Sunday, April 24, 2011

On the road again, Indiana bound!

Terry here running the netbook GPS mapping program while Dale drives.

We met up with Tom & Sharon, Ronan's other grandparents for breakfast this morning at that great greasy spoon called Waffle House. You know that joint along the Interstates mostly east of the Mississippi with big yellow signs. The food & talk were very good, even though the table was just a little sticky! We see Tom & Sharon each year around Ronan's birthday and try to get out for breakfast together. We talked about the past year and of course Ronan. Their version of getting away from it all is their boat on the Jersey shore. At the present they are getting ready for a eight day cruise with their "marina' buddies. Not on their boats, but on one of those big cruise ships out of Puerto Rico, sounds like a lot of fun.

Our planned route is on I-64 through the mountains of WV, can you say "fun drive", Dale can! After we escape "Wild and Wonderful West Virgina" , we plan to stop tonight at a little 10 site campground we've been passing for the last 10 years, that hasn't been in our reference books or on any of the campground review sites. I noted the location on our way last week and was able to find a web site for them. $25 for full hookups and on a concrete pad on a day with heavy rain forecast sounds great. So we plan to do about 330 miles today with tomorrow being a short driving day to Tab and Deanna's for tomorrow night. Hope to be set up at Elkhart Campground Wednesday by evening. We be there for about a month working on one of our rentals for a new tenant and with luck renting it. The week before Memorial Day we'll be heading south for the Pace reunion and our annual boating fix at Dale Hollow Lake.

Well we just turned west at Lexington VA, next turn I-77 at Beckley WV, 7% grades here we come!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Catching up. . .

The doctor appointments in Indiana went well. I think everyone was expecting Terry to look a little worse for the wear, but he really looks the same as always. . . and feels great!

While there we stayed at New Lisbon Family Campground. This is a camp we enjoy because a lot of our neighbors from our former home in Mooreland spend their spring and summer weekends there. We got to see some of them while we were there which was a real treat. We quit staying here for a couple years because the owners got a bit testy about the Passport America program. Hey, either offer it or don't. But don't offer it, then complain about how we are getting by too cheaply and costing them money. We quit going and one time our former neighbor told us that there were new owners and his dad was the manager. We know his dad really well, so we tried it out again and we were treated very well. They continue to offer Passport America and we are spending more time there.

We left there on a Thursday and headed to Virginia. Our normal stopping place in Gallopolis, Ohio, was a bit too mushy and Terry didn't want to chance driving on the grounds, so we continued on. We actually drove to Virginia and stayed at Natural Bridge. If you are inclined to go there, I would opt for the KOA out on the interstate. The drive back in to the Jellystone was narrow and tight turns, etc. Once you get there, you will pay $53 for a site unless you have PA, which is $26. Even at that, you get to set up in a field. We did have a "slot" we drove onto. Leveling was not possible front to back or side to side. It was okay for one night, but next time, we will do the KOA.

We arrived in Charlottesville at the KOA on Friday, April 15. We checked in and went to see the kids. It's hard to believe Ronan is four years old already. He is really a live wire and we enjoy spending time with the kids. He likes to come out to the bus as well and has been out a couple times with his mom and dad and dog, Whiskey. Whiskey now loves everyone. He used to be afraid of everyone, but no more. He loves Ronan and Ronan is pretty good with him. They are quite the team.

We gave Ronan his birthday present the other day. It required some assembly, so we figured we might as well let Ronan in on the fun. We had to do it at their house because once assembled, it was too large to get out the door of the motorhome and too large to transport in the car. Ronan was pretty excited about Grandpa Terry putting his Peg Perego John Deere tractor and front loader together! It was pretty cool when it was finished and he uses it to move toys around in the living room. Eventually when it warms up sufficiently, they will move it outside and he will get to use it in the yard.

Yesterday on his birthday, we took cupcakes, cookies, coffee and juice along with veggies and dip to the park. Jocelyn had invited all his friends and for 2 1/2 hours, the kids ate and played to celebrate Ronan's birthday. It was a great time and everyone had fun.

Today was errand day. Jocelyn and Ronan, Terry and I went over the mountain to Waynesboro and Staunton and visited some shops and did some grocery shopping. It started raining while we were there, so we had to come back across the mountain in the fog. The views from the top, which is where Skyline drive runs are beautiful and in the fog you cannot see anything. But it is still magically and I enjoy both the sunny days and the foggy cloud enshrouded mountains equally.

Tomorrow Ronan's other grandparents are coming and we will get to spend some time with them. We leave here on Sunday and are headed to Indiana.

Till next time. . .


Monday, April 11, 2011

The Children of Cancer. . .

It's taken awhile before I could write this post. I hope I do these children justice.

MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston is a leading center if not THE leading center for the treatment of all forms of cancer. There they have a Children's Cancer Hospital for the treatment of childhood cancers. Anyone can go there; and while your physician can refer you, they also have a process of "self referral" as well.

My experience with these children has to do with the Proton Therapy Center where my husband Terry was treated. Many children are treated using proton beam technology. In fact, it appears to be the preferred method particularly with brain tumors.

Children with brain tumors? I kept thinking this is all a mistake. Children should not have brain tumors, but they do. They have all kinds of cancer; and as unfair as it is, they and their parents are faced with many decisions the rest of us cannot even comprehend.

The proton beam system of radiation is different from the "regular" type of radiation called photon. Proton vs. photon. I am not a medical person and I am relaying this as I understand it. While we were there, the doctors and physicists had many informational lectures to explain to us what was happening with the treatments. Photon is like a regular x-ray only much stronger. As you might expect, there is a lot of area that is radiated with such a method. As a result, there is often a lot of tissue and cell damage to areas surrounding a tumor that could result in other problems in an individual, particularly if the area treated was the brain. Eye tumors cannot be treated with such radiation without risking the patient's eyesight. Also, with photon radiation, most of the radiation is released at the point shortly after it enters the body and less gets to the actual tumor. So more radiation must be given in order for it to effect the tumor.

Proton beam radiation isolates an individual proton which is then accelerated and at a precise point is directed to the tumor in the individual patient. Each patient's treatment has been precisely configured so that the "beam" enters the patient's body and travels to the tumor where it releases the bulk of its energy. So the photon releases most of its energy when it enters the body, the proton beam releases most of its energy when it is stopped at the tumor. The proton beam will stop at that point and delivers very little if any radiation past the tumor. The photon radiation does not stop, so it continues to release radiation as it passes through the tumor.

The physics behind the proton beam is why this treatment is desired for childrens' tumors. The radiation can be directed and confined as much to the tumor itself as is possible, reducing the damage to cells and tissues surrounding the tumor. In children who are continuing to grow, this means that other functions of the body controlled by the brain, particularly growth, will be less impacted by the radiation.

Because children are active and not likely to stay totally immobile during their brief treatment (which lasts seconds), it is necessary to anesthetize these children. And they have daily treatments, so most have a temporary line placed in their chest. One mother told me that on Mondays, they put in a tube and keep it taped in place. They remove it on Friday and place it again on the following Monday. That way they are only "stuck" once a week. The parents are given lidocane to use to numb the area before the Monday "stick." A mesh mask is made to place over their head to hold them firmly in position during the treatment. Since they are anesthetized, the children have their treatments in the morning because they cannot eat or drink beforehand.

The parents bring their children in for their appointment. Now you might think these kids would kick and scream and fight these treatments. That is where the doctors, nurses, and therapists come in. I believe every one of these children are loved dearly by the people who treat them. The therapists come out into the waiting room and search out their patient. They greet them, talk with them, play briefly with them (sometimes getting down on the floor with them) and when the time is right, they say, "Are you ready to go back?" Then they pick them up and carry them back. The children, I am told, get to push the buttons on the machines and you never hear any unhappiness from any child. The parents all tell me the children love their caregivers.

Sometimes the "beam is down." No one likes to hear that. It means a delay and sometimes a reschedule. The children get first dibbs on the beam. . . that is understood. If they have to wait, a certified child care professional comes out with a box of stuff to keep the children entertained. Now, these kids already have play areas in the building, including something for every age. . . toys, books, riding toys (one boy rides a big wheel back to his treatment daily), Wii, computer games, etc. But when this lady comes out, the kids all flock to her like she's the Pied Piper and she takes them all under her loving wings and occupies their time till their treatment.

I'm not sure how many treatments these children have. It all depends on the type of tumor and how extensive it is. In many cases, the tumor has been surgically removed and they are treating the area around where the tumor was. One little girl with whom I became aquainted had 22 treatments total.

These children are all ages. But most of the children I saw were under 5, probably under 3. Our last day I saw a Dad holding his infant child, probably not more than 6 months. The baby was cancer bald with a horseshoe shaped scar on his head and many tubes trailing. One child was older and he gonged out the same day Terry did. When I spoke to him, he smiled and turned to his grandfather who spoke English to me. I believe he may have been from Netherlands and they were all flying home that day. . . Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, sister, and him. He was very excited and except for being cancer bald, did not look ill. The proton beam does not cause illness, but fatigue is a common side effect.

Several patients were still in diapers. One little girl talked very little. She looked to be about three. She did a lot of whimpering. She was not loud, but I found out that she had a brain tumor surgically removed, then had 6 months of chemo, and now was having radiation. She was going through a lot of depression. A 3-year old, with cancer and depression.

Many children were mobile, some were infants, barely walking. Others were in wheel chairs. One was brought over on a gurney from the Children's Hospital. One young boy was almost bigger than his mother, yet she or his father carried him every day. Once I saw him walk. Obviously his was a brain tumor, he gate was distorted and his limbs flailed wildly as he held his head strangely to one side. But he was happy to walk that day!

The families of these children were amazing. Never did I see anyone feeling sorry for themselves or their children. I'm sure that happened, but they had an enormous support group around them, both in the staff and each other and were willing to talk about their illnesses to those of us there for treatment as well. The little girl above was usually with her parents and a grandparent and brother. Many times it was just one parent, but sometimes it would be both. One father would sit with his arm around his wife and his little girl playing between them while their son was being treated. He would have a rosary in his hand praying. As children would be brought out following their treatment, they had to stay for 30 minutes till the effect of the anesthesia wore off. Parents could be seen cradling their precious children in their arms and whispering to them.

I started praying for what I call the "Children of Cancer." I continue to pray daily for them. And I pray that my own grandson and future grandchildren will never have to experience such an insidious disease. A disease which is no respecter of age or gender. Please pray for the Children of Cancer and pray for a cure.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

What the Hail???????

Yesterday morning found us in Effingham, Illinois, with hail pounding down on us at 6:30 a.m. Grrrr. Terry was already up and it woke me up so we hurriedly closed up the slides. That is a bit of a pain in our motorhome, but having to replace slide toppers would be worse. The hail, which we couldn't see in the dark, must have been larger than pea-size, but we didn't have any damage. I do think it would have punched some holes if we had not acted quickly.

We were camped at Lakeview Campground, our second visit there. It is a nice camp and we initially met the owners the first time we were here. At that time, they had just bought the place. They are a couple retired from the military and they do a nice job on their campground. They keep it clean, restrooms spotless and give you personal service.

We had a troublesome light problem with a turn signal and brake light and Terry decided we would stay an extra night so he could tackle that problem. He had already spent a couple hours with it and decided to totally rewire it from where it plugs into the coach on to the back of the truck. He got his wire all cut and harnessed to go. When he pulled the plug that fits into the socket on the motorhome, he found the problem. That large plug was cracked. He opened it up and tightened all the wires and everything worked. So now he tells me we must go and buy a new plug! As it was, a mobile RV repairman was in the park and he had the exact plug we needed, so he bought it and finished the job in short order. We are so lucky Terry knows all this stuff. Where would we be if we had to rely on others for such things.

I met many new dogs in the park and one lady in particular stopped to chat awhile while I fussed over "Pepper." She and her husband were traveling with her husband's niece and her husband and their two dogs. She said, "They have a Scottish Terrier, but she's white." My heart flipflopped. White Scotties are quite rare; and, as you know, we had one, Neal. We also had a black Scottie, Bailey. The little dog down the lane was "Fiona." I got to meet her. She was a typical Scottie, rather aloof and could really care less about me. Hahaha. But she still took my treats I offered. She was a bit out of sorts because she had torn a nail on a deck that had holes in it and it was causing her some discomfort. They ended up taking her to a vet yesterday who gave her antibiotics, some pain medicine and trimmed the torn nail. She is one loved and cared for Scottie. She lived with a red heeler, Carmel.

While we were talking, Gloria said they were all going out for supper and we were invited to join them. This is what camping and fulltiming are all about! Meeting people. We all went to a local steakhouse and had a great meal. Glorida bought a whole pie at the restaurant and we all enjoyed peach pie a la mode when we returned to camp. Thanks, Friends!

We left Effingham this morning. Storms made there way across our route yesterday and wind was promised for today. Great choice, eh? Drive in rain or wind? We checked the weather maps carefully and decided to leave very early this morning (7:15) and miss the wind which was to start later in the day. That plan worked perfectly and after seeing the flooded fields and ditches along the way, we were glad we were driving in the rain.

We are at the New Lisbon Family Campground near where we used to live. Many people from our little town have summer trailers here and we got to see some friends when we arrived. We are here for four days for doctor appointments, then we head to Virginia to see the kids and to celebrate Ronan's fourth birthday!

Till next time. . .


Dallas and points north. . .

We left La Grange, Texas, and drove north. We were still trying to stay away from the bad weather. We actually got into a small about of rain and some wind and the wind stayed with us till we arrived at our destination. We drove through Dallas, which we timed so we would not be driving through at rush hour, and continued into Oklahoma where we finally stopped in Durant, Oklahoma, at the Choctaw Indian Casino and campground. The new campground is beautiful and nicely laid out. It is a KOA, which was a surprise. It wasn't quite as expensive as most KOA's, but was very new and very nice.

We did try our hand at the casino and enjoyed our visit. We had dinner at the buffet and when we returned to the motorhome, the wind had died down. We were able to put our slides out which gave us a bit more room.

We left Durant and drove to West Seneca, Oklahoma. We stayed at the Bordertown Casino. They had RV sites in a parking lot, but we had full hookups and were quite comfortable. We camped for $9 for FHU, 50Amp for the first night and nights 2 and 3 are FREE! In addition, they gave us a coupon for buy one/get one free dinner in their restaurant. While we were there, they advertised their $2 breakfast. The next morning we went over for that. We got 2 eggs, any style, hash browns, choice of toast or biscuits/gravy and sausage patty, links or bacon. FOR $2! Can you believe it? We each got a doggie bag and took half of it home. There were many more casinos in this area and we spent another day driving around to other casinos. Most gave us free money to play so we parlayed that into some cash for us.

We took a little side trip over to Neosho, Missouri. There were supposed to be murals in town there, but we couldn't find any. What we did find was a fish hatchery. Not just any fish hatchery, though. Neosho NFH was established in 1888 and is the oldest operating Federal fish hatchery in the country. The hatchery raises pallid sturgeon (Federally endangered) for recovery efforts in the lower Missouri River and rainbow trout for stocking in Lake Taneycomo. The hatchery also supports conservation of the Federally endangered Ozark cavefish and restoration of native mussels. We could see some fish in the aquariums, but the ponds made for difficult viewing. We did feed the trout in one pond and got a good look at some of them.

After our two nights there, we decided to move on. We drove up to Cuba, Missouri. We visited a couple of wineries and I stocked up on some luscious wines. Cuba is famous for its murals which are painted on the buildings in town. They are quite good and imaginative, telling a story about different eras in the town's history. There are pictures of early residents, famous visitors, and murals depicting life in by-gone eras. They were fun to find and photograph, although some had cars parked in front of them making it a bit difficult.

We have had to keep a close eye on the weather as we head toward Indiana. The weather this time of year is volatile and there have been many storms forecast. We are watching and timing our departure/driving/arrival times to miss the worst of the weather.

Till next time. . .


Oh me, oh my!

I could hardly believe when I came to my blog today that is has been two weeks since I posted. Shame on me. I will probably post a series of tidbits of life since cancer treatment.

We left Houston on Tuesday, March 29, and headed back down to the Rio Grande Valley. My Dad, almost 87, had a total knee replacement. We were able to see him in the hospital because he didn't get out on schedule. It was Friday before he was released to come home. The experience in the hospital left a lot to be desired. It is the filthiest hospital I have ever been in and I would not care to see any of my family go back there.

While we were in Mission, we were able to touch base with many of our friends in the park and many who had signed cards for Terry during his treatment. Our neighbor introduced us to her hummingbird which has nested in her awning support rail. It's quite out in the open which is rather surprising and she does fly off when you approach, but she comes back. She is so tiny, as is the nest. It is hard to believe that birds can start out so tiny. We cannot see the eggs in the nest, but they cannot be much larger than a pencil eraser.

We also did a little shopping for patio furniture. We had been wanting something for the patio there and by the time we get there in the fall, there is nothing decent left to buy. I never found anything I really liked. We went out one evening to shop and ended up at Target. They had a set I really liked, but we couldn't get it in the truck. So the next morning we took Mom and Dad's van and our truck. We got the box of chairs in the van and the table on the roof of the little truck and got it home. The chairs were already assembled; they just had to be unpacked. While I did that, Terry got the table put together. We are very pleased with it, but only got to use it a day before we put it back in the shed for the summer.

We left Dad convalescing and drove out of the valley on Sunday, April 3. We are not driving super long days and have tried to enjoy the drive, but we did have to change our route at the start. There was that big storm outbreak predicted for the day we left and the direction we planned to take, so we decided to go straight north and let the storm track east a ways before we turned east ourselves. Our first night out we stayed in LaGrange, Texas. We got there early enough that we could do a little sightseeing around the town. We stayed at Colorado Landing mobile home and RV park. They are a Passport America park and very nice. It was a mobile home park when the owners bought it. They kept some mobile homes (to pay the rent) and moved out all the old trailers and made campsites. The sites were long and wide and 50A. The streets were wide, having been made for mobile home access.

We were glad we had changed our route because the bad weather hit east of us and we were out of harm's way.

Till next time. . .