Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The photo at right is from Terry's February night out with his boys--Ed (Terry's dad), Jace, John, Shane and Ron. These great friends came to Indy to enjoy a night of red meat, stories, and Maker's Mark. Cheers to the boys!

This update is coming to you courtesy of Terry's blushing bride, Lee Ann.

To complete research for our upcoming book, "Emergency Rooms of America," Terry and I traveled to Bethesda, Md. We presented ourselves as a man with a brain tumor experiencing agonizing abdominal pains and his very concerned wife.

We're quite certain that by sharing our experiences in literary form, we will provide valuable insight to that guy with a gash needing stitches at 2 in the morning or that gal with a migraine on Memorial Day.

OK, maybe not. This is how the events of the last two weeks have unfolded, Reader's Digest-style.

We flew into Baltimore on Monday, April 6, looking forward to our NIH appointment to learn the results of the first round of Sutent. There had been some disruption in the medication schedule, due to blood pressure issues, so we were a little anxious about the visit.

However, what had begun as abdominal discomfort for Terry at 12:30 pm became sheer and utter torment by 5:30 pm, leaving him writhing and moaning on our deluxe king-size bed at the Hyatt Regency. So, armed with info from the NIH, we headed to Suburban Hospital's ER to address the stabbing pain that kept him flat on his back.

Unfortunately, it was a surprisingly busy night in the metropolis and so took three hours to be seen, and another two hours to get pain medication. Terry joked that I was a few minutes and one more polite ask away from channeling Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment ("Give my daughter the shot!!")

After a CT scan and lots of poking and prodding, the doctors determined he was suffering from acute pancreatitis. The doctors at the NIH confirmed that this complication was a rare but possible side-effect of the Sutent. By 3 am, Terry was resting comfortably (thank you, Dilaudid, pain medicine of the gods) and I was relieved to hear him joking again.

Over the course of the next three days, Terry was given lots of fluids, less and less pain medication, and more solid foods. By the time he was discharged on Thursday afternoon, we were encouraged about his pancreas. I mean, who really thinks about it, until it hurts like hell.

On Friday 4/10, we completed the majority of our previously scheduled appointments at the NIH and headed to the Neurology Clinic to await time with the doctors and review the results. We learned from our good friends there that Terry had experienced the greatest results so far on the Sutent trial. His scans showed a dramatic difference from a month ago. We were speechless, dumbfounded even.

We headed home that evening (esctatic and exhausted) and Terry took it easy for the weekend. He stayed home on Monday too; I assumed he was just wiped out from the anxiety of pain and the anticipation of results of our NIH visit. We'd followed the new diet (low fat, low cholesterol) to the letter but he was eating a lot less than normal. Unfortunately, Monday evening, I came home to find him frozen by pain and we were off to the ER once more.

The current diagnosis is more of the same. The pancreas does not like the Sutent and we must treat it with a great deal of TLC. For the time being, Terry will continue to push pain meds and drink clear fluids at IU Hospital (in downtown Indianapolis). The hope is that after a few more days, they will help the pancreas heal itself and the pain will be gone. He's a very good patient, cracking jokes with the nurses and complimenting their stellar patient care.

Luckily, Terry's parents are here now and helping us tremendously. Thank Heaven for grandparents. And thank you for all your support through the trials and tribulations of Terry (another book!). Seriously, we genuinely believe that your prayers and positive energy keep us going.

PS Terry was discharged from IU Hospital on Tuesday, 4/21. For now the pancreatitis seems to be calmed however his body is not recovering well. They tell us that the biggest issue now is the low platelet count (the thing your bone marrow produces). He cannot have any surgery to address the pancreatitis, nor take the Sutent, until that improves dramatically. Blood tests tomorrow 4/23 will tell us if that is happening. We visit with the oncologist next week.

More soon.

Keep those cards and letters (and blog comments) coming. We'll read them all to Terry and he loves the show of affection (such a ham!).

Lee Ann


Mike Chasteen said...


I am so humbles by your unbelievable strength. Your blogpost has me in tears, not because I am sad but because I think that you and Terry are amazing people and your courage and fortitude are simply astonishing. I am not sure I could personally endure the journey you are on. God has a very precise plan, whwether he has revealed it to you or not, you can believe he does. We continue to pray for you and Terry and your family. Thanks for the post.

Strude86 said...

I'm just wondering if Lee Ann is the ghostwriter of Blogspots past, present or future?

More importantly, you remain in my prayers and I'm hopeful that this little pancreas thingie will just wind down a bit.

Be safe and be well, all of you.

David & Jennet

Expat Hausfrau said...

Thanks for the well-written update, Lee Ann, and despite the hell that Terry has endured with his pancreas, that is incredibly heartening news about the Sutent doing its job! Keep us all posted, and we hope to be sharing beers with you all someday in the future in Terry's land of birth.

Mucho Liebe,

The "Me" of Four Plus Me said...

Wow! That was a mixed bag...some ups and downs all in one. My cousin had pancreatitis (I am sure I am not spelling that right) although his was induced by alcoholism at like 30, a much less noble form. At any rate, I have seen someone in that kind of pain and know there is really not much you can do but rest it. Keep it up, your determination is paying off! That is such encouraging news about the Stutent (probably not spelling that right either). now, just get that pancrease to play along... :)

CeCe Farha Wieser said...

OK Mr. Harper, you better get that pancreas to behave! You have to eat cake soon! As always, you and the family are in our thoughts and prayers! Love you!

Mary Nolan said...

Keep on pushin'. We are on your side--Nolan-Bronsons

Mrs. Gillman said...

Dear Terry and Lee Ann,

Suburban Hospital is run by sadists. I keep telling you to call us when you're in Bethesda. We live less than a mile from there and have been there many times, each time more miserable than the last. We have given up on that place.

We could have told you where NOT to go, unless you either wanted to wait for several hours or keel over right on the floor and have no one notice. At least I could have come over and bitched at them for you. I'm good at that.

Todd said it was very nice visiting with you last week, and that you were cracking all kinds wise. Looking forward to seeing you as MC at the Sigma Delta Chi awards in your tuxedo very soon.


SallyB said...

Cousin! (And Lee Ann, and Dale, and Jace, and Uncle Ed, and Aunt Joan) Well, so glad to see a blog update at last. Look, we're all waiting to see you this summer at the Harper Hootenanny, so you've GOT to get better just so we can enjoy that rapier wit of yours!

I'm amazed at your strength and courage through this entire thing and I look forward to more blog posts, hoping for some good news from the Harper household. I'm so glad that Uncle Ed and Aunt Joan are there with you (say hi to them for me, won't you?). We may grow up and become adults, but it's always nice to have your parents there when you need them, particularly when you're sick or in need of some good old fashioned parental TLC.

So Harpers, here's a little dose of some of my strentgh for the journey. I'm sending it in the form of good thoughts, healing energies and hopes for a positive outcome in all of this. Take what you need, for I've enough to spare for all of you. Consider me your cheering section here in Ohio.

Love, Sally

Jill said...

Wow! A real roller coaster (and not the good kind in Cedar Point!). What good news about the Sutent and what a crappy development with the pancreatitis. The strength of the entire Harper clan is truly something to behold. You are amazing people. Rest up, Terry, and get back to the business of healing.

Lee Ann, you're every bit the writer that Terry is. There's a lot of talent in that house of yours! Thank you for taking the time to update the blog.

Virtual Farmgirl said...

We're thinking about you all and our prayers are with you. We'll double our efforts.

Thanks for the updates Lee Ann. Your family's spirit and positive attitude remains an inspiration.

pharper said...

Lee Ann,

We think of you often and pray for good news for Terry. Thanks for keeping us up-to-date with your posts and know we're with you in spirit. Love to all. . .

Cincinnati Harpers

Clyde said...

God damn it I think what the boy needs is a big night of booze and karaoke. Didn't the NIH tell you what remarkable comebacks have been recorded because of a lot of tequila and the Petula Clark songbook?
But apparently his inner strength is as tough and resilient already: that and that amazing little family of his.
Man, every day one can look out the train window at about 1000 different strangers, many of them with a look of combat on their face, some with some inner sorrow, some making the best of it, but each with their own fight to wage that day. How those challenges fare when compared against The Harper Story is easy to glean. Terry, Lee Ann and the boys are the real life Fantastic Four, punching away pessimism with amazing uneartly strength every day. And I can say I know them and their example has certainly enhanced my goofy life twentyfold. Keep punching.

greg gulick said...

WOW Terry!! The wow is how great a writer Lee Ann is!!! Oh, yeah and your medical advwenture. I am glad to see the true Terry is there. You know the smart aleck, wise guy. I am thinking if the Sutan will change any of that?? I hope not.

Can I call you on the "Bat" phone ??


Carl said...

Fortunately, as a vet I'm an expert on pancreatitis...see it all the time. No more table scraps for Terry. I only wish it were that simple. Thanks for the update, Lee Ann. I'm really encouraged about the the tumor responding to the Sutent...hopefully your medical team can figure a way around the pancreas and soon. I'm continually touched and amazed at the spirit and courage you guys have shown, as well as the kindness and support of friends and family.
FYI, every day this week at the catholic church i attend is a special mass to pray for cancer patients (Novena to St. Peregrine, if you like trivia). Anyway, I'll be there for at least a couple of them asking for some platelets and other things you guys might need. Hang in there, Harpers.
Peace and love,

kkozlen said...

Thinking of you, and wish I was there to share a Makers with you.

DebW said...

Happy Birthday, Terry! You already have your gift - a wife who's strong, beautiful AND a great writer - it just doesn't seem fair! I hope we hear nothing but good news in the next installment of "Terry's Trials & Triumphs!" Thinking of you all, Deb W.

Christine Tatum said...

Remember, Terry: do NOT let the piss ants get you down.

Some wise guy (in more ways than one) once told me that ...

Prayers being said!

Anonymous said...

Lee Ann and Joan,

We met yesterday at First Mondays. It was a pleasure to meet you and hear your story. After reading your blog I now know the rest of the story.

You are two very courageous and caring women. Terry is very lucky to have you on his side.

I will keep you, Terry, Jace and Dale, in my prayers.


Peg said...

Dear Terry,

Count me as one of the ten Walkers who have been following your blog and wishing you all the best. We may be a silent bunch, but we are all with you in spirit.

All our love,

Peg and family

p.s. I'll never forget those snakes!! The stories are passed down to my own kids now.

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