful lottery ticket to get Stage 4 as an otherwise perfectly healthy 37 year old man.
I read a great quote about cancer cells by George Johnson* once in The New York Times: “As a body lives and grows, its cells are constantly dividing, copying their DNA — this vast genetic library — and bequeathing it to the daughter cells. They in turn pass it to their own progeny: copies of copies of copies. Along the way, errors inevitably occur. Some are caused by carcinogens but most are random misprints.”
We will never tease out what triggered the genetic mutation in Dan’s cells. I firmly believe it may have occurred even if he had never picked up a cigarette. That is what I find sad about lung cancer awareness as I consider embracing it and championing it–There is a desire in me to save the world. I want every person I know that smokes to QUIT. SMOKING. 15 years after you quit, your chances of developing lung cancer are cut in half. Most of you have plenty of time for that. On the other hand, I want to educate the world. Not every lung cancer patient develops cancer because they smoke! And it shouldn’t matter. It should never matter what choices we made if we become sick. Compassion and grace should always
I picked up my first cigarette in college. It was the summer of 2000 and I was living in Goshen, Indiana, in a small house on 8th Street with three other college women. I was alone on a dry, cool evening and decided I was going to try smoking. I don’t even remember the impetus. I walked to a 7-11 and bought a pack of Menthol cigarettes and a lighter and nervously walked back to the house having absolutely no clue what to do next. I never intended to smoke. In fact, I grew up in a house where my older sister smoked and I passionately disliked it. I thought it was disgusting and ridiculous. However, living on my own for the first time, spending the summer in my college town away from my childhood home seemed like a proper disconnect. I felt young, vibrant, artsy, independent, and slightly heart-broken and misunderstood. I felt moody enough to be a bit of a delicate smoker.
I sat outside on the lawn in the dim light of the street lamp and leaned against a Red Maple. I started to pull out a cigarette from the box and then quickly hid it as a couple walked up with a child in a stroller. I was old enough to buy the cigarettes and smoke them, but I couldn’t help but feel nervous. I didn’t want them to know what I was doing. And was it OK to smoke around a child? By the time that the couple wandered away,  I realized that I didn’t even know which end of the cigarette to light or how to actually smoke it. All of those years seeing my sister smoke or other students smoking and I never paid attention to how they actually did it.
I ran inside and tried to find a magazine with a photograph of a person smoking. Which end was which?
I took a guess. And it was wrong.
I tried again.
And I ended up smoking regularly off and on for the next 8 years. I craved them when I listened to music, read, drove, wrote, drank coffee or alcohol, or sat around and talked with my fellow smokers. I had to smoke after meals, before meals, during work breaks, first thing in the morning, last thing at night, etc. As I became addicted, I believed smoking was a part of my actual identity. I needed it because it was me. And I liked it. I quit twice but eventually started again.
In 2008, I got a severe flu virus and was dehydrated and feverish for a week. I didn’t smoke the entire time. After I recovered, I didn’t like the taste of cigarettes anymore. I was bothered again by the smell. I missed the ritual, the addiction. But every time that I tried, I hated it. I gave up trying. Dan continued to smoke and I disapproved. But what could I do? You can not force someone who is addicted to something to stop. They have to hit rock bottom or find a secret way out themselves. I know this from my other addictions. My secret way out of smoking was my illness, but then deciding to hate the addiction. I hated that it cost me money, health, and time. I hated the smell it made everything I owned and wore and touched smell. (Not to be confused with the actual burning cigarette smell, which I actually didn’t mind still. The other smell.) I just didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. I learned to hate it more than I loved it (and trust me, there were many other awful coping mechanisms that I loved that I moved onto in replace of it, but more about those another time). And then I got pregnant. There was no turning back.
Dan’s rock bottom was the birth of our son. Once Raine was home with us for a short while, Dan went cold turkey. He was grouchy and gained some weight but being healthy for Raine and not exposing Raine to smoke was more important than his addiction. He hasn’t smoked in several years. It is absolutely the single thing I am most proud of him in our life together. I am so proud. He committed to tackling an addiction and has stood with it.
So it is with mixed feelings that I accept our month, November, lung cancer awareness month.
Dan quit. He made the right choice. He doesn’t deserve this illness.
I don’t want to be a chosen family for this platform. I don’t want to be spreading awareness. But here we are.
And the truth is, no one deserves this illness. It is devastating. Absolutely devastating.
So I guess I begin by sharing our story.
And changing my blog description.
And Wednesday, November 26th, on the Eve of Thanksgiving, I am going to host a “Shine A Light” event. Even if it is just me and Dan lighting a candle in our living room.
Who is with me?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sadness and Fear

This week I had my first dream in which I was living and Dan wasn’t. I don’t think my entire life, I have had a dream like that. It was confusing–as most dreams are–with jumbled characters and circumstances. I do remember that I was in a building that housed many rooms like a school, as well as a room for movies. There was music playing in certain rooms. There were groups of people and friends. I think I was in Colorado because Hattie and Sarah and Ryan were there. I went to talk to them at one point about how I could no longer watch / listen to the things that everyone else was watching / listening to. It made me so very sad. I felt like an “other.” I felt the weight of loss and grief and the sound of things was different. My interpretation of images was different. I was very frustrated that I felt this way and no one seemed to notice or understand.

Of course, that is obviously how I feel now, even though I haven’t suffered loss. I am just grieving loss of a future. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I’m grieving something that I was never guaranteed. Nevertheless, my reality is different than ever before.
At work on Wednesday, I was sweeping the floor of autumn leaves and giant dust bunnies that had gathered underneath our racks of sweaters and coats. I was alone and had Pandora on our computer playing my beloved Over the Rhine as a station over the store speakers. Apparently I need to stick with the “French Cafe” station because the song “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Deathcab for Cutie came on and I totally burst into tears. I recovered quickly and I am positive that it only occurred because no one was with me in the store, but honestly, this is what happens. It wasn’t even the first time that I heard that song since Dan’s diagnosis.
The first time, I was working on inventory at home for my business and was playing Pandora on our TV in the living room. As soon as I heard the first verse, I sobbed. My mother-in-law, Char, walked into the room while I was crying. She held me and comforted me and let me cry. I can honestly say that this hasn’t happened very often. I have actually held more people as they cry than vice versa. For example, in October, Dan’s best friend, Andy, visited with his wife Sara. While Dan napped, they indulged me in walking 3rd Street in McMinnville, so I could leisurely drink wine and shop on my birthday. At Mes Amies, I found a delicate and sweet monogram necklace. When I took the “D” necklace and tried it on,  Sara was moved to tears. She quickly apologized and I told her not to. I hugged her in the middle of the store. I wanted to comfort her, somehow ease her pain. I hugged her with every spark inside my being. 
I know this is sad. I know this is hard. I wanted to console her and let her cry no matter where we were and what was going on. I certainly did not care if strangers thought we were weird. This situation is absolutely awful. There is no way around that. I can’t help but want to comfort our friends. I can’t help but want to comfort family. It is a significant part of who I am—I am one who wants to please others. I want to comfort them and make them feel better. Dan is the same way. We learned very quickly in marriage counseling that we had that in common.
However, the day that I cried to “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” Char caught me in that hard moment and she held me. She told me, “He is my son, but he is your Husband.” We both have so much empathy for one another, and I believe that helps us greatly. I despair at the thought of Raine growing up to be 37 and having a fulfilling life with a family and being diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer. When Dan and I have tried to imagine what it is like to be in Jim and Char’s shoes, we can’t. It is unbearable. The unstoppable tears immediately sting with shock and despair. And we have only had the pleasure of loving Raine 3 small years.

So I try to text Char. I try to give her updates. I imagine how horrible it would be to live so far away from my sick child. I try to take care of Dan with the tenderness and love of a mother because I am trying to act on behalf of the woman who raised him. Now that I have a child, I am stunned at how extraordinary your love for your child can be; How crippling worry can be and how vital hope is.
I don’t know if I will have many other dreams like the one that I had this week. These dreams are disconcerting and aimless, but that is how my body is processing things. Despite his diagnosis, I don’t actually know what the future holds. I don’t have a map of our lives that tells me exactly when he or I will die. I just know that his odds have changed drastically. I tell everyone all the time though—I didn’t get a free ticket because my husband has cancer. I could get cancer, too. I could die suddenly in a car accident tomorrow. Nothing is guaranteed. That is what his diagnosis has taught me. All bets are off! What my dreams seem to reaffirm, along with shaking episodes, fearful moments, and grinding my teeth, is that I am truly suffering from not just anxiety but PTSD. It is not just a condition for veterans. It is for anyone who suffers a traumatic moment. Realizing this has taught me a lot about my life and a lot about myself right now. That week that Dan was in the hospital, we were given such horrendous news so unexpectedly, and it got worse and worse each day. At the time, I called them “Sucker-punches.” It was absolutely traumatic. 
At one moment, I thought I had days left with my husband. I am still waiting for that next sucker-punch. The next “shoe to drop,” so to speak. Anything that will continue the downward spiral that began September 14th.
Friends, help me keep looking upward and away, beyond fear. I am trying. I really am. Your support means everything to me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

One Week in Photos 10/28-11/11

We said goodbye to Dan’s mom, Char, on his first chemo day -Thursday, October 30th. She had stayed with us for for 23 days. For some people, this could sound like a mother-in-law nightmare, but I am so fortunate to say that it was a mother-in-law miracle. I love Char so much and cherished all of her time here. She is an unbelievably strong, sweet, independent, devoted mother. More about her time here in another post!

Raine was an eagle for Halloween and pretty darn adorable. We used a gift card from family to order the costume from Pottery Barn Kids. They are high quality and ridiculously cute costumes. I almost want to save this one and pass it down to Raine’s child someday. Despite Dan’s first chemotherapy session the day before, he felt good and we had a fun evening of trick-or-treating on Main Street in Carlton, dinner with the Ritchie family at Barrel 47, and more trick-or-treating on our street for Raine with his daddy.
I couldn’t help but take a photo of our ironic Halloween night. On the one hand, the usual treats–candy, delicious baked goods from Melissa, and a bottle of wine. On the other hand, our pills, a neti pot, and  a thermometer. It is important for us to take Dan’s temperature twice a day to make sure he doesn’t have an infection while his immune system is compromised by the chemo.

My bestie Hattie
 Hattie came back to help again and was here for my event & a little wine-tasting on the side. The vineyards are absolutely gorgeous this time of year. So much to be grateful for. I love this photo. I love Hattie.

LuLaRoe / Republic of Jam Fundraiser!
We had a very special event last Saturday here in Carlton. I had my Fall Trunk Show + Fundraiser at our beloved jam shop, Republic of Jam, and several other businesses on Main Street participated by offering specials for our customers and contributing. The amount of people that came out to support us was overwhelmingly wonderful. I felt the love from afar, too, from everyone who ordered clothing via text message and jam online. 🙂

Taking care of his yard

Days 4-6 of Dan’s chemo round were when he felt most fatigued. Day 4 was dedicated to sleeping heavily the entire day. After that, he improved through the week. He made it out to the yard for mowing and edging and pulling weeds. He walked Rocco to stretch his legs. We watched a movie together while he rested on the couch and I worked on my laptop. He helped me with bathing Raine. By day 8, he was back to work. We hope he will be able to continue to work while doing chemo rounds. He loves it.

New socks
But yes, it’s true. There are good days and bad days. There are great moments –laughter, fun, accomplishments, joy, comfort…And not so great moments–bitterness, anger, anxiety, numbness. I appreciate every message, text, card, and comment I get from all of you. It is all helping me get through this transitional time with as much grace and strength as I can muster. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Chemo Round 1

Thursday, October 30th was the day we have waited for since Dan’s diagnosis on September 16th. Trust me, he has been anxious to do something; to act, to fight. We had to wait four weeks post radiation treatments in order for Dan to qualify for all requirements as a participant in a clinical trial for 1 of his 3 drugs. It has been a long wait. We have been full of anticipation and dread at the same time. I can speak for the both of us by saying that the anticipation of his first chemotherapy (and all of its potential side effects) seems to be worse than it actually is (so far). Every patient reacts differently to the 3 drugs he is taking and we won’t know Dan’s side effects until they happen. Most likely to occur: hair loss, nausea. Maybe some ringing in the ears. White blood cell counts will lower, so we are hopeful he won’t catch an infection. We are also hopeful there won’t be any kidney damage. He is a rock star and is rocking 4 quarts of water a day so far to help protect his kidneys and hydrate. The goal is 8. Crazy, I know.
So what is a wifey to do when the day finally arrives? I was nervous for him. Of course, I hated that he is in this situation at all. But what could I do to make it better?
For starters, I helped Raine give daddy a special surprise gift the night before. He gave daddy a card that he picked and signed, lucky fish socks, and a VERY lucky lightning bolt key chain (Raine is a big fan of Lightning McQueen from Disney's CARS, who happens to have a lightning bolt on his frame). Char also had a card for him and I brought Dan a journal.

Lucky socks

Reading materials and bookmarks
Anyway, I wanted to recreate the France binder for chemo but time got away from me. I did my best to have a “kit” put together instead. He had 4 cards and received a gift with each card. The cards had special words of sweet nothings and love and support from me and the gifts were all about keeping him occupied while stuck in a chair with an IV for 7 hours. I went for the obvious reading material subjects: Beer, Nature, Music. I gave him the latest issues of ImbibeOrion, and Under the Radar. He also had a patch from his life-long friend, Andy, who wore the patch during multiple deployments in war. I started a Dan & Leah book club, based on recommendations by my writing mentor. We have 10 books to get through, and I didn’t want to spend to buy 2 copies of each, so we are each reading one at a time and swapping as we go. Our book club starts off with each of our favorite authors: Dear Life by Alice Munro and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.
A first visitor, our silly friend Patrick
 In the end, I spent most of the day off and on away from Dan. I took Char to the airport, ran errands, and left a few times to get snacks and use the bathroom. Patrick (a friend from college who also lives in Portland) also came by and we had a hilarious game of Snake Oil. I am pretty sure Dan’s nurse, James, was entertained by us. I don’t expect every chemo treatment will be like this—there might be ones where we just snooze in our chairs. But for his first, I think it went OK and he felt a lot of love and support. Posting his photo to Facebook and using a hashtag #chemo felt a little weird to me, but hey, 88 likes and 24 comments definitely help boost the spirit!

a GIANT visit from Dan's childhood friends
Javeed and Melissa, Jackie, Kathryn and Andy, Krissy, Gita, and littles Jonah, Zadie, and Lars 
We are four days in as of today, and mostly he has noticed fatigue and a change in his sweetness taste buds (Cisplatin attacks all fast-growing cells-not just the tumor cells, so that will affect his taste buds). I am insanely grateful that he felt up for visitors this weekend because his buddies from high school came from all over -Illinois, New Mexico, and Washington-to give him some love. It was a good weekend.