Sunday, October 18, 2009

Just how many shoes are there?

For the last two weeks, it seems like every time we had the worst behind us, another shoe fell.

We got the first biopsy for ToolMan, indicating clear margins around the tumor. Then another shoe fell when I talked to my mother, we found out two of my brothers are facing serious health issues; one needs spinal surgery, and the other has been diagnosed with chronic lymphoma leukemia ("CLL"). We've known Jack would need back surgery sooner or later, and now it seems he won't be able to put it off any longer. Joe has been sick the last few months with numerous infections and now a biopsy of his lymph glands showed the reason. His oncologist says CLL is very manageable with medications, so we're hoping they can get it under control pretty fast.

ToolMan saw our regular internist as a followup from surgery; he was concerned about a spot on ToolMan's ear and on his cheek. He's had minor skin cancers removed before, but the doctor was concerned about the look of these and sent him back to the dermatologist. Turns out the biopsy showed invasive squamous cell carcinoma. Another shoe hit the floor. They're going to do Mohs surgery, an all day procedure where they take microscopic slices and run instant tests until they show clear, and then do reconstruction all at once. They'll do the ear first, in November, and the cheek second, sometime in December, so he has healing time in between.

ToolMan had referrals to a radiologist and medical oncologist, as followups to his surgery. He saw the radiologist on Tuesday, who said he didn't think radiation would be necessary, given that the tumor was stage 1. We were starting to feel like we had turned the corner, crested the hill, and were on good road again. Then we saw the medical oncologist on Thursday, and another shoe fell. It turns out that there were cancer cells found in the blood vessels going into and out from the tumor; it called angiocarcinoma and means basically that cancer cells are floating in his bloodstream looking for soft tissue to invade. It turns out that this development from stage 1 cancer is the hardest to treat. In stages 2, 3, and 4, the doctors have a clear plan; kill the cancer. In stage 1, it's less clear; the chances of a re-occurrence after doing nothing range from 5% to 28%, depending on whose test results you read. And with treatment, the numbers don't seem to change all that much. And we don't know how many cells there could be; is there 1? 100? Thousands? The treatment is chemo by pills daily and radiation 15 minutes per day for 6 weeks. The side effects of which can be pretty brutal. In short, we really like the medical oncologist, she's very open and generously took a lot of time to go over the biopsy, medical papers, options, and treatments. But she can't make a decision for us. We ended the meeting with an agreement that she will present this to the Tumor Board at OHSU to get further opinions, and she'll call us next week when, or if, there is a consensus from the Board and we'll make a decision from there.

Thankfully, there were some bright spots in the last few weeks. Like Spinnerati last weekend:

It's always nice to get back amongst my Spinning Sisters for an afternoon of fiber. And the hugs didn't hurt either.

Then a package showed up in the mail from Dave Daniels with my booby prize for the Summer of Spinning. This may be the softest superwash merino I have ever touched! And this picture does not do the color justice; it's more of a lavender blue; I can hardly wait to get started on it!

I didn't make it to Westside Wednesday a week ago; I was just too tired from all the ups and downs to make it. I think the Knit Sibs were trying to tempt me back, because on Thursday morning, when I went out the front door to work, this was hanging on the handle:

Definitely no trick here; it was all treat! Inside 12 balls of lovely blue bulky yarn! I'm not sure what I'll do with this yet, but I'm thinking it will make nice hats either for chemo patients or for Outside In.

There's been very little spinning going on, other than Spinnerati, though that will change now that I have that fiber from Dave. But there has been some knitting, but not much. I did finish a Swallowtail scarf, but it's too dark tonight to get a good picture so that will have to wait until next week.

Our new office has huge windows on two sides and we can't seem to hit a happy medium between the folks near the window (who are freezing when the thermostat say 71 and warm when it says 78) and the folks on the other side (who are roasting when the thermostat says anything above 73). Guess which side my team is on? I actually saw one of my paralegals wearing her down-filled coat and mittens last week. At her desk. The result? Mindless knitting to the rescue!

Simple 2x2 rib fingerless mitts in worsted weight; I'm on the third pair in less than a week. One pair for each of female paralegals and assistants on my team so I'm making 6 pair. I do have one male paralegal; he's been seen wearing polar fleece vests in the office of late. I don't think he'd wear the fingerless mitts, so I'm thinking short finger gloves for him. Any other suggestions?


  1. Hugs, hugs, hugs! You poor dears!

  2. Oh Duffy, I'm holding you and your family in my prayers.

  3. For your fella fingerless mitts would work. So would a short scarf.

    It was good to see you Wednesday and Saturday.

  4. You have had entirely too much bad news. I send you my sincerest wishes for good luck and uneventful recoveries.
    And I think your fingerless mitts are brilliant. My lab desk space is always freezing, so my hands get pretty chilled. I think maybe I'll cast on something similar this week.

  5. I am sending more good thoughts for all your family. I admire your strength. don't know that I would have a tenth to cope.

  6. Hugs for you and your family. And prayers and positive vibes, too.

  7. Sending many hugs. I'm so sorry more shoes are falling... you're doing an amazing job of coping.

  8. Sending hugs and good thoughts your way.
    Hang in and hang on. Spend time with friends. Knit. Spin. Take a deep breath now and then.
    Wishing you all the good that's possible.

  9. Oh, dear!
    I have prayed for you. May God give you strength, courage, and joy.
    Beauty is food for the soul -- listen to some music that delights you, spin, knit, look at scenery or art -- little moments can enable you to keep going.

  10. Glad to see you are following Elizabeth Zimmermann's advice "knit on with confidence through all crises". I am so sorry to hear of the family health issues and that ToolMan has more treatments ahead. You're in my thoughts.


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