Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A long needed update...

Dear Friends and Family,

My apologies for not updating the blog sooner. Life has been very busy around here, and there are lots of updates. I will try to start from the beginning. 

As you know, Courtney had a pump placed in his abdomen in January. It was an overall successful surgery, although they were unable to remove the tumors they encountered during insertion of the pump. The idea of the pump was to deliver direct chemo to his liver, without him having to deal with the side effects of systemic chemo. The port was filled with chemo through a needle inserted into his abdomen to reach the device every 2 weeks. He was doing well and having minimal side effects. 

In the meantime, renovations on the cabin at Johnson Lake were completed, and I must say it was stunning! Chris and Karen, the contractors worked long and hard in the cabin during the winter season to finish. The renovation enlarged the kitchen, added a dishwasher, washer/dryer, and made the bathroom more functional. Walls were taken down, and the cabin is so beautiful! As soon as the snow melted, Courtney and Sue said "goodbye" to the increasing Texas temperatures for the cool summers at Johnson Lake, Nebraska. Tyler and I have missed them very much, and have traveled three times to see them this summer. Days at the lake are amazing, filled with family and friendship, things seems to move at a slower pace. 

Courtney had been seeing an oncologist in Nebraska with consultation from his physicians in Texas. During one of the routine "fills" of his pump, it was noted that none of his chemo had delivered. They attempted to flush with a heparin solution without success, the pump was clogged. We knew that clogging of the line was a possible complication, but it was still a disappointment. After the pump clogged, this left him on no chemo. Since the pump is in his abdomen there was no way to "unclog" it without additional surgical intervention, which was not an option. His latest scan revealed that his tumors had metastasized to his pancreas and also there was overall tumor growth. 

Thus, with much thought, reflection, and consultation with the doctors, the decision has been made... no more chemo and no more scans for now. Courtney is feeling good, and enjoying his time at Johnson Lake. His medi-port (the implanted port that they use for blood draws and medication) is being flushed every 6 weeks in case he were to ever need it again. 

This past weekend we traveled to spend Fourth of July with the family at Johnson Lake. There was a huge party for Diana and Bob's Birthday. Thought I would share some photos from the weekend. 

More updates to come...


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Digging out of the snow

Well we've been digging out of the snow and ice here in Texas, and I must say that most of us have had cabin fever being cooped up these past few days by the weather. We are finally making it out of freezing today for the first time since Tuesday morning when I was awakened at 4:30 am with the sound of ice hitting the roof. Conditions only deteriorated from there, and of course the panic button was pushed in our Dallas area and all operations were halted...except at the Children's hospital where I work. Tyler (with his foot in a cast) graciously drove me everyday in the snow and ice to work to make sure that I safely arrived.

Not to be outdone Courtney drove the Rover up to the dealer to get some maintenance done from Denton to Dallas, only to be stuck behind some semis that couldn't make it up the hill on the interstate outside of Denton. Thank goodness for a full tank of gas! He made it home safely.

Courtney is doing well and had his pump filled with chemo last week. He is feeling good, and has started doing some painting with his extra time. Diana has given him a few pointers and his fist painting I have to say is fabulous! Tyler gave him the idea to paint some flies and hang them in the cabin at Johnson Lake. I think its going to be awesome.

Renovations continue on the cabin at Johnson Lake and I know Courtney and Sue are anxious to get up there, even though lately it has felt like we live in Nebraska and not Texas with all the ice and snow! (By the way, I haven't worn my wedding ring at all during this snow event in Texas, just in case you know?)

Here are some pictures of one of our dogs, Nixon enjoying the snow in our backyard. I think we had close to 5 inches, and for us, that is a lot!

More updates to come, keep checking in!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Staples are out!

Well, Courtney got his staples out on Monday, thank goodness. Lets just say all parties involved survived unscathed. I think it hurt a little less than he remembered from the first time he had staples out. He also got a good report from the doctor. He has been having some back pain, which has been keeping him up a night or two, but overall we are very happy with his progress. Now, we will wait for the healing process to continue, and then fill the pump with chemo.

I have recently been reflecting on how fortunate Tyler and I are. I must say that Tyler and I are so blessed to have such wonderful co-workers and employers that allowed us to work our schedule so that we could be with Courtney while he was hospitalized. We are also fortunate to have such a wonderful extended family and friends that offer support, prayers, and comfort, especially in the most difficult past few weeks. We will never be able to write enough thank you notes to fully express our gratitude.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Doing well at home!

Courtney continues to recuperate at home, and is doing well. He is taking no pain medication and Sue is doing her best to get him to "rest." Tyler and I had a good visit with them today. He does tire very easily, but is still getting around very well. He gets his 33 staples out on Monday, which he is dreading! He will also have his follow up visit to make sure he continues to do well. Hopefully, it will all be no big deal.

His plan, like most others tomorrow, is to sit and watch football. I will let you know if the doctor survives after taking out his 33 staples on Monday.


Monday, January 17, 2011


Courtney's test went well today, so he was able to come home! I don't know who was more excited, he or Max! Now for a good nights rest in his own bed and some non-hospital food. There will be periodic updates on how he is doing, so continue to check back! Thanks for all your prayers, comments, and kind words as Courtney traveled through another phase in his treatment.


Waiting for the test

Courtney is doing well, and even asked Sue to bring him a Vanilla Latte from Starbucks this morning. He is currently waiting on the testing to be done on his pump so that hopefully he can head home! He still has some "tuning up" to do, but much better to rest and heal in your own bed! More later...


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Home tomorrow?

Dr. Yopp came by this afternoon and is encouraged at how well Courtney is doing. He is up and moving around in the hallways, which means he is meeting his nurse Amber's plan for the day...see the photo below...

They did take off Courtney's dressing today to reveal his incision.  He says he now has more staples than Office Depot! Those will come out in 2 weeks at a follow up visit.

Hopefully after Courtney gets his nuclear medicine scan of his pump tomorrow he will get to go home. Dr. Yopp really thinks its likely, and for Courtney its certain. HE IS GOING HOME. I know it will be difficult to keep him in this hospital bed another night. Max is certainly ready for Courtney to come home. He has been staying with Tyler and I, and I sent this picture to Courtney this morning....

Max sent this message to Courtney... "I am so ready for you to come home Courtney, please hurry. These people you stuck me with sleep too late. I am ready to start getting up at 5 am and have coffee again."

Don and Dana Moody are here for a visit now, and we are trying to keep him from laughing too hard...more later.


Rough night

Courtney had a rough night. I think he has his nights and days mixed up. We tried our hardest to keep him up yesterday, and we were successful until about 7pm and then you couldn't have even used toothpicks to keep his eyelids open. He did discover that he could lay on his side which was according to him, "like heaven." He did get Ambien last night (the wonder drug) and slept for about 4 solid hours.

His IV infiltrated last night, which was pretty painful. For those of you who don't know, it is when the IV catheter becomes dislodged out of the vein and the liquid you are getting in the IV leaks into the surrounding tissue. It can cause some swelling to the area. His hand is still pretty puffy this morning. So, needless to say he had to get a new IV in the middle of the night. No fun.

He's on a full liquid diet now, so Sue and I are headed to whole foods to get him some potato soup. More later...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A good afternoon

Courtney continues to do well. He got up and showered this afternoon and has been walking. He choked down a little beef broth, evidently it's not so yummy here. The popsicles still remain his favorite. He has been off his oxygen this afternoon. He did struggle with a little nausea this evening, but nothing a little Zofran and Ativan couldn't handle.

We had a really nice visit today from Courtney's friend, Darrell that he used to work with. Don also stopped by for his daily visit. Don and his wife Dana sent a beautiful arrangement that really cheers up the room. It is hard to even describe its so gorgeous, so here is a photo!

An adorable basket of "goodies" came from his friends Joe and Pam in Canada. Its filled with wine, chocolates, and even some toy cars! It's all we can do to keep him out of the wine, but I don't think wine constitutes as a clear liquid!

It's hilarious because the staff here asked if Courtney was a minister. The tech thought for sure that his faithful congregation was sending him all these extravagant gifts. I replied, no just fabulous friends! We had a good laugh about that.

We have had a great nurse on the floor the past two days, Amber.  She is here again tomorrow so we are excited about that. He considered asking her if he could persuade her to stay all night and be his nurse!

Thanks for all the prayers, comments, and sweet messages. We are so glad he continues to do well. We are still hoping to knock him out with some good old Ambien and pain meds tonight so he can have a more restful night.


A tough night...

Courtney had a rough night, he said he woke up just about every 5 minutes to stare at the clock. He is sleeping too much during the day, so our plan is to keep him up during the day today. We are going to talk to the docs about getting him some good "drugs" to help him sleep tonight. He is so tall, they had to get him a "bed extension" which did help him get a little more comfortable.

When Tyler and I arrived this morning he was sitting on the side of the bed doing his breathing exercises. He is still on oxygen, so we are still working on doing his exercises and getting him out of bed so that he needs less oxygen.

He has already made a small lap down to the nurses station and back, so we are encouraged to see him walking. Let me tell you, the hospital gown is oh so stylish!

He is smiling at all the funny and encouraging comments. It hurts to laugh (which Brandon and Molly your comment caused quite a stir!), but it is good for the soul! Courtney says to tell you have to buy the 25 year old Glen Livets. More updates today, we are waiting on Dr. Yopp to come by. He said he would be here before the Packers game (evidently he's quite the sports fan!) and such a nice guy! We are headed downstairs to try and get some tea to help with this awful caffeine headache he has. Three days and no coffee equals monster headache. Can you say Starbucks please? More later...


Friday, January 14, 2011

New information...

We just saw Dr. Yopp, Courtney’s surgeon. In his words, “Yesterday was not a home run, but it was definitely a double.” While they were unable to remove any of the tumors, they were able to put in the pump. You see, one tumor sits in close proximity to the inferior vena cava. This is the large vein that carries deoxygenated blood from the lower half of the body to the right atrium of the heart. This tumor’s size and location preclude its removal. Dr. Yopp says that this is the most dangerous tumor, so if you can’t get that one out, you don’t take any out. However, there is a ray of hope. He hopes that the chemo pumped directly into Courtney’s liver can shrink the tumor, thus allowing removal later. They put in a lot of “barrier” to prevent him from forming massive amounts of scar tissue around his liver and in his abdomen. This barrier will make it easier for them to get back to his liver again if additional surgery is possible. He says he only does this if he feels there is a chance they can go back in at another time. Only time will tell. He says that he would be surprised if due to the pump, Courtney wasn’t around at this time next year. We are so excited to hear that. More updates to come..


Moving on up...

Courtney continues to do well, and they just moved him to an inpatient room. We are sad to see the nurses go, but glad that he is improving. The staff was so great, we went out and got Society Bakery cupcakes for all of them. (By the way if you have never had one, we highly recommend them!)

Pain continues to be an issue, especially with the transport. They have him on what is known as “patient controlled analgesia” so he has a pain button he can press when he needs a little extra pain medication. He is using that a lot.

This morning they weaned him off his oxygen, but after the transport they had to put it back on. So we will continue to watch this. Courtney will at least be in the hospital until Monday when they will do a radiographic study on his new implanted chemo delivery device. They will look to make sure the new pump is working properly and that it is delivering to the appropriate areas in his liver. They currently have saline in it and will transition it to a slow chemo drip that will infuse directly into his liver. They will not put the chemo in until after he has shown that he is healing. The regimen will then be 2 weeks of saline, 2 weeks of chemo. Our hope is that he will have minimal side effects from this type of direct chemo.

He is resting now and I will send updates as I have them. We are hoping to see Dr. Yopp, his surgeon again soon.


A good morning...

Courtney is doing well this morning. His nurse, Carmen (the one we loved from yesterday) is back again today. When we arrived this morning she already had him up to a chair. He is doing so well they pulled his lines and tubes this morning and started letting him have small sips of clear liquids. He then got to have a frozen lemon popsicle, which I think tasted like the best thing on earth, although I think he’s wishing for a nice glass of French wine!

He had a pretty large central line in his neck, which was pretty rough taking out this morning. Courtney jokingly said he was going to go find the anesthesiologist that put it in and let him know about it. As you can see, he is getting his “spunk” back.

He may stay in ICU for another day, which we are actually hoping for since his nurse is so great. Thanks again for all the comments and prayers, he has smiled at each of your comments and really enjoys them! More updates later…


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hopefully it's a restful night...

Dear Friends and family,

Courtney is doing okay and will remain in ICU at least overnight. The nurses change shifts from 6-8 so they do not allow visitors during that time. So, we headed out and grabbed some dinner. Tyler and I are staying home for the night. Sue is headed back to the hospital to see Courtney right now and she plans on coming back to our house to get some rest as well.

His pain was improved with several large doses of Dilaudid. His blood pressure was also under much better control. We are so thankful they didn't have to start him on a drip to bring down his blood pressure. He was having some significant itching from pain medication and got some Benadryl. We were lucky to have a GREAT nurse today. Gotta love those awesome nurses!

It was so amazing to have Courtney's best friend Don sit with us today. He stayed the whole time and helped to comfort Courtney when he woke up in agonizing pain in the ICU. We also had a sweet visit from Tyler's best friend Mike who dropped by and offered a prayer while Courtney was in surgery. Tyler and Courtney are so blessed to have such an amazing friends.

Thank you all again for the thoughts, prayers, and comments. I have delivered them to Courtney, and he smiles each time. I know he also will enjoy reading them when he really "comes to." More updates to come...hopefully its a restful night.



Courtney is resting in ICU. We have all been at his bedside. He has intermittently been awake and has his breathing tube is out. He is having some difficulty with pain, which is causing some high blood pressure. They are increasing his pain medication and hopefully his pain and blood pressure will improve. Thank you all for your prayers…


Surgery is over

Courtney is out of surgery. The news is both good and bad. The bad news is that there is a tumor that is sitting too close to very important blood vessels. Its proximity to this blood supply precludes removal or ablation to get rid of it. Therefore, they were not able to remove any of the tumors. The good news is that they did implant the pump that will deliver chemo directly to his liver. The surgeon in believes that it could still buy him some time and shrink the tumors.  He is doing well. They are taking him to the ICU and hopefully we will see him soon. Thank you all for your prayers, and messages. We will share all of them with Courtney as soon as he is awake.


Surgery underway

Courtney went into surgery right on time. The surgery is planned to last about 7 hours. We are in the waiting room. Tyler, Sue, and I are in the waiting room accompanied by Courtney's best friend, Don. I will let you know as they update us from the operating room.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Surgery 1/13/2010

Dear Friends and Family,

It has been awhile since I have given an update, and I truly apologize. We have all been busy, enjoying our lives and doing well. Courtney and Sue have been spending time in Nebraska with family and purchased a cabin at Johnson Lake. It is a loved location for all of the Hanson/Bienkowski families. Courtney and Sue have been enjoying relaxing there and Courtney even received some of his treatments in Kearney.

Courtney has been doing well. He stopped chemo and remained on an antibody treatment only. This treatment worked miracles in the beginning. It appeared to have less side effects and he felt a little better on this medication than the other intolerable chemo. We all breathed a sigh of relief. However, we found out recently that Courtney's tumors in his liver were again growing, and at an alarming rate. Chemo wasn't an option again and he sought out other therapies. His oncologist in Denton sent him to a leading physician at UT Southwestern pioneering a new "pump" therapy that will deliver chemo directly into his liver. This would cut out the side effects and allow him to feel better. Again, it is not a cure, but just a means to slow the tumors growth. They will go in tomorrow and resect out any of the tumors that they can get to and implant the pump. UT Southwestern is also going to send off portions of his tumor to pathology for research. You see, Courtney has done so amazingly well and has been with us longer than 99% of all other patients that were diagnosed in the same stage of cancer. Hopefully by learning about his tumors and how they have reacted to his differing treatments will also help others in the future who will be diagnosed with stage IV Colorectal Cancer, which is the most advanced type.

He is having the surgery tomorrow at St. Paul. We are scheduled to be there at 5:30 am with a planned start time of 7:30. I will be updating this blog periodically throughout his surgery and recovery. We are planning for him to be in the hospital for at least five days, possibly more.

Thank you in advance for all your prayers and thoughts as we again travel through a difficult time in Courtney's treatment.