Friday, August 31, 2012

Flashback Friday - The Good and Bad Days

This week my mind has often wandered back to the very difficult days prior to EZ's transplant, and the weeks, months, and now years, afterward. I do believe it's important to remember where you were in the past, so that you can celebrate where you are in the present, and be grateful! How quickly we forget...

Proud of my husband! Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Family Outing - Cirque de Soleil!

Fusing the 3000 year-old tradition of Chinese acrobatic arts with the multidisciplinary approach of Cirque du Soleil, Dralion draws its inspiration from Eastern philosophy and its never-ending quest for harmony between humans and nature. The show's name is derived from its two emblematic creatures: the dragon, symbolizing the East, and the lion, symbolizing the West.

As part of our Mother's Day gifts back in May, we ladies all received tickets to attend Cirque de Soleil - Dralion, in Raleigh on August 18th.  We had been looking forward to it for months, and it was totally by accident that we even colored coordinated our outfits! Guess three generations of girls are more alike than we even realize...

Nick has been to Cirque shows in Vegas before, but for the rest of us this was a first and we loved it. What made it even more special was the fact that EZ could actually go to an arena and sit in the seat for almost two hours, except for a break at intermission! Those rows are very close together with very little knee room, let alone room to slouch down or partially recline. All I have to say is thank goodness for pain medication (though he did pay a bit of a price the next day with some extra sacral soreness). I really appreciate the fact that EZ toughed it out and was able to do this with his family. Another first and a fun family memory! (Hopefully Leah and Kyle can join us next time!)


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pasta Carbonara...Pioneer Woman Style

So, what are you having for dinner tonight? I've made this recipe a couple of times and it's always a hit with our family and guests. Simple, tasty, not too many ingredients, and filling...especially if you love bacon like we do! I've been using thick cut bacon from Trader Joes (nitrate free), Dreamfield's pasta, and organic peas. I added a bit more of each than the recipe calls for. Feel free to check out PW's step by step pictures for this recipe here.

Pasta Carbonara
(Serves 4-6)

12 ounces pasta, any variety
8 pieces thick cut bacon, diced small
1/2 whole medium onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 whole eggs
3/4 cups finely grated parmesan
3/4 cups heavy cream
salt and plenty of black pepper
1/2 cup peas

Cook pasta according to package directions While pasta is cooking, fry the bacon until just barely crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour off all of the bacon grease, but don't clean the pan. Return the pan to the stove over medium-low heat and throw in the onions and garlic. Cook until golden brown. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix together eggs, Parmesan, cream, and salt and pepper until smooth. When the pasta is done, drain and reserve a cup or two of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and place it in a bowl. While the pasta is still really hot, slowly drizzle in the egg mixture, stirring the pasta the whole time. The sauce will become thick and should coat the pasta. Splash in a little hot pasta water if needed for smoother consistency. Halfway through, add the peas, bacon and sauteed onion/garlic. Finish adding the sauce, stirring until it's all combined. Serve immediately with extra Parmesan. Enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Two Years Post Stem Cell Transplant!

Saturday, August 25th, 2012 marked EZ's 2nd birthday, post stem cell transplant. It's quite sobering to look back not only to the day of transplant in 2010, but to all the events that led up to that point. From the MRI that first indicated "abnormal cells in the sacrum", to the sacral biopsy that defined the cells as a plasmacytoma, to various other tests confirming multiple myeloma, to radiation, to chemotherapy, to 26 days bedridden in the hospital, to home physical therapy to regain strength, to stem cell preparation and collection, to high dose chemotherapy taking everything to zero, to receiving those healthy stem cells and starting over, it has been quite the journey. You can read about transplant day here, and EZ's first birthday here. We both feel it is so important to remember where we've been, in order to never stop appreciating where we are today.

We began our celebration with a special dinner Friday night. The Dew Crew joined us for many of EZ's favorites: crackers and cheese, grilled beef, sauteed mushrooms, homemade mashed potatoes, peas and carrots, and chocolate cream pie. The grands were so ready to party that they put their hats on the minute they arrived and wore them most of the night! Love them to pieces!

Nick wasn't able to stop by Friday night, so we met him for lunch Saturday at Red Lobster for some "Endless Shrimp". Thankful he took a little break from studying, following his first week of dental school!

For a little walk down memory lane we drove Mom by the apartment we called home for 16 days, and then headed to the Clinic to show her where the transplant took place. (She actually hadn't visited us during that process because she contracted shingles while we were away!) We met some amazing people during those daily visits to the ABMT Clinic, from fellow patients, to doctors, physician assistants, nurses and staff. We feel nothing but gratitude for the treatment EZ received at Duke.

As we reflect on the past year there is MUCH to be grateful for. Here is our short list, not all-inclusive by any means:

2. EZ started doing all the driving again.
3. We have been able to occasionally dine out.
4. We went to two movies.
5. We attended a UNC basketball game.
6. We sat through Cirque de Soleil and thoroughly enjoyed it.
7. We traveled to our nephew's wedding on Duck Key, and then drove all the way to Key West.
8. EZ's M-spike remains at 0 (non-detectable).
9. No need for a walking stick or cane anymore.

While EZ has enjoyed complete response for these past two years, with stable blood counts, we certainly realize that the "myeloma monster" could decide to rear its ugly head again sometime in the future. All we can do is remain diligent in his care and pray it doesn't. Daily life isn't pain free, or without maintenance chemotherapy and the constant management of side effects. Consistent, uninterrupted sleep is difficult and elusive. Fatigue is a real battle. EZ simply does the best he can every day. His current regimen as far as prescription medication is:

Revlimid, 10 mg daily (for the past two years)
Oxycontin 60 mg 3 times a day
Hydrocodone 10-325 as needed for breakthrough pain
Lyrica 150 mg 2 times a day
Metanx 2 times a day
Valtrex 1000 mg once a day (through December)
Zoloft 100 mg once a day
Aredia infusion every other month (through December)
(Taking Miralax and stool softeners daily keep constipation from the medications at bay)

For those whose bodies have succumbed to this blood cancer, our hearts go out to their families. We especially miss Sean and Paula from the UK, and will forever feel they were our friends across the pond, who fought valiantly to live, bringing us a touch of humor whenever they could. We are thankful for our blog readers, both those who we feel we now know, and those who stop by anonymously. We hope you have gotten to know our family and that we can be an encouragement to you, in both the good days and in the days when we struggle. EZ and I appreciate your prayers more than you will ever know, and we believe they make a difference.

Being a UNC grad, Nick never cared for this hat much, but EZ wore it to cover his bald head when he went to the clinic during the transplant process. Here is a look back at one handsome "Blue Devil"  two years ago at the Duke ABMT Clinic.

From EZ:
The last two years have proven again that the "little things" in life are so important. I have learned to cherish every moment with my family as they have shown me unwavering love through those times of loneliness or difficulty. I cannot express the joy that my children and grandchildren have brought me or ever repay my wonderful caregiving wife for the sacrificial love she shows me every day. The prayers of friends and family have made such a difference in my battle with this silent killer, and I owe those prayer warriors more than I can ever repay. My second year was better than my first, and I look forward to enjoying the blessings that our Lord provides me during my third.

"The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him." Nahum 1:7

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fresh Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

A friend shared this delicious cake recipe from Pinterest, and I have made it for dessert many times now (thanks Shelley!). It's simple to make and a great way to use apples and satisfy the sweet tooth. I have to admit...I even ate a piece for breakfast one day and it tasted great with my coffee! A reader asked me to share, so here you go. I know you're gonna love it! (Feel free to double the recipe and use a 13 x 9 pan if you are feeding a larger crowd.)

Fresh Apple Cake w/ Brown Sugar Glaze adapted from Southern Cakes
Uploaded by Monica H at

Apple Cake:
      1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
      1 cup sugar
      1/2 teaspoon baking soda
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
      2 eggs
      1/2 cup canola oil
      1 teaspoon vanilla
      1 1/2 cups finely chopped apples
      1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)

Brown Sugar Glaze:
      1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
      3 Tablespoons butter
      1/2 teaspoon vanilla
      1 Tablespoon heavy cream

For the cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch pan (round or square) and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.Stir with a whisk to mix everything together.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs with a hand mixer til light in color and foamy. Add the oil and vanilla and beat well.

Stir in the flour mixture with a spoon and continue stirring the batter til the flour disappears. Add the apples and nuts (if using) and stir to mix them into the batter.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place the hot cake on a wire cake. While it's still hot, prepare the glaze.

For the glaze: Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Cook for 3-5 minutes.

Spoon the hot glaze over the still hot-from-the-oven cake. Let the glazed cake cool completely before serving straight from the pan.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Friends, Family, Projects and a Movie in Boone

What a treat it was to find out some of my girlfriends from Raleigh were also in Boone for a visit. We met for lunch one day at the 1861 Farmhouse and enjoyed a wonderful meal together.

My big brother, who lives in Davidson, had some work to do in Boone, so he stopped by one afternoon for a sweet visit. Mom was happy to spend time with two of her three children. We made a big batch of taco soup and enjoyed it for lunch during much of the week.

EZ worked on a few projects when we were there, which always makes him feel good. He likes to check things off "To Do" lists! He installed a new cable wire up through the floor in one of the bedrooms, trimmed our hedges, and plugged carpenter bee holes. Thankful for my handy man. You should have seen the maneuvering he had to do to get out of his position in this first picture. However, when he was finished we turned on the TV and we had! The armoire and TV are a new addition to one of our cabin bedrooms.

One of the last things we did while in Boone was go to the movies! This was a huge milestone since it was the first time we had seen a film in a regular theater, with regular theater seats, in two and a half years. EZ took an extra pain pill and off we went to a matinee showing of "Hope Springs". Very funny for the empty nester!

Thanks for dropping by!