Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Brad is in Heaven now

As hard as it was to write about Brad's cancer, this is obviously worse. There were so many times during this month that seemed surreal, as if I was in a nightmare, or just going through the motions, feeling plain numb. This is hard for me to fathom, just as it is for you.
When Brad was diagnosed, we knew we didn't have long--but we expected to have a few more months--with Brad getting stronger with treatments (or at least maintaining). We didn't expect to lose him so soon.
After I wrote Monday evening, things seemed to be looking up. Brad had a good night's sleep and woke up feeling better. Emotionally, he was at the highest point for weeks, feeling hopeful and encouraged. I got breakfast for the girls and was helping Brad get ready for his radiation treatment. Brad called out that he was feeling "shocky" and wanted help to get back to bed. His cousin Patrick and I did that and he just fell back in bed. I got on the floor to remove his slippers and asked him to pick up his feet. When he didn't respond, I looked up and knew that he had just, that instant, gone home to be with the Lord. That was about 10am, November 20. I called 911 and told the girls he was dying; we followed him to the ER.
His doctor believes that Brad died from a clot (either to his heart, brain stem or a pulmonary embolism--does it really matter?). When the nurses saw his foot Monday, they called the doctor and then told Brad he'd discuss it with us Wednesday. Brad's blood was getting thick again and clotting. But he told me that Brad had the maximum amount of clot busting drugs in his system, any more and he'd bleed to death. So he couldn't give him more.
At the hospital, we were able to take the time to say goodbye.

Does anyone ever know what to say? No. It was hard for the girls to see him that way, but it was helpful, especially for Colleen. She finally broke down and put her hand in his, rubbing his hand and crying for an hour. I am grateful that she finally let some emotion out. I've been so concerned about the protective wall she was building around herself . We stayed until she was ready to leave. Then Kerry asked for some additional time with just her dadddy and me. It broke my heart to see her put herself over Brad, cry and say "bye, bye daddy. I love you so much." I grieve for myself, but I grieve for my girls' loss much more. We got home early afternoon and then waited for my parents, already en route for thanksgiving. My parents have grown to love Brad as a son, and it's hard for them (my brother, Mike, died of brain cancer a week before Thanksgiving 7 years ago).
One thing that Brad wanted to do was to write a letter to the girls, and to tape himself (he was planning on doing that on Tuesday). If you've ever thought of doing that...PLEASE don't put it off. We weren't expecting him to be gone before he could do that.

I'm sorry for not making more phone calls...this is a little overwhelming for me. I have found myself just wandering today, not quite knowing what to do with myself or staring off into space; thinking of happy memories, things not done, regrets, etc. (that is one wandering sentence) It's the little things that get to me, like wanting to ask Brad how to charge the battery in his camera, and just where IS the charger? Or when Kerry starts to cry and says "it'll never be the same again" or when she expresses a little anger because Brad won't get to see Colleen turn eight (her birthday is next week--I guess Kerry is feeling a little protective).

There is one particular thing that I'm very thankful for. Brad was never in any pain! His doctors kept asking and were puzzled. They offered several times to give him pain medication. Pancreas cancer is very painful and it seems that when Brad had his spinal cord surgery 8 years ago, the pain receptors to that area were severed. A strange blessing from that time.

The last few weeks, Brad was feeling really convicted about his relationship with God and that he didn't really share much about it. Brad was a fairly private person, but he knew that his sins were forgiven because of Christ and wished he had shared more about it. He shared with me a few days ago that not doing so is his biggest regret. He wanted to "finish strong"

Many (probably all of you), loved Brad and have many happy memories. I am trying to get pictures together and am reminded of that.
We love him and will miss him so much. Please pray for the girls to be comforted and for me to have the wisdom to know what to do and to say to them. Please pray for my stress level and that we would be strengthened and protected.
I value you so much, even if I seem impersonal at this moment. I know that prayer for me and the girls is the most valuable thing I could have done for us.
Patti and Kerry and Colleen

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ups and downs

It's been a crazy week. I had planned on updating this more frequently--I'll work harder. We have a big praise, Brad's fevers are greatly reduced and he hasn't had night sweats for three nights!!! Our washing machine also thanks you for your prayers on our behalf.

On the down side, I haven't been a very observant nurse. What do they say about the shoemaker's kids not having shoes? Well.... I hate to admit it, but I didn't notice that Brad was in trouble ( I was just caught up in the busyness of taking care of everybody). With all the fluid loss, I couldn't get him to eat or drink very much and he became too dehydrated. He hasn't been able to walk without assistance this weekend (without his legs giving out). Duh. And right under my nose. I just wasn't connecting the dots.

Brad's cousin, Patrick Bray is here to help us get a few things accomplished (like getting the house ready for winter) and he is such a blessing! He has been able to help Brad with walking from the bed to the couch--which was an event for Brad's Sunday evening. He was also able to get Brad to radiation this morning and to the cancer center when they opened, where they spent several hours as Brad was hooked up to IV fluids to rehydrate. Lo and behold, he's feeling MUCH better and has some spunk back. (I can't believe I just used spunk in a sentence). You can tell, I'm sure that everyone has gone to bed and it is late Monday night.

We will see the doctor on Wednesday. Hopefully he'll be able to tell us why Brad's left foot is beginning to resemble an elephant's. He may have another clot or just water retention from electrolyte imbalance . They didn't seem concerned about it this morning--told us to discuss it with the doc on Wednesday.

Off to try to sleep as soundly as everyone else in this house in curently doing--YAY!

Friday, November 16, 2007

starting radiation

Well, Brad a few good days--we even took a little walk around our neighborhood with the girls.
But this past week has been pretty hard. Brad is as weak as a kitten and spent a couple days not keeping food down. He also hasn't been sleeping much due to the fevers and night sweats.
This past week, Dr. Shih took more blood to culture (just to make sure again that the fevers aren't caused from some type of infection).
We also are starting radiation--hoping to shrink the tumor a little to ease Brad's symptoms. He had his second treatment today. It will be daily for a few weeks.
We're not sure about the oral chemo yet--it's only been on board almost a week. We were able to get some Phenergan yesterday evening and it has really helped. No barfing since then! Now if he could just get some solid shut-eye, please pray for that!
A praise--no one in this house is sick.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Brad's cancer is detected

We felt that starting this blog would be easier on us --hopefully you won't mind too much. When we discuss everything and all the details with folks over the phone, it seems to bother the girls to hear about it so much. And right now, we need to be more sensitive to them, as they are hurting in their own ways. This is how it all began:

A few days before Kerry's birthday, Brad felt he had a pulled leg muscle. On 10/5 , he had developed a bump with a hot red streak on his thigh. His doc went out of town, so he went to the "doc in the box" urgent care. They gave him STRONG antibiotics thinking he had something like a staph. He then started getting the bumps on his arm and other leg. After a week, they changed antibiotics, but then he started getting a fever every day (about 3-4pm he would hit 101-102 degrees). His doc finally got back and saw him 10/16 (my birthday) and told him he had migrating thrombophlebitis--which could be caused by 3 things, but mostly caused by cancer. A few days later, we were at the oncologist and he confirmed that the most likely cause was cancer--and pancreatic at that.

The following Wednesday, 10/24, we went in for a day of tests. After the CAT scan, Brad was called to the oncologist's office (by the way, the oncologist is Dr. Kent Shih) where we were told there was a mass on Brad's pancreas, spots on his liver and clots in his lungs. We still hadn't finished all the tests--we ended up in the ER for clot busting drugs after they found clots all over his arms and legs. They postponed the drugs until neurologists could confirm that the angioma in his brain wouldn't bleed. They felt if he didn't clot bust--he'd not survive very long because his blood was getting quite thick. The neuro guys got together and decided the "benefit to risk ratio" (that just cracks me up somehow) favored the drugs. They have made him feel better and most clots are gone. We had to come back two days later for a biopsy of the pancreas to know for sure what we were dealing with.
They ended up doing the biopsy from the liver and determined that Brad has stage 4 pancreatic adenocarcinoma cancer that has metastized to his liver (and probably other places in small amounts), we got the biopsy results on 10/31.
As you can see, this has hit us pretty fast.
Brad felt relieved with the diagnosis because they did tell him there were some things we could do to shrink the tumor a bit (to help relieve symptoms) or stall it for a while. There is no cure at the moment.

You know, perspective is an interesting thing. When you hear that you may get 6, maybe more months, and you're grateful--it's because you were expecting to maybe get weeks. There are also times when I remember that 8 years ago, Brad was going to be spending his life in a wheelchair--and then a miraculous spinal cord surgery was performed, giving him the use of his legs again. God can still do miracles, if not physically, at least with our hearts.

Brad was going to start a super duper chemo drug last week but couldn't because they found his white blood count was elevated. Dr. Shih didn't want to start it since Brad has some type of infection. So, Brad is taking 2 oral chemo drugs and we just met with another doc to discuss radiation. It seems as if we will start radiation this week--for palliative measures. Brad now has a fever practically 24/7, with spikes of 102ish (called a tumor fever) and severe night sweats (he sleeps with a towel on his pillow, beach towel under him and a towel on top of his t-shirt and soaks them all 3-4 times a night--just like they came out of the washing machine). Needless to say, I'm doing a lot of laundry!

He has been EXTREMELY exhausted (some days he doesn't make it up a flight of stairs to kiss the girls good night) and can't eat much. The good thing about chemo for pancreas cancer patients, is that it usually makes them feel better--so bring it on! Please pray that Brad can fight infections so we can get on with his treatments. We are doing our best to be careful about bugs out there, so we aren't shaking hands and trying to avoid germs--if only I had special vision goggles.

The last few days, he has felt much better. Thank you so much for praying for us. I am often overwhelmed at all the people who want to help us with anything or just love on us. We have been truly blessed with amazing friends and family. Please know that I would like to talk with everyone personally about everything, and not through a computer, but that's just not possible right now. So here are the details--I hope this will answer some questions, and I'm sure I just created I will try to get out updates as often as I can or if there is any news to tell.
Signing off, just for now,
Patti (for Brad, Kerry and Colleen)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My first post

We are just trying to set up a blog for you courtesy of my personal geek squad, Mary Nunaley.