Thursday, April 30, 2009

He's Baaack!

Well almost. He's back to giving unsolicited financial advice to the kids, back to asking about booking lake weekends this summer and inquiring about my dad's fishing success this week in the Ozarks. He's back to complaining that I talk too fast and sometimes too much. It has been an unbelievable and most welcomed transformation from pre to post-surgery Jayme!

Dr Nichols and another entourage stopped in this morning. Jayme thanked him for saving his life. Being the gentleman and scholar he is, Dr Nichols emphasized what a team effort it has been and acknowledged everyone in the room that has been a part of Jayme's case. He reported that the pathology report showed that most of the tumor was dead and they only found microscopic bits of cancer in the mass that was removed. As far as they can tell, he is free of cancer.

Jayme will begin tube feedings today. He hasn't been given any nutrition since the surgery, just IV fluids. They will do a swallow test on Monday to make sure there is no leakage where they joined the esophagus and small intestine. If all goes well, he will start on liquids (broth and jello) thereafter. Once he starts tolerating food by mouth, many of the tubes will be removed.

Great to have Caroline here and we await Grace's arrival this evening. Caroline will drive up to Minneapolis to pick her up following a brief stop at the Mall of America. Well, maybe "brief" is not accurate.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Doing Well

Jayme is worn out this morning after an hour of Pulmonary Rehab, but it's a good worn out. The therapist's goal is to advance him daily so he can tolerate 30 min of aerobic exercise after he is home for awhile. Jayme's goal is to not get pneumonia, so he has been very compliant in all breathing and other exercises. We know it will be a long recovery, but at least we know there will be a recovery!

Since this is a surgery day for Dr Nichols, he came into see Jayme at 6:30 am. Needless to say, I missed that doctor visit. He also had a pain management team visit later in the morning. They have done a marvelous job of monitoring and controlling his pain. If you could see his incisions, you would be amazed how little pain he is experiencing.

He is still hooked up to lots of tubes, but the oxygen and heart monitors have been discontinued. He loves his nurse, Shannon. She is onery and so is he. It makes for a beautiful relationship!

Caroline arrives later this afternoon and Grace is flying in tomorrow for a few days. I'm anxious for both of them to see their dad in the recovery mode.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Up and Around

I arrived in Jayme's room this morning around 8:30. He was sitting up in bed with bright eyes and his pain pump button secure in his hand! It is now 11:00 and he has already been up in a chair and walked with the help of two nurses. Dr Nichols came in with an entourage of 10 and explained the surgery to Jayme. Then came a physical therapist, respiratory therapist, anethesiologist and dietician. Jayme has two nurses and they only have 2 patients so he gets plenty of attention. I can't stress enough how impressed we are with the entire Mayo organization.

I told Jayme that even with all the tubes, cables and IV's, he is better today than he has been in weeks, maybe months. The cancer is gone and it is downhill from here.

I am so full of gratitude today to my family, friends, and all the medical personnel who have touched his life. A We Process indeed.

Clock Struck Twelve

It's after midnight, but seeing Jayme tonight was well worth the wait. Although he won't remember a thing tomorrow, he was pretty cognizant of what was going on around him. He was awake and asked me a few questions. He even remembered I was checking into a different hotel today.

Three nurses were getting him set up in his room. One of them broke the rules and let me observe. Wow. The equipment he is hooked to is unbelievable. He has an oxygen mask, three chest tubes, nasal tube, catheter, IV's, two epidurals for pain (one for each incision), leg pumps for circulation, feeding tube, heart and blood pressure monitor, etc. I was told they will get him up to walk 3-4 times tomorrow. I want to witness how they manage that with all the tubes attached to his body.

Dr Nichols explained that he could not use the stomach to rebuild the esophagus due to inflammation and the size of the tumor. By the time he removed the tumor as well as some inflammed areas and lymph nodes, there wasn't enough of the stomach left so he used the small intestine, successfully may I add. After listening to him go into great detail following the surgery, it just emphasizes how fortunate we are to have this particular surgeon operate on Jayme. The man is a master at what he does, and has a bedside manner to match.

Going to get some sleep now, but will update again tomorrow.

Thanks over and over again for everything all of you have done. Please keep doing whatever it is you are doing cause it's working!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Surgery is finished

Caroline here, writing this entry for my mom as she is at the hospital without her laptop.

Dr. Nichols just came in and spoke with her. My dad is out of surgery and all went well. He should be back in his room by 11pm so my mom will be able to see him, which she is anxiously awaiting.

She will update more later.

Still in Surgery

The nurse communicators have been doing a great job of updating me, but they don't have lots of details since they aren't in the operating room. The last update was at 6:20 and I was told that they had just closed up the abdomen and were getting ready to start on the esophagus. Dr Nichols doesn't think he will finish until at least 10:00 tonight. I have no idea why the surgery is taking almost 10 hours and won't know until I talk to the Dr after he is through. The good news is they say Jayme is doing fine and is stable.

I will update again tonight after I speak with the Dr.

I am back at my hotel which is across the street from the hospital. I can literally leave my room and be in the hospital in 3 minutes. So nice and convenient. Thanks oldest brother!

It Has Begun

Surgery began at 12:23 this afternoon. Turns out he is Dr Nichols' 2nd surgery of the day. I have been assigned a nurse communicator and she will update me every few hours. They brought me to Jayme's hospital room and gave me the option to stay here as long as I like. Not so bad, it's a spacious and bright private room. I have been getting some work done on my laptop and have already done lots of texting and answering and making phone calls. I will blog again when he is out of surgery and have more info.

For those interested, here is Jayme's address for the next ten days or so.

Saint Mary's Hospital
1216 Second Street SW
Rochester, MN 55902
James Findlay FR 5C-144

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Surgery is Scheduled

We arrived in Rochester about an hour ago. I called the number they gave me to find out what time Jayme is to check in for surgery prep. He is to be at the hospital at 8:00 am. I assume his surgery will be around 9:30 or so. I will blog as soon as I can tomorrow with more details.

This road trip was a little longer than normal. Lots of rain and I had to rest my tired eyes for about 30 minutes. But, we made it here safely and are more than ready to start phase two of Jayme's journey to being cancer free. We are both confident that Dr Nichols will do a superb job of starting him on that road tomorrow.

Keep those positive thoughts headed this way!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Good Weekend Visit

Hope you like the new picture I added. He's kinda cute with a shaved head. In fact, they kinda look alike!

We so enjoyed our weekend visit from Anna and little Claire. Jayme is a man of few words these days, but did find Claire "quite entertaining". We miss them already, and look forward to a few of their summer trips to KC from Denver.

Jayme is holding his own. He has had a few bouts of nausea the past 3-4 days, so we are trying to adjust his anti-nausea medication so he isn't too drowsy. If were up to him, he would just sleep until the surgery on Monday. Really can't blame him. Up until the nausea started, he had been gaining strength and walking independently, but I am making him use a walker due to his recent drowsiness. Sometimes he is not the best judge of what he can and cannot do safely.

I recently realized that I have never explained the surgery Jayme will have next week. Without being too graphic I will do my best. It is called an esophagectomy. They will first make an incision in his abdomen and, at that time, decide if they can use the stomach to rebuild the esophagus. If they can't use the stomach, they will use the small intestine. Usually the 3rd option is the colon, but in Jayme's case they can't use it due to the recent diagnosis of colitis. The Dr assures us he can do it with the stomach or intestine. Then they make an incision on his side between his ribs and remove most of his esophagus. They then "stretch" the stomach or intestine up and resect it with the remainder of the esophagus.

He will continue with the feeding tube for a week after surgery, then progress to liquids by mouth. If all goes well, he will then start on a soft diet and may be able to discontinue the tube feedings within a month. He should be able to eat what he wants, just small and frequent meals. However, knowing Jayme, he will be making a diet change in an attempt to keep cancer away forever!

Tonight I was telling Jayme about all the recent gestures of goodwill, the emails, cards and blog comments (he even received one from Costa Rica), the donations and interest for Relay For Life, the help with the lawn, the wonderful and delicious food, the "get Kay out of the house" lunch and dinners, etc. He has not been able to witness it all himself recently, but I am doing my best to share with him all the unbelievable kindness of our friends and family. It is quite overwhelming. The human spirit lives on in this crazy world and we are more grateful than ever.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Blog Make-over

Hope you like the new look of the blog. I've always been one that likes change, so don't be surprised if it changes again sooner than later.

Arrived home from Rochester late Monday evening. A long drive, and it seems to get longer each time we make the trip. Even though we were disappointed that the surgery was postponed for two weeks, I think we both feel that it will benefit Jayme in the long run. And, as my oldest brother keeps telling me, all that is important is the end result. He is so right.

It is good to be home for a breather. I figured out that if they did the surgery this Friday as we anticipated, we would have been gone at least three weeks. Too long to be away from home, the dog and Grace.

Jayme is gaining a little strength every day, still has poor endurance but is walking short distances without the walker. Our goal is for him to walk into the hospital on the 27th without assistance. That would be progress.

Anna and 10 month old grandbaby Claire are coming in this weekend for a visit, so we are excited to spend time with them.

Monday, April 13, 2009

More time to heal

As my mom packs, I (Caroline) am dictating the following post:

Jayme met with the gastroenterologist this morning and it was determined he will have surgery on Monday, April 27. Turns out he does not have irritable bowel disease but has a mild case of colitis that is most likely a side effect from the chemo/radiation and may resolve itself over time. Dr. Nichols' schedule is not conducive to surgery until the end of April and he feels it would be beneficial for Jayme to gain more strength in the next two weeks.

We got a late check-out from our home away from home, the Rochester Hampton Inn, and are on our way back to KC now.

Looking forward to getting back home for a bit. Thanks for all the well-wishes.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Stuck in Rochester

I'm sure Jayme won't mind if I share the fact that he has Irritable Bowel Disease and must be seen by a GI doc before he can have surgery. He had a contrast CT scan of the colon this morning and we tried to get in to see a doctor this afternoon, but no such luck. We waited in the waiting room for a few hours, but the holiday weekend prevented us from getting in. We have an appointment on Monday at 10:15. Frustrating you ask? Very much so, but nothing to do but wait until we find out the next step on Monday. The strange thing is, Jayme is asymptomatic, so this took us by complete surprise.

Dr Nichols insists they have the best specialists at the Mayo for this type of disease, so he wants us to handle it all here. Hopefully, they can start Jayme on medication and he can have the surgery next Friday. The surgeon has him penciled in for the 17th. We shall see.

So glad Caroline is here until Monday. She has been so helpful and great company.

Happy Easter and I'll update early next week.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Guest entry

Hello all from daughter #2, Caroline. Just wanted to give a little update from a my perspective.

I arrived in Minneapolis from Philadelphia yesterday afternoon and went straight to the Mayo Clinic to find my parents anxiously awaiting the test results, which they had been doing for the previous two hours. After the nurse finally called them in, I was honored and a little nervous to tag along and meet with Dr. Nichols to hear the long-awaited plan for surgery.

This entire experience has shown me now more than ever that my parents are two of the strongest people I know. My dad has endured more physical obstacles than one can ever imagine, yet he continues to push forward and is determined to get better and be cancer-free. And my mom is the emotional rock for all of us. She puts everything into caring for my dad, constantly educates herself on his condition, speaks for him when he cannot speak for himself, maintains the continual flow of nutrients into his feeding tube and still manages to update the rest of us with this genius blog.

Since my dad's diagnosis on January 5, I have known that we are all going through this together--our entire family and large circle of friends. But my parents have really been in this as a 2-person team. It all came to the forefront when in the doctor's office hearing test results read. My dad started asking the doctor's assistant questions and not once did he say "I" or "me." It was always "we" and "us." My mom may not be physically sick but she is experiencing this nasty cancer right there with him. It is in fact a "we process."

To repeat what my mom always says, thank you so much for the love and support sent our way. It is humbling to hear of all the people who have reached out and helped my parents with anything and everything. We love you all!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bummer...Surgery is postponed!

We had an appointment with Dr Nichols at 2:30 this afternoon and it didn't quite go according to plan. After a two hour wait, we finally got in to see him. It seems that the colonoscopy Jayme had yesterday showed some "patchy abnormality" and the biopsies need more in-depth analysis from the pathologist. They don't think it is cancer, it could be inflammation, but the surgeon will probably need part of the colon to rebuild the esophagus, so it is vital that the colon is healthy. The reason for the long wait was that all the tests were late getting to the surgeon. We didn't get out of his office until after 6:15.

We are totally disappointed, but Dr Nichols was so intricate in the way he explained the whole process. He showed and read us Jayme's different test results and talked about other cases that have come to him that weren't done correctly. He does at least one or two of these surgeries weekly, so we know we are in great hands. More than ever do we get that he knows what he is doing, and that is why we traveled to Rochester. Still bummed, but understand the reasons for the delay.

We will talk to Dr Nichols tomorrow to see what, if any, tests Jayme will need. He may need to consult with a gastroenterologist and figure out what happens next. So I suppose we will be here for another day or so, but who knows? Surgery will not take place until at least next Wednesday or Friday at the earliest.

Caroline arrived this afternoon, but we got in touch with Anna while on her way to the Denver airport. Sam and Grace were to come Friday. All travel plans are in a holding pattern. In fact, everything is in a holding pattern.

More later as we receive more info.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Long Day

Jayme is worn out and I am right behind him. The two tests plus blood work today took over 7 hours and he was awake for most of it. Now the goal is to get some nutrition in him and allow him plenty of rest for Thursday. Only thing on the agenda tomorrow is a meeting with the surgeon, so we should be able to have him ready for surgery.

I will make another entry on Thursday after he gets out of surgery. Keep those good thoughts and prayers coming!

If interested, here are two links for the "Relay For Life" event I spoke of in the previous entry.

Team Page...

My Personal Page...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Safe and Sound

We are settled into the Hampton Inn. Not such a bad place to spend a few weeks. Rooms are all updated, free breakfast daily and soup every evening, fridge in room and complementary internet access. Trip was uneventful, just long. Could be because we just did the drive 10 days ago!

Jayme just completed his pre-colonoscopy prep. I'm sure he'll be awake for a few more hours, getting his exercise while making frequent bathroom trips. Tomorrow morning he will have a colonoscopy and endoscopy plus blood work, meet with the surgeon on Wednesday and surgery Thursday. Dr Nichols does two surgeries a day. Needless to say, I have requested the first surgery time slot.

Two friends/co-workers of mine, Sonya and Chele, are organizing an American Cancer Society "Relay For Life" team to honor Jayme's battle with this atrocious disease. This week I will put a link on the blog for those of you that want to join the cause, whether by participating in the event with us on June 12th and/or by making a donation. I personally have never attended an event like this, but have heard it is an extraordinary and unforgettable experience. I will also be emailing info to many of you whose addresses I have.

If you need or want to contact me, my email is

As always, the concern and love we have both experienced from all of you is so appreciated. Gratitude fills our hearts and we thank you.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Getting Packed

My good friend Julie gets worried when the blogs are infrequent, so thought I should update to ease her mind. All is fine, just preparing for a long journey and stay in Rochester. I have lists of things I need to do and take, so my weekend will be full of organizing, errands and packing. You'd be amazed how much "stuff" we have to take with us when a cancer patient on a feeding tube is involved. Thanks goodness we still have a minivan!

Jayme is doing OK. Still uses a walker, but gaining a little strength daily. He did spend a few hours on Thursday and Friday at the Cancer Center getting IV fluids. I want to make sure he stays hydrated, at least until we arrive at the Mayo Clinic. The waiting process until surgery can be agonizing, so we want to do all we can to stay on track for the April 9th surgery date.

All four Findlay kids will be in Rochester at some point. Anna and Caroline will arrive Wednesday, so they will be with me during the surgery. Sam and Grace fly in Friday evening. Anna will head back to Colorado on Saturday and the other three will leave on Monday. Jennifer, one of my college roomies, is coming out the following week for a few days.

Once I am settled in the Hampton Inn, I will try to blog more often, especially the days following surgery.