Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Back to Normal

This time it took me three days to get back to “normal” after chemo. Today is Tuesday and I feel pretty good. Yesterday we went down to Galveston to the Social Security office and signed up for Social Security. I had held off because I was working but now it doesn’t look like I’ll be working very much. We went for a walk on the seawall and had lunch at the Mosquito CafĂ©. Nice day.

Today I’m going to edge and mow the yard. It’ll be interesting to see if I can do the whole thing without wearing out. The weather’s pretty nice – cloudy but warmish – so I want to take advantage of the day. Verva’s spending the afternoon at the university in her pottery studio – it’s a nice break for her and she’s very talented.

P.S. Yard work went well – edged and mowed and then took a nap in the hammock.

Tough life.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sunday After Chemo

Well, I survived the third chemo session pretty well. I’m still wearing the pump. One of the components of the chemo treatment is injected slowly over 48 hours and I wear a little pump in a fanny pack for a couple days. I’ll have to admit I never pictured myself as a fanny pack kind of a guy. When it’s finished, Verva disconnects it and we take it back the next time we have chemo.

I seem to have more numbness and tingling in my fingers when exposed to cold than before. That is an expected side effect and I just need to remember not to grab ice cubes out of the refrigerator. No nausea, no other issues other than a need to nap. I understand that chemo won’t always be like this – that there’ll be a time later where I will have some issues with nausea, etc. but we’ll just wait and see.

I was looking over my blog entries. I have made 28 postings and received 140 comments. The comments mean a lot to us and we love getting them but I can’t answer the comments through the blog. I like getting e-mail and my e-mail address is is under my name on the contributor list on the right hand side of the blog page. So if you’d like some dialog, send me an e-mail.

One day at a time - piece of cake.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Chemo #3

This afternoon I go down to MDA for my third chemo treatment. We spent most of yesterday there – blood work, nutritionist, and an appointment with the doctor. At MDA, you don’t just get to see the doctor, you also get to visit both the clinical test administrators who seek pretty detailed information on how you are responding to the chemo and how you are feeling. I have to keep a daily log sheet which they review with me every 4 weeks. You also get to visit the physician’s assistant who goes over your condition in detail and answers any questions you have. In between, the nutritionist and the social worker drop by. Eventually you even get to see the doctor.

The overall feeling and judgment is that this chemo is working pretty well for me. I am the first person in the 11th test group for this trial and each group gets a higher dosage so, right now, my group is getting the highest dosage in the trial. All the staff there always tries to decide how I’m doing by whether or not I’m smiling. I will admit there have been a couple times that I was a little grouchy and didn't smile much. Most of the time now I really do feel pretty good. You can see this by the picture of me writing this blog entry.

Notice that I shaved my head – not because my hair was falling out but in support of Brittney’s rehab efforts.

I probably won’t write an entry over the weekend – the chemo does make me pretty tired for a couple days.

One day at a time – piece of cake.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Home Again

We got back from Rockport yesterday afternoon after a great couple days. The weather on Monday was perfect and we had a great trip out to look at the whooping cranes. You take a boat from Fulton Harbor down to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge. The birds winter in the refuge and you can see them quite well from the boat.

There are generally two adults and an adolescent in each group. Each group claims about a square mile of territory. This flock at Aransas migrates 2400 miles from the Northwest Territories in Canada. There are 237 birds in the flock and there are a total of 518 birds when you count the non-migrating and captive birds in the U.S. In 1941 there were only 16 birds. These birds stand 5 and a half feet tall and are truly spectacular.

It was a good trip and we saw many other birds ranging from peregrine falcons to American Oyster Catchers. We headed for home on Tuesday with several stops along the way.

We have a quiet day today and a day full of doctor appointments tomorrow and chemo on Friday. We were glad for the change of scenery and I was glad I was able to drive us down there and back. I couldn’t have done that two weeks ago.

One day at a time – piece of cake….

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Each day that passes I seem to feel better. The chemo’s working on me and I can tell. While I still have no appetite, eating’s easier and I haven’t lost any more weight. Our attitude has changed over the past weeks from one of fear and despair to a much more positive outlook thanks to the people at MDA, our family and our friends (and, of course, a chemo treatment that’s working). We’re looking at treating this like a chronic illness – one that will have to be dealt with but one that is survivable.

We’re not taking the 5th wheel out today like we planned. The cold weather makes it difficult for me to do much outside because one of the chemo meds makes my fingers numb in the cold. and that would include hooking up, setting up and messing with the 5th wheel. The trailer will have to wait for warmer weather. We are, however, heading for Rockport (about 250 miles SW of Houston on the coast) as soon as I get done writing this. Our good friends, Mike and Leslye, have offered us their house there for a couple days and we’re grateful. The weather’s lovely, clear and cool, and tomorrow we’ll take a boat ride out to see the whooping cranes and do some walking and birding. We’ll be back Tuesday night or Wednesday. No postings until we return.

The picture is of my main project team wearing “The Densmore Project” tee shirts provided by my hero, Rindy. These tee shirts are available for all team members.

One day at a time – piece of cake

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ethan Allen Memories

I am a big submarine fan and I recently ran across this picture of the Ethan Allen on the internet. It reminded me of the time during the late 60’s when I served on the USS Ethan Allen, SSBN 608. This was a Polaris submarine. She was the first of a class that were built from the keel up to carry missiles. I reported aboard at the height of the Cold War and I made four patrols. During the time I was aboard there was some question about the operational readiness of these boats and missiles after having been in service for a number of years. In spite of an extensive preventative maintenance program, live firings of missiles showed a high number of failures. We had fired single missiles on sea trails prior to patrol successfully but a number of other boats had problems.

The Allen was selected for a live firing exercise that involved firing seven missiles in a war time sequence. This meant every minute or two we’d launch. It was a major test. My job during the launch was to fire a flare in between each launch as a signal to the surface observers. We steamed out of Rota, Spain, to somewhere in the mid Atlantic and awaited the firing signal. When it came we fired seven missiles in sequence without a hitch including the flares between shots. The boat was submerged and each time we fired a missile it bounced up and down as systems compensated for the change in weight. All the missiles went downrange and impacted the target area. We received a Presidential Unit Commendation for the effort.

The picture here shows the boat underway. It looked pretty casual with the guys in shorts on the sail planes and the flag flying from the sail. It reminded me of our return to port with a broom tied to the periscope (“clean sweep”) and a 7-Up flag flying from the sail. The boat has the hull number painted on it (608) and this was not the case when I was on it. Then, hull numbers were painted over as part of deployment. The other picture is one of me in my “office” on the boat.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Going For A Walk

There is nothing like sitting around being sick for a month to make your first walk a challenge. The sky was clear, the temperature in the 50’s and a stiff breeze blowing so this morning Verva and I decided the weather was good enough to go for a walk. Holy cow, talk about no steam. I struggled back to the house after a ½ or ¾ of a mile wondering what the hell had happened. It’s amazing how fast one’s body weakens without exercise. I better do this everyday or I won’t be able to go out and pick up the paper in the morning.

Don’t know if any of you remember Travis McGee novels by John D. McDonald but I read them and enjoyed them several times over the years. Travis McGee lived on a houseboat in Florida and helped people out of jams. I recently found another author, Randy Wayne White, who writes a series of novels based on a character named Doc Brown. He’s a marine biologist who lives on Sanibel Island in Florida. They’re entertaining and good light reading.

Found the spreader for my tractor. When the wind stops and it warms up some I’ll get out and lay down 10 bags of pre emergent herbicide.

One day at a time, piece of cake…

Monday, February 12, 2007


It’s a big time stormy Texas day here. Thunder, lightning, inch an hour rain. Nice day to be inside. However, before it started I actually got out and ran some errands. Got the oil in my truck changed and renewed my safety sticker. Tried to find a new spreader to pull behind my tractor but was unsuccessful.

I seem to see changes and improvements each day. Much less hic-cups and each day it’s easier to eat. That’s not to say that I want to eat – my appetite’s gone south. But since I have to eat it’s better that the food goes down easier. This two week period will be interesting. I want to see if I have enough steam to go get my 5th wheel and park it in the driveway and then maybe next week take a short trip down the coast. I also want to see if I can get back on track with our church expansion – I’ve missed a couple meetings but I think I’m still the Chairman of the Committee. I also need to get outside and start walking so that I don’t turn into a vegetable.

If I can do these few things, they will give us some indication of how the next 6 months will play out and we very much want to have some routine and normalcy back in our lives.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Second Chemo Treatment

The second chemo treatment went very well. We got to MDA early for blood work and an echocardiogram. The heart thing is an example of how thorough MDA is. During routine processing they did an EKG and it showed something they didn’t expect. We went back to the cardiologist with a bunch of old EKG’s and low and behold they think it was just stress from the cancer – it was back before treatment started and before I’d seen the doc. Anyway, I got a clean bill of health yesterday.

The chemo started about 0915 and finished about 2:00 p.m. Verva went to lunch with our doctor neighbor and I dozed and read. We were home by mid afternoon. Not much in the way of aftereffects that I can see. I’m pretty sleepy but I have no nausea or any other issues.

Pretty cool. The best part is Verva is now qualified to take off the pump tomorrow night so we don’t have to go back downtown for 2 weeks.

That’s two treatments down and ten to go.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Margaritas and Pedicures

In anticipation of some post chemo downtime, Verva and I took advantage of a 70+ degree day and went out to run some errands, have some lunch and get a pedicure.

For lunch we went to a good Mexican restaurant near our house called Mely's. I had a margarita and fajita quesadillas. The margarita was the first (or maybe the second) drink I’ve had since we started down this path – I lost my taste for wine and beer (cancer is tough) – and it was good. So was the quesadilla. This demonstrates my improved ability to eat. I gained 2 pounds so I’m up 182.

We also got a pedicure. When I first retired, Verva asked me to come along for a pedicure. After some initial reluctance, I went and found that I enjoyed it very much. You sit in these massage chairs and put your feet in this little hot tub. The best part is the massage at the end.

We’re spending the night at Katy and Scott’s in preparation for an early start to our second chemo session tomorrow morning. Based on the progress in the past two weeks, we’re looking forward to the treatment and continued progress.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

A Beautiful Day

The temperature got into the mid-60’s today after lunch so I got out the mower and cut the grass. It probably didn’t need it. The way I tell is to get on the mower and mow out to the fence. I then turn around and, if I can tell I cut anything, I’m good to go. As you can see in the picture the grass is still pretty dormant.

None-the-less, the sky was blue, there was a light, cool breeze and it was about as good as it gets. Mowing is meditative for me. My mind wanders down a lot of different paths while I mow and today I felt optimistic and upbeat.

While I was mowing I noticed some good fairy had weeded my beds in the back yard. Thank you very much whoever you are and I have my suspicions. That was what I was going to try to do in the morning and it’s nice to have other options.

I continue to be able to eat fairly normally and I feel pretty good (about everything). Thank you all for your support – we can feel it.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Real Food Tastes Good

Sorry for those of you who rooted for the Bears last night. I had hoped it would be a better game (read more even). We watched the game over at Katy and Scott’s and spent the night because we had an appointment at MDA this morning.

Verva is now fully certified to change the dressing on my catheter and to flush the line on a daily basis. I think I’ll buy her a little nurse’s outfit for Valentine’s Day. Verva says no pictures to follow.

Things continue show some improvement. This is the second day I’ve been able to eat regular food and it’s a vast improvement over the Boost and the Ensure I’ve been trying to get down. The chemo seems to be working on the tumor and the cancer at my esophagus/stomach junction. I can swallow easier and a lot of the gas, bloating and dry heaving have gone.

I am planning on cutting the grass tomorrow if the temperature goes above 60. I’m suffering mower withdrawal.

Stay tuned….

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Safe Flight Home

My father has always been my hero; at an age when most young men are trying to decide what to do when they grow up, he was in England serving as the pilot of a B17 bomber. One of his fellow pilots, Jim Bradford, recently wrote me this letter.


Dear Bob –

- You’re at 22,000 feet and the flak is very heavy – bullets are flying –
But you must keep flying! If you take flak on your starboard wing – trim your port side and fly straight ahead!
If you lose an engine – or even two – you can stay afloat, as your Dad can attest! You may lose some altitude to keep air speed.
- But you’ve got to keep flying! Your 300 degree course is headed for home! You have a great, dedicated crew of family and friends on board; a terrific ground crew at MDA!
Keep you glide angle above stall speed – keep flying! In the distance up ahead you’ll soon spot the welcome sight of the white cliffs of Dover! It may take a while to reach them since your air speed has slowed down – but you’ll reach them. And just beyond is Woodbridge Emergency Landing Field! No matter the winds of change or chance, there’s safe haven there! You’re home!
Keep your wings level – your glide consistent – your airspeed up – you’ll make it.

Safe Landings! God Speed!
His Blessing Always,
Love, Jim and Jeanette Bradford

Friday, February 2, 2007

Fresh Air

We had a great day today. Charlie Gibson and Alok Kalia took Verva and me and my brother John out for a boat ride. The weather wasn’t as nice as we’d hoped but the fresh air blew through my head and was very therapeutic. We left the Blue Dolphin Marina around 0900 and headed out to Red Fish Island. The water was a little choppy but their Top Cat handled it very well.

From Red Fish we cruised along the inside of the ship channel towards LaPorte and cruised through the Houston Yacht Club looking at expensive boats. From there we came back down to Kemah and went over to South Shore Harbor (more expensive boats). The fresh air was good for Verva and me and the tour gave my brother a better feel for the Bay Area. Thanks again to Charlie and Alok.

Each day I’m able to get a little more food down and have a few less problems. Today’s boat ride went pretty smoothly. With the help of our family and friends we’ll get to the other side – one day at a time – piece of cake.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Life Is Good

I never imagined I’d be sitting here at my computer at 9:30 a.m. typing and drinking a chocolate milk shake. Life is good. Today seems to bring some changes. The pain and heaviness in my chest is gone – that means I can sleep comfortably. I ate my breakfast (such as it was) without any problems. Nausea stay away from my door. I even ate some grapefruit sections and they were good. All hopeful signs – it’s been 6 days since chemo.

I have to go out and buy some pants today. Losing 20 pounds means that, unless they have a drawstring or an elastic waistband, they aren’t going to stay up no matter how tight you pull the belt. We’re also going to pick up Hector and bring him home to be with Poki. That’ll be nice.

Dinner tonight with my brother and kids – life is good.

Stay tuned…..