Saturday, December 14, 2013

Another Shoulder Surgery . . . that worked!

At the crack of dawn this morning (Friday), Fred and Elaine dragged themselves out of bed and shuffled to their car to drive over to the local surgery center. Now, it may seem like Elaine is trying to earn loyalty points from this place. Of course, her goal is just to get better.

Now that it is over, we are happy to report that the surgery should make life easier. Apparently,  Elaine had a big chunk of bone causing real problems around the nerves in her shoulder. According to surgeon, fixing this should allow for some serious relief!

Elaine and Fred are back at home catching up on much needed rest. Tomorrow is the first day of recovery for Elaine that is expected to take a couple months. We are very hopeful that this recovery results in a pain-free Elaine!

Monday, September 23, 2013

As promised, here is a follow-up email about Elaine's shoulder surgery. They went to the doctor this afternoon to check on her foot and her shoulder. They took the stitches out of her shoulder, and she was able to wear a tennis shoe on her left foot for the first time since surgery. Unfortunately for the foot and shoulder, it will take about 6 months for them to completely heal. The good news is that both appear to be on the right track. Elaine spent most of the weekend in pain, but she felt like it was surgery pain, different from her pain before. We are proceeding with cautious optimism and are hopeful that this is the answer to our prayers. Elaine will begin rehab on her shoulder this week, but not on her foot for awhile. It was more complicated with the joint fusion and the metal plate. 

As you can imagine, Fred and Elaine have been very diligent about all of her rehab exercises. She spends four hours a day in a chair that moves her arm in various positions. It doesn't hurt her, and will prevent it from getting stiff and scar tissue building up. It finally feels as if there is light at the end of the tunnel with pain relief in sight! We continue to hope and pray that these will be the answers. Fred and Elaine, on different levels, have worked tirelessly over the past 20 months to find answers and continue her recovery. They have come so far and have not given up on each other or lost hope. There have been dark days and even weeks, but today, Elaine is walking without any assistance, without a swollen foot and looking as beautiful as ever. I don't know a more dedicated person in the world than Fred has been to Elaine. I also don't know a person that has been more committed to getting better, despite the numerous setbacks, than Elaine. They greet each day grateful to have each other and ready to tackle whatever obstacles come their way. Its an inspiration to watch!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Elaine's Surgery Update

Another Friday, another surgery. We were back at Newport Orthopedic Institute for another procedure. This was the second attempt to ease the pain in Elaine's shoulder. The surgeon was hoping that her rotator cuff wasn't torn, but he wouldn't know until he was in there. Fortunately, once the incision was made it was confirmed that there was no tear and the surgeon could focus on reshaping the ball and socket joint to reduce bone on bone friction (and reduce the discomfort in the process).

Elaine showed up early this morning to check in. She, as usual, had a great attitude and was ready for some serious relief. This paints a pretty good picture of her attitude. Elaine's biggest concern was, "Please make sure they don't ruin my eyelashes!"

Elaine headed home at around noon following an approximately 90 minute procedure. She has been in some pretty serious pain all day. It is worth repeating that Elaine is easily the toughest person on the planet. She is taking this surgery head on as she has with every obstacle that she has faced over the past two years. It also bears repeating that Fred is the other toughest person on the earth. Despite the fact that he hasn't been sleeping because of pain in his legs, he was up and upbeat this morning ready to cheer on the love of his life. He is ready to continue on his doctor duties. He is well versed in giving injections, drawing blood, cleaning wounds. and whatever else is asked of him!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Today is Elaine's 62nd birthday. We promised her last year, that next year would be a better birthday. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. We are certain that next year will be! It just has to be! Elaine has spent the last week basically in bed. She is restricted to her bed for another week and half. She gets up and hobbles around, but she is in tremendous pain. As many can probably relate, foot surgery is a nightmare. We don't have a timetable as to when she will be feeling better, or out of pain. The one thing we do know, her foot looks much better! We had a birthday celebration at their house tonight. Nurse Fred, and Elaine's stomach, have finally been given a reprieve from giving her blood thickening injections in her abdomen. His duties have not stopped though. Fred has to change her bandages and clean her wound every morning and before bed. We were there tonight to watch it, and were able to peek at her foot. We never doubted Elaine's pain, but after looking at her foot, you understand why she is so miserable. She has a giant incision from where they put the metal plate in and fused the joint, and shaved the bunion,  as well as another incision on her second toe where they shaved the bone that was growing. It is swollen, but it is straight. You can see when she takes a step, that she is able to bend her knee now too. Although she can't bear much weight on her foot, you can see that she is more stable and balanced. It helps Elaine know that this will all be worth it in the end.

I marvel at the connection my parents have and their undying love and dedication to each other. Throughout their lifetime, they have been through some major health scares and the most devastating thing anyone could experience, the loss of a child. I have watched first hand the hell they have been through the last 19 months. Elaine and Fred have worked tirelessly to explore every option, and both been committed to getting Elaine better. Elaine has worked harder than any person I know, and has experienced setbacks that aren't fair or deserved. Fred has been by her side every single step of the way, holding her hand, encouraging her, beating down doors looking for answers. He has battled prostate cancer during this whole ordeal and hasn't complained, always gaining strength from what Elaine is going through. The saying goes, "God doesn't give you more that you can handle." I think they are at their  breaking point and need some good luck to swing their way. Its easy to say how lucky they are to have each other, that they are both alive, that they are in a position to afford health care.  All of that is true, but the one thing that gets them through each day is the love that they share for each other. Over the last 7 days, I don't think a night has passed where they have slept for more than 2 hours straight. Elaine's coumadin level is bouncing around again for no reason at all. Fred's having the worst leg cramps he's had in years over the last month.

As I looked at my mom tonight at dinner, my heart just broke for her and for all the pain she is going through and has gone through. I gave my dad an extra big hug tonight, knowing his heart is breaking watching the love of his life in so much pain. We all believe that the end result, which we hope and pray will be sooner rather than later, is going to be a better life for Elaine. So, it wasn't the birthday Elaine planned on. It wasn't what she ever thought turning 62 would be. There is no stronger woman or man on the earth than Fred and Elaine. We have so much love, respect and admiration for them. In the words of Alice in Wonderland, it was a very unbirthday to Elaine this year, but we know it will get better!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Another Hurdle Cleared

After bearing with the pain for far longer than any of us could and dealing stoically with the delay caused by an unexpected fever last week, Elaine was back at the doctor this morning for a surgery on her foot to fix the bunion on her left foot. For those of you who didn't know about this, Elaine has had a bunion on her foot for some time. More recently, it has developed into a truly debilitating condition. She was having all kinds of trouble even walking around. Eventually, she actually cut a hole in her shoe to give Chester (her name for the bunion) some space and give herself some relief. The time arrived when the home remedies were not going to solve the problem bringing us to the events of this morning.

As usual, she handled the pre-op with grace and maybe some slight embarrassment as Fred felt the need to show the entire medical staff how he dances and sings whenever Elaine is feeling the blues. Everyone was impressed. The surgery was an apparent success. The doctor was able to realign Elaine's toes, install a plate to make sure they stay there, and get her home all in one day. The image below shows Elaine's new hardware.


She was in good spirits in post-op and looking forward to a major reduction in pain. We want to take this opportunity to once again say how proud we are of Elaine and how impressed we are with her pain tolerance and toughness. Elaine continues to prove just how amazing she is. We know that she will work hard through her rehab over the next couple weeks and that there is another light at the end of another tunnel that she will fly right through.

(There were plans to do some work on her left shoulder, but the doctor decided to wait until the foot is fully healed before working on another area.)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Post Op: Back at home

"We've only just begun!" That was the refrain from Elaine today from the moment she woke up. She is feeling better physically with every passing minute. More importantly, she is ready to move on with her life and she is so optimistic about her recovery. The nurse was calling Karen Carpenter (incidentally, that was what Elaine's dad always called her).

It has been a long week and Elaine is certainly still in some pain from the surgery and she is undoubtedly tired from her ordeal, but she has the best attitude about getting her life back. It has been a tough several weeks with her pinched nerve and incredible pain. She looks forward to when she can get back to living her life (relatively) pain free.

Elaine arrived at the house with Staci to a very excited welcoming committee of Fred, Brian, Christi, Taylor and Ben. The kids were so happy to see Nammie out of the hospital. She looked absolutely beautiful when she got back home.

We will keep you reasonably updated her on recovery. Elaine's optimism is infectious and we are excited for her continue her journey with considerably less pain!

Thank you to all of you for your thoughts and prayers!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Post-Op Update

Elaine had a restless night in the hospital. She had a neighbor a few rooms over that couldn't figure out where she was or why she was in pain. It made for a sleepless night in the hospital. The Doctor decided to keep her another night. Elaine is doing very well, but with her needing to start her Coumadin today, he felt it was important to keep her in for another night to watch it. While the risks were unlikely, they were serious and we all agreed it was for the best.

As the day wore on, Elaine began to swell on the opposite side of her incision. The doctor was relieved that it wasn't where he cut, but felt it was best to do a CT scan. As we began to notice the swelling, we were very thankful to be at the hospital. Fortunately the CT scan was clear, and apparently due to the position they put her in during surgery. They pulled and strapped her shoulder down low and tight, and had her neck up up. The more we learn and surgery, the less we really want to know what goes on in the OR! The bonus to the CT scan was that the doctor had a sneak peak at her disc replacement. He said everything looked perfect and he was very pleased. This was great news of course. We are very hopeful that Elaine will come home tomorrow, but that decision will be made tomorrow.

All in all, it was a great day. Elaine is still feeling some aches and pains from surgery. She is such a trooper though. She makes herself get up and walk, doesn't need prodding from the nursing staff. They have quickly learned too that when she decides she wants to walk, we are going to get her up and walk. We don't wait for them to get in there. I guess after 13 months of practice, both Fred and Staci are very capable and confident of getting Elaine out of bed and unplugging what needs to be unplugged, and walking. Elaine can't be kept down, and she continues to amaze us with her strength. No one can believe her attitude - clearly they haven't met Elaine before. They are inspired by all that she has been through and her continuous will to fight. They adore the family support she has as well, and the love story that is Fred and Elaine.

We don't anticipate having an idea on the actual success of the surgery for at least another week or so, but all signs are pointing towards at least some success. We will take any relief that we can get for her, and continue to hope and pray for more and more each day!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Surgery Update

It has been a long day for everyone and especially for Elaine. We should get the good news out right away - the surgery was a success!

Fred and Elaine arrived at the hospital before dawn for a 730 AM surgery. Ben and Staci were close behind. Elaine was mostly over her nervousness by this morning. She had a unbelievable staff of nurses, doctors, and hospital personnel from the moment she walked in the door. We are certain that helped with her demeanor.  And this nurse decked out in Chanel was seemingly made for Elaine!

They rolled her into surgery as scheduled at around 730. About two hours later, we heard the news that the surgery went well. The surgeon came down and explained that he found a small piece of the disc broken off. It literally popped up at him when he removed the rest of the disc. It was that little piece that was pinching a nerve in Elaine's neck. Normally, if you catch this early, you can have surgery and release the "pinch" and feel almost instant relief. However, Elaine's pinch has been there for some time so it will take some time for her to feel better - though we are not sure if that is measured in days or weeks. The Doctor was actually relieved to see the disc broken off. He felt much more optimistic that this would really help ease her pain. It is very painful to have a pinched nerve. Elaine was also relieved to hear that she wasn't crazy, or dreaming up the pain. During surgery, they replaced the bad disc with a cadaver. Elaine is very grateful to all the organ donors out there, as are we:)

After a long stint in recovery, Elaine was wheeled up to her room where Fred and Staci waited. She was still pretty groggy through this evening, but we are optimistic that she will feel ok when the anesthetic wears off.  She was in a fair amount of pain tonight, in her throat and both the front and back of her neck. She had a breathing tube in during surgery and in order to reach the nerves and her discs, they have to move over her esophagus, and trachea( and whatever else was in the way). Fred has put in a really long day at the hospital. We tried to get him to leave and take a break, but to no avail! There is not a more loyal caretaker!  He was over the moon to see Elaine being rolled into the room today, post op. Her first words out were, "I made it! I survived!"as she reached for his hand!  As we mentioned last night, Elaine was very nervous going into the surgery and not sure she was going to survive it. She's a fighter. There is no one like her! Keep those thoughts and prayers coming! We are cautiously optimistic that a pain free future awaits Elaine!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Hello! We said no news was good news. Unfortunately, you are hearing from us:(

We will start with some really great news though! Fred has his first follow up appointment today. It went as well as we could have hoped for. His PSA level is .05 which is as good as 0 for now. Hopefully it will continue to move to zero, which is where it needs to remain forever, but since surgery was only a few weeks ago, it is not expected to be there just yet. The doctor was pleased with Fred's progress, and Fred has been doing his Kegel exercises correctly. The nurse even did a stem test on him to verify. We are relieved and thrilled for this news! Fred has handled this all so courageously, and we are so proud of him.

Now on to the bad news . . .

Unfortunately, Elaine is having neck surgery in the morning. She has a herniated neck disc. This was confirmed through an MRI that was read by several doctors. We are very hopeful that this is the cause of her severe left arm pain. Unfortunately, it took longer that it should have to be diagnosed. Elaine has lived with this tremendous pain for so long.

Typically people that come in with this issue, their disc is sponge like and soft. Elaine's is like a rock and very hard. Under the usual circumstances, you wake up from surgery, and you feel instant relief. That will not be the case for Elaine. The doctor expects it to take 3-4 weeks until she starts to feel a difference. He does feel confident that this will ease her pain though.

We are heartbroken that Elaine is in so much pain and that she has to endure yet another operation. We have talked this through as a family, ultimately leaving up to Elaine to make the decision. She wants to have the surgery. She can't live with the pain, its unbearable (and Elaine has as high of a pain tolerance as anyone on the planet). She doesn't want to live with the drugs that she has to be on to get through the day either. This is the only choice, and one that hopefully will give her the relief she deserves.

It has been a very emotional few days for Elaine, and all of us. Surgery is never easy, and with all Elaine's complications and health issues, it is especially difficult. To say that Elaine is nervous would be an understatement. We all are. We know that she is as strong as they come, and that she is going to do great tomorrow.

Surgery is expected to be 1 1/2 -2 hours. We will be at the hospital bright and early as the surgery is scheduled for 7:30am. They initially said she would spend one night in the hospital, but because of her risk for internal bleeding, they are going to keep her until Saturday.

We thank you all for your continued love, support, and prayers. We ask that you please keep her in your thoughts and prayers tomorrow and over the next few days and weeks. We hope this is her last battle and that she will be pain free. We feel helpless and saddened for all that she has gone through. Elaine is amazing and a source of strength for all of us. Fred, her trusted sidekick has been great as well. He is having a hard time continuing to watch her be in such pain every minute of the day. She has been through enough!

Fred was helping her shower tonight. She was instructed not to have any hair gel or make up on. She was grateful she didn't go have her hair done today. In typical Elaine fashion, she was trying to figure out how she is going to sneak some make up in the hospital so she looks presentable:) We are optimistic that this surgery will be the answer we have been searching for. She has also been retaining a tremendous amount of fluid, so dragging that extra 15-20 pounds around is hard on her too. We are hoping that they can get rid of that in the hospital too. Elaine deserves to catch a break!

Again, thank you for your prayers and love. We were in the desert over the weekend and overwhelmed by how many people came up to us telling us they would be thinking about Elaine and asking us to please update them! We will blog tomorrow night with an update. We can't tell you how much we (especially Elaine) appreciate it and how much comfort we get from knowing you care!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The End of the Beginning: Chapter 2

January 27th, 2012, started off just like any other day. I talked to Elaine on her way to the gym while I was on my way to Christi’s school to watch the kids run laps for their fundraiser. We confirmed our plan to meet for lunch at South Coast and return a purse. It wasn’t but a few minutes later my phone rang with a call that would change our lives forever.

I was watching the kids run, giving them five, and laughing with them. I felt my phone buzz and saw it was my friend Kristin. I didn’t answer. It was loud, and I couldn’t talk. It rang right back and I thought it must be a pocket dial, an accidental call. When it rang the third time in a row, I thought I had better answer. She said, “I’m at the gym with your mom. Don’t freak out, but something has happened to her and they have called the ambulance.”

Of course I freaked out, but I thought it was her racing heart again, and I couldn’t hear her very well and said I would call her right back. I ran as fast as I have ever ran before to my car. I called my dad, who never answers the phone on the golf course, but happened to pick up. He was in Palm Desert. I explained what little I knew, and told him I would call as soon as I got to the gym and could figure out what was going on. I called Ben next who I thought was in LA in a meeting. He didn’t answer. I knew he wouldn’t have his phone on in the meeting so I texted him, “CALL ME 911.” He surprisingly called me right back, as he was getting ready to leave to go to LA because the meeting had been pushed back. He told me he would meet me at the gym.

I called Kristin back to figure out what was going on. She was staying with my mom, talking to her and caring for her. She was able to put me on the phone with the paramedic. He told me she was having a stroke. I am so grateful to Kristin for being there with my mom, being so kind and caring, and letting her know that she wasn’t alone. Despite Elaine’s condition, she told Kristin, “I’m mad at you for calling Staci. You don’t need to bother her with this. I’m fine.” I don’t remember parking the car, but I won’t ever forget pulling into the parking lot and seeing the ambulance and fire truck, knowing that they were there for my mom.

I ran into the gym and saw my poor mom on the gurney, clearly having a stroke, scared, and saying, “I’m not having a stroke.” It was life saving mode now. We loaded in the ambulance and headed to Hoag. I called my dad, who was already on the road heading to Newport, and Ben, who was meeting me at the hospital. We wheeled her into the ER and they were scrambling to get her on the machines and to the scans she needed. Ben called Dr. Hackshaw on the way to the hospital. He continued to walk us through the next few hours. He was amazing, and a lifesaver for Ben and me.

It was a moment you can never be prepared for, when you are asked to truly make life and death decisions with no time for a second opinion or to sleep on it. Elaine never lost her sense of humor, insisting that they not cut her shirt off, despite me arguing that we can get her a new one. The staff was incredibly kind and managed to get her out of her shirt, without cutting it. My poor dad was driving a million miles an hour, in shock, and not sure if he was going to see his wife alive upon his arrival. We continued to call him, making sure we were all in agreement, keeping in mind that we wanted to be aggressive, giving her the best chance at a life. We knew life as a vegetable is not what she would want, She didn’t want them cutting into her brain. She made me promise I wouldn’t let them do that.

The TPA was our first choice, although given the severity of her brain bleed (of which Ben and I saw the proof), they weren’t overly optimistic it would work. Ben continued to stay in touch with Dr. Hackshaw, as we trusted him implicitly. He was in agreement as well. Suddenly, as if it wasn’t possible for the day to get worse, it did. Ben and I were holding my mom’s hand when, Dr. Death as I called him, asked us to step outside and talk to him. He brought us to another computer with some x-rays. They did a body scan and showed us her lung. He then points to two masses. I stared at him in disbelief. There is no way it can be cancer, it just can’t. I literally fell to the floor in shock and heartbroken.

We didn’t want to tell my dad until we could tell him in person. We stayed calm and fortunately, the TPA was working, the clot buster was doing its job! Thank you Herb Boyer and Genetech! Ben met my dad in the parking lot to tell him of the “cancer.” They had moved Elaine to ICU by then, and I will never forget the look on my mom’s face when she saw my dad. She had been telling me throughout the morning that she was “mad you called dad! He didn’t need to get off the golf course for this.” When she saw my dad, they both started to cry, and you could see the sense of relief in both their eyes, each feeling relief for different reasons. Fred sat there holding Elaine’s hand for the next few hours, refusing to leave her side. It was in that, typically two hour drive, that only took Fred 1 hour and 20 minutes, his entire life flashed before him and not knowing if the next time he saw her, she would be dead or alive! We are so grateful she is alive!

It was a day we will never forget, and a day that has changed our lives, our behavior, our attitudes, forever. Your always say you are going to live in the moment, enjoy every day like its your last, not sweat the small stuff, never take a moment with a loved one or friend for granted. These are all easy to say, but harder to do. I have learned that I have the strongest mother alive. I always knew that she was a fighter, but she has been courageous, brave, not felt sorry for herself, not given up, and had the most incredible attitude. Sure she has had some dark days, but who wouldn’t in her situation? She could have crawled in a hole, but she didn’t! She has defied all of the odds, making the impossible, possible.

My dad has surprised me the most. He has been more patient that I ever knew anyone could be, especially him. He has been aggressive in seeking out options, alternatives, new technology or ideas. He has been her voice and brain when she needed him the most. He has been her rock, her shoulder to cry on, her entertainer, and her best friend. He has been incredibly compassionate, and loving. He stepped into a role that I don’t think anyone thought he was capable of, and has simply been amazing. There is no doubt in my mind that Elaine would not be recovering so well, and be the medical miracle she is, without his constant love, support, and attention.

I’m sure she dreams, or has nightmares, hearing his voice saying, “straighten your leg, where is your arm, swing your arm, don’t hitch.”

He has never given up on her, and she has never given up on herself. They are the dream team. It is an incredible feeling knowing that your parents are so committed to each other and have such a strong love, especially in this situation.

Ben does not get the credit or accolades that he deserves. He has been an instrumental part of my mom’s recovery in so many ways. The first night my mom was in the ICU, my dad was exhausted, mentally, and physically, after a very long day. We were at the hospital and Ben came back with his backpack, insisting that he stay with Elaine. Ben didn’t sleep a wink that night, just sat there holding Elaine’s hand, watching monitors, and staring at her. Ben spent many nights in the hospital and rehab hospital with my mom as well. He spent hours taking to doctors, and doing research. He never did this out of obligation, but out of pure love and because he wanted to.  Ben has been so supportive and loving to my mom, my dad, and I, in different ways, but each of us needing him. I am so lucky to have married my best friend and the half that made me whole. Ben, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being by my side throughout the past 11 years, and especially this past year. Thank you for loving my parents so much, too.

There are many lessons we have learned over the year. The most valuable to me has been the importance of family and friends. If you have your health, but no one to share the goods days with, your life is empty. The four of us have worked very closely as a team this past year. We have cried together, laughed together, and most of all, shared love. I have been amazed of the depths of friendships that my parents have, too. We have said it often, but it continues to humble and inspire us, and we could never express our gratitude for the outpouring of love, prayers, and support we have been given throughout the year. Elaine had countless visitors in both hospitals and when she arrived home. People still continue to reach out, inviting them to lunch, dinner, or just wanting to visit. Their friends have filled their days, and given them strength. All of you have displayed friendship in its truest form, and it will never be forgotten. It takes somebody who is very loved, a special soul, and wonderful to have such caring friends. Elaine is certainly that person.

Elaine has inspired so many with her dedication, perseverance, courage, and determination. She has had visitors from all ages visit. Her granddaughter wrote an inspirational paper about her. Elaine had three friends run half marathons for her; Christi, Jackie and Kendra. Greg wrote a song about Little Darlin’. Elaine had a golf tournament dedicated to her. Her ETS bracelets became a staple on all our friends. Elaine even had an award named after her at Palm Desert High School. 

It has been quite a year, and we are celebrating January 28, 2013 as the beginning of our new year! We are full of hope, full of love, full of inspiration, and full of faith. We are thankful to God for answering our prayers. Thankful for each other. Thankful for our friends. We are celebrating the life Elaine is living!

We made a video of the past year from photographs we have taken. We will warn you, it’s a bit long! Its in chronological order, and clearly made by very inexperienced movie makersJ The easiest way to watch it is by clicking on this link:

It should work on your computer, phone, or iPad.

We want to say a very special thank you to Richie, Julie, and Vangie. The three of them completely upended their lives to help us (and continue to do so) every single time we needed them. Their love, kindness, and sacrifice will always be remembered and incredibly appreciated by all of us.  There are not enough words to ever fully express our gratitude. 

This blog has been an important part of our journey. We are so thankful and humbled by all of you who read it and who have told us how much you appreciate it. It means the world to us, and to Fred and Elaine. 

We started this blog a year ago. It is now time that we sign off. Elaine has come so far. We have all come so far. There may be a post every so often if there is something to say, but we hope that the health of Fred and Elaine speaks for itself. Updates will come from seeing them living their lives! We love you, thank you, and Happy New Year! 


Monday, January 21, 2013


Fred and Elaine had a full house of the long weekend! They were both exhausted last night after a fun day of football, swimming, bike rides, and golf cart rides. Elaine went into the jacuzzi, hoping that would help her shoulder pain. Unfortunately, it didn't help, but the kids had fun having her outside with them.

Elaine worked out in the gym with Greg today. Fred and Staci joined in towards the end. Elaine has had very manageable pain over the last month until the past few days. We are trying to figure out what it has flared back up. We also talked a lot about the next steps. Elaine has made tremendous progress over the past year. She literally learned to walk again. Elaine has built such a strong foundation, and basically started over. She has worked so hard to get to where she is now, and she is ready for the next step. Greg really wants to focus on her left arm, to keep it from curling up, which is naturally does when she isn't thinking about it. The more she does it, the faster her brain will retrain to be her natural position. He is also working on her step, keeping her foot pointed straight ahead and her step heel to toe. This is something she has been working on since learning to walk again, but now her muscles are stronger, and able to support her.

The exciting news for Elaine is that she is moving on from "stroke rehab" and onto more advanced exercises. Elaine really is going to focus on paying attention to her pain and finding that level to push herself, without getting in too much pain. Elaine is also going to ice and use heat a few times a day, a habit she has recently strayed from.

We are excited for Elaine, and for the progress she has made. She has three main goals about six months ago; to hold Brian, to drive, and to be able to golf. She is able to do two of the three, and we believe she will be golfing at some point soon, too. Nothing she ever does surprises us. She is a strong and remarkable woman. Elaine is taking life by the horns to be better then ever!

Fred is still having a fair amount of pain. Unfortunately, his bladder control is not improving, but he is optimistic, and practices his kegel exercises daily. Anyone that knows Fred, knows that he doesn't do anything half way, or work up to a goal. He tried to achieve it on the first day. He has been out walking, a little too much, but pushing himself. He sees his doctor in a month, so hopefully Fred will be able to show off to him by then. Fred and Elaine have been through so much, and we pray that things will settle down soon. We were so happy to spend the weekend with them. We never take a moment for granted.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Today's post is mostly an update on all of our patients. Elaine continues to be active here in the desert. She had a great time with Mary today. Elaine's shoulder pain has reared its ugly head again over the past few days. We hope that it starts to feel better soon. Fred's situation is definitely improving. He is eagerly anticipating "back to normal"!

They were both very happy to see Christi, Taylor, and Brian show up in the desert this afternoon (but not as happy as Christi, Taylor, and Brian were to see Fred and Elaine!). The house will be crazy and noisy for a couple days, and there will undoubtedly be lots of fun and laughter. 

Ben's dad is also improving. They have finally determined that he has Organizing Pneumonia - and they have a definitive course of treatment. He should be out of the hospital within a week.

After a long day of errand running and lunches and golf cart rides and bike riding, everyone headed over the Palm Court for dinner with Fred and Elaine's old friend Jim. It was a great time catching up and telling old stories (most of which cannot be repeated on this blog). 

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Big Thursday in the desert! Fred and Elaine visited Larry in the hospital early in the day. They both said he is looking much better and was considerably stronger. Keep your fingers crossed that the improvement continues and he gets to go home soon.

Elaine stayed busy with a workout with her trainer and a lunch at the Palm Court with her girlfriends. It was an active day, and she was definitely feeling some pain in her shoulder this evening. But, as usual, she fought through her pain all day and even went out to dinner!

Fred was equally as active today. He even went to the driving range. He started with putts, moved to chips, graduated to pitching, and even went for full swings. Quite a progression.

Ok. Ben is taking over here to tell a quick story about Fred. They warned Fred that he might have a few bizarre dreams that may be sexual in content. Well, that prediction sort of came true. Here's the dream:

Fred was at his friend Jerry's house. Jerry is a movie producer so there are all kinds of celebrities always running around his house. Well, on this particular day, Fred's very favorite celebrity, Halle Berry, was visiting Jerry. Like most women, she was instantly attracted to Fred (please keep in mind that this is Fred's dream). She made some eyes at Fred. Fred made some eyes at her. Eventually, she couldn't hold herself back any longer. She invited Fred to take a walk out on to the patio. Fred knew that this was his lucky day - and Halle's, too (remember this is his dream so he can believe that). Anyway, they get outside. Halle looks at Fred with her smoldering brown eyes. Then she makes her move. She takes one hand and grabs is face ready to kiss him. She takes the other hand and grabs his behind. . . . . 

But wait! Oh no!  What does she feel back there?

"Fred, what is this? Are you wearing a . . . diaper?" she asks tentatively. 

What can Fred do but be Fred and reply, "Sorry Halle. I don't think this is going to work out!"

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


The Smiths made it to the desert yesterday. They are thrilled to be back "home" with so many close friends, and hopefully some warmer weather. Elaine went to the gym to work out this morning and then ran some errands, yes, she drove in her car:) We still are so excited to mention that!

Fred is hanging in there too, and not complaining. Fred is so strong and such a fighter, too! He spent the morning at the hospital with Ben's dad, Larry. We are reaching out to you all for your thoughts and prayers again for Larry. He is still in the hospital. He has been through so much, and they still aren't able to figure out what he has. They are going to do a lung biopsy in the morning. We are cautiously optimistic that they will find out what type of infection or disease he has. We are asking for your thoughts and prayers for Larry that they will find out what he has so they can treat it accordingly.

He has been in the hospital since December 25th, and they still don't know what is wrong. He has been put through hell, including being on a respirator and feeding tube while also being treated with various antibiotics and steroids. He is a strong man, surrounded by lots of love from his family and friends. We know he can overcome this, we just need to know what he is fighting. As we have said before, we are so humbled and appreciative of your love, support, and prayers. We are asking you to extend them to Larry and Vicki during this difficult time.

The Smith and Francois families have certainly been tested over this past year, but they have learned that love, care, and support from family and friends is the most important thing there is. We have tried to wave the white flag, but so far, to no avail. We are still waiting to celebrate January 27th though, in hopes that it is our New Year!  We feel fortunate to have in our lives people that care, and that everyone is still here, and that we are surrounded by love.

Fred and Elaine have been exceptional role models to us all. They have defined true love, they have overcome the odds that have been stacked against them (several times), and they have given every single person hope. They are our inspiration, they are our leaders, and while we know they draw strength from us, we draw so much strength from them! They make the impossible seem possible. No one asks to be sick, or to be dealt the misfortunes that we all will face at some point. Fred and Elaine have shown us through love, determination, perseverance, and will, anything is possible. They have handled it with courage, strength, and prepared to fight!

Sunday, January 13, 2013


The Smith house slept really well last night, which was a welcome affair. Fred and Elaine had a busy day packing for the desert. They are planning to be down there for a few weeks.

Once the packing and car loading was complete, the Smiths spent the rest of the day relaxing. The Francois family stopped by a couple times. Brian and Ben dropped off coffee and bagels. Then, the whole squad bombarded the house for an hour or so.

As Sunday is supposed to be, it was a day of rest for Fred and Elaine. They are definitely ready for a great time in the desert!

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Elaine and Julie had a really fun day together. They did some shopping, had lunch, and then went to the salon for pedicures, manicures, and blow drys. The pedicure proved to be a little challenging. Elaine wears long underwear to keep her warm. Getting those and her pants up without cutting off her circulation was a little difficult, but they managed. Julie and Richie are heading back to Arizona tomorrow for a few weeks, so they loved sharing the day together. Richie and Fred relaxed at home and watched football. Fred hasn't been sleeping very well, and had an upset stomach as well. The Francois family come by to say goodbye to Bella, and had some takeout. Elaine and Christi heated up some soup for Fred. Elaine had a great day, and we are hoping Fred gets feeling better soon!

Friday, January 11, 2013


TGIF! It has been a long week for everyone, but as usual, the Smiths keep fighting on. It was actually a pretty busy day. Richie and Fred spent some time at the doctor. Elaine and Julie spent some time at the doctor. Fred learned from a CT scan that he is on the road to  recovery, but it will be a bumpier and longer (and wetter) road than originally expected. Somehow, Fred keeps pressing on. It certainly wasn't the best news he could have received, but his positive attitude through this is amazing (though not surprising).

Richie and Julie came by tonight after a stop the mall where they picked up new shoes and long underwear for the ever cold Elaine. It was a much appreciated gift!

Julie had planned on making turkey pasta on her own, but she had a very special helper this evening. Under Julie's supervision, Christi was involved in the entire process - cooking the turkey, making the pasta, and mixing it all together.

We want to thank Richie and Julie again for being so wonderful to our kids. Taylor came home and told me that she climbed on Richie like he was a jungle gym. Cooking with Christi and climbing with Taylor and letting your dog be harassed by Brian are all pretty special. We are so lucky to have them!

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Another day closer to full recovery for Fred. He is not all the way there, but he has a great attitude about it all.

Elaine went to lunch at the club with Staci and Brian this afternoon. They ventured out despite what we Southern Californians would consider a very cold day! So cold, in fact, that Elaine dressed like she was going skiing! See the evidence below!

After lunch, our old friend Greg stopped by the house to see Fred and Elaine. Greg was happy to see that Fred was doing well. He was even happier to see that Elaine had come so far since he last saw her. He was so impressed that she was driving and that she back to her old self. Greg asked Elaine when she was going to make him her world famous chocolate chip cookies. He will be waiting!

Fred and Elaine's friend Bob C stopped by to check on the Smiths. They are so grateful to have such caring friends. This evening, Richie and Julie came by the house to make burgers and relax!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


It was a big day at the Smith house. Fred went to the doctor as scheduled to get his catheter removed. It has been a trying week since his procedure, but he has done exceptionally well given his circumstance.

They did tell him today that the cancer in prostate was "outside the margin" or outside the organ. The surgeon saw that/suspected that during the operation and believes that he got it all. However, just to be sure, Fred will get blood tests every five weeks to check for evidence that it spread beyond the prostate.

After two trips to the doctor, Fred and Elaine headed over to True Foods with Richie and Julie for relaxing and healthy dinner.

We can't believe that is has been a week since Fred's operation. He was a pillar of strength suffering through his procedure and the aftermath without complaint. We are incredibly impressed by his strength!

Of course, he had a great role model in Elaine. The last 11 months haven't been easy, but she has clawed her way back to her old life. It won't be long before she is at the grocery store twice a day just like old times! :).

Fred and Elaine have had more than their share of crap thrown their way, but they have persevered and are thriving! We are so proud of them!

In other news, we are happy to report that Ben's dad is finally off the breathing machine and is recovering well (though slowly) in ICU. He should be moving to the regular floor tomorrow and be home soon after.

Monday, January 7, 2013


We are so proud of Fred as he not only kicked cancer's butt, but he is also pushing himself to take long walks and keep moving. He feels really good, although his stomach looks like he got in a massive fight. His entire right side is black and blue. This is likely attributed to the dancing lesson he tried to give in recovery. Fortunately, it looks much worse than it feels. He is well on his way to 100%. He even ditched the bucket today and strapped on the smaller bag. We are so thankful his recovery is going so well.

The Smiths had a great night of sleep as well. Elaine continues to work hard. She had Pilates today, but went early to the gym so she could ride the bike. She is really progressing and her instructor is thrilled with her progress and the muscles she is building on her left side.

In other news, Elaine is exhausted all the time. We have tested her blood, and everything came back normal. The conclusion we have come to, is that everything she does takes SO much effort for her. While Elaine has made incredible progress, everything she does is hard on her. Getting out of a chair, tying her shoes, taking a plate to the sink, these are little things we do without thinking. These are things Elaine had to learn to do again, all the while still having her body ache from head to toe. She doesn't complain, and she is without pain medication. We are hopeful the pain will subside soon. We have been told the the neurological pains typically stop after about a year. Fred said he is so inspired by Elaine and all she is and has gone through. It quickly put in perspective his recovery.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Considering that they never really left the house, it was a pretty busy Sunday for Fred and Elaine. We are sure it feels that every time the Francois family comes over - especially when they come at 9 AM and don't leave until the afternoon. When you mix in a visit from Fred's son, Freddie, and Ron, it makes for a pretty active day.

Thankfully, Julie was there in the morning to make the most delicious pancakes (with Bella who was a hit for the kids - and Staci who is now a little dog crazy). Later in the afternoon, Richie came by for a visit, too!

Julie made a wonderful turkey breast for dinner. And now that "it" has happened, Fred is cleared to eat whatever he likes!

All in all, it was a great day with family and great friends! Here is a great photo from this morning when almost everyone was involved in making pancakes. Talk about too many cooks in the kitchen!

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Fred continues down the first few steps on the road to recovery following his surgery two days ago. He mostly rested today, and is feeling pretty good overall. Of course, he is experiencing some soreness in his abdomen and shoulders (shoulders because of the odd position he was in during the procedure). 

The Francois family came by this morning to drop off coffee and bagels. Elaine was already out at Pilates on her own. When she came back home, we realized that it can take a village to clean a catheter!  After everyone was situated, Fred led the whole family on a walk around the neighborhood! 

There were some questions about the purpose of Fred's bucket. It is the carrying case for the catheter bag. Not pleasant, but now you know! In related news, the doctor told Fred that the bag would last 12 hours. The doctor was wrong. Fred learned that and fixed that at 4 am this morning. Mr. Independent! 

Hopefully, everyone gets some sleep tonight and the bucket doesn't get too messy!

Friday, January 4, 2013


We got Fred home today, and he is thrilled to be there! The night went well, and his pain has been pretty bearable. As the day wore on, his back and shoulders were really sore from being on the operating table for so long and in such an odd position. He is having a massage this evening to hopefully relieve some of the tension.

Fred has an additional reason for his soreness. Apparently, he kept trying to get up and said he wanted to dance when he first got to the recovery room.  At one point, he even ripped his drain out from his side from all his crazy movements. Anyone that has seen him on the dance floor will believe that:)

Fred's eyes started to clear up mid-morning. The doctor said its rare for that to happen and it's from the position of his head during surgery being bent back. Apparently, when you have surgery they run all kinds of fluids through your body. Since Fred's head was below his body, the fluids went towards his eyes. Eventually, those fluids crystallized, Fred rubbed his eyes, and it caused soreness, swelling, and blurred vision. The Doc said it happens 3-4 times a year. Fortunately, his eye sight continued to improve, and Fred didn't want to stay in the hospital just to see the eye doctor. All his numbers were good and the doctor cleared him to go home!

The kids were waiting at the house to greet Fred when Julie and Richie brought him home this afternoon. Fred was starving so Elaine had eggs and jello waiting for him.  He is on a soft diet for the next few days. Fred and Elaine were cracking up as they were trying to figure out the catheter. Staci was there when the nurse was explaining it, so she was trying to teach them. It was quite entertaining. It will be an interesting week.

It is a good thing that Fred and Elaine are very experienced at laughing through their trials. They wanted to go out for a little walk to get some fresh air this afternoon. They (Fred) was certainly a site to be seen. He is trying to get used to carrying is little white bucket with him. Richie warned him that he will only walk away without it once:)

We got some especially great news this evening! The doctor called Fred to let him know that the biopsy results were back, and the cancer had not spread! The doctor rushed pathology because he was concerned that it had spread. His cancer was very, very aggressive. The doctor was shocked by its aggressiveness. This was one of the primary reasons the surgery took so long. His prostate was very enlarged and the cancer was aggressive and starting to spread outside the walls. He took his time to get as much of the area around it as possible, and that was very beneficial to Fred. It was a matter of a week or two that it would have spread at the rate it was going. There is no doubt that both Fred and Elaine have angels looking down on them. We are so grateful tonight! Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and love. They have been answered!

Larry is also continuing to improve. He's still in ICU and on a respirator, but improving!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


The day started very early for us all. Elaine found Fred in the in the kitchen at 11:58pm devouring what was left of the ice cream. She said, "Fred you can't eat past midnight." He said, "I have two more minutes left and I am eating until 12!" He did too. It was a sleepless night, as you can imagine. Richie(also known as the greatest brother ever) picked Fred up at 5:30am. They checked into the hospital and Ben and Staci weren't far behind. Richie had Fred laughing and helped keep him calm, although Fred remained in good spirits during pre op.

Fred was anxious for his "juice." There was a slight delay.  Fred did forget to take off his "Love" bracelet that requires a screwdriver. The nurses were scrambling to find screwdrivers. Fortunately, Ben became MacGyver, and used a clip he found in his briefcase to get it off. Even the doctors were impressed:)

They wheeled him back about 7:30 am to start the procedure. It took longer than the 3 1/2-4 hours they excepted. They finished about 12:30. It went really well. His prostate was very enlarged, that is why it took longer. They had to go very slow with the robot at times, but they got it all. They got plenty of nodes to sample, and we should know the results next week. It appears to be contained to the prostate. Everything went as well as we could hope today. He was very sleepy all afternoon and evening. He did get up and walk tonight, and is ready to come home! He didn't have any pain this evening, his only source of discomfort are his eyes. They are burning and swollen. It is from the surgery, and the position of his head, likely because it took longer than anticipated. We are hopeful the medicine will not wear off until morning, and he has a restful night of sleep. 

Elaine was exhausted tonight. It was a long day. She was happy not to be the one in the hospital bed this time, but we are hoping to stay away from hospitals for the rest of the year. Elaine has been unusually tired, and cold. She walks around in a ski parka all the time. They did some blood work today to make sure everything is ok. She was relieved to have the day over and ready to take care of Fred! 

Thank you to everyone for your love, prayers, and concern. We are so grateful! Thank you for your prayers for Larry as well. After Fred was out, and Ben was able to see him, he headed to the desert to visit his dad in the hospital. Please continue to keep him in your prayers a well. Much love from the Smith and Francois Family and a HUGE thank you to Richie and Julie, who yet again, have come to our rescue! We are hopeful that we will be able to bring Fred home tomorrow afternoon. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


We are all anxious for tomorrow and ready for Fred to have his procedure. The Smiths are in good spirits and Elaine is buzzing around town! Elaine looks great! She is clear headed and medication free, we are proud to announce! She went through some aches and pains like a champion, but is ready to resume her role as Fred's caretaker! She has been going to Pilates for her appointments and on her own to ride the bike. Fred has done all his necessary prep work, and has his package of post op surgery goodies. He is very optimistic, as we all are!

We are asking for another favor tonight. The love, prayers and concern you have showed  Fred and Elaine are so appreciated! We ask that you please add Ben's father, Larry to them as well. He is in the hospital as well, currently in ICU. He has a horrible case of pneumonia, one of the worst the hospital has seen. He is going on a ventilator tonight to give his lungs some rest. He is really struggling to breathe and has been wearing a very invasive oxygen mask and it is not giving his lungs enough of a break and they need to heal. Please say an extra prayer for him, as well as the whole Francois family. Thank you!

We are bring in 2013 with a BANG, but thinking our official "new year" begins on January 27th! A HUGE shout out to Dr. Barry Hackshaw who is Elaine's cardiologist, Fred's phone mate a few times a week (discussing Elaine's ever changing INR level), and is also overseeing Larry in the hospital, acting as both a doctor, and most importantly, a friend. It is rare to find someone like Dr. Hackshaw in the medical world and we are so grateful to have him on our side!!