Saturday, January 24, 2009

A fine feathered search engine

I have been warning my husband for the past few months, dropping hints, fantasizing out loud, really, about adding another feathered friend to our family. We have four adorable parakeets, thus far, and I've been thinking six would be a better number. And I have promised that will be the maximum. As long as none of them decides to procreate. So far, no problem.

When it looks as though he's dying to tell me "No way, no more", I suggest we get a dog instead. That goes nowhere. When I really want to get my way I suggest we have a baby. Suddenly, he's quite open to adding another feathered angel to our nest.

And so, as it happens, although we've been discussing adding another parakeet, my latest trip to the pet shop to pick up gourmet parakeet food instead introduced me to a 9-week old, hand-fed and raised cockatiel. Kay told me not to be shy. He's very friendly. She opened up his cage and he popped out, and easily stepped onto my hand where he stayed for the next ten minutes or more. During which time, of course, I fell in love again.

I always have a gut instinct, a "knowing" when the next one appears. I haven't been wrong yet. They all get along so well. With all their personalities and quirks, they are still one big happy winged family.

I went home from the store knowing I wouldn't be able to wait to bring it up to Joe. I started with the dog suggestion, and then worked my way back around to another bird. Then I told him how I'd found the next one. Only it's not a parakeet, it's...bigger. But just as sweet. And already so tame. You know something, he's an incredible man. A very sweet husband. He asked when we would pick him up.

So I spent last night getting the carrier cage, and the baby's new home ready. I worked today, so we made plans for Joe to pick him up this afternoon. He was here when I got home from work. And already settling in.

We spent a few minutes with him, I greeted my original Four Amigos, and then we introduced them to Google bird. Yes, Google is his name. And I might as well tell you right now, the next, and final addition (but not for some time) will be named Blogger. So go ahead, call us techies, we don't care. I'm fond of blogging, and Google is a damned fine name, if you ask me. I hope they don't sue me for copyright infringement.

Google is fitting in just fine already. He's happy to pose for pictures. He likes nibbling on my hair, and eating carrots, and playing with his toys. The Four Amigos are a little tentative yet, but they'll soon realize that he's not to be afraid of, and just one of the gang. They've been spying on him when he's in his house. And I think signs point to them being good friends. As long as they are certain that they all have their designated spots in my heart.

And believe me, they do. I've blogged about it in months past. You can Google it, if you want.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The kitchen chair tried to kill me

Call CSI. I want an investigation. The kitchen chair tried to kill me. Well, I suppose all forensics evidence will just lead to telling me to join Jenny Craig. I need to get into better shape, and I know it. Irony is, I like walking. I do. But somehow I always get distracted by something else.

But back to the events at hand. Yesterday, believe it or not, it occurred to me that I had not had a fall in quite some time. I'm a bit of a klutz. Last winter I had several incidents. One that left my brain shaken for several weeks, and my body incredibly sore. But nothing broken. Ice and shopping mall parking lots are a dangerous mix, that's what I have to say about that.

An encouraging side note to that incident, however, is that when I fell, several individuals came to my aid. Warning me not to move until I knew I was okay, and so on. One person even walked with me a ways to make sure I was okay. Ah, the kindness of strangers. It does warm the heart, even when you're feeling embarrassed as hell.

I fell a couple more times through the winter, shoveling, traipsing through snow banks, and such. And once or twice in the garden during the spring and summer. Just carelessly placed garden implements, or distractedness on my part.

So, here we are, three weeks in to 2009 and I realized, hey, I haven't had a fall in a long while. I'm doing pretty good. Granted, there are many weeks of winter to make it through yet. And, truth be told, I've been known to fall in the house, too. I blogged about a bug incident from the past spring/summer that left me in splits on the kitchen floor.

But last night, while treating myself to a late night, relaxing, facial, I decided to read a magazine at the kitchen table. While sitting there, I had a napkin to toss in the garbage, so I turned sideways, leaning back against the kitchen chair to toss it in the basket. As I did so I heard a telltale crack. But I did not heed its warning.

A few minutes later, as I pushed the chair back to stand up and go wash my face, the chair collapsed beneath me. I sat stunned for a moment or two. My husband rushed in from the other room to see what the hubbub was about and found me in a lump on the floor, surrounded by broken chair parts. The back of the chair had come completely undone. To say the least, I was completely embarrassed and ashamed.

I'm a little sore today, but nothing that won't fade away with a little ibuprofen. My ego is still red with embarrassment. I'm not joining Jenny Craig, but I suppose I feel a bit more motivated to get on that treadmill now.

But if the CSI team does show up, the chair tried to kill me. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Diamond in the Rough

The waiting, as they say, is the hardest part. That's certainly been true in this case. It's been a long two weeks of waiting for the results of Nathan's biopsy to come in. Although the signs were pointing to a good prognosis, life can be so full of surprises, good and bad, that you can never be too certain. I admit it, I was obsessed day and night. I poured over websites about neuroblastoma, I read Wikipedia definitions multiple times. I read the blogs of others fighting the disease. I hoped, I prayed, and I enlisted friends near and far to include him in their prayers and wishes and dreams. And I cried. A lot.

Today was a long day. I knew that Nathan's results were due in. Unfortunately, I hadn't asked my sister what time they were to meet with the doctor. So, last night I tossed and turned. All day long (with apologies to my boss) I struggled to stay on task and not drift into bouts of fear and paranoia about the outcome. I heard nothing all day.

When I arrived home this evening, however, there was a message from my sister to call. Nothing else. I picked up the phone, then suddenly couldn't remember her cell number. I frantically looked for my address/phone book and couldn't find it. I thought, maybe, I could remember the cell, so I dialed it. It wasn't hers, but her husband's. He worked in a few pleasantries. But I wanted the news. Tell me.

As he filled me in on the Oh-So-Good news I burst into tears. The results: the tumor is definitely a neuroblastoma (and not something unexpected), Stage 1, Low-Risk. And the best news beyond that - NO CHEMO. Be still my heart. I have never been so grateful in my life.

I congratulated him. He told me more of the details, the doctors comments, the fact that they will be watching him carefully, doing scans every 3 months. They will continue with the infusions for the OMS that warned them that a tumor was possible. They will continue with the steroid injections for a time. The physical therapy, speech therapy, and so on. All of those things seem like status quo after this. The tumor is gone. He will live.

It is possible that it may recur. But based on the traits of the one they removed, anything additional will hopefully be treatable in the same way. And, with regular scans, they can catch it early, as they were able to do with this one.

As it turns out, they were nearby, having just come from the doctor. So I rushed out to meet up with them. To hug them. To see their happy faces. To see Nathan, and his big, handsome, brother Ben, play together, and laugh and giggle. To take a few pictures. How did I get to be so lucky, to be able to be with them on this momentous day? Yes, I am grateful.

It was a rough day. It's been a rough 12 months since this began. But the diamond is worth it. For he sparkles and he shines. But most of all, he warms our hearts.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A much better day...

Today was a much better day. When I went to visit my nephew Nathan this evening the difference in his condition was amazing. He was in the playroom with his parents when I arrived. We took a walk around the medical wing. Then it was time for Nathan to actually have his first post-surgery meal. And he was ready for it!

He was clearly feeling much better today. Smiling, laughing. Not in such pain. They have taken him off most of the post-surgery meds. We did a lot of playing after dinner. He likes to play with cameras, snapping pictures. Manages to get some good ones, too.

He and I played "curly hair". I messed mine up and made him laugh. This time without pain. Thank goodness. It's hard to believe he was so miserable yesterday. They really do "turn a corner" quickly, as the docs say. Let's hope this lasts and lasts.

They got the bone marrow results back today and it was negative for any cancer cells. HUZZAH! That is something to celebrate.

They took a post-surgery CT scan today. Pray the results come back in their favor. And the pathology report is still due. Then they will know what the next step will be. In some cases of Neuroblastoma, based on the staging of the tumor, chemotherapy isn't required. It would be such a blessing if that was the case. But we will not know for certain for a while yet.

In the meantime, Nathan is in great spirit, and, there is talk of him being able to go home soon. I'll have to make a longer drive to see him then. But you won't hear me complaining.

Vive' la Nathan!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Let's keep the laughter down, shall we?

It's the third day since my nephew Nathan had his surgery. A (most likely neuroblastoma) tumor removed from his abdomen. Thank heaven the surgery went well. They were able to remove it all, and without any complications. Lab results are still forthcoming. In the meantime, Nathan is in recovery. Most of the time he has been sleeping. The medication to numb the pain makes him very tired. He hasn't been able to have any liquids, much less solid food, since the day before his surgery. His mouth is dry. His lips chapped. But he doesn't much complain.

Today we went to visit him. He was sleeping. However, earlier in the day he had been much more alert, and actually made a trip to the toy room to play for a while. A very encouraging step in his path to wellness.

After we visited with my sister and family a while, Nathan awoke. I was attempting to entertain him with a hand puppet. Big mistake. I made him smile. That was good. I made him laugh. Ooh, that was NOT good. The laughter made his body hurt. Laughter turned to tears. I felt so bad. His mother comforted him. Eventually he calmed down. But any little cough, bump of the belly, hurts him. And it breaks your heart. This is a major boo-boo. Yes, time should heal. He is better than yesterday. And signs point toward a less painful tomorrow.

Hopefully he will be able to have fluids soon. Hopefully the test results will come back and will show the best possible outcome. Hopefully I'll be able to make him laugh again without causing any discomfort. In the meantime, I think my "silly hat" will go on hiatus.

Friday, January 2, 2009

And the sunlight danced upon his hair...

That curly hair, dappled with sunshine. Photos from a summer day not so long ago. A miracle in action, many months into treatment for OMS. That is Nathan. A bundle of laughter, and personality. A ball of energy. A delight.

I asked for your prayers. Your good wishes. Your kindness of the human soul, and you answered. Thank you!

Nathan's surgery went very well today. Could not have gone better, in fact. The operation lasted little more than two hours. They were able to remove the entire, walnut-sized tumor, and did so without any complications. All organs, and arteries intact. Hallelujah!

They also did a bone marrow test. A previous osteoscan showed no affect of the neuroblastoma to the bone, but this will give a definitive answer. Pray it's clean, clean, clean.

The pathology will not be back on the tumor for a week or more. So, we must wait. In the meantime, Nathan is resting and on pain medication to keep him comfortable for the next few days. When we visited tonight he was sleeping. He woke for a bit, long enough to request his SHREK dvd be played.

When I kissed him goodnight, I was struck by what a courageous boy he is. Not unlike so many of the other children whose stories I've read recently. Children plagued by childhood cancer, or other horrific diseases or challenges. How they just keep plugging away. Look into the face of a child and see your true self. Somewhere deep inside each one of us, that innocence exists.

Let us resurrect it. Treasure it. Share it. May the preciousness of a child live on and on and on. Bless Nathan. Bless them all...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Calling All Angels

Isn't he beautiful? My 2-1/2 year-old nephew, Nathan. He's as sweet as he looks, too. A happy, loving, adorable child. I must admit, I've got a serious crush on him.

Tomorrow this beautiful boy is undergoing surgery to remove a tumor in his abdomen. Based on an illness that began nearly a year ago, the doctors are pretty certain that this tumor is a Neuroblastoma. He began having neurological difficulties in January of last year. The symptoms were subtle, and not apparent at first. It wasn't until spring that they finally came up with a diagnosis of OMS (opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome, possibly with neuroblastoma). This is a very rare disease (maybe 700 cases per year), and primarily a pediatric, early childhood disease.

Nathan, his parents, brother, and close family have been on this roller-coaster ride since then. At the time of his diagnosis Nathan had regressed from a walking toddler saying some of his first words, to a toddler that could barely sit up on his own. He had tremors, emotional issues, and was having a difficult time eating solid foods any longer. The doctors at Children's Hospital of Milwaukee made the diagnosis and began aggressive treatment. He had scan after scan looking for the tumor that usually precedes this condition. They found none. This was a relief.

They began chemotherapy and imunoglobulin therapy. They put him on a year or more regimen of steroids that cost over $30,000 per month. He has monthly transfusions. But, his progress was amazing. By the time he left the hospital he was walking again. Regaining some strength. Within months, by the time of his 2nd birthday party in July, he was running. Miracle of miracles. Makes me cry just thinking about it.

He has speech therapy, physical therapy, he still takes steroid injections, he has a transfusion each month. He's been lucky, he hasn't had many of the side effects that come with the steroids he's getting. He's energetic. He loves The Wiggles. He can jump up and down to music endlessly. He loves Richard Simmons' "Sweatin to the Oldies" and knows the routines.

Earlier in the fall of 2008 he had a check-up with a series of tests which turned up clean. No sign of the cells that belong to a Neuroblastoma. Or so we thought. When he had his 6-month MRI, shortly before Christmas, they found a growth above one of his kidneys. This was an incredible blow, since he had recently had such a great medical review. My sister and her husband were knocked out shocked. It took time to catch their breath. The hope was that Nathan's body had already fought off the Neuroblastoma, and that was the reason for his illness. But this time, the OMS was a precursor to the tumor. Because of that, and the regular MRI's, etc., they were able to catch it early.

All signs seem to show that this tumor is exclusive. That it hasn't spread. But until the tumor is removed, and the pathology known, and prognosis and any further treatment determined, we'll have to wait. I pray that the surgery tomorrow goes smoothly. That they are able to remove it all. There is no spread of the tumor. That he will recover without regression. That he will not be in too much pain. That he will soon be a very healthy, cancer-free boy.

What I'm asking for, dear readers, is a Calling of Angels. Whether you believe in God or not, whether you belong to a church or not, that doesn't matter. This is a request for prayer, good karma, good wishes, from you, dear readers. From anyone reading this post. From anyone who wants to share this post. Please, take a moment, say a prayer, make a wish, just send a warm thought, a warm virtual hug to a small child, out through the cosmos and back again.

Life is a beautiful thing. I already know that Nathan's life is a loving one. I pray that it's also a very long one.

Thank you....Kimberly