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Memorial

Flowers

Thank you to everyone who attended Amy’s memorial yesterday. It was such a beautiful day, and a perfect location to remember her. I was overwhelmed by the love and support, and I think she would have approved. (Though she probably would have thumped me for a few of the pictures I had displayed…)

I’m so grateful for everyone who helped with the planning and setup and all the rest.

It wasn’t a formal service, but more of a celebration and remembrance with family and friends and food. We were in one of the park’s largest pavilion areas, and we filled it to overflowing. One more sign of just how many people loved her.

Some of us took a little time to talk about Amy, sharing stories and memories and talking about how much she meant to us. I know there were others who wanted to speak, but were hurting too much. Amy would have been the first to hug you and tell you that’s all right too.

I asked my son how he felt after he got up to talk about his mama. He said it hurt to do, but it also felt good. I thought that summed the day up beautifully. It did hurt. It still does, and it will for a long time. But it felt good to be with people who loved her, and to remember and celebrate how amazing she was.

A few people asked me to share what I said at the beginning, so I’m copying that below.

All of our love and gratitude to all of you who’ve helped us through this past year, both in person and online. Your support helped a lot. Thank you.

Read the rest of this entry »Collapse )

Memorial, Donations, Cards

Amy’s memorial/celebration of life will be Sunday, September 8 at 2 p.m. at the Overlook Pavilion in Burchfield Park. 881 Grovenburg Rd, in Holt.

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In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Amy’s memory to Saint Vincent Catholic Charities or the Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan.

Amy worked for a time at St. Vincent, which does a lot of good for children and families. And the Leukemia Foundation supports other blood cancers as well, and doesn’t limit that support to children. They helped us with copays and other expenses in recent months.

I’d also ask that, if you’re able, please consider donating blood or platelets. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells, but it also damages the bone marrow, which is where blood cells are produced. Amy required a lot of transfusions to get her through chemo. Those donations make a real difference to people fighting cancer and other diseases and injuries.

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For those who might want to send cards, they can be sent to our home address if you have it. If not, you can also use:

Hines Family
P.O. Box 521
Holt, MI  48842

(I hope you’ll understand and forgive my not posting our home address here.)

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Finally, Amy’s obituary is on the funeral home’s page.

Amy

Amy in 2016My wife Amy died yesterday, bringing an end to her nine-month fight with cancer.

There’s so much I want to say about her, and so much I’ll probably be writing in the future.

For now, know that she’s the strongest person I’ve ever known. She fought this thing so hard… Again and again, she surprised doctors and nurses with her strength and determination. That fight gave her the chance to see her son start high school, her daughter start her first real job. It gave us nine more months to be together and love each other.

She dealt with chronic pain for most of her life. Cancer and treatment made that worse. But at the end, she wasn’t hurting. She was comfortable. Her children were with her, along with me, her parents, and others who loved her.

She worked as a child and family therapist, and the tributes I’m already seeing from some of her clients and coworkers confirm what I already knew. This was her calling and her passion, second only to loving her children. She’s the most caring and empathic person I ever met. She helped and inspired so many people.

A few nights ago, we were able to transfer her to a wheelchair, and I took her for a walk outside the hospital. We got to enjoy the (sort of) fresh air, the flowers and trees around the hospital. She loved going for walks, and I’m so glad we had the chance to do one more.

Our family and a few close friends have been helping out, sharing love and support and grief, so we’re not alone. We’ve got a lot to do… it actually helps me a little to have things to do to keep myself busy for these first days.

I appreciate so much the love and understanding and support you’ve all shared through this. I hope you’ll understand if I’m a little hit-and-miss in responding to email and messages in the immediate future.

I’ve been telling my son the reason it hurts so much is because we love her so much, and as hard as that pain is, would we trade away the love and the time we had with her?

I was lucky enough to have almost sixteen years together with her as a family, and another fifteen as friends.

I’m sure I’ll share more in the days to come.

For now … I’m just so grateful for who she was and how much we shared and how much better our lives were because of her. And I miss her.

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Cool Stuff Friday

Friday was not ready for school to start back up.

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Quick Personal Update

We’re still at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Amy received the first round of RICE chemotherapy about two weeks ago. It appears to have helped some against the tumors, but it also hit her pretty hard. So we’re working to get her blood counts back up and help her regain her strength so she’s able to tolerate continued treatment.

Still a long road ahead of us to get her strong and healthy enough to be able to do the CAR T-cell procedure, which is the one that holds some hope for a cure. But she’s still fighting, and the rest of us are doing what we can to help.

I honestly don’t know what else to say here. Mostly, we’re just holding course and holding on…

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Another Update

A brief personal update.

The GEMOX chemo my wife began at the beginning of June has been ineffective. After meeting with the oncologist this morning, we’ve decided to try another type of chemo called RICE, which we’re hopeful will get her well enough for the CAR T-cell procedure. She also received another dose of radiation this morning to help try to shrink the various tumors.

She’ll be transferred to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit this afternoon. If all goes well, she’ll be there for at least 1-2 months of treatment and recovery. Possibly more.

This obviously isn’t the news I was hoping to be able to share by this point in the process. But Amy’s not giving up. She’s fought through so much already. I knew she was strong, but I hadn’t realized just how strong…

Thank you all for the ongoing love and support. It helps.

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Writing Hiatus and Other Changes

There’s no real news on the cancer front. If all goes well, Amy will get the next dose of chemo on Monday and Tuesday. But we have to wait a bit longer to see if and how well this is working. We’re also waiting on insurance approval for the CAR T-cell procedure she needs. In the meantime, she’s still pretty weak, but her pain is better managed, which helps a lot.

This last round – discovering the masses in her abdomen after six months of chemo and treatment – flipped a switch in my brain. Before, I’d been struggling to make time to write, squeezing in anywhere from 200-500 words a few times a week. But with this setback, I just stopped.

I’m not quitting forever. Terminal Peace is still under contract, and I’ve got an idea for a contemporary fantasy I want to do next. But…priorities, you know? I need to spend time with my wife. I need to be there for the kids. And I need to stop pushing myself to do ALL THE THINGS, and to stop beating myself up for not being able to do everything.

My editor has been incredibly understanding. So much love for Sheila and DAW! The longer gap between books two and three of this trilogy is going to suck, but c’est la vie. I just can’t worry about that right this minute.

Another change I’ve started looking at involves the day job. Back in 2015, I mostly quit my full-time job with the state. The ended up creating a 10 hour/week job I could do mostly from home, which gave me a nice, modest income and provided a little structure to my weeks. But Amy’s not going to be well enough to go back to her job in the near future. We’re trying to get her long term disability straightened out, but so far it’s been “under review” for three weeks. And we’re paying for COBRA coverage for dental and vision right now.

All of which has me looking into going back to work full time. I’ve started having that conversation with my bosses, and it sounds like we should be able to figure something out. I don’t know what it will look like, exactly, but it should hopefully be enough for me to support my family.

It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but at least I have the choice. I don’t know exactly when I’ll make the change, either. I’ll be giving up some of that time with my wife and kids, which means I want to put it off as long as I can. But I might be able to continue telecommuting for at least some of it, which would help a lot. And I still have some sick time and FMLA I can use, if necessary.

Most of my books were written while working 40+ hours/week, so I know I can continue to do both, once things settle down a bit. For now though, we’re just gonna keep going one day at a time…

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Cool Stuff Monday?

It ain’t Friday, but I needed some cheer and laughter…

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Another Personal Update and Changing Plans

We’d been hoping to be done with chemo and moving toward a bone marrow transplant for my wife. Unfortunately, the scan eight days ago showed several masses in my wife’s abdomen. So we’ve spend most of the past week in the hospital, where they worked on pain management, hit the cancer with radiation, and began a new chemotherapy regimen.

Chemo will continue for approximately two months. This type of chemo attacks the cancer differently, so the hope is that while the cells may have developed some resistance to the prior chemo, this new type will wipe them out.

If all goes well, the doctors are talking about maybe using CAR T-cell therapy after chemo. Ideally, we’re hoping this would be the new “finishing move” against the cancer.

It’s been a difficult and scary week. I’m so grateful to friends and family who’ve been helping out and providing so much support while we try to cope with everything. We were able to get Amy out of the hospital yesterday afternoon, which is good. Now … now we’re back to waiting and hoping.

I don’t know how active or responsive I’ll be online. I hope the next one of these updates comes with better news.

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Cool Stuff Friday

Friday is off to a slow start today.

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Cool Stuff Friday

Friday is starting a petition to rewrite Monday.

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Geese! (And one not-a-goose)

Last night, I took the camera and visited the ponds by our high school, where the geese have been raising a new crop of cute little poop-monsters.

I posted a few of these pics on Facebook and Twitter, but wanted to share more of them here.

I think somebody spotted me.

Snacking on some yummy dandelion.

I love this family photo.

Just hanging out with the bigger birds…

Pregnancy and Biology 101

I originally titled this “Pregnancy 101 for Guys,” but given the state of sex education in the U.S., I suspect many of us need some additional learning regardless of gender. But I’m mostly looking at my fellow guys with this thing, especially with all of the recent debate and discussion. Some of this is information I wish I’d learned sooner. Hopefully it will be helpful to others.

This is a very incomplete list. Factual corrections are appreciated. And if you’ve encountered additional myths that need busting, feel free to add them to the comments. (I considered just turning comments off, but I’ll leave them open for now and we’ll see what happens.)

Periods can’t be turned on and off like a tap.

I don’t even know what to say to this one, which came from a Twitter thread. But, um…

  • Periods happen when the uterus sheds its lining, resulting in bleeding from the vagina.
  • Periods generally happen about once a month, and last for about 5 days. Neither of these numbers are exact.
  • For some people, periods are relatively regular and predictable. For others, not so much.
  • No, it’s not like peeing. You can’t just “hold it.” WTF is wrong with you, man?

Fertility is cyclical.

About halfway through the menstrual cycle, the ovary releases an egg into the fallopian tube. That egg lives about 12-24 hours after leaving the ovary. If it’s not fertilized, the egg dissolves, and the cycle continues.

This doesn’t mean there’s only a 12-24 hour window when sex can result in pregnancy. Sperm can survive up to five days in the fallopian tubes. If you and your partner have sex, and your partner ovulates two days later, that’s when sperm and egg would potentially meet. In other words, fertilization would occur two days after you had sex.

(This should also help explain why some emergency contraception works by preventing ovulation after sex.)

Conception isn’t instantaneous.

“It can take anything from 45 minutes to 12 hours for a sperm to reach your fallopian tubes, which is where conception usually happens.” (Source)

And once the sperm reaches the egg, “it takes about 24 hours for a sperm cell to fertilize an egg.” (Source)

“X Weeks Pregnant” isn’t the number of weeks from conception.

“Gestational age is the common term used during pregnancy to describe how far along the pregnancy is. It is measured in weeks, from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual cycle to the current date. A normal pregnancy can range from 38 to 42 weeks.” (Source)

In other words, someone who is “six weeks pregnant” has not actually been pregnant for six weeks.

Pregnancy tests don’t work instantly after conception.

“If you are pregnant, your body needs time to develop detectable levels of [human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG)]. This typically takes seven to 12 days after successful implantation of an egg.” (Source)

Healthline advises waiting until the week after your missed period for an accurate pregnancy test result.

If the average menstrual cycle is 28, and gestational age is measured from the first day of the last menstrual cycle, this means you’re already considered to be a minimum of five to six weeks pregnant by the time you get an accurate result from your pregnancy test.

Conception =/= Pregnant.

“Conception doesn’t always mean that a pregnancy will occur and be carried to full term.” (Source)

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes, “Fertilization, the union of an egg and a sperm into a single cell, is the first step in a complex series of events that leads to pregnancy.” (Source, Emphasis added)

It takes around a week, give or take, for the fertilized egg to implant in the uterine lining.

Whether you agree or disagree — and I have no doubt people will continue to argue this one — the ACOG has stated that “pregnancy begins upon the implantation of a fertilized egg into the lining of a woman’s uterus. This typically takes place, if at all, between 5 and 9 days after fertilization of the egg – which itself can take place over the course of several days following sexual intercourse.”

What is ectopic pregnancy?

In some cases, the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube. “The fertilized egg can’t survive, and the growing tissue may cause life-threatening bleeding, if left untreated.” (Source)

The incidence of ectopic pregnancy is 1-2% in developed countries. (Source)

Ectopic pregnancy is treated with either medication or surgery to prevent the development of the fertilized, implanted egg, in essence terminating the pregnancy.

Pregnancy can be dangerous. Especially in the U.S.

“With an estimated 26.4 deaths for every 100,000 live births in 2015, America has the highest maternal mortality rate of all industrialized countries—by several times over.” (Source)

“African-American, Native American and Alaska Native women are about three times more likely to die from causes related to pregnancy, compared to white women.” (Source)

We have got to do better with health care, people…

In Other News, Cancer Still Sucks

We found out yesterday that a friend of Amy’s passed away last week from complications of leukemia/lymphoma. From everything Amy says, this was an incredibly good-hearted and compassionate person. So we’ve got the grief over losing a good person, as well as all of the fear this stirs up for our own situation.

Not much has really changed since last month. Amy finished up another round of chemo on Monday, so she’s pretty wiped out. There are some cumulative effects, so the exhaustion and stuff gets a little harder each time, but she’s getting through it.

The next step is another round of scans to see if she’s in remission and decide whether we can move on to the bone marrow transplant. We had a consult with the bone marrow transplant director in Detroit a week or two back. There are still a fair number of unknowns — not only the scan results, but whether her bone marrow is healthy enough for an autologous transplant. That’s where they use the patient’s own stem cells rather than getting a donor, which is what we’re hoping for. (Faster recovery, no rejection issues.) But her younger brother will be getting tested to see if he’s a match, just in case.

We meet with the oncologist again tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll get things scheduled soon, because all this waiting and uncertainty sucks.

Inigo Montoya - I hate waiting

I’ve been continuing to work to get the house ready. Chemo suppresses the immune system, and bone marrow transplant does the same, so there’s a lot of worry about potential infections and such. We’ve got people ripping out the gross carpet in the basement today, replacing it with vinyl laminate that should be a lot more sanitary. I’ve done a lot of dusting and cleaning and decluttering. It’s never going to be hospital-level sanitary, but we’re making progress.

I think we’re all feeling a bit burnt out by everything, but we’re getting through.

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Jim C. Hines
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