Saturday, July 25, 2009

a quiet Saturday morning

It's after 10:15AM, and Mom is still sleeping. The process of moving her from slumber to lunch-readiness takes a couple hours, and is entirely guided by Dad, who gets up far earlier than I do. He monitors Mom, helps her to the bathroom, deals with clothes and bed linens (I sometimes help when there's laundry to be done), fixes Mom her daily coffee, hands over her Korean newspaper or Washington Post Magazine puzzle, helps her wash up and dress up, redoes her bandages, makes sure she takes her morning meds, and leads her out to the living room for lunch and/or TV. During the week, Mom needs to be out in the living room and seated by about 12:15 or 12:30, so that she has time to handle lunch without too much pressure, and can then leave the house at 1PM to make her 2PM radiotherapy session.

Today, my own agenda is fairly simple: first, prep some Korean porridge for Mom; second, go out into the back yard and start chopping some of the wood pile down to size. A while back, Dad and David cut away quite a few low-hanging branches of one of the trees in our back yard so that the ramp-building crew could put up the ramp without impediment. The branch removal also serves to give us, the family, a clear path when wheeling Mom out in her wheelchair. Anyway, the branches have been sitting in a pile near the ramp, and need to be cleared out. I can't say that I'll have everything cleared by later today, but-- suburban weakling that I am-- I hope to put a small dent in the pile.

Pastor Jeri will be coming by later today, between 2 and 3PM, I believe. This will be good for Mom, who needs the interaction. Beyond that... it's just a matter of watching over Mom and making sure she doesn't get herself into trouble.


Friday, July 24, 2009

in case you were curious

Here's a picture of the PICC line that Mom pulled out of her chest and arm. The angle of the shot makes the line look shorter than it is.

The part of the PICC that hangs outside of the arm is next to my thumb. That's where syringes are hooked up. The bundle of tape is what secures the line to the surface of the arm at the point where the PICC line goes through the skin. The thin, nondescript end is the part that originally sat close to Mom's heart.

The fact that Mom was able to extract this entire line without injuring herself is nothing short of astounding. Things could have been much, much worse. And now, knowing what we know about Mom's increasing tendency to fidget and fondle, it's up to us to keep extremely close watch over her.



Many thanks to my brother David's friend Cathie, who provided us with beautiful flowers, strawberries, and apples. Thanks to David for a four-berry pie and a mess of freshly picked berries from Catoctin Mountain Orchard. Thanks as well to this week's Congregational Care ambassador and family friend, Mrs. Doe, who just delivered our Friday dinner. Support comes from everywhere, and is always appreciated.


out and home

Pastor Kim arrived with near-Swiss precision at noon today. His visit with Mom lasted almost exactly an hour before we had to leave for Mom's therapy. Therapy itself went quickly-- Mom was in and out. Dad and I are starting to get to know the people whom we see in the waiting room nearly every day, including the very nice lady who speaks French with me when she sees me (her husband was French; she speaks fluent French and describes herself culturally as moitié-moitié, or "half-and-half" French and American). Dad has apparently been talking about the family while I've been busy parking the car: over the past few days, strangers in the waiting room have asked me about my trans-American walk, life in Korea, etc. I imagine these good folks would have questions for David and Sean, if they had the chance to meet my brothers.

So today's Mom-related agenda was done in a flash. Dad's out shopping for food and picking up the most recent MRI data; Sean's here, watching over Mom, who needs constant surveillance these days thanks to her wandering hands and strange compulsions (she tried eating a paper napkin a few minutes ago).

About those compulsions... as always, I've tried to strike a balance between (1) providing information about our family to Mom's relatives, friends, and acquaintances, and (2) protecting Mom's privacy and dignity. However, the blog also serves as an outlet for me, and I try to report what's going on as thoroughly as possible; in other words, you, Dear Reader, need to be prepared to encounter increasingly uncomfortable material on this blog as Mom's cancer progresses. I'm sorry, but Mother Nature is dictating much of this, and it will be more and more difficult for me to blog euphemistically or in the abstract. I've already preserved the reader from several bits of unpleasantness, but I can't guarantee that subsequent entries will be so sanitized. Ask yourself if you're ready for this. If you aren't-- if you have trouble witnessing struggle and pain, if you're the sensitive type who can stand only a limited amount of anguish-- then for your own sake, please turn away. I won't mind.


Thursday, July 23, 2009


We left the hospital at 10:15PM and got home a bit before 11. Driving was slow, thanks to the thunderstorm, but the sky was entertaining: huge sectors of it lit up, flash after flash, at a rate of at least 1-2 bolts per second. It was like driving through the great, flaring brain of a planet-sized angel.

Mom is in bed now, her new PICC line in place. The daptomycin procedure went fine, so we know the PICC line works. Tonight, we'll try to get some rest. Our apologies to the people who left messages on our answering machine, but we won't be contacting anyone until sometime tomorrow; we've all been on the go since 10:30 last night, and we're too pooped to stay up and talk.

Cancer or not, life with Mom has never been boring.


light at the end of the tunnel

Mom has had her new PICC line installed, but this time it's in her left arm. The gent working on the installation said he kept encountering scar tissue along the brachial route he had chosen on the right side. The procedure started around 6:30, but because the first attempt had gone awry, the procedure wasn't finished until around 8PM.

Some nurses came in a few minutes ago and took a chest X-ray of Mom (they cooed about how cute Mom was); this image will be examined to see whether there are any problems with the new line.

Once we get the all-clear, Dad will administer Mom's daptomycin for the evening. He had planned ahead this morning, packing up and toting along the syringes and other materials necessary for Mom's antibiotic regimen. We both agreed that it would be wise to do the intravenous injections here, while at hospital, both to test the new PICC line and to be sure that help would be at hand should a problem arise. What better place to have a medical crisis than right inside a hospital, no?

So we're awaiting X-ray results and prepping to administer the dapto. After that, we'll be heading home. Mom has a new set of bandages and stockings to be applied to her upper arm to prevent her from plucking out this PICC line. Let's hope we can get Mom through the rest of her dapto regimen without incident. She has about one more week to go.

UPDATE, 9:16PM: Mom's been given the all-clear, so Dad is administering her dapto. We'll be filling out paperwork and shoving off sometime within the next 60 minutes.


waiting for Godot (or at least a new PICC line)

We're up on the tenth floor of the Tower Building at Fairfax Hospital. Mom is berthed in a bed, awaiting the PICC line "IV access" team. We were told she had two patients in front of her; that was at 3:30, and these procedures take around an hour, give or take a few minutes. It's never safe to assume anything about the pace or timeliness of hospital service, but if all goes well, the team will be seeing Mom around 5:30PM.

Our visit to radiology earlier today included a talk with Dr. Tonnesen. I asked him about the MRI results and what they might mean. His answer was a bit disturbing: he said that, based on the MRIs done by the hospital, there's evidence that some of Mom's tumor is responding to the therapy, but that there's possible regrowth of the tumor in other areas, about which little can be done. The reason for the qualifier "possible" is that the doctors don't know whether the apparent regrowth is a recent occurrence or something that dates back to some long-ago period between MRI sessions. Perhaps the recent MRI is showing an old growth that has, in reality, been stopped by the current treatment.

More disturbing was the doctor's contention that how Mom is doing externally is more important to him than what is going on internally. He saw her today and said she looked a lot better than last time. "I see this as a good thing," he said. For him, it's more important to focus on how Mom presents clinically than on what might be going on, tumor-wise, inside her head. I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around what the doc was trying to say, and right now, I wish I had recorded the conversation so I could replay it and digest it. To me, it would seem that any outward improvement not accompanied by internal improvement should be considered superficial at best, but perhaps the doctor's point is that, since the treatment for GBM is palliative and not curative (there is no cure), we should view any clinical improvement positively.

Dad asked Dr. Tonnesen for his overall opinion on how Mom is doing. Dr. Tonnesen gave us a sympathetic look and told us that he can't jump for joy at what he's been seeing. "She isn't bouncing back," he observed, reciting the litany of problems Mom has encountered ever since she became a patient on April 16. Since we already knew this, the news wasn't particularly surprising. Maybe Dad just wanted to hear something, anything, that might be positive about this situation. Can't say as I blame him.

So that's where we are: waiting for the PICC team. We ought to be back home this evening.


our ER adventure in a nutshell

A rough chronology of the follies that began last night:

10:30PM: Mom has 5-10 minutes alone in her bedroom and manages to tug out her PICC line. The worry now is that part of the PICC line may have broken off and remained somewhere in her thoracic (chest) region. We learn later that another possible risk is pulmonary embolism, should a tiny fragment of the PICC line float into a blood vessel in one of the lungs.

11:27PM: We drive like mad to the Fairfax Hospital ER, having long ago decided to avoid the Mount Vernon ER if at all possible.

A long wait at the ER ensues. Mom seems fine, aside from a bit of pain in her de-PICCed arm.

Around 2 or 2:30AM: Mom is X-rayed.

2:45AM: The doc talks with us, but has little more to say than that the X-ray image doesn't definitively show, one way or another, whether any PICC fragments remain inside Mom's chest or arm. I ask whether other, better scanning methods could yield results, and the doc says a CT scan would do it. Dad and I are left with the creepy impression that the doc was seriously contemplating sending Mom home despite not knowing for sure that her chest and arm were clear. It was only after discussion of the CT scan option that a CT scan was ordered.

3:15AM: Mom is wheeled off for a CT scan.

3:45AM: Mom is finally given a berth in the ER-- Room 18. It has taken us four hours to get a room. As always, MRSA protocols are in effect. Dad and I glove and gown up.

4:10AM: A male nurse/tech comes into the room to give us good news: the CT scan shows nothing. Mom is safe, and we now know she has miraculously pulled off a professional-grade PICC line removal.

4:45AM: After another long wait, we're told we can go. After Dad processes Mom out and I fetch the van, we get home by 5:30AM.

Many thanks to David and Sean for showing up and hanging around as long as they could.

I'm off to get some sleep. At noon, I need to get up, and we need to be on the road back to the hospital at 1PM for radiotherapy. We're also supposed to see Dr. Tonnesen, and what's more, we need to have Mom scheduled for PICC line re-installation. She has another week to go for her daptomycin regimen, for which the PICC is essential.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

off to the ER

Mom just pulled out her PICC line. We're taking her to the ER. She doesn't seem to be suffering any ill effects, but she needs to be looked at.


non-invasive brain surgery

A link at InstaPundit brought me to an article about using a combination of ultrasound and MRI technology to perform brain surgery. It'd be nice if this technique could be used on the currently-unreachable parts of Mom's tumor.

The ultrasound beams are focused on a specific point in the brain--the exact location depends on the condition being treated--that absorbs the energy and converts it to heat. This raises the temperature to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit and kills the cells in a region approximately 10 cubic millimeters in volume. The entire system is integrated with a magnetic resonance scanner, which allows neurosurgeons to make sure they target the correct piece of brain tissue. "Thermal images acquired in real time during the treatment allow the surgeon to see where and to what extent the rise in temperature is achieved," says Zadicario.

Learning about these soon-to-arrive technological breakthroughs is a bit like being on a departing train and realizing you've left your family at the station. Mom's cancer chugs ever forward, taking us inexorably away from new developments. Will this tech be available to help her within a year or so?

NB: Be sure to read the second page of the article, which discusses the disadvantages of this new treatment method.



The French word déception means "disappointment," not "deception."* Today's disappointment arose from not seeing Dr. Tonnesen, the radiation oncologist, even though he had said he wanted to speak with us "on Wednesday." As it turned out, he wasn't even in the radiation oncology department. We suspect the good doctor may have meant "Thursday" when he said "Wednesday," since Thursday is when he's usually in his office at the hospital (like many of Mom's doctors, Dr. Tonnesen shuttles among several different offices). But we don't know that for sure. Maybe he did mean "Wednesday."

If I'm not mistaken, Dad's been told that we'll see the doctor tomorrow. I admit I'm a bit stressed and annoyed by this delay, but I'm hoping that the enforced wait will be worth it, and that we'll know a lot more tomorrow. Dad says we'll also be picking up our copy of the MRI files tomorrow afternoon. Good.

Despite being stood up, though, we did end up spending time with another staffer: a friendly social worker named Corinne. We talked with her about several things, including some of the practical issues related to Mom's care, such as the eventual need for a way to lift Mom bodily into and out of the minivan. She told us to stick with the advice we'd gotten from the occupational therapist.

Corinne also asked us about how we were all doing, emotionally speaking, and what sort of support systems we had in place, so we told her about the support we get from each other, from our church, from Mom's Korean friends and associates, and from other friends and ex-coworkers. We also talked a bit about spirituality, which led to a discussion of Buddhism and Catholicism. I ended up saying too much on the subject, I think. In any event, it was a pleasure meeting Corinne today. Meanwhile, here's hoping we do get to see Dr. Tonnesen tomorrow.

ADDENDUM: Pastor Jeri dropped by, but Mom and Dad were both napping, so the pastor and I talked for almost an hour (here, too, I think I talked her ear off). This reminds me: I need to work on my hospitality. Poor Pastor Jeri didn't even receive a glass of water from me today.

*The French word for "deception" is tromperie, from the verb tromper, to fool, dupe, or deceive.


today's agenda

As far as I know, we've got nothing scheduled for this morning. It's a little after 11AM, and Mom's still in bed. Dad has grown more confident about and proficient at helping Mom with her morning ablutions, so he's letting her sleep in a bit. As far as I'm concerned, we're doing OK if Mom starts eating lunch by 12:30, just before our 1PM departure.

Today, we're not only taking Mom to therapy: we're also visiting with Dr. Tonnesen, just down the hall from the Trilogy radiotherapy machine (don't ask me why it's named Trilogy; I have no clue). The doctor will, I hope, provide us with a thorough, spin-free explanation of Mom's latest MRI results. As I wrote before, I'm worried about the possibility that part of the tumor is showing renewed vigor. More than that, I won't say, because we as a family know almost nothing in detail.

After we get Mom back home, Pastor Jeri will be swinging by for a visit. We're happy when this happens; Pastor Jeri takes good care of Mom during their time together.

Beyond that... I'm not sure what's on the agenda for this evening. Dinner ought to be easy: we've got a ton of tasty leftovers. Perhaps an "international" meal...?


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

night magic

I hung up after talking with my buddy Mike this evening, sat alone and quiet for a few minutes, then tromped back upstairs.

Sean, who had initially swung by around 6:30 or so (is that right, Sean?), had left. Like my other brother, David, Sean is perpetually busy. Both brothers work grueling 6- and 7-day weeks, and they're both pretty tired most of the time. I imagine Sean had something more to do this evening, or maybe he just needed some rest. He had sat with Mom tonight, and had also helped me with dinner prep and pre-dinner dishwashing, this on top of his usual load of gigs, lessons, practice sessions, and group rehearsals.

There were dishes to wash after dinner. When I came back upstairs, it was around 9:30PM, and I saw Mom and Dad sitting together on the couch. Dad had made good on his promise to start reading aloud the messages in Mom's many, many get-well cards. As I washed, I looked over the counter at my parents.

Mom seemed to be listening intently, nodding at some of what Dad was reading. Occasionally, Dad would encounter a card written in Korean, and he'd ask Mom who had written the message. Mom would make a show of staring hard at the card, as if she were trying to decipher the writing. I didn't often hear her say any names, but I noticed, at those moments, that she would laugh, perhaps embarrassed at her current inarticulateness. Dad would laugh with her; far from being cruel, he was simply appreciating the sound of her laughter.

It was one of the rare times that I have seen Mom and Dad, as a couple, simply sitting and enjoying themselves so openly. Throughout my childhood, Mom would be the one who, in true Korean fashion, would brush aside Dad's expressions of affection, even though she privately appreciated each gesture. This evening, though, there was no such theater. Dad and Mom laughed, in tune with each other, enjoying-- and creating-- uncomplicated streamers and bubbles of mirth. Dad had, at long last, caught Mom after years of chasing her.

Seeing Mom in this simpler, stripped-down state has been educational. She has literally had part of her mind shorn away. In many ways, this is a terrible thing, but one of the sneakier blessings to arise from all this has been Mom's enjoyment-- at least for now-- of a higher level of inner peace than she has experienced since, well, forever. The agitation, the worry, the stress... they're all part of a cortex that has been stripped off and cast aside. What remains is, to my eyes, a Mom who feels more free to enjoy herself. Oh, she's still self-conscious about wearing that helmet and about moving around so feebly, but her response to these situations is embarrassed laughter, not snappishness.

The rest of us, tangled in a complex skein of emotions and thoughts ranging from the noble to the petty, don't often enjoy such peace. I'm not saying Mom is lucky to be where she is; the implications of such a thought are too sickening to countenance. I guess what I'm saying is that most of us spend time stressing out over problems of our own creation-- problems caused by all the thrashing, wormy components of the human ego.

One way to begin the process of un-knotting that tangle is to calm down, look in the mirror, stop blaming others, and move forward as constructively as possible. Another way is, as I witnessed tonight, to sit side by side on the living room couch, just talking, just enjoying each other's presence. What I saw happening between Mom and Dad wasn't reducible to the effect of a tumor and four surgeries. It was deeper than that.

What I saw tonight was magic, and the reagents that informed the spell were the most ordinary in the world: humor, presence, attentiveness, communication, and love. And the greatest of these is love.


Friday visit?

We heard from Pastor Kim-- our MIA-- that he'll be over on Friday at noon. This won't give him much time: we have to leave at 1PM to take Mom to her treatment.

But maybe a few minutes with Mom will be time enough. We're looking forward to meeting the pastor. From what Dad says, he sounds like a decent fellow.


more pics from France 2007

Dominique sent me some more photos from my Christmas 2007 visit to France. Here are two. The first shows me with Dominique's youngest son, Timothe. The second shows me with all the kids-- Joséphine, Augustin, Héloïse, and Timothé... all somehow lined up in descending order of age. Poor Augustin was sick at the time; I remember introducing him to the painful ritual of gargling with salt water to help out his sore throat.


in and out; much French was spoken

The trip to radiotherapy was quick; we arrived at 1:40 for Mom's 2PM appointment and were done by 2, but we lingered a bit: Dad had met a lady whose late husband was French, and who wanted to speak French with me after Dad mentioned that I speak the language. We had a great conversation about her hubby, a World War II vet whose ashes were going to be interred in France. We talked about Mom's and the lady's respective cancers, and even compared travel notes. It's always a plus when I can practice French with someone; I so rarely have the chance to speak it. It's a beautiful language, and I sometimes wish I had plunged more deeply into its study.

We're home now, but Dad went out again to do some shopping errands. It's been a full day for Mom; she could use a quiet afternoon and evening. Right now, my main concern is to persuade her to drink more water: she's been a bit dehydrated over the past 48 hours.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that we're putting the new ramp to good use. As Mom's legs have gotten weaker, we've found it more convenient to wheel her out to the van and back. We started doing this yesterday, and we did it again today. My thanks, again, to the MVPC and Home Depot folks who labored all day to construct the ramp.


crowded schedule

By 12:30 today, Mom had already had three visits: (1) her home care nurse, (2) her occupational therapist (who won't be back until early fall), and (3) two Korean Jehovah's Witnesses, who greeted Dad while I was downstairs. Dad initially thought that one of the men-- they both spoke mostly in Korean-- might have been the mysterious Pastor Kim (who was supposed to visit yesterday, but who never showed up). It was only when Dad saw the literature they tried to give Mom that he realized these guys were JWs.

We're about to head for the hospital, so I'll leave off here. For those who have been reading this blog since April 16, but haven't been curious about anything I've written before that time, here is a post I wrote on April 2, two weeks before we found out about Mom's cancer, regarding an encounter I had with a pair of Mormons at my door.


mixed message

According to Dad, Dr. Tonnesen's office doesn't see much to worry about in Mom's MRI, though they did apparently note shrinkage of the tumor in one area, and a possible reinvigoration of the tumor in another. To me, that's cause for alarm: shrinkage and growth do not "cancel each other out" when it comes to cancer. Any growth is bad.

We're supposed to learn more tomorrow. In the meantime, we're still left with the mystery of Mom's behavioral changes, even if she does appear more reactive and communicative this morning.


Monday, July 20, 2009

...and we're back

We've returned from our trip to the Fairfax MRI Center. We won't know anything until tomorrow morning or afternoon. Strangely enough, Mom seemed more animated and talkative when she exited the MRI (Dad says she also moved around a lot during the imaging process).

Mom just enjoyed a McDonald's hot fudge sundae provided by my brother David, who fed us all (thanks, big boy), and now Dad is working on administering Mom's daptomycin through her PICC line while David looks on and I type this entry. Here's hoping Mom sleeps well tonight.


...and we're off

I'm not sure what time we'll be home this evening, but it'll probably be late. We're on our way to Fairfax MRI Center at 7:30. If we find out anything important while at the center, I'll be sure to report the findings ASAP. Keep your fingers crossed.


back but going out again

Well, we waited until 1PM, but Pastor Kim (not to be confused with my church's Pastor Kim) never showed up. Was he lost? Was he busy? Did he forget that today was his day to visit? We'll never know, I guess, unless he contacts us, which he apparently didn't. I see no message signal on our answering machine.

More important: when Mom and I arrived at the hospital today, the nurses were uneasy about the way Mom currently looks and acts. As I've noted, Mom is weaker and has issues with her balance. She's also manifesting more perseveration than ever in the form of little obsessive behaviors, such as wiping the kitchen counter with her hands, over and over again. She's also nonverbal; along with this, she has, bizarrely, a very good appetite. I had mused earlier that we might be looking at new neurological symptoms, and Dr. Tonnesen, the radiation oncologist, seemed to agree. The nurses had called the doc over to look at Mom before her scheduled radiotherapy, and he was more alarmed than I was at what appears to be too drastic a change for radiotherapy to account for.

So Mom is going to a medical center near the hospital this evening to have an MRI done. The appointment's at 9PM, but we have to be there at 8:30, probably to check in and process paperwork. MRI results will be known either tonight or tomorrow; since we have to take Mom in tomorrow, anyway, the latest we'll know the results is early afternoon. It's possible we'll know something by morning.

Dr. Tonnesen wants to rule out a number of potential problems, from aggressive tumor regrowth to the return of infection and/or edema caused by an assortment of possible factors. If it turns out that Mom does have a new problem in her skull, this will likely mean yet more surgery-- her fifth operation since April 16.

Expect updates as we find out more.


happy 40th

The Apollo 11 moon landing occurred 40 years ago today. Forty-two days later, I was born. Coincidence?


a visit and a trip

Dad's got an appointment today, so I'll once again be driving Mom out to the hospital for her radiotherapy. Before we go, however, a Korean pastor whom we don't know is supposed to visit us at noon. Dad won't be here for that; it'll be just Mom and me at home (unless Sean drops by, as he often does). The pastor is coming at noon, which is an awkward time, since Mom usually needs that time to get ready for her 1PM departure. Dad has tried to help Mom get ready in advance, though, so we ought to be all right.

On a different note: Thanks again to all the good folks who gave us food over the past few days. Our fridges are chock-full.

UPDATE, 12:31PM: I'm a bit worried. This pastor still hasn't shown up, and we have to leave at 1PM. I wonder whether he's aware that Mom has an appointment at the hospital. Maybe he's busy; most of the clergy I know are often hard to meet up with because they have to be available to everyone in their flock. It could also be that he's lost: a lot of people have trouble finding our house, even though it's just off Route 1.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

bump in the road

Dad and Mom came home about an hour earlier than expected. Not long after they got home, however, Mom vomited. Somewhat alarmed by the gray color of the vomit, I asked Dad what it might have been, and he said it was probably the soba (gray buckwheat noodles) she'd eaten while at the beach.

Dad and I had noticed a marked improvement in Mom's appetite over the past week, but we're now thinking that Mom might no longer be in touch with her appetite-- the reason she's eating so much is that she may no longer have a clear idea when to stop. If so, that's both good news and bad news. It's good news inasmuch as it means that Mom's episode today might be a simple reaction to eating too much too fast. It's also bad news, however, because we may be looking at a new neurological symptom.

We're planning to speak with both Mom's neurologist and her infectious disease specialist this week. If we can, we hope to set up appointments with them.

Dad notes that Mom was nonverbal while out in Maryland. She's tucked away in bed now-- Dad just took care of her PICC line antibiotic treatment-- and maybe that's for the best.


my French family

I've known the Ducoulombier family since I first went to France in 1986. Years passed; my French "brother" Dominique got married to his lovely wife Véronique, and they had four children-- Joséphine, Augustin, Héloïse, and Timothé. Dominique recently wrote me a very nice email that updated me on his family's situation, and sent along some photos of the family that also include a shot of his parents Pierre and Jeannette, my French Papa and Maman. Maman is a cancer survivor, so Dominique has an excellent idea of what our family is going through as we endure this crisis with Mom.

But far from dwelling on the specter of my mother's cancer in this post, I'd rather share the images Dominique sent me. Hover your cursor over each image for information.

The last time I saw my French family was in late 2007. Domi's parents live near Nantes, on the west side of France, while Domi and his family are near Colmar in the Alsatian region, close to Strasbourg (France) as well as Germany and Switzerland. A great location, except for the fact that it's all the way on the other side of the country.

Domi and his family moved into their new home last year, I think; I gather that they've pretty much settled into it. I saw the house while it was still under construction in December of 2007; it looked very impressive. I hope one day that his family will take a trip to the US and stay with us for as long as they want. As they know, la porte est toujours ouverte. The door is always open.

I see that Héloïse and I have a lot in common: neither of us likes to be serious when people take pictures of us.


on gliomas

Pastor Jeri very kindly sent me some links to articles about gliomas, of which Mom's glioblastoma multiforme is one type. I'd like to share those links with you:

1. Scientists find 7 key genes driving tumor growth in type of cancer afflicting Kennedy

2. Research is personal for patient

3. A MediFocus article on glioblastoma.


and they're off

Mom and Dad just left for Ajumma's beach house on Cove Point. It was a very late start (Dad had hoped to be out of the house by 10:30AM), but it seems that Mom slept until well past 11AM, leaving Dad little choice but to leave late. Forcing Mom awake before she was ready to get up would have been pointless, especially since the purpose of today's jaunt is enjoyment.*

Getting Mom bathed and ready isn't difficult, but it's a task that takes time. I helped a bit today by ironing her day clothes, but Dad did the bulk of the preparation. My only other contribution to the proceedings was to make a quick snack for both parents.

Mom is nearly nonverbal again today, but seems otherwise aware. I'm a bit worried about her balance and the strength of her legs; she seems weak and a little off-kilter. She's also worsening in terms of her obsessive tendencies, and requires more prodding to perform basic ablutions like hand-washing.

The other day, Dad ascribed this change to Mom's radiotherapy; she's gone through a total of 9 days of it, if you count the first two days before all the MRSA problems started. This puts her close to the three-week mark, which is when the docs had said Mom would start showing signs of apparent worsening. We were assured that this is how it normally goes for therapy: the patient is hit hard by the various treatments, weakens, then regains strength during the recovery period and after the end of all major treatment.

I hope Mom talks with Ajumma today, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that she'll have spent the day in relative silence, contemplating her friend and the big water.

*A lot of people who go on vacation seem unable to figure this out, forcing themselves to keep to a grueling vacation schedule because they've convinced themselves that quantity equals quality, i.e., you have to see and do everything to make a trip worthwhile. Almost all of these people are adults; they really should know better.