Monday, October 31, 2005

Praying for Eight

Dalton is still in the hospital. They couldn't seem to get the team on the same page regarding his feeding tube, so nothing happened.

Iain is with his Grandma. She picked him up from day care and brought him down to the hopsital tonight. We dressed him up in his Pooh Bear Costume to the delight of the nurses on the evening shift and snapped some pictures of his first Halloween.

I am home alone. Don't like it. Miss Dalton. Wanted to curl up next to him and go to sleep. However, since Iain is being taken care of elseware, I think I'll take som medicine and pray for eight straight.

Sweet Dreams.

Ice Cream Safari

For those of your eagerly awaiting an explanation of the ice cream safari, here it is:

On Saturday evening, in a last ditch effort to get some nourishment, Dalton asked me to run up to 7-11 for some decadent ice cream. Encouraged by the thought of him actually taking in calories, I excitedly hopped in the car and headed up the street. There were only two guidelines for the ice cream purchase; it had to be smooth and it had to be caloricly dense. Seemed easy enough, right? WRONG!

Ben and Jerrys has revolutionized the world of gourmet ice cream. I stood at the refigerated case scanning the tubs of Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia, and Phish Food wondering, "What happened to things like Dulce de Leche and Coffee?" "Does everything have to be chunky style?" After sperlunking around the case for several minutes, I decided to step my search up a notch and head to a real grocery store. Once there, I noticed a much more accomodating selection of smooth ice creams. However, for the first (and only) time in my life, I found myself wishing they had less "Light", "Carb Safe", "Lowfat" and more "Gourmet Decadence." In the end I found only three ice creams that matched the criteria. All were made by Haagen Daz and one of them (the dulce de leche) was actually their light version. However, the light Haagen Daz had more calories than the regular Breyers, so it was still the winner.

Of course, most of you know that these effort were in vain as Dalton tried several spoonfuls to no avail. Now I have three pints of ice cream living in my freezer that really need to be evicted. Like I said before, I need to try Dalton's weight LOSS regiment not his weight GAIN regimen.

Ice Cream, Anyone?

A Night in the Hospital

We called the doctor at 10am yesterday because despite persistent attempts to get some water past the tumor, Dalton was clearly dehydrated. She admitted him to the hospital about 1pm and immediately started giving him fluids. After giving him over a liter and a half, there was still no sign that his body was willing to part with any of it. So, I guess it was a good idea to bring him in. Dalton's inability to drink had also robbed him of his only source of pain relief, so he was Mr. Grumpy Pants for most of the day.

The nice thing about being in the hospital is that Dalton is now able to get the good drugs. They put him on a low dose of morphene and then gave him the option of supplementing as needed up to a certain point. Once they figured out what was needed to control the pain and the iv began to replenish his fluids, Dalton was a different person. He became the same upbeat smart ass that we know and love and actually had some energy to move around. Hopefully, once they insert the feeding tube, he'll have even more going for him and might feel well enough to get out.

I'm taking Iain to day care this morning and then heading out to the hopsital. We won't know til later whether Dalton will have to spend another night.

A special thanks to everyone at our church, Ecclesia Hollywood, for their prayers yesterday and every day. We definitely feel loved.

Will post more later but want to get moving to minimize my traffic woes.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

No More Water

It's closed. Just a week ago they were able to pass an endoscope, a tube about 1/2 inch wide, into Dalton's stomach. Now, nothing will pass. Nothing. Not ice cream. Not watered down split pea soup. Not Lortab elixir (the liquid vicodin). Not gatorade. Not water. We talked with the doctor yesterday and she told us to visit the clinic today so that Dalton could be given iv fluids to alleviate the dehydration. A feeding tube will be inserted on Monday.

Warning: This is not an optimistc, hopeful, strong post. For those of you looking for inspiration, please visit one of the other days. Dalton is very depressed today and convinced that the doctors have written him off. He is getting weaker all the time and is starting to think they are just going to let him die. It will be so good to finally start treatment so that we can both feel like there is something happening other than waiting. For now, that's still 5 days away.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Gang's All Up

It's 4:00 in the morning and the Harding household is wide awake. Dalton woke up at about 3:30 with what felt like a huge knot in his throat. I laid there for another 20 minutes until I decided that the evening's sleep was clearly done. Then, at about 4:15, Iain was awakened by our conversation and must havefelt like he was missing out. So, here we sit. Dalton and Iain are hanging out on the couch while Dad surfs the net and Iain eats the computer. I am blogging and figuring out what I need to buy at IKEA's Birthday sale.

Nothing much new happened on the cancer front yesterday. Dalton still can't eat, and drinking is difficult. Gatorade is his new hydrator of choice, so I suspect that I'll be paying Target a visit to purchase several gallons of the green swill. Can you tell that I am not a fan? Oh well, it will be a good reason to finally clean out the trunk of my car.

They resheduled our appointment with the radiation oncologist to Tuesday, so that will be the next "medical" reoprt to blog about. Until then, I'll be posting on ice cream safaris and whammy suckers.

Dalton's gone back to back and asked me to join him, so you'll have to check back later for details on the ice cream and suckers. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Pound-a-Day Diet

I really ought to adopt Dalton's diet plan considering that he lost seven pounds in six days. Today was the hardest day for me yet. Something about being back in a cancer center made the reality of all this sink in. After handing the keys to the valet attendant (a complementary and seemingly required perk for all of us cancer types), we finally arrived at the admitting desk, the first stop for all new patients. Either USC is "registration challenged", or we are. Every time we find ourselves in a registration situation we end up staring at one another asking, "Where are we supposed to sign in?" In an effort to create a comfortable, inviting environment for patients and their families, USC has neglected all common sense. There is no sign in sheet. Instead, there is a lobby/parlor in which to make yourself comfortable until someone is available to greet you. This seems like a great idea except when all of the "hosts" are on breaks or there are 20 other guests also waiting to be welcomed.

Regardless, the homey atmosphere quickly disappears after being asked the same demographic questions and signing the same 10 forms that we have signed on six previous occasions this week alone. For those who haven't been to the doctor in a while, the new big thing is patient privacy. Every time, and I mean EVERY time, you visit a new doctor or clinic, you are given a 2-4 page booklet describing patient privacy practices. Don't fret if you haven't received one yet, by the time we are done with this we should have enough for all of you. Just email me for your free copy.

Anyway, we were brought to a room and the "first nurse" proceeds to ask Dalton a series of questions. The first was the most disarming:

1) So, why were you referred here?
- realize that this is the Norris CANCER Center

After explaining the basics of his symptoms to "first nurse", we were visited by "real nurse" who had a bit more information about Dalton's condition. In fact, her first words were, "So, I hear you don't like Ensure!" We talked with Marie, who is actually Dr. Iqbal's Nurse Practitioner and right hand woman, for quite a while about pain, food, and family history. She did a quick check of all the pertinent lymph nodes which looked to me like she was feeling up my husband. Then she left us alone to wait for Dr. Iqbal.

Dr. Syma (pronounced Sigh-ma) Iqbal (pronounced ick-ball) STOP LAUGHING! is a perky Middle Eastern doctor who specializes in gastrointestinal cancers. She quickly got to the business of discussing treatment options which were really more like treatment plans. Fine by us; best to let the experts do their thing. Apparently the whole gene expression, predict the tumor response thing really isn't relevant to Dalton's case as they need to go with the chemo that has the best radiation sensitizing properties. What that means is that Dalton will be getting a continuous dose of 5FU and a bi-weekly dose of Oxaliplatin. The radiation will start ASAP but it requires yet another doctor's involvement. We see that doc on Monday and will find out more at that time. The 5FU requires that Dalton have a central line put in which is basically a semi-permanent IV tube that will hang out from his chest. Fun, fun, fun. Dr. Iqbal talks about the goal still being to shrink the tumor and eradicate the spread so that Dalton can have surgery, but she is a bit more reserved than Dr. Demeester. She mentions the possibility that may not happen, and if it doesn't, then the focus shifts to controlling the cancer rather than curing it. This possibility is very discouraging, and she reminds us that because of Dalton's age and family status, everyone is emotionally invested in seeing him cured. But, there is only so much they can do.

We ask about alternative pain relief, food choices and our chances for having more children. She points out that the chemo may cause sterility and that banking little swimmers would be the best option if we want more kids. However, she is also realistic about the possibility of me being a single mom and strongly recommends that both little Dalton and Iain have genetic testing. Because of the age that Dalton, his sister, Kathleen, and his mother, Joan, developed their cancers (all of them were in their 30's), she suspects that there is some genetic cause. If possible, she wants the youngest members of the family to know ahead of time that they need to have regular screening. For these reasons, Dalton and I decide that Iain will be our first and only child. If God spares Dalton and we have the opportunity to enjoy many more years together we will gratefully find fulfillment in each other and the family we have been given thus far.

I lost it after Dr. Iqbal left the room. Clearly upset, Dalton asked me what was wrong and I started to cry. My strength and focus on recovery failed me and I was scared. It lasted just a few moments and I felt the need to apologize, but the truth is that I just didn't have it in me right then to be strong. Dalton is the love of my life. I don't want to lose him this soon. I don't want Iain and little Dalton to grow up without their father. I don't want to watch my husband go through this hell. I know that I am powerless to change any of these things and can only pray for God's mercy and healing, but there are times when in my human weakness that isn't enough.

So, for today, I resolve not to squander our time. I will pray. I will find joy in every day and every moment that we have together. I will play with my baby and hold my husband's hand. And, I will pray some more.

Our next appointment is Monday with the radiation oncologist. Then, Dalton has his central line implant put in on Wednesday. Chemo starts Thursday. In the meantime, I still might consider adopting Dalton's diet. Seven pounds in six days may be lousy for him, but it would be great for me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Playing Hooky

We spent the morning at University Hospital having an MRI to check the status of Dalton’s adrenal gland, and then we played hooky. Iain was in day care so we had the afternoon to ourselves. We went shopping and walked around Paseo Colorado for a while. Then we came home and took a long afternoon nap. It was nice to be together doing something other than cancer. About four o’clock the oncologist’s office called to see if we could reschedule Friday’s appointment for Thursday and of course we said yes. Today has been a difficult day for Dalton and food. Each sip of calorie laden liquids takes several minutes to work its way down. The sooner he can begin treatment the better.

Tomorrow, then, we visit Norris Cancer Center for the first time, meet the oncologist, and hopefully schedule Dalton's first treatment. There is always a medical longshot that the MRI will show that the adrenal gland is not involved and then we'd be able to revisit surgery as an option. We cling to the fact that with God all things are possible.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Mmmm, Meatloaf

Ever chewed your food? I mean, really chewed your food. Next time you sit down to eat, try chewing each bite for at least two minutes. If you're like us, you'll notice two things. First, two minutes is a really long time. And, second, when you chew your food that long, your teeth do a better job of breaking it down into mush than you could have ever imagined. This little discovery is brought to you by Dalton. After picking up some KFC for the older child on Friday night, he decided to try his hand at swallowing actual protein. Knowing that I would have been a nervous wreck if he did it in front of me, he snuck in four pieces of popcorn chicken while driving home. This was a risky move, as any slight miscalculation could have led to an episode of choking while driving and he would have had to perform the heimlich on himself on the door of his car. Although he now admits that there were a few harrowing moments as the chicken made it's way through the tumor web previously known as Dalton's esophagus, it turned out to be a heck of a gamble. This weekend, Dalton ate actual food...cornbread with buckets of butter, the inside of a Taco Bell combo burrito (arguably NOT real food), and, mmmm, meatlof. I can't begin to tell you what it does for a 37-year old mans spirits to be able to eat meat instead of another Banana Ensure Plus.

The first round of conversations between Dalton and I related to his cancer diagnosis were pretty much what you would expect:

D - "Am I going to die?"
T - "You'd better not."
D - "I'm not going to die."
T - "You'd better not."

D - "Surgery sounds wierd. I don't want them to open me up that wide. I mean, my esophagus is UNDER my heart."
T - "Unfortunately, you don't have a lot of options in this one. You can't move your esophagus now."

D and T - "What do we do about our jobs?"
D and T - "Will we have enough money to get by?"
D and T - "Wonder what chemo's like?"

But then, there is this second round of conversations. Things like, "Will we ever be able to have more kids?" I mean, does chemo and radiation permanently damage a man's ability to make healthy swimmers? Do we need to put some on ice for future possibilities? Also, do we need to use super, mega birth control while he is on chemo/radiation because any child conceived during that time would obviously have three heads?

Then, there is the whole realization that Dalton will be at home full time for probably the next six months. How wierd is that? And, how about the fact that when you lose your hair from chemo, you lose all your hair not just the hair on top of your head. You lose your eyelashes, eyebrows, and body hair, too. We were laying in bed last night and Dalton mentioned that he was thinking about growing a beard while he undergoes treatment, and at about the same time we realized that there probably wouldn't be anything to grow. For the first time since he was 16, he won't need to shave.

We still don't know what God has in store for us in this process or what exactly we are supposed to learn, but we have decided that this is the last in a long line of events that convince us our lives will never be "normal." Anymore, I'm not even sure that I know what normal is anymore.

Here's to meatloaf.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Long Night

Nausea and vomiting are the new symptoms of the day. In ten years, I've never seen Dalton as sick as I saw him last night. Not usually prone to throwing up, last night he couldn't keep anything down. If this continues, it will be might difficult for him to follow doctor's orders and keep his weight up. It doesn't matter how much Ben and Jerry's one eats, if it doesn't stay put, it doesn't do any good.

I'm not sure what is going on with Iain, but the last few nights, he's decided that waking up at 10:30, 12:30, and 2:30 is a good idea. Maybe in some wierd way he is sensing that things aren't quite right and it's throwing off his schedule. Maybe I should rename the blog nosleepiain instead.

Dalton and I remain very optimistic about the outcome of all this. He has no fear that this is "the end," and that helps me stay positive as well. He simply wants to get the treatment underway so that we can resume normal life. Frustration comes from the inability to eat, pain, and now the nausea. Plus, patience isn't either of our virtues, so this waiting is really tough.

Thanks to all of you who have posted your thoughts and prayers. They are very encouraging. Someone posted this morning that the bravest thing is hope; I think I'll carry that one with me through this whole experience.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

No Surgery, Not Yet

Well, today's appointment wasn't the best. To be fair, it wasn't the worst either. Basically, the PET scan seems to indicate that the cancer has spread to the right adrenal gland. To our doctor, this indicates that is has probably traveled or is currently en route to other places, and they can't take the chance of letting the cancer grow somewhere else while Dalton recovers from the surgery that would have removed his esophagus and surrounding areas.

So, the game plan has changed. They are sending out the biopsies for analysis to help determine which chemotherapy agents will be most effective at killing this particular type of tumor. Dalton has an MRI on Wednesday to rule out a benign growth on the adrenal gland and an appointment with a USC oncologist at Norris Cancer Center on Friday at 12:30pm. They will set his course of treatment for both chemotherapy and radiation at that time and likely begin the treatments the week of October 31. The treatments will last about six weeks, and for four of those weeks, he will be receiving both chemo and daily radiation. At the conclusion of the treatments, he will undergo follow up scans, gather his strength and hopefully have surgery around the first of the year.

Thankfully, they are not saying that it is inoperable, simply that they need to kill any systemic cancer cells before they do the actual cutting. The doctor is still aiming for "curative" treatments rather than "palliative" treatments that simply lesson the symptoms and prolong life for a few months. Obviously, this pre-operative treatment is key.

Dalton is getting very tired of not eating. Ensure is making him physically ill and the thought of anything sweet and creamy is enough to make him gag. Unfortunately, today's news puts off any hope of real food for at least another month. Wish I could make that better for him, but I feel a lot helpless.

Thanks again for everyone's prayers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Meet Your Tumor

Although I had been in the room when they first discovered Dalton's tumor, until today, Dalton had only seen a still picture. Today, he got the whole introduction. After the EGD, they brought me back to the room and played the video for us. The tumor is about 7 cm long and nearly fills the width of the esophagus. They weren't able to do the ultrasound as the scope is bigger than the regulare EGD scope and they didn't want to risk perforating the esophagus. Plus, they said that considering the fact that it is circumferential, it is probably already advanced and the ultrasound wouldn't offer us any encouragement. This was disheartening for me, although they still hadn't reviewed the PET scan so nothing was certain. We'll know more tomorrow when we meet with the doc.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Don't Touch the Baby

Apparently, the stuff they squirted into Dalton's vein for this morning's PET scan is so radioactive that he can't handle our baby, Iain, until tomorrow night. They told Dalton that Iain's six-month old thyroid is especially succeptible to this stuff and that any contact could be dangerous. Consequently, Iain is having a slumber party with Grandma Joan, Grandpa Jim, and Aunt Kathy.

The PET scan took forever - about three hours in all. I'll let Dalton share the humorous details especially the part about being asked to down over a pint of Barium in a short time. This, for a guy who has trouble swallowing just a couple of ounces. Also, Aetna called this morning to make sure we understood that they weren't contracted with USC because they had received a precertification request for surgery. I nonchalantly asked what date the surgery was scheduled for and she said October 27th. So, I guess if all goes well with these tests, next Thursday is the day. This was both good news and bad news for us. Good, because the docs office is proceeding as if he is a candidate for surgery. Bad, because 9 days seems like forever to me and especially to Dalton, who is now clearly losing weight on his 500 calorie a day diet.

Tomorrow's test is the esophageal ultrasound with which they will determine the depth of tumor invasion and the extent of lymph node involvement. By combining the results of today's PET with tomorrow's EGD, the doctor will finally be able to stage the cancer. We'll get that info at Thursday's follow-up appointment. We are praying that the news is good.

I finally got in touch with the countertop folks who told me that the next available date for measurements was Thursday October 27th. I politely explained that my husband was having surgery that day and asked if there was any way to get it done earlier. The woman curtly replied no and suggested maybe I should put it off for a couple of months. Yeah, and continue washing dishes in the bathroom sink while caring for a 6-month old and recovering cancer patient. Is she NUTS?

I guess I'll be asking one of the many folks who offered to help if they would be willing to hang at my place for four hours until these folks arrive. Any volunteers?

Hangin in there.


OK, no dogs. But today is the day for Dalton's PET/CT to confirm that there is no distant metastasis. As far as we know, only spread beyond the esophageal area would preclude surgery. It would also automatically mean the cancer was stage IV - not a happy thought. So, we are praying for no spread and early staging. Obviously, staging is no biggie for our God who raises the dead, but my tiny, limited brain would still find some comfort in knowing that the cancer hasn't done any sightseeing in Dalton's liver, brain, bones, or lungs.

I am really hoping that the surgery is sooner rather than later as two things are quite obvious:

1) Dalton is having more and more difficulty swallowing even liquids
2) The pain is getting worse every day

The Cornwell shake (a yummy blend of bananas, blackberries, oj, and emergen-c) that has been his breakfast for the past few days was simply too thick to get down this morning, so it's pretty much ensure plus and liquid vicodin. At this point, Friday would be great a great day for surgery as I can't imagine him having to wait even three more days, let alone the weekend.

For those who didn't know, we began a kitchen remodel about 5 weeks ago, and today they actually began to hang the cabinet doors. That means there is a strong possibility that we will be able to move the stove out of the living room and the coffeemaker, blender, and microwave off the dining room table in just a few days. How's that for irony: we'll have a beautiful new kitchen and yet all of our gourmet endeavors will be being created in a cuisinart blender.

By the way, forgive my rather dry tone today, but humor took the day off. I know I am supposed to be laughing my way through this, leaning on God, and having faith that He will heal. It's just that right now I can't believe this is happening to us.

Happy PETsitting.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Cars, Rentals, and a Change of Plans 10/14/05 in the PM

Of course, we still had to deal with Dalton's disabled car, so we headed out to Monrovia to meet up with the tow truck and get it to the Mercedes dealer downtown. We tried jumping it first to no avail, so when the guy arrived and insisted on trying it himself, we were a bit miffed. To our embarrassment and surprise, it started right up. As I followed D to the dealership, it became clear that things were still out of whack and he nearly had to push it the last two blocks. I fed Iain while Dalton explained the problem to his service advisor. Then he hopped in my car and we headed up Figueroa to his office.

Gasoline has a strong odor.

"Do you smell gas?" Dalton asked me.

"No, not really. I think it's just the smell of downtown traffic."

"I smell gas."

"Yeah, I smell it too."

Off to the Acura dealer I go, praying that the car doesn't explode before I arrive. It becomes clear after a couple of hours that they know there is a leak but don't know where. It appears that the main tank is located right under Iain's carseat, so we will be renting a car for the remainder of the day. Enterprise comes to pick me up and we load up Iain's carseat, the stroller, my computer, and the diaper bag into a minivan and head down the street to fill out the necessary paperwork. Just as I walk in the door, my phone rings and it's Dr. DeMeester's office. Alice has the dates for the testing:

Tuesday, 10/18 10:15am PET Scan
Wednesday, 10/19 7am Esophageal Ultrasound
Thursday, 10/20 8:45am Follow up appointment to review results


This was supposed to take 3 weeks.

I ask somewhat timidly, "Are you guys trying to get Dalton in to surgery before the Dr. leaves for his conference?"

"That's exactly what we are doing," she says, "and we are juggling everyone to make it happen."

So, if everything goes well with the testing, we are now looking at surgery in less than 10 days instead of over 4 weeks. This is amazing. An answer to prayer. And scary as all hell. I call Dalton's primary gastroenterologist, Dennis, to give him an update and he asks me incredulously "How did you get him in to see DeMeester so quickly."

"I have no idea," I reply. And then it hits me. Yes I do, people are praying and God is answering those prayers.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Whirlwind Day 10/14/05 in the AM

Sometimes when you look back at the twists and turns that comprise a day, you wonder how you ever stayed on course. We scurried out of the house this morning at 7:15 in an attempt to make it to USC by 7:45. We were allready pushing it, but thanks to LA traffic and a preponderance of people who decided to work on a Friday, we were definitely going to be late. We kept joking about the fact that we would arrive only to be told that they decided to give our space to someone who took their cancer a bit more seriously. Thankfully, they took pity on us and took us right back to an exam room. The nurse checked D's vitals and reported that he was in perfect health.

BP - excellent
HR - excellent
Weight - excellent (hadn't even lost anything yet from the liquid diet)
Cancer - Oh yeah, that was bad...

We were only there a few minutes when a very attractive man wearing a sport suit and khaki pants walked in carrying D's CT films. The first thing you notice about Dr. DeMeester is how darn tall he is. I swear, he must be 7 feet tall! He looks like he should be playing for the Lakers instead of performing delicate surgery. He sat down, went over D's medical history and then politely asked if we would like to see why he's having such difficulty swallowing and so much pain in his chest and back. "Um, sure," we said. And up went the CT scans.

"A CT scan shows slices of your body at different points."

"Here, your esophagus looks completely normal."

"Here, you start to see some thickening of the lining and a shrinking of the tube."

"Here, you see that the hole is now quite small."


Dr. DeMeester explained that it appeared like the tumor was differentiated by a plane from both the heart and the spine - a good sign for surgery and containment. However, there were some suspicious lymph nodes around the esophagus, and he wasn't really satisfied with the quality of the CT scan from our local hospital - something about going from the top of the liver to the middle of the liver with no pictures in between. Nevertheless, he seemed fairly confident that the cancer hadn't gone into the liver or the lungs - also a very good thing.

He also said that Dalton had adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and that it was caused by years of reflux wearing down the lining and causing Barret's esophagus which then leads to cancer. He said that it wasn't caused by anything Dalton did or didn't do and that its rate of occurence in the United States was growing faster than any other cancer, affecting primarily young, caucasian men in otherwise good health. We laughed about Dalton always wanting to be on the cutting edge of a new trend and how it would have been nice if he could have let this one pass him by.

To make a long story short (or at least bearable), Dr. DeMeester wants to get a few more tests - PET/CT scan and esophageal ultrasound - in order to be sure it hasn't spread beyond the esophageal area and then schedule surgery for mid-November when he returns from an oversees conference. He tells Dalton to avoid all solid food and enjoy as many ice cream shakes ("the good stuff not the lowfat crap") that he can bear in order to keep his weight up. He writes a prescription for a pint of liquid vicodin and says we'll hear from his nurse later that day regarding the scheduling of tests. Thank you and have a nice day!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

It's Blog Time

It's funny, but sleep has never been a problem for me until now. I've been lying awake since just after 3 trying to slow the thoughts in my head. It obviously isn't working, so once again I've decided to give up and focus my nervous energies elsewhere. In about 3 hours, we will be meeting with one of the top esophageal cancer surgeons in the country. A friend of a friend recommended him and he has been cancer free for five years. When I mentioned his name to Dalton's gastroenterolgist, he confirmed that Dr. DeMeester was definitely on the short list of the best of the best. Getting in to see him so quickly was definitely a miracle, so I guess that's one down and a couple more to go. Go God!

At this point, I'm not sure what to be hoping for. It appears from the CT scan that there is some spread to the lymph nodes and in some cases that means that they will not attempt surgery. At the same time, it is obviously getting more ad more difficult for Dalton to swallow and we both fear that within a couple of weeks, even liquids will be impossible. He went out today to pick up some Ensure Plus (a hysterical thought for a 37 year old man who was trying to slim down for a 5k in January) and a super deluxe heavy duty blender - you know the kind that can puree a car tire and claim it's edible. I guess what I most want to hear is that they're going to move quickly, perform the surgery, start the chemo and radiation, and make this thing get the hell out.

By the way, did I mention that Dalton's car broke down while he was out buying blenders? Not normally a crisis, but more than an annoyance for someone who has other things to be concerned with. We simply decided to leave it there and deal with it tomorrow. For the most part, Dalton has been incredibly optimistic, pointing out that his odds of beating the cancer are better than his odds of getting it in the first place, but I know he gets scared when he looks at Iain and he told me today that he just wasn't ready to say goodbye to his kids yet. Little Dalton will be with us all weekend and will probably think it's just awesome that Dad gets to eat strawbery shakes for breakfast lunch and dinner. Because of his autism, I'm sure he won't understand much more than that Daddy is very sick but he's a sensitive kid and will know that something isn't quite right.

Thanks again for your prayers. They are keeping us all going.