At University Hospital Feb. 2011

At University Hospital Feb. 2011
February 11, 2011 at University of Utah Hospital

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

He's Home!

Phil went 48 hours without a fever and he was able to come home from the hospital today. His ANC was 1300 two days in a row.  He has been in good spirits, and it's just so good to have him home again.

I had hoped he'd take a bit of time to rest and recover some strength, but that's not in his nature.  When he said he thought he'd go to the station for a while on Wednesday, I asked him to clarify.  He said he was leaving at the same time as usual (2:30 a.m.) and he would do his morning routine (write news, station logs, check accounts, broadcast live for a couple of hours, etc.), then see.

Of course no morning routine is the same without biscuits and gravy from Chevron! Thanks, you guys!  Hopefully he'll be back for seconds later, like usual.  

Moab  . . .  he's all yours in the morning.  Phil has been told to wear a mask in public places.  If you see him without it, give him a gentle reminder please.  And if you're sick, give him a wide berth.   

Thank you everyone for your faith and prayers, which have made this possible!  We love you all!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Holding pattern . . .

Today's report is late because there's been a dilemma about whether Phil was being transferred to Huntsman today or not.  And we were waiting for lab reports.  

Last night Phil's temperature went to 100.8 and 100.4 overnight. (Funny how it does that in the night.)   Yesterday we were told if that happened he'd be transported.  However, today all his blood work is going up, except platelets, which dropped from 100 to 95. They tested for C-diff (a bowel infection), which was negative. They did find blood in his stool, but the doctor said that's not unusual for someone at this stage of colon cancer.  It didn't seem to concern him. 

Yesterday Phil was really depressed when his hair started falling out in patches.  He had Becky shave his head. It was a real shock to us all, but it was one of the possible side effects of the new chemo drug they just started him on three weeks ago, irinotecan.  

Phil's cough is much better--still there, but better.  He also took three walks around the hospital today with our daughter Liz.  I am so lucky to have Liz and Becky--and so sad Liz has to go home to her own family tomorrow. They're true angels! They're the reason Phil is doing so well.  

Because the fever bump was slight, and the labs are good, they agreed to watch Phil another 24 hours on IV antibiotics. The on-call doctor at Huntsman said he could be transferred there if he chose to.  He said it would be perfectly justifiable if that's what the family wants.  But the family wants Phil to have what he wants.  He made the choice to wait another day and decide tomorrow.  At this point, it's just another part of the whole quality vs quantity decision.  He feels more comfortable here. 

Thanks, everyone, for your support.  It is strongly felt and much needed.  

p.s.  After feeling the very sickest last night, today I am feeling much better.  In our faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe in blessings given by priesthood authority.  Last night Phil gave me a blessing--that means so much to me.  Then my uncles gave Phil a touching blessing.  I know that's why we're both making real progress--especially Phil. He has such strong faith!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Last night was frightening . . .

Late last night Phil had to get another chest x-ray and now we know he has pneumonia.  He also had to do the whole prep think (drinking contrast) so he could have a CT scan.  His stomach became distended and they feared a bowel obstruction.  No obstruction—but he has “ascites” (fluid accumulating in the peritoneum—the lining between the organs and the abdomen wall).  

The ascites could be caused by poor liver function, due to all the tumors in his liver, or it could be that the cancer has spread to his peritoneum.  If it gets worse, he may need to have the fluid drawn out through a needle into the area where it’s swelling.  

He also spiked another fever of 100.8 around 1:00 a.m.  Liz stayed till then, and Becky stayed all night.  Becky was able to change her dad's IV from one arm to the other, and draw some blood for labs.  Phil said she's so good at it that he didn't feel a thing!  I might have said he's an EMT tech.  Oops.  She's an ER Tech and an Advanced EMT.

One good thing, today Phil's blood levels are all improving. His neutrophil count is up to 700!!!  That made us all happy.  It means his immunities are building back up.

Best case scenario: Phil will continue to have IV antibiotics for the next 24 hours.  If he doesn’t have another fever, they will switch to oral antibiotics and watch him for another 24 hours.  If he goes both days without a fever, he can go home.

Worst case scenario:  If he has another fever above 100.4, he has to be transferred to the hospital at Huntsman to work with an Infectious Disease doctor, who can hopefully isolate the exact bug and attack it.  

Thanks for your faith and prayers.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Phil is still very sick

Yesterday Phil's blood work showed some improvement—the most important number rose from 100 to 330.  We were so excited!  But today it dropped to 200.  Since Phil can't go home until it's at least 500, that's a disappointment.

Phil's temperature has stayed below 100 degrees for 24 hours, but it's still around 99 degrees.  

Today they’re switching Phil from the IV antibiotic, to an oral antibiotic to see how he does.  We're praying that it works and he doesn't spike a fever. 

Phil’s illness has been respiratory.  He has a bad cough and congestion that just keeps hanging on.  Today the horrible cough is worse.  The doctor said that’s a good sign.  It shows his body is trying to throw off the virus and he’s strong enough to cough.  He has breathing treatments with albuterol, but they're switching him to another drug to see if it helps. 

Today I’m pretty sick and won’t be going to the hospital at all. I'm sure I caught the bug that took Phil down.   My voice is nothing but a croak and I don’t even want to get out of bed.  Our angel daughter Liz is coming from Heber City to take care of us.  Her husband Brandon suggested that she come alone, and he will watch their four daughters.  He’s a very busy man, so that’s a real sacrifice for them both.  

Our daughter Becky is an EMT tech at the hospital, but she worked graves Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so she's catching up on much needed sleep.  Plus she's a single mom of three so she sacrifices a lot, too, to help out.  She sat with Phil most of Monday when this bug first hit me.  When she's in the ER, it's a real comfort to knowing she's at the hospital overnight, and close by if needed.  

Our other four children have been incredibly supportive, too.  They don't live nearby so we text all through the day to stay in touch.  Phil and I are very blessed to have such wonderful children, extended family, and loyal friends.  

We're very grateful.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Turning the corner . . .

WOOT WOOT!!!  Phil appears to be turning a corner today.  His fever has been under 101 since yesterday afternoon—it’s been in the 98-99 range since then.  His blood work is improving, too.  His platelet count today is 79, compared to 59 yesterday (normal range is 88-368).  His neutrophils (the infection fighters) rose from 100 yesterday to 330 today.  The benchmark to be released is no fever and a count of 500. Phil is incredibly fragile so we hope this trend continues. 

Thank you all for your prayers and support!  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

We're back . . . coming to you from Blue Mountain Hospital

It has been so long since I posted that I have to refresh my memory how to even do this.  I made my last post just weeks before a very dear friend lost his battle with cancer.  I think I just wanted to distance myself from that reality.  

Today, sitting beside Phil in the hospital, there's no denying, no one is going to live forever, not even my resilient, optimistic, unflappable husband.  Here's what's happening.  

Saturday night around midnight I took Phil to the ER.  His temp at home was 104.  It was 102.7 at the ER.  His White Blood Cell count (the infection fighters) was 300—normal is 3-5,000.  He was admitted to the hospital in Blanding for 48 hours of continuous IV antibiotic. They said Phil would be released when his fever was normal and his White Blood Cell count had risen to 500.

1)  Since then Phil’s White Blood Cell count (granulocytes) dropped from 300 to 100. Right now visitors are discouraged.  He's like the "boy in the bubble."  His immune system has bottomed out.

2) Phil’s Red Blood Cell count has also dropped very low.  Last night he had to have a blood transfusion.  

3)  Monday night Phil spiked a fever of 103.7.  They tried a second antibiotic, but he still had a fever.  Last night (Tuesday night) they added a third and a fourth antibiotic.  Since then Phil’s temperature was normal until today at 2:00 p.m. when it rose to 100 degrees.  They gave him Motrin and his temp was 100.6 thirty minutes later. It's encouraging that four hours later, it was still only 100.7, but it needs to go back to normal--that's how they know they're getting on top of the infection.

4) Monday his blood pressure dropped to 87/44.  They gave him more fluids and it gradually came up.  His BP has remained pretty normal since then.  

All this is in addition to the "normal" (that's an oxymoron if there ever was one) side effects of chemo.  On April 10 we found out the cancer has spread to Phil's lungs.  So now in addition to the enormous tumor surrounding his colon, he has 11 tumors in his liver, a tumor on his rectum, and two lesions in his lungs.  His chemo regimen was changed from 5-FU with Avastin and Oxaliplatin, to Avastin plus Irinatecan (or "I run to the can" as patients have dubbed it). Yes. Phil has suffered the classic side-effect: persistent diarrhea (the least of our worries right now). 

These are the highlights (lowlights?).  They're watching Phil to see how he does on the new antibiotics.  If his fever spikes, he'll be transferred to the hospital at Huntsman.  If he's holding his own, they'll keep him here in Blue Mountain Hospital until his fever is gone and his granulocytes rise from 100 to at least 500. 

So no neatly tied package with a happy ending--hopefully I can write about a happy ending later.  I'll keep you posted.  Meanwhile, we appreciate your faith and prayers.  Thank you, friends.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

All I want for Christmas.

This January it will be two years since we learned that Phil had cancer.  What a milestone, when you consider the prognosis in March of 2011--six months to a year.  We're so blessed that Phil has responded well to chemo.  It has bought us nearly two years.  There's something about a terminal diagnosis that makes life so much sweeter. Each day—even each minute—is a gift.  Suddenly it's simple to recognize what really matters.  

I've noticed so many changes in Phil—not just those you can see, like the suffering that has etched itself on his face, or the weight he’s lost.  It's what has changed inside.  He's more reflective, more thoughtful, more expressive, more appreciative.  He’s never been excited about Christmas decorations, but this year he can’t thank me enough for decking the halls.  One night he said, "I know why you're doing this."  And he's right.  I want everything to be so special because we don't know how many more Christmases there will be . . .

Today we visited our friends Calvin and Verdonne Blake.  I'm sure it's the last time we will see Calvin.  He was so pale and weak.  He took great effort to express how happy he was to see us.  He labored to tell Phil, "I think you're the greatest broadcaster in this century.  I love to hear you on the radio!"  What a great friend.

In 2009 Calvin was managing the Cal Black Memorial Airport at Lake Powell and feeling fantastic.  Verdonne read about free cancer screening in the local newspaper and they were both tested because both had exposure to uranium.  Verdonne worked in the office of the vanadium mill in Monticello where high grade uranium was processed, and Calvin was a "mucker" who hauled radium-bearing rock out of uranium mines in San Juan County.   

Verdonne was OK, but not Calvin.  They found themselves at Huntsman Cancer Institute where they learned that Calvin had a particularly vicious lung cancer that doubled in size every 90 days--without immediate treatment, Calvin would not live another six months.  Nearly four years later, Calvin and Verdonne are grateful for that "extra time."  

It's so hard to watch our friends in these final days together.  It's like looking into the future--our future.  All I can say is, if Phil and I are so fortunate to have such love, and even one more year together, we will feel blessed, indeed!

This will be Calvin and Verdonne's last Christmas, at least on this earth.  It would seem sad if we didn't know that a babe was born in Bethlehem who would become the Savior of the world--a Savior who would give His life for us.  Whose ultimate sacrifice and resurrection would make it possible for us to repent and live with Him again.

How grateful I am at this Christmas season for Christ and His gift of eternal life.  For the opportunity to have an eternal marriage and know that families can be together forever.  I am so thankful that we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

In our last General Conference, President Uchtdorf said, "Let us resolve to cherish those we love by spending meaningful time with them, doing things together, and cultivating treasured memories. . . . "

"To avoid some of the deepest regrets of our life . . . 1) Resolve to spend more time with those we love, 2) Resolve to strive more earnestly to become the person God wants us to be, and 3) Resolve to find happiness, regardless of our circumstances" (Ensign, Nov. 2012, pp. 22 & 24).

I'm not waiting for January 1.  These are my New Year's Resolutions and I'm starting now!