Saturday, October 9, 2010

Life in the Fast Lane

Cancer Update

August 15, Independence Day - Completed my twelfth and final cycle of maintenance chemo.

August 20, Test Day - Full battery of tests to determine the status of the Multiple Myeloma

August 26, Dr Appointment - Met with Dr. Zangari to review the test results and determine the way forward. The results were very good but not great. My progression seems to have stalled just short of complete remission. In Dr. Zangari's words I am "in a state of very, very good partial remission". The good news is that complete remission is just a line on on a graph and the fact that I am not quite there is not indicative of how quickly the cancer will return. Even in complete remission the cancer is not completely destroyed and if I live long enough will eventually return. This could be in six months or, as we hope, many years from now. In any case I am now chemo free and other than monthly lab work and semi-annual testing for signs of recurrence I am free to do anything, or at least anything that my 63 year old body will allow.

Life Update
In the nearly eight weeks I have been chemo free there have been a number of changes in my general health. A lot of the symptoms that have been part of my life for the last twenty one months have cleared up as the chemo is cleansed from my body. The most notable and most appreciated is my return to a normal level of energy. I have been so tired for so long I forgot how good it feels to feel good.

In July as I was approaching chemo freedom I decided that it was time to try and get this old body into shape. As some of you know Lynn and I like to ride bikes. Actually, to be more accurate Lynn likes to ride her bike and I like Lynn so getting back on the bike seemed like a good way to get my exercise and spend time with her. So the first week in July I got back on my bike for the first time in almost two years. I rode all of three miles, my legs were aching, my lungs were burning and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Not an encouraging start. What I needed was a goal and a plan. As it turns out there was a cancer fund bike ride that Lynn wanted to ride in on the 25th of September. It is called the Heber Century and had ride options of 25, 50 or 100 miles. I knew the 50 and 100 were out of the question for this year but thought the 25 would be an achievable goal. To make an already long story short, I made it. It was a great day as I was supported by Lynn, daughter Jennifer, son-in-lay Gary and grandson Tanner. Lynn and I did the 25 and Jenn, Gary and Tanner did the 50.

This past weekend we were at Bear Lake on the Utah Idaho border with Jenn, Gary and family. The Friday before conference, we started what we hope will become a family tradition. That is the annual ride around Bear Lake (50 miles). This year it was Lynn, me, Jennifer, Gary and grand kids Tanner and Audrey. Audrey and I were only up to half way around the lake this year but have as a goal the full ride next year. Everyone else made the full ride. But as Paul Harvey would say you need to know the rest of the story. The day before the ride Lynn lost her footing and took a nasty fall down the front stairs. She was in such pain I was sure the ride was going to be out of the question for her. After 42 years together I should have known better. The next day she drug her bruised and battered body out of bed, got on her bike and rode the whole 50 miles. Never underestimate the toughness of a southern Idaho woman.

Kelly, Tyler and family are in Wisconsin and couldn't be with us this year but were certainly there in spirit. Kelly provided us a design for the t-shirts and Jennifer had them printed. We have posted some pictures so you can see the team and Kelly's great shirts.

Next year we are doing the ride again. Friends and family are all invited to ride with us so get riding and we will see you there next year.

The Heber Century

Kelly's shirt design for 'Ride Around the Lake'

Steve, Lynn, Jennifer, Tanner, Gary and Audrey

Friday, July 30, 2010

Finish Line in Sight

As most of the readers of this blog site know, I took a little vacation from work from November of 2008 through June of 2009. Activities during those 7 months included stem cell collection, three rounds of high dose chemotherapy, two stem cell transplants, and three hospitalizations as well as multiple infections and blood clots to resolve. During that time I also found out about the body's amazing ability to make new blood. If not I'm sure I would have dried up like an old prune given the amount of blood they took out of me during that time.

Since then I have been on a monthly regimen of low dose chemotherapy. Kind of a booster shot for those who achieved remission during the transplant phase and for people like me who are still working on remission it is ongoing therapy to get me into remission. Maintenance chemo is scheduled for twelve monthly cycles and I am now one week into cycle twelve. I have 17 days of treatment left, 17 doses of Revlimid, 4 doses of Dexamethasone, and 2 infusions of Velcade, but who is counting.

With maintenance chemo they keep pumping just enough poison into your system to make you feel sick about 90% of the time and really sick the other 10%. And of course you are always, always tired. However, I have been told by those who have boldly gone before me in this process that a few weeks after you quit taking meds, and as the chemo is flushed from your system you begin to feel like your old self. Some describe it as feeling like they have been let out of jail. I am really looking forward to seeing what the next few months will bring.

Following the completion of cycle twelve, I will have a complete evaluation of the status of my cancer. This is a full day of testing; lab work, bone marrow biopsy, PET scan and MRI. I then meet with the doctor on the 26th of August to go over results. Hopefully, this last three months of therapy has done the trick and gotten me into remission. I will post the results as I get them.

Meanwhile life goes on. This has been an exciting summer for our family. Jennifer, Gary and family moved back to Utah in June after being gone for almost 14 years. It is so nice to have them close again. Kelly and Tyler and their family were here for a week near the end of June and we were all together for a little while. During the week they were here we had two family reunions, one for the Tanners and one for the Smiths. This would have been hectic enough but the fact that we were in charge of both reunions made it an absolutely crazy week. By Sunday of that week we were all exhausted but it was certainly great to see so many of our family.

Grandpa Steve with Annie Grace and Maggie Lynn

Steve helping princess Maggie fish

The crew at the fish hatchery - the only way to go

Tanner family golf tournament
The highlight of the day - Kelly chipped in a long shot for an Eagle

Tanner family golfers - 2010
Back row - Steve, Paul, Jerry, Jim, Tyler, Gary
Front row - Lynn, Matt, Pheobe, Kelly, Audrey, Tanner
Missing - Jennifer and Ethan - Sadly Ethan was sick and Jennifer was caring for him
Tanner family reunion - 2010

Kelly face painting at the reunion

Crazy cousins
Lauren, Jaxon, Lia and Annie

Smith reunion - 2010
Maggie, Tyler, Kelly, Lynn, Steve, Tanner, Jennifer
Lia, Jaxon, Ethan and Lauren
Missing Gary, Audrey and Annie
Gary on his way back to Kentucky, Annie unfortunately sick and Audrey was taking care of Annie

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Timely Post

Well it was only a mere six weeks ago that I went in for my quarterly checkup with the Dr., so I guess it is about time I posted the results and how I am doing. I have had a number of friends and family tell me that when I don’t post for a long time they tend to assume the worst and start to worry and then they are afraid to call because they think it will be bad news.. My apologies if I have caused any of you to worry. The delay has nothing to do with my checkup it is just pure laziness and procrastination.

As for my checkup the news was very good, not great, but very good. Great news would have been to have the Dr. say I was in complete remission, which I am not, but very good in the fact that all of the Myeloma markers are either normal or close to normal. Of the five markers they look at, two (Free light chain ratio and lytic lesions) are in the normal range; my plasma cell dyscracia (which we are all familiar with) is at 5% and needs to be below 5% (I’d say that one is pretty close to being under control). If it wasn’t for a handful of bad proteins on a couple of tests I’d be in great shape.

So the bottom line is we are making progress, just a little more slowly than we would like. Lynn is sure it is her fault because she has never learned patience and this is the Lord’s way of giving her one more chance to learn.

I will try to be better about posting more often, but the bottom line is, no promises. After all I am a Tanner male and we are not known for our prolific letter writing.

We love you all and appreciate the support we have received from you as we have gone over this little bump in the road of our lives.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, Life goes on....

Currently I am in the middle of my sixth of twelve cycles of maintenance chemo. At the completion of cycle six I will be evaluated to see how well we are progressing toward complete remission (PET scan, MRI, Biopsy, etc.). I am scheduled for testing on February 11th and my appointment with the Doctor is on the 16th. I will post the results of the tests as soon as I know them. In the meantime life goes on and I plan to make the most of it.

Last year Lynn and I spent the holidays in isolation and so the plan was for the family to get together for Christmas this year at Kelly and Tyler’s in Wisconsin. Lynn and I traveled by air from Salt Lake City and Jennifer, Gary and family by car from Cincinnati. As Christmas approached the weather looked like a potential problem for both of us, but the storms held off and we were all able to get in within a few hours of each other on the 23rd of December.

Fourteen of us at Kelly & Tyler’s was quite a houseful so Gary and Jennifer got a hotel room while Lynn and I stayed up the street at Tyler and Kelly’s friends house who were in Chicago for the holidays ( thanks Jason and April). We all spent the days at T & K’s but spread out for sleeping in the evening.

The rest of the holiday was spent as it should be. All of the family together, new pajamas for the kids and the Christmas story acted out on Christmas Eve, ebelskivers on Christmas morning, hats and scarves made by Grandma for all the girls, a Christmas movie, swimming at the hotel pool where Jenn and Gary were staying, playing with the new Wii where each of the grandkids took turns kicking Grandpa’s trash, and food, food, and more food. Thanks to the Kings for hosting the crew – not an easy task – well done!

However, I would have to say that the big hit for the Holidays had to be Ozzie the cat. With all the kids competing for his attention I am surprised he survived the week.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I will quit typing and let Lynn post some pictures of the visit.

In the background - Jaxon and Ethan
Foreground - Lia and Annie

Grandpa Steve and Maggie - high five - again!

Dinner out
Left to right , Gary, Jenn, Lauren, Tyler, Maggie, Kelly
Steve and Lynn
No Christmas Eve is complete without the story of Jesus' birth.
Tanner hearing the good news from the angels.

So sweet - listening intently as Grandpa reads the story from the Bible.

What a great looking group of grandkids!!
Top row - Audrey, Tanner, Lauren
Girls in pink, Annie, Lia, Maggie
Boys in red, Ethan, Jaxon
Maggie- sporting her new hat.
Frosting cookies for Santa

Tanner with Ozzie - what an interesting cat - he loves people

This sums up the end of the Christmas Day!