This blog is for Jim Marventano's family and friends to review his status and updates while he goes through treatment for Stage IV Colon Cancer. We can beat it together!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

He's watching COPS again

Normally I'm against COPS. The tv show. Jim loves it. COPS is to Jim what red wine is to me. It's a total tune-out without a morning hangover. I personally dislike COPS. The people on the show get themselves into all sorts of trouble that could easily be avoided. In the last few years, I've noticed that COPS really grates on my nerves because there's always some poor child crying in the background while his mother is getting hauled off to jail. It's the child factor that bothers me.

Jim is very tolerant of my red wine habit. I'm minimally tolerant of COPS. I'm extra tolerant when the situation calls for mental TLC - he's not feeling great, the only thing he can seem to stomach right now is cereal, and the dogs are stinking up our family room. (That was for you, Artemis!) He gets to watch COPS continuously when he's feeling like this.

Things are going fairly well, all things considered. He's rating his nausea at a 5 on a 1-10 scale. He said that it's a constant nausea, whereas with his previous regimen, it was huge dips and spikes. He's also very tired. But he got the pump out today, so things should start looking up from here.

He's got to go back in for the shot to boost his white blood cell count tomorrow. They said that it can be very painful. Not the actual shot, but apparently many of our white blood cells are created in our chest and back. Apparently those two areas can get to hurting pretty badly. So we'll see how it goes. He's expecting the pain, and I'm hopeful that this will be like the pulmonary embolism. Where most people feel as though they are having a heart attack with a pulmonary embolism, Jim didn't actually feel anything except a slight tightness in his lower lung. They found Jim's pulmonary embolism on a scan - we didn't know he had it. Any way, I'm hoping he'll either be so focused on the fact that he's nauseated that he won't notice the after-effects of the shot, or he'll be able to transcend the pain as he did with the embolism.

In the meantime, he's welcome to watch COPS if he needs a little mental vacation.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Letter to the Public, and other things

Dear Reading Audience:

Please help. I've been trapped by a sick, whiny 3 year old, a screeching 10 month old, and a husband who's going through chemo. I'm doing okay but we have barely any bread or milk left even though I went to the store yesterday. They are torturing me by making me watch "Go, Diego, Go!" and "Angelina Ballerina" in a continuous loop. The big hairy one decides he doesn't like what I'm cooking for dinner after I've finished cooking it. The little girl threw up. And the little one poops in his pants, and I swear it, he giggles afterward.

Please send wine. Preferably red. Not too light, though. Something heavy - like a cabernet sauvignon that's enough to make my cheeks pucker.

Yours in captivity,

Just kidding. Well, sort of.

Jim started his new chemo regimen yesterday. He got sick last night, but that seemed to push him past a milestone - he's better today and he said that he actually has more energy than normal. With this new chemo regimen he's going to have to go in for a shot of something that boosts his white blood cell count on the Thursday after chemo.

We are both confident that "this is the one" - this chemo regimen is going to help Jim kick out the cancer for good.

Jim receives Cryoablation on Wednesday, April 4.

Uh-oh. I think they've discovered that I'm communicating with the outside world. They just caught me with the computer open. I'm doing better than my posts actually suggest, but God help me, it's back to Angelina Ballerina.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Out of Commission

I haven't written over the last week because our family has been a bit out of commission.

Jake was struck with the norovirus the week before last. Norovirus is basically a stomach flu - highly contagious among kids. I blame the YMCA babysitting, but of course I have no proof. Well, once Jake was sick (and boy was he ever - 104.6 temp!) Jim was convinced that he was sick too. Of course. So over the last week I've taken care of two babies, plus Rachel. Jim miraculously recovered on Friday, although we still took it very easy over the weekend and we went up to my parents' cabin. [Help with the kids. Pure bliss.] Jake didn't fare as well as Jim, and he really just got over it yesterday. Norovirus starts with throwup and ends with diarrhea. Yuck. Probably my #1 least-favorite activity as a parent is cleaning up anything that came out of someone else.

Jim couldn't receive chemo last week because he wasn't feeling well. If he did have norovirus it could have been disastrous with a new chemo regimen. They aren't really jazzed about administering chemo to sick people.

Well, Rachel woke up whiny this morning. Lo and behold, she's at 103.9. Ack. And, as luck would have it, Jim is "sick", too. I told him he'd better buck up and go in to receive chemo tomorrow because I'm not taking care of three babies. This is where I put my foot down.

You know, as a girl, I imagined a vastly different life than I am actually now living. While other little girls dreamed of their wedding day, I dreamed of a sales career and owning my own loft in New York City. Much akin to Sex and the City, except that at the time I didn't know about sex, so my dream involved having my own cat and being able to do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it. And wearing really cool clothes all the while.

I doubt quite seriously that my green Lands' End down vest and Gap jeans would fall into the "really cool clothes" category. And Sheboygan, Wisconsin is hardly a synonym for New York City. And I don't even have a cat - I have two smelly, giant dogs. And I was never much good at sales.

Although I've largely failed at my childhood dreams, I realize that my current life blessings far outweigh the things I thought I wanted as a child. One never really envisions long, sleepless nights with inconsolable sick kids, getting thrown up on, and having so many poopy pants in the laundry chute that I finally run out and am forced to let my son sit in a diaper while I do an emergency load of laundry. Would I trade it for a day in the life of "Sex and the City"? Not on your life. I can't think of a better life than the one I'm living now.

Although I could use a new Marc Jacobs bag, some arch-killing Blahniks, and a crisp pair of Seven jeans.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Well, one day late. But for those of us that are truly Irish, it's St. Patrick's Day every day, and we're blessed all year long. After all, look at everything I have to be thankful for - a great husband, two beautiful healthy kids, two smelly yet lovable dogs, and a happy home that manages to house all of us without busting at the seams. And, of course, we live in Kohler - what could be better than that?

We went to dinner and then to a fun party last night. As I looked around the party, I realized how truly blessed we are to live in Kohler. Jim and I have been trying to make a move to Wisconsin for so long that it's crazy. We spent 8 years trying to get to where we wanted to be - right here. Even though we didn't know it was Kohler we wanted, this just seems to be our match. I was rooting for Chicago, Jim was rooting for anywhere in Wisconsin - and we got a great compromise. Two hours from Chicago but in a teensy town that holds more charm than some cities twice it's size.

When this opportunity came up, we were so delighted that it was offered to us. We were excited about the possibility of living closer to my parents, excited about moving out of Atlanta, excited about the potential for buying a great house...the list goes on and on. There are a lot of places to live in Sheboygan. We chose Kohler because Jim can walk to work, but also because when we drove by the school (the school, meaning a single school that houses kindergarten through senior high school!) the kids had their bikes in the bike racks with no locks. Leave a bike without a lock in Atlanta for 15 minutes and it's gone.

What sealed the deal on this house for us is our neighbors, David and Kate. The day we looked at the house, their two lovely girls were outside playing. There were very few kids in our Atlanta neighborhood. As it turns out, one of their girls is in Rachel's class. The other is a little older, and is the sweetest girl I've ever met. Both the girls treat her like a little sister, which is very endearing. That day, after we were done looking at the house, we stopped and spoke with Kate, and we just knew that this was it.

I consider our neighbors, and Kohler, the pot of gold at the end of our rainbow. A couple of days after Jim was diagnosed, I was crying to Kate and I said "we just got everything we ever wanted, and then this happened". And do you know know what Kate said? She said "Well, now you know what you're fighting for." And you know, she was right. I think about what she said all the time.

Going to parties and seeing friends, spending time with people we care about, enjoying our cute little village house, and living in a place where our kids can walk to school or ride their bikes (without locking them!) - those are our everyday reminders of the special things we have in our lives.

So even though our last name is Marventano, we've got the luck of the Irish every day.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

No surgery next week

The doctors have postponed Jim's surgery until April 4. They did that because one of Jim's current chemo drugs, Avastin, doesn't do well with the healing process. As with starting chemo after his colon resection, when Avastin is involved it's important to make sure that either the surgery incisions are completely healed, or that before surgery, there's no Avastin in his system to inhibit healing.

Jim begins his new chemo regimen on Monday. Dr. Haid did not want him to go without chemo before the surgery since it's been postponed.

There's a chance that with Jim's new chemo regimen he can lose his hair. Of course, it's only a 30% chance, and Jim has a hell of a lot of hair. So maybe he'll just lose enough hair to be...Irish. Bwah ha ha ha ha. He's not concerned about losing his hair, but if he does start to lose it, he's going to have Rachel help give him a haircut so that he won't look "strange" to her.

Good things are happening. This new chemo regimen has the potential to completely shrink his smaller tumors until they are gone.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Winter Brings "Freezing"

Good news today! Yesterday's scan gave us some interesting results.
1. The largest tumor on Jim's liver (about the size of a baseball) is liquefying! The tumor is actually bigger. It grew about another centimeter; however, the density is different. Dr. Haid has predicted since December that the big tumor was doing itself in...he was right!
2. A couple of the other smaller tumors on his liver as well as one on his abdominal wall have grown.
3. The other tumors are stable.

Bear in mind that we just had a scan last month, so we shouldn't be disappointed with the fact that there's no shrinkage. (Or, as our friend George coined "goneage".)

What we need to focus on right now is the big tumor and the fact that it's basically destroying itself. Dr. Haid is recommending cryoablation, which is the process of using a long needle to inject the tumor with freezing cold gas, thereby freezing the tumor. The "ice ball" that is created around the needle grows in size and destroys the frozen tumor cells. Dr. Haid spent a good portion of the morning looking over Jim's CT Scan with an Interventional Radiologist. Dr. Haid highly recommends this radiologist, who he said has great experience and is very aggressive. Aggressive is what we want to hear!

We have a meeting with the Interventional Radiologist on Friday. Then Jim goes to the hospital on Wednesday for his procedure. He's be under general anesthesia, and he'll have to stay in the hospital over night. (Lucky for Jim, he'll be on the second floor with his beloved 2k nurses!) Dr. Haid said that the recovery time is a few days.

After that, Jim will be starting a different, aggressive chemo regimen. He will be using FOLFIRI and Vectibix. We are very excited about this for a few reasons. The oxaliplatin was really beginning to take a toll on Jim's feet - the neuropathy was causing numbness in his feet. As a result, they were reducing the amount of administered oxaliplatin. It's a careful balance to treat aggressively and still avoid neuropathy that might cause permanent nerve damage.

Because he'll be on a new chemo regimen, they can once again begin very aggressive chemotherapy. We can focus on melting the smaller tumors away, and not be concerned with what the big tumor is doing because it'll be gone!

We are very heartened by this news. Obviously the big tumor was troubling to us, mentally and physically. This is a giant step in the right direction. We are using every ounce of our beings for healing, for prayer, and for adopting a better lifestyle.

The cancer will melt away, and we will be in Hawaii in no time. I can feel the black sand beaches between my toes.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Scan Today

Jim has a scan today. Please keep us in your prayers. His scan isn't until around 1:00 today, so we're just sort of hanging around. It's easier to have things scheduled for first thing in the morning to just get it overwith. This waiting around for a late appointment is for the birds!
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month! If you are reading this blog and you're 50 years old, or older, please go get your colonscopy. No one wants to get a colonoscopy, but if you think a colonoscopy is no fun, try dealing with colon cancer. Jim says that at this point he'd rather get a weekly colonoscopy than deal with cancer. Not that he had a choice. Being diagnosed at 37 years old left him 13 years until his recommended check. I personally think the first colonoscopy should be set at 40.

If you're not treating your body right, ask yourself why. When I look back on our history, we've had healthy times and unhealthy times. Youth and perceived invincibility "entitled" us to a careless lifestyle for several years. Obviously it's no way to live. Who knows why cancer strikes some and not others...stress, genetics, unhealthy name it. But even if you haven't been diagnosed with cancer, why would you want to treat your body with anything but the best? We may never know why Jim got cancer, but at this point - does it matter? What matters is adopting a lifestyle that doesn't promote cancer. Do yourself a favor. Stop smoking. Today. Exercise. Today. Eat better. Today. And schedule your colonoscopy. Today!


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Technology - a love/hate relationship

Um, yeah. If you've left us a voicemail in the last THREE WEEKS, and wondered why you haven't heard from us, it's because our phone company opted to cram 3 weeks worth of voicemails into one day - today. I'm not sure why we haven't received a single voicemail, but when I dialed in today, I got 55! So we're not blowing you off...we just didn't know that you called...

Lost a friend

Throughout our journey, we've read a number of books on cancer. Perhaps one of our favorites is Glass Houses by Cherie Geiser. Our friends Mike and Cindy sent us this book, which was a double inspiration - Cindy is a cancer survivor, and Cherie Geiser (the author) fought metastic colon cancer. We found out today that Cherie Geiser passed away on February 22, 2007.

As I'm sure you know, much of the marketing we see regarding cancer is for breast cancer or for the leukemia and lymphoma foundation. Colon cancer doesn't have the benefit of marketing that some of the other cancers have. Cherie Geiser was diagnosed at 36 years old. She used the proceeds from her book to set up the Embracing Hope Foundation to further cancer research.

Cherie was diagnosed in 1998. Some of the therapies that are now offered as first-line drugs or solutions to Jim weren't even available to her nine years ago.

I'm sad today because after reading Glass Houses, it almost felt like we knew Cherie. We felt her struggle, we feel her fear. We know that even the best people are struck with cancer, and it makes you think"it's not fair!" One of the things that bugs me every day is the injustice of it all.

Cherie was from our hometown, Rochester, NY. She had young children at diagnosis. She was a runner. Nine years later, she had touched the lives of many people, including those she didn't know were reading her book. The book struck so close to home that Jim and I both read it, as well as Jim's Mom and Sister, and my Mom.

I expect that nine years from now, Jim will have a perfectly healthy, cancer-free body. I expect that nine years from now, they will have found a cure for cancer. I expect that in those nine years, Jim will have touched the lives of as many people as Cherie, but he will be able to continue on where she left off.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Relay for Life

Hello friends and family-

Our friends Mark and Terri have decided to do the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. (Pictured here with their two sons, Edward and Colin.) They are forming a team in the Philadelphia area. The team is called "Jim's Corner Men". For those of you that aren't familiar with boxing, the guys in the boxer's corner that help him out between rounds are called his corner men.

Mark and Terri made a webpage for donations, sponsors, and team members. The address is
if you are interested in sponsoring them or walking.

Terri had a great description - this is their "virtual support" - since they can't be here with us in Wisconsin to cook meals, babysit, or sit with Jim during chemo, they decided that this is a great way to support Jim and the overall cause. I agree!

Our new friend Dave, a local colon cancer survivor who has been very kind to us, organizes a team for our local Relay for Life, but unfortunately it falls on a weekend that we'll be in Rochester for Jim's 20th high school reunion, so we're going to miss it. Either one or both of us is going to try and make it to the walk in Philly. I think it would be great for us to be there.

This is a no-obligation post. This is in no way a push for anyone to donate - we just thought it would be a good way to get the word out. So don't feel obligated....I won't even know if you read the blog and decide not to donate. ;)

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

And *this* is Babette

You might remember from one of my previous posts that while in Mexico, Jim and my father went on more than 10 dives. You also might remember that I said that I plan to get dive certified because I saw pictures of their dive instructor, Babette.

Since that post, I've received several requests for the pictures of Babette. Well, it turns out that Babette wasn't in any of the pictures, she was on the dive video. Lest you all think I imagined Babette while Jim was baking away in the warm Mexican sun, my sister-in-law graciously agreed to fiddle with the DVD and extract pictures of Babette. So without further ado - my reason for getting dive certified...

If you can't figure out which one Babette is, put your glasses on.

While Babette isn't any real threat since she lives in Mexico, (and she really wasn't interested in anything more than teaching them to dive) it's more or less the possibility of other Babettes. I hate that Jim shared this awesome experience with someone other than me. I'm jealous that his 400 cancer-free minutes weren't with me there. I guess this was a vacation from more than just cancer - a vacation from everything, including me, the kids, Wisconsin, doctors, hospitals, and reality. I hope he enjoyed it, because it's the last one he gets to do without me tagging along.

Not only that, but to further perpetuate my paranoia, Jim's friend Tom sent him a DVD called Into the Blue, starring Jessica Alba. Jessica Alba in the world's smallest bikini. Great. About 3/4 of the way through the movie one of the girls gets her entire leg bitten off by a giant shark and dies. It might be my imagination, but I swear there's a conspiracy against me in the works. First Babette and now Jessica? How much can one girl take?

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

I'm going to go churchy on you...

Okay, for those of you who know my background...don't pass out. I'm about to post something from The Bible.

"I promise that when any two of you on earth agree about something you are praying for, my Father in heaven will do it for you." - Matthew 18:19 (CEV)

Sometimes when we're sitting in church, I swear it seems like Pastor Kirby is looking right at me.

Sometimes I feel nervous (and not a little paranoid) "Is he looking at me? I wasn't that bad this week. I believe in Jesus. Why is he looking at me?";
Sometimes I feel glad "Oh, he watches LOST! Cool!";
Sometimes I feel there's a ray of light beaming on me and Jim "Wow! This applies directly to me. To us. To our lives. To returning Jim to whole health."

Today I got that beam. When I read the bulletin and this quote was in it, we both got the beam. Jim pointed the quote out right away.

Some days there's just something different at church. I can't say what it is. Today was one of those days. After church we had brunch at our friends Amy and Mark's, and something was different there. Jim ate 3 of Amy's delicious scones, so the something different could possibly have been a stomach ache. Kidding.

But it's lead me to wonder if the something different isn't a feeling of connectedness. A feeling that through this church we've become part of something much greater than ourselves. And through that, we have so many people (blog readers included) who have a common prayer. For Jim's complete healing and health. I believe that as we say prayers for Jim, so God will hear them. It seems that we're almost hooked up to an amplifier some days.

So, think of me, next Sunday, sitting in church, wondering why Pastor Kirby is looking at me. Maybe he's like the Mona Lisa...maybe everyone thinks he's looking at them. But in the bigger picture, I'm so glad that what he says applies to me. I'm so glad we have a place in our hearts for prayer and for gratitude. I'm so thankful to be connected with so many people. Your prayers matter to Jim. They matter to me. Thank you for walking this journey with us. Thank you for combining so many voices so that God can hear us, like an amplified prayer, and help Jim heal.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Emend is the key - and The Secret

While in New York, Dr. Kemeny recommended a new anti-nausea medication for Jim called Emend. He started it Monday...and it works like a charm! Although he's still experiencing waves of nausea, this seems to be the medication that works for Jim. He's still mixing it with Zofran, Kytril and Ativan, but he got to take Compazine out of the anti-nausea regimen.

These aren't fun cocktails with little parasols in them, huh? Eventually we'll get to replacing Emend and Zofran with pina coladas.

Jim and I are newly in love with a concept called the Law of Attraction. For those of you who didn't see it, Oprah featured a DVD called The Secret on her show, which my parents gave us for Valentine's Day. The general concept of The Secret/The Law of Attraction is that whatever you focus your energy on is what naturally comes to you. For example, if Jim thinks "I'm sick and I'm never going to get better", he's right. But if he visualizes himself as completely healthy, he will gradually regain his whole health.

One of the suggestions on The Secret is to goal set. Focus on something positive that you would like to come to you. Whatever it is, it may not happen in a week, or even a month, but eventually you'll attract whatever you desire. Jim and I decided that our goal setting would be in the form of pictures. Jim's having a little trouble focusing on small print and reading. So we decided to make a goal board that highlights the things we want, including:
1. Complete healing for Jim
2. A vacation someplace warm to celebrate Jim's complete healing
3. Conquered clutter in our home (our dining room table is currently an eye sore like no other)
4. A new washer and dryer for me :)
5. A new planer for Jim (that's a woodworking tool)
6. Jim walking Rachel down the aisle at her wedding

Our new goal board has a prominent place in our kitchen as a constant reminder of the things we're working toward. We've got more goals on the board, but our number one goal is living a healthy life that brings Jim complete healing.

It shan't be long before we're closing up our clutter-free home with a new washer, dryer and planer in order to go on a Hawaiian vacation to celebrate Jim's healing. We'll have to wait a while before Rachel decides to get married, thank heavens!

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