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We have returned home only an hour ago, after a week involving a blizzard of events and impressions, and including an actual blizzard, as you will see below. We are anxious to communicate, as we know several of you have expressed concern and a desire to know what is going on. And there has on fact been a good deal going on, and it has been hard, and we are tired, but home and resting now.
We will just share some of the impressions of the last ten days, starting with this picture of the Blanco children, Rio, Maria Jose and Gregory. It was Gregory’s season ending basketball tournament here in Gunnison.
We went from Gunnison to Swedish Hospital in Denver for Ellen’s PET Scan, our first real opportunity to get evidence of how she is doing on the new chemotherapy regime, in which she has now passed through four treatments, three weeks apart. That is after eight treatments on the previous regime of Taxol and Carboplatin, which was producing only a mixed result.
While we waited for the results to be processed, and for Ellen’s appointment with Dr. Davis at which the results would be interpreted, we went to visit our cousins Dan Kowalski and Rebecca Henderson, who live in the mountains west of Denver near Rocky Mountain National Park. It was like being children and going to camp. We got snowed in. It took more than a day to dig our way out; the digging was good exercise. In the meantime we had wonderful company and Becky’s incredible cooking. It is very important to us, and to Ellen’s well being, to have these happy days and good companionship. Life would be too hard if it were no more than lab tests, hospitals and therapy.
This is our car, lent to us by the Tough Enough to Wear Pink support program of the Cattlemen’s Days rodeo.
Our Aunt Marji lives at a retirement center next door to Swedish Hospital. She has had some health problems lately and is in the Assisted Living wing for now. We went to see her on the way to Ellen’s doctor appointment.
Life for us is however constantly bringing us back to the reality of Ellen’s illness. What we learned at the hospital on the day before Thanksgiving was that despite all the chemotherapy, Ellen’s cancer has been progressing and spreading. Dr. Davis told us that it is time to go, without delay, to a major cancer center to explore options for future treatment. These were hard and heavy tidings. We have had some difficult news over recent months, but this was a real blow to the optimistic story we were living.
On the long, dark and snowy drive home, we had a great opportunity to talk, and readjust our thinking. We stopped at Camp Santa Maria along the highway to give thanks at the shrine of the Virgin for the comforts we have received.
Quite fortunately for us, we returned home an hour or two after our godsons Luke and Dan arrived with Luke’s fiancé Audrey. They brought great happiness into our home and cooked a wonderful dinner. It is very important to us, and to Ellen’s well being, to have these happy days and good companionship. Life would be too hard if it were no more than lab tests, hospitals and therapy.
We had a great walk with them all on Thanksgiving Day. Looks like hunting season.
Ellen remains very strong and fit.
And the day after, Luke was able to join our visitors for a snowshoe. Ellen stayed home calling doctors, insurance companies, and cancer centers, with good results. She got the last remaining appointment this year at the Mayo Cancer Center outside Phoenix, Arizona.
Luke and Audrey Vogel have announced their wedding in June. We are so happy and excited for them.
Audrey is a special person who brought a great deal of happiness into our home during her visit.
Dan, who is focused at the moment on medical school applications, renewed his close and loving relationship with Aruma.
We have both been under the weather. A week ago, Ellen had a dental implant removed. It unfortunately led to a dental infection, which has been quite painful and also worrisome given the depressed state of her immune system. About the same time, Luke somehow contracted a sinus infection that has made him quite tired and interfered a good deal with his hearing. We are on the same antibiotic, and somehow find that romantic. We are both feeling less than good.
Monday, we drove to Grand Junction, where our dear friend Renee Brown fed us a lovely soup and took us to the airport. We flew to Phoenix.
Here is Ellen with the statute of WilliamMayo in front of the Mayo Clinic. We had a good meeting with a very articulate doctor there, who greatly increased our understanding of where things stand, though anything really definite awaits the completion of some lab work they started, and an evaluation of Ellen’s ‘fit’ into various clinical trials. Some of these can be done by periodic visits to Phoenix. Others would require us to live there, or at the home Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for an extended period of time.
We enjoyed the warmer weather and the desert environment.
And we had the good luck to stay with our friends Jerry and Cheryl Danni, on the very day that Cheryl’s doctor told her that there is no remaining sign of the breast cancer she has been struggling with for over a year. So we celebrated together.
We are actually now far less clear about where things are going and what our future holds. But the good part is that this is a result of having many more potential options.
- We have some really talented and compassionate medical professionals who are thinking about Ellen’s illness and how to treat it;
- We will likely go some time soon to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas to see what they can offer;
- We may learn whether Ellen is eligible to participate in some clinical trial;
- And if so whether this will require us to move to Arizona, or perhaps to Minnesota, or somewhere else; and
- Whether to resume chemotherapy and if so with what medications.
So the earth is moving under our feet. But we rest on the sure and certain hope that flows from the love of our family and friends, and the peace and goodness of the world, which “surpasseth all understanding.”
Luke’s colleagues at Western Colorado University approached him Monday and proposed taking over his teaching responsibilities for the rest of this year, a very welcome help. This is better for the students and for all of us and is an offer gratefully accepted.
And under all of this, stronger with each passing day, is our love for each other.