Wednesday, August 28, 2013

thank you and love

Good Evening -

Crickets are chirping, backyard chimes are ringing, and there is baseball on the radio.  It's difficult to believe that we lost Kurtis a little over a week ago, and life has been an adjustment as you might expect. I had written a longer post last Thursday, but it got lost in internet land and I didn't have the stamina to rewrite it then, and tonight I felt like typing out some of what I had written before.

To begin, I want to say thank you.  The journey from the past several years has been a roller coaster ride and I'll admit that roller coasters are far from my favorite.  So many of you have been along with both Kurtis and myself for the ride and I know that without you that we wouldn't have been able to walk through this for as long.  Perhaps everything happened really quickly last week or perhaps we weren't aware just how sick Kurtis was, but we were able to spend so much of the summer together thanks to the countless acts of kindness from each of you.

Our families have been incredible, providing us with what we needed.  I was thankful to be able to have both of our parents and K's sister and brother in law with us when Kurtis passed last week, and it was so good to see so many of you at the celebration this weekend.  I can't imagine going through this without a family that would do anything (and everything) to help.  I feel so fortunate and thankful to have all of you in my life <3  My parents have been nothing but amazing and, Mom and Dad - I can't say thank you in enough languages or ways to really express how thankful and blessed I am to have you as parents.  You are both such wonderful, loving, kind, thoughtful, and strong individuals that I know I wouldn't be able to be standing up right now if it wasn't for you.

Thank you to our Polaris staff who exemplify our school motto "Crew, not passengers" - I have told people since I started working on a chilly January day in 2010 that I work at the best school in the world, and I firmly believe that is true.  Kurtis loved working with all of you and I want you to know how thrilled he was to have gotten the job last summer.  From morning chai to hallway hugs and jokes you all have made it possible for me to feel loved, safe, and happy at work even though it hasn't been easy.

To our friends from far and wide, thank you for the messages of love, support, and help.  I appreciate the supportive conversations, shoulders to cry on, and the ability to reminisce over a beer.  Thank you for all the text messages and late night phone calls when I felt like the world was crumbling.  For helping me to finish my backyard, etc. etc. etc.

To our lacrosse families and school families, you are incredible too.  There were so many loving messages, visits to the hospital, and cards from you that helped to light our life up these past few months and  I appreciate it more than you know.

And, to the strangers who have found this blog and send us love and support too, thank you.

I know I haven't had a chance to respond to all of the emails, notes, texts, facebook messages and more, but I will.  <3

I also feel like I want to tell you a few things now that I've had some time to process.  I loved Kurtis so much and it was incredibly difficult to lose him, but I feel so relieved that he is free.  I know that many of you who have been following along didn't spend time with us with all the tests, chemo, radiation, blood getting, hospital sleeping, etc. etc. etc. and it was really getting to a point where it was easy to tell that Kurtis was tired and in massive amounts of pain.  I'm not really sure that the pain would have ever released, even if they could have gotten the cancer under control.  I am so proud of the fight that he put up, and it was because he gave it everything he could that I feel like I was able to tell him it was okay to go.  We had a conversation before he left where I made him promise that he would let me know that he was okay when he got wherever he was going.

After we got home, I was drawn out to our deck immediately, where the air was heavy, sticky, and still. Without a breeze or gust of wind, the chimes that our friends gave us for our wedding went wild.  Kurtis loved those chimes so much (which, is odd since they're sort of randomly noisy...) but it let me know that he's okay and I want to share that with all of you.

I know that a lot of you are worried about me and I want to let you know I'm okay too.  I have my family (and Kurtis') around me and I'm happy being back at work.  I have a week off in a few weeks and I'm very excited to be visiting an old friend in New York City.  My parents and I are going to go out to South Carolina (or somewhere right around there) to play some golf for Kurtis' birthday and lacrosse starts next week.  Keep the chai, hugs, and love coming, but know that I'm okay too.  My friend Amelia has moved into the house with me so I'm not alone, Chauncey has been overly loving, and I know that Kurtis is watching over all of us.

There was an article in our local paper about Kurtis, you can read it here

I hope you will consider donating to the scholarship fund that we've set up for Kurtis.  The scholarships will be awarded annually to one student from our school, Polaris, and one to Kurtis' alma mater, Holyoke High School, to further their education.  The easiest way is to send the check to the PO box :)

You may make your donation at any Wells Fargo Bank Branch, or mail a check made payable to the Kurtis Huss Memorial Scholarship Fund to:

Kurtis Huss Fund
P. O. Box 51284
Colorado Springs, CO 80949-1284

That's all for now, but I look forward to sharing some memories of Kurtis with you later.

Much love,
Liz and Chauncey

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Kurtis is free

Hello -

I just wanted to take a few moments tonight write in this blog.  It has been an important part of our journey.

Two nights ago around 7:30, Kurits passed away.  It was a pretty quick downhill spiral that landed him in the ICU.  After speaking to the doctor on the morning of August 20th, we learned that Kurtis' lungs were too damaged to fix, even if they could fix the other problems that his lungs were no longer able to function on his own.

We were fortunate to have an extra day to say goodbye and I am thankful that I got to tell him I love him a million more times.  I never really thought I'd be writing this post, but here I am.  It's difficult right now, but I know that he isn't in pain anymore and that helps to put me at peace.  I know that he is looking out for all of us as he promised he would.

Kurtis' memorial service will be on Sunday at two at our neighborhood park.  Details follow:

Kurtis' Life Celebration Information

The service for Kurtis Huss will be on Sunday, August 25th at 2pm in Registry Park (6820 Ranger Dr, Fort Collins, CO 80526).  The park is located in a neighborhood and the city of Fort Collins has asked that cars are not parked in residential streets as much as possible. Please dress casually and wear blue (Kurtis' favorite color), the ceremony will be outside so please bring chairs or blankets to sit on.  We also recommend that you bring water as it is supposed to be hot that afternoon.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Kurtis Huss Memorial Scholarship Fund that will begin annually awarding  students from Polaris Expeditionary Learning School and Holyoke High School with scholarship money to further their education.  Checks may be made out to the Kurtis Huss Memorial Scholarship Fund.  A reception of Kurtis' favorite snacks and drinks will be held following the celebration - if you would like to bring some to share please feel free.  
Thank you for the endless love that you showed both Kurtis and myself.  He was the love of my life and my very best friend and I feel a little lost without him right now.  But I want you to know that I'm okay.  I have all of you on my side and he's taking care of me :)

I'm hoping that you will all post memories of Kurtis below and I intend to post some of mine in the future :)

All our love,
Liz and Chauncey

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday "funday"

Greetings and Salutations!

Well.  Here we are.  Several days after Thursday, but lots to share and update you on.  It's been a crazy few days (aren't they all now?!??!).  Time is ticking away and summer officially ends at 5 AM or so when I get up to go to work since I still am not ready (!!) with all of my copies and such for school tomorrow.

Kurtis is doing better than a few days ago.  No new tumors to report, thankfully.

On Friday, they placed an Aspira lung drain so that he can take the fluid out of his lungs as needed.  It's very painful right now because they have to kind of dig around to get it placed which is not comfortable in any sense of the imagination.  Yesterday was the worst day for that I think, and today has been much better since they've been giving him some pain medication through the IV.

We were hoping that he would be able to go home Saturday or Sunday, but that hasn't been the case.  Things have stabilized for the most part except for the random bleeding that is happening and going into his lung.  Today we drained it for the first time and got 400cc of fluid - and that is after they got 3500cc of fluid a few days ago (that is about 3.5 IV bags just to give you some reference points).  So, the trick now is just getting that blood stop and the chemo rolling again...something that we are hopeful will happen tomorrow or Tuesday.

Today was mellow.  We watched the Americans lose the Solheim Cup and then later some Cuthroat kitchent.  Chipotle for dinner and Kurtis was able to move and sit in a chair (YEA!).

For now, Kurtis is still in the hospital.  It's not terrible though since the nurses are here and everything is taken care of :]

School starts tomorrow and I know that it is hard for Kurtis to be missing it.  However, once they get this stuff a little bit under control, I know that he's excited to get back to the classroom.

I spent Saturday in Parker at the Solheim Cup with my parents which was really fun.  I'm happy that Kurtis got to spend some time with his mom :] and also that the wonderful Amelia was able to take care of broken dog.  Broken dog is doing well.   He had his bandage removed today and will spend the week at the vet for "day boarding"


I think that's all for now.  More soon...I won't say tomorrow since I lied last time!

Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey Dudley

Thursday, August 15, 2013

a long 24 and other notes

Greetings and Salutations -

Well, I had to go back and read my last post because I wasn't really sure where I left off.  It's been that kind of few days.  And I didn't really read it, I just skimmed it, so my apologies if I repeat something.

The last few days have been beyond nuts and I'm hopeful that we'll see smooth sailing on the horizon ahead.  I'm pretty tired, so I'm attempting to keep this rundown brief, but it may not turn out that way.

So, earlier in the week, Kurtis was scheduled for a blood transfusion on Wednesday which he did have, but he also got blood on Tuesday.  He was feeling really terrible and we ended up going into the cancer center for treatment.  They sent us to the hospital for two units of blood that afternoon with one the following morning (three units in total for you math whiz types).  This helped Kurtis feel better, but not endlessly so.  His blood number was at nine (remember that twelve-fourteen is normal for males of his size) and we headed home where I cleaned up our house in preparation for school starting and in the evening, Kurtis' mom came.

Now the fun really starts.

While finishing up baking some banana bread Madeline's for our staff breakfast Chauncey bounded in from the backyard and proceeded to bleed all over the house.  With pressure on his paw, I couldn't slow the bleeding at all so we fixed him a paper-towel-and-hair-tie bandage and I took him to the CSU urgent care animal hospital.  I was expecting him to get bandaged up like he has in the past when he's cut his paws, but after waiting some time I found out that he needed surgery.  So, emergency surgery for the dog (they had to call a surgeon in) after it took them forty-five minutes to stop his bleeding.

At midnight we headed home and by 12:45 or so I had successfully gotten him to pee outside, shoved six pills down his throat and carried him upstairs all while trying not to wake Kurtis up.  It was an adventure.  And of course, work started today and Kurtis and his mom were headed for chemo so ... Chauncey got to come to work.  Thankfully I work in the most amazing place in the world.

Today while I was at work, Kurtis and his mom headed to a doctor's appointment and ended up being checked into the hospital.  He needed a GI test to figure out where the bleeding was coming from as well as some more blood to try to push him to 'normal' and the lung doc came in to see him. Basic rundown:
-The blood went well, helping his color and making him feel some better
-The GI test found some bleeding nodules in his stomach and, unfortunately, the GI doctor thinks that they are tumors as well.  He put some clamps in to help stop the bleeding and pathology will get back with results tomorrow
-Tomorrow, Kurtis will have another lung drain or he'll have a drain placed so he can drain it himself.  I think right now he's leaning toward the personal drain

So, there you have it.  Our crazy 24 hours.  I'm hoping that we'll get out of the woods soon and that Kurtis can start feeling better very soon.  I'll update tomorrow as I'm sure many of you would like to know what is going on.

All our love,
Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey-my-foot-is-hurt dog

Monday, August 12, 2013

Summer's closing

Good Evening and Hello -

Tonight is a cool evening in the fort - the kind of evening that reminds us that fall is creeping around the corner.  Backpacks of children will soon be filled with brand new boxes of crayons and their parents will be thrilled to send them off to teachers who are actually quite pleased to be back in the classroom.  Days will keep getting shorter and football season will start up soon.  With that said, I'm reminded that the world and life keeps on going and Kurtis and I will continue to take things one day at a time.

As you might have seen on my Facebook post a few days ago, we are back home.  The hospital stint (just over 24 hours) is the shortest that we've ever had throughout this entire experience, so we are both incredibly thankful for that.  The doctors think that the radiation caused some swelling in his brain which was causing his crippling nausea.  That would explain why none of the drugs that they gave him were working at all.  Once they checked him into the hospital, he got several doses of the steroid that he was taking at the beginning of the summer.  It seems to be working quite well and I know that Kurtis is happy to be feeling at least a little "normally" again.

Yesterday, Kurtis was feeling good enough that I felt comfortable leaving him home to head down to the Rockies game.  It's been months since I've been able to go and breathing in the peanut, hot dog, and beer filled smell while hanging out with one of my colleagues and my grandparents was just what I needed.  I'm sure many of you know this, but baseball is basically part of my anatomy and has been since I was a wee one (thanks dad).  I wouldn't have it any other way.  And to anyone who says that the baseball season is too long at 162 games -- IT IS NOT.  For people like me, we need the constant beat of summer - cracks of the bat and the adrenaline rush of a fabulous double play.

Today Kurtis got his blood tested and his is in need of another transfusion.  His appointment is for Wednesday morning.  We joke that we've spent pretty much every holiday you can think of in the hospital - and Wednesday will be a new one ... "last day of summer" -ha. Thursday and Friday are back to school for teachers and then the kiddos return and I'm excited for that.   I miss them in the summer - even when summer is "normal" I miss them so it will be a great thing to get back into the swing of things.

We're hoping that Kurtis starts to feel more and more normal as we get farther and farther away from his radiation treatments.  They really did a number on a different way than chemo does.  His mom is coming up to hang with him for chemo this week and most likely through Saturday while I head down to Parker to watch the Solheim Cup with my parents.  I'm thrilled to get the chance to see golfers that are almost as good as me (HAHAHA).

Chauncey wants everyone to know that he still hasn't come remotely close to catching a rabbit.  He also says that he is protecting us because "haven't you seen the bunny in Monty Python?!"  That explains his addiction pretty good.  He and the next-door dog, Tilly, have been working hard at being "fence friends" and so far it's going well.  Armed with cheap dog treats we call "McDonalds" we've been working with the two of them so that they can be out at the same time and not wake up the entire city of Fort Collins.  Chauncey's grade is currently a "developing" on the Polaris grading scale (not passing...) but he's close to a "developing/accomplished" (passing).

Thank you for your continued thoughts and love.  We really appreciate everything that is sent our way.

Lots of love,
Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

Friday, August 9, 2013

3003, a hospital odyssey


Tonight I'm writing from room 3003 at PVH where Kurtis, Chauncey, and I will be spending the night. Don't panic!

Kurtis had his last radiation treatment this morning and threw up on the way.  After his treatment he was looking really pale and generally "not good" so they had him lay down at the radiation oncologist's office.  After taking his blood pressure (super low) they decided to transport him via ambulance to the ER at PVH.

Originally, Kurtis was scheduled to have a blood transfusion today, so they started that while we were in the ER.  We watched "Trouble With the Curve" and hung out until they decided to keep Kurtis overnight.  Once that decision was made, we were moved up to the oncology hallway and I headed home to get Chauncey.

Kurtis has had two bags of blood so far and LOTS of fluid.  His color is almost all the way back to "normal" and he was even able to eat real food for dinner. His blood numbers are not quite where they should be and his blood pressure is still low, but the good thing is that we're here so they can monitor all of that stuff. Hopefully the blood and fluid will help to get the nausea under control.  We've been having a lovely evening - Rox are playing well tonight and the three of us are together, so that is what matters :)

I don't have a lot of news other than that - not really a whole lot to report.

We appreciate the continued love and support!

Liz, Kurtis, and hospital dog Chauncey

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday Update


Well.  It has certainly been a long time since I've updated here, I was going to update last night, but my computer wasn't charged and ... I went to bed instead.  But now I'm all connected to power and ready to go!

Well, it certainly has been a week.  Lots of stuff going on for us - in the middle of trying to get ready for school and figure out what to do with our lingering days of summer :/.  It really feels like we just finished school - amazing how fast a couple months go when you're fighting cancer.

Kurtis has now completed eight treatments of radiation and will have two more - tomorrow and Friday. They have been "easy" as far as the treatment time goes...we just drive over to the center and they take him for five minutes and then we go home.  However, they've been magnifying the chemo side effects so right now, Kurtis is facing a constant battle with pretty extreme fatigue and nausea.  I think we are both thankful that the radiation is almost done!

Last week, Kurtis' family came to visit.  It was good to see his mom and sister as well as the nieces who did the best they could being "understanding" of Kurtis being sick.  Aubrey even picked out a very cute frog and gave it to Kurtis with strict instructions that it is to CUDDLE WITH.  We spent most of the rest of the weekend watching baseball and movies.  The Rockies are not really helping us feel any better right now, so we're hopeful that they'll turn it around soon.

I interviewed for the head coaching (women's lacrosse) position at Colorado State early last week and found out at the end of the week that I got the job which I am very excited about.  I wasn't really ever expecting to change my coaching job, but when this opportunity came up I didn't feel like I could say no! It was an extremely hard thing to decide to leave my current coaching job - we have a ton of great kids and wonderful families.  The last couple of weeks while I was trying to decide what to do I had a lot of anxiety, so actually having the decision finalized has lifted a big weight.  I know that my Eagles will continue to do great things and I'm quite excited to be coaching the defending national champs!  Amazing how opportunities present themselves when you least expect it.

I also got to go spend Monday night with my family in Denver to celebrate my little sister's birthday (early).  It was great to get to see my family and surprise her.  I'm thankful that Kurtis is feeling well enough that I was able to go, but I know that he was sad he couldn't join.

We were able to meet with the school district and set up Kurtis' "leave" time while he's going through treatment.  Thankfully that went well and it looks like he'll start back two days/week for the first little while.  I know he is ready to get back in the classroom too :)

Today I spent time dragging our furniture around upstairs.  Since Kurtis is so nauseous all the time, I have been sleeping on one of the other mattresses on the floor.  Now our other bed frame is in the room and I am much less in the way and up off the floor which will be nice.  Chauncey was quite confused and not good at "helping"

I think that's all for now.  I'm sure I missed a lot, but I'll write more tomorrow :)

All our love!
Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

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Hello and good evening!

Fort Collins is beautiful tonight, perhaps one of the nicest nights we've had the entire summer.  For those of you who don't live here (which I know is quite a few of you, actually) you're missing out!  Thunder is rumbling softly as a small rainstorm moves east, the sky is purple and orange, the air is still and light, and it is a beautiful 75 degrees.  The lanterns are starting to flicker on in our backyard and I've got a nice Rolle Bolle. Perfect time for me to sit down and let you all know what is up.

Although it's been a few days, please don't take that as something has gone wrong.  Quite the contrary, actually.  Three things happened...Kurtis went to treatment, my mom came to visit, and I got totally sucked into a puzzle.

Friday was pretty rough for both Kurtis and myself.  We found out earlier in the day that the chemo was rocking the cancer (taking the hormone marker betaHCG from about 38,000 to about 15,000 which is a huge drop) so we were flying pretty high.  When the radiation oncologist called with the news that they found more tumors, it was like we fell off of the cliff we had just climbed.  After a few days to digest and talk with the doctors, we know a little bit more and it has been "digested" so to speak and we are moving to fight it.

Here are a few things that have "changed" in the treatment plan and some other things that we now know:
-Kurtis is now receiving "whole brain radiation" which is designed to kill ALL of the cancer in his brain, the chemo will handle it everywhere else
-Radiation treatments last about 5 minutes total...just enough time for me to consume one of the rice krispy treats they have in the snack box at the office.  He doesn't really feel any side effects yet - and the treatment is not painful.
-Kurtis had to make another mask on Monday since the treatment changed...the old one is now at our house, and if you'd like to see it, please just ask when you drop by!
-The rest of this week and all of next week will be radiation.  Chemo starts back up August 15th
-Today the radiation oncologist stressed again that the new tumors are very small and also told us that they may already be shrinking.
-An MRI will be taken in about 5-6 weeks to see the progress of the radiation.

Honestly, Kurtis has been doing quite well.  Is he uncomfortable? Absolutely.  But, he's still eating pretty much everything, his color is good, and we even listened to "Radioactive" on the way to the appointment today.  His lung doesn't seem to be filling up with fluid (or at least, not too quickly) and all things considered - he's rocking the treatment.

My mom came up on Sunday night and stayed until this afternoon which was really nice.  I love that my parents live close enough that it is easy to see them - we see them a lot at Rockies games during the summer, but obviously, that isn't happening right now so it was nice to get to spend a few days with her and for a little bit of extra help around the house.  Mom brought up a few things from the Rockies games we've missed including a couple of the Michael Cuddyer face cutouts.  These are important because Chauncey is terrified of them and all you have to do is show him Cuddy's face and he runs away and stops barking.  Pretty hysterical, not to mention useful when he and our neighbor dog decide to try and kill each other through the fence.

Kurtis' mom, sister, and nieces are here for a bit now too. We enjoyed spending a few hours with them today, and will see them more tomorrow,  Kurtis has radiation in the afternoon so it should be a pretty lazy/relaxing morning.

I think that's all.
Chauncey still hasn't caught any rabbits, even though he is trying very hard...lots of stalking and lots of waiting...but as soon as he gets off the deck they dart away.  He's not even close and it's been nice comic relief around here.

More soon -
Love to all!
Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

Friday, July 26, 2013

Good News/Bad News

Good Evening -

Wanted to update you all again today, even though I updated yesterday with the super post.  This morning, Kurtis built his plastic mask for radiation and had an MRI to set up the radiation for his brain. After finishing with the MRI, Kurtis had a voicemail from the cancer doctor letting him know that his bHCG had dropped which is outstanding.  When we got home, Kurtis checked his chart online and we found out that it dropped drastically from about 38,000 to about 15,000 which is more than half! Wonderful news that means that the chemo is working.

We had a few hours of complete happiness followed by a phone call from the radiation oncologist.  Unfortunately, the MRI from today showed four new tumors in his brain with three "suspicious"areas.  So, in the last 3.5 weeks, the cancer has been hard at work attacking his brain which, to put it quite simply, really sucks.

The plan now is to start Kurtis on Whole Brain Radiation on beginning on Monday.  The doctors were planning on doing pinpoint radiation to limit the exposure of radiation and his brain, but with the tumors continuing to develop it means that there are cells floating around and they all need to get treated.  Beginning on Monday, Kurtis will go for five days in a row for radiation treatment and then repeat the process for another week for a total of ten treatments.  Each treatment will take approximately 5-10 minutes.  The tumors are all small, about a centimeter or less, so that is positive as well.

In addition, the radiation oncologist called this "very treatable" and the response Kurtis is having to the chemo is outstanding so that will keep the cancer from being able to "re-seed" in his brain.  After I called back and talked to the radiation oncologist today, I also found out that had they done the pinpoint radiation that they would have had to go back and do the whole brain due to what they were able to see today.  That means, that Kurtis is actually going to have a little bit less radiation than was possible.

All frustrating and scary, for sure.  We know the ups and downs of cancer treatment but it doesn't make it easier to handle when you find out "new" things that weren't expected.  However, we feel like Kurtis is in good hands and he is anxious to get this process going so that he can continue battling the other cancer cells.

The weekend will be filled with rest and prep for the radiation to come and we appreciate the continued positive thoughts, vibes, prayers, etc.

Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Super Update


This is probably the biggest update in awhile - so good luck hanging on to the end.  Those that make it to the end will receive a gold star and a high-five.

As I left you a few days ago I let you know that Kurtis had a large number of appointments Wednesday, and boy oh boy did he....and now we have a lot of information to share with you and update you with.

Appointment #1: Oncologist
This was a check in with the "main" doc - to see how Kurtis was feeling and how the treatment was working and how Kurtis was handling it so far.  We went over what had happened in the last week - blood transfusions + lung drain (I can't spell the right word for it....).  Everything went well and we found out a few things:

-The next tumor marker (Beta HCG) draw would take place Thursday (today) to see how everything is working.  Kurtis' number right now is about 38,000 so we are hoping for a decrease in that number.  This test has to get sent away so it takes a few days, we'll probably know Monday.

-The doc thinks that some of the blood/lung fluid fill up might be related to a tumor in Kurtis' lung that may be bleeding.  He explained that the type of testicular cancer that K is dealing with right now creates a lot of blood vessels and is actually "quite fragile" so, they tend to bleed and that is fairly normal for this type of cancer.  I know it sounds just two steps away from terrifying, but cancer is a strange beast and if the doc says it's normal, we try to relax.  Long story short - if the tumor leaks blood, the blood can't get back into his system and builds up in his lung which makes it so it is hard to breathe...etc.  If the chemo doesn't knock that tumor out soon, it is possible that K will have to see a lung doctor to have some kind of drain put in which sounds like more fun than anything he's done (I hope you read that in typical Liz-sarcastic-voice...).

-If this chemo treatment is working, K could be dealing with it for up to six months.  Longer than maybe we expected, but as long as it is working, that is what is important.

Appointment #2: Radiation Oncologist
Last time around, K just had chemo and didn't have any radiation, so this is new to us.  We had an introduction appointment to get everything figured out.  It took a couple of hours and we did a lot of different things.  The goal was to treat Kurtis during an "off" week for the chemo which is next week and fortunately, that is doable.  A few things need to happen before treatment:
-Kurtis needs a "fresh" MRI since there was swelling in his brain post-craniotomy (Friday)
-A plastic mask needs to be made for treatment to help K stay still while getting zapped (Friday)
-Radiation "education" session will take place to discuss side-effects, etc. (Monday)
-A "dry run" of treatment will happen before the actual treatment (Tuesday)
-Treatment (Wednesday) "off" week has turned very much into "ON" week, but we are both happy that this stuff is going to get zapped so it is no big deal.  The treatment itself will take 2-3 hours - Kurtis has elected for it to all happen in one round.  It will be a very long day for him, but then it is done :)

Appointment #3: Neuro Follow-Up
Everything looks great.  Incision from brain surgery looks good and we will go back in October.  Yay.

Between the Radiation office and the Neuro office we hit up Chipotle for lunch which isn't all that important, except it was a normal activity.  We haven't had a lot of that lately, so even though we were both exhausted and it was just us shoving food down our gullets, it was really nice to just be normal for five minutes.

Today was chemo day and Kurtis has now completed one cycle.  He won't have any next week, and will start cycle #2 the following week.  Yeeeehaw.  Hopefully he will feel better tomorrow than he has on the other "day after" days...

We had an outstanding dinner tonight from one of our lax families - thanks Ruybals! We had a nice visit with them and delicious food to fill our tummies.  :)

As you're reading along tonight, I bet at least one of you has noticed that we haven't broken anything lately.  And by lately I mean in like three days (although, the Rockies sort of qualify for this past series...eeeeechhh).  So, I'm happy to report that today we broke something.  Did anyone place your bet on the washer? Well if you're wrong.  Those that bet on "magical hair clippers that we only use when Kurtis is about to lose his hair and have really only used one time in Indiana" are the big winners.  Congratulations.

So.  As you might imagine we had a fun night with that.  Thankfully, Sarah and Pat our outstanding neighbors had a clipper so they saved me from being the stylist to a terrible semi-cut haircut.

So, that's it for today! More in a day or two!

Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Marching Forward


How many people used ahoy this week as instructed? No one? As expected.  You big group of fun haters.

Well, both Monday and Tuesday have been better for Kurtis than last week was, so that is excellent.

It is nice to see that the blood is 'working' for Kurtis and he's feeling better and better. Yesterday his energy level was up and we had a lovely Thai dinner with our friends and co-workers Brenda and Randy.  It was nice to hang out at our table and relax.  The great thing about Kurtis' energy level right now is that it doesn't seem to be going down, and his lung doesn't appear to be filling up with fluid - all absolutely stupendous!  Day to day tasks are getting easier for him as well :)

After Randy and Brenda left, I headed out to go on my first paddle-boarding trip courtesy of our friend and co-worker Sarah and her awesome husband Billy.  The hour at Horsetooth under the big, bright, moon was exactly what I needed (thank-you).  I felt really relaxed on the paddle-board and I would not complain if I just walked out one morning and one was attached to my Subaru.  Until that point - I will put it on the "toys Liz would like" list.

This morning, Kurtis felt good enough to go to PT so we headed out to the PT place.  The appointment today was about 45 minutes and Kurtis rocked it!  He did some time on the bike, upper body strength-building, lots of balance-centered walking and some time on a balancing board.  After all of that he got to get stretched out and relax :)  It wore him out and contributed to a pretty solid afternoon nap - but so far he isn't too sore and it hasn't completely zapped him.  I may have spent a good portion of the afternoon with Chaunce in the backyard napping too.

Our former professor, Kelly, stopped by with some baked goods from Jamie who worked with me in the Historical Literacy Partnership - thank you! I have already consumed a lot of the bread and Kurtis has been working on the cookies!

I went to school for a little bit to "unwrap" my classroom.  There was a camp there for most of the summer thus far and everything had been it was a little bit like Christmas and a little bit like holy crap school is on its way!

Tomorrow, Kurtis has a plethora of appointments - oncologist, radiation oncologist, and head doc.  A circus!  We'll be busy in the afternoon!  Thursday is the restart of chemo and we're guessing that Kurtis is going to need to get blood sometime too if the pattern that has been continues to be.

Thanks for your ongoing love and messages of support.

Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Better Day


Yes, I just said ahoy.  And, no, I am not on a boat.  However, Alexander Graham Bell did think that ahoy should be used to answer the phone, so obviously its other natural use is to start blogs (or welcome students to class).  It's a great word.  Try using it sometime - fun might creep into your life though, so be careful.  Stop laughing, I'm not joking.

Today was a better day for Kurtis.  The blood has been circulating for a little over twenty-four hours now and although he is still tired and feeling not the best, he looks, sounds, and feels a lot better than yesterday which is excellent.  He was able to sleep in for awhile this morning and get a few good naps in this afternoon.  His color is improving and he isn't having as much of a headache when he stands up. All positive! He really enjoyed watching some golf this morning too - especially since Phil (his favorite) won :)  Yeeeee-haw!

Sometimes I get sucked into doing nothing while he is resting except figure out what else I can do to help him (which, when he is sleeping is to leave him alone...ha).  Today, however, was an example of the opposite thing that can happen - I go into major work mode.  This morning Chelsea and I headed over to Home Depot and picked out a nice, new, fully functioning, red garbage disposal, a lovely power cord kit, and plumber's putty.  Then we came home and put it together replacing the old, leaking, model.  I am proud to say that we didn't really struggle at all and perhaps the most difficult part of the entire endeavor was finding the plumber's putty in the store... :).  I also cleaned out our closet which looked like Chauncey had been locked inside during a thunderstorm for a week so that feels a lot better. I finally got some lesson planning done too (yes that's right kids, school is right around the corner and I'm ready for you...well, I will be...).

We spent the evening watching some of our favorite summer TV - the Rockies playing well, HGTV Star, and Food Network Star.  Tomorrow there isn't anything on the docket yet as far as treatment...just hanging out, kicking cancer in the butt, and watching some baseball.

Sending love! <3

Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey Dudley "Rabbit Master"

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blood x2 and more fun


Here is your Saturday-evening-FullSail-sipping-Rockies-watching-update about our little family and how Kurtis is doing.

After the crazy, long, exhausting Thursday, I had to get Kurtis up early to go back to the hospital so that he could have a blood transfusion.  The chemo wipes out his hemoglobin (red blood cells which do stuff with oxygen) and getting blood helps bring that number back up towards normal.  The process takes a lot longer than you might imagine - about 4.5-5 hours total for two units (bags) of blood.  There are some interesting related procedures to blood transfusions like the crazy amount of cross-checking and special A-Z combo locks, but even though it is time consuming, for Kurtis it is fairly simple.

Unfortunately, this can't happen at the normal cancer center, so we have to go to the outpatient infusion center at the hospital.  The protocol is a little different and the space isn't nearly as comfortable for either of us.  All around the chairs, curtains are drawn and I constantly feel like I am 100% in the way. They still have warm blankets and a nice tea selection, but it's not the ideal situation.

Kurtis' number was "6" before the blood on Friday ... apparently "12" is normal...and after the blood it only raised to "8".  This morning he was feeling pretty terrible (as he did a week ago after chemo on Thursday) and spiked a bit of a fever, so I called the doctor on call and after looking at his chart, she decided that it would be good for him to get more blood - so today we headed back to the infusion center where we spent the afternoon.  Kurtis half-sleeping and me attempting (and mostly succeeding) to knit a mitten.  He feels a bit better after the blood today, but still not what we'd qualify as "good".  Even though this is tough for him to go through this and difficult for me to watch it, we know that feeling bad means that the cancer cells are also in the blasting zone and for that we're thankful.

Today we're also thankful for Kurtis' cousin Kristin and her family who made it possible for us to have a "new" dishwasher.  Somehow they came across a crop of them and while we were gone today they came and installed it so we now have a beautiful fully-functional dishwasher that is not making noises, leaking, or smelling.  It is lovely and we feel so fortunate and blessed.  Thank you <3.

So, if you picked the dishwasher to die first, you get 1/2 of a point since it is gone because it was crashing.  HOWEVER, if anyone out there thought to yourself a few posts back "Liz, you are on some form of dangerous and illicit drug thinking that your dishwasher and washing machine are going to stop working because your garbage disposal is already leaking, mwahahahaa" then you are evil for not telling me.  When they installed the dishwasher there was a lovely leak discovered.  I spent some time this evening cleaning up some molded towels and water from a leak and then set out to find where it was coming from.  I now know that it is our garbage disposal (which, I could live without...sort of...) but unfortunately not just when "disposing" (I can't live without the sink in the kitchen).  So, tomorrow, I will, with the help of Chelsea, install a new garbage disposal.  I'll let you know how it goes in the next post.  If you're laughing, stop.  I like tools.  And. Sometimes I am good at them.

Chauncey has been dutifully waking me up just after the crack of dawn so he can go rabbit chasing.  He whines and wakes up Kurtis.  I get up.  Open door.  Sit on couch.  Fall half asleep for ten minutes. Dog comes in.  Dog goes to sleep.  DEAR DOG, PLEASE SLEEP UNTIL SEVEN.  Just an idea.  The rabbits will wait I tell him.  He does not listen.  Sigh.  He also woke Kurtis up to alert him that flowers were being delivered from the Holyoke Fire Department (they are very nice, thank you!) and has been doing his best to be in the way if Kurtis needs to walk anywhere.  :)

Nothing big until Wednesday where Kurtis has a doctors appointment as well as an appointment with the radiation oncologist and then chemo again on Thursday.  I am going to knit a nice mitten.  The Rockies will continue to play offense as well as defense.  Chaunce will continue to patrol for rabbits and save our lives because of it and Kurtis, the superhero, will continue to destroy all of the cancer in his path.

On a side note, if you are able to give blood at any time this summer, I'd encourage you to do so.  I'm currently trying to build up enough nerve to go in myself (...I struggle with doctor activities which is slightly ironic since we are in there a lot with Kurtis and my best friend starts med school in a few weeks.  Having my blood pressure taken is enough to make me have a small freak-out I'm slowly building the courage...slowly).  Kurtis and other people like him need blood in order to get better and the only way they can get it is if people like us go donate.  So, if you feel like you can, please do.  Would love to hear from you if you do - pictures or notes!  Warrior points are earned!! :)

I guess that's it.
Thanks for all of your continued love and support - we appreciate it more than you know!

Love -
Liz, Kurtis, and early-waking-adorable-yellow-dog

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Back in the Chemo Zone

Greetings from the chemo room in sunny Fort Collins!

It's been a few days since I've written, but things are moving along just fine.  Chemo is proving to be a less-than-enjoyable experience (as we already knew it would be) but day by day we are powering through.

Monday evening the Smithwicks brought lasagna over and we had a nice meal with lots of good conversation.  The lasagna was huge and we have been snacking on it all week, so thank you for that! Always nice to have visitors in our house and we enjoy eating with friends!

Tuesday and Wednesday proved to be mostly uneventful.  Kurtis and I are finishing the TV series Weeds and he's been resting.  The chemo has really knocked him down and he has been feeling really tired.  I started knitting for the first time a few days  ago thanks to my friend Amelia.  I chose to knit a hedgehog for Kurtis which is now complete and I'm about halfway done with the second one.  A local knitting store, My Sister Knits has donated a lot of things for our Etsy shop.  I am going to get them up and for sale here in the next few days :) We also had a visit from one of our college professors, Kelly, and it was really nice to see her as always.  She brought over a feast as well that we have been munching away on.

Kurtis' mom came up last night and is "enjoying" chemo with us today.  It has been really good to see her and we're both happy that she was able to come up!  After the lab results came in, Kurtis found out that he has to get a blood transfusion tomorrow since his hemoglobin is low.  Once it is in his body, he should start to feel a lot better and less energy zapped. Today after chemo, we'll head to the hospital and Kurtis will have another lung-draining procedure.  His oxygen was low and heart rate back up so they took an Xray and found out that his right lung is full of fluid again - this procedure isn't a huge deal.  Not in the "fun" category, but not something that is going to make it so he is hospitalized.

We appreciate your continued messages of love and have really enjoyed seeing all of the Warrior Up bracelets around town and around facebook. :)

More soon -

Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

Monday, July 15, 2013

Good Morning :)

It's a cool overcast morning in Fort Collins, and Chauncey and I are hanging out in the backyard.  I've settled in to write an update and he is patrolling the backyard looking for rabbits, cats, and any other animals that are not permitted.  There was a cat walking the fence this morning, so he is hyper-sensitive and feels like aliens may invade at any time.  Or something like that.

This weekend has been both busy and relaxing at the same time.  Kurtis still wasn't feeling great on Saturday, he didn't do very much but try to rest and sleep. The chemo really causes some lame side-effects like that, but we know that those mean that it is working, so it is difficult to be frustrated about it.
I set to work finishing our backyard by selecting some plants and picking up dirt from Home Depot for our new barrels in the back.  I was a few bags of dirt short, so I will probably make a run over there sometime today so that they are all finished.  Otherwise, all that is left is a little weed-killing and one more Subaru load of mulch :)

Sunday was better for Kurtis, although still not in the category of "great".  His color was looking better and he was moving around and sitting up more which I was happy to see.  Our friends Kyle and Leah stopped by to bring bracelets (shipping today! or available for pick up for those of you who live close) and a meal from Kyle's mom (THANK YOU!).  It was really wonderful to see them - as it is to see any of you who take the time to stop by.

I also did some reading yesterday about food that helps to fight cancer and we're doing a little bit of a diet shift around here trying to include a lot more veggies and limit sugar.  I bought a juicer yesterday to help with this quest and spent the afternoon shoving different vegetables and fruits in and creating samples for Kurtis.  Fortunately, most of them turned out well and I'm hoping that they help get those magical cancer-fighting things that exist in things like broccoli into Kurtis faster and more easily.

Today more resting (and hopefully some school work for me) and the Home Run Derby tonight :)  We've got dinner coming tonight, so I can clean the kitchen and keep it that way after lunch! Haha.

Hope all is well, sending our love!
Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Working Toward the Weekend

Good Evening :)

One day post chemo, Kurtis is feeling pretty icky.  He's tired and sore and just overall not feeling great. This morning he wasn't feeling good at all, but as the day wore on, he was feeling at least a little bit better.  Chemo does this, plus he's still recovering from two surgeries...

I spent several hours making a few last trips to the rock store and back while our friends and co-workers Matt, Chris, and Joe all came to help finish the backyard.  It feels outstanding to have it completed and the four hours of work they put in means that I don't have to put in four days!!  Once it starts to cool down a bit, Kurtis will be able to enjoy it :)  Thank you very much guys!

The rest of the afternoon was filled with relaxing - a little cooking - and now baseball.  So far the Rox are doing alright with Kershaw, so we'll just hope that they keep on rollin'.

For those of you who bet on the dishwasher to die first, you may be ahead as of now.  It has now emitted a smell.  Before you get too excited, I ran another load and it was fine.  But for now, I'm going to put your group in the lead.

Chauncey fell down on his rabbit patrol duty.  I saw several rabbits that he didn't.  Dog better watch out or he is going to get demoted!!

Not a whole lot going on here otherwise.  Thanks for keeping us in your thoughts - we appreciate it.

All our love,
Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Port Placement & Chemo Flow

Good Morning!

Today, I am writing from the chemo infusion center as our favorite warrior (Kurtis...duh) is preparing for some magical drugs to wipe this cancer out.  The infusion center is an interesting place, but also a comfortable one since we've been here before.  When you enter it, entire room is full of comfortable recliners as well as enough doctor "zoom and spin" chairs that I am consistently about thirty seconds from being busted.  Kurtis tells me I'm going to be kicked out. We are currently waiting for the labs to come back so that Kurtis can start his infusion.  He'll be getting two different drugs today and we should be home in about four hours (or less!)

WAIT! I didn't write about yesterday, so I'll back up first.

Kurtis had his port placed yesterday by our favorite South African surgeon.  We headed to PVH at about 2 and then went though the really enjoyable pre-op process.  Kurtis' favorite part was that the nurse who was responsible for putting his IV in was having a few issues.  Right arm, left arm, right arm, left arm...ow.  His surgeon took out his head staples at the same time and then eventually popped the IV in what he called the "Mississippi River".  They whisked him away and in about an hour, everything was done.  It took another hour for them to let me back to see him which is always the most difficult part.  He was doing great - munching away on his favorite post-surgery chips.  After a couple dixie cups of apple juice we were sent home.

The pain hasn't been too bad, but obviously not great.  His port is placed under his collar bone on the right side so it made sleeping a little difficult last night.  Once it heals up though, it doesn't really cause him much pain or discomfort, so that is wonderful.  It is so much easier for him when the nurses draw blood or infuse medicine than having an IV, so he is happy to have it back.

This morning, Kurtis had an appointment with the cancer doc.  Dr. Moore explained that the "specimens" (a seriously weird word - just say it out loud like five times...yea...) were cancerous which we already knew - even if it wasn't official yet.   Now the plan is to hit the stuff in his lungs with two chemo medicines and then use pinpoint radiation for his brain in the spots where the remaining tumor is and where the ones that were taken out were.  Everything sounds good - just time to get the medication in and get to fighting.

And --- back to where I started ---

Since I started writing, Kurtis has his pre-meds rolling.  They infuse medications like benadryl to help with the impact of the chemo.  Once those are in, he'll get his chemo drugs and then we'll head home to Colonial Chauncey, Rabbit Patrol.  Mr. Rabbit Patrol thought that he was coming with us today because I made the outstandingly intelligent choice to hang the re-useable grocery - "chemo snack" bag on the same hook as his leash.  So, when I grabbed that he went nuts.  Good one, Chauncey's mom.

Thank you to all of you who have continued to support us with food and love.  It's been difficult, no reason to lie about that.  But, the support from all of you makes such an incredible difference in our ability to fight this junk.  We look forward to your visits as well, so please keep coming over :)  Just shoot me a text (970.232.5268) if you want to come and I'll make sure that Kurtis feels up to your visit and check in with Chaunce to make sure that he feels you won't suffer a rabbit attack!

All our love -
Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Two-step Tuesday

Good Evening! Hi! Hello!

It feels like days are on the verge of just flying by.  Hard to look at the calendar and see a nine.  Feels like just a few hours ago Kurtis and I were about to hop in the Subaru and adventure - and now I feel like I'm staring work in the face again.  Oh, summer.  You go too fast!

Today has been quite relaxed.  Kurtis slept in for a long time and I spent the morning working, listening to a book, editing photos, and drinking chai.  I finally got my desk cleaned off yesterday after several months of it being the how-much-crap-can-we-stack-here pile stand - and so far (drumroll), it's still clean.  Shocker, I know.  I'm still amazed at how much better Kurtis looks when he comes down each morning.  Chauncey has been wanting to get up early so he and I get up at his will...but each morning I find Kurtis to be closer and closer to normal.

We watched more HGTV where we learned all kinds of cool stuff and lucky for everyone, I have yet to touch anything in the house.  YET.  Before heading off to PT, we had lovely salads for lunch.  That's right.  I said it.  We had salad for lunch.  Not just Kurtis, me too.  I did shove about seventeen other things in the salad though - just to be honest.

Next on our wonderful agenda was PT.  Today was the "evaluation day." If you've never had any PT before, the first session is about figuring out what you can presently do as well as what you hope to be able to do when you are done.  The therapist tested all of Kurtis' balance and strength skills and will be working to get him to a place where he can rock the golf course (still looking for awesome golf weekend vacation ideas people...I've only gotten two...) and get back out on the hiking trails.  Most of the tests he did really well on, and the therapist is incredibly nice.  He has a few things to work on every day to get stronger and then one PT appointment a week for the next five or six weeks.

The PT session wore Kurtis out quite a bit (he rode the bike for five minutes!!) so he came home and relaxed more.  Our Subaru has been making strange noises and I thought that it was probably best we take it in.  I called today to make an appointment at the dealership and they had one available in "15 minutes" so I zoomed right over and spent the next several hours there while they installed the new radiator.  On the plus side, they did wash the car, so that's nice.  I am now taking bets on which of our appliances that has been hinging on death will decide to die in the next month.

Meet the Candidates!
Bachelor #1 is the dishwasher that occasionally leaks into the floor for no reason, has difficulty keeping the wheels on the drawer, and sometimes sounds like it is growling.  Bachelor #1 is still doing the job, but continues to threaten to explode.

Bachelor #2 is the washing machine that is approximately 100 years old.  He enjoys spending his time sometimes not turning on, refusing to use all the settings, and whirling so hard he may launch into space.  Bachelor #2 is also still doing the job and also continues to threaten to explode.

Turn your votes in, people.  This is serious business.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch....
Chauncey has taken to making himself 'executive rabbit police' and turns into a frenzied yellow ball of"cracker head" (because he eats crackers...not crack...haha...?) anytime a rabbit is in the front or back yard.  So, if anyone needs a rabbit alert system...I can hook you up.  Currently, he is patrolling the entirety of our backyard.

Kurtis has surgery tomorrow at 3 PM to place his port.  The surgery should be quick and fairly painless and he is ready to get it in and get the chemo rolling (that starts Thursday).  His surgeon will also remove his head staples, so tonight will be the last night he has to deal with them while watching TV and sleeping! YAY!  I know that he is really ready to get them out.

Hopefully everyone is doing well.  I'll post updates about his surgery tomorrow in the facebook group, so check there for updates if you are worried!

All our love!
Liz, Kurtis, and Colonial Chauncey: Rabbit Patrol

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Monday, Monday!

Don't worry! We didn't drown, get eaten by capybaras, or decide to move to New Zealand.  I just took the night off - I didn't have a lot to report and I was more interested in finishing my book! For those of you who haven't known me for very long - I have a little bit of a reading "problem" that often intensifies if I'm within fifty pages of the end of the book.

Anyway, you're not here to check in about my reading (or are you...?) so I'll let you know that Kurtis is doing FANTASTIC.  He has been moving around a lot more the past few days which is really great.  He's now able to get up a lot faster as well as walk while carrying things with ease.  It's great!  Tomorrow afternoon he has his first PT appointment and I am really excited to see how he improves once someone who knows what they are doing can work with him.  Just a week ago he was still pretty dazed from BRAIN SURGERY and now... wow.  So many people, including myself, misuse the word "awesome" when we really mean "that is cooler than the last mildly cool thing I saw/experienced/etc." - but this, in every true meaning of the word is awesome.  Kurtis really is a superhero!  Sorry ladies, he's mine (and Kurtis, when you read this - I love you!).

When Kurtis is sick, for some reason, he takes to watching a massive amount of HGTV.  This is bad.  I suddenly become a crazed monster who wants to paint, refinish, knock down walls, buy new furniture, and whatever other things you can add to your list.  The main problem (besides the fact that we don't have the money for a full-house makeover...haha) is that I am just this side of "not skilled" when it comes to doing any of those things.  Except painting.  Pretty hysterical.  In all seriousness though - at least all the shows are good and it gets the mind working!

I'm thankful that we're not in school right now as I've been spending a lot of time trying to get everything organized and deep cleaned.  For those of you who know me, this should be a pretty amusing image.  Although, I am proud to share that I only got into one fight with our dishwasher today,  and our washer didn't take off into space (although, I think it was on its way), so that's a plus.   I've said this before, but I'm also thankful that we've done this before.  When we started this journey in the fall of 2010, we didn't know anything which was really scary.  Now, it's just a matter of getting everything in place.  Thank you to all of you who have been so kind to visit - bring dinner - snacks - hugs.  The support means so much to both of us <3

Tonight, our super awesome neighbors came over and brought dinner.  We had a great visit with them and it is so nice to live next to such great people.  When they moved into their house in the fall, we were really excited that people our age moved in and it's been so great to have friends right next door :)

It's been hot in Fort Collins the past few days, and we've been having some random rain and wind storms.  Today, I thought we were going to get a really nice rain so I opened the windows to get the smell to Kurtis.  It rained for literally a minute thirty and then it was done.  Meanwhile, we've been having wind attacks around 4 am.  Silly weather!  Now we're just enjoying the evening and thankful that the Rockies are now playing the Padres so they have a shot at winning.  :)

More tomorrow!

Lots of love :)
Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pile of Rocks

Hi :)

Well.  Today has been more of a "usual" Saturday than last Saturday, so that is a definite plus.  The sun has just about finished setting in Fort Collins and I find myself sitting in a dog-hair covered chair watching the Rockies play less than stellar baseball.  Pretty dang normal!

Last night around 4 am, we had a crazy wind attack that not only freaked out Chauncey but made our wind chimes sound like Beethoven's Fifth.  On the list of things that I like to do at four AM there aren't very many things, and dragging myself out of bed to stop the symphony is not really one of them.  Chauncey took this opportunity to take my spot in the bed which he only relinquished under protest.  I am the evil dictator of the bed - the scary, crazed dictator that lets the dog back on the bed after I can get back in. :)  Eventful start to the morning to stay the least!

Once Chauncey and I got up for real we hung out downstairs and outside, pulling some weeds and sorting through a few things.  On a scale of not productive to productive we were definitely not.  All of which, I am sure you really wanted to know.  I mean, isn't that why you read this? To find out what I do between 7 AM and 9 AM in the summer when I'm not at work?  IT'S EXCITING PEOPLE! I mean, I don't really understand why the reality show people aren't banging down the door right now because the Kardashians have nothing on Chauncey.

We had a great visit with good friends today from Kurtis' hometown - his forever friend, Ryan and Ryan's sister Nicole. It's always good to have people stopping by, and since Ryan moved back to Holyoke, we haven't gotten to see him very much.  We both enjoyed getting to catch up - and Kurtis and Ryan particularly enjoyed remembering haircuts and chicken coops from their childhood :) They were bonusly cool (Google's red line says "bonusly" is not a word.  I'm pretty sure it's not.  I'm using it anyway because I feel like it.)  and took me to the rock store in Ryan's truck so I can finish(ish) our backyard.

Kurtis' color and movement continues to improve.  Today we went for a walk in the neighborhood and Kurtis came outside to help teach Chauncey how to "swim".  For Chauncey "swimming" is not only terrifying, but he acts as if we are asking him to step his feet into a plastic pool of acid.  The water in his pool is about five inches deep right now and it takes a lot of coaxing from us to get him to attempt to dip a paw into the "terrible" water.  It was nice to see Kurtis out on the deck for a little while and I can't wait to see how well he is doing in a week!! He really is a superhero!

Yesterday, Kurtis and I were talking about the fact that the brain people have told him that he can't play golf for a little while.  He is quite disappointed about that, which I completely understand.  I told him that once he's better that we can go on a trip to somewhere cool and play golf.  Let me know if you've been somewhere warm and excellent that you'd recommend (that includes you, Mom and Dad!).

Tomorrow is another rest day as we gear up.  We should be home pretty much all day so if you'd like to drop by, just shoot me a text message to make sure that K is feeling up to it.

Hope everyone is having an excellent day - more soon!

Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

-Email notes to:
-LotsahelpinghandsID: 632922

Friday, July 5, 2013

One Day at a Time

Good Evening :)

Today's update probably won't be as in-depth as the more recent ones, simply because we were able to relax a little bit today which was a gift.  Chauncey and I woke up fairly early and spent some time curled up on the couch catching up and news, watching sportscenter, and browsing the internet.  I was happy that Kurtis had the chance to sleep in before we headed over to the first post-crainiotomy appointment.

The thing about cancer is that along with the battle against the cancer, there are also approximately 3 gazillion appointments to go to.  For what feels like, everything...

Today we visited the surgeon that will be putting Kurtis' port in.  He's a jolly South African fellow that we really like, so even though the circumstances aren't ideal, we enjoyed getting to see him this morning.  More interesting that is that Kurtis had his first set of walking "obstacles":
-curb without rail
-awkward concrete ramp with large cracks
-squishy doormat
-raised door threshold

Amazing what you notice about the world when your circumstances have changed!  He did a great job and was able to navigate them without any issues! Can I get an amen?

Kurtis  has a PT appointment for next week (Tuesday) - that should help him regain his balance and walking skills.  Surgery for the port will be Wednesday afternoon and take about an hour total.  On Thursday, he'll start chemo and be on the road to kicking this stuff to the curb :)

Today we had some visitors - a herd of students (and their parents!) with books for Kurtis, chocolate,  and lemon poundcake (thank you!) as well as one of our other HS teachers with an outstanding meal (thank you!!).  We really appreciate things like that as not having to cook and clean up dinner today gave me some time to sit on the deck with an Easy Street and play my uke.  Some much needed down time made possible by some outstanding people.  <3

If you'd like to visit at all the next few days, just shoot me a text and I'll make sure Kurtis is feeling up to it.  Chauncey loves it more than anyone I think - haha.  Thank you for your continued love, support, hugs, emails, notes, etc.  We really appreciate it :)

All our love!
Liz, Kurtis, and the crazy pup

-Email notes to:
-LotsahelpinghandsID: 632922

Thursday, July 4, 2013

No Place Like Home

Happy Fourth!

We are currently celebrating by watching Sportscenter and listening to some random people in our neighborhood shoot off a few fireworks every five minutes or so.  Chauncey thinks that we're in a warzone and wouldn't go out to pee.  Really eventful in the Melahn-Huss home tonight.

Even though we're not BBQing and watching fireworks or wearing ridiculous star spangled outfits both of us, as well as the yellow dog, are more than thrilled to be home.  "Hospital time" has to be one of my personal least favorite things about this whole cancer-destruction activity.  There are clocks in every room, but at the hospital apparently everyone is worse than I am at reading clocks.  My parents and Kurtis can tell you that this is a real insult because by the time I can figure out what the analog clock says, the time is no longer correct.  In my classroom, students will ask me what time we get out and I'll say something like "at the four"...yea, winner right here.  ANYWAY.

Yesterday: "Looking forward to getting you out in the morning"
Today: "Can't wait to get you out this morning"

Us leaving - 3 PM.  Um...? Last time I checked that was not the morning.

It was a long morning.  As I think I've said, waiting is the hardest part and that doesn't just mean for tests or appointments.  The waiting in general can be surprisingly exhausting and when you're waiting to go home, it's even worse.  After a quick stop for a frosty, we headed home where Chauncey greeted us with his patented squeal-cry-n-bite.  Our fridge was full of groceries and treats thanks to Kurtis' cousin Eric's family and my might-as-well-be-twin Chelsea (as well as some really excellent balloons!!).  Thank you!

Kurtis spent the evening where he should be - on the couch resting.  I watered our slightly suffering grass and pulled approximately three weeds (an outstanding start...), made some dinner and made sure that Kurtis had clear paths to walk.  He is doing incredibly well walking around and hasn't needed any support.  Until he is a little more stable, I'll continue to follow him around like a little shadow just in case he ever gets woozy mid jaunt to the kitchen, bathroom, etc.  Today he was able to tackle the stairs on his own which still amazes me.

Tomorrow, the shower chair that the PT people wanted us to get (just in case - apparently showers can be problematic due to the temperature change and blood pressure and a bunch of anatomyish stuff that I don't get) will be here tomorrow.  This is not important for you to know, but I did want to share that I find it highly amusing that after ordering it on Amazon yesterday, all of the ads on my facebook are for shower chairs, shower benches etc.  Like I'm going to start a collection of them.  "Oh, do you have this in orange? I have the red and blue striped one, but I'm really looking for the orange one".  I mean, really?

We'll head to meet the surgeon tomorrow to go over the port placement that will happen next Wednesday and start looking for a PT to work with Kurtis on improving his stability, etc.  If you have suggestions, let us know!! Please! :)

I started a facebook group today so that if you want to be informed via facebook you can - search for: Warrior Kurtis Cancer Smash and you should be able to come up with it.  My facebook will go back to normal and I'll be posting all of the links, pictures, etc. in the group for those who are interested.

Thank you for the continued messages of support, it means a lot to both of us.

More tomorrow -
Love, Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncinator

-Email notes to:
-LotsahelpinghandsID: 632922

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Leaving the Hospital Eve

Hello :)

We're at the point now where I have started to put things in perspective as far as time.  When you first face a medical crisis, as many of you know, time sort of moves (or stands still) without much consent or personal awareness.  However, as things have started to calm down, it is a lot easier to realize that we've been at this a week already.  Oh, how time can fly.  A week ago, Kurtis was suffering from severe headaches and a little bit of dizziness.  Today, he's back to his normal self with no headaches, and we are headed out tomorrow (hopefully in the morning!).

Today was fairly uneventful here at MCR.  Several of the doctors came in and checked on Kurtis' progress and all felt like he was doing well.  One from the neuro group came in and removed his extremely fashion-forward head wrap and we, well....I, saw the incisions for the first time and both are looking good.  One is about two inches long and the other about three inches long - both are closed with staples (he has about 20 staples total).  The occupational therapy people came by as well and Kurtis went for a walk and she did some "testing" to make sure that he was ready to go home.   This was fun to watch because I think he's doing really well! He was able to pick up items off of the floor, walk with a glass of water, open and close cabinets and the fridge, walk at a fast pace, and stop on command.  I still can't express my complete and utter surprise that he was having brain surgery on Monday and today he's doing all the things he is doing.  

I expressed this to him earlier today. His response? "When are you going to figure out I'm an f-ing superhero?" Love it.

We also had some wonderful visits today! Childhood friend, staff from school, and a few students!  It makes the hospital a lot more enjoyable for both of us :)

Tomorrow we're hopefully headed home in the morning which we are really, really, looking forward to.  It will be nice to be in our own house with our pup!  So - we're taking in a few last looks at our "high rise".

Many of you asked about helping before and I posted a blog earlier today (called Help!) so if you are interested, check it out!  The thing I need the most help with right now is groceries for tomorrow.  I have a list up on Lotsahelpinghands,  but I am supposed to be with Kurtis 24 hrs a day for a bit to make sure that everything is going okay with his head.  I don't feel like dragging him to the grocery store, stuffing him inside one of those little kid racecar carts, crashing into multiple displays, and eventually coming home with like three broken cucumbers is really my best option. I mean really.  I can't even push the cart on my own with a success rate of more than like 20% so....yea. I know tomorrow is the fourth, but if you happen to be going anyway it would be a huge help! :)

A few medical things on the horizon:
Friday - Meet with surgeon for port placement (click here to see one).  The port is how the chemo goes in and makes everything a lot simpler.

Wednesday - Surgery to place the port at PVH.  Should take about twenty minutes.  Kurtis has done this before and not a big deal.  Not after brain surgery! :)

Thursday - Begin chemo

Other than that, not a lot to report! We had Old C's for lunch and Kurtis was happy to be "off" the really lovely hospital menu.

Lots of love!

Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

-Email notes to:
-LotsahelpinghandsID: 632922

Help time!


Many of you have been calling, texting, emailing, facebooking, etc. asking about how you can help...and I promised I'd ask when I knew what was going here we go!

We learned last time about a website called "lotsahelpinghands" that helps us coordinate what we need - meals, help with house, etc.  It has a calendar where you can log-in and sign up for different things if you would like to.  Once someone has signed up, it will show up on the calendar so that we don't have multiple people on the same day.  All of the information about everything else will be here still (I think there are some weird little other tabs...all you need to check out is the calendar) check here for updates!

In order to get into this "community" you'll need to go through a simple log-in process and "request" to become a member of the community.  Here are the instructions:
1. Go to this website:
2. Click "Find a Community" (top bar on the right side)
3. Enter the following group ID number: 632922
4. Click "Join the Community"
5. Enter your information
6. Wait for approval
7. Come back in and log-in normally

We've got some dinner help up as of now, other things may be added as we need them.

Thank you!

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GoFundMe: 632922

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

One Day Past Craniotomy

Good Evening!

I really do look forward to updating you all on Kurtis' progress daily.  We are so thankful to have each of you in our lives and I love how easy it is to keep everyone in the loop.

I'm sure you're anxiously awaiting information about what Kurtis' first day post-brain surgery was here we go!

First off - think about what you would imagine the day after a craniotomy would be like.  Now scrap that...crumple it up, throw it in the trash.  Kurtis was quite awake when we started our day at 5:30.  The doctors started to come in around 6:30 and around 8 he was taken off to the MRI.  I thought that he'd be pretty tired after the MRI, but he returned even more chipper than when he left! I was astounded.  He apparently fell asleep in the MRI so he got some sleep (we're pretty tired to be honest...) which made him feel better.  Not too long after that, the PT folks had him out of bed and walking down the hall.

I still can't believe that less than 24 hours after brain surgery, Kurtis is walking around like almost nothing happened.  Absolutely crazy.

He also was able to eat so he upgraded from ice chips and water to a banana, yogurt, fruit, and lemonade.  Not too long after that, we were sent to our new room (4th floor!) so we're spending the next few days in a quieter place which is awesome. Kurtis had some dinner.  I had some dinner.  We're watching the Rockies now and hoping that the pick it up a little (5-0 LA in the top of the fourth).  Tomorrow, I'll take Chauncey to 'camp' for the day which should be really fun for him...he's been alone a lot lately and it will be good for him to get to play with other dogs :)

We're hoping Kurtis will get out on Thursday, but it could be Friday.  He thinks he'll be up for visitors tomorrow, so if you would like to drop by, shoot me an email or a text message (970.232.5268) and I'll let you know how he's feeling.

Thanks for your continued love and support :)

More tomorrow!
Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Brain Surgery: The Complete Overview

Hello there!

I am finally sitting down and getting a chance to update you on the goings on of today.  It was, as you might imagine with brain surgery, a very busy day for all here.  However, things have quieted down and Kurtis is resting comfortably and I have a cup of chai, so all is right with the world.

This morning, we were expecting to have a super early morning wake up where Kurtis would be whisked away at around 6:30 for an MRI and then begin surgery at around 9.  Once the clock had made it's way to 7:15 or so, we found out that the surgery had been moved forward to 11:30.  Thankfully, it didn't get pushed again.  The Rockies posted a special get well for Kurtis on their instagram: which was very cool :)  Things like this, along with the lantern letters from all of you make such a great impact.

I was really pleased to get to travel with Kurtis to his MRI.  Once we were down there, the neuro surgeon shaved a bunch of small spots on his head so that he could stick these small sage green donut things to his head.  He should probably not be a hairdresser (unless it is for some star who has gone off the deep end or something...).  I learned that the small donut things help to make a 3D MRI picture that the surgeon would use for the surgery.  Kurtis wore them in the MRI today - along with the special helmet packed with pads so he couldn't move.  The MRI turned out great and we were then herded to pre-op.

Pre-op is not my favorite place, I won't lie.  From my eyes it's the beginning of surgery, so I start to get really nervous and feel a slight sense of panic in my belly.  I have to fight it back down with my brain, using the mantra "I am good at my job. Surgeons are good at their job." which usually works well enough to remain calm.  There are multiple nurses plus the anesthesiologist roaming and flitting around and I usually find the best way to get into their way.  Skillzzzz, right? Right.  Anyway, they were all very kind and after Kurtis repeated his name and date of birth about a hundred times, we said goodbye and he was rolled away to surgery.

We went to the waiting room.
It was supposed to be an uneventful few hours in which I told myself I would get work done for school, and I did.  For about the first twenty minutes at which point, I (along with everyone else in the hospital) was met with the blares and flashes of the fire alarm.  I sat in shock not sure if I should pack up and get out or...?

The volunteers came over and let us know that the issue was on floor five (we were on two) and that we were okay.  The sound continued for several minutes and the blinding flashing light for another several minutes.  All in all, a really enjoyable seven minutes of my life.  Seriously, who doesn't want their husband to be having brain surgery during a fire alarm? Kurtis' parents, sister, my mom, my dad anxiously awaiting by text, my grandparents, and I had a lovely time passing the hours.  Reading, writing, watching TV, playing games, and...waiting.  Waiting is the hardest part of this whole 'activity'.

After a few updates and several hours of waiting, Kurtis was taken out of surgery and up to the ICU.  We met with the surgeon who said he did great and told us that the pathologist thinks, at first look, that the tumors are indeed consistent with germ-cell which means that it is what they thought it was, his testicular cancer.  For those of you who are "new" cancer or haven't really experienced it much first hand, one of the first things that we learned was that just because cancer is somewhere (the brain in this case) does not mean that that is the type of cancer - i.e., Kurtis doesn't have "brain" cancer, but rather testicular cancer that is IN his brain.  A little bit confusing, but important.  Different kinds of cancers are treated with different types of chemo, radiation, etc.

At first glance, seeing Kurtis after surgery was a little bit scary.  His head is currently wrapped up in a big bandage and when I first came into the room, he had on a big oxygen mask...add a bunch of IV type tubing, hospital socks, the fashion forward hospital gown, and lots of blankets, it was a little surreal. However, he looks great once you can get past that first glance.  In pre-op, they told us that Kurtis may have some swelling on his face from laying face down for several hours, but he looks great.  His eyes are open (when he opens them...) and he is talking, moving a little bit, and drinking water.  Currently, he's still a little drugged up, so he's actually quite the stand up comic.  Here are a few gems from tonight:

K: "How much ice is left?"
L: "About half of the cup."
K: "Good.  I'm going to eat it all before they come take it away"

L: " Wow, you are really chomping on that ice"
K: "I have no brain left to freeze"

Glad to have him back! :)  Right now he's chowing down on ice and water...not moving a whole lot...but doing great.  The machines are whirring and beeping in their slightly out-of-tune song that I've learned to love as the "getting better noise".

Tomorrow, Kurtis will have another MRI and we may be in the ICU or in another room back on the neuro floor depending on how well he is doing.  Once he's up to seeing visitors again, I will let you know.  We'd love to see anyone if you'd like to see us!

Being in the ICU is not my favorite place as there are a lot of sick and injured people here - please throw up some good vibes, love, prayers, or whatever your cup of tea is to those folks around us who are in bad shape.  They need some love too.

I think that's all for tonight.  Big day.  Step one in cancer 2.0.  I still can't express how much the outpouring of love means to us.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for checking on us and keeping us in your hearts.  Cancer is a fickle, nasty, little beast who is about to learn that it's time to take his toys and go home.

All our love,
Liz, Kurtis, and (of course) Chauncey

Email notes to:

Brain Dig Complete!

Kurtis is out of surgery and it went well met with the doc a few minutes ago and waiting to see him. More later :)


Brain Surgery Started!

They took Kurtis back a few minutes ago.  The nurses are very nice and we know that he'll be just fine.  I'll post updates as we hear them :)


Surgery Moved

Greetings -
We just found out that Kurtis' surgery has been moved to 11:30 this morning.  Nothing wrong with him - a trauma case most likely came in and bumped him :)  More updates later.


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Sunday, June 30, 2013

On the Eve of the Brain Dig


I want to start out by writing that Kurtis and I are blessed and fortunate to be surrounded by the love and care of so many wonderful people (which, if you are reading this includes you) and the outpouring of support from so many of you has been uplifting and incredibly meaningful.  Thank you for taking the time to write notes, text messages, donate money, share things with others who want/need to know, visiting, hugs, etc. etc. etc.  Each of those small things act as a lantern and when we are able to hang all of those lanterns in the tunnel we're standing in right now, it is possible to see the end.  I don't have, and I don't think I will ever have, the words that are right for expressing the gratitude that we both feel for all of those 'lanterns' - so think of the best words you can and then multiply that by the biggest number you can think of and that will put you somewhere close.

So, tomorrow is the brain dig.  We're both a little rattled if I'm being honest, but I don't think that we would be human if we weren't.  Kurtis' surgery has been moved up to 9am (due to neuro cancellations - not emergency status - stop freaking out) which we are pleased about so we don't have to wait around all day.  Here is a quick rundown of what will be happening tomorrow:

=Before 9...probably around 630...Kurtis will be taken for an MRI to make sure that the computer and surgeon know where to go
=9 begins should be completed

After surgery, Kurtis will go to the ICU for a few days most likely and then we'll come back to the Neuro unit.  The surgery plan has changed a little bit, so if you want to know about that keep reading...otherwise jump down a paragraph.  There are about five tumors in Kurtis' brain right now.  Three are in a club by the cerebellum on the right side, one is on the cerebellum on the left side, and one is "on his brain" on the left side.  As of this moment, the plan is to remove the clump as well as the tumor "on his brain".  The tumor on the left side cerebellum is very small and buried a little bit more so they will use pinpoint radiation to zap the hell out of that little thing.  I know that it sounds really scary, but the surgeon is top notch and everything will be okay :)

Kurtis won't be up for visitors for a few days at least, so it was really nice that we had a group today - part of Kurtis' family and one of our lacrosse families came by as well as our old cancer doc.  It was a good day full of resting, TV (even though the Rockies lost, Cuddy extended his streak so that was excellent). Perhaps the best thing was that Chauncey got to come and spend the day with us.  He would stay the night, but everything starts so early tomorrow that we sent him back home.   We're now winding down and preparing to sleep!

I'll update more tomorrow.  Keep those positive vibes, thoughts, etc. coming.  Please feel free, as I've said before, to share this with anyone :)

Liz, Kurtis, and Chauncey

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