Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Final Blog: Cancer Free

With exception of the first blog, this is likely the most difficult blog I have written. It is so easy to blog the facts about upcoming doctors appointments and long term strategies. But it is very difficult to use a blog to return the love our family felt from our supporters during our year long journey. I only hope I can be a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and community servant as a result of this experience in an effort to repay my gratitude. We will never forget the prayers, cards, calls and all around support from all of you.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Woman at the Washington Zoo

The Woman at the Washington Zoo is a compilation of writings by Marjorie Williams. I was instructed by the dear friend who lent me the book to be sure to read section 3 a Cancer Memoir (she is actually known more for her writings on politics). Her thoughts and feelings were so similar to mine that it was a very strange experience to if someone else, years earlier, were writing about me. If you are curious about what it must be like to go through this experience as a relatively young mother, read at your own risk....Marjorie Williams writes brilliantly and proves that all my crazy thoughts and fears are indeed common for those who have this experience. I've tried to blog my gratitude and the medical facts without leaking too much emotion, so I'm cheating and letting Marjorie Williams share the emotions for those who choose to read.

On a lighter note and back to the facts...we are headed to Nebraska next week to get my results. Everyone is optimistic that the news will be good. We should know by Tuesday evening and Mickey will likely send an email update. Rick Hall, if you are reading this, I have lost your contact drop me an email at when you have a chance :)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Official date...

We now have an appointment in NE for 6/10. I'm feeling great and operating at about 95% (maybe better than pre-cancer ;) ). My hair just started to grow again and it looks like it is going to be dark but only time will tell. I wanted to blog about how great I'm doing as a reminder that prayers work. Lately, there have been too many stories close to me that need special prayers. Fortunately, all of them appear to be defying the odds with prayer and the support of family and friends as the common thread! Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us and supporting us. We are grateful beyond words.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

100 Day Countdown

I'm day 49 from transplant and day 100 is my follow up visit. Some of you know that I have been pretty negative about the follow up PET. Planning for worst case scenario is a bad habit of mine. However, yesterday my radiation oncologist projected a clean PET as has my local doctor. I think I'm finally accepting that I could really be cured! Please continue to pray as we are in the final stretch!!! (for those of you keeping up with my counts they were 2.7 yesterday and Dr. Heffner was so satisfied that he only wants to check my labs twice more before my trip back to NE....great news)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I have been home for a week and it has been really wonderful! It is nice to have the family back together after 10 long weeks of being apart. The next step is to wait approximately 60 days to see if the transplant worked. In the meantime, they are checking my counts once a week to be sure they are coming up. Last WBC was 2.2 which is good for this stage of the transplant.

Thanks to Mary Ann for the PJs and to Katie for the Easter surprise for my last days in NE and to everyone's cards, emails and calls!

It is great to be home!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Quickie Post....

WBC are 0.5 and that is considered finally in the realm of making WBCs. We are late on the production which has been worrisome. Also, I'm fighting a common infection which is keeping me out of the communication loop. No real ETA yet, but we are now starting to head back in the right direction. My email is still a major problem, so thanks for your patience!

Thanks to David for the doo rags (congratulations on the huge job!) Dana H. for the calming CD, Dana W. for the cool pics of the past, Helene for the sweet card and the great book, Pam P. for the awesome package from Alaska..super cool! Betty B. for the photos from the aquarium and for letting Walker crash grandparents day :) To Stephen for the special package of love from home and for being the family ROCK!!!! Thanks and lots of Love to all of you, Laurel

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Communicating with me...

I do not have the outgoing server information (yet) to send outgoing emails, so we can communicate through the blog but remember the blog is public. I hope to have this resolved Monday morning. My overall energy level is expected to drop dramatically, so soon updates are likely to come from either Mickey or my mother. Please do not reply to my mother's blackberry b/c she has very limited space and is actually needs the blackberry for work while we are here. I still have my cell phone, so please feel free to contact me that way. If I can't answer, I won't so don't worry about disturbing us. I have enjoyed staying in touch with everyone. It is a reminder of how excited I am to get HOME!

Thank yous and other misc. fun stuff

I got a really neat book from my mentor Dave Perkins who completely understands my geeky financial side! Thanks Dave :) The angel that Mike sent me fits over the heart door hanger that Tommie and Terry sent me and it just makes me happy to look at them both together. Thank you to Kim Green for driving so far to bring the boys gourmet, allergy free food....I've warned Stephen not to get used to everyone's fantastic cooking b/c I will be back with my sub par cooking in no time ;)

Bobby, my brother, has arranged for another visit to see me this coming weekend and my Aunt Carol the next weekend...thank you for taking time out of your schedules to come freeze in NE :) :) I am thoroughly enjoying the super soft robe that Paula brought out to me on her trip. Please see the photo of us in the snow. Thank you to Sarah Freeman and Laura Brown for being surrogate mothers for Walker at school. Your presence, love and children have definitely made his transition much smoother. Thanks, Sarah, for the Valentine's Day party photo. I have posted it for all to see how much Grandpa likes to visit Walker at school.

Walker also went to the GA aquariaum with his buddies Casual and Tommie. Thank you to the Butler family for letting Walker crash your visit! He had a blast and I will post those photos as soon as I have them.

As always, thank you for your love and support. One last special shout out to my parents who have put their lives on hold to take care of me and my family without even a wimper of complaint!


BEAM is the acronym for my club chemo cocktail of the week. So far, not so bad. I get 2 treatments per day at about 3 hours each session. My esosphogitis is being managed with pain medication so I'm still getting calories :)

The rest of my treatment goes like this: The counting of my days starts with a -6. It is Sunday and I'm officially on -3. On Wednesday I will be on day 0 which is the day my stem cells will be replaced back into my system. Then the waiting begins. According to the doctors the going gets pretty tough once the cells are back in my system. This is reason they will watch me for 10-14 days in patient and then another 10 days outpatient (but still in NE). The next PET will be at 100 days from transplant, so I will go home hoping and praying that this has worked.

Hospital Address

Please send all snail mail to the following address. I should be here until 3/2/08.

Laurel Alberty/#5711
Lied Transplant Center
987600 Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, NE 68198-7600

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Endoscopy results...

Just a little esophogitis so we are all green lights for tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Finally...a Friendly PET

Today was big b/c we got the PET results that would determine if I am eligible for the stem cell transplant....and, I am. YIPEE!!! It is hard to believe that one would get excited about getting a stem cell transplant, but I am. The uptake went from a high nine to a low seven which is a nice improvement particularly since I am only a week out from radiation.

We do have a slight delay due to my esophigitis. I will have an endoscopy in the morning to be sure that I don't have a bigger problem. Assuming that the results from tomorrow's test continue with the same positive momentum as we had from the PET, I will be admitted to the co-op on Thursday to begin the transplant.

Thank you to everyone for your prayers and support...clearly it works!!!!

PS-Stephen and Walker had a safe trip home. Walker was very excited to get back to school and tell his friends all about his trip to the zoo :) :)

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Visit

Stephen and Walker came to visit and we had a WONDERFUL time! We went to the zoo which is a very impressive zoo with many exhibits. We only made it through two b/c it was so large. Fortunately, it was indoors b/c the temps were in the teens. My friend Pam reminded me that it is all relative since last week it was -27 in Alaska where she lives....YIKES now that is COLD! The zoo tickets were given to me by a fellow patient at radiation. I have really been blown away by everyones' kindness toward me and my family....

Along those lines, I need to do some shout outs for care packages to Mickey and Mike and all the things they like :) Judy and Mike Adams for all their favorites too....too many to list. And Sarah for delicious cookies, candy and magazines! I have thoroughly enjoyed getting packages in the mail. It feels like Christmas all over again. Thanks for thinking of me and taking time out of your busy schedules to put together packages with such attention to detail.

Tomorrow is the big day and Mickey will likely send the update in the evening. I have the PET at 9 am and an appointment with the doctor at 4:30 pm central the results will be late. I've had a minor setback that might cost me some days. I have esophigitis from the radiation (like a sore throat except in my chest). Dr. Armitage is likely to delay the transplant by a few days...we will know more tomorrow....

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Measuring by Milestones

Radiation is complete and my dates with "Henry the Hammer" are over. Dr. Enke thinks that there is some shrinkage of the halo albeit subjective. The next measure is on Tuesday 2/12 when I have the PET/CT. I am cautiously optimistic since this is the appointment that always seems to throw us a curve ball. My counts are on the way up and finally the WBC is 2.8...still not what they want, but getting much closer.

My visit with Walker was cancelled yet again...he can't seem to shake the stomach bug. I did however have a very special visit with my brother two weeks ago and with Paula this past weekend. I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting, catching up by phone, receiving cards and the extra special package from Tommie and Terry!!!! Also a special shout out to Sarah, Don and Phyllis for feeding the boys...and always to Mickey for being the center of the Team Alberty organization...Thank you.....Love, Laurel is snowing like crazy here. Four inches during the day and potentially 4-6 more tonight. It is really strange how temperatures in the teens can make temperatures in the 30s seem warm :)

Thursday, January 31, 2008

No News can be Good News

I'm more than 1/2 way through my radiation treatment so we had a meeting to see how things were going. There was no apparent change in the tumor. This is not completely unexpected. We had hoped for some shrinkage, but no growth is a good thing! Dr. Enke will do another CT at the end of treatment but is not expecting anything dramatic to show up. The really good news is that Dr. Enke said most often lymphoma will be PET negative after doing two-a-days like I've been doing. This was great news to me!

We also met with Dr. Armitage. I feel bad for him b/c he continues to be the one who has to break the bad news to me. First, my counts are pretty low and if they dip further they may have to stop radiation. If my counts cooperate and I continue down this current path, then he has had to add a week so that he can take a look at the PET to be sure I am eligible for transplant (basically that I have not worsened). This delay means that it will be at least one week longer before I can go home. We have planned two family visits that have been cancelled b/c Walker has been sick first with a cold now with a stomach bug and ear infection. We are going to try again next week which will be my last chance before the transplant.

Thanks again for all of the prayers, letters, flowers, food and overall support. I really don't know how we could get through this without all of our great friends and family. Lots of love to all of you...Laurel

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Week One Down and Radiation One Complete

We have been here one full week and a lot has happened. We have started down the new path with radiation. I will have treatments twice a day and have completed my first treatment of the day. Nothing to it so far. My next milestone is next Wednesday when Dr. Enke takes a look to see if there is any progress with a CT scan.

Thanks for all of the letters, calls, emails, gifts, prayers and support! Also, a special thanks to Sarah who has been sneaking meals in for Stephen at Walker's school....he has really enjoyed them :) :)

Monday, January 21, 2008

You reap what you sow...

Well I had no idea that I had been "sow'n" some stem cells, but according to our harvest...that is exactly what I have been doing! Stem cell harvest usually takes 4 days on average and rarely do they see someone finish in the first session. When I got the call today, Jo said I "rocked the stem cell harvest" and my numbers were at the top of their goal. This is great news for several reasons.... I will not have to sit hooked to the apherisis machine for 3 more days, I do not need any more growth factor shots (so no more bone pain or the pain killers that go with it), I will start radiation sooner, and most importantly....I will go HOME sooner!!! YIPEEEE!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Boot Straps...

Thank God for boot straps b/c Team Alberty sure has needed them a lot lately! We received some less than pleasant news from the PET as you may have realized from Mickey's email update, but we still have a plan. As a financial planner (and a control freak) this plan brings me much comfort :)

We have started the initial phase of the stem cell process. They will begin harvesting cells on Monday. I will begin aggressive radiation therapy on the following Monday for two weeks. After the first week of radiation they will check to see if it is IS going to work this time!!!! Then, on with the chemo phase of the stem cell transplant...and finally the transplant. Then a brief recovery and then HOME!!!

OK, so it has been a while since I have given my family a shout out. First, to my husband who has remained a ROCK for me and Walker throughout this process. Also to my parents who have offered endless support in too many ways to list! It is a true blessing to see how family and friends can rally in support during a crisis. I am humbled and grateful :)

A mention about the seems that you all are getting some cold snow too...we had -5 today (not windchill). Fortunately, I am spending most the time inside only getting in and out the shuttle and have not really felt the cold yet. The snow is so pretty. I enjoy looking at it from the warmth of the hotel restaurant with a cup of coffee in my hands.

Lastly, today is a really good day! Even though we got some tough news we are still finding a way to stay positive. My radiation oncologist is WONDERFUL! And, I have every confidence that he is going to make this work.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Long Haul

I'm headed for NE on Monday (1/14). My worst case return date is the end of March a bit longer than we anticipated. As we learned the hard way, the PET can result in a major shift in our plans. The PET and the doctor's appointment is on 1/16. We will initially stay in a hotel then move to the hospital then probably back to the hotel. Mickey will forward contact information and such at a later date.

A HUGE thank you to all of you who worked so hard to find Walker childcare. A special thank you to Mickey for orchestrating the last minute call for help and to Katy who made it easy to return home to Champions for Children and those of you who offered your homes! We did a practice morning on Saturday at Champions and he seems to be very excited.

I am going to have webcam, email, snail mail and my cell I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone.