23 07 2014


Go Fund Me

21 07 2014

When I could no longer drive,  I had to quit my job. Life, and bills,  continue. Please help if you can and share if you will.


“She’s Staying!”

21 07 2014

Last Friday, I woke from a deep sleep. I had gone to bed feeling slightly chilled from what I guessed was the central air and ceiling fan sending cool air upon me. The sweatshirt at the foot of my bed beckoned me. I thought to myself, “I’ll just take it off if I get too warm”.

Keep in mind, each movement I make brings about some bit of pain or discomfort because of my recent back surgery. I really didn’t want to remove a sweatshirt because of how difficult it would be. As it is, I’m not supposed to bend, twist or pick up anything that weighs 5lbs or more.

My phone alarm woke me at 6am, a reminder to take my medicines. I slept straight through the 8am alarm, which was not good since it was for my extended release and immediate release pain meds. So when I woke at almost 10am, I was in pain. Normally, I have a high pain tolerance. Tumor pain is excruciating and not much can relieve that pain. Surgical pain isn’t near as bad but still quite uncomfortable. But when I say I woke in pain, I woke in PAIN!

At any rate, I had to use the bathroom and my body hated me. As I tried to get out of bed, I knew something was wrong. I felt heavy, as if a gravitational pull was dragging me downward. Sluggish and slow I thought,”crap, what other meds did I miss that would cause this.”

I made it out of bed but I was experiencing much difficulty walking. My legs were heavy and my arms hurt since I was relying on them to drag my weak body.

When I was able to leave the room, I grabbed my thermometer and headed to the living room but I was so weak, Jenny met me halfway and had me sit so she could push my using my walker. After some coffee and cereal and a little cool down, I thought I’d be fine. But my temperature readings were telling me that a trip to the E.R. was inevitable.

Jenny and I packed a few essentials and made the trip to Houston…back to MD Anderson from where I had just been discharged four days prior.

I had hoped this was a chemo-related temperature spike. I knew my counts were low so I was optimistic I would be hydrated, watched and sent home. Several hours later, the nurse said the doctor was admitting me. Half-joking, I said,” I’m not staying!” “I want to speak to the doctor”, “I’m going home”.

Apparently, they thought I was serious. Lol…

The doctor came in and explained that I had an infection possibly caused by my surgical drain that required IV antibiotics which I cannot get at home. He was quite serious in saying how dire my situation would be if I left. I’m not a moron, of course I wouldn’t go home. Jeez, I just wanted to be out of the hospital, at Jenny’s comfy house, spending time with her, making smoothies, having coffee, enjoying girl talk, being with her wonderful doggies…not in the hospital…again.

As soon as I told the doc I planned to stay, he walked to the door of my room and yelled, “She’s staying!” ROFLOL!

Jenny and I thought that was so funny…they really thought I was leaving. Mind you, I was feeling like crap so what I thought was me being funny, insisting on going home, must have been lost in the translation. Lol

At any rate, I spent the weekend here at MDA and I’m hoping to leave Tuesday. By then, I should be able to insist upon it and be healthy enough to skedaddle. Pray on, my Warrior Peeps.

18 Days in the Clinker

16 07 2014

20140712_201926 Monday evening, I busted out of the clinker. LOL 18 days in the slammer was enough! Hospital life can be tough, akin to being in prison I imagine, where everything is scheduled, there is no freedom and you cannot escape.  Since this wasn’t been my first incarceration, nor my longest, it really wasn’t that bad.

MD Anderson is a world-class, top-notch facility staffed by incredible people who are carefully screened, not only for skill but compassion.  The doctors, nurses, transporters and even food service workers are incredibly sweet and polite.  It is wonderful to have care such as this.  After 18 days, however, I was ready to bust out! ;)

And it is so good to be back at my friend’s Jenny and Randy’s house, where I can regroup and relax after chemo.

Many folks have had questions as to a timeline of activities.  Originally, Jenny and I were at MD Anderson on June 26th for a few appointments of mine.  I had fallen at her house while attempting to stand the day before, I could feel that my body was weakening. I suspected the tumor in my T10 was growing, especially since radiation had been abruptly stopped and my steroids, which help to reduce swelling of tumors, had run out.  My body just crumpled beneath me.  Not a good sign.

On the 26th, we had seen my pulmonologist who had positive news about my lungs.  Seemingly, they had improved in the last few months.  She also believes that they can continue to improve, which is awesome news, because 1) she is the first doctor to say it’s possible and 2) because I need a Stem Cell Transplant and to go through the procedure, I need healthier lungs than what I have now, or risk damaging them more, which could go very badly.

My next appointment was with my oncologist in the Lymphoma Clinic.  Upon reporting the fall at Jenny’s house, and the weakening of my body, I knew they would admit me to the hospital, and that was, indeed, the plan.  I was relieved.  I knew I needed help.

The wait for a room was very, very long. Eventually, we were sent to a Family Waiting Room where I could be more comfortable and rest in a reclining chair with a warm blankie.  All I could do was sleep, another sign my body was heading downhill.

Hours passed, I slept and Jenny spent her time talking with others just outside of the Quiet Room.  After some time, I had to  use the bathroom.  Upon attempting to stand with assistance, my legs gave out from under me and my body, and, for the second time in two days, crumpled to the floor.  I thought for sure my right ankle or knee had broken as I heard a crunching sound on the way down.  Fortunately, the two falls only caused a sprain and it looks much worse than it is.  The picture below was taken yesterday.  Today, the swelling has reduced considerably.








Surgery on my spine took place a couple of days later on Saturday, June 28th. In the meantime, the pain from the tumor became more and more excruciating.  I was nervous about the surgery but being in the best place in the nation put my mind at ease, especially after meeting and researching the surgeon, Dr. Tatsui.  The first time I met him, I was awaiting a scan in another part of the hospital but he tracked me down so he could meet me and explain exactly what the surgery would involve. He informed me that the purpose of the surgery was to relieve pressure on the spine and NOT to remove tumor.  The 7 hour surgery was very successful.  Because my spine was sandwiched by tumor, Dr. Tatsui had no choice but to remove tumor.  This only occurs in 10% of these types of surgeries.  Muscles were shifted to overlap and protect my spine, thanks to some talented plastic surgeons.  Now, the pain I experience is more discomfort and seriously, compared to the tumor pain, is a breeze!

I spent several days after surgery on the Surgical Rehab floor in an ICU-like setting where plenty of nurses were available to fewer  patients.  There, on this floor, I had both Occupational and Physical Therapy, to help build strength and to help my re-learn how to do things like stand and get into bed without hurting my back which, for a bit, I cannot bend, twist, etc.

After several days, my good behavior earned me an escape from Surgical Rehab floor to the Lymphoma Floor.  Yes, there is an entire floor dedicated to just Lymphoma patients and that’s how MD Anderson is organized.  If you ever have some time, check out the MD Anderson website.  They offer so Services & Amenities to patients from these organizational things to free wigs in their Beauty & Barber Shop (yes, there’s  a salon! LOL), an Integrative Medicine Center to help patients and caregivers learn peace and healing, and so much more.

Tuesday, July 8th chemotherapy began to be administered to me in my posh, 15th floor room outfitted with a pull-out sofa, chairs, desk, armoire.  These newly remodeled rooms are beautiful and functional with easy to maneuver laminate floors with plenty of space to navigate with a walker and an IV pole.

After three days of a chemotherapy called Cytoxin, I moved onto a few days of Rituxan.  I was very happy to receive the Rituxan, because Peeps, if you recall, this is the treatment that was questioned regarding the damage to my lungs.  MD Anderson has determined, once and for all, that it did not.  Rituxan is a very powerful chemo medicine so I was happy to finally get the dosages needed to help blast away tumor.

The first bag of Rituxan left me in rough shape. Coughing, mucus, and exhaustion took over my body but worse than that, an extremely high heart rate of 140 bpm and a very low blood pressure.  Very low.  I was given some time to recuperate from the first bag of Rituxan, my vitals returned to somewhat normal, then the second bag was administered.

A few days of observation, and good toleration of the chemotherapies and finally, after 18 days, I was finally discharged.  I could not be happier.  Jenny and Randy have opened their home to me, Jenny is an excellent caregiver, their home is beautiful, peaceful and comfortable.  The expectation is to stay through my next chemo treatment in a few weeks and go from there.

Until then, I so very appreciate your prayers and support.  It means so much to me and, although, I may not be able to respond to everyone, I read each comment and keep them to review when I need a boost.

Fred and the girls are returning to Houston in a few weeks and I am so excited!  I miss my little family…

As always, we can use help financially to get us through.  Any assistance helps so much and goes so far.  If you feel inclined to help, here is the link to use.  Go Fund Me for Lisa Lafferty McGill  If you can, please feel free to share the link on your social media networks. Much love to all of you, my prayers go out to you as well.  xoxo

Go Fund Me for Lisa Lafferty McGill

Kindergarten Crush

Finish Strong

10 07 2014

3rd rainbow since I’ve been here

It’s been a rocky ride here in Texas and, looking back, that makes perfect sense. However, when you’re in the thick of things, it is a mind-muddling confusing mess that leaves you wondering how to feel.

Coming to MD Anderson is such an incredible blessing.  The nation’s, and some of the world’s, leading cancer docs are here.  The oncologist I was assigned to in my group has been here for 33 years!  It’s the best care available to me and I am honored to be a part of it.

Being a new patient, no one knows your story very well.  We have learned that as you are assigned to doctors, they read your case as they can.  Sometimes, the important details are misread in the process.  One of the details of my case, the original tumor in my T4 spinal region was nearly gone, we were told, before we came to Texas.  Somewhere along the line, that was misinterpreted and we were told it was growing, which was awful news.  Thankfully, the truth is, it is NOT!  That sucker is nearly gone, not to worry about, hasta la vista, buh bye, gone!  Whew!


Jenny & I sneak outside for fresh air daily. This is a view of “Hospital City”.

Another area of concern has been my lungs.  If you’ve followed along with this blog or my Facebook page, Kindergarten Crush, you’re aware that I have lung damage, previously determined as being caused by radiation or one of the important chemo drugs I need to take, called Rituxan.  The docs here at Anderson say, that lung damage from Rituxan is extremely rare and in no way, shape or form do they believe my problems are caused by it.  Extremely good news because this adds another bullet in my suit of chemo armor, possible chemo meds I can take.

My case was presented to the group of docs working on me and all agreed that a Stem Cell Transplant is needed.  When asked about the risk to my lungs, one of my docs, Dr. Wong, seemed to be optimistic about it, saying they can adjust medications enough that he doesn’t feel it would cause any more damage.  In the meantime, I will probably go through some Pulmonary Rehab to improve my lungs a bit.


24th Floor Family Room

The back surgery I had was a temporary fix.  It was meant to relieve pressure on my spine. Rarely, does a surgeon cut out any tumor, 1 in 10 patients.  Because the tumor was sandwiched around my spine, my surgeon did remove tumor.  I believe that will give the chemo a straightforward path.

Dr. Wong had told us about another woman with a similar case to mine, spinal tumors, no lung issue though.  She is now in remission thanks to a stem cell transplant.  Good stuff, good stuff.

I needed this positivity.  Chemo began yesterday, Rituxan will now be added into the mix and I may be out of here Saturday, we shall see!  Feeling that ol’ warrior spirit again :) Love my Peeps!

Fly in the Ointment

8 07 2014

Right off the bat,  I do have to report one error from my last post-there is cancer in my vertebrae. At this point,  I don’t know how to feel about that since some of my team docs believe the chemo will kill it and one isn’t so optimistic but he’s a wait-and-see doc.

I have to say that the last few days have been a struggle for me to regain positivity.  I feel good,  I am stronger than before surgery,  heck,  I could WALK the day AFTER surgery!

Chemo starts today so at least the newest plan will be in place. That plans involves a chemo called “cytoxin”. It’s a 3 day treatment, in-patient.  In 3 weeks,  I will have another cytoxin treatment then rescanned to learn if the chemo is working.  Unsure of I’ll be flying back and forth for treatment and scans. I think I’d like to so everything is in one place and not scattered across the country.

I’ve made a lot of progress since surgery. As you remember,  I couldn’t walk a week ago Thursday,  the tumor had sandwiched my spine and squeezed my spinal cord that rendered me unable to use my legs.  Fast forward to yesterday,  and the fact that I’ve had 3 physical therapy and occupational therapy sessions daily, I used a recumbent bicycle and took 300 steps every five minutes. Thank God I was strong before all of this cancer nonsense!

It’s good to relate this news to you,  it’s helping my head to get back in the right spot.

I’m almost there but if y’all can forward more bits of happiness,  I would appreciate it so much. Overwhelmingly,  I feel good,  like I WILL beat this.  But that fly in the ointment bringing a teensy bit of negativity is messing with me. Help me smack it!  Lol

Love my peeps!


And Another Left Turn at Albequerque

1 07 2014

We’re just going around the world to the left! LOL

When last we met, a plan had been put into motion to for my cancer treatment.  Took another slight left at Albuquerque, though, when my body began to weaken.  Since I was unable to continue receiving radiation at home, only 3 treatments were given, meaning, their lasting effects wouldn’t last long.  Sure enough, the back pain began and I needed my walker to move about our friend’s house (Jenny and Randy) where we are staying.

Last Thursday, I had a few appointments, including a bronchoscopy which would check for possible infections and any fun lung stuff.  That procedure went well and Jenny and I were both very impressed by the Pulmonologist.  She was very real but gave hope, as well.  Most Pulmonologists have told me that my lungs cannot improve.  She believes they can.  And some good news to go along with that: my lungs were definitely damaged by the radiation (Radiation Pneumonitis) and NOT by the Rituxan, one of the chemo meds.  This is very good news because, for a long time, no one could pinpoint the exact problem. Rituxan is a very powerful chemo drug that could exponentially help my eradicate my cancer.  Being that it was thought to be hindering my lungs, I was only able to receive so many treatments with it.  Now that it’s ok to move forward, I can receive the final dosage(s) and get rid of my of this hideous disease.

My memory is pretty fuzzy regarding timeline of these next events but basically, this is what happened.

My body became weaker, I could no longer walk on my own.  While waiting for a room to open up on the oncology floor, I had a very mild fever, was very groggy, sleeping often, and ended up falling. My right leg had become very weak and now, my left leg couldn’t hold any weight.  I ended up in the E.R. to figure out Plan 1A.  Had to start somewhere before chemo could begin lol…

It was determined that I needed surgery and as soon as possible. Surgery was planned for that night but the surgeon was already working on another patient and he wouldn’t be available until the next day.  That was fine with me.  While we were waiting on his skilled hands, Jenny and I researched his HealthGrades and became very impressed.  The man’s expertise is in spinal tumors, just what I needed!

During our wait, we met with a Radiologist who’s credentials and expertise were also quite impressive, Dr. Pennix.  Since more radiation is a possibility, it was good to meet her as well.

Saturday, I had a lamenectomy (SP?) performed by Dr. Tatsui.  The day before, I was being wheeled in for a CT when he came running in. He was in between surgeries and wanted to make sure he caught me so all of my questions about the surgery were answered prior.  I thought that was so awesome.  It was nice to meet him and see what the caring individual who would be performing my surgery.

The goal of the surgery was not to remove the tumor but to create enough space to unpinch my spinal cord and stabilize the cord with screws.  The steroids had already helped alleviate some pressure, which was a very good sign that the surgery would be successful.  Dr. Tatsui’s goal was to take less than 30% of the bone.  If the bone was structurally unsound, more would need to be removed.  The concern was that, in all of my other reports, I had been told that the tumor had compromised the structure of the bone, meaning, the tumor had invaded the bone, causing damage.

After I was coherent enough to make sense of the Doctor’s words, he reported to me the following:  the surgery was successful!

  • All of the tumor that he could see with his eyes was removed and what wasn’t removed will be anhiliated by the chemo and/or radiation.
  • Very little of the bone had to be removed.  Yay!
  • There was NO cancer in the bone! HOORAY!

My spinal cord (T8-T10) was sandwiched in between tumor.  Screws were inserted at T9 and T11 for best stabilization of my spinal cord. Chemo can start in one week, I have already been up, out of the bed and, as of today, WALKING the hall!  MD Anderson has an in-patient rehab facility so while I am in the hospital, I can get rehab, use machines, anything to strength my body.  Pretty awesome.

Some things need to be determined: how fast the tumor grew after my chemo treatment in May. This is a big concern.  I will most likely have to maintain this cancer in my body for the rest of my life. I will always have to watch for it. While this doesn’t thrill me, I am ALIVE.

It will take approximately four weeks to learn the pathology and determine the difference between what was removed and where the swelling ends, and hopefully, how fast these suckers are growing.

This place is incredible!  When your home oncologist says, “I won’t tell you your odds are zero”, and then you arrive at a place like MD Anderson, where, still the options aren’t great but they can DO something to change those options, it is truly a miracle.  I consider myself to be very blessed to be here.  That surgery will give the chemo a big jumpstart to eradicating the new tumor and the new chemo will help eradicate what was left of the old tumor.  Things are changing for the better, FINALLY!  There’s a reason their logo reads this way:



Pray on, Warrior Peeps! Much love to you!


The Plan

25 06 2014

Monday, Fred and I  met with the lead oncologist on our team at MD Anderson, Dr. Hagemeister, to discuss the next step in fighting this cancer.  The doctor reiterated all of the problems that make my case complicated: damage to my lungs and the fact that the cancer is in and around my spine.  There are some great drugs that would help me but I can’t take them because 1.) the drug could make my lungs worse and B.) it could cause paralysis. Fantastic.  Just once in my life, I would like something to be easy.

I started to become emotional as the doctor listed each of the medications, then a reason why we couldn’t use it.  I tried to get him to cut to the chase.  I didn’t want to hear what WON’T help, I wanted to hear what WOULD help.  I was desperate for some positivity.

Finally, he mentioned the oral chemotherapy drug, Lenalidomide.  He told us it wasn’t widely used with Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) but that he’s seen good results in patients that weren’t expected to show results.

According to the American Cancer Institute, Lenalidomide is known to be an immunomodulating agent – it affects some of the ways the immune system functions. It also appears to work in part by slowing or stopping the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), which tumors need to grow and survive. It may also have direct effects on cancer cells themselves. The exact way this drug works against cancer cells is not clear.

I spent some time researching Lenalidomide yesterday and found some studies in patients like me whose NHL relapsed.  Here is one from a few years ago:

http://annonc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/01/12/annonc.mdq626. The overall response rate for DLBCL was 28%.  Not fantastic but 22% of participants achieved complete remission.

I’m encouraged more by these words from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute:

“For many patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, drug therapy with lenalidomide (Revlimid®) produces good results. Lenalidomide has direct activity againt NHL cells, stimulates the immune system, and shuts down the growth of new blood vessels that would feed the cancer. Research shows that this drug, which is widely used for treatment of multiple myelomaand myelodysplastic syndromes, can be an effective choice for patients with B-cell lymphomas who are elderly or too sick to go through chemotherapy, or whose disease has not responded to previous treatments. Lenalidomide also appears to increase the cancer-killing effects of rituximab.”

For me, Lenalidomide would have little to no side effects and I can take it at home.  I will take it for 3 weeks, then be off of it for one week. Scans will occur monthly to determine if the drug is affecting my tumor(s).

So, the results of this drug and my type of cancer aren’t great but I don’t have any other options…yet.  I ask for your continued prayers and for a miracle.

Much love to you, Peeps.

Mommy’s Heart

17 06 2014

So our Houston adventure began yesterday with registration and initial meetings. Plenty of appointments, scans, biopsies and other fun stuff are planned this week.  I am both excited for what lies ahead and nervous.  I’m ready for a plan and once it is in place, I’m along for the ride. For now, I feel a little discombobulated.  Understandably so.  Our little family is fractured into separate units for the moment and it is a bit unnerving for me.  Mere observation, I know it must be done but that does not mean it feels good. After all, for several years, it was me at the head of my little girl family, bringing home the bacon, frying it up in a pan.  I did the shopping, errands, mothering/fathering, hugging and snuggling. Now, as we work to find the armor needed to protect my body from cancer, I am not at the helm. I am along for the ride. And that’s fine. I feel like I’m riding along a stream on a leaf, not knowing what’s ahead but fully expecting to arrive where I need to.  This is the mode of transportation for now….seat of my pants! I miss my girls.  That’s what I’m hinting.  It feels very strange, very fractured to not have them near, to not be able to hug and kiss them.  And tho it is only for a short period of time, that plan has yet to be determined for treatment and my thoughts continually wander toward, “will I be going home with them?” or, “will I be staying for treatment?” If I let my mind weaken just a bit with these thoughts, I am vulnerable to the emotion of this separation anxiety.  So…instead, I’ll just keep plodding ahead, one step at a time and imagine running to them when this is over.

Fear of Flying

11 06 2014

As a child, I experienced a couple of wickedly terrifying plane flights.  The kind that involve extreme drops in turbulence, dropping the plane tens of thousands of feet.  The kind that leave a child so paralyzed with fear, she is unable to breathe, turns blue and has both parents screaming at her to take a breath before she passes out.

That last plane ride was psychologically damaging.  I spent 30 years on relaxation techniques trying to get past narrow rooms that reminded me of the interior of a plane, elevators with their quick drops during starts and stops and certain bridges so high all that could be seen from their decks were clouds.

This upcoming flight to Houston has me troubled to say the least.  If we take a corporate Angel-type flight, the trip will be a short 3 hours.  I keep telling myself I can handle three hours.  I have three different prescriptions, two of which have not touched my anxiety and the third will knock me out…just one problem with that, I need to get myself on and off of the plane.  I hate that I have to resort to a medication to do this.  It’s just three hours!  Ugh.

Darling Hubs has offered the alternative method of driving.  While I would love to say, “Yes! Screw it!  Let’s see the country!”, I cannot do that to him.  It would mean 20 hours of driving on his part as I am unable to share that burden.  That’s too much.  I cannot do that to him.

At this point, we are awaiting a call from MD Anderson about an appointment and then our travel plans will need to go forward.  I keep repeating, “It’s only three hours. I can handle three hours.”  I have to do this.  I cannot let this stop me.  It is the only challenge in my life, well, til cancer came along, that I have not been able to face and it must be done.



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