Here are a few recent photos taken for your viewing pleasure. Before I show them to you, Mathew is slowly descending into the awfulness of his latest round of chemo side effects. His appetite is tapering off and he is feeling “off” and today most of his time was spent in bed. Even though the neupogen is already administered daily by injection, his counts will fall until his immune system is wiped out and he needs blood and platelet transfusions.
Mother’s Day was great as I wrote in a previous post. Here is photographic proof we had a wonderful day that Sunday:
Mathew relaxed on the deck and even though there is no greenery in the picture the day was warm. He has to wear a hat because he is bald and would burn so quickly and badly. The last thing he needs is a painful, red scalp to go with everything else! This photo shows Mother Nature still hadn’t allowed spring to come into full swing.
John and Mathew, buddies. When Mathew feels great so do we. It shows in our faces and demeanour. It is a quick break from all the worry and stress that comes with having a child with cancer. We take our moments when we get them.
In Mathew’s lap is his ever-present companion; his iPad mini. He would be lost without that thing. It is always within easy grasp of Mathew’s hands or he panics and doesn’t rest until he finds it. It goes EVERYWHERE with him and when it dies, it will be from being used and loved to death. We will be able to tell the Apple company how many hours of usage/life one of those iPad minis has because Mathew will be sure to use every.last.second of life in his. It truly was the best gift ever given him ~ supplemented by all those iTunes gift cards he is continually spoiled with compliments of family and friends. He has those cards spent before the visitor has left our home. While happily chatting away, Mathew does double duty by loading up the card onto his account and downloading/purchasing his current heart’s desire. He always knows exactly what he wants!
I love photos like these of Mathew. What a perfect Mother’s Day! (Kristen was there too but not on the deck at the time I was taking these photos). It wouldn’t be a perfect day without my hubby and both our kids there.
Now down to the business of that last chemo cycle.
I told you it was his last outpatient cycle and the last time he will ever receive Doxirubicin.
The treatment started with the nurse having to access Mathew’s port. He always reminds them they have to access it under his shirt and not from the neck. He is very particular with how he wants things done. The nurse was just tucking the site towel into his neckline when he reminded her to go UNDER the shirt.
So the nurse then set the towel under his access site. The black spot you see on his chest is the skin healing from his blood work taken two days previously. Extramural comes to our home and access the port to withdraw the blood for Mathew’s twice-weekly blood work. The discolouration is bruising from multiple attempts to hook the needle correctly into the power port located just beneath his skin. The purple area is the scar from the surgery to insert the port.
Once the port is accessed with a 3/4 ” needle the next step is to ensure it is hooked properly.
A needle is inserted into the line hooked up to Matt’s port and the plunger is pulled back until blood flows out of his body and up into the syringe. This ensures the needle is properly placed before proceeding. There is only one occasion I recall where it was believed the port was accessed correctly until the saline solution started being flushed into the line and port. Mathew immediately complained of bad stinging ~ the needle wasn’t in the port so the saline was being pushed under his skin instead of through the port and into his vein! In this photo you can see the blood clearly and so the site is set up to begin the next steps.
Once saline is flushed into the port and everything is hooked up then a clear covering is secured over the access point. The site is always covered and sealed to prevent anything from getting in through the hole in his skin and infecting the site. When Mathew is in the hospital for 6 days then the site is covered for the entire time – and by the end of it, the skin is irritated and itchy! The lines and coverings are changed every 7 days.
Once the chemo drugs arrive from the Pharmacy, the nurse prepares to start treatment. When handling the chemo drugs the nurses take precautions for themselves, hence the special gowns and plastic gloves. There is an access in Mathew’s line away from his body that is used to insert any drugs by needle.
In the case of the “red devil” (Doxyrubicin) the drug is pushed through a syringe. Here the Oncology nurse is just about ready to start pushing the Doxyrubicin into Mathew’s line.
The final treatment with this toxic red drug starts. For the last time ever.
While it looks like Mathew is having himself a little party there, eating ice-cream while the Doxyrubicin is being pushed in, this is not actually the case. By eating either ice-cream or popsicles during this drug’s procedure, the chance of mouth sores is reduced. Somehow through research or trial and error, someone discovered that eating something really cold causes the blood vessels in the mouth to constrict (big surprise!). By that happening during treatment, however ~ the length and amount of mouth sores were drastically reduced! Mathew doesn’t like the popsicles nearly as much as the vanilla ice-cream!
The tubing hanging over Mathew’s pants on the right side of the picture (the left side of his abdomen however) is the infamous feeding tube. The feeding syringe hooks up when that blue cap is taken off. In about three weeks that tube will come out of his stomach ~ YAHOO!!!
…and there it is. Done. Finished. Over ~ forever. The last drop of the red devil is now working its way through Mathew’s system, aiming to do its damage on his cancer for the very last time. Do a good job chemo. Then be done and finished and let Mathew get on with his life!
This was the first of the three chemo drugs Mathew gets during his outpatient treatment. He tires out easily these days and ended up napping for a lot of the three hours. Mathew asked me to come to his last outpatient and I was happy to oblige. John and I sate beside Mathew and read quietly while he slept.
Mathew is now home and recovering as I said earlier. He is still eating which is a good sign.
Meanwhile John’s birthday present to himself showed up later this week and he went to get it yesterday morning (Saturday). The shop fitted the bike to John personally so there is no way I’m going to ride it. My feet wouldn’t touch the ground and he is telling me some new method of braking and changing gears that would make me drive myself straight into our lake.
Anyway, here is John all decked out in his new gear to go with his new bike. He got the pants with the padding although they aren’t the skin tight ones of yesteryear… does anyone remember his pink racing bike with the super tight, shiny shorts? You could see the butt padding through them and I know somewhere out there our neighbours from that time still shake their heads and tell stories about the guy ~ soldier ~ with the pink racing bike! Now that we are *ahem* older; 50 that is, we tend towards something more modest (can you imagine Kristen if her Dad rolled out in super-tight barely there shorts and a cropped tee? Oh my ~ her humiliation!)
Complete with the mandatory helmet (safety first for us), John also purchased special biking shoes to go along with those fancy biking shorts.
Here he is heading off on his first official bicycle ride in a few years. John had visions of a 5 kilometre easy ride around town but we urged him to consider a shorter, much shorter trip around the block and back for now. He might want to wait until tomorrow to see how all those newly used muscles feel ~ not to mention the joys of sitting on a bike seat again after all this time.
Trouble is, the silly dog is allergic to what she is rolling in! Seriously, as soon as the snow melts her allergies kick up into high gear and she goes on pink pills to keep her from scratching her fur right off. Still, she looks pretty happy out there doesn’t she?
We also had some extra special in our day when our niece popped by with a pie she baked for John. This youngest member of the Bullock clan is turning out to be quite the bakerElla! Her family is the lucky recipient of all her baking but once in a while someone else wins the dessert lottery and today it was John. John has a weakness for apple pie and that was on Ella’s menu today! Check out the height of that pie! She made the crust from scratch and stuffed the pie chock full of apples.
John and Ella hang out close together with that pie; I think John’s eyes are closed and he is already dreaming about tasting her pie!
I’d love to show you more photos of the pie but truth be told….it didn’t last long in our house. We all enjoyed a piece of pie made with love for us by a very cute niece.
Oh and Ella? Uncle John was right ~ the pie didn’t last until morning.
It was gone before bedtime! If your Uncle complains of a stomach ache tomorrow just lift an eyebrow and give him a “are-you-expecting-sympanthy” stares ok? We all know where the rest of that pie went!