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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Appetites and Peanut Butter

Weekend Report: Much Improved! Friday was rough, but by Saturday morning, she was already feeling better. Thank you prayer warriors for lifting her up. We are ever mindful of the unfathomable workings of a great God. His ways are not always our ways. Many times our prayers have been answered with a sorrowful No, and other times, a be patient and Wait. This time a ready Yes. And we are thankful, so thankful.
Mom was able to enjoy a lovely dinner with Steve, Dean, Lisa and Dustin on Saturday evening. Good food, good fun and good fellowship. Perks the spirit right up! And then Dad took her out for the Senior Special at IHOP yesterday! Gotta love Dad - always thinking of mom...and his pocketbook :)  The great thing was that the nausea was gone and her appetite was back!! Let's start packing on the pounds!

Still waiting on the blood work results, but mom did get the new medication for her appetite. It's called Megace. She started taking it Saturday afternoon. It's a liquid and, surprisingly, for an appetite stimulant, it is extremely foul-tasting. Go figure! But perhaps it's working. Mom will just have to hold her nose and chug it once a day. Will keep you updated on the progress. We anticipate that the chemo malaise will eventually catch up with her, but we'll take as many good days as we can!

And now for a quick Fox Update: She's still lurking at the edge of the backyard, in the safety of the shadowy forest. And I believe she's laughing at all the stupid coons that keep falling for the trap. A well-meaning friend suggested using Skippy Peanut Butter to tempt the fox, rather than the canned cat food.  And yes, Monsieur LeMoko, Skippy Peanut Butter has been a hit - with the coons!  I know it was supposed to be for the fox, but the raccoons don't seem to be able to read my instructions on the trap door. We've caught 4 since last week.

Each one gets the ceremonial trip to Deep Creek, but now I've added a spray-painted red stripe down their backs (they really love that!). Deep Creek is about 6 miles down the road, but I want to make sure I'm not catching the same coon over and over! They all look alike! (Just had to be said.)  So far, we've had a new member of the family in the trap each morning.  And it's quite the extended family.  Not sure the fox can beat them to the trap!

Sleep well, little fox. Your days are numbered.  In a nice way, of course. Love you all, Jane

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Stormy Seas

Quick medical update on mom: Doctor visit yesterday morning, blood work drawn, chemo given, vomiting has begun.
Didn't see that one coming. Was so hoping for a few more good days...however, to be fair, the nausea was already churning before the chemo was even given, so perhaps it was the swedish meatballs with noodles and gravy from the night before that sent her over the edge. At least it wasn't marinated vegetables!

We didn't get the results back on the blood work yet, but are anxious to see the tumor marker results. It's been almost 8 weeks since mom's last chemo treatment, and, of course, we fret that the cancer has taken this opportunity to frolic and play while the chemo's away.

Even with mom's queasy stomach, she didn't hesitate a minute when the doctor asked her if she was ready to begin the chemo today.

I so admire her courage and perseverance in facing this cancer head-on. No tears, no pity parties, just let's get on with it. So very proud of her grit.
And she will need that grit to keep pushing forward into the fray of her escalating weight loss. Today, the scale continued the downward slide. Weight is now at 109 lbs. And actually that is maybe up a few pounds since the gall bladder surgery when it briefly plunged to 104, but still the weight loss is an ever-challenging problem.  Her doctor has prescribed some medication to help with her appetite, however, he said it is only marginally successful in stimulating an appetite. It's called megace and it also aids in controlling nausea, so we are prayerfully hopeful that it will give mom some relief.
As we've shared before, it's not just a matter of getting mom to eat.  If only it were that easy! The cancer interferes with the pancreas' ability to produce digestive enzymes and without these enzymes, the food just doesn't get digested and absorbed well. Add on the subsequent pain from the tumor, and the nausea from treatment and, well, you have the perfect storm.

We covet your prayers on these matters. God's Hand can calm the storms in our lives, if we but ask.

Sailing on choppy waters tonight, but trusting in His grace to get through,

                                                                                               Love to all, Jane

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Little Red Fox

Little Red Fox visiting the Schraceo Farm for Sunday Brunch!

It's the Law of Nature. First it was snakes, now it's foxes! You remove one predator and another quickly takes its place! Little Henny is in constant peril!!

This gorgeous fox brazenly appeared in our backyard Sunday morning. And she is definitely looking with longing at the chicken coop! So, what's a farm girl to do?

Set up a big 'ol live trap that's what! And bait it with canned cat food. So far we've caught lots of ants and one, angry raccoon! Fortunately for little Miss Attitude, I can't shoot cute, fuzzy animals. She got the catch and release treatment! And not even a thank you as she scampered down into the brush at Deep Creek Bridge. Tomorrow maybe we'll outfox the fox - one never knows...

But now, really, on to more important updates! Mom continues to improve and is recovering nicely from the gall bladder surgery. Meals are so much more fun when you can enjoy them! She still has to keep portions small and watch her fat intake, but over all much improved. Her energy is best in the morning and takes a slide in the afternoon, but she's able to be out and about, and that beats laying on the couch hands down.

She has an appointment with Dr. Davis tomorrow morning. After blood work and check-up, we believe he'll start her back on the Gemzar chemo. Will update on the medical front sometime Friday. Between now and then, mom is focused on relaxing and enjoying summertime in Texas (in the air-conditioning)!

Sincerely, Trapper Jane

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Time Enough

It's been almost 4 weeks since Mom's gall bladder surgery.  And she's improving a little bit more each day.  Less pain, more energy.  More appetite, less nausea.  Good combinations!   Hopefully she's gaining ground in the weight department too.  We go back to the oncologist this Friday to start the next round of chemo, so she's focused on getting prepared for the next battle.  But for this week we patiently take it day to day. A little better each day is our goal.

And each day that she's given is a gift. I was reminded of that over the weekend. I'm reading a great book by Ann Voskamp, called One Thousand Gifts.   Mom shared with me several weeks ago that one of the hardest things about this cancer diagnosis (among the many she could list) is the knowledge of her finite time left here. We all know that death will one day greet each of us, whether we're ready or not. But there's something panicky about knowing that that time is coming sooner than you expected. It fills you with a need to try and cram everything you can into a limited number of minutes, hours, days. We find ourselves praying for just a little more time. Another minute, another week, please another year. And that conversation has stuck with me. So Saturday evening when I read this particular chapter in Ann's book, the words just flew off the page. They spoke to me and gave me a measure of peace and if you'll indulge me, I'd like to share an excerpt here:

A little background first. Ann is the busy mother of 6 children. Her life is hectic from the crack of dawn until the last downy head hits the pillow. She knows a thing or two about time, or the lack thereof!

"I speak it to God: I don't really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven, or wild to get it all done - yesterday. In a world with cows to buy and fields to see and work to do, in the beep and blink of the twenty-first century, with its "live in the moment" buzz phrases that none of the whirl-weary seem to know how to do, who actually knows how to take time and live with soul and body and God all in sync? To have the time to grab the jacket off the hook and time to go out to all air and sky and green and time to wonder at all of them in all this light, this time refracting in prism.   I just want time to do my one life well."

Enough time to do my one life well. With grace and dignity. To live presently each minute of my life and to trust that there will be enough time... My prayer for this treasured day and each one to come, until that moment when I can look back and sigh with contentment, "It was enough."

With Love, Jane

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Marinated Vegetables

Question of the Day:  Should cancer patients eat marinated vegetables?

Well, if you're mom, and if you've just had gall bladder surgery while battling pancreatic cancer, then the answer is NO!

Now, I personally would never eat marinated vegetables to begin with.  I know, I me finicky, but chocolate is really more my thing.  However, mom has a great (according to everyone else who likes that kind of thing) recipe for marinated vegetables.  And she's been feeling pretty good these last couple of days, so she whipped up a batch and gave it a try on Wednesday.

First plate was excellent.  And it was such a small plate, that maybe another "small" plate wouldn't hurt.  Second plate was still delicious.  And after a relaxing nap, a third plate sounded good too.

Third time was not a charm...Everything that went down came back up.  It would appear that the law of gravity doesn't apply to stomach issues.

So, what have we learned?  If you're me, you learned that your instincts were right on the money - marinated vegetables are not to be trusted.  If you are anybody else, you might have learned that moderation is the key to finding your happy place.  Especially after gall bladder surgery.  Her surgeon was maybe on to something when he suggtested a low-fat diet for awhile.  Thinking the oil and vinegar marinade tipped the fat scale just a tad on the heavy side.

Good news, mom is feeling better.  Set backs we don't need, but glad it was just a minor one.  On another note, she made her fabulous Chicken Stir Fry earlier this week, and it settled well.  Her diet is definitely a balancing act for now.  Dad's just thrilled she's back in the kitchen!  He even ate the marinated vegetables!

And I'll raise my Hershey Bar to that!!   With Love, Jane

Marinated Vegetables

2/3 cup white vinegar, 2/3 cup salad oil,
1/4 cup chopped onion,
2 cloves garlic, minced,
1 tsp. sugar, 1 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, halved
1 16oz. can whole baby carrots, drained
1 14oz. can artichock hearts, drained, halved
                                                       1 cup pitted ripe olives, halved,
                                                        1 cup celery, diced
                                                      1 20z. jar sliced pimiento, drained, chopped

In saucepan combine the
vinegar, oil, onion, garlic,
sugar, salt, pepper,
basil and oregano.
Bring to boiling.  Simmer,
uncovered 10 minutes.

In bowl combine remaining
ingredients.  Pour hot marinade
over vegetables, stir to coat.  Cover,
chill several hours, stirring
occasionally.  Drain vegetables
and serve in a lettuce lined bowl,
if desired. 
Makes 7 cups.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Snakes and Surgeons

Yesterday was a busy day!  And it all began with a snake.

Our farm has become legendary in family circles for the sheer number of strays and wildlife that make their home here.  And generally all are welcome.  However...yesterday morning when I went out to feed, I found an uninvited guest in the barn.  Seems that this nasty gentleman had slithered his way into the chicken coop - For Breakfast!

We used to have two little chicks in the coop: Henny and Penny.  Sadly, we now have just one little Henny.  It takes a lot to ruffle my feathers, but this snake really pushed my buttons!  Obviously he was unaware that our farm operates under a Snake-Free Zone.  And we take this policy very seriously.  Especially when our young chicks are threatened.  And eaten!  Not acceptable behavior on the farm.

So, suffice it to say, he will not be dining with us again in the future.  I can be one mean, pioneer/warrior woman when required, just saying...

And no, I don't make this stuff up!!  It really happens...

Now then, since the snake dust has settled, we can move on to more pertinent matters!  Like mom's 2-week check-up with her surgeon.  We visited with him yesterday afternoon and as we had hoped, he was very pleased with her progress from the gall bladder surgery.  Her pain is lessening little by little, appetite is returning and her energy is up somewhat.  All good things!  He had the pathology report on her gall bladder and it was not pretty:

"Severe acute and chronic cholecystitis with intramural microabscess formation, mural fibrosis, and acute fibrinous serosal exudate."

Translation:  Her gall bladder was a rotten, slimy mess!

So glad that surgery is behind her.  And even better news, the pathology report indicated no cancer cells in the gall bladder.   We are cautiously optimistic that the cancer is still just confined to the pancreas.  Dr. Davis, her oncologist wants to give her another week or so before continuing with the chemotherapy.  So with her healing well underway, we have a week and a half to put some weight on before the chemo knocks it off.  We began with lunch at the Corner Bakery.  Delicious!  Mom polished off half of a Club Panini and some hearty Lentil Soup.  and even had a bite of my fudge brownie.  The calorie counter is off and running!

Hope your day was as profitable as ours!  And many prayers that your chicken coops are snake-free!

With Love, Jane

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