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Saturday, December 7, 2013

More milestones

This week marked the 1 year anniversary of Walt's lung cancer diagnosis.  Nearly 9 months to the day he was found to be in remission.  Yesterday he saw both oncologists for another follow-up.  The latest CT scan shows the organs are healing nicely from the radiation and chemo treatments.  And NO NEW FINDINGS!!!  He'll see them both again in early March.

We also each had eye exams.  Walt's showed no significant change in his vision so no new prescription needed.  His peripheral vision is worse but we're dealing with it.  My eye exam was post cataract surgery on each eye.  I can now see 20/20 when using both eyes!  With glasses I was only correctable to 20/30 in one eye and 20/60 in the other.  And I don't have to get prescription readers unless over-the-counter ones don't work for me!!!  For the first time in 50 years I am not wearing glasses 24/7.  In the past I would need glasses to find my glasses.  I now have an inkling about how an amputee must feel as I'm constantly ready to take them off at night, clean them, etc.  Very strange but very, very wonderful!  I am in total awe of the medical community that they were able to make this happen and have it be a complete success.

What a ride 2013 has turned out to be for us!  Here's to a healthier 2014!

Thank you again for all your prayers of support and offers to help in whatever way you could.  Until you've walked in similar shoes, you'll never know just how much those things mean. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Thank you!

Thank you all for your support and good wishes that you've shared with Walt and I.  While we know the journey isn't over we feel a great deal of relief that we've reached this milestone.  If you don't have a blog you aren't able to comment here but you can reach us by sending an email to

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Health updates

We reviewed all the test results today with the hematology oncologist and the radiation oncologist.  Both concur....Walt's cancer is in remission!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  He'll continue to have tests and follow-up appointments every 3 months or so.  Thank you all so much for your support!  He's certainly not out of the woods but it's a milestone we're celebrating.

On another note, I have had my cataract consultation and the surgeon has said I am ready.  I'm certainly willing and able!  The plan is to use special lenses that will correct the astigmatism in both eyes.  He'll repair the left eye first and 2 weeks later the right eye.  I haven't heard from the scheduler yet but hope it's soon.  It's quite possible I'll only need to wear glasses when I read.  I've been wearing glasses since 1963.  Fortunately technology trimmed them from coke bottle bottoms to micro thin layers of some plastic polymer.  So if you have extra prayers on hand, I'd appreciate them.

Next scheduled update in about 3 months.

Friday, June 14, 2013


We saw the radiation and hematology oncologists this week.  Both reviewed the last set of lab results and have said that neither need to see him until mid-September.  Prior to those visits Walt will have another PET scan to check for tumor shrinkage, possible disappearance, or signs of cancer elsewhere.

So, we're off to resume our regularly scheduled lives of retirement!  Thank you again for all your thoughts and prayers.  He'll never truly be out of harm's way but for now things are looking mighty good for him!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Radiation - DONE!!!.....Chemo - DONE!!!

Today was Walt's 6th and final scheduled chemo treatment.  Yay!  He'll see both oncologists in 3 weeks for follow-up appointments and lab work.  We're glad to be through this and hope that the next scan will show the tumors continuing to decrease in size.  As I've said before, we can't thank you enough for all your prayers, thoughts and concerns. 

Each cancer case is as different as each person.  What works for one, doesn't necessarily work for another.  Some may have side effects, others may have a few or even none.  All other health issues play into the bigger picture.  Having a positive attitude, a great medical team, and plenty of ground support from family and friends all help determine the outcome.  You learn to take life one day at a time and be grateful for the little things in life.  You may not be able to perform a task one day but the next day you can without any difficulty.  You take this in stride and do the best you can with what you have at the time. 

This has been a huge learning experience and we know there are more lessons to be learned.  We left the infusion suite today saying that while the staff made the experience a more pleasant one, we sincerely hoped we would not see them again.  They said they were not offended and completely understood our position but we're always welcome to stop in for an unprofessional visit. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Big smiles today!

Walt and I sat down with the hematology oncologist today and reviewed the recent blood tests and PET scan.  The blood work was fine and the PET scan showed the initial tumor had shrunk and there was no sign of cancer elsewhere.  Chemo #5 was given today and the 6th and final round is expected to be May 22nd.  After that Walt will have periodic blood tests, appointments and scans for quite some time to make sure everything continues on this path.  She was very pleased with the results thus far.  As are we!  Thank you again for all your thoughts, prayers and good vibes!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Whirlwind day

Yesterday morning started out with a good report from the radiation oncologist - Walt's radiation burns are subsiding with all the applications of a heavy duty moisturizing lotion and seems to have otherwise tolerated the radiation without any other side effects.  We got a similar report from the hematology oncologist; some of the lab results were a bit low but not enough to delay the 4th round of chemo. 

From watching the weather we knew that there was a risk of severe storms throughout the day and evening.  After chemo we were going to go out for lunch then do some grocery shopping and run some errands.  We took the NOAA mobile radio with us just in case we were where we couldn't hear sirens.  The skies did darken and the radio did go off to alert us of a severe thunderstorm in the area.  Didn't last long and the skies lightened up considerably.  Within half and hour or so the rain started falling in huge drops and lots of it.  And then the radio went off again.  This time it was a tornado warning.  The nurses scrambled to make sure all the window coverings were in place; there are huge windows in the infusion suite.  By the time we left it was literally a monsoon, streets were flooding, and plenty of water on the highways.  We headed straight home for a late lunch.  The NOAA radios (desk top and mobile), as well as our cell phones, were alerted frequently during the rest of the day and night of all the passing storms.  We only have localized flooding - whew!

Walt will have a PET scan before the 5th round of chemo that is scheduled for early May.  This will tell the oncologists if the lung tumors shrunk, disappeared or if the cancer has spread to other parts of his body.  As long as the cancer hasn't spread, Walt will have the 5th and 6th rounds of chemo and then be finished with the proposed treatment plan.

As long as you are keeping us in your thoughts and prayers, would you please extend them to Walt's brother?  He was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  We can't thank you enough for all the support you've given us thus far.  Sometimes it's the smallest things that can mean so much.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

More good news

This week's liver/spleen/kidney scan was normal!  Hurray!   The next round of chemo is scheduled for April 10th.  We'll see both oncologists that day for follow-up visits.  Presuming the lab results are still good, Walt will have his chemo treatment after the 2nd appointment.  Again, we thank you all so much for your thoughts, concerns and prayers.  Please continue to send them as it will be some time before we know that the treatment plan was successful.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Certification day

It's official!  And we have the certificate to prove it!  Walt has successfully completed 37 radiation treatments.  We will follow up with the radiation oncologist in 2 weeks so he can check Walt's skin, etc.  It seems like this day would never come, and now it has.  The effectiveness of the radiation won't be known for another 6-8 weeks.  Thank you for all your prayers!
You have to be able to laugh to get through all this....While Walt was receiving his last treatment today I stopped in the cancer boutique to pick up some more gel for his back (the burns aren't horrible but itch like crazy and are peeling).  Because it is covered by insurance I had to give his name and date of birth.  I laughingly said I could also provide his clinic number, shoe size, etc.  She said waist measurement would be more interesting.  We just laughed.  Then she asked me to verify the spelling of our last name.  I drew a complete blank and looked at her dumbly when she asked if Kesselman had one L or 2.  Sheesh.  We both started laughing really hard at this point.  Walt and I have been together for 30 years so you'd think this wouldn't stump me!  lol 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

There's light at the end of the tunnel!

Only 1 week of radiation left!!!  So far he's only experiencing burns, especially opposite the sites where the radiation enters.  Plenty of prescription gel helps.  Three rounds of chemo behind us.  Not sure how many more are scheduled but we will know more late next week.

Short, sweet and to the point.  Again, thank you for all your prayers!  We're a long way from being out of the woods.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Less than 2 weeks to go

Only 9 more radiation treatments!!!  We won't miss the daily trek to Champaign, that's for sure!  It's not far but the morning is basically shot by the time we get back home.  The radiation oncologist is really, really pleased with the way things are going.  Says Walt is a very fit man.  We just had to laugh when he said this but we knew what he meant.  He really is tolerating the radiation quite well; still no side effects other than the radiation burns which were expected.

Today we saw the hematology oncologist before Monday's chemo appointment.  Some of his lab results are  out of kilter so he'll have an ultrasound of the liver at the end of the month to make sure all is as it should be.  We're hoping and praying that it's the chemo affecting the lab tests and not signs of the cancer spreading.  He still has 1 or 2 more chemo appointments on the schedule.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

2/3rds of the way through

radiation!  The radiation oncologist is very pleased with how Walt is looking and the fact that he's still not experiencing side effects other than slight radiation burns.  These are getting treated with a wound care gel designed for this purpose.  Still not getting much read in our books but that's okay.  I am surprised by how tired I am.  Afternoon naps are for caregivers, too!  And the cats seem to think this is a good idea as well.  Thank you for all your support and prayers!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Another weekly update

Walt has now had 2 rounds of chemo and nearly 1/2 of his radiation treatments.  Both the radiation* and hematology oncologists are pleased with the way things are going.  He is showing signs of radiation burns on his back and chest but they are minimal right now.  We'll start applying the gel more frequently to keep this to a minimum.  Because the radiation is accumulative, these spots will probably get larger or redder over the next few weeks.

Our radiation oncologist is stuck in Denver because of all the snow so we saw another *radiation oncologist.  He'd not seen Walt before but said right away that he looked great!  He reviewed his chart, checked him over and said that he was quite happy with the outcome thus far.  Always good to hear another opinion that echoes the others.

And that book thing?  Today we didn't even have time to get it out of the bag!  The tech joked about it, too.  Wonder if she spots us coming in to the building and times her steps into the waiting room? 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

About that book tip...

It is still working!  Maybe a little too well!  Today we checked in, got into the waiting room, took off our coats, sat down, I opened the book bag and handed Walt his book.  He no sooner opened it up and the tech came in.  We started laughing and she joined in.  'At this rate you're going to have difficulty finishing that chapter, Mr. Kesselman.'  'At this rate I'm just trying to finish the page!' answered Walt. 

He did have to have a tape changed on his left side because it was coming loose.  The tape is placed over the black Sharpie marks to ensure they last longer.  I could just see it getting caught on his shirt and he'd have to be re-marked at his next visit.  Whew, they were able to take care of it without any problem.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

1/3 the way through...

Hard to believe Walt is already 1/3 the way through the radiation schedule.  We saw the radiation oncologist today for a weekly check-up.  Thus far he's not detecting any problems with Walt's lungs or airway and there have been no side effects.  Yay!

The book thing is still working...just saying.  At this rate he might get a few pages read in his book but any serious reading will have to wait until he's having a chemo treatment.  Chemo is scheduled for Monday the 25th.  The day will be fairly long as there is quite a lull between radiation and chemo appointments.  Since we have nothing else on the calendar this will certainly fill up our day.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sheesh, what a lucky fella!  Not only did he get 2 cards and a gift from me this morning but he got a Valentine, a heart-shaped cookie and candy from the radiation department! 

By the way, pulling out the book is still working...within 2-3 minutes of our arrival (about 15 minutes ahead of our scheduled time) he's on his way to being radiated.  1/2 hour drive each way and about 20 minutes in radiation...not bad but I can think of other things I'd rather be doing with my mornings. 

Tomorrow will be his 10th treatment...still doing well...still tattoo'ed with black Sharpie and tape dots...still not enjoying the morning application of gel. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Onward and upward

Today we met with both the radiation and hematology oncologists.  Both are pleased that Walt is not experiencing any side effects at this point and is tolerating both radiation (7 treatments to date) and chemo (only 1 but the 2nd is scheduled for the 25th) very well.  We know that this is only the beginning but we're happy with the results thus far.

We have discovered that if you open your book to read while waiting, you'll be taken to the treatment rooms much sooner than if you sat there talking.  Maybe we won't have to go to the library as often as we thought.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Walk with us

December 4, 2012...we learned that Walt's needle biopsy of his left lung revealed that he has non-small cell cancer.  A PET scan would determine if the cancer has spread elsewhere in his lungs.  Unfortunately the scan did reveal a questionable area of the lymph nodes around the right side of the airway.  We headed to Barnes Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, MO, for an endo-bronchial biopsy which revealed that the area was indeed cancerous.  An MRI was scheduled to make sure that the cancer had not metastasized to his brain...a favorite hangout for this kind of cancer.  The scan revealed positive for a brain, negative for cancer cells.

I will tell you right now, in case you haven't figured us out, humor (dark or bright, funny or not-so) will be helping us stay focused and sane.  Well, as much as that can happen.  lol  We'll be sharing anecdotes; all true...there's no way any of this could be made up! 

I'll share this little gem with you...all the hospital buildings and a hotel at Barnes are linked with enclosed walkways.  It's really nice and efficient.  But there are some twist and turns, even dog-leg bends.  During one trek from the hotel to the south hospital we got separated.  We'd been holding hands so I'm not sure what happened.  Next thing I know I'm pulling on Walt to get him to hurry up.  I turned around to ask if he needed to sit for a moment and catch his wasn't Walt!  I'd grabbed some other poor soul's hand and was taking him with me!  Gasp!  I was so apologetic...then frantic.  What happened to Walt?  Where was he?  I backtracked and a woman called out 'He's back there!'  Oh great, now others know I've lost him!  I continued retracing my steps until I found him.  We laughed and laughed until we were crying.  To this day I don't know how it happened, but happen it did.

Mid-January...we met with the oncologist and radiation oncologist.  Walt will be treated with chemotherapy and radiation.  His chest has been marked with a black Sharpie indicating the area to be radiated.  I have some ideas about notes I can put on a Post-It note on his chest.  When the time is right I will.  

Here's a thought.  So through all the tests, scans, etc. we've determined that Walt does indeed have a brain and a heart.  I already knew he had the courage.  So where is he hiding the red slippers?  And are those flying monkeys nearby???

So he's in the Infusion Suite having his first chemo treatment when the nurse comes in to let us know that someone from radiation will be right in to take him down stairs for his first treatment.  Slow down, sister, the first person to arrive at the door was a custodian and her cleaning cart!  I doubt seriously that she was there to take Walt downstairs!  Boy, did we all have a good laugh over that!

To help the skin be less irritated, etc. from radiation, a wound care gel was prescribed for the area (front and back) to be applied twice a day.  Well, gel, by nature is cool, right?  And it's winter.  So I squeezed some gel onto my hands, then put my  hands on his chest.  Yeow!  He nearly hit the ceiling, calling me a sadist, etc.  We laughed and laughed and laughed.  He said I was having way too much fun at his expense with this. 

The treatment plan:  we anticipate Walt having radiation Monday through Friday all this month and next.  The treatment doesn't last very long, in fact, it takes longer to get him in place and take pictures than it does to radiate his chest.  Chemo infusion will be given once a week, every 3 weeks, through April.  All this is subject to change based on blood work and other tests that will be scheduled along the way.  He's fortunate that this was caught early and that, all things considered, his health is good.  
In support of Walt's cancer and the distinct possibility he'll lose some hair, I decided to cut off my curls and go short, too.  And I love it!  

This cancer is the hand that has been dealt us and it is what it is.  We're taking each day as it comes and living it to the best of our ability.  We know we have a huge support team of family and friends from all over the globe.  For this, we are so, so thankful.  

Don't expect daily posts, we'll write when we have a story to share or news to tell.  You can comment here if you'd like (and know how) or reach us by email or phone.   Until next time....