Thursday, May 27, 2010


We had a video conference with Dr Humer from Kelowna this morning. There was talk of discharging Jed today however, Dr Humer has requested he stay in hospital here until Saturday when he will be flown to Kelowna.
Monday he will be put under general anesthetic for another bronchoscope. They will take a larger biopsy and try to inflate the lung a bit so they can get a better idea of how far into the lung tissue the tumour is. The bulb part of the tumour appears to be about an inch and half or so. It is located right where the bronchial tube enters the lung and is blocking air from entering.

The top lobe of the lung looks pretty good but they cannot tell the condition of the lower portion because it is collapsed. They are still fairly certain it is benign but the official results have not come back from pathology yet.
Dr Humer thinks that he'll likely have the surgery close to the end of next week. however, they won't decide that for sure until after they do the bronchoscope. They may want to let the lung rest and heal from the pneumonia for a bit, which could be days or weeks.
For now it is just nice to have a bit of a confirmed schedule so we can make some plans. It has been a huge blessing to have Brandi here all week. She will fly out tomorrow morning to a previously planned conference in Whistler.

Thanks to all for your prayers, love and good wishes. ~ Jed, Albert & Liana

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

K-town here we come. Sometime. Maybe.

It's looking more and more like Jed's surgical destination will be Kelowna. However, they tell me that nothing is set in stone until his plane leaves the ground.

Tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 8:30 we have a video conference with a thoracic surgical team from Kelowna. This is essentially the doctor/patient office visit done 21st century style. Jed is not too thrilled that his mother and sister are going to attend the event. But as you know life isn't always a bucket of thrills.

Hopefully after this meeting we will have a few more details like the size of the tumour, the expected length of hospital stay, and most importantly a departure time. But for now we know he won't be leaving before tomorrow morning so I can relax a bit and quite worrying about missing a phone call.

Jed is doing pretty good. He has had his IV removed because he is no longer receiving intravenous antibiotics and he is staying hydrated. He was not too impressed with no longer having an IV pole to drag around the hallways. He has managed to convince the nursing staff that he is weak and has a sore back and needs a walker if they expect him to get his daily exercise.

He tottered along like an old man out to the parking lot yesterday to check out my new Grannymobile.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Size doesn't matter. Stat or fact?

Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say.
~William W. Watt

By Thursday morning, Jed had gotten over his flu symptoms (throwing up and diarrhea) but still had an uncontrollable fever and his daily chest x-rays showed that he was not responding to the IV antibiotics. They called in Dr Hamar who is an infection specialist. He figured there should have been a marked improvement in lung function after 4 days on IV and suspected maybe Jed had inhaled vomit or something so he ordered a bronchoscope be done.

Jed had to fast Friday morning and about noon he was wheeled to the ambulatory care unit where normal procedure is to receive a mild sedation that will have the patient sleep for about 5 minutes while they put a camera down the throat and into the lungs for a good visual inspection.

Staying true to form, Jed refused to go to sleep so they gave him a second sedation. He still refused to sleep. An anesthetist was called in to put him right out. As a result, after the little photo op inside his lungs, they could not get him to wake up. Then they lost control of his blood pressure and it plummeted. The procedure which would normally have the patient back in their room in an hour or so ended up being a 4 hour ordeal.

While the nurses were tending to Jed, Dr Smith, who did the bronchoscope, called me at home.

"Mrs Ziemer, I just finished the procedure and what I've found is a..." I fully anticipated he would end the sentence with the words "foreign body" or "piece of vomit" or "peanut ... found a peanut, found a peanut..."

What came out of his mouth hit me like a brick on the side of the head, "... a tumour."

A tumour?? No God, no! Oh and his lung has collapsed as well.

He went on to say that it appears to be benign, but one can never really tell until the results from the biopsy come back. He will require surgery in either Vancouver or Kelowna and because we were heading into a long weekend we probably would not hear from a surgeon until Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

He suspects Jed has had this tumour for a long time and repeatedly assured me that waiting a few more days to get it removed almost certainly wasn't going to make any difference. Looking back now, I wonder if he really has asthma which they have been treating him for for the last 2 or 3 years. Perhaps it was a tumour that has been interfering with his breathing all along.

Dr Smith described how there really was no option, the tumour has to come out or he will never regain use of his lung. Besides, even if it is currently benign the likelihood of becoming malignant is high.

After giving me the 30-second low-down he said, "You can expect a call from Dr Canne next week. I have him on another line and would really like to go and continue to speak with him."

"OK, thank you for calling," I sputter.

I quickly and in stunned motion called Albert, Brandi, Jade, Connie and Barb before racing back to the hospital.

Everyone wanted to know how big the tumour was. "I don't know. I didn't think to ask. Size doesn't matter." I've always said that. It's an effin' tumour and it has to come out.

Within 8 hours Brandi and Kore arrived. Oh what a blessing it was to have them make that spontaneous decision.

Of course Dr Smith left the hospital by the time I got there and no one else had access to any further information for me. And so we sit and play the waiting game over the long weekend. The nurses are all fairly confident that since Jed is already in a hospital bed, he will get a top priority and will very likely be flown out Tuesday or Wednesday, provided they can find him a bed.

We still don't know for sure whether he will go to Vancouver or Kelowna and we are trusting God will get him to the best surgeon in the best time. Kore's family has so very generously offered for us to use his Grandma's apartment which has been empty but furnished for the last couple of months since Grandma moved in to a seniors home. It's on Oak Street - straight down from Vancouver General. Another enormous blessing!

And what does one do while waiting...
.... one Googles.

And Google was not very optimistic. I had to stop reading the stats: only 2-5% of lung tumours are benign. Those with lung cancer have a less than 10% chance of seeing five years of life. And the best chances are for those who catch it in early stages, not those who've "had it for a long time."

But my husband helped me put it into perspective. Stats don't always tell the real story. Statistically, you would be correct to say that the average human has one breast and one testicle. The fact is the vast majority of lung tumour patients are smokers and they are significantly older than 23 years old. 

So, given Jed's demographics, his odds I'm sure are enormous by comparison. And the Dr did say it looked benign. And so for now, that's what I hang on to.

And Jed's being such a trooper. I am very proud of him.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Albert from Philly

Sometimes I wonder why God entrusted us with a special needs son. Poor kid.

Jed got moved from the pediatric ward to a regular 2-person adult room today.

I was sitting there tonight visiting with him and he turned to me in all seriousness and said, "Mom, Dad was just joking yesterday wasn't he?"

"I don't know. What did he say?"

It took every ounce of my being not to laugh, and just as much resolve not to cry when I replied, "Yes that was just a joke" to Jed's repeating of what his dad said:

 "If you don't hurry up and get better the angel Albert from Philly cream cheese is gonna have to come get you."

Monday, May 17, 2010

A lot more comfy next to Dad.

"I have a cracked rib."

That's the story Jed has been repeating for a month or so. He even went as far as checking himself into the ER a few weeks ago. But since he hadn't fallen or injured himself they didn't bother to x-ray his chest. the told him there is really nothing they can do for a cracked rib anyway so just go home and take it easy.

Well, Jed doesn't really know what 'take it easy' means so he occasionally complained about his sore ribs but pretty much carried on as usual. He couldn't take the trash out but had no problem golfing 18 holes.

Whe you see someone everyday you don't really notice things like changes in weight. (At least that's the theory I hope hold true so my hubby hasn't noticed the 20 lbs I've gained.) But in the last couple of weeks numerous people have commented on how thin Jed has become.

After my attention was alerted, I could see they were probably right. I had him weigh himself. 144 lbs - that's down from his usual 165.

Then last Thursday he developed a fever and started throwing up. By Sunday afternoon when I got home from work, he was still dry heaving and hadn't kept anything down for 4 days. He was white as a ghost with dark gaunt eyes. I decided a trip to the ER was in order.

The nurses in reception weren't all that receptive to a puking 23-year-old. "Yeah, you and half of Prince George." was her response to his description of his symptoms.

Consequently we sat in the ER waiting room for a few hours watching rashes, drunken falls and sore tummies get deemed a higher priority.

When we finally got in to see Dr Chang (who is fabulous) I explained the "sore left side ribs" as well as his other symptoms.

He put the stethoscope to Jed's chest and then marvelled that there was no air moving in or out of his left lung.

The short story is that Jed was wisked off to xray to confirm pneumonia then hooked up to an IV with 3 bags of stuff pumping into him and a nebulizer face mask whooshing vapours and drugs into his lungs.

They took 3 large vials of blood from each arm. He did so well with all the poking and prodding. I was really proud of him and couldn't help recalling his early childhood and needles. Like the time Albert had to lay on top of him for the dentist to be able to look in his mouth. And six of us holding him down for his immunization in elementary school.

He'da felt like a superstar with all this medical attention had he had the energy to revel in all the excitment.

He did manage to give a hearty two thumbs up when Dr. Chang announced that he'd be keeping him for at least two days.

I'm pretty sure it was an intentional act of God (and hospital staff) but the nurses apologized to Jed that the only bed available for him was on the pediatric ward.

And a fine bed it was- a room to himself, large bathroom with tub/shower, fridge, sink, closet, free TV and twinkly coloured lights on the ceiling. There was also a comfy double bed in his room that, as Jed got settled about midnight, they offered me a pillow for.

Jed turned to me and said through his oxygen mask, "Mom I think you'll be a lot more comfy sleeping next to Dad."

And while that was very true, I took the words to mean, "Mom, this is my big boy adventure, please don't humiliate me by sleeping in my room." And so I didn't.

Here's my big boy on his adventure:

In the ER

In his room.

He'll probably be home Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

And the winner is ....

Woot woot! Goooo Team Pink. Pink Panters Rock!!!

And so went the cheers emanating from our Pink Panter Relay for Life team headquarters tent. We had fantastic participation. Lots of people raised money for the Canadian Cancer Society (which is the prime purpose for having a team in the first place) Lots of people walked (during the daylight hours we usually had between 4 and 10 people on the track at a time) Some brought food and drinks. And EVERYONE supported our pinkness.

While not everyone arrived at the field in a pink costume, everyone was willing to don something from the pink dress up box - feather boas, tutus, pink rabbit ears, pink wigs, various hats etc.

Even before the relay started at 10am Saturday, people were asking if they could get their picture taken with us. Throughout the day little girls would follow us (well, more specifically my gorgeous princess-like daughter in her flouncy pink skirt and soft baby pink hair) around the track and across the field, just so they could be near all our pinkness and jovial camaraderie.

It was sort of bizarre to be thrust into stardom for the day. At one point Brandi, my Mom and I were walking across the field and we got stopped for an interview that was broadcast throughout the grounds.

And then there was the TV interview. A real live TV interview. I've said it before, and I'll likely say it again, I don't public speak. It was nearly an out-of-body experience to be miked up (micced sp?) and standing in front of a large camera. I headlined the news the next day. Yes headlined! with my team surrounding me.

They always give out recognition awards for the best decorated tent and best costumes and most dedicated team support. With all the attention we received all weekend, I was certain we'd take home at least one award. And I was momentarily disappointed when it didn't come to pass.

We didn't win best decorated tent. We were very decorated, but I'll admit pink helium balloons, feather boas, pink banners and pink chairs probably borders on tacky. But fun. And the tent that won did look pretty cool. A little too neat and orderly, but cool.

We didn't win best costumes. We did have some of the best costumes. However we sort stick to our own theme: pink, rather than the 2010 country-wide Relay for Life theme of "Fight Back". The team who dressed as super heroes did look pretty cool - bordering on obscene with men in tights with their underwear on the outside, but cool.

We didn't win dedicated team support. One team had members that set out to walk the entire 24 hours. One member, a sister of the man the team was there to honour after he lost his battle with cancer, managed to walk for the entire 24 hours. Though her feet were bloodied and bandaged she hung in there. That was dedication. That was cool.

My disappointment at not receiving an award was very short lived when I considered all the awards we would have won, had there been such a category:

Team having the most fun.
Team with the most members on the track at any one time.
Team that rewards those who walk.

Team whose participants came from farthest away
Team with the most support from non-team members
Team tackiness
etc etc....

I know that all who support the Pink Panter's do so for their own personal reasons - many remember loved ones lost, many supporting loved ones in the midst of fighting, many do it as an investment - knowing full well that someone close to them, and perhaps themselves, will one day rely on the support and research of the Canadian Cancer Society.

Whatever the reasons, the fact that they choose to Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back through the Pink Panter team, a team that was started because of my breast cancer diagnosis, blesses my heart. I regularly thank God that my battle was not a long difficult fight. I credit that to the prayers of my huge support team.

It doesn't matter who won the awards, I know in my heart who has the best support. I know who the winner is. And I thank you for it.

Here you can check out the TV interview:

Here I am dressed to "Fight Back". The back of my boxer's robe said "Fight like a Girl!"

The first lap of the relay is a survivor's victory lap.

The survivor's group photo was really a Where's Waldo game. Can you find the Pink Panter survivor?

Jody was a huge support and provider of much of the dress up box contents.

I don't really have a great shot of the quilt that my mom made for the raffle. As usual, it was fabulous and it raked in a lot of dollars. I purchased a ticket for anyone who supported me financially, but alas none of them won. It went to someone in Victoria.

Barbee the team captain who started it all.

Brandi the pretty princess whose shirt read "TKO  Mom 1 : Cancer 0"

You didn't have to be a human to support the Pink Panters.

You didn't have to know how to walk to support the Pink Panters.

You didn't have to be female to support the Pink Panters.

Getting things set up.

Numerous requests by total strangers to pose for a team photo.

Crystal and Jayme all the way from Boston Bar. Talk about team dedication.

Diana's Mom was just as surprised and thrilled as me by the visit from the carload of girls from Kamloops.

Poor little Xander was sick and not at all impressed with Granny having pink hair. He wore his pink shirt but it wasn't warm enough to take his jacket off - good thing the camo fit the "Fight Back" theme. He did his token lap and then PaPa took him home for the afternoon.

Nana gets some X time.

While yes it did get quite cold at night... no there was no snow. Mom took advantage of the emptied cooler ice to exaggerate the situation.

The morning after looked just like that - the morning after. People sleeping in chairs and frost covering everything. Even the helium balloons sunk like torpedos until the sun came out and defrosted them.

Our official sum raised as of 10am Saturday was $5068 however when all was said and done I think we were closer to $5500. YAY PINK PANTERS! I'm so proud of our team and thankful to all who support us.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Knock knock!

It was like a wedding. Or Christmas. Or a big vacation.

So much preparation. So many dollars spent. So much focussed energy and singleminded direction filled with excitement & anticipation and sprinkled with stress. And in 24 hours... poof, it's all over.

Ahhhh, Relay for Life.

About Monday or Tuesday I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if Brandi and Kore surprised me and came up for the weekend." I didn't tell anyone my thoughts because I didn't want anyone to think that I expected them to. However I changed the sheets on the spare bed and cleaned the bathtub.

Friday evening I was in the grocery store picking up some last minute items for the weekend and I ran into a friend whose immediate family has been ravished by cancer in the past couple of years. We chatted for a bit and she encouraged me to press on in the battle against cancer, even though she herself didn't have the strength to participate this year. 

We talked about the satisfaction you get from being on a team. We talked about the energy it takes to organize a team. As a parting comment I said, "I'm hoping my daughter walks in the back door at 9:30 tonight. That'll re-energize me for the weekend."

"Oh, are you expecting her?"

"No. It's just a little fantasy I have."

At 9:36 there was a knock at my back door. And there stood my beautiful daughter, my amazing mother, my fabulous sister-in-law and my gorgeous niece. And I was immediately pumped for the weekend!

Although this was only our second year of participating in the Canadian Cancer Society's annual fundraising event as the Pink Panters (Not to be confused with Pink Panthers. We are panters, not athletes.) it has quickly become our motto to 'go big or go home'. (The details of which could possibly become another blog.)

Here in Prince George, where it still freezes at night in May, I believe we are the only city in Canada who still holds this as a 24-hour event, rather than the 12 hours most have scaled it back to. And to top it all off, it's always held on the Mother's Day weekend, which I believe is the earliest weekend of the year that any other city holds it. Many are scheduled as late as the end of June.

And as I sit here, my feet aching, my body exhausted and my skin sunburned, I consider how much easier Relay would be if indeed it were only 12 hours and we weren't scraping frost off the lawn chairs at 6am. And then I consider what we are fighting. Cancer. It's never convenient. It's never comfortable. It's never easy.

Consider Yourself Reminded.

Ten years. It's been 10 years today since I was branded with that title that no-one ever wants to wear. That is until you receive it. ...