Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Good Update

Finally I can sit down and write a proper update. Phil is doing amazingly well, seeing his grave situation just about a week ago. He is up and about, eating yummy food and getting some low impact exercise daily. Kay and Mom are here with me to help with the million things that entail care-taking a loved one. Tomorrow is Phil's last radiation session and then he gets about a week or more to rest and prepare for Chemo.

Tomorrow Dad is flying in which I'm so excited for. Dad brings in a lovely lightness to life especially in hard times. He is a master at making us laugh and has the broadest shoulders of any man I know, so he will make our families load that much lighter. Yesterday I received a vase of flowers at the door, from Dad. Included was the sweetest, deepest comfort letter I've ever read and I'll never forget it. Mom has been a rock through this whole thing, keeping me strong, listening to me vent, helping with driving around, feeding us, cleaning. The other night I crawled in bed with her and we talked till the wee hours of morning, and by the end of it we were laughing again. She is an amazing woman, full of wisdom from a hard life and comfort that only a mother can give.

Kay has been unbelievably strong. Phil, the baby of her clan has been through quite a mill, with her there beside him. Never once has she cracked, continually going strong with her amazing outlook and positive encouragement. I can only imagine what it is like to watch your son suffering this way. A part of your body, a piece of your soul in agony, and at such a young age. Who could prepare for that? Kay has been so helpful here at home as well. In the hospital she would sit bedside Phil when I'd go for a shower or a nap, and yet gave us the perfect amount of space when we needed couple time. That would be so difficult, and yet she never gave off the air that it was.

Phil's family flew in at last minute notice when that very bad day came along when everyone around me was saying, this is unfortunate but it's time to call in his family. I try not to think too much of that day because look at where Phil is now. It was just a bump in the road to him getting back to health. At least 3 times in the past few weeks we were expecting Phil to pass, and yet he lives. Let me tell you the best part: not once did he ever complain. Once in a blue moon you would see a tear fall. But always, a tower.

We are thankful for Phil's family and how soon they came when the time called for it. He felt very special with all of his loved ones around him. We are also endlessly thankful for all of you dear friends who came to sit with us, or even without us in the waiting rooms, picking us up dinners and late night craving snacks. For taking care of the cats. For holding me and letting me cry, for making me laugh, for the rides here and there, for EVERYthing you have done. Please know that each of those acts of love kept me afloat when I was starting to sink. Your texts and emails, GIFTS! How could I ever thank you all enough or in the proper way. All I can say is that your care and generosity will always be with us, and have been noticed by Jehovah, who will surely bless you back in special ways.

Here's Phil working on a puzzle with his sister Jenny from Ireland and Rebecca from Texas...This is the day he was discharged and we spend a night at JW House.

What is truly amazing- friends from long ago, back in Canada, and not so long ago in Florida have been sending love, gifts and prayers as well! The organization keeps the world small for us, and news has spread all over the place, allowing for even more prayers to be petitioned. You can't imagine how encouraging and faith strengthening that is to hear. The elders were there is our darkest hours, with words that truly strengthened us. They were truly what kept us sustained, saying just the right things at exactly the best times. I can't stress enough how much they have impacted our lives. We are eternally thankful.

Thank you all for coming to visit once Phil was able to accept visitors. I do believe that your company is what fast-tracked his healing process. I actually saw physically how your presence pushed him forward and kept him up. I know how much of a nightmare hospitals are, the parking, glimpsing into the rooms and being surrounded by sadness and pain. It is truly a beautiful act of kindness for a friend to sacrifice his time to visit a friend in the hospital. We love you all!

Phil has been working on his model airplane that the Knights brought him in the hospital, and it has really been keeping him busy. He loves stuff like that! I was thinking it would be cool to get him some more models and we could hang them up as a collection for him.

He is pretty sick of tv, but we watch Jeopardy daily of course! We are on the hunt for some good puzzles as well, where do you buy yours? Then of course he loves reading historical non fiction and the spiritual books. Also very cute, he is into cooking again. He just bought a rack of lamb that he's gonna cook tmrw! He just happened to marry a woman who loves cooking so he doesn't really get to do it alot, but I am always so happy when he offers to because he really is talented in the kitchen!

Phil will be happy to have home visitors now, depending on the day and how he is feeling. If you are interested, the best time to come see him is in the late afternoon around 3ish, for dinner, or even after dinner sometimes. He is most tired in the afternoon, and sometimes a bit low in the morning, but active later in the day. We have one good week or more of no treatment before Chemo, so I would say now is the time to make an appt to see him. If you are interested in coming by, just text me or comment here. I will be making a schedule so he has things to look forward to.

We are also trying to get him fattened up and a bit stronger physically before Chemo, when you rarely have an appetite at all. If you want to bring him a treat go ahead and look at the revised list of foods he likes here-

Much love and thanks for everything you have done for us!! So sorry if I have forgotten anything, I am truly in a daze! I will keep you updated more often now that I am out of the hospital.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Discharged and back home

So sorry i havent updated for a while but im in rough shape. Phil is doing amazing, back on food, and we got home last night. We were able to spend a night at JW house before heading home, so phil could experience how amazing it is. Me and jenny (phils oldest sister) made cupcakes as a thank you to everyone. Tmrw until wed is radiation, next week chemo. I will arrange home visits soon. Much love!

Monday, November 12, 2012


The good news keeps on coming ... this afternoon Phil was moved from ICU to a private room in the Telemetry Unit where he will stay until doctors determine he is well enough to embark on his chemotherapy journey as an outpatient. Until then he will continue to be monitored by the ICU team.

Less than a week ago doctors were not optimistic. Thanks to good medicine and the strength of a young body, Phil's condition keeps improving, paving the way for chemotherapy to begin as soon as doctors are satisfied radiation has sufficiently relieved pressure limiting the function of his bile duct.

Onward and upward!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Today marks one week since Phil arrived by ambulance in critical condition. Doctors report that Phil's hemoglobin count has increased significantly since Friday, and his liver function has greatly improved. Today he will get out of bed for the first time in seven days. Here he is enjoying a delicious cup of ice chips!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

PHIL UPDATE - Saturday November 10th

Today is Phil & Hollie's 5th wedding anniversary. And this morning they received the best gift of all - Good News.

All 3 of Phil's doctors were smiling broadly as they delivered the news that on top of the fact that his vital signs are back to normal, remarkably, his bilirubin has dropped all the way down to a level of 6! To provide some perspective, his bilirubin level at its highest was 24. What does this mean? To proceed with treatment, Phil's liver needs to be able to filter toxins produced by chemotherapy. To that end, doctors were preparing to insert a stent in his bile duct, a procedure which presented significant risk of internal trauma. However, it now appears that 2 rounds of radiation therapy have reduced the size of the pancreatic tumor enough to relieve pressure against the bile duct, thus enabling the liver to eliminate toxins normally. The need to insert a stent may have been prevented altogether. When doctors asked if Phil felt like getting up and sitting in a chair, we knew the improvement was significant.

After a solid night's sleep, and hearing this good news, Phil is looking and feeling much better than he has in a long time. 

Today and tomorrow will be rest days, then daily rounds of radiation are planned for the next 8 days. The next benchmark will be moving from ICU to the Oncology ward, then in time, back home where he will continue with outpatient treatment, and on to a clean bill of health.

Words cannot describe the appreciation we have for the doctors and nurses who continue to provide the very best in intelligent, compassionate, world-class care for our beloved Phil.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Phil update – Thursday November 8th 2012

Phil’s condition has been upgraded from grave to cautiously optimistic. There are a number of tumors, the most serious of which continues to be the large mass in his pancreas and stomach. The growth of this tumor caused severe internal bleeding on Sunday and Monday. Because it is impossible to suture the stomach wall or the tumor itself, it is extremely difficult to stem blood loss. However doctors were able to get the bleeding stopped on Tuesday. Unfortunately Phil suffered severe blood loss again on Wednesday morning which doctors were able to limit with the use of a topical coagulant which seems to have held until now.

Late Wednesday, for the first time, doctors began a light round of chemotherapy. The challenge is to balance the potential for more internal bleeding caused by the way chemotherapy kills tumors, with the immediate need to begin killing tumors before they spread.

So the good news today is that the internal bleeding has stopped. Phil has responded well to the chemotherapy, and best of all – his bone marrow biopsy came back NEGATIVE!

Today he is being taken by ambulance to receive his first radiation therapy at a unit across the street. Phil has been incredibly strong, and is absolutely resolved to fight and win this battle. The bone marrow biopsy caused indescribable pain, and through it all he barely flinched. His soul mate Hollie has been a rock of support, and it is overwhelming to see the love they have for each other.

The congregation, led by a body of strong, compassionate elders, has been there every minute of every day with spiritual, emotional, and material support.

Adjacent to Kaiser Permanente is JW House. Yes, that’s actually the name of it.  For a small donation, they have provided Connie and I with a beautiful furnished suite, a fully stocked kitchen, and 3 meals a day during our stay in Santa Clara. When we came to the office to register, the manager April held our hands and said, “Welcome home.” Phil’s mom Kay is also staying with us, and it provides a 24-hr resting place right next to the hospital for Hollie and Hannah to catch some sleep, get a shower, and have some privacy when needed.

We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to all of our friends and family for all of the prayers, thoughts, cards, letters, emails and gifts you have sent to support Phil and Hollie through this difficult time. Life is beautiful. Keep the faith.