Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mama Bear Update | 1

Hello friends and family!  I am resurrecting this old blog to give the latest news on Mama Bear's health.
In case you have just heard the news or are interested in "what happened" here is a little debrief:  Mom has had lymphedema in her left arm since July which makes her arm double to triple its normal size due to swelling.  Thanks to compression sleeves and physical therapy she it is being well treated, and the symptoms are just more annoying then anything ;) Apparently lymphedema is a possible side effect of radiation, even years down the road.  (Her breast cancer had spread to her lymph nodes back in 2004 and was treated with chemo and radiation.) In December 2011 Mom started feeling extremely fatigued and short of breath.  Assuming it was just the extra holiday busy-ness and stress, she tried to get some rest post-holidays.  When she didn't feel any better she went to the doctor who diagnosed her with the flu.  Go home, get some rest.  After a few more weeks her breathing was only worse.  Her next trip to her physical therapist (for her lymphedema) ended up being a trip to the cardiologist (people had speculated that mom was experiencing congestive heart failure, or maybe had pneumonia.)

On February 7, 2012 the cardiologist x-rayed and did an echocardiogram and found a fully collapsed lung and two spots near her heart, but she was fairly certain the spots were on her lung NOT her heart, because her heart was working perfect and it would make sense that mom was complaining of shortness of breath if her lungs had growths on them.  The cardiologist asked mom to come back the following day (February 8th) for a cat scan.  The cat scan results were passed onto the best pulmonary doctor around ;)

- On February 9th a radiologist did a thorancentesis (her first chest tube) to drain fluid out of Mama Bear's lung... all were a bit shocked to drain 1500 cc's of fluid out of her lung.  But! Mom felt great and had her first restful night of sleep in month's!
- On Monday February 13th mom got a call from her pulmonary doctor that she needed to come into the hospital immediately.  She was x-rayed again and her lung was still completely collapsed.  She left the hospital and on her way home had multiple calls from her doctor who, when he finally spoke with her (you know how moms are with hearing their cell phones ;) haha just kidding?) he essentially said "Go home, get a change of clothes, and come right back to the hospital.  You'll need to be here overnight." When she arrived at the hospital with my dad she was admitted and they gave her a second chest tube (one that stayed in longer) with the hopes that this one would drain her lungs and give them a chance to puff right back up!
- The next day, Valentines Day!, they did an x-ray to see how she was progressing.  The lung was still fully collapsed.  They made plans for a surgery to insert a fatter chest tube (her third one) and do a procedure called pleurodesis (if you would like to google it you can, but it sounds too awful for me to type here!)
- Surgery Day! And also biopsy day! And big hopes for the new chest tube to work!
- Thursday the 16 and Friday the 17th were mostly restful days, not much pain and good results on her x-rays: it seemed like the chest tube was working!  They let us know that her lung needed to stay up SANS chest tube for 24 hours before she could go home.  What was once an over-night visit had turned into at least a week long visit! We also found out on Friday that the growths on her lung were definitely cancer (which we kind of expected but it still sucks to hear.)  This was also the day I flew in!
- On February 18th mom woke up in the middle of the night (somewhere around 2 am) and felt different.  She was pretty sure her lung had collapsed again.  They did an x-ray right away and gave her the sad news: it had collapsed :-/ The doctors spent the day trying to help her cough, take big breaths, sit up and force the lung back up... but to no avail.
- Sunday the 19th they performed a bronchoscopy to see if there was any mucous blockage or reason for the collapse.  They also scraped the tubes to make sure everything was clear. X-rays that day still revealed a collapsed lung.
- Monday, February 20 to Tuesday, February 21 were the worst 24 hours yet. She had a to have a fourth chest tube put in (bed side :( they wouldn't put her under for such a "small procedure." This woman is a woman who has had seven natural child births and loved it, is a nurse, has had many surgeries and basically tough as nails: if she, in tears, asks to be put under because the process hurts her so bad, I believe her.  But they wouldn't.) She also discovered she was allergic to iodine so her back broke out in red hives and itched her the rest of the day! Come Tuesday morning a good but gruff doctor came in to remove her third chest tube.  This was the first procedure I was in the room for.  Poor mama just cried and cried.  It broke my heart and I didn't know what to do.  I hated watching how hard they were pulling and grabbing at the tape, her back and the tube.  Even the most gentle sponge baths I've given her, or simplest activity like putting on a bathrobe can cause her to flinch in pain, so I can't imagine how awful that must have felt: wide awake and not numb.) She's been in lots of pain since then: I'm sure she is bruised and her muscles are sore and she thinks this fourth tube is right on a nerve, because it's by far the worst feeling yet!
- But! Today! Wednesday the 22 is showing lots of wonderful results for all that pain!  Her lungs have stayed up!  First they removed the air suction from the chest tube for 12 hours - and it stayed.  Then they removed water suction from the chest tube for 12 - hours - and it stayed.  Right now we are in the midst 12 hours of the tube being clamped (no suction at all... so for all intents and purposes it isn't there.)  The doctor just checked her ten minutes ago and said she sounded great! If the x-ray tomorrow shows that her lung is still up (pray pray pray!) they will remove the tube all-together.  If her lung stays up for 24 hour she will be able to go home Friday, the 24th! (almost two weeks after arriving! Poor mama!)
EVERYone loves her new monster socks.  They really are the cutest things.
- Concluding remarks:  The oncologist and the pulmonary doctor informed us that the cancer on her lung is NOT lung cancer, but breast cancer that as metastasized (definitely one of my vocabulary words from Physical Science with Mrs. Ellis in ninth grade!) to her lung.  That is actually good news!  They would like to start her on chemotherapy as soon as possible, and will not be able to do radiation again.  They also seem to frown on the idea of surgery.
Her room has been called the "Oh Suzanne! Spa", like a "dewey, supple garden", the "happiest room on the floor" and "a rain forest." I've managed to trick all the hotel staff into thinking I'm neat and orderly ;)
- That that sweet ol' lung would stay up nice and high!
- That the cancer would be minimal (she actually also has spots on her liver and spine, too.  We haven't even started the process of diagnosing or treating those spots.  We're told to expect that they are cancer, but pray pray pray!  Her treatment for her lungs might be different if the spine and liver spots are different than they are expecting.)
- Pray that she would be in as little pain as possible
- Pray for rest and sleep! She hasn't been sleeping well at all.
- Pray she can get home very soon.  She misses her little people and they miss her. Pray for their hearts! This is going to be a big year for them.
- Pray for Father Snyder ;) as he is working very, very hard to run the house, get the kids to school, do his job to make money, visit and communicate with his wife and rest himself.
And now for the end of post verse, that really is the happiest and best thing we could end today with!

Psalm 21:

"For You meet him with rich blessings;
You set a crown of fine gold upon his head."
(From enjoying good food together in a beige hospital room (I like to run out and bring food in from other places haha), to laughing at re-runs of Mad About You, to listening to Clair de Lune play out of my laptop while fireless candles flicker... from new friends who stop by and really do care, to funny nurses and forgetful techs and sweet ol' food service ladies, to new colorful pajamas and socks, getting lots of phone calls and texts saying "We're praying!" and "We care!", braiding and curling hair (while we still can!), to reading Psalms together and secretly decorating her room while she is out for procedures... from the privilege of being cared for in a clean, professional hospital, to making Arnold Palmer's nearly every lunch, and giving long back-scratches and doing pedicures... we feel rich with blessing.)
"He asked life of You; You gave it to him,
length of days forever and ever."
(We are so grateful that He does indeed extend life here on earth, but that when these days come to an end, we continue on to days of life forever and ever!  It's not so much that we live and then we die, but rather, we die and then we live!)
"For You make him most blessed forever;
You make him glad with the joy of Your presence."
(Especially for me who fainted the last time I was in a hospital, I've been shocked at how joyful the last week has been.  We are glad! His presence is here and we are so well. How sweet it is to be loved be Him.)

"Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power."
(Amen, amen.)


  1. Please know that I am praying for your Mama and the rest of the family. I can't imagine what she's been through, and can only think that if it was my Mama, I'd be so scared for her. I'm sure that she is thankful for you being there!

  2. Thank you Alannah! That really means so much to me :D

  3. I'm praying for her and your family. Even though this post deals with cancer, you write it in way that has cheerfulness in it (like the decorations), Proverbs says that a cheerful heart is good medicine, this can go much farther than doctors expect it to! Don't let the hospital get you down!

  4. thank you for taking this on as only you can do Kristen.

  5. Praying for her, for you, and for your whole family.

  6. Praying for you kristen you seem to be doing so well. Reading this post just brought back sooo many memories to me. Such a dark and scary time. Continue to be that light to your Mom and hospital staff! Let the love of Jesus shine through you! Praying for a miracle with your mom. That God would completely wipe out all the cancer and restore her lung.

    Love you!

  7. P.s. LOVE the monster socks!! I want some! Where'd ya find them??

  8. hey kristen, i've followed your blogs for a while now and never commented. just wanted you to know that i will be praying often for your dear mom and your family. wish there was more i could do, but yes, praying hard and often!


  9. Amen to Mrs. Branchaw -- And we're praying lots for you and mother dearest and the rest of the crew. Miss you tons but so very glad you can be there!

  10. I have only met you once, but please know you and your family are in my heart and my prayers. May God see fit to work healing miracles in your mom. He is the Great Physician for whom nothing is to hard.

  11. Thank you thank you thank you everyone!

  12. Dear Kristen, Please tell your mom Hi for me..I had just facebook messaged her to see what was going on...I will pray for the Lord to heal and restore her body to perfect peace and health. Your mom and I took a trip to Philadelphis when we were single and I think we talked non-stop up and back...a great memory..please send her love from the Herberts! Love, Irene & Jeff and the kids....

  13. Tell your mom hi from all the Lotinskys also, and we will pray, pray, pray. Just heard about all this yesterday. Thanks for the updates, and if you can, keep us posted what to pray for.

  14. Could not make it through this post without many tears...especially the last part...where you quote scripture and recite God's abundant blessings to you all. You all are on my heart daily and I'm praying for you all!!!

  15. Thanks for going down to serve the troops. We are hoping for better and better updates until your ma is well again.

  16. Praying for you Sue, Alan and family. Think about you often. Praying you feel His presence.