Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


I took the girls to Santa Claus the other week. Ava was so excited! We had actually gone to the mall on a Saturday afternoon, but I had to hit Belk before their sale ended at 1:00, and by the time we left, the line to Kris Kringle had been blocked off. I guess Santa had to go feed Rudolph some lunch or something, so we didn’t get a picture. Anyway, I took them back to the mall a few days later. The line wasn’t too bad, and they both behaved while we waited, which is one of the most important factors for me. The good behavior ended for Savannah when I tried to hand her over to Santa. She wasn’t too keen on that idea and started screaming her head off. Instead of making St. Nick hold her for a picture that would haunt her for the rest of her life, I decided just to let Ava get a picture by herself so we could have decent memory of the event. Plus, I figured the employees there aren’t paid enough to have to tolerate screaming children. Neither am I, for that matter.

In the words of Professor Hinkle, December has been busy, busy, busy. (Hinkle is from Frosty the Snowman…where’s your inner child?) Getting ready for Christmas was no easy task this year—not that it is for anybody any year—but I think I got everything done. At least I don’t realize if I messed something up terribly. Santa is going to need to make a list of what he gets for the girls next year so he doesn’t overdo things like he did this year. I don’t have a lot of storage space in my house, so I had to hide things here and there. I’m certain I’ll find stuff three months from now that was intended for Christmas. In fact, yesterday I realized there were two small things I forgot to give the girls, but I have no idea where I put them. I’m sure they’ll make lovely birthday presents or gifts for Christmas next year. I’m not real big on buying the girls toys unless it’s for their birthdays or Christmas.

My family and I had our annual progressive dinner the Sunday before Christmas. We’ve been doing this for about eleven years or so now, and it really is a lot of fun. I have four sisters, and we go to each others’ houses for a different portion of the meal: appetizers, soup, salad, main course, and dessert. We open gifts at each house, so everyone gets a present at each stop. I had appetizers this year, and those of you who know anything about me know that my culinary skills are limited to pancakes, brownies, and anything that can be tossed in the microwave. Mike was the cook in the house, so let’s just say the stove and oven don’t have to worry about getting worn out any time soon. The oven, however, did get plenty of use for the festivities warming up a variety of delicacies that can be found in your local grocer’s freezer. The girls got enough toys from all of the stops that I think Santa could have skipped our house this year. I don’t know where we’re going to put all of it…if anyone wants to volunteer to come build an extra room onto our house, feel free. A shed in the backyard will be fine by me.

The girls and I stayed at our house Christmas Eve. Ava made some sugar cookies with her Aunt Cindy and we left one out for Santa that night. There were a gracious plenty cookies, but Ava only wanted to leave one for St. Nick. The girls actually went to bed around 9:15 that night. I was worried about there being too much anticipation on Ava’s end—I remember has a child staying up half the night waiting for Santa to come. When Ava woke up Christmas morning, she lounged in bed until Savannah woke up. Even then, she wasn’t ready to run to see what Santa brought. I asked her if she thought Santa had come, and she said, “No.” I told her I thought he did and took them both into the living room. A short clip of them playing with their toys shortly after they saw them is below. I’ve also included some pictures of them playing as well. We went to my parents’ house around 2:00 where we stayed the rest of the day. Ava got a Black and Decker work bench and a girly train while Savannah got a doll house and a very nice rocking chair to match her room. We all got a family membership to EdVenture for one year, so we can go as often as we'd like over the next 365 days!

Santa brought Ava a bonus present that we weren’t expecting—pink eye. That was lots of fun. Luckily, my mother had the eye drops from when Ava had it a couple of months ago, so it’s pretty much cleared up now. I suspect Savannah will have it before long. I think I’m going to go ahead and put some drops in my eyes as a preventative measure. And let me tell you I am not a fan of the eye drops. The first time I ever put them in my eyes was when I got pink eye from Ava in October. I swear I don’t know how people can use Visine or put in contacts on a regular basis.

Thank you all for continuing to check on us through the blog and your many prayers. Christmas, of course, wasn’t the same, but it is what it is. As Mike used to tell me, you control the things you can control and deal with the things you can’t. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and have a blessed new year.


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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Give Thanks!

While last year at this time I certainly never in my wildest dreams anticipated that I would be spending this holiday season husbandless, it is the season to give thanks, so I think it’s much healthier to count my blessings rather than roll around in self-pity. I’m sure I could make a great case for why this will be the worst Thanksgiving and Christmas ever, but what good is that going to do? None, that’s what. The bottom line is there’s always someone out there who has it worse than you do, so be grateful for what you do have. Here’s what I’m thankful for this year:
*I got to be married to Mike for seven years and learn lots from him.
*Mike didn’t pass away suddenly and unexpectedly, so I had a few months to prepare myself for the inevitable.
*I was approved for the sick-leave bank at work, so I was able to spend every day with Mike that he was in the hospital.
*Mike was very organized, so that helped in getting lots of paperwork junk taken care of this year. (And there has been a gracious plenty of it.)
*I have two wonderful girls.
*I have parents who help me out tremendously with the girls. (Small children are small children. It doesn’t matter how you slice it—they’re a lot of work! If you’ve never had kids, borrow someone’s for a weekend, and you’ll quickly discover what I’m talking about here.)
*My family and friends.
*My faith in knowing that I will get to see Mike again.

This evening Ava set up everything for a tea party at the dining room table. She had four place settings. She told me she set one for Daddy—he was still sick up in the sky, but maybe would feel better and come down. When I tried to explain to her that that wasn’t going to be happening, she told me to “Stop it.” That’s her new thing to say when you tell her something she doesn’t want to hear. Now, when I asked her what she was thankful for, I didn’t even end up on the list. What’s at the top this year? Sausage. And eggs. I don’t even like either one of those things! When I asked her “What about people?” She said she was thankful for her people and started rattling off the names of her play toy people. Good thing I don’t suffer from low self-esteem.

I was fortunate to have Veteran’s Day off from work a couple of weeks ago. The girls and I decided to have a big day together. We started off at Edventure. For those of you who aren’t from around here, it’s a big children’s museum. If you live close by, I highly recommend making the trek for a visit. We went once over the summer; I’m not big on crowds, so I don’t like to go to places like that on weekends when there are a bunch of people there. Particularly when there are a bunch of children present—they can be ruthless, which makes reinforcing manners a bit challenging. We had lunch from the “virtual” McDonald’s on the bottom floor. (Read: you call in the order and they bring it to you from across the street. Do note that if you order a happy meal, you’ll be not so happy to discover that the drink is not included and you end up paying an extra buck fifty for it. Lesson: read the fine print AND ask for an exact interpretation.) I’ve included a some pics of our Edventure adventures at the bottom of this post. There would be more, but somebody forgot to charge the camera battery, so we didn’t get pictures of everything.

After exploring the museum we went to every girl’s favorite place: the mall. The main reason Ava likes to go to the mall is we have a rule that we always get a cookie when we go to the mall. A few months ago Columbiana Centre got sneaky on me. They put about six little rides right at the spot where the cookie store is. I am fortunate that Ava doesn’t care one thing about having to put money into them and actually ride. She’s perfectly content just to sit and play on all of them, but she likes to play on them forever. So now whenever Ava and I go out and about and I ask her where she wants to go, the standard response is, “Let’s go to the mall and get a cookie and ride some rides!” We topped off our day by going to Barnes and Noble. Each of the girls got a book, and Ava loved going in there to play with their train set in the children’s section.

I suspect this is more than enough for you to read…it’s the holidays, and I know everyone is busy! Thank you all for regularly checking the blog for updates to see how we’re doing. I appreciate all of your continued prayers as well…I’m certain that’s why we are doing as well as we are. Now, go count your blessings and be thankful for all that you have!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

We're Off to See the Wizard...

Happy Halloween! The girls have already been trick-or-treating twice this year, so we’ll just have to see if they get to go again Halloween night. Richland Northeast had their annual “Trick or Trunk” on Sunday afternoon then Airport High hosted “Trick or Treat Lane” on Thursday night. There is a gracious plenty candy for the girls—and maybe a couple of pieces for me as well.

The pink eye is coming full circle. After both Savannah and Ava had gotten over it, I became the lucky victim early last week. I went to the doctor before it got completely out of control, so it wasn’t too bad. That was the first time I had ever put any drops in my eyes independently. All of that stuff creeps me out—I swear I don’t know how people can handle regularly using Visine or putting in contacts. It appears that the pink eye may be in the early stages of getting back to Ava, but she’s got a prescription, so it should go away quickly. I took Savannah in for her one year check up (yes, she turned one last month, but when I called in mid-August, the first appointment available was at the end of October) and we were just so lucky to find that she has a double ear infection. I don’t know what’s up with this child and ear infections. Ava has never had one; this has to be at least Savannah’s third. Of course, I should count my blessings that she hasn’t had all of the issues Ava had when she was her age. We practically lived at the doctor’s office the first year and half of her life.

Sorry to cut this short, but it’s getting late, and I’ve got a few things to do before I go to bed. I’ll leave you with a few pictures of Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Surprise, Surprise! A New Post!

Yes, I realize it’s been a little while since I last posted. (Two months is a little while in the grand scheme of things, isn’t it?) But it certainly is not because I haven’t thought about it. There’s just one teensy issue that stands in my way: time. Good grief! Where does it go? I’m staying crazy busy between working, taking care of the girls, and keeping up with my graduate work. If it weren’t for my parents helping me out so much with the girls, I probably would have been committed by now. I swear I’ll never understand why anyone would voluntarily become a single mother. (Though I am beginning to understand why there are such jobs as personal assistants and personal shoppers.) I am fully aware that there are plenty of moms out there who do the lion’s share of the work when it comes to taking care of children and things around the house. But here’s the deal: I didn’t sign up for that gig. Mike and I always split things pretty evenly. (Well, maybe I did have the better end of that stick…he did always used to tell me that when he died he wanted to come back as me!) Don’t start thinking that I’m about to have a nervous breakdown or anything, because that is not the case. It’s just that I don’t get much down time. Of course, I may have some opportunity for that on the horizon since all of my sisters gave me babysitting coupons for my birthday!

So what’s been the big news over the last couple of months? Savannah turned one year old in September, and we celebrated her birthday at the happiest place on earth. That’s Disney World for those of you who live on some other planet and are not aware of such a happy fest. The original plan was for us to go back during spring break, but that did not work out for obvious reasons. My mother and two of my sisters, Cindy and Janet, went with us. It was a blast! We had dinner with princesses on the big day—we talked with Belle then Cinderella, Jasmine, Aerial, and Alice in Wonderland all came to our table during dinner. I think Savannah’s favorite is Cinderella; Ava is a bit partial to Belle. As far as rides go, Savannah enjoyed “It’s a Small World,” and so if you’ve got your volume turned on on your computer, I’ve got the theme song playing, so you, too, shall suffer by having it in your head the rest of the day! Ava loved “The House” (more commonly known as The Haunted Mansion) and Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom as well as “The Ball” (a.k.a spaceship Earth) at EPCOT. While we were at Magic Kingdom, Ava had an appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique where she received some hair extensions. They only lasted about a day and a half, but we got a glimpse of what she will look like in about twenty years when her hair finally grows out.

Ava started back to pre-school after Labor Day, though she has missed a ton of days. I was becoming concerned that she was on the verge of becoming a dropout! She was sick the first day of school, so she didn’t go. We were out for our trip to Disney and then upon our return she got a fabulous case of pink eye. It ended up being a pretty severe case; the poor thing looked pitiful. After that was over, she developed a stomach bug. She’s been okay for a week or so now, so hopefully, she’ll stay that way. We thought Savannah was going to get away without catching the pink eye, but a few days after Ava’s eye cleared up, Savannah started showing signs. We were able to get her some medication that same day, so it didn’t get out of hand.

Sorry I’m not reporting on anything else…but if you check out the time I posted this, you’ll see it’s a little late, and I have to get up early to go to work in the morning. I do appreciate you all who keep checking back to see if I’ve posted anything. I’ll try to do better and not wait two more months before the next update. Until then, check out some of pictures from Disney World…

Friday, August 8, 2008

Back to the Grind

The girls and I have not fallen off the face of the earth and gone to join Mike…I’ve just been a bit busy, so that’s the reason for the delay in the post. I have three jobs now ya know—my regular job at school, Mommy, and now Daddy, too! I know many of you non-education folks think we educators have it sooo easy with our summers off, but I really don’t feel like I’ve had much of a summer at all. I had class for two weeks, attended two conferences, and had a few other school-related meetings to attend. I’m officially back into the full swing of things at work, so I really won’t have much down time…not that I had much in the first place.

The Pampers, baby wipes, and Sprite Zero just don’t suddenly appear in the house anymore. I actually have to go out and get that stuff. What’s up with that? I must say that I think Mike would be quite surprised that I have been able to navigate myself around the grocery store and keep the house pretty well stocked with grub. For those of you who don’t know, Mike used to do all of the grocery and household shopping. (And you ladies go ahead and let your hubbies know he did all of his own laundry, too!) Mike would probably be disappointed that I do only go to one grocery store a week—he used to scour the weekly ads and stop by at least three or four different grocery stores each week to pick up whatever they had on sale. But, he never had to do it with two tots in tow. Plus I think I get brownie points for actually clipping coupons from the Sunday paper. And not only have I clipped them, but I’ve used them as well. The only coupons I was used to clipping were for department stores. How’s that for me being progressive?

So, here’s your dilemma for the day, which was my conundrum a few weeks ago. Let’s say you’re at your local Target doing the household shopping with your two small children. Riding up front is your 10 month old who is able to sit in the cart rather well; your three old, who is in the midst of potty-training and has been doing quite well not wetting herself, is in the back of the buggy (that’s a cart for you non-Southerners) with all of the items to be purchased. As you’re shopping, your three year old suddenly announces, “I need to go pee-pee!” The only bathroom available (according the pharmacist) is in the front of the store. Getting to the front of the store isn’t that big of a deal. The big deal is that you can’t take the cart in the bathroom. What are you going to do with the 10 month old while you assist the three year old on the potty? You can’t exactly just leave her sitting outside the restroom alone. While the hope is that there will be some sort of Divine Intervention where you run into someone you know who can momentarily watch the baby, that doesn’t happen. So how do you solve the problem? Let that swish around in your ol’ noodle for a bit…I’ll tell you what I did at the end of this post.

Since I promised I’d tell ya…the girls and I went to my sister’s house for the Fourth of July; spending Independence Day with my family has pretty much been tradition since Mike and I started dating. Mike used to really get into the fireworks for the occasion…over the years, he and my brothers-in-law turned it into quite the show. The first year we did the fireworks, it was a little experimental, but Mike made notes of which were the best and kept the information for the following year. He would then spend a couple of weeks before the Fourth frequenting the fireworks booths to find the best deals. One year he saved the tubes that were used for launching and nailed several of them to a board, so multiple fireworks could be lit at one time. Did I mention the part about the guys using a blowtorch to light them? Yes, a blowtorch. I swear there’s so much testosterone floating around that someone is going to lose a limb one of these days. Anyway, since Mike used to always get into making sure we all had a fabulous fireworks show every year, my brothers-in-law did the show this year in memory of Mike and even added some patriotic music to go along with the event. It was awesome…Mike would have been most pleased.

Ava, on the other hand, was not so pleased. She was completely terrified of the fireworks…I couldn’t even talk her into watching them through the window. The problem started the previous night when someone was setting off fireworks in our neighborhood. She asked what the noise was and said it scared her. When we said were going to do fireworks on the Fourth, she was adamant that she was not going to watch them. She had to be held and rocked the entire time; she even decided that she had to hide from them, so she buried herself in the rocking chair. I kept her initially, but my mother came in and insisted I go out to see this year’s display. Ava really was pitiful. Hopefully, she’ll get over her apprehension by next year. Of course, by then Savannah will probably be petrified of them.

I was also able to take the girls to the beach for a week in July; neither had ever been. I was going to take Ava last August, but we were having that string of 100+ degree days and I was eight months pregnant, so I didn’t think that would be any fun for anyone. I certainly wasn’t brave—or crazy—enough to take the girls this year by myself. My parents and a couple of my sisters rented a house for a week. Packing for two little ones for a week is no easy feat. I swear I don’t know how my parents managed to take me and my four sisters on a vacation every year when we were young. Ava was a little hesitant about the ocean at first, but once she got in, she had a big time. Seeing as how she likes to eat straight salt at restaurants, the water getting in her mouth didn’t faze her. And let me just go ahead and point out that the fact I went into the ocean is clear evidence that I love my daughter. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve been in the Atlantic beyond my ankles. The whole thing creeps me out…particularly when I walk through a warm spot. Ewww! Savannah’s aunts introduced her to playing in the sand when I wasn’t around, and she loved it. I’ve included some pictures from our trip at the bottom of this post. All pictures are compliments of my sister Janet…she has become the official family photographer since she has the fancy shmancy camera.

That’s about all of the big excitement for the summer. Oh, before I forget, I have to tell you how I solved my Target predicament. Before going into the restroom, I went to the very front of the store and picked up a shopping handbasket to take in the restroom with us. I then used the handicapped stall, put the basket on the floor and placed Savannah in it while I tended to Ava. How’s that for creative thinking on a whim?



Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fourth of July

Here are a few pictures of the girls from the Fourth of July. I'll write a little more about it later...suffice it to say Ava had a grand time in the pool, but she was terrified of the fireworks. She had to "hide" from them.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

It Doesn't Feel Like School Has Been Out a Month

I know you all are thinking that I’ve had a gracious plenty time to post something to the blog since school has been out for a month now. I mean, c’mon, that’s the point of going into education, right? To get those three months off during the summer. My summer vacation is actually just beginning this week. Last week I was at a conference and the two weeks before that I had class. I’ve only had one week off thus far, and I spent it going to probate court and taking care of some of the “business” things. Coming soon to this blog (and soon is a relative term): How to make your spouse’s life easier in the event of your untimely death. Boy, getting all of that stuff straight is no fun.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend Richland Northeast’s graduation. Since Mike was the athletic director, he normally sat on the stage. In his chair this year they had a football, whistle, and RNE baseball cap. The principal began his address to the graduating class with, “Ice Cold Water!” In unison, the class responded, “Chick-fil-A.” You would have thought it was rehearsed, but none of them knew he was going to do that. I’m sure the folks in the crowd were wondering what in the world was going on! The principal went on and talked about Mike a bit and the importance of relationships in life, one of the things Mike valued so much.

Some of y’all know that with my job I’m part of the South Carolina Reading Initiative. And those of you who didn’t know, well, you know now! We’re a group of literacy coaches from across the state that meet monthly for state study, and we’re also divided into three regions that meet monthly as well. The two weeks I had class this month were for SCRI. A week after Mike passed away in April, my region had their regularly scheduled meeting, but I did not attend because I had not yet returned to work. At that time they took up a collection of money and purchased a large selection of young adult sports-themed novels that are going to be donated to Richland Northeast High School. Inside the front cover of each novel is a label noting that it was given in memory of Mike. They presented the books to me when we were divided by region in class. There are some really awesome titles in the collection including Friday Night Lights and Walter Dean Myers’ latest, Game. It’s tempting to keep a few for my own library, but I will make sure they all make their way to the mighty Cavaliers.

Ava and Savannah are doing well. I’m sure it won’t be much longer and Ava will be wearing her hair in a ponytail. Five years isn’t long, is it? Savannah is able to stand by herself now and will be walking before long. I personally prefer the walking stage over crawling. We’ve had a few thunderstorms over the last few weeks as is typical this time of year. When it started thundering, Ava asked, “What’s that?” To keep her from getting scared, I thought about what we used to say as kids in regards to thunder and told her that it was Daddy bowling. Now, being a literacy coach, I should have known better than to tell her something that she has never seen or heard of. If a child (or any person, for that matter) doesn’t have something to connect new information to, he or she isn’t going to understand it. It’s not as if we watch bowling championships on ESPN around here. Anyway, Ava’s response to me telling her that the thunder was Mike bowling was, “Daddy doesn’t have bowls.” She still doesn’t have a clue what it means to go bowling, but whenever Ava hears thunder now and you ask her what that is, she’ll say, “That’s Daddy’s bowls.” I guess one of my projects over the summer will have to introduce to her to the game of bowling. I’ve played once on a Wii, but I don’t think showing her that way will be quite the same.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Decker Boulevard Chick-fil-A Rocks!

No, I have not fallen into a great abyss and disappeared from the face of the earth. The whole working full-time and being an instant single mother is a little time consuming (Who knew? Clearly these celebs who are choosing to be single mothers multiple times over have full-time nannies to do everything for them.), and I haven’t gotten into a complete routine yet. But don’t you worry your pretty little heads…I’ll get it down before long and will be back to my Johnny-on-the-spot ways. I’m very fortunate to have parents who help me out with the girls quite a bit, or else I really would be over the edge by now.

I must give yet another shout-out to the Chick-fil-A on Decker Boulevard. They did an awesome job with the Mike Starnes Night—I wasn’t expecting them to go all out like they did. Wow! Angela, the marketing director, read the blog where I posted about me and Mike going to Hawaii, so she went with a Hawaiian theme for the event. There was a tropical backdrop and leis for folks as they arrived. Blue and orange balloons (RNE colors) were abound, and stuffed cows and games were available for the kiddies…checkers and a cup stacking game—apparently we all missed the market on this one; it is an official game with cups that you stack, unstack, and time yourself doing so. There was a karaoke machine, but I didn’t see anyone brave enough to take it on. They even had a chanting contest of Mike’s signature “Chick-fil-A…Ice Cold Water.” Three girls from Northeast won as a trio—sorry, I didn’t get your names, girls! The Chick-fil-A cow even made an appearance. Ava was a little skeptical of the cow, but she had a BIG time climbing around in the indoor playground. “One more time” were her famous last words. Many thanks to all of you who came out to the event and/or purchased a t-shirt. Between the profits of the food sales and t-shirts (160 were sold!), $1093 was raised for the memorial. Not bad. Not bad at all!

At the end of the evening Ava and I did our new tradition—she gave one of the helium balloons a kiss and let go of it to send to Daddy. Savannah will partake once she’s a little older…she doesn’t have the kiss puckering thing down pat just yet, and I’m thinking letting her slobber all over latex isn’t a real good idea. And before you start thinking I’m that smart (though according to the Internet, I do have a Mensa-level IQ…and everything on the Internet is true and accurate, right?), I didn’t think of the whole balloon thing myself—someone at work told me about it. And don’t go giving me credit for thinking of the beach metaphor for eternity mentioned in my last post either. I heard about that many, many, many years ago, though I have know idea where.

Until I can get my act together and post again, here are a few pictures from Mike Starnes Night at Chick-fil-A…

Monday, May 5, 2008

But How Is She Really Doing?

That seems to be the $64,000 question. Amazingly, I’m doing pretty well considering the circumstances. I assure you that reality has set in, and I am not going to have some sort of mental breakdown in a few months when I realize Mike is gone. I am well aware that he is not going to come walking through the door of our house. Ever. If he did, you would hear me scream because it would probably scare the bejeebers out of me. I think some people seem to be a bit perplexed when they see me because I seem to be my normal self and don’t seem depressed or anything. I am not, I repeat not, in denial. I just happen to not be an overly emotional person to begin with. Just because I’m not bawling my eyes out in public on a regular basis does not mean that I have not had my moments when I’m alone. What I need now in my life is some normalcy. That is something that I haven’t had over the last few months, and Mike certainly wouldn’t want me to stop going on with life. Your prayers are certainly helping me with this. I have also had the last three and half months to prepare myself for Mike’s passing and there are some other fundamental beliefs I have that have helped me through all of this.

Everything happens for a reason.
I’m a firm believer in that God has a master plan for things even though we don’t always understand why things happen the way they do. It’s not my place to question God and why Mike passed at such a young age. Maybe this whole situation touched someone else’s life and has caused a change. I don’t know—I’m not the one in control of the universe. (And I assure you if I were in control, I don’t know that I would allow quite so much free will to occur!) Mike had been wronged by some people in his lifetime. I told him back in January that maybe this all happened so those people could think about the things they did and make some changes in their lives. Mike’s response? “Well, I don’t see how that’s fair on any level. But I sure will ask God about it when I get to heaven.” I suspect Mike now knows the answer even though we don’t. But since when has life been fair? Never. That’s when. And I don’t suspect that will ever change. From the wisdom of one of my high school girlfriend’s father: If life were fair, there wouldn’t be any cripple people.

God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.
When you’re in a difficult situation, you do what you have to do. How many times have you looked back on your life and wondered how you managed to do the things you did? Mike and I had a unique marriage. A lot of the reason I’m able to handle things as well as I am now is because of that. Perhaps it was because we were no spring chicks when we married—Mike was 37 and I was ten years his junior. We had both lived on our own and were used to doing things our own way. There was a lot of independence in our marriage, and that worked well for us. Mike always did what he wanted to do and I always did what I wanted to do, and when we wanted to do something together, we did. Mike was a very early riser, so it was rare that he was still in bed when I awoke in the mornings. Mike’s job required him to be at all home athletic events. Given that there are over 40 teams at the school, Mike often had to work late at night, so there were many evenings that I was in bed before Mike ever got home. Since January, I’ve been coming home to an empty house to sleep every night. All of these things have helped me adjust to how things are now.

I will see Mike again.
I have often wondered how people with no faith get through difficult times in life. Our time here is so miniscule compared to the grand scheme of things. If you think of eternity as all of the sand on the beach, our time here on Earth is equivalent to one of those grains of sand. I completely believe in making the most of your life while you’re here, but there’s much more time ahead once we leave.

I have been preparing myself for the inevitable since January 2, when I saw Mike’s CT scan indicated his tumor was a glioblastoma. As I mentioned in a much earlier post, my boss passed away from the same thing last summer, so I was fully aware of the likely outcome. Things happened more quickly than anticipated—I thought we would at least get a couple of quality months together. After Mike recovered from his biopsy, he and I planned on taking the girls to Disney World over spring break and having him make some videotaped messages for the girls for when they got older. Had we known things could have gone south as quickly as they did, we would have been videotaping the day he was released from the hospital. I can rest well at night knowing I did everything within my power for Mike these last few months from contacting Duke at the earliest time I could to being at the hospital every day and making sure he got everything he needed. I can’t think of anything I could have done differently. Though Mike was mad at me in January for making him stay at the hospital between the time they got his brain swelling under control and his biopsy, I am especially glad I did that because so many of you were able to come by and visit with Mike when he was pretty much his regular self.

So, don’t you see? I’m really the lucky one out of all of you reading this. I’m the one who got to be married to Mike. Everyone thought he would be a bachelor forever, but he chose me. (Okay, so none of you guys reading could have ever been an option, but you know what I’m driving at here.) I’m the one whom he took to Jamaica. Twice. I’m the one who got to travel all over Europe with him. I’m the one who got to spend two weeks in Hawaii with him—one week in Waikiki and another on a cruise to the other islands. I’m the one who got to cruise to Mexico with him. I’m the one who gave birth to his children and get the joy of raising them. Do I wish Mike were still here so we could spend even more time together and raise our girls? Absolutely. If I could, would I give up the last nine years of my life just so I wouldn’t have to go through what I’m dealing with now? Absolutely not. Mike was an amazing man, and I am a better person for having been married to him.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Chick-fil-A...Ice Cold Water!

Not all students at a high school know who the athletic director is or what he does. Heck, some of those not involved in sports don’t even know such a person exists. Most students at Richland Northeast High School didn’t know Mike as the athletic director; they knew him as “The Chick-fil-A Man.” Mike earned this title by selling Chick-fil-A sandwiches in the courtyard every day, chanting “Chick-fil-A…Ice Cold Water!” There was a rhythm to it. A chant. The kind of thing that really got on the students’ nerves. (Though the word on the street is they miss it now and tell the others who have been selling the sandwiches since January that they don’t do it right.) In fact, I think Ringling Brothers was waiting on Mike’s retirement in a few years, so they could recruit him to pawn off cotton candy and fresh, fluffy popcorn.

The faculty at Richland Northeast is planning to create a memorial for Mike to be placed near the courtyard where he became famous. (Or is that infamous?) Though nothing is carved in stone yet (still waiting on those price quotes!), they’re hoping to have a three-foot cavalier mounted on a three- or four-foot pedestal. They know this is going to be pretty pricey, so some fundraisers are in the works. Friday, May 16, is going to be Mike Starnes Night at the Chick-fil-A on Decker Boulevard. (This is just about a half mile or so from Columbia Place, formerly known as Columbia Mall.) A portion of sales from the evening will go towards the purchase of the memorial. All you have to do to help is dine at the Chick-fil-A on Decker Boulevard between the hours of 4:00pm and 8:00pm on May 16 and place your receipt in the one of the baskets at the registers. (The receipt part is very important…no receipt, no portion of the proceeds!) The staff at Chick-fil-A is planning on having all sorts of things going on that night…I believe karaoke was even mentioned! I sing about as well as Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend’s Wedding, so don’t even think I’m getting near the microphone. I’ll be happy to cheer others of you on, though! T-shirts will be available at Chick-fil-A on Mike Starnes Night. They are blue with white writing and the cost is $10. The front has a cavalier boxed in with a braid (symbolizing Mike bracelets) and the back has Mike’s famous words, “Chick-fil-A…Ice Cold Water.”

If you can’t make it to Mike Starnes Night but would like to make a donation towards the memorial, you can send a check made payable to Richland Northeast High School to the school. Donations may be sent to the following address:

Janet Bush
Richland Northeast High School
7500 Brookfield Road
Columbia, South Carolina 29223

I do have to give a shout out to the Chick-fil-A on Decker Boulevard for donating the food for Ava’s birthday party. Ava turned 3 on Friday, and she just loves Chick-fil-A, so that’s what was on the birthday menu for Little Miss Priss. (Her father did not brainwash her…I think this penchant came from the fact that her mother doesn’t cook and she has frequented the establishment often.) Chick-fil-A donated all of the food to us at no cost to our family, and Ava loved, loved, loved her birthday dinner! And being the proud mother that I am, I have to take this opportunity to share a couple of pictures from the festivities. I know, I have no shame. (And, by the way, for those of you who don't know--Ava has NEVER had a hair cut. That is all her hair has grown in three years! On the bright side, it's a breeze to fix when we're running late and I don't have to have her battle with hair dressers to sit still for a cut.)



Monday, April 21, 2008

What Happened?

Thanks to all of you who came to visitation and/or Sunday’s service. I was able to talk with many of you on Sunday, but there were some names in the registry that I missed. I think Mike would have been pleased with the service and honored by those of you who came. Though he wasn’t too keen on the whole idea of the blog to begin with (“It’s a woman’s thing,” he said.), I think he ended up being glad that we had it. When he was discharged from Lexington Medical Center in January, I had to read the entire blog and all of the comments to him. (I guess I had to read it to him instead of him reading it for himself since computers weren’t really his thing…if you’ve every seen him type, you’d know this quite well!) He nodded his head and had tears in his eyes—okay, maybe not tears, but they were glassy—when I read many of the comments.

I know many of you are curious as to how things unfolded on that last day. And since this blog isn’t just for you—it’s for Ava and Savannah as well—I want to share what happened. Last Wednesday while Mike was in ICU, his cousin Roz was visiting and we discussed the whole idea of not having the doctors go to any heroic efforts should Mike’s health start to go further south. It just didn’t seem to be the right thing to do given all of the issues Mike was having. Sure, he could live on life support for 20 years, but Mike wouldn’t have wanted that, and it’s not as if it’s painless to have to go through those extremes. He wasn’t exactly one who liked to stay in one spot for any length of time, so I know he was already going nuts having to sit in that hospital room for two and half months. That’s exactly why he loved to take cruises for travel, because he didn’t have to stay in one place for more than a couple of days. Heck, when he planned our trip to Europe back in 2002, we visited eight countries in 22 days.

Anyway, there really wasn’t much eventful that happened on that Wednesday other than they found two blood clots in his legs and put filters in to keep them from going to his lungs. I stayed at the hospital until 10:00, when ICU closed. Around 1:00 that morning, the nurse called me and said that Mike’s heart rate had been dropping and in her twenty plus years of experience that meant that she would have to soon “code” him. In other words, she would have to go to extreme measures to keep him alive. I brushed my teeth, threw on some clothes, and headed to the hospital. I called Mike’s other cousin, Regina, to make sure she was on the same page as Roz and I about not doing anything heroic. Regina and Roz were next in line on Mike’s health power of attorney, so if I got killed on the way to the hospital, then they needed to know what was going on and make the right decision. I arrived at the hospital about 1:20, and Regina got there shortly after that. Mike’s heart rate was all over the place. It would go from the 40’s then up to the 50’s and 60’s and jump to the 80’s then drop again…all in a matter of seconds. It did that for quite a while. I informed the nurse of our decision of not to go to any extreme measures. She telephoned the on-call doctor, so that I could tell her. The nurse handed me the phone, and the doctor said, “So we’re not going to DNR?” I responded with, “I don’t have my medical degree yet, but I’m assuming you mean do not resuscitate, and that would be correct.” The doctor then said something about having a second nurse confirm, and I told her I was the wife and handed the phone back to the nurse on duty.

It was rather amazing how much nicer the staff was around there when then knew this was the beginning of the end. I had been none too happy with the ICU staff since Mike arrived there Tuesday afternoon. Those are completely different stories that I could probably do another few posts on—and he was only there a couple of days. They brought a tray of snacks and drinks and it suddenly didn’t matter how many people were in the room. Mike’s aunt and uncle arrived around 3:00, and Mike’s heart rate began to stabilize in the 50’s. I was exhausted and pulled up a chair next to Mike’s bed and slept (if that’s what you can call it) beside him, holding his hand. Just as I was getting to sleep, they came in and did a chest x-ray on Mike. I’m assuming that had already been ordered as a follow-up to check on the blood clot they found in his lung on Tuesday. After the x-ray, I got back in my makeshift bed and slept for a few hours.

The pulmonary doctor came by around 7:00, and Mike’s heart rate had been staying steady in the 50’s. He said all of the swelling in Mike’s brain was adding pressure and that could cause problems with enough blood flow in his brain because there’s only so much room in the skull. No blood flow would mean more brain damage. Our oncologist came by around 8:30. He said since Mike had stabilized and we weren’t going to go to any heroic efforts should something happen (which he thought was the right choice and would do the same for him family members—we had had that discussion the day before), he was going to have Mike moved out of ICU to either a step-down unit or the pulmonary floor, so we wouldn’t have to deal with all of the visiting regulations. I asked him if he thought it was safe for me to leave for a while to go home and do something to myself so I could be a little more presentable. He thought that would be fine. Mike’s aunt, uncle, and cousin were there, so I felt okay with leaving for a bit and they could fill me in on anything that happened.

I came home and washed my hair and took a bath. (I’m not a shower person, okay?) After drying my hair, the phone rang, and it was the nurse. She said Mike’s heart rate was now skyrocketing and his oxygen rate was dropping despite being on the BIPAP machine--she thought it was just nature taking its course, and she needed to know if I still wanted her to not “code” him, even though I wasn’t there. I told her not to do so, and I would be up there shortly. There was the chance that Mike could have been gone by the time I got the hospital (and I confess that I did run a red light, but it wasn’t a real red light, and there was not traffic coming), but I thought it would be selfish of me to have him go through all of those extremes just for me to see him again. We had already decided it would be best for him not to go through that, so changing my mind would have been what was best for me, not him. Fortunately, I arrived back at the hospital before anything happened. Mike’s heart rate was indeed up and his oxygen was dropping. Both would jump around. They would seem like they were okay, then they’d change. Knowing my husband was in his final moments, the nurse thought it would be a fine time to call me away from him to tell me that she didn’t get any reflexes from him this morning and his eyes didn’t change when she flashed the light in them. She was going to tell me more, but I was watching Mike’s oxygen level drop even more, so I just walked away from her and back to Mike. I’m guessing the only reason she didn’t say anything while I was at his side was because his aunt, uncle, and cousin were there and it might somehow violate those lovely HIPAA laws. Anyway, his change in oxygen and heart rate continued for a while and the nurse asked if we wanted to take him off the BIPAP machine. I said yes because I thought that might be a little more comfortable since the end was inevitable anyway. I think I got about an hour or so with him before he drew his last breath.

Last night was the first night I had Ava with me since there was so much to take care of the last few days. She had not been told about her daddy. I didn’t want to tell her last night before she went to bed, so I talked with her about it this morning—I broke one of those cardinal parenting rules and let her sleep in my bed. Telling her was definitely one of the most difficult things I’ve done since all of this started back in January. How does one explain such a thing to a child who really has no concept of death but does know she doesn’t see her father? Saying nothing wasn’t an option because I don’t want her to think Mike just up and left us. I told her that sometimes when people are really sick and in the hospital for a long time like Daddy was, they can’t get better. Ava put her hand over my mouth and held her head down. I knew she wanted me to stop talking, but I had to tell her. I told her that Daddy died because he couldn’t get better. That meant that he couldn’t walk or talk or do things anymore. I told her that you know how some things have batteries and the batteries make them work? (She’s very familiar with the battery concept—when the garage door wouldn’t close, she told me it needed new batteries.) We have a battery inside of us that’s called a spirit, but it can’t be replaced. When the spirit stops working, it goes to stay with God, so He can take care of it. I told her anytime she wanted to tell Daddy something, she can just ask God to tell him for her. When we said our prayers tonight, we asked God to please tell Daddy we said hello and that we love him.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Services



This is one of the last pictures taken of Mike on his birthday this year with girls. Visitation will be 5:00 to 7:00 Saturday night at Dunbar Funeral Home—Dutch Fork Chapel. Services will be at 3:00 Sunday afternoon at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church. The church has a Columbia address, but it’s in the general Irmo area—on Old Bush River Road, just past Saluda Shoals Park. Don’t be surprised if Mike is turned over in his casket at the visitation; the price tag on all of these services just might do that to him!

The Dash
Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend.

He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning...to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth and spoke of the second with tears,

but he said that what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth,

and now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own--the cars, the house, the cash.

What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard,

are there things you'd like to change?

For you never know how much time is left.

(You could be at "dash mid-range.")

If we could just slow down enough to consider what's true and real,

and always try to understand the way other people feel.

And...be less quick to anger, and show appreciation more

and love the people in our lives like we've never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect, and more often wear a smile,

remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read with your life's actions to rehash...

would you be pleased with the things they have to say about how you spent your dash?

Thank you all for all of your kind words, calls, e-mails, and blog posts. If you have a few moments, please post a little something about Mike’s dash.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

End of the Road

Mike passed away this afternoon shortly after 12:00. No specific plans have been made yet.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

When It Rains, It Pours

So when I had y’all send out the e-mail chain last week, I thought I asked for some sort of healing, not for a hex to be put on Mike. Things have progressively gotten worse, and after a more than two month hiatus, Mike is back in ICU. He started having seizures yesterday around 1:30. You know nothing good is coming down the pipe when you’ve got five medical professionals in the room and a few more standing outside the door. I’m not sure what the folks outside the room were doing. Maybe it’s the medical equivalent of rubbernecking? Mike had a CT Scan on both his head and chest yesterday afternoon. It appears that Mike had a small stroke. And you remember that thing the doctor was a little worried about in his lungs yesterday? The CT scan showed that that would be a blood clot. Lovely. The bonus problem that comes with that is that Mike needs blood thinner to help with the clot but with his platelets being so low, even more problems can ensue. (They're around 27,000 today.) Mike is back on a BIPAP machine to help his breathing. He was on one of those a few weeks ago for a couple of days. Despite being given extra steroids over the weekend, Mike has a substantial amount of swelling in his brain. Obviously, with all of these issues, there will be no Avastin given today. Things aren’t looking real good for the home team. Miss Scarlett, we may just be running out of those tomorrows.
Be sure to read the post after this one...it's new!

The Wit and Wisdom of Mike Starnes

I’ve known since Mike’s CT Scan on January 2 that he had a glioblastoma (I looked at the report that I had to give the hospital when we checked in) and was fully aware of the typical fate of those diagnosed with that type of tumor. So, I created this blog not only to keep all of y’all aware of Mike’s medical condition on a regular basis, but also so there would be a record of everything that Ava and Savannah could one day read. The idea of you all writing comments could let them know their father a little better. (One of my favorite threads is the one from his birthday where you all shared stories.) Those of you who have been fortunate to know Mike know that he has an incredible quick wit and has come up with some brilliant one-liners. If you’ve had the joy of experiencing some of Mike’s classic lines (or the misfortune of being the brunt of some of them!), do share, so the newcomers—and one day our girls—can learn a little more about, as Mike would say, the man, the myth, the one to be with. I’ll get us started!

On not having a chance:
I feel like a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.

On students dealing with a substitute or student teacher:
They’re ready to get out the knives and start carving.

On dying:
We start dying the day we’re born.

On heaven:
Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody’s in a hurry to get there.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

This morning when I came in, Mike had on an oxygen mask; his oxygen level dipped early this morning (it was around 83—they like for it to be over 92). They normally just use the oxygen assistance like he had last week, the kind that sits at the base of his nose, but Mike was having some nosebleeds yesterday, so they didn’t want to irritate his snout anymore. And just for the record, I did not cause the nosebleeds this time. I am very well aware that I have an aversion to boogers, but Mike’s bleed was not, I repeat not, caused by me getting rid of any of the pesky things. Nosebleeds aren’t too uncommon when platelets are low, so that was the sole source of it. Speaking of platelets, Mike’s are now at 42,000. At least they didn’t drop by several thousand like they did yesterday. Mike did get some blood last night, and his hemoglobin is a better as a result.

And as our luck would have it, the Avastin is getting put on hold for yet another day. It seems our problem child sounds a little junky in his chest, so he’s going to have a chest x-ray done today. The doctor wants to make sure there’s no severe infection there. Mike’s antibiotics are going to be changed slightly to try and help with that. The doctor said he is a little worried (not one of his normal vocabulary words) about it, and he wants to make sure that Mike is generally in pretty good shape before beginning the Avastin. What’s that, Scarlett? Yes, tomorrow is another day indeed.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bloody Blood Work! (That's My Inner Brit Coming Out)

Sorry for the delay in the post today. For some reason, the lab wasn’t able to read Mike’s blood sample from earlier, so they had to come in and draw some more blood. Exciting stuff there. For some reason they’ve been having trouble getting blood from Mike’s PICC line (essentially a long-term I.V.), so they have to draw his blood the old fashioned way. Ouchy!

I just got the results from the second lab, and Mike’s platelet count has dropped to 44,000. Crud. Before we had the official count, I talked with the doctor, and he was going to wait until tomorrow to start the Avastin since we didn’t have any reports on the blood work yet. Mike’s hemoglobin also dipped a bit over the weekend, so he may end up getting some blood this afternoon to help with that. I know several of you have offered to donate platelets to help, but the doctor said giving Mike platelets is sort of like putting a Band Aid on the problem. Platelets don’t last very long—your body is constantly regenerating them, which is why a person can donate platelets every couple of days. Mike’s body needs to start generating them on its own, so he’ll have a constant flow. If he were given platelets, they would be gone in a few days, and wouldn’t really help him regenerate any more. Avastin itself doesn’t actually hurt the platelet count, but it sometimes can cause bleeding. If Mike takes the Avastin and begins bleeding, he needs to have plenty of platelets in his system—that’s why Duke is wanting them to be 75,000 before he takes the drug.

Other than that, there’s really not anything else to report. Mike is eating the scrumptious puréed food okay—breakfast is the most time consuming of the meals—and he’s still being difficult when brushing his teeth; he swallows the toothpaste. I just don’t think toothpaste makes such a great dessert after breakfast, but I’ve never tried it, so what do I know? Swallowing fluoride just doesn’t seem like such a hot idea to me.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Small Steps and Another Must-Read

First of all, I want to thank all of you for passing along the e-mail and getting the prayer chain a-goin’. I can tell that in addition to Mike, many of you have prayed for me also because yesterday was the first time in a long time (and when I say long, I mean loonnnng) that I have not felt completely exhausted. I didn’t even feel like I needed a nap yesterday! Yahoo! Mike’s platelet count dropped ever-so-slightly to 48,000 yesterday, but it is up to 51,000 today. When I came in yesterday morning, Mike had been taken off of the oxygen assistance and has remained off of it since his oxygen levels have been pretty good. Another yahoo! I know that’s got to feel so much better on his nose. Having the oxygen in can sort of make one’s nose pretty darn dry, and who wants that? Not me, that’s for sure. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Mike would say he doesn’t want a dry nose either. Mike did crack a slight smile at me last night while I was talking with him, which is more reaction than I’ve gotten from him in the last week. Thanks again for all of your prayers; I’m sure they’re responsible for these small improvements. I’ve got to keep reminding myself of small steps. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, right?

So I read another book yesterday that I must recommend to you—The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch; it’s a pretty quick read. You may have already heard of it since the author was featured in last week’s Parade section of the newspaper and was on Primetime with Diane Sawyer last week. Pausch is 47 years old; he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given three to six months to live. He was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and was asked to give a traditional “last lecture” where professors typically talk about what matters most to them. Since Pausch has three small children (ages 6, 3, and 18 months), he decided actually to craft the lecture for them, talking about life lessons and living life to the fullest. It was videotaped so his children could see it one day and have a glimpse of who their father was. It became an Internet phenomenon and evolved into even more musings in the book. You can read more about it and view the lecture on his website at http://www.thelastlecture.com/. I definitely encourage you to check it out!

Friday, April 11, 2008

E-mail Prayer Chain

Mike’s platelet count continues to be not so great and just bounces around. Yesterday it was at 59,000, but today it’s back down to 49,000. Our doctor talked with the doctors at Duke and they were pretty adamant that Mike’s platelets need to be at 75,000 before he begins the Avastin. So, while the original plan was to begin the Avastin today, we’re going to give Mike the weekend to try to build up his platelet count then go ahead with it on Monday. There is a bit of calculated risk with him going ahead and taking the Avastin, but neither our doctor here nor I see that there’s really any other option—we can’t afford to wait any longer. Mike is going to get some extra steroids this weekend to prevent his brain from swelling, so our Avastin plan can come to fruition.

Mike definitely seems to be getting weaker to me. He hasn’t spoken to me since last Friday. We certainly didn’t have any conversations before then to where we were solving all the problems of the world, but usually he could respond to questions and say at least a few words at a time. Eating seems to have gotten to be more of a chore and brushing his teeth has become more difficult over the last several days.

I’m not normally a fan of forwarded e-mails, but this has been on my heart for quite a while, so I’m asking for your help here. The combination of everything I wrote above and the finding of the new mass that has developed over the last month has led me to ask y’all to help me start on e-mail prayer chain. Obviously, I don’t have all of your e-mail addresses, so I’m asking you to copy and paste the message below and create an e-mail to send to everyone in your address book. We all know that prayer changes things—that’s the only reason Mike is still with us now, but I feel like we need as many prayers as possible and e-mail is a pretty simple way to make that happen. Results for others taking the Avastin have been great, but there is no guarantee that it will yield the same results for Mike. Fortunately, our God is greater than any tumor, and He is truly the only one who can make Mike’s tumor go away. I just think that we need to have as many people as possible asking Him for that miracle. Lots of you have asked what you can do for us over the last couple of months; well, this is it…copy, paste, and send it out!

Subject: Pray for Mike

My husband, Mike Starnes, was diagnosed with a brain tumor—glioblastoma multiforme, grade IV—in January of this year. The prognosis for this type of cancer is not good—living for two years is considered long term. Mike and I thought we would at least have a few good months to spend some time together with our daughters (ages 6 months and almost 3 years), but he unfortunately took a turn for the worse and has been hospitalized since January 28.

On February 5, I was told Mike only had a few days to live, but because of the faithful prayers of many, he is still with us. Since that time, he has been through chemotherapy and radiation which has taken a toll on his body. Those treatments did shrink his tumor, but earlier this week it was discovered that another mass has formed in his brain. Prayer has already extended his life by two months, and I’m asking for your prayers to extend it even longer. Please pray for my husband’s healing and that he will recover well enough to have some quality of life. He is scheduled to begin a new treatment next week that has been successful with many brain cancer patients, but there is no guarantee it will work for Mike. Please pray for God to use this treatment to work wonders and glorify Him.

One other request is to pass this e-mail on to as many people as possible. Your cat will not catch on fire if you don’t pass it on nor will something good necessarily happen to you in ten minutes if you send it to ten people. You may, however, just may be a part of making a miracle happen. I have been keeping a blog on my husband’s condition, and you can read about our journey thus far and continue to read to discover how your prayers are working.

http://www.thelatestonmike.blogspot.com/

Sincerely,
Diane Starnes

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Not Quite the Anniversary Gift I Was Hoping For

Results from yesterday’s MRI are back, and they’re not so great. The tumor has only shrunk about one millimeter from the MRI on March 12. The good news is there is no hemorrhaging. The bad news is another mass has developed in Mike’s brain. This one measures 2.7cm x 3.4 cm and is located towards the back of the brain, in what’s called the left occipital lobe. From what I could find from my research (i.e. Google), that part of the brain controls vision and how one perceives colors and shapes. The doctor is sending a copy of the MRI to Duke today and will hopefully hear back from them tomorrow. He said the plan right now is to go ahead and start Mike on the Avastin by the end of this week. There’s a bit of a calculated risk with it, but given the results of the latest MRI, that’s really our best bet.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

Mike’s platelets climbed to 50,000 yesterday, but they dropped a little to 49,000 today. His latest thing is to suddenly break out in a sweat but maintain a normal temperature. The doctor said he may have some sort of infection that isn’t being picked up, so Mike had a chest x-ray yesterday. The results indicated that there appears to be some sort of infection, but the doctor doesn’t seem to be too worried about it. Mike was given an antibiotic for it; that and the continued breathing treatments should help clear things up.

Mike has been pretty quiet this weekend—not much talking and a whole lot of sleeping. My idea of the Gerber sweet potatoes didn’t go over so well. I bought the “Stage 3” ones, but they still weren’t very thick. I was so excited when I gave them to Mike Friday night—I just knew that he would be glad to have something different. After I gave him a couple of bites, I asked him if they were good or nasty, and he said, “Nasty.” Arrgh! I even heated them in the microwave (my cooking specialty!) and hid the jar so he wouldn’t know where they came from. I bought some Gerber Blueberry Buckle and Mac ‘N Cheese, but I’ve been scared to try them out since the sweet potatoes went over like a lead balloon.

An MRI is still planned for Monday. Since Mike is an inpatient, there is no set time—they’ll just work him in between scheduled visits. Hopefully, I'll get some results by the end of the night, but there are no guarantees on that.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Same Ol' Song and Dance

I feel like a broken record here, but there isn’t really anything new to report. Mike’s platelets are up to 45,000. (They were 40,000 yesterday.) Even though “normal” is at least 150,000, the doctor said he would be happy if they get to 100,000. He’ll actually even settle for 80,000 to begin new treatment. The MRI for Monday is still on. The results from that will determine the next step as far as changing further medication. Mike’s potassium was a little low yesterday, so he was given some and is fine now. His hands are getting a little puffy again from retaining so much fluid and will get a dose of Lasix to help with that.

I hate I don’t have anything exciting for you to read, but at least there haven’t been any setbacks. Nothing new is most definitely better than something bad. With Mike being on this puréed diet, I’m beginning to feel a little bad for him because there’s not much variety in what he gets to eat. (Okay, so I really felt bad for him from the first time I saw one of those puréed plates. It’s definitely better than having a feeding tube go through the nose, though.) He told me the peas were nasty the other day, so I won’t order those anymore, and there are only so many combinations of carrots, green beans, broccoli, and corn a person can make. I’m thinking Lizard’s Thicket doesn’t offer puréed food on their menu, so I’m toying with the idea of getting some baby food for Mike. I don’t want him to be insulted, but he’s got to be tired of the same ol’ thing all the time. I know there are “things” that people have to purée food, but c’mon people, if you think I have one those, you just don’t know me very well at all. If it can’t be fixed in the microwave, stovetop, or oven, I’m certainly not going to know how to fix it. Heck, using the stove and oven is a stretch for me. Maybe I’ll just sneak some Gerber sweet potatoes on his plate and just not tell him where they came from!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Not Much Change

There’s still not a whole lot of change for today. Mike’s hemoglobin is a little low, so he’s going to be given a unit of blood today to hopefully boost that up. His platelets are around 39,000 (normal is at least 150,000), but he’s not going to be given anymore right now; the doctor thinks Mike will regenerate them and that number will increase. (Sounds like they work sort of like starfish to me.) Mike’s on a low dose of oxygen, so the respiratory therapist decided to try taking him off of the assistance. Shortly after she left, Mike looked like he was having a hard time breathing. When I asked him if he felt like it was difficult to breathe, he said yes. So, he had about a 15 minute reprieve from the oxygen assistance.

The plan right now is to give the radiation a little more time to work and do an MRI early next week. Mike was taken off one of his antibiotics yesterday, and he’s doing fine with the lower dose of steroids thus far. His blood count has to get back up before we can start the next round of treatment. He will take the Temodar (chemotherapy) for only five days in the entire month. It will be a higher dose than what he was on earlier, so that’s why we’ve got to make doubly sure his blood levels are good. I think once we start with that we will be able to start with the Avastin as well. Mike has been talking a little bit. And by little, I mean, well, little. He answered some questions yesterday and at times had a pretty good voice with his responses. He hasn’t said a whole lot today. Sometimes he’ll give me an answer when I ask him a question, and sometimes he just looks at me like I’m stupid. Good thing I don’t suffer from chronic low self-esteem, or else I’d probably be over in the corner crying that my husband thinks I’m an idiot. And if he’s ever told any of y’all that he does think I’m stupid, well, you can just kept that to yourself. There are some things I’d just rather not know!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Nothing to Write Home About

As I figured, there wasn’t much excitement over the weekend. There really isn’t much to report today, either, but I don’t want y’all to get worried since I haven’t posted since Friday. Mike’s blood count is still a little low, so that needs to increase to build up his strength. He’s eating pretty well, but he doesn’t talk to me much. He seems most alert after he sits up and eats lunch. The only change that is going to be made is that Mike’s steroids are going to be lowered from 20mg to 15mg four times daily. The doctor doesn’t want to change too much at one time. By doing things slowly, if Mike has a negative response to anything, we’ll know the cause of it.

Since there isn’t much else to report, I’ll give you a parental tip for the day. If your child isn’t fully potty trained, it’s a good idea to pack an emergency diaper and wipes. One of my sisters was planning to take Ava to see a movie yesterday. Since it was going to be Ava’s first movie, I wanted to join them, so I met them at the theaters. Towards the very end of the movie, Ava announced she had “poopy pants,” and I asked my sister for the diaper and wipes. She had neither. I won’t gross you out with all of the details, but it was nasty enough to where it was coming out the top of her diaper. Ewww!!! Luckily, I had some wipes and paper towels in my car and at least got her cleaned up for the ride home—even though she had to go sans a diaper or panties. I swear this is the type of stuff teenagers need to experience so they know just how much work a child is! My sister, by the way, claims complete innocence and says she wasn’t responsible for packing Ava for the event. Okay.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Feeding Tube Gone!

The feeding tube was removed yesterday, so Mike is eating real food again. Well, that’s if you want to call it real food. All of his meals are still of the puréed variety, and the liquids continue to be thickened, but it beats the heck out of having a tube up his nose and surviving off of Jevity. Jevity is the “food” they give him through the feeding tube. It looks like chocolate milk, but I have a fleeting suspicion it tastes nothing like that. I won’t even taste test my own children’s baby food, so I’m certainly not trying that stuff; it’s not as if they’d order something different if I said it was nasty.

Anyway…there probably won’t be much to write about over the weekend unless Mike creates some sort of drama. Of course, that wouldn’t be completely uncharacteristic for him. The doctor is going to keep all of the medications the same over the weekend then on Monday start making some changes. He’s going to start lowering the dose of steroids next week since Mike is on that insanely high amount. I’m not sure what other changes will be made. He’s going to hold off on giving Mike any Temodar until his blood counts get better. The normal protocol is to take the chemotherapy for five consecutive days in the month after radiation. I’m not sure if that’s every week or just once in a month’s time.

Other than that, there’s really not much to report. Please continue to pray that Mike regains his strength and that he is able to eat well. He had a little bit of difficulty with the eggs this morning, but I think that was my fault by giving him too much. I realize it comes as a shock to you all that anything could possibly be my fault.

One more thing before I finish for today…I’d like to thank whoever left the beautiful afghan in Mike’s room. Last Friday Mike’s cousin Regina stayed with Mike for a few hours so I could spend some time with the girls. While I was gone, someone came by while Regina was on the phone. As soon as Regina finished her conversation, the woman was gone, but she left a bag with a gorgeous sage green afghan. There was no note indicating whom it was from. There was just a piece of computer paper with a Bible verse (Psalm 91:11) and a message that God sends angels to keep watch over us. Thank you, angel!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Radiation Complete

Mike graduated from radiation treatment today. He even got a certificate to prove it! And since some of you were a little disappointed that Mike opted not to keep the staples in his head from the biopsy, I made the executive decision to keep the “helmet” that was used during radiation. It’s just a little souvenir. I figure Ava or Savannah can use it if one of them ever decides to take up fencing.

Mike’s blood count is okay today. Not great, but not bad. Because the chemo can have such a negative effect on it, the doctor is still holding off on giving him Temodar. Once his blood levels get back up, Mike is probably going to take the Temodar in conjunction with the Avastin, though I’m not sure exactly when that’s going to start. I would imagine that the doctor would want to do one more MRI before beginning the Avastin to make sure there is no hemorrhaging, but I’m just speculating on that. I asked the radiation personnel this morning when they normally do the follow-up MRI, and they said between four and six weeks after the last treatment. If you recall from earlier posts, radiation continues to work its magic even after the final treatment, so that’s why they wait a while.

Today should be the last day with the feeding tube. The doctor wanted to keep it in for this last day of radiation, and the plan is to remove it tomorrow morning. The echo-cardiogram (heart ultrasound) results came out fine, so Mike was taken off the perpetual heart monitor this morning. He continues to be on the oxygen, but he doesn’t have to wear the mask—it’s just the tube that sits at the base of his nose, so it’s not that big of a deal. Oh, and I think I forgot to tell you that Saturday afternoon they came in and did an ultrasound on Mike’s legs to make sure he didn’t have any blood clots. When I posted the thread for that day, I had not been told that test was going to be done. Apparently, if a blood clot develops in a certain area, it can cause problems with the lungs. Fortunately, Mike got the all-clear on that. The only thing that could be seen on the ultrasound was some fluid in the legs…that’s a heck of a lot better than finding blood clots, seeing as how a blood clot can kill you and all. Mike didn’t get physical therapy on Monday because the therapists were waiting on the results of the ultrasound. They didn’t want to move him if he had any clots. Of course, they could have just asked me, and I could have told them that nothing was found. Surely, they would have respected my professional medical report.

Over the last few weeks, Mike has pretty much stopped moving his arms and legs at all on his own. However, yesterday during physical therapy, he moved his arm by himself twice. I’ve gotten to the point now where I move his arms and legs a couple of times a day in addition to the physical therapy he gets. He has a pretty hard time holding his head up during therapy, so I’ve started stretching his neck muscles several times throughout the day.

That’s about all the excitement for the time being. Now it’s a whole lot of wait and see. Hopefully, Mike will regain a lot of strength over the next week or two since he won’t have the radiation zapping energy from him, and we’ll be able to start phase two of his treatment soon.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Making Strides

It apparently was just taking Mike a little while to get over the initial shock of having Lucas blood run through his veins. I think that would very well shock anyone’s system. After a second helping of Lucas platelets last night, Mike is doing much better today. He was taken off the BIPAP machine this morning; his oxygen level actually went up after its removal. (Side note: the BIPAP machine is similar to the same sort of thing people with sleep apnea use while sleeping.) He is still receiving some oxygen, but it’s just the tube that sits at the base of his nose. By having that and not the mask, I was able to shave him today. I’m getting the whole electric razor thing down pat. He only got one little nick today—and that was on his neck. I’m sure it’s only because his blood count is lower than the average person’s, so he’s more susceptible to bleeding easily. It could in no way be a result in my lack of shaving skills.

Our regular oncologist said yesterday’s chest x-ray came out fine. Our oncologist wasn’t here this weekend, but in reviewing everything, he seems to think that Mike didn’t actually aspirate—he probably just got something stuck in his airway. Mike’s heart rate dropped a little yesterday (it was in the 50’s), so a cardiologist was called in, but he said it wasn’t a big deal; they don’t get concerned unless it drops to the 30’s or 40’s. Mike did have an echo-cardiogram (ultrasound on the heart) done today—I’m guessing that’s just for precautionary reasons. Mike will stay on the feeding tube for today, but he will probably be taken off it tomorrow. His hemoglobin is still a little low (around 8), so he’s going to get another unit of blood today. His platelet count is fine, so he doesn’t need anymore of those right now. Mike has been very alert today (and was awake most of the day yesterday), but he’s gone back to talking in whispers. Hopefully, as his strength builds back up, his voice will return. Mike did have his radiation today, so he only has two more treatments to go!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Mask

Apparently, Mike has aspirated something, so he’s not doing so great right now. A lung x-ray was conducted during the night, and something was found in Mike’s lungs. His oxygen level dropped to 83 overnight, so when I came in this morning, he had on an oxygen mask, not just the tube that sits in his nose. (The mask helped his oxygen get up to 93.) A lung doctor came in to look at him and ordered that Mike be put on a BIPAP machine for at least 24 hours; this forces pressure into the lungs and helps oxygenate him. He’ll also be put on some antibiotics. If all of this doesn’t help, they may have to fish out whatever it is in Mike’s lungs. Because of the mask Mike now has to wear and the risk of further aspiration, he is going to be put on a feeding tube. I’m not sure how long he’ll have to stay on that, but since he was eating well otherwise, it will probably only be until they make sure his lungs are clear. Mike was retaining an insane amount of fluids, so he was given some Lasix which helped that tremendously. (When I left last night, he looked pregnant—not so much anymore!)

Mike has continued to not receive the chemotherapy; tomorrow will be two weeks since he had his last dose of Temodar. The radiation he missed on Tuesday will be tacked on, so Mike has three treatments left. If he doesn’t skip any more treatments, he will be finished on Wednesday. Mike’s blood counts have still been a bit low, so he received blood and platelets yesterday and will receive another round of platelets tomorrow. My sisters Cindy and Karen donated their platelets for Mike, so he now officially has Lucas blood in him. We’ll see what kind of magic that works. He had some sort of infection in his blood the other day, so his regular antibiotics were changed.

It’s probably not a good idea to visit the hospital today or tomorrow. The mask Mike is wearing covers his nose and mouth, so he is unable to talk at all right now. (He’s had selective speaking before…yesterday morning he talked to me pretty well, but the three days before that, he didn’t say much. I’m sure he hasn’t just been ignoring me. What man would ever want to ignore his wife?) I hope you all have a wonderful Easter; I hear the Easter Bunny has removed all calories from chocolate this year, so eat up! For those of you on spring break this week, enjoy some rest and relaxation; most of you who teach in the Columbia area will need all the R&R you can get—when returning to school next week, it’ll be nine solid weeks with no days off! Yikes!

It’s with great sadness that I share with you Ron Ridgeway, the gentleman with a glioblastoma I told you about in an earlier post, has passed away. I haven’t talked with his mother since she told me about contacting Duke, but I read of his passing in the newspaper. Please continue to pray for his mother as well as the rest of his family during this most difficult time for them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Little Better

Mike is doing a little better today. He was awake when I arrived this morning and ate just about all of his breakfast. (Despite forgoing breakfast yesterday, he did eat his lunch and dinner.) I just finished feeding him lunch, and that only took about 25 minutes—not too bad considering he had a meat, two veggies, fruit, pudding, and yogurt. I can give him about four or five bites of food between liquids, so it’s not nearly as torturous to feed him as it was for a while. He hasn't said much, but I'm getting used to that these days.

The lung x-ray showed a little something on his lower left lung. It’s probably pneumonia, but it can be treated with antibiotics and the breathing treatments he’s getting every four hours. There doesn’t seem to be much worry about that. He hasn’t been coughing much today, and the respiratory therapist said she thought his lungs sounded a little better. He’s still on the oxygen. I suspect he’ll be on that until his lungs are all clear. I think the doctor had the CT scan done yesterday to make sure Mike’s brain didn’t start hemorrhaging; the report shows that it has not, so that’s positive. Hemorrhaging would not be a good thing because Mike would not be able to take the Avastin if that occurs. I asked the doctor how long after radiation Mike would be able to begin taking the Avastin, and he said probably a week or two. The CT report mentioned having a follow up (i.e. MRI) because “Mass effect on the ventricular system appears just slightly more prominent than on the comparison of March 6, 2008, particularly the third ventricle which on today’s exam is measured at approximately 8.5mm vs 6.5mm on the prior exam.” Whatever that means. (Listen, don’t set your expectations for me too high and expect me to understand every little report. I don’t have my advanced medical degree. Yet.) The doctor said he isn’t very concerned about that, and since Mike was up and eating fine today, he’s not going to have the MRI done. He seems to get more concerned when Mike isn’t acting normal (by normal I mean recent activity normal)—he wasn’t so “normal” yesterday and the night before that, so that’s why he had the scan done.

Mike still isn’t getting the chemotherapy because his blood counts are so low. He will be given some more platelets this afternoon. This is Day 10 with no Temodar. (As a side note, I was looking over my stuff from Duke today and realized Temodar is the chemotherapy that is used in their trial along with the Avastin. I’m not sure if Mike will continue with the Temodar once he starts the Avastin here.) Mike has been making those noises again today. He started with it this morning and didn’t stop until lunch. I got a little bit of a hiatus, but he has started moaning again. I swear you’d think there is a goat in the room. When he’s doing that, I keep the door shut so other patients don’t freak out and think there are wild animals running around the 8th floor.

Now, don’t go getting all excited about what I’m writing next—though it would be easy to do so—because I told you before that measurements on CT scans aren’t as accurate as those done with an MRI. But…according to the scan done yesterday, the tumor now measures 3.4cm x 3.9cm. You can scroll down to the March 13 post to see previous measurements. Sorry, but I don’t have any pictures of the scans to post. I’m only given written reports of them. Maybe we’re lucky and that is an exact measurement of the tumor. We can pray that’s accurate, right? Hey, look what prayer has done for us thus far!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

News Flash

No radiation today. Mike may or may not make up this session; the doctor will have to decide. Usually an extra treatment is tacked on at the end.

Antibiotics have been changed.

A CT Scan will be done today.

Mike is still sleeping and hasn't eaten anything since dinner last night.

Not-So-Great Day

Mike is not doing very well thus far this morning. Yesterday he kept making a moaning/whining type of noise all day. He was given a sedative around 4:00 and that helped it, but it also knocked him out! I could hardly wake him up to eat his dinner, but he ended up eating all of it. After dinner he started making those noises again; he was given another dose of the sedative, but it didn’t stop the noises even though he was sleeping. His oxygen level got a little low, so he was put back on oxygen.

This morning when I came in, I discovered he had been put on a heart monitor. His blood count continues to be low, so he is going to be given blood and platelets today. I haven’t been able to get him to wake up and eat this morning. (Mike not eating? You know something’s askew.) Normally when I move the bed to a 90 degree angle, he awakens and is ready to eat. I had a difficult time just getting him to take his medicine. He still has that congestive-sounding cough that has been lingering around for a week or so. He was give yet another chest x-ray last night, and we’re still waiting on those results. I’m not sure if he’s going to have his radiation treatment today. They came for him this morning, but the doctor wanted to see how he did waking up before sending him for treatment. Obviously, that’s not going so well, so I don’t know whether or not the radiation will be nixed. Mike may end up having another CT scan or MRI today to see if that unfolds the mystery of this sudden change. I tell ya, he’s just always got to be a problem child, doesn’t he?