Deja Vu

This is all like deja vu. I have been here before. Carlie and Luke have been here before. James has most definitely been here before. There are a lot of emotions as we enter this week before James’ next surgery.

There has been fear, sadness and anger as surgery draws near. Some more extreme than the others. I found it odd telling our 15 and 12 year old today that they were strong. That they handle their dads cancer with strength and dignity. It’s weird to tell them that. It is weird that they have been dealing with this for nearly 8 years. It is weird that people don’t think to ask them how they are because most don’t think of their dad being sick. This whole surgery thing sad. It’s maddening. But James, Carlie and especially Luke continue to inspire me daily.

There really is only one fear as we head into this surgery.. scar tissue. I have told James repeatedly that the second they tell me they are through the scar tissue, 99% of my fears will disappear and I will likely relax. The story is much different if they can not get through it. So, I anticipate within 4-6 hours they will tell me they successfully maneuvered through the scar tissue that has built up from 3 prior surgeries and I will breathe a sigh of relief. I believe this will be his next chapter. I can not think of the alternative as it will drive me crazy.

Although we have been through this before and we are quite blessed that they will even try a 3rd surgery (some PMP patients can’t even have a complete first or second), the unease of being away from our kids for 7-10 days and the recovery is daunting. Needed and necessary but daunting.

I am thankful for James’ work. They have gone above and beyond and truly are our family. They have provided much needed support, especially as we head into the holidays and the unknown. I am thankful to those of you who have supported us once again financially. None of this is easy but your gifts have given us tremendous peace of mind as time is taken off work and pay checks are reduced. I am thankful for those of you who simply pray and send us happy thoughts. I believe prayer has gotten us to this nearly 8th anniversary of his diagnosis and has been the reason James has been blessed with good health and minimal complications or symptoms. I believe prayer is the reason, he has lived a completely normal life while living with this cancer. I believe prayer is the reason that people who do not know us, have no idea he is sick. I believe prayer has given our kids a way to handle this.

I won’t lie. The thought of our lives changing scares me, but I am choosing to believe that James’ story is not done yet. I believe he has several chapters left and this surgery will hopefully make the ending that much further away.

So, please continue to remember my sweet husband and our children over the next few weeks. Life will be crazy for them with recovery and our norms disrupted and then a whole new set of disruptions beginning 12/27 with Carlie’s surgery. The Lord has gotten us this far and we are just letting his keep the wheel, as we are not able to maneuver this on our own.

7 years and counting…

Today marks the day that our journey with cancer began. ½ of Carlie’s life and the majority of Luke’s life has been spent watching their dad fight a disease that is sneaky and most likely devasting. They have been brave and make sure that they keep the faith that their dad will be A-OK. 

7 years ago, this all started with a sharp pain, which we thought was a ruptured or inflamed appendix or related to the ribeye sandwich the night before. He went to the ER, had a CT scan that lit up like a Christmas tree and was then referred to North Memorial Hospital for what we were told was likely stomach cancer. At the time, we thought our time together was short. There was silence. 

You are kidding, right? James doesn’t drink, smoke, he was in great shape and eating healthy. How could he have cancer, let alone stomach cancer? He has no trouble eating. He is fine except for this pain in his side. 

The next 3 days were awful. My grandpa was home with my kids, my parents were trying to get to MN, and every day James deteriorated before my eyes. They were running test after test, all normal – all benign. He wasn’t able to eat, or drink. He was fading away and it was happening fast. On 12/23/10, he gladly jumped onto a surgical gurney, for emergency exploratory surgery. The surgery lasted 3 hours and well into the early morning, and he was sent to recovery not really knowing much more than we did before he went in. His appendix was unrecognizable, they did a right hemicolectomy and told us he had a jelly like substance all over his abdomen. 

The good thing was he was able to start eating and drinking and my husband started to rebound. The bad news is we would likely wait a week for pathology because of Christmas. We did receive a preliminary result of Appendix Cancer and the surgeon said his life expectancy would be about 5 years!! Well, that was 7 years ago..

My real life Superman has undergone two cytoreduction surgeries since then, with one of them including HIPEC. He has surpassed the 5 year mark and continues to fight this nemesis every day. 

He is now in a trial and seems to be doing well with relatively good results so far but it is cumbersome and tiring. 

Life has gone on. Not always easy and not, at all, how we thought our life would be, but we continue to be blessed. Our life is good and my little family has come so far. 

We wouldn’t be here today without the love and support of our family and friends. We wouldn’t be here without your prayers and help, financially, when needed. 

We are forever grateful to every doctor and surgeon that we have crossed paths with, as they are the reason we are where we are today. We are grateful for medical and science advances that have progressed to the point this trial could not only extend James’ life, but also the ever growing number of Appendix Cancer patients. 

We are forever grateful for everyday that we are still on this side of heaven with James. 

Hug your loved ones, tell them how you feel because, as the Richter’s know, life comes at you fast and can change in a blink of an eye. 

No ordinary man – Day 42

Day 42 has not gone as smoothly as we would have liked. But you gotta take the good with the not ideal, I suppose. 

James traveled to Houston alone this time, so the kids could have some normalcy. It’s good for the kids, likely good for James and kind of heart wrenching for me, as I haven’t missed appointment with him, in nearly 7 years. 

To top it off, his CPK levels were super duper high today. For the past month they have been 470ish (130’s is normal). But my husband is far from normal or ordinary and today those numbers jumped to around 1000. I don’t have an exact number because I am getting my information second hand. 

Just a little side note – High CPK levels in the blood mean there is likely some muscle damage, which is releasing creatine into the blood stream. This isn’t a good thing. James hasn’t done any strenuous exercising, had a heart attack or suffered an injury that would cause these numbers to increase; therefore, the chemo (Cobimetinib) is likely the culprit.  

As a result of the high CPK level he was not immediately cleared for his infusion until a urinalysis was completed. 

The good news with this “bad” (not ideal) development is that James feels good. His blood pressure is good, he isn’t having any pain or weakness. 

The Urinalysis has been returned and his protein levels were a bit elevated and James understood that he was not having treatment today so he headed to Kenny and Ziggy’s for lunch. 18 minutes into his 22 minute drive, the clinic called him to see where he was. After clarifying with Dr. R, James is to have his infusion today and continue the cobimetinib. 

So, “now what” you ask? 

1) He is suppose to continue the Cobimetinib and have blood work, in MN, next week to check his levels and we will go from there. It appears the plan is to continue as is because he does not have any significant daily symptoms of pain or weakness nor is he having any heart issues. 

3) If he has any muscular pain, he is suppose to call Dr. Raghav and discontinue his cobimetinib immediately. 

So prayer request (because I always have them) – please pray for his numbers to go down, substantially! Also, that he continues to be symptom free, in regard to muscle pain, weakness, blood pressure. 

4) I will add his day 42 picture as soon as he sends me a selfie!! 😊

Thank you for your prayers and support! 💛