Tuesday, September 1, 2009

If you haven't read this journal yet then please scroll down and read on......
If you're looking for an update on this journal.. click on our profile -->
scroll down to the bottom of the page where it lists our blogs and click on "Gators Cancer Treatment Continues". It's still a work in progress but I will try to post regularly....Thank you for taking the time to check it out!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009



Deb Barker gave us these bears, she said they reminded her of us because we're always together....









Thank you for checking out our journal. We've kept track of most of what has happened to us during Gator's cancer treatment. I put it all on my laptop and just this past week decided to put it online. Just scroll down! If you see pictures dating back to 2004 it's because I didn't set the date stamp on my camera! All pictures you see here were taken within the past 9 months. Double click on a picture to enlarge it and then click the back arrow to go back to the journal.

This started out as just a short letter to let our friends and family know what's been happening but everyone who know's us can tell you we do love to talk and so it's turned into a book which Gator say's to tell you, we hope goes on and on and on and on..........




Our friend Sean died April 28th 2009 from lymphoma

RIP - We Love You















We would like to begin by saying that September 1st (“Gator Day”) was one of the most beautiful and memorable days of our lives. We just want to thank everyone! We won’t mention any names for fear of having a senior moment and leaving someone’s name out! Our loved ones have put so much of their heart and soul into helping us fight this. All the people who worked so hard at the benefit, the honest vendors, the Harley raffle ticket sales, food preparation, donations and sales, T-shirts, The auction, raffles, stuffed Gator sales, Rich March’s Karaoke, Corrie’s Ark petting zoo, the use of the American Heritage campground, music (The Western Trail Outlaws), garage sales, cash donations, news articles that were written…..just to name a few, not to mention hundreds of our closest friends who came to the event! We are very humbled by all the love and support that was shown that day and even though some of the money was stolen, that feeling is something that we will never forget and can never be taken from us! One very special thing that happened that day was when three little girls ranging in age from 11 to 13yrs who had been camping at the campground where the benefit was being held, heard about Gator and came up to him and asked if he minded if they prayed for him. They put their hands on his chest and back and each one said a prayer. The last girl to pray said: “Dear Jesus please send your angels to Gator and please give him a few of mine!” Then she prayed that the doctor would look at Gators X-ray and say “What the heck! Where’s the cancer!” What sweethearts….

Elwood and Bad girl










Giving up our bikes was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done, but the money we received from the raffle of our motorcycles (thanks to the hard work and determination of our friends!) enabled us to pay off a few bills, get the flight sim. for Gator, live in Seattle for 2wks and buy "Beamer" !


What A Ride!

We were able to buy a 1994 BMW convertible with some of the money, what a blessing! We love “Beamer” (who wouldn’t at 30 miles to the gallon?) and Gator loves driving his new ride… it’s a good thing because we spend so much time driving to and from Seattle and Lakewood every week!

A couple of days after “Gator Day”, some gal, probably in her late 20’s, followed us out of Costco and out to our car, she darn near climbed over me in the passenger seat trying to get to Gator to tell him that she read about him in the article in the Olympian. She told him all about her dad having cancer and wished him well and said he was in her prayers. Gator has had so many people do things like that since he was diagnosed in August. All the support has just been amazing….it even comes from people we don’t know. I guess I should try to start from the beginning…

At the end of July, 2008 Gator started coughing up blood. We never even thought about lung cancer. Maybe we were just in denial. He’s been fighting emphysema for many years and we actually thought maybe he had a bad case of bronchitis. After several doctor’s visits, an x-ray and ct scan, on August 6th (the day before his birthday!) his doctor called to tell us he had lung cancer. A little later after the initial shock Gator said “Didn’t see that one coming!”

The doctor told us about the cancer, on the phone just as we were walking out the door to go to work at the Kickstand Bar & Grill in Napavine. What a long night that was! I just wanted to break down crying. Gator says he was just in shock and total disbelief and it was a very, very, long night.


What made things a lot easier were all the friends that showed up to celebrate Gators birthday. I ran the show by myself for awhile so Gator could visit but by about 10:30 he came back to the stage just exhausted…it was all very overwhelming for both of us. We love everyone who was there and I don’t think we could have handled that first night as well as we did if our friends hadn’t been there.






















Can You Feel The Love?



The next day - August 7th, Gators birthday, we drove to Spokane to visit with my brother Duffy. We had planned this trip for awhile to celebrate both Gator and my brother’s birthday.



Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My brother "Duffy" named the Silvertone "Root-Beer Brown Betty" after he restored it.

Gator gave “Brown Betty”, to my brother a few years ago. “My brother Duffy came from Spokane for a visit and He and Gator got to talking about the fact that Duffy’s dream guitar was a 1960’s model Silver tone. Well Gator told him “Let me make your dream come true!” It just so happened that he had one in a box out in the garage! He had trucked over a million miles with this guitar in the sleeper of his truck. They spent many long nights together! Gator had already dismantled it and put it in boxes planning to restore it. Well being the kind of guy he is, Gator had still never got around to putting it together over 20 years later! My brother called me a couple of months ago and said if we could find a (used) Mexican Telecaster guitar for him he would give Gator his totally refurbished Silver tone back! A couple of weeks later my brother called me again and said he was going to give Gator the guitar as a surprise for his birthday anyway and not to worry about finding the Telecaster. Well it didn’t matter because even though Gator didn’t know about my brother’s surprise for him, he had already put a brand new Telecaster on our account at Music 6000 as a surprise for my brother’s birthday! Heh, heh, heh…. Boy were they surprised! It was pretty funny because they were both talking to me and making me promise to keep their secrets!

Gator and I were deep in shock the whole drive over to Spokane…..I don’t think we said more than 2 sentences to each other and I was crying behind my sunglasses for most of the trip. I don’t think Gator noticed. I think we gradually got over the shock and were able to kind of deal with day to day life a little better after visiting with my brother for a few days. It helped keep our minds occupied with something other than the cancer. While we were there my brother gave Gator a tattoo on his forearm of a purple ribbon (Cancer awareness) and the words …

…“I Will Survive”



For about the first month after the diagnosis I cried for several hours every morning before Gator woke up. I called it my daily meltdown. I would call friends and family and they would talk me through it and usually this helped. I think Gator caught on because he decided to have me wake him up at 9am every morning instead of noon. Now I don’t have as much time to sit around by myself and dwell on things.

The official diagnoses of Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (metasized to lymph nodes and liver) wasn’t made until 2 weeks after Gators birthday, after 3 bronchoscope’s and a Mediastynscopy to get a biopsy. These tests caused Gators left vocal chord to stop working. Not being able to talk and Sing is the worst part of all this for Gator. He says he thinks he could handle everything else if he could just sing again….

Doctor Goodman, the lung specialist, left us alone in the room for a minute, so I snuck a peak at the computer before he came back. It was the wrong thing to do because I saw that it was metastatic lung cancer and totally lost it, but couldn’t say anything to Gator because I had no idea what exactly that meant! I had done some reading on the internet so I knew enough for it to scare the crap out of me but not enough to explain anything! It was so devastating! I just hugged him crying, and he said; “It’s going to be alright”…I said; “No, it isn’t!” and just kept hugging him….Dr. Goodman sent us to see the oncologist.



Gator’s daughter came to Seattle with us to hear the diagnosis and the prognosis which was pretty horrible. The oncologist “Dr. Grim” (what a name for an oncologist!) told us that “unfortunately most people with this type of cancer only live for about a year”. What a nightmare! I think the three of us walked around in a kind of a trance for the rest of the day.

































We walked down by the waterfront for awhile then we went to Red Robin for dinner and the bartender came to our table and found the three of us crying so he bought us all shots of Tequila. After we explained to him what was going on he told us that his mother was waiting for test results to find out whether or not she had breast cancer. We didn’t stay there very long. That night we drove for what seemed like forever looking for a motel..


















The Seattle VA put together a team of doctors and other professionals to take care of Gator and they all decided from what they read in his files that he wouldn’t be able to handle any radiation. Then they met Gator!




On Monday, Sept. 22nd he began 10 days of radiation (Mon - Fri) after which he showed no side effects! We had to stay in Seattle for 10 days while Gator got radiation treatments every day. The treatments took 15 minutes and then we had to keep ourselves occupied for the rest of the day.




We went to the Science Center, The Experience Music Project (EMP), and spent a couple of days checking out the flight museum! If our friends hadn’t helped us raffle our bikes we never would have been able to do all these things. On the days that we couldn’t go anywhere because of other doctor’s appointments during the day, we were so depressed….














At the Flight Museum Gator was checking out the space capsule. He ignored the signs and just had to touch! Alarms and lights went off and he just walked away pretending not to notice!

To help keep his mind off how tired and sick he might feel from the chemo we took some of the money from the benefit and had Fred over at River Jordan computers in Tumwater put a flight simulator program together for him. He fly’s for hours! I really think it helped, he loves it!
Son Robby (in hat) with friend Ricky





Gator on flight simulator

On Oct. 6th the pic line was put in and he received his first dose of Chemotherapy. The Chemo he gets in Seattle at the VA every 21 days. He has a pic line in his left arm and we go to American Lake VA hospital in Lakewood every Monday to have the dressing changed and tubes flushed.



















The first chemotherapy session was pretty scary, for me anyway. Gator slept through it for the most part. I kept asking him if he felt alright because I couldn’t get the fact that they were pumping poison into his bloodstream out of my head! He seemed fine though and he even drove us back to the motel at the end of the day. They gave him pills to take for the first two days after the chemo and some other pills to take for nausea if he needed them after the two days but he never did take them! In the Chemo room there were usually 5 or 6 people getting chemo or fluids or some other kind of medicine through an IV. The doctors would come in and talk to the patients about everything and anything right in front of everyone else! It was so impersonal….




Gator and Son

About a week after his first Chemo we took a trip to Oregon to visit with Gator’s son, and daughter and 4 of our grandbabies. Gator, Kevin (his son) and Tanner (his grandson) floated down the river. They didn’t catch many fish but Gator really enjoyed it.



Gator, Kevin, Tanner (Allie helping!)














The shirt that Tanner has on is the one that our friend Hank Fox had made, to sell to help raise money for us… (I “heart” a singing Gator, and it says “I Will Survive” at the bottom)



Daughter

Karyn

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tanner
and
Allie











Justin










Tiffany








Sunday, May 31, 2009

Later that day we met up with Alec & Deb Cheechov (old truckin' buddy!) and went to Mary McCranks for dinner. We were sitting there minding our own business when this man I’m guessing in his late 50’s walked up to Gator put out his hand and asked Gator if he could shake his hand, of course Gator said yes and then this man shook his hand and said; “Long life to you my friend” and walked away! We have no idea why he did that or who the guy was but Gator’s daughter swears he was an angel...









On our way home from visiting with the kids in Oregon, we stopped in to see Gator’s cousin “Delo” and her hubby Ed. Delores is a tiny little thing and only has about ¼ of a lung caused by having Tuberculosis as a child. Gator call’s her “Lil Delores” and she call’s him “Lil Teebie” (Stevie? I know a lot of people reading this have never known Gator’s real name!) Delo took care of Gator’s mom for years. She and Ed have come to visit us a few times over the years and we go see them off and on, not as often as we should but we do stay in contact by phone. Ed says I make the best cookies! We love them both very much. We gave Delo a little gator necklace that we bought for her at a restaurant on the way to Oregon. I loved that necklace but we didn’t have enough money for two of them so we just bought the one for Delo. When we got home from our trip we went to Curio City (the store where I had been selling some of my artwork) and the owner met us at the door with a little box. He said someone had anonymously left it there for me! I opened the box and inside was the little gator necklace! We have no idea who or where it came from ….it hangs from the rear view mirror in the Beamer…









Dr. Grim the oncologist
(yes that's his real name!)
with Gator






The Doctor said Gator should drink 64oz of water a day and try to get up and move around even when he doesn’t feel like it so that’s what we’re going to do. We bought the little 8oz bottles of water from Costco and Gator say’s it doesn’t seem quite so overwhelming to have to drink 8 of those. We also walk by the waterfront and at the mall to try to keep moving….

After his 2nd dose of Chemo Gator went to an appointment with his oncologist who looks like a tall “Doogie Houser”. He looked at Gator who had lost his hair 2 wks after the first Chemo and said; you look different, and you’ve GAINED weight?! Gator had gained 6 lbs! Other than a few hic-ups the first week he hasn’t felt any nausea from the chemo! He’s been drinking his water and walking as much as he can….

While Gator received his 3rd chemo treatment I had to stay at the motel (“The Days Inn”) because I was sick. I got up to take a shower about noon and as soon as I got out someone tried to open the door of our room! It was two men who said they were housekeeping. Yes, I was dressed when it happened!. I called the front desk and asked them if they had any men working in housekeeping ‘cause I had never seen any and they said no. They said they would check into it and called right back and said it was the manager and he needed to get into our room for something. I said ‘for what?!” and she said we were supposed to have checked out that morning so it was just a screw up with our reservations…LOL We always seem to have problems at this motel, we’re going to talk to the VA about staying at one of their other ones.

Gator said I missed a pretty loud party in the cancer care clinic! There was an argument between 2 of the patients about Obama! He said finally an old man (another patient) jumped in and pointed at Gator and said can’t you see this poor guy is trying to sleep!

So they stopped…..wouldn’t you know Gator would try to sleep during all the fun? He still feels pretty good and is having no major side effects from the chemo! (Other than the hair!)

About 2 weeks after his 3rd chemotherapy Gator started having some pretty bad pains in his legs affecting the way he walked. They went away after about a week. The doc. Said we may have to reduce his dose a little because it might be getting too toxic for him…we’ll see what happens.

Well we held off a week on Gators 4th chemo. He got sick with a bad cough the week before so they did a ct scan of his lungs at American Lake in Lakewood on Wednesday to check for pneumonia. They scanned from his nose down to his pelvic area because since he lost his voice they’ve been carefully watching to make sure the cancer doesn’t spread to his throat, well in the scan they found 4 spots on the base of his brain! They tried to tell us it may be nothing but we were horrified anyway. Dr. Grim called us at home to say that it would be 2 weeks before they could get him in for an MRI and boy did I raise a stink! I started calling around to see if there was any way we could get him seen at a regular hospital and get some financial aide to pay for it. I gave the oncologist the phone number of someone at Centralia hospital who said they could get the MRI done in 3 days. That was Thursday morning. By Thursday afternoon Dr. Grim called back to say he had been on the phone for hours discussing Gator’s case and that he arranged for the MRI to be done just before Gators Chemo.

Monday morning at the Seattle VA Gator had the MRI done and then had his chemo. He slept through the chemo because he had taken a Lorazipan to calm him down before the MRI (he hates them!) and the Lorazipan mixed with the benedril that they give him with the chemo just knocked him out!

We got back to our motel room and had to wait until the next day to find out whether or not the spots on the brain were cancer. I called home that night to check our messages and the radiology oncology department had left a message wanting to schedule an appointment with Gator for the next day. Gator wasn’t supposed to get any more radiation so we new the cancer had spread. What a way to find out! We new the cancer was in his brain but couldn’t find out how much or if we had any options until the next day. What a long miserable night. Lucky for Gator the medicine was still in his system so he was pretty calm and just went to sleep. I took one of Gators oxycodones and after a long cry was able to finally go to sleep.

The next day we met with Dr. Grim and the radiologist oncologist and they said Gator could get something called “Gamma Knife surgery” done at Harbor View. Eventually he may need to get whole brain radiation but this Gamma Knife will work as long as there is no more than 5 or 6 lesions on the brain. He can get this treatment over and over again….






12-19-08 Beamer Snowed In!

We missed the first scheduled appointment to get the MRI and Gamma Knife surgery at Harbor View because of the snow. It is rescheduled for the MRI on New Years Eve, and

Jan 2nd he’ll have the Gamma Knife.





12-20-08



We are still snowed in but heard the roads to the store were clear so I dug our van out and shoveled a path to the street and we headed for IGA to get a turkey for Christmas. When we got on highway 12 we realized that the roads were pretty clear so we decided to go to Wal-Mart. There were no carts available at Wal-Mart so Gator got in one of the motorized carts and we did a little last minute Christmas shopping. We were almost done when Gator said he had to get something to eat because he was seeing stars so we went over to Mickey Dees and ordered some burgers. I Left Gator eating his burger and went to get wrapping paper. By the time I got back he was shivering violently with his chin resting on his chest! I asked him if he needed to go to the hospital and he said no he was just fatigued from the Chemo and just wanted to go home. So HE drives us home doing about 30 mph on I-5 and then when we get home he refused to get out of the van!



He said it was too cold out there and he was staying in the van where it was warm. I went inside and got the bed ready for him and turned on the water to make him some hot cocoa and then went back outside to bring him in. He came in and sat at the kitchen table shivering like crazy!…..we took his temp. it was 102.3 so I gave him some Tylenol and called the oncologist in Seattle and they said to take him to the emergency room.


So…… back to the van and 35 mph back to Centralia to the hospital! By the time we got there his temp was 103.3, he spent 12 miserable hours there and then we came home with a prescription for some strong antibiotics.



The antibiotics had a price tag of $120 for 7 pills and we didn’t have the money so we would have to drive to Lakewood to the VA hospital in order for them to be covered by the VA. Well Gator just wanted to go to bed so that’s what he did. I got on the horn to our friend Kat and she called two more of our friends, Booger and Deb and they all decided that they would pay for the pills and pick them up at the Centralia Safeway. Well I got the emergency room doctor to call in a prescription to Safeway pharmacy but he called the one in Chehalis by mistake. This worked out perfect because Booger and Deb were only a block and a half away at the time! Then I called the Chehalis Pharmacy to tell them our friends were coming to pick up the medication for us. I asked them if the price was $120, they said yes but there’s no charge this time because they had a voucher from the company for that drug! What a great Christmas miracle! By Christmas Eve Gator was feeling much better and by Christmas morning whatever bug he had seemed to be gone!






12-30-08



We stayed Tues. night in Tukwila at the Extended Stay Homestead. What a nice place. We had an apt. sized fridge/freezer plus a 2 burner stove and kitchen table and bar stools! It was nice not to be bothered by housekeeping every morning! They only cleaned the rooms once a week ….more if you asked.





Wednesday morning (New Years Eve!) Gator went into the Roosevelt clinic in Seattle for a high resolution MRI. This one would determine whether or not he could have the Gamma Knife surgery on Friday. If they found too many lesions in his brain then he would have to have whole brain radiation which causes some short term memory loss and fatigue and a lot of senior moments.



Eventually they will probably have to do the whole brain radiation but they only found 3 small tumors and one tiny one. After the MRI we went over to the UW to meet with the specialist from Fred Hutchinson (Dr. Rockhill) who would be doing the surgery on Friday. He told us that everything was a go!





We went back to the motel room New Years Eve pretty relieved that he could have the surgery and that they didn’t find more cancer! Thursday our friends Dan & Trudy came over from Oakville and took us out to lunch….it was a nice break to keep our mind off things.



Too Much Sparkling Cider!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

( Just before the surgery Gator was "as nervous as a cat in a roomful of rockers!")


Friday morning we left the motel at 7am and arrived at his 8am appointment at Harbor View right on time. Gator had everyone laughing right off the get go when he looked around and said “boy, that’s a relief” and the doctor, nurse and I all asked what are you talking about and he said; “I was stressed out all morning trying to find this place and now I know I’m in the right room”…..there was a sign on the door that said “right room”, the room on the left said “left room”! (Picture of the surgeon (Dr. Rockhill) and Gator at the Ghamma Knife machine)







He says it's not
as bad as it looks!

Gator said two guys that looked liked a couple of linebackers manually twisted the screws into his skull and attached a cage on his head so they could bolt him into the Gamma Knife machine. He sat there in that cage waiting for his surgery from 9:00am to about 3:00pm. The surgery before Gator’s took longer than expected…

They bolted the cage on Gator’s head to the table (looks like an MRI tube) and into a giant helmet so there would be no movement, the helmet had 201 holes in it. The radiation beams shoot through each little hole and by themselves won’t have any affect but when they join together at the targeted lesion they are very powerful!



















Gator said he wouldn't reccomend it for a ride at Disneyland,
but it wasn't too bad! The surgery took about 3 hours to complete. The surgeon said he got everything he aimed at. He had to manually adjust the helmet for the last lesion but he got it! He was worried he wouldn’t be able to get the whole thing but he did….Now we wait 30 days for another MRI to see if there are any changes….hopefully things disappeared or at least shrunk but we could find more or they could still grow or there could be no change which is not necessarily bad because the cells could be dead but the size wouldn’t change….it would be like having scar tissue. Again…we just have to wait and see…

We couldn’t afford to pay for the pain medication at Harbor View so we had to drive over to the Seattle VA and pick up a prescription there in order for the VA to cover it. I left Gator in the car with a police officer standing by keeping an eye on him and went in to get the prescription. It had been called in 4 hours earlier but the doctor forgot to turn in the paper copy so they weren’t able to fill it!





We had them page Dr. Quang the Radiation Oncologist and while we were waiting for his call back they tried to tell me that Gator would have to be seen in the Emergency room in order to get the pain medicine. Luckily Dr. Quang called back while we were talking and the lady came out from the back and told the pharmacist that “he is on the phone and do not send them to the emergency room and he wants to talk to you now! Well the pharmacist came back in a couple of minutes and said the Dr. was already at home but he was coming back to the hospital and would be there in about 20 minutes. He showed up in ½ and hour, he had been trying all the doors in the hospital but because by this time it was after hours they only had the main entrance open! He really went out of his way to help us! Today is Sat. Jan 3rd - The day after the Gamma Knife…


They said Gator could wake up in the morn with a funny looking face from the Novocain they used to numb his head leaching down to his face, but luckily that didn’t happen. His left eye is a little droopy but he has no swelling where they drilled the screws in and he has no headache and doesn’t even need the pain medication! After the surgery the nurse showed me how to roll a giant Q-tip to put some antibiotic cream in the holes where the screws were in Gators head. She said we would have to do this for 3 or 4 days. I was not looking forward to it! The next morning I removed the bandages to do what I had to do and the holes were totally closed! Gator is on so many prayer chains….Thank you all… It’s working! He just continues to do exactly the opposite of what the doctors expect! He says the next thing we need to focus on is his voice!