Tuesday, July 12, 2011


On July 6, Dad had an appointment in Seattle with Dr. B to assess the results of a recent PET scan. After reviewing 950 pictures, Dr. B. determined that Dad is in REMISSION!!! 

In the near future, Dad will be able to have his feeding tube removed, and he needs to broaden his variety of foods and maintain his weight. On December 28, he will have another PET scan and follow-up with Dr. B to be sure he is still in remission (he will not be considered cancer-free until after 5 years). 

The battle is still not completely over for Dad, or for so many other cancer patients, but we do have a milestone victory here to celebrate! Thank you for all of your support!

Relay for Life

On June 24, the Union-Wallowa County Relay for Life held an event at Eastern Oregon University (where Dad received his undergraduate degree). The Kennewick High staff purchased angel pins and donated funds to cancer research through a representative, Ruth Ann Hodge (my Grandmother/Dad's Mother-In-Law, who is also a cancer survivor). Their donations and loved cancer patients were represented on decorated luminaria (many done by my Aunt Rhonda) that burned through the night around the University track.

Thank you for your donations and help in raising awareness and funds for research!
Ruth Ann and Dexter Hodge
Lighting the Luminaria

"Light Up the Night"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Waiting Game...

Right now we are just waiting for dad to heal enough from the radiation and chemotherapy to have the tests ran that will confirm the success of the treatment. His PET scan is scheduled for June 30th, and he will see Dr. B (the specialist) at Virginia Mason in Seattle on July 6th.

Within the next two weeks dad will have a swallowing test to see if the radiation has caused any problems there. He has lost a little more weight, so he is now taking 9 cans of "food" a day. On the bright side, he has successfully drank a smoothie and ate some pudding! 
Students at Kennewick High put together a poster full of well-wishes for dad! We really appreciate their thoughtfulness! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ken:1, Cancer:0!

The past few weeks have been really rough for dad. He's had weight loss, constant nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and a scarily high temperature that landed him in the emergency room for a few hours. His platelets are extremely low, and his blood pressure and pulse are both in unhealthy ranges. Due to these symptoms, Dr. H decided to forgo the last two chemotherapy sessions. And since today was his last day of radiation, dad is officially DONE WITH TREATMENTS!!! I kind of want to stand in the street and shout that, but I figure posting on here will do!

Dr. H and Dr. R are confident that treatments were successful, and that the cancer is gone! According to visual assessments, there is no sign of cancer in the palette or tonsil. Now we must wait... dad has to heal from radiation in order to have the tests ran that will be able to confirm the absence of cancer. The following are important dates that I will update after:

April 6th: Chemotherapy follow-up with Dr. H
April 13th: Radiation follow-up with Dr. R
Mid-June: PET Scan and follow-up with Dr. B at Virginia Mason in Seattle. This appointment will determine if dad will need any type of surgery, whether it be of the tonsil or lymph node, or both. 

Dad will still have the above mentioned symptoms to deal with for a couple of weeks, but he will only get better from here. This is a relief not only to him, but to the whole family. We really miss him being able to talk to us (radiation has made it impossible to not only swallow food and liquids, but also carry on a conversation) and can't wait to have him feel well enough to play with Harlow! Plus, those darn birds are really getting out of hand...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Turning the Corner!

On Thursday, dad saw Dr. H for his weekly round of chemotherapy. His blood work came back good and his kidney function is fine so he can continue on the treatment schedule. He has two more chemotherapy sessions, ending on March 31st

Friday, dad met with Dr. R, and a visual assessment showed a lot of improvement. According to Dr. R, dad has “turned a corner.” We probably should have asked for more detail as to what “corner” she meant, but we are just happy to know that there is a corner, and he has turned it. We’ll be sure to find out more details concerning said corner next week. 

To be honest, dad feels like crap. All of the drugs and radiation are starting to catch up to him, but luckily he knows that there are only a couple more weeks left of chemotherapy and radiation. After he finishes, he will have a month or so to recover before seeing a specialist in Seattle to determine if it was all successful.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A little chemotherapy humor...

Dad says, "Reading the NOOK makes chemo time fun time!"
And this hunk of metal is the maching that monitors the flow of dad's liquids during chemo. Ruth Ann, my grandmother went with dad today and called it dad's "secret girlfriend."

As of today,chemotherapy session #5 is complete!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Good News!

As of today dad has completed 4/9 chemotherapy doses and  18/40 radiation sessions. Yesterday Dr. R did another visual assessment of his throat, and the tumor on his tonsil appears to be 40% reduced! This is great news, and has him progressing through treatment as expected! 

Dad is really starting to feel the effects of radiation - he has completely stopped eating because food has no taste and his pain level is about a 7-8 on a scale of 1-10. All of his nutrition comes from cans of protein mixes now administered through his feeding tubes. For more information go here.

Recently dad has uploaded an encyclopedia, a handbook on weights and measures, Birds of North America, and a ballistics software program to his NOOK. The ballistics program he uses to plot the trajectory of his air rifle pellets. I have a feeling the non-native birds are in even deeper trouble now...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chemotherapy Session #2

Chemotherapy session #2 (single dose) has made dad pretty tired, but he has had a much easier time as far as nausea goes. Hopefully this weekly schedule continues to be easier on him!

Thank You, Mustangs!

A big thank you to the staff at Horse Heaven Hills Middle School for their thoughtful gift... dad sure is enjoying loading up his NOOK!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Change in Chemotherapy Plan

On Valentine's Day dad met with Dr. R for a visual assessment of his tonsil and palate. She concluded that the tonsil was responding to the radiation treatments (7 at that point) and that in three weeks she will use a scope for a more thorough examination. 

Due to dad's reactions to the three doses of chemotherapy, Dr. H has decided to continue treatment with single doses once a week beginning February 24th.

So far dad has completed 12 radiation sessions and three doses of Cisplatin, and his blood work has been coming back just fine. He has been keeping busy at home reading his NOOK, performing population control on non-native species of birds with his gun (poor birds), and learning how to play the guitar!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Special Lion Pride Visit

The Kennewick High School Staff all pitched in to give dad some great gifts that will help keep his spirits up through treatment! A NOOKcolor and cover, Barnes and Noble gift cards (to load up the NOOK with all sorts of fun reading material) and a gift card to the mall (which he can use to buy smaller clothes, as he has already lost over 20 pounds)! The Library Divas made a fleece blanket for dad as well. Pam Kangas, Marianne Feller, Don Fankhauser, Dave Francis, Alex Kangas and Shannon Tracy brought the gifts by and cheered mom and dad up with their visit! Below are some pictures of his "loot."

Thank you everyone, for making my dad feel so loved!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Radiation Pictures

Dad has experienced a few more side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and food aversions. Considering the fact that he was given three doses of chemo in one day, however, he's doing pretty well. From what I hear, he's really bored! This is his first time not teaching in about 25 years, so I think he needs something to keep him busy over the next few months that doesn't require much energy. Ideas, anyone?

I asked dad to take some pictures of "The Mask" and he sent me one with him wearing it, one of his "waffle face" after radiation, and two of the radiation machine!

I enabled blog comments, and so if you do happen to have ideas of some hobbies for dad please feel free to leave a comment with them, or shoot us an email at battlingbiology@gmail.com.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Side Effect #1

Dad's initial course of chemotherapy treatment was to have three doses of chemotherapy in one day, and then return three weeks later for another three doses, three times. The other route would be one chemotherapy dose once a week for nine weeks. Yesterday was dad's first three doses, and although he didn't feel the side effects last night, he sure did today.
Dad passed out twice this morning due to low blood pressure and dehydration. Mom could not catch him, and so he hit his head on the way down both times. An ambulance took them to Kadlec where he was given IV fluids, an X-ray and a CAT Scan and released after a few hours of observation. He is feeling better, but will definitely have some bruising and headaches for the next few days.
Radiation continued today, but later in the afternoon than planned.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

First Day "Impressions"

Mom and Dad were very impressed with the Tri-Cities Cancer Center staff. Dr. H (Hematology/Oncology) and Ms. T (Oncology RN) are both proficient and caring. Dad says that cisplatin (chemotherapy drug) hasn't lived up to its ominous reputation at this point, but that the anti-nausea medication may be keeping its side effects at bay. He also has to wear a mask during his external beam radiation therapy to secure his head in place during treatments. Dad says...
The Mask! It looks evil, it feels evil. Two guys placed the mask on me while my head was tilted back over a high neck bridge. The mask was so tight I could feel my carotid arteries pulse. Swallowing while in the mask is difficult as is opening and closing my eyes. Freddy Krueger has nothing on me. Afterward I walked into the patient waiting room where four guys and one lady stared at me because of the lines the mask left all over my face. I said, 'I have been diagnosed with waffle-face disease.' Some got it, some didn't. The receptionist asked me how it went and I said 'Let's just say it left an impression on me.'
Two more chemotherapy sessions (3 doses per visit) and 30 radiation treatments left! On the road to recovery!


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In the beginning there was chemo...

Dad starts chemotherapy Thursday, February 2, at 8:30 in the morning, and radiation follows at 1:45!


Monday, January 31, 2011

Getting Closer...

Dad is so close to starting chemotherapy and radiation! On one hand it has only been a month since his diagnosis, but on the other we have all been so anxious for him to begin treatment that it has seemed like a very long wait.
Procedure update:
Last week he met with Dr. R again and had a simulation/virtual image done on Friday. A dietitian determined the caloric intake he will need through his feeding tubes during the times that he won't  be able to eat solid food. Sunday night his sister had my parents over for a soup dinner (thank you Aunt Sherry!). Today he is getting fluoride trays made - with the concentration of radiation to the area around his mouth he must take fluoride doses throughout. Tomorrow Dr. C will assess how well he's healed from having his teeth pulled. Once he has healed enough they will start treatment... most likely by Friday or next Monday!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Briefly, what has been done?

On November 30, 2010, dad went to the dentist because of some swelling in his jaw that he thought was caused by a tooth problem. From there he was referred to an orthodontic surgeon, who discovered swelling in his tonsil. After multiple scans, tests, and biopsies, he was diagnosed December 30, 2010, with squamous cell carcinoma. Since his diagnosis, he has met with a variety of doctors including a specialist in Seattle and those at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center.
The best route of treatment will be a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. To avoid future complications with his jaw, he had to have six teeth pulled last week, as well as feeding tubes placed and a port into his neck for chemotherapy. He will begin chemo and radiation after his mouth is fully healed from is oral surgery, which is hopefully very soon! The chemotherapy drug will be cisplatin, which is the most aggressive drug used for head and neck cancers. Treatment will begin with three all-day sessions of chemo and seven weeks (five days per week) of radiation treatments. Approximately three weeks after these initial rounds, another cat scan and pet scan will be done to assess the results.
His next appointment is Thursday, January 27th, with Dr. R* to set a date for radiation to begin.


And so it begins...

Welcome to my dad's cancer blog! I started this forum to keep our family and friends updated on dad's progress. I chose the title, Battling Biology, for two reasons. The first is that I think the definition of "battle" is fitting: to contend with full strength, vigor, skill, or resources (Merriam-Webster). The second is that whenever someone tells dad that it "isn't fair" for him to have cancer, especially a cancer that predominately affects smokers and heavy drinkers (which he has never been), he replies, "it's biology." That's dad, a scientist to the core. And a strong one, at that. 


P.S. Feel free to post comments or questions on this blog, or email us at battlingbiology@gmail.com.