Friday, April 13, 2012

We Found a Place to Call Home!

First of all, I want to thank everyone again for helping us be able to get a home in light of our circumstances.  Hope the pictures below give an idea of where we are able to be! Despite the odds against us (finding an affordable property in a very expensive city with 3 dogs and a horse), we were blessed by stumbling upon a jewel.  Amy regularly browsed Craigslist and found an RV spot on a ranch in East San Diego.  I wasn't too keen on living in an RV, especially since we didn't have one anymore and they are cramped and small.  But, we drove out to look at the spot and we were shocked.  It is a 83 acre ranch in a picturesque and beautiful valley in East San Diego that most San Diegans don't even know exists.  There is a large lake on the property (Amy has a place to fish), several large pastures and it joins the Cleveland National Forest.  On the property, the owners' daughter and husband have a home and there are two other homes on the property that are rented out.  There are two young women who live in a bus and go to college.  The amount of homes make it like a built in community.  We can't see or hear anyone else who live here, but get to see people when we are out and about and are making friends with the owners' daugter Shelly and husband George.  She is a barrel racer and has about 8 horses on the property and he was a roper in the rodeos. The are close to our age - just a tiny bit older.  George and I are starting a huge organic garden together and we are getting chickens and getting a coop together in the next week or two.  I'm even going to get my chickens back from their foster home!  They check on Amy and are there to help her if she needs anything while I'm away at work.

Oh, regarding the RV space.  We didn't get an RV, but we're certainly not in a house.  There was a 400sf small manufactured home built in 1992 in very bad condition - 33' x 12' and we had the money because of the donations to purchase it and we had a small amount of money to bring it back into good condition.  I will have photos of the before and after soon - that's why I am not posting any photos of it right now.  But, it's a lot bigger than an RV and it's ours and we're no longer having to sleep at other peoples' homes.  We have our dogs back and it's wonderful to have everyone under one roof!  The rent is VERY inexpensive - we probably couldn't have rented a studio apartment for the amount we're paying here.  The ranch is breathtakingly beautiful.  Every morning I wake up and sit on the couch and look into the valley and fields below and can't believe I'm here.  There are ranches all around us and we never worry about hearing noise, music, cars, etc.  I feel like I'm on vacation when I'm here and Amy loves it and since she grew up on a farm says it's the closest thing to home.  The commute to work is only 45 minutes and I don't mind it at all - just turn on my talk shows and relax and I'm there before I know it. 

My horse Mickey is here and in heaven.  When I rescued her I told her I'd get her to a pasture one day and she has a pasture about 15 acres big with a buddy named Leo.  Shelly and I are going to ride together and there are trails right from the property into the Cleveland National Forest.  It serves as a hiking trail also for us and the dogs.

Regarding Amy, she is doing better.  She is still diligent about the alternative cancer treatment we do from home (only have to go to the Mexican clinic once every 3 months) and is taking the chemo pill Zelboraf (which has helped shrink her spinal tumors remarkably but only has an average longevity for about 6 months before it stops working and the cancer finds a way around it).  She is also doing an immunotherapy drug Yervoy which consists of 4 outpatient infusions.  She has them every 3 weeks and just had her 3rd Monday.  She is having a lot of fatigue since the last one but that is normal.  The drug can have a lot of serous side effects and we're grateful she hasn't had any of those.  Prior to the last infusion, she was even joining me on some short hikes with the dogs!!  She seems to have moved past most of the side effects from the Zelboraf except she is losing some hair and has extreme sun sensitivity.  Luckily, she had very thick hair, and aside from her eyebrows, you would never know.  She has gained 15 pounds since she was hospitalized in October.  She was down to 103lbs and is up to 118lbs.  She has 10 more lbs. to get to her "low normal" weight.  At least she has her appetite back and is enjoying the work of gaining weight.  I'm very hopeful about her future.  I'm confident between the conventional and the alternative she is going to be in the small group who beats this stuff!  This healing place we're in really helps to make that happen.

Thank you all again for helping this become a reality.  This is the type of place we've dreamed and prayed to be in for so long.  Guess we better be careful about what we pray for and be more specific about what we have to go through before getting there!  But, it couldn't have come to us at a better time.  The manufactured home is temporary and we hope in the future one of the homes on the property comes for rent when our financial picture is better. 

View from our porch and living room - hay fields below in the valley
Trail starting behind our place - goes into the Cleveland Nat'l Forest and Sherman enjoys it!
My rescued horse Mickey (on the right) finally gets a pasture - and a boyfriend.
Mickey looking at the other pasture and horses.
Mickey on her pasture - she has about 15 acres with oak trees.
George clearing area for garden - he is married to ranch owner's daughter and they live on property also.
George & his healers.
Riding Mickey on Easter.
Amy and I had Easter breakfast on our porch.  (this is Amy).
Amy holding Diamondback Rattlesnake we killed on Easter.  It was on the way to the lake and too dangerous to leave.
Over 3 1/2 feet long.
We skinned it and will do something with skin - one of the ranch hands wanted the meat to eat so nothing went to waste.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Big "Thank You" from Amy

Hello to all.  It's Amy and I want to send out a very heart felt thank you for all the donations we have received .  I was taken completely by surprise when Sylvia told me what she had done and the response her blog post was getting.  I will admit I had a very hard time accepting the fact that total strangers were donating money in honor of our situation.  Asking for help in any form is not something I've ever been good at doing and to ask for money has always been unthinkable.  That has now changed and I have felt the blessings that come from reaching out for help.   The outpouring of generosity has melted my heart and renewed my faith in people.  The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze.  Not all the donations came from strangers and I'd like to acknowledge those friends of mine who gave in kind.
Even though I have an aggressive form of cancer I really feel blessed to be touched by so many people, not only monetarily but through thoughts and prayers.

In closing I'm happy to say today we became the proud occupants of our very own little "Honeycomb Hideout" and Sylvia will post all the details along with pictures soon.  Again thank you all for blessing our lives and making it possible for us to get a place we can call home.  What a wonderful world it truly is.

Blessings to all of you,


Sunday, February 5, 2012

It's Hard to Ask for Help - But, I'm Asking.

This is a hard post to write as my pride gets the best of me.  Amy doesn't know I'm doing this.  She hasn't been feeling well this last week but at least she is not in the hospital!  Days are hard - I have a whole new respect and empathy for those living with a disease such as this.  As most of you know who read this blog, we had to leave our home in Joshua Tree quickly after Amy was hospitalized in Arkansas because we needed to be close to the hospital.  Two of our dogs are at a friend's home, the chickens are fostered out and my horse Mickey is at a friend's house.  We have Troy, the Chihuahua who is Amy's 24/7 care giver!  Since returning to San Diego a few months ago, we have been staying at a friend's house since we can't yet afford to rent our own place.  Amy is not able to work and gets limited income from disability from her cancer.   My business is growing but not where I want it to be.  I had to close my private practice in Joshua Tree and start my private practice up in San Diego again.  It's definitely climbing, but I expect I need another 2 or 3 months until it's where I can sustain us.  Amy needs a home.  I'm sure you can imagine what it's like to have stage 4 cancer while living in a bedroom in somebody else's home.  All of our belongings are in our shop in Joshua Tree and our life is all spread out.  We live with what we can put in the car.  Amy needs a home to have her dogs with her, her belongings and needs to have that peace and serenity that only home can bring.  I have thought of everything I can to rent a place, but I simply can't come up with the money until my business has grown more. 

So, I'm asking for support.  I know it's a long shot.  But, I see causes out there all the time so I figured it's worth a try.  I'm not asking for financial help to squander money.  We live very simply.  This is also short term.  Amy is very fragile and I don't know what could happen from a day to day basis.  But, I so want to give her a place she feels comfortable through all of this.  I can't believe we don't even have a rental of our own while she is so sick.  There is a widget below with the black ribbon for melanoma and a gold "give" button.  Click on "give".

If you can find any spare money and would consider making a donation, it will go directly to finding us a home ASAP.  There is a potential home we are going to look at and they will even let us have our 3 dogs.  But, I can't pull it all together financially.  Would you consider helping us?  Anything would help.  I would never ask this for myself, but it breaks my heart to see Amy not have the basics of what anyone should have while going through this.  There is a widget with black melanoma ribon to donate below.  You can also copy this widget to put on your own blog if you feel inclined.  Please feel free to pass the word on about this page! 

I think I've said enough.  I'll just hope for the best, say a prayer and see what happens.  Thank you so much.  And if you live in or near San Diego and can't help financially, but have other creative ways to help, let me know.  Even if you have no money to support or choose not to, your words of encouragement are appreciated.

*UPDATE* An incredibly generous friend from my past just gave me word that she would MATCH EVERY DOLLAR up to $2500 raised and that is our goal.  What started out as a bleak shot in the dark had really turned into something incredible.   In addition to that, another friend from the past who works with finances is going to sit down with me and look at our financial picture and see if there is anything we can cut out to make sure that I will be okay financially regardless of what happens after this.  I am more than half way to my goal and please help make this happen!  Between the funds and financial planning, and, despite what we're going through, I feel blessed by good friends and the kindness of strangers. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

So Far, So Good.

Amy has been back from the hospital since Monday and so far things have been good.  She has felt relatively good considering what she went through and today we took a day trip to Julian - a mountain town east of San Diego.  It was fun and went went through the small town of Ramona which is an older, rural town with lots of horses, critters and beautiful spaces. 

I cherish every one of these days and just hope they continue.  We are staying a few blocks from the ocean with my friend in San Diego for now and are blessed to have the best organic vegetarian food cooperative right by us and it's been there since the 70's.  Besides the wonderful organic, mostly local produce, they also have a deli upstairs where they serve hot organic meals at incredibly low prices.  Amy is on an alternative cancer diet (she goes to the Hoxsey clinic in Mexico every few months and started it 2 months ago) and the diet is very healthy and a bit restrictive but it's a piece of cake to find what we want there.  So, on days when she can't cook and I am busy, I pick something up or we go there for a treat and eat at their tables. 

So, for now, I'm glad there is nothing negative to report!  We are house sitting for the weekend the home which has our two dogs (the Boxer Sherman and the Pug CJ) so we are all together for a couple days!  Sherman and CJ seemed thrilled to see us.  It is so hard being away from them but hopefully soon we'll be getting a place of our own.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

And, thanks for all the nice comments.  Love them all!

Monday, January 23, 2012


Ugh, I have been absent for a couple of days.  But, for a good reason.  Amy got transferred out of ICU and into the regular ward and it was a bit trying.  It's an old part of the hospital and the rooms are shared and very small.  They are the typical 50's institutional green and white - you get what I mean - and they just feel dirty even though they are clean.  You FEEL like you're in an institution.  About 30 minutes after they got her moved, they brought in a roomate and she was horrible.   NON STOP TALKING!  Didn't matter whether we pulled the curtain or tried to talk to each other, she just kept on and on incessantly.  Then, when it was time to go to sleep, she snored all night long.  Loud, old overweight man snoring!  Thank goodness, the next day she got discharged! 

It didn't appear Amy had any more fluid accumulating and her red blood cell count had dropped a little, but not enough where they were concerned there was internal bleeding.  They wanted to keep her and monitor her over the weekend to ensure she didn't have another effusion.  Her strength started coming back and she was feeling a lot better. 

In a nutshell, they believe a chemo pill she is on made room for a viral pneumonia which then led to inflamattion and bleeding/effusion in the pericardial wall of the heart.  The cytology results came back negative for melanoma!  They were certain it was melanoma that caused the effusion and thought a tumor had grown onto the pericardial wall, but cytology results disproved that.  So, we're happy that the cause was not melanoma related directly, but it was quite a week to say the least.  Thanks for all the support and comments.  Getting some sleep!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Roller coaster

What a night. Waited all night and no news about what is going on. Amy had a ct scan tonight and doctors came in the room with panic on their faces. They said scans showed she was actively bleeding in her lungs and heart cavity. They said surgery was neccessary tonight or she would have massive complications and die. Plus they said they probably couldn't stop the bleeding in the heart cavity. Basically they said her end was near. So we spend some time crying and panicking when 20 minutes later another doctor comes in and says there was a mistake and a junior radiologist read her scans and interpreted them incorrectly. They said there is no active bleeding, no surgery tonight and nobody is gonna die tonight. Dang, that was a rough way to get happy at the end of the day! Still a lot of unanswered questions but we are grateful for mistakes tonight. Gonna sleep well in my lounger chair in the ICU room!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Waiting, Waiting...

Slept in the ICU but slept fairly well as the rooms are private, spacious and more quiet.  So, that's good!  Good news is that there is no new fluid around the heart so it doesn't seem to be re-accumulating.  They want to monitor her more for any changes.  They are concerned about other things, but aren't really telling us a lot cause they are in their "investigation mode".  Frustrating to have team after team of doctors come around and all tell you the same thing like it's the first time you've heard it and not get any real news or answers.  Amy is getting tired and frustrated because she has a "swan" catheter that goes from her groin all the way up to her heart and they can measure and monitor everything the heart does.  But, she is not allowed to sit or stand so has had to be lying on her back for 2 days now.  Not a lot of news, but at least there's no new bad news. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Got the Diagnosis Today

Wow, last night was a rough night attempting to sleep in a chair in the hospital room.  Didn't sleep much and neither did Amy.  Went to work and was grateful that I got off at 3 and was able to go back to the hospital.  I also was able to go up for an hour during lunch and she had a visitor early afternoon and that cheered her up.

They determined today that she has a "pericardial effusion" and not a plural effusion.  It's an effusion and collection of fluid around the heart that has gotten into the lining surrounding the heart.  I guess with cancer, this can happen just as it happened with the pleural effusion.  So, the fluid on the heart is creating pressure and that is causing her high heart rate - about 120 to 125 beats a minute.  She also has a tiny bit a pneumonia and they believe that is what is causing her fever and infection.  So, they took her to ICU this evening just to monitor her because sometimes blood pressure can drop dangerously low since the heart is working so hard and sometimes can't pump enough blood.  Tomorrow, they are going to do one of two procedures - the one they want to do is go in and cut out a tiny window in the lining of the heart so the fluid that is in there can drain and any more leaking will always drain and this won't happen again.  If they don't think they can safely do that (they are concerned there may be a cancer close by and they have to determine this more accurately), they go in with a needle and aspirate the fluid but the same problem can occur again in the future.  They are treating the pneumonia and fever with antibiotics.  We will know in the morning what procedure they are doing and she will spend a day in ICU after the operation.  We are hopeful and both are spirits are higher.  Docs said she should feel better soon after the surgery.  Want to get her home! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

More? Really? Enough Already

I think I've figured out why I'm not posting often.  Because it feels like there is just way too much to tell and I don't have the energy to go through it.  So, I am going to attempt to do this journal style if anyone is wanting to read.  Short posts daily about what is going on.  If nothing else, it'll help me to get it out.

Last night Amy was having trouble taking deep breaths, had some chest pain and was running a fever.  She had a terrible Pleural effusion in October (the Arkansas fiasco) and was in intensive care from it.  So, we kinda knew these symptoms and I was concerned.  So, we went to the VA emergency room after some nudging on my part.  Long story short, they did a workup and she was very dehydrated, had a temp of almost 103 degrees, labs detected infection and her heart rate was 130.  That was the easy part - then they said she has a mild to moderate pleural effusion and see something on the xray that looks like a mass in the lung.  That was there previously in Arkansas, but the biopsy came back negative for cancer when they tested it then.  Our oncologist said sometimes the biopsies don't have enough cells taken to get an accurate reading.  They wanted to admit her, but she didn't want to go.  They gave her a strong antibiotic for the infection and we spoke to her oncologist who said to just really monitor and if she worsens, then bring her back to get admitted.  Besides the scary part of the pleural effusion, the scariest part is the oncologist said there is not a lot that they can do about it if it doesn't get better on its own (which by bringing down the infection, that is what they are hoping).  In Arkansas, they already did a pleurodesis where they chemically treat it and it adheres the lining of the lung against the chest cavity (i think i'm correct in this) and it usually prevents it from happening again.  So, if the effusion gets worse and she gets admitted, I don't know what that means or what they can do.  Really scary stuff.  Sad times for sure and this disease sucks.  More later on.  Just crossing my fingers and hoping she makes an upswing.