A Broken Back and New Hope

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The most recent we were all together, Noah’s 8th birthday

I am sitting in the ICU were Julie is being monitored due to blood loss from her femur surgery two days ago.  It is quiet, here in the Huntsman Center ICU, only six patients tonight.  Julie is one of the more stable patients.  This is a very nice ICU, with rooms the size of some hotel rooms.  It doesn’t feel like an ICU.  As I sit here on my couch and bed while Julie is sleeping quietly after a long day, I am thinking about how hard the past two months have been for Julie.  I won’t chronicle it all, but she has suffered much fatigue, nausea, vomiting, fear, sadness, pain and despair.  Without question she has reason to feel sad.  We try hard to stay positive, but pain is a constant and powerful reminder of the reality that she has cancer in much of her body and skeleton that is slowly progressing.  This fight is very different from what I imagined it would be.  It is more painful, more persistent and more discouraging.  For some reason, I thought of heroically enduring this, with perfect faith and unwavering positive outlook, and we would be pillars of strength to others.  I don’t know why I have such delusions of grandeur for myself or my family.  Our courage and faith is tested.

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Still loves to tend the flower pots, despite a broken back and bad hip

At the time of my last post, Julie was having back pain on three different days over a two-week period.  After the third time it happened, we discovered a broken vertebra at T11, in the middle of her back.  She had to postpone her new chemotherapy after two infusions, and have radiation for two weeks.  She got better from that surprisingly fast, with no back pain since.  She is also recovered from the severe lower back pain due to lumbar and sacral tumors that were irradiated in April.  But her left hip continued to worsen to the point of it crippling her much of the day, so 5 days ago I called her orthopedic sarcoma surgeon at Huntsman.  We have discussed her worsening hip pain a few times over that past 4 months, and this time he decided it was time to remove the upper part of her femur to completely remove the cancer growing there.  The timing was perfect because she had been off chemo long enough to get radiation to her back, and so she was already off chemo long enough for surgery, so three days later, Julie was getting a new upper femur.

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X-ray taken just before surgery

She is doing very well, all things considered. It was about a five-hour surgical case and she oozed more blood than expected during surgery.   She had two transfusions during surgery and has had five more since, as she has continued to lose blood.  But it all went well and her surgeon says that this repair should be definitive and she shouldn’t have to have anything more done to that leg and hip. When she recovers, she should be able to walk well without pain in that hip and leg. The bone that they took out around her prior implant was all soft and growing out with new spongy tumor all around it. She is lucky the implants held and that the femur didn’t crumble apart. She had the upper third of her left femur replaced with a metal femur implant. The timing for this was amazingly good, renews my faith that we get a little help from above.

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After Surgery

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