A cancer journey – scan results revealed


Time for my monthly update on how Rick is fighting stage IV kidney cancer. For so many months, we both have felt like we’ve been in the middle of a boxing ring fighting the good fight. Like Rocky Balboa, Rick has been right smack in the middle of the prize fight for his life with a huge guy throwing gut punches. I’m the one, between rounds, throwing water on him, squirting water in his mouth, and asking him to spit. I like to think I am way cuter than Burgess Meredith, who played his trainer!

This past Friday, Rick had a variety of scans. It was part of our “every two month” check-the-dude-inside-and-out during his “active surveillance” status. We have come to the point of just watching the remnants of little spots of cancer. This has created anxiety for me. Rick … he has moved on down the road of cancer. I don’t know how he does that.

So I decided we both needed a little break … maybe me more than him … so instead of heading home on Friday, Mimi stayed at the respite house, and Lulu reluctantly was boarded. I booked a room at the Hotel ZaZa down the street from the medical center. First time for us and what a cool place. They have a free shuttle that will drop off and pick up within five miles of the hotel, including the medical center. When I booked the room, I mentioned something about spending the day at MDA for testing and was offered a “medical rate.” It was very generous! Upon check-in, we were also upgraded to a suite. We had a lovely dinner that night and breakfast the next morning in their Monarch Restaurant. I recommend the Blackberry Margarita on the rocks, no salt. This was totally what we needed. One night of relaxation … in a cool atmosphere! I could write a whole post on this place.

Fast forward to yesterday. Rick had his last scan … a brain scan. It was a test they couldn’t do on Friday. Rick continues to wonder why he has to have a brain scan. He will be the first to admit, “there isn’t anything up there,” although I know differently. At lunchtime, we met with Dr. Campbell, Rick’s oncologist, that has been calling the shots since we started early last year.

In a peanut shell, he told us no cancer in the brain. CT and MRI scans show all cancer is stable. Essentially, what spots are left are either dead or the same size. The drugs from the immunotherapy clinical trial Rick was kicked off in January is probably still working and may continue for a very long time. One of the symptoms of the infusion drug continuing to work is itching, from the inside, and that is still happening.

Then Dr. Campbell dropped the big news. We will now be having scans every three MONTHS and seeing him every 3 MONTHS. Although Rick is still considered in treatment, we feel like we won the fifth round of a 10 round championship fight. God is good … all the time!

Texas/Louisiana Row by Row Quilt … 2015 version is done!


So today is the official start of the “Row by Row Experience” quilt season. I know … I’ve just lost a bunch of you! So let me explain. I believe the concept started with 20 shops in 2011. This year there are over 3,000 shops participating. I fell in love with the whole notion in 2014. Each year, participating quilt shops from all over the United States, and way beyond … think Canada and Europe … create a free row pattern … and fabrics for the row which you can purchase if you like. But you have to visit the actual shop … which … if you are road tripping this summer anyway … why not! Their website has maps for shop locations and photos of the rows so you can plan your route. I’m pretty picky about the shops I visit. They gotta have a row I wanna actually include in a quilt!

The theme this year is “On the Go” and interpretation by quilt shops is all their show. New this year is a “junior” division for youngsters. Not all shops are participating but this is so cool for youngsters interested in quilting! So eight rows sewed into a quilt makes for an official “Row by Row” quilt. There are also prizes involved if you stitch up 8 rows, quilt it and don’t forget to bind it. It has to be finished! Be the first to bring it into a quilt shop that participates in the project. I’m not so interested in that part. I just love the creativity of the project … and I’m slow!

The great thing about row by row quilts is friends and family that live far will sometimes acquire a row for you! I’ve already made my list of favorite rows and the Houston area has several I am considering to visit.

So let’s chat about this 2015 quilt. My adorable sister, Gretchen, who lives near Victoria, Texas picked up a row. My quilting friend, Michelle, picked up the two lovely rows in Louisiana. Then there was the ever awesome Sally. She and her husband did a row by row road trip and came back with the loveliest of rows. Of course, I put my order in beforehand and wouldn’t have found myself near Bandera, but for Sally!

So on to this just completed row by row for 2015. The theme for 2015 was “water.” Hence, umbrellas, fish, and seagulls, etc. I have a spot for it all picked out! I like to hang my quilts, so I made this one using 5 rows on the front and 3 on the back. Eight horizontal rows just makes for a very long quilt.

Sadly, since I have worked on this quilt for so long, I can’t locate all the photos I took while piecing the rows. Darn! I gotta remember to be more organized when I get around to the 2016 quilt.

So the great thing about this whole project is the skills you acquire while making each row. The row with the seagull and lighthouse from Louisiana was the most challenging. Small fabric pieces on the gull almost made me have to go to confession, but I LOVE how it turned out. Persistence paid off! Basically, each row is a mini-quilt with lots of lessons learned during the piecing. The easiest row was, by far, from Quilter’s Crossing in Tomball which, by the way, has a lovely quilt shop. The umbrellas were all pre-cut with the fusible on the back. Obviously, I did this row first!

Since my favorite long-arm lady moved away … come back soon Kim Norton … I had the lovely Taylor at Cupcake Quilts do an all-over design called “Sailboats.” She used Hobbs batting 80/20 and variegated thread called Signature 99151. I always use our local Personalize It Kingwood, store owner Tracey is awesome, to make my patch on the back.

If you are a quilter and considering participating in the Row by Row Experience … happy travels!

A cancer journey – our new normal is ahead of us!

I like the sound of that!
So it is been over a month since my last post. Time for a little update. Last post Rick came off the clinical trial. The immunotherapy drugs worked great on his cancer cells … but went a little nuts on his pancreas. Thankfully, Rick went from very high levels of lipase (pancreas levels) to almost normal in just a few weeks. The wonders of steroids. Ya gotta love ’em. Of course, Rick also got some kind of a wicked cold that included a horrible cough. It hung around for weeks and is now almost history!

So our next step? Dr. Campbell pulled a cancer pill out of his oncologist tool box. Inlyta … take it twice a day. It does much the same thing as one of the immunotherapy infusion drugs. It cuts off the blood supply to cancer cells. One of the most unusual side effects of the drug … there are others … is that Rick’s hair is going to turn white. Well, he isn’t far off so that one is totally not a problem.

“Pretty soon I’ll look just like Col. Sanders,” Rick laughed.

If the Inlyta does its job, it looks like our visits to MDA will slow down. Praise Jesus on that one! So once we get rocking and rolling … major scan day tomorrow to set a benchmark on where he is … we will be visiting Dr. Campbell every six weeks and scans every three months.

Don’t tell anyone … but we could be getting our life back!

Tina’s “Lollipops” quilt


I am a better quilter because of some of the talented ladies I hang with! One of those many gifted ladies is Tina. She has some serious skills! I interviewed Tina about a year ago wanting to take my blog in a different direction. Not just show people what I am doing all the time. Boring! Thought it would be fun to showcase some of my friends’ work. Loretta … are you listening? Hopefully, you are next on my list!

Unfortunately, cancer became a hot topic at our house and Tina’s interview notes got buried. I found them the other day … so here goes!

Tina has been quilting since 1999. So you don’t have to get your calculator out … that is 18 years! She told me that her grandma quilted. If any of you happen to be about our age, and quilters, you might remember back when Alex Anderson had a television show. It was awesome! Two ladies that give Alex Anderson lots of credit when it came to getting them seriously hooked on quilting … was Tina … and me! I’m certain there are thousands of others. So after that, Tina purchased one of Alex’s quilt books. Then she took a quilting class. The rest is history!

Tina has been a member of the Kingwood Quilt Guild for over ten years and has taken lots of classes through the guild. She joined a quilt bee a bunch of years ago also which is where I met Tina.

The “Lollipops” quilt is from a Laundry Basket Quilts pattern from 2008 and finished measures 40″ by 40″. Tina told me when she saw the pattern it made her smile. That is totally what happens to me too! The fabric for the quilt came from her fabric stash. Don’t you LOVE her color choices. Thanks Tina for sharing your story with me! You are my quilt hero!

A cancer journey – what a couple of weeks!

So when last we chatted, Rick missed the last two immunotherapy infusions of Nivolumab due to rising lipase levels. It was thought that perhaps having a little break from a couple of infusions, his pancreas would cool down. Just to make sure that was happening, Rick’s oncologist, Dr. Campbell, had Rick come in for bloodwork last week, our “off” week, right before Christmas. Rick and I totally expected it to go down and that we would skip down the yellow brick road to the 8th floor for an infusion the following week. Not! His lipase more than doubled to 919. Three hundred is considered the top of normal. The only outward appearance of side effects was his itching had increased the past month … a lot. Imagine the worst case of chicken pox … and then double it.

Before we left, Dr. Campbell prescribed a round of steroids, lasting six days, which he believed would help “cool things down.” We also met with a GI to see if the lipase increase could have anything to do with the gallstones that showed up on his recent MRI. An ultrasound was unremarkable and no physical symptoms pointed in that direction. Rick is really attached to his gallbladder and the good news was he could keep it!

So today would be a big day. Our normal MDA day starting with early morning bloodletting, oncology and hopefully infusion #13. Did the steroids cool things down? Would Rick have an infusion today? But wait.

While chatting with our adorable research nurse, Jenna, she casually mentioned a term called “tumor burden” while reading from her computer screen. I learned the number represents the total size all the tumors, except the primary and bone tumors. They virtually roll them in a ball like play dough and place a number on it. Rick’s initial scan in February of this year was 12.2 total cm of tumors, with an additional 10 cm of the kidney. By the September scan, tumors had been reduced to 4.7 cm, and of course, no kidney tumor. That is a reduction of 61% excluding the kidney tumor. Numbers fascinate me … especially ones this good. Shows how far we have come to be sure.

This morning, I walked into the oncology appointment with severe indigestion. Can a plain old bowl of Rice Chex do that? I never have indigestion. The sourness left the minute Jenna said Rick’s lipase had dropped to 281 … totally normal. About 20 minutes later we were headed up to the eighth floor for Rick’s infusion. We are taking this cancer fight one day at a time. God is good … all the time.

A cancer journey with immunotherapy – infusion #10 and #11


In mid-November, Rick had his 10th maintenance infusion of Nivolumab at MD Anderson. Of course, the day is a bit more involved than just heading up to the 8th floor. During our appointment with our awesome oncologist, Dr. Campbell, we talked about Rick’s bloodwork. All looked good … except his pancreas, or lipase, level inched just over the line to 326. Something to watch … but we got the “Mother May I” to head to infusion floor.

Since we have already spent a fair amount of time over the past few months on the 8th floor, we have got to know a nurse that really knows her way around putting in an IV. She seems to be able to get that sucker placed with a minimum of “ouches” and little to no bruising. So of course, now we request the amazing Elizabeth! I think we were headed out the door for home by 2 or 2:30 p.m. A most excellent day!

Then last week, on December 1st, we went to MDA for Rick’s 11th infusion. Again, bloodwork looked great … except lipase had nearly doubled to 710 … not as high as after his kidney surgery. But not good. But the dude is feeling just fine. Yep … we got sent home anyway. The old “do no harm” was invoked and we certainly gotta respect that. We don’t have to like it though. I think we sat in the waiting room for ten or so minutes digesting what just happened. I didn’t cry. But we were both quiet. Then hubby placed a call to our oldest. Katie had Baby Ben a couple of weeks before and lives not far. So instead of an infusion … we opted for holding our new second grandson tight for just a few hours before heading north! It was also a most excellent day!

Our kitchen remodel – week #6 – It’s done!


The kitchen is finished … mostly! The counter-depth fridge is backordered … and should arrive in a couple of weeks. The gist of this week was all the really fun stuff … getting the kitchen sink hooked up … thank you Jesus … and finishing up electrical with under-cabinet lighting. It is going to take me a couple of weeks to figure out which button turns on which light. Appliances were also delivered and installed. Who gets this excited about a warming drawer? We now have pendant lighting above the island, light fixture above breakfast table and hardware on the cabinets. After that … some paint touchup and cleanup and it was a magical moment … we have our house back!

First recipe cooked in the new oven … a couple loaves of pumpkin bread!

Jerry at Finishing Touches has a great crew of craftsmen and suppliers. I also enjoyed working with Anne Crawford, an awesome kitchen designer, who made us feel confident about our color choices and the Charley Harper art tile possibilities.

Tomorrow I will be performing some serious baking duties for our upcoming Thanksgiving feast! We have so much to be thankful for!