Archive | August 2013


Today the ultrasound guided neck biopsy was scheduled.

I can’t tell you all the uncomfortable, painful things I imagined.

Late this morning I got brave enough to google it. I was curious to learn what my brother was going through. The information I read made it seem not to be nearly as bad as I had thought. Thankfully. Not only for me, but for my brother who was the subject of the biopsy. I wanted it to be easy for my sister-in-law too, so she would not worry.

I learned that an icy cold topical numbing agent can be sprayed on the skin at the injection site to assist in some relief. To my amazement, I learned that a local anesthetic used in a neck biopsy is usually more painful than the actual biopsy. I read the biopsy does not take a long time either, yet, I don’t know how long today’s neck biopsy was as my brother has a few spots that needed to be examined. I was relieved to learn that it was probably was not as bad as I imagined.

I can imagine how brave my brother was for this procedure. He had a great example. When our Mom was battling leukemia she had to have a few bone marrow biopsies. These are a rather large needle aspiration done into the pelvic bone. Most people ask to be put under general anesthetic.  Mom never did, just a local. She was tough. A courageous woman. I was blessed to have been right by her side during the last bone marrow biopsy she had and I could hardly believe my eyes. Here was my mother, so very sick from the end stages of this horrible disease and she still would not take the general anesthetic.  She just had the local, calmed herself and stayed still so the DR could drill into her pelvic bone, get the marrow he needed to test and get done. Over with. On to relief.

Through Facebook, I was able to check on one of my nieces whom I had not made a connection with this week and relieved to hear from her. The youngest of my brother’s three daughters performs ultrasounds for a living at a large hospital.

Here is her response, “Okay…things hit me at weird times… just anxiously waiting to see what the doctors say…but I am doing my part with every thyroid Biopsy patient I get (I did 2 today) so that kinda helps me. I can’t be there with mom and dad, I try to show my patients how important their procedure is to me by caring for them as if they were him.”  

Through her words, I know what kind of special treatment my brother (and sister-in-law) are receiving even though they are at a different facility. Medical professionals are often quite similar. I know. We have many caring medical people in our family and in our circle of friends. If they didn’t care, they couldn’t do well in their profession and that would show in their patients.

Also in another Facebook post, I saw a photo of my brother and sister-in-law. The self-portrait photo showed us all two happy people out enjoying the sunshine on their 32nd wedding anniversary.

Talk about relief.


Exams of a Lifetime

Early this morning I sent a text to my brother to say:
“We’re with you. We love you.”

I had to get it to him early because he is currently in a time zone two hours ahead of the one I am in. My inner alarm went off before the alarm on my clock, so I had no trouble getting that message to him. He greeted me with a “Good morning!” and a wish for a great day, signed off with a “Love you too.”

After his initial meet and greet assessment appointment at the Mayo Clinic he sent me another text.

“Sounds like more scanning and biopsy. Will meet with surgeon Friday to see if surgery is possible. No more radioactive iodine as it didn’t work on my June scans and apparently not effective in December. External beam radiation back home if no surgery indicated.”

A bit later he texted me his schedule for the day.
10:40 Labs
1:15 Chest x-ray
1:45 Neck Ultrasound
3:05 Neck CT

and the schedule for Thursday (the day he and my sister-in-law celebrate their 32 wedding anniversary):
9:30 Ultrasound Biopsy of Neck

and for Friday:
1:30 ENT Surgical Consult
3:30 followup with Endocrinologist

Possibly the most important exams he will ever have.

At this point his whereabouts and schedule for next week are all up in the air.  All depends on IF. With this advanced stage of thyroid cancer still being in his body, becoming more aggressive and having hidden in some deep recesses of some difficult to get to places, the answer to the question IF surgery is a viable option is unknown.

The reason for all these exams today.
The reason for the biopsy tomorrow.
The reason for the consultation with specialists the next day.
The reason he is at the Mayo Clinic.

He is a beloved family man, son, brother and friend.

The one person, other than my parents, whom I have known the longest in my lifetime.
My brother, just five years younger than me.
My brother who makes me laugh because of the obscure, funny stuff he remembers from our childhood – sometimes all he has to do is look at me when something triggers one of those memories and we’ll share a big smile or laugh out loud for a while.
My brother who still remembers theme songs to several of the television shows we watched as kids.
My brother who is so supportive of me, who has counseled me on so many things and was audibly one of the happiest people when he found out I was going to marry Jeff – because he knew how happy I was.

I truly wish that I could be there with him, now, as he is going through some of the toughest exams of this life.

Great timing.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Timing is Everything.” Something I live by, yet, something you can’t force.

Today was one of those “great timing” days. And, it certainly happened at a great time.

Today my brother and sister-in-law flew from a small regional airport in southeastern Washington on a direct flight to Minneapolis, MN. Then, caught a shuttle to Rochester, MN.

This morning, before boarding the plane in WA, my brother told me he was a little nervous about the flight and getting connected. I said,  “Direct flight, Right?” , “Connection with the shuttle, Right?”, “Everything will work out fine.” And… just as I assured him, their trip turned out fine. Direct flight and connection with the shuttle was made. Timing was great. They arrived at their hotel, ready for the rest of their adventure.

They decided to head out for some lunch.

Meanwhile I had called the hotel they told me  they were going to stay at just to confirm that I had the correct one. I did.

Then, I googled florists in Rochester, MN. Google delivered. And what a great one. I always read the reviews and usually take them with  a grain of salt. I read about the top florist, it was near the hotel and so I decided to call to talk about what I wanted to do.

My plan was to order a bright, colorful bouquet of flowers to send to my brother and sister-in-law since they will be gone away from family on their 32 wedding anniversary. I wanted this to be a total surprise – I told no one, but the florist, until after I placed the order. The florist customer service rep was so helpful and offered to expedite the order so my brother and sister-in-law could enjoy their flowers longer. All with no extra charge. She told me they would do their best to deliver the flowers still today. Keep in mind that where I was calling from is the Pacific time zone, two hours behind Rochester, MN.

Later, when my brother and sister-in-law returned to their hotel, the flowers had been delivered. Tears where shed. Flowers were brightening up their room and their adventure.

You see, the flowers I ordered were not only to celebrate their 32 wedding anniversary, since we can’t be there with them – that surprise bouquet of beautiful flowers were there so show love and support for a couple we care about greatly.

My brother has been battling thyroid cancer for nearly a year. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Papillary Thyroid Cancer. Early last October he had his thyroid and some lymph nodes removed. In December he went through a pill-form radiation treatment. Monitoring and more testing showed that not all the cancer was gone. It was hiding and smoldering. More monitoring. More scans. More blood tests. Recent scans and blood tests showed the smoldering cancer becoming aggressive.

Now at Stage 4C, the absolute worst,  his local DR recommended treatment at a better equipped facility, more specialized care. The Mayo Clinic was the choice. She holds the Clinic in high regard, trained and worked there. My brother listened to her, listened to his options and made the easy choice to travel to Rochester. Easy because of treatment options, not so easy because of his family being based in Washington and Oregon. He and his wife are the only ones to travel back to the Mayo Clinic. Not another family member with them to be with there for whatever news or treatment options (such as surgery) that the specialists determine beneficial. We are all at the other end of our phones waiting for news. Praying for good news.

A bright, colorful bouquet of flowers seemed like a great reminder of the love and support our family has for my brother and his wife. Was the one thing that I could think of that we could do that would make some difference and let them know WE are with them.

Tomorrow is his first appointment at the Mayo Clinic. Tomorrow more prayers, love and support.

Today, timing could not have been better.