Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy New Year 2015

I hardly know where to begin, so why not wish everyone a Happy New Year! Right off the bat I'd like to set your minds at ease and say that Big EZ continues to be in complete remission with no detectable M-spike and all other numbers stable. When we haven't heard from fellow bloggers in quite a while, we worry that something is wrong, and often it is. For us, life is just full and busy, so for the most part, a quick Intagram post is about all I can muster! We are extremely grateful that five years post diagnosis, EZ has not relapsed and his numbers continue to look good. 

And now for a quick review of 2014 and four very exciting events in the life of our family: 

1. Our son, Nick, got engaged to the beautiful Anne Davis in March. When EZ was diagnosed in January of 2010, he wondered if he'd live long enough to meet the girl Nick would one day marry. Our prayers were surely answered and we love Anne so much!

 2. In celebration of my 60th birthday, EZ and I took an amazing trip to the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Zion National Park and Las Vegas in April.

 3. We welcomed a new grandson, Will, in May. Big sister, Emery, was beyond excited, and so were we!

Guenthers Christmas 2014

That makes six beautiful grandchildren for us!

 Dews Christmas 2014

4. Nick and Anne got married in Chapel Hill, NC on December 20, 2014!

 The wedding party with EZ serving as Nick's best man. It was such an honor for EZ to stand beside his son on this very special day!

Our five oldest grandchildren all participated in the wedding. Were they ever adorable!
Gigi looks beautiful surrounded by 5 of her great grandchildren!
Beautiful engagement and wedding photos by Robyn Van Dyke Photography
 All Bakers have now married in the month of December, with Nick and Anne marrying on our 39th anniversary! Here we all are at the wedding: Nick and Anne, day one, Leah and Kyle 8 years, Tara and Jamie 14 years, and Ernie and I, 39 years! What a cause for celebration!

 There was so much more to celebrate in 2014, but these are definitely some of the highlights. May you all have a healthy and happy 2015, and hopefully you will hear from us more often! We care very much for those of you who stop by our blog, and would love to hear from you! For now, let's all try to remember these wise words in the new year:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Four Years Ago Today

When you are diagnosed/living with any form of cancer, you can lose hope, forget how to laugh, and immerse yourself in a world where numbers suddenly become the most important thing to you. EZ has always been a "numbers person", but I have always struggled with numbers...I am a people person. You are soon forced to discover a lot of new terminology that you never dreamed you would become proficient with, and you can hardly concentrate on anything but the disease.

Four years ago today we had our first meeting with Oncologist Dr. Alan Kritz, from Cancer Centers of North Carolina. Having the results of EZ's MRI (1/4/10) and sacral biopsy (1/14/10) in hand, Dr. Kritz did a bone marrow biopsy and extensive bloodwork, ordered a 24 hour urinalysis and long bone x-rays (bone survey).   The Bone Marrow Biopsy Report and labwork from 1/20/10 revealed the following: 
  •     M-spike 2, WBC - 7.0, Hemoglobin- 12.0, Platelets - 200 K
  •     20-30% plasma cells, monoclonal IgA kappa plasma cell population
  •   Cytogenic studies revealed trisomy 3, but negative for both a deletion of RB1 on chromosome 13 and a deletion of TP35 on chromosome 17. 
  A Bone Survey from 1/22/10 showed the following:
  • Multiple punched-out lesions involving the skull, bilateral humeri and left femur 
I often look back to my notes from 1/5/10 when we met with our orthopedic doctor to get the results of the MRI. I didn't even know how to spell "myeloma", let alone understand what he was telling us about the suspicion that this mass of abnormal cells (plasmacytoma) on EZ's sacrum most likely indicated some form of blood cancer. Complete shock!

 We were indeed facing Multiple Myeloma, and treatment proceeded in earnest. Radiation to EZ's sacrum began on 1/26/10, a port was surgically implanted on 2/4/10, and chemotherapy and bone strengthener infusions began on 2/5/10. All the while we were trying to educate ourselves about what we were facing and what the prognosis might look like. As many of you know, much of the literature can be outdated and grim, but many new advances are taking place in the world of Multiple Myeloma, and though not curable, it is highly treatable. Wow, how we clung to those words...highly treatable. Our plan was to beat this aggressive blood cancer into remission, and move on to stem cell transplant, and maintenance therapy. Though not without its share of hardships, we accomplished our mission and EZ has remained on maintenance therapy (Revlimid 10mg) for over 3 years now. Under the care of Dr. Kritz, and Dr. Cristina Gasparetto at Duke, he has achieved wonderful results and we are so very grateful. We, of course, are praying that remission continues for a long time to come, though we are not ignorant of the fact that relapse is a very real possibility.

I want to encourage those of you who may have also received very unexpected news at one time or another, that all hope should not be lost. Dig your heels in, educate yourself with up-to-date information about what you are facing, choose your doctors wisely, don't be afraid to seek second opinions, ask questions, surround yourself with family and supportive friends who will "come along side" you in your battle, and never underestimate the power of prayer! All that we have been through has served to strengthen our marriage, deepen our faith, and enlighten us as to the beauty of each day, never taking life for granted. 

We have many fond memories of the past 4 years. We have had 3 grandchildren born (with another on the way) since EZ's diagnosis. We have traveled to Disney World, the Keys, Seattle, Alaska and soon, The Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. We have moved to a new home where life is more manageable (and yard maintenance is provided!). We have met some incredible people, in person and online, who are also battling MM or caring for a loved one with MM, and our lives are richer because of them. We have been humbled by the generosity of many, some of whom we have never met. We have learned to accept help. We have laughed. Most of all, we are even more convinced of how much we are loved by God, who in His faithfulness, has sustained us. 

We look forward to 2014 with hope and excitement, as there will be a new baby boy to meet, and new travel adventures to enjoy with one another. Live life, remain hopeful, and stay positive.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Five Little Blessings with a Sixth on the Way!

Can I just say what a blessing these five little ones are to us? To think that four years ago, when EZ was diagnosed on January 20th of 2010, we had one set of twin grandchildren, Natalie and Nathan. Our daughter Tara was expecting our second set of twin grandchildren, Samantha and Samuel, that February. A year later, our daughter Leah gave birth to our little singleton, Emery, and so there were five. In May, Emery will have a little brother and there will be six! We are beyond ecstatic!

When we were told that EZ had Multiple Myeloma, we were so very uncertain about what the future held. And though the past four years have had their share of peaks and valleys, we can say without a doubt that these five have been the best medicine, and brought the most joy! Their giggles, exuberance, cuddles, and love have brought us smiles on even the most painful of days. We are so grateful for our family and the love we share. This Grandma and Grandpa will never take it for granted, as we treasure each day with them. God is so very good. 

I will sing of the Lord's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. Psalm 89:1

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Blessed By The Beauty

EZ and I recently spent a week in our cabin over in the beautiful North Carolina mountains. The leaves were definitely peaking and we were so blessed each day as we took excursions to soak in the beauty that surrounded us. In the midst of whatever you might be facing, it is so refreshing to just stop and rejoice over the good in your life. Many people always seem to see the cup half empty, but we seem to see the cup half full. Why not count your blessings, be positive, smile and hold on to hope for a wonderful tomorrow? Enjoy this road trip through the Appalachians and have a great day!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Eat More Fruit and Veggies

Seems like I am always on a quest to make better food choices, but "will power" gets in the way. As the holiday season approaches, what better time to TRY to commit to eating more fruit and veggies. We all know processed food, way too many grains, and tons of sugar are the staples of the American diet, and I am the first to admit I love to bake and sweets are my greatest weakness! But I am reading, learning from others, and trying to change the way we eat, slowly but surely. The Paleo lifestyle makes alot of sense to me, but actually making the change is difficult, so we are taking baby steps. My mother is insulin diabetic, and with EZ's compromised immune system, we need to give ourselves every advantage by making better food choices. There, I said it, now I have to be held accountable. I'm not saying there will never be another Monkey Bread in our future, but we will try to do better on a day to day basis. 

My niece, Sarah, is an excellent cook, or should I say chef, and she has started a blog that can really encourage anyone who wants to make a change in what they buy and how they eat. She is especially vigilant about what she feeds her children, in order to establish better lifestyle choices from an early age. Her blog is called My Paleotastic Kitchen. I encourage you to go take a look at what she has to say.  In the meantime, here are a few things we have enjoyed lately. Have a great weekend everyone, and eat more fruit and veggies!

 P.S. Contrast these foods with many of the new offerings at the NC state fair here in Raleigh this week:  Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joes, and deep fried Red Velvet Oreos.We will NOT be sampling these...heart attack waiting to happen!