Vulcan Stev's Database

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Cancer Crisis: What Cancer Cannot Do

What Cancer Cannot Do…

This is not an update on Virginia per se.  It is something that I’m going to put down as a catharsis of sorts.  I’m not finding the enthusiasm to write about Stev or about Chris DeHart or a lot of witty thoughts about the last movie I watched.  I do feel like writing something.

This little card fell out of on of Virginia’s “Get Well” cards.  I do not know who sent it but it brightened my day.

Cancer is so limited…
It cannot cripple Love
It cannot shatter Hope
It cannot corrode Faith
It cannot destroy Peace
It cannot kill Friendship
It cannot suppress Memories
It cannot silence Courage
It cannot invade the Soul
It cannot steal Eternal Life
It cannot conquer the Spirit… Author Unknown

Virginia is my friend, my lover, my partner and my wife.  I thank God everyday for her and will cherish the time we have had and continue to have.

Sweetheart I don’t know if you are listening right now as I type these words and read them out loud, but I LOVE you.  I always have and I always will.

May 11, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , | Leave a comment

Cancer Crisis: 5:30 am at the UIHC

I hope folks will forgive me for this as this post is only tangentially about Virginia and her cancer.  It’s still dark outside as I begin this.  Virginia is sleeping right now.  Her breathing is heavy and a trifle labored.  She is hugging tightly the most recent acquisition to her stuffed critter collection, a large green frog holding a heart that says “Kiss Me”.  I’m awake answering e-mails, thinking, and praying

I’ve been getting a lot of e-mail and phone calls.  The words of encouragement are, well, encouraging.  Some of the e-mails have asked me blunt questions, one in particular asked “How could I still post those Demotivational Posters during this time?”

My answer to that is that I’ve got to do something to keep the smiles coming.

One e-mail from an online buddy struck a chord.  I won’t re-post his e-mail because he revealed some personal information that I assume is for my eyes alone.  As I read through my response to him, I realized that it very nicely summed up how I was currently coping with the whole situation.  S.L. I wrote this to you but I hope you don’t mind my sharing it with everyone…

At 43 years of age I have seen careless death, needless death, folks who have spent years in pain wishing they could die, and more senseless tragedy than I really care to.  I’ve lost both sets of grandparents.  Virginia and I have had a miscarriage.  I also lost a cousin when he was 10 due to drowning.

I have also seen pregnancy where the doctors said it couldn’t be done.  I’ve personally witnessed miracles of healing that defy common wisdom (I wish cell phone cameras had been invented the day I witnessed of boy with a serious birth defect grow his face back in front of the entire church).

My faith has always carried me through the toughest parts of my life.  I’ve been told by many people that my faith is a crutch.  That may be true, but then everyone has a crutch of some sort.  I just happen to replenish mine at church instead of the liquor store.  Please be aware that in no way am I representing those as the only two options and am by no means placing you or anyone else in a category. 😎

Yes, my faith tells me that someday after she passes from this life, I WILL see Virginia again.  I will see my grandparents.  I will see the child who never even had a chance.  I will see my still-born sister.  I do believe that the human soul is an eternal creature and will spend eternity in one of two places.  However Virginia’s eternal soul will not help me feed the boys.  She will not help in keeping the house clean.  Once she’s gone, I’m faced with some things on this plane of existence that truly scare me.  We are barely making ends meet with both of us working.  PIT #3 is only 11 years old, he’s not taking the whole “Mommy is going to heaven” thing very well.

Even though my faith gives me comfort and hope it does nothing to change some of the very real problems I’ll be facing once Virginia has left her cancer ridden shell.

Why does God allow things like this to happen?  Why is a young mother torn from the embrace of her husband and children?  Why does $h!t happen, God?  Believe me, even though I have my faith I still ask these questions.  They’re not easy to answer and folks who have asked these questions are faced with two choices; one to abandon that faith or two to accept that there is more to this existence and that we as humans do not comprehend everything.

We have never met face-to-face but I do number you among my friends.  If your conclusions about life, the universe, and everything are correct then my faith costs me nothing and provides me comfort in the time of a serious crisis.  If my conclusions about what’s going on are correct then again I have lost nothing but have gained something in the long run.

When I wrote that I was scared about the future, I may have unintentionally given the wrong impression of my thoughts regarding what will happen after Virgina has passed from this life to the next.  Yes, I am scared.  However, it is not the scared-out-of-my-wits-unable-to-do-anything-but-piss-my-pants sort of fear.  It’s the type of fear I had as a child, the “Daddy the thunderstorm is really scary is it going to get us?  No Steve, we’re safe inside the house.  C’mere, Daddy has a hug for you” fear.  I’m still scared but my faith tells me something larger than I has things under control.  I don’t see the whole picture.  I don’t know the reasons for “WHY?”.  But Daddy did and I believe that God does.

Science does not have all the answers.  Science cannot explain that spark of life.  Science cannot explain everything.  Every scientific FACT out there has yet to disprove God.  Scientific THEORIES abound that try to explain things that science cannot test for.  The thing is that faith does NOT require proof.  I believe that God exists.  I believe that He is in control of a larger plan that I do not understand.  This plan requires that my wife have cancer.  The future is not set, she may recover, she may not.  I do not know what the future has in store.

Pain is temporary, pain is something we have to endure here.  When Virginia leaves us she will leave the pain behind.  Someone will still have to feel it.  We live in an imperfect universe.  I will happily share my faith you if you ask.  I hope am not now and will not ever be seen as shoving it in front of you.

To answer your implied question, What is Truth?  Is it what the doctors tell us?  Is it what Televangelists tell us?  Is it what the Media spoons out to us in carefully measured sound-bites?  No, Truth is something that each individual must find for themselves.  There are guideposts for that journey.


That in a nutshell (ok a very large nutshell) sums up why I am both afraid and unconcerned about the future.

To this I add that I do not make friends easily.  Once made, I do not give them up easily either.  I have been disappointed many time by people who claimed to be my friends.  When I say that someone is my friend please be aware that this is not a title I bestow lightly nor is it a title I take for granted.

I’m not going to apologize for sharing my faith in this post.  If it offends you, it offends you.  I do not claim that I have discovered THE TRUTH, only that I believe that I have.  Truth is a personally journey for everyone.  I cannot make your choices for you.  I can only give you a glimpse of my journey and hope and pray that it helps you along yours.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , , , | 13 Comments

Cancer Crisis: an update

Updated 6:00 pm 5-9-10

This is an update of what I know as of right now.  Yesterday J.V. (Virginia’s best friend in the whole world) came and sat with Gin most of the day.  She reported to me that Virginia was sleeping most of the time.  She was concerned about the difference she saw in Virginia in just a week.

I got to the hospital this morning.  I was encouraged by the difference I saw in her from Thursday night to Friday night to this morning.  Her speech has improved and she’s not slurring her words.  She is sleeping more but given her condition that’s to be expected…

That’s when Dr. R. hit me with the news.  According to Dr. R. the cancer is VERY aggressive and is overwhelming the liver at an accelerated rate.  This is what caused the apparent drug overdose, the liver is not processing the medication as it should.  The swelling of the liver is what is causing Gin the pain.

Dr. R. is currently suggesting taking Virginia off the chemo because it is now doing the body more harm than good.  Dr. R. is no longer recommending the SIRS-Spheres.  What she is recommending is hospice and keeping her comfortable.  My Grandparents entered hospice in their last months of life.  I’m not stupid, “keeping her comfortable” is doctor-speak for “There’s nothing else we can do, death is coming.”

Hospice is coming to talk with us this afternoon.  More info as it becomes available.

added: 5/9/10 6:00 pm CDT
Hospice has been by.  Dr. B. has informed us that we are looking at 2 weeks to 2 months.  The cancer is VERY aggressive.  Virginia basically has a tumor where the liver is supposed to be.  I’m spending the night with Virginia at UIHC.  PIT #2 is watching his brother at home.  Pvt Black -Spartan has been put on Red Cross alert.

Virginia is sleeping more often than not.  Her speech is slow and slurred but it is an improvement over Friday.  They aren’t watching her vitals anymore.  They are keeping her comfortable and will be looking to put her into hospice nearer to the family.

I am not handling the news well.  I’ve been in tears most of the afternoon.  This is my wife we’re talking about.  I’m trying to be clinical about but I’m choking up as I write this.  I’m afraid that this series of articles will be ending sooner rather than later.  The thing is I believe that I will see her again some day.  That does not change the fact that I’m hurting like H*ll.  I don’t want to think about losing my wife of 23 years.  I don’t want to think about raising two boys alone.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Cancer Crisis: Spending the night at the UIHC

Tuesday May 4, Virginia and I both took off early from work to transport her to Iowa City.  We had the three-week follow-up after her first round of Xelota, a chemo pill.  The appointment was scheduled for 2:30.  We arrived at 2:00 pm and Virginia was taken to the lab area for some blood work.

We waited until almost 3:00 before we were called back to talk with Dr. R.  Almost as soon as she entered the exam room she expressed concern over Virginia’s fluctuating temperatures and uneven white cell blood count.   Dr. R. wonders if Virginia has an infection of some sort.  The cause for concern is that if ‘Gin starts the next round of Xelota, her body’s immune system will be compromised and unable to fight off the infection.  Dr. R. admitted Virginia yesterday afternoon to run some tests.  She wants to determine the cause of the fluctuating temp and white blood cell count before starting the next round of chemo.

This caught us completely by surprise.  We were expecting to be heading home no later than 5:00.  Suddenly we’re scrambling to make contingency plans to get the kids fed, cars picked up, work called, relatives notified….  I finally left UIHC at about 6:30 and after retrieving the T-Bird made it home about 10:00 pm.

Yesterday after I left, the doctors ran a chest x-ray, conducted lots of blood work and took an MRI of Gin’s head.  Right now we are waiting on an ultrasound of the liver.  Last word was that the white blood cell count was high, protein levels were low, and sodium levels are low.

Dr. R. and Dr. H.(the resident)  just stepped in.  The MRI preliminary result came back clear.  The chest x-ray came back clear.  Dr. R. is thinking that depending on the results of the liver ultrasound, we should be able to head home today.

We’re upping the dose of the Xelota and Dr. R. thinks Gin should be able to finish off the school year.

More later.

May 5, 2010 Posted by | Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cancer Crisis: A New Hope

Yesterday, Virginia went to a see Naturopath.  She spent two hours with the doctor while he poked and prodded and asked her questions.  I’m getting this all second-hand as I was not there during the visit, my sister Allison went with her instead.

Anyway, after much poking and prodding and discussing, the doctor informed Virginia that he thought he could have her completely free from cancer in 120 days.  That is of course if she follows a VERY restrictive diet.  I read over the list of DO NOTs.  It looks like our normal shopping list.

I’ll admit to being just a tad skeptical about the claim.  If the doctor can do what he says, then why are so many Americans dying from cancer.  The doctor’s response to this is most Americans don’t want to eat healthy also health insurance does not cover preventive care.  Also the pharmaceutical industry cannot copyright and trademark natural food.

The implicit accusation is that the American food industry could care less what you eat as long as it’s stuff they’ve processed to heck and back.  The health/pharmaceutical industry doesn’t care what you eat as long as it makes you sick and sends you to them for treatment.

Virginia, had already been eating healthier before the appointment.  I’ve noticed more energy and stamina on her part.  So perhaps there’s something to the doctor’s claims.  Only time will tell.

We’ve got the normal appointment scheduled for Tuesday.  I’ll let Virginia add her two cents in the comments as she feels up to it.

May 1, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Cancer Crisis: Maybe Encouraging News, Maybe Not

Today we got the results of the most recent urinalysis and a liver function test.

The urinalysis is showing traces of blood in the urine.  The liver function test shows two functions up and one function down (whatever the heck that means).  The alkaline level in Gin’s test is on the rise.  According to my sister the nursed that is good news.

Again all we got today was the most recent urinalysis and liver function tests.  According to Gin, the nurse who read the results to her did not seem overly pleased with the information.  They wanted to schedule an appointment to see the doctor this week.  It was determined that we could wait until Tuesday’s Iowa City appointment.

According to my sister the nurse, the results are a positive indication that the health food diet is working.

Virginia’s stamina is slowly declining.  Her mental outlook seems to depend a lot on her energy level.

More news as it developes.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , , | 1 Comment

Cancer Crisis: So Doctor, what exactly is causing this?

I’m sorry I didn’t get this posted yesterday, but we had friends stop by to help us with some house cleaning.  It’s kind of difficult to sit on one’s butt whilst others are cleaning your house.

We got the results of the X-Ray and the urinalysis.  Both came back clear.  This means that there is no infection causing her temperature spikes.  According to what I’ve been able to piece together by what Dr. S. is NOT saying this is not a good thing.  It means to sole cause of Virginia’s temp spikes is the cancer-infested liver.

As long as the spikes do not go above 100.4 we’re stuck until the next appointment for some answers.

Next Doctor appointments: April 30 – Naturopath, May 4 – Dr. R in Iowa City

April 25, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cancer Crisis: The doctor is hiding behind his notes

Honestly, I was going to post this last night.  Not being at home for most of the day followed by an uncooperative ‘net connection kept me from posting last night.  I’m writing this Thursday morning before work (when I should probably still be in bed) because I can’t sleep.

Yesterday, we had a follow-up with Virginia’s original Oncologist.  He was, as usual, late to the appointment and he also stepped out of the exam room many times during.  Had I not had my new copy of Final Crisis (yes I broke down and got the hard cover) I would have been very bored.

I noticed two things yesterday.  First, Doc S. was more evasive than normal.  Direct questions were answered by pointing to meaningless numbers on a computer screen.  Second, he seemed to be over-selling himself and constantly reminding us the HE was the oncologist and only recommended we go to Iowa City so that we could bask in warmth of the fact that HIS diagnosis was the correct one.  At least that’s how the whole appointment seemed to run in my opinion.

Doc S. asked Gin some questions about her high temps (running in the high 90s with spikes just over 100).  He asked her questions about other bodily functions.  Throughout the question process he kept turning away from Gin and I and referred back to his notes on the computer behind him.  I bluntly asked him what his concern was.  He finally admitted that he was worried what was causing the elevated temperatures (we had only been told before to be concerned if the temps went above 100.4).  Doc S. then ordered a urinalysis and an x-ray.  He explained that he wanted to make sure that Virginia’s temp was not caused by a sickness.  We went immediately across the street to get the tests completed.

After we returned home, we went over to my folks for supper.  We got the usual concerned family grilling about what’s going on.  As Doc S. had not given us any straight answers, I had none to give my family.  We came home about 7:30 last night and Gin went straight to bed.  She’s been up several times during the night and is currently (6:30 am) sleeping.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the visit yesterday.  Doc S. was very concerned over the temp.  He wants to make sure the elevated levels are because Virginia is fighting an illness.  OK so then if it’s not an illness what is it?  Doctors are NEVER concerned over nothing.  However, Doc isn’t filling us in on his thinking.  He also mentioned repeatedly in very assuring tones that he’s trying to find a treatment that works for Virginia.  Does that mean this treatment isn’t working?  Is my wife failing faster than he thought?

The other thing that concerned me was the over-whelming bend-over-the-back efforts to keep us at HIS practice.  Every idea or treatment that the University doctor thought of was dismissed out-of-hand or glossed over.  I got the distinct impression that Doc S. was more concerned over keeping Virginia as a patient than he was concerned over making her better.

The last two paragraphs are entirely my own thoughts and speculations on yesterday.  As Virginia went straight to bed when we got home, I have not had the chance to talk to her about any of this.  I don’t know if she had the same impression or not.

Basically, we were originally told not to worry unless her temp went over 100.4.  We were sent to the ER when it went to 100.6.  Doc S. was concerned about the treatment the ER doc prescribed ‘Why did he prescribe those meds?’.  Now he’s concerned about a constant temp in the high 90s.

All this doctor concern with no satisfactory explanation given has left me scared.

April 22, 2010 Posted by | Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , | 6 Comments

Cancer Crisis: A late night at the ER

Good morning!  Given the somewhat worrying Tweet I posted last night, I thought it would be a good idea to give everyone a short update.  Virginia was taken to ER last night at 10:00 pm with a temperature above what the Iowa City doctors considered safe.  The hot-line was called and the decision was made to send Virginia to the emergency room.

After all the tests, lab work and associated hospital stuff, it was determined that Virginia was battling a slight infection.  Given that the cancer is in her liver it is better to stay ahead of these things.  At approximately 11:30 p.m. the decision was made to give her an anti-biotic that does not interfere with the chemo pills.

She is at work today.  However the pain and fatigue are beginning to overwhelm her.  Thoughts, prayers, good vibes, everything is appreciated at this point.

April 16, 2010 Posted by | Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , | 3 Comments

Cancer Crisis: A Day Wasted or a Day Well Spent?

Tuesday the 13th Virginia and I took a day trip for a doctor appointment at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinic (UIHC).  Last week her oncologist suggested getting a second opinion from either the UIHC or the Mayo Clinic, we’re actually a little closer to the UIHC so that’s where we went.

The appointment was scheduled for 2:00 pm, I had understood that the appointment was at 12:00 and left for Iowa City accordingly.  It was a good thing we left when did, navigating Iowa City is not for the faint of heart nor is it for the Garmin-less traveler.  We found the hospital and then realized we needed a Garmin to actually navigate the hospital complex.  We got checked in right at 12:30 and then spent the next hour and a half filling out paperwork.

We got called back for the appointment right on time and quickly discovered that the UIHC has a unique method of making sure that cell phone calls do not interrupt your visit with your doctor.  The waiting room has a nice strong clear signal but the exam rooms have none.  So for the next two and half hours we sat incommunicado.

We visited with the doctor, her nurse, her apprentice….  The diagnosis is the same.  Virginia has a VERY aggressive breast cancer that has “possibly” mutated and metastasized in the liver.  Her oncologist had only one very expensive treatment to suggest and was not very encouraging regarding Virginia’s chances.

UIHC’s Dr. Roeder had three possible treatments.  Virginia is now on a chemo pill regimen.  The paperwork has been started for the surgical SIRS-Spheres procedure.  So that’s the good news.

The not-so-good news is that the prognosis has not changed.  Of the people who have had Virginia’s specific type of cancer, 50% were gone within five years dying from other diseases that the liver could no longer fight off, 10% lived for five years or more, 10% were gone within two months, the other 30% were spread unevenly between two months and five years.  We asked about a liver transplant and were told that is not an option as every time a transplant had been attempted in cases like Virginia’s the new liver was immediately attacked.

Why was the day a possible waste?  I’m not real impressed with the UIHC pharmacy.  We dropped Virginia’s prescription off at 4:45.  At 6:0o they finally had the chemo pills filled but because somebody screwed up the filing of the paperwork and the anti-nausea pills were not filled because insurance denied the claim.  Insurance claims that we had already filled the prescription earlier.  So we spent another half hour trying to get the anti-nausea pills.  I finally just paid for the dumb things because insurance was refusing to.

So we had a nice twelve-hour day start to finish.  No change in the prognosis.  We have a few more treatment options.  As a nice coda to the day, we did find a really nice Indian restaurant in Hiawatha.  I had never tried lamb curry before.  Virginia was impressed with the eggplant dish.

We’ll keep updates coming here.  Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.

April 14, 2010 Posted by | Mrs. Vulcan Stev's Fight | , , , | 5 Comments