It has been a weekend of shampoos, phone calls, and absorbing the beauty of my own backyard. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Great day at MDAnderson!  It truly matters where you start...and we're starting with the best!  Thank you, Team KK!  

Wednesday, March 15, 2023--Beware the Ides of March

One of the more thoughtful parts about being at MDA is their artistic way of relieving stress and anxiety. Beautiful artworks and photos line the hallways and fish tanks are featured in many of the waiting rooms. After spending yesterday with KK's mouth doctor and staff, we are here early this morning for blood work and a CT scan of the neck.  This afternoon--her annual mammogram, gotta protect the girls once a year!  Ladies:  getter'dun! --AA 

Come May, KK will be ready for some fava beans and a nice Chianti!  

March 15, 2023

Well, the Ides of March are almost over and here are the highlights of our two-day visit with several of the the Oncologist Team Members at MDA.

KK’s cancer is officially classified Stage 4.  At the end of the month, her amazing surgical team will remove cancerous lymph nodes, cancerous particles extrapolated from the lymph nodes (ECE-extracapsular extension), cancerous bone from the right lower jaw, and will remove parts of the left fibula to reconstruct the right jaw.  After a healing period of about 4 weeks, the radiation and mouth team will begin prep for 6 weeks of radiation (30 sessions) and 6 weeks (6 sessions) of chemo.  KK is in excellent health (aside from having cancer) and the prognosis should be great—especially because “The A-Team” is so good at taking notes and stage directions.  When all is said and done, KK will soon have a new normal as her jaw, mouth, and treatment side effects will alter her regular habits, but the MDA team has bountiful therapists and team members for everything:  swallowing, chewing, breathing, etc….so she will not be without tender loving care.

More later…it’s time for a rest.

March 17, 2023

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  It was an early morning at MDA to scan the lower extremities and make sure the fibula is good enough to aid in jaw reconstruction. Don’t ask why KK may be shaving the inside of her cheek from now on, but a skin graft is a skin graft. Before heading back to Austin, the afternoon was spent with her favorite NP at MDA’s Cancer Prevention Clinic preceded by an annual boob smash. (Girls, get’em done!) (Side note:  AA and KK started their annual trips to Cancer Prevention 30 years ago—on the very day their mom had her mastectomy.) AA and Athena are currently in Austin awaiting KK and CL’s return with a pitcher of old fashioned bourbon chilling in the fridge. Too many pokes of the proverbial pig this week…and a bit of bourbon calms KK’s tumor throb. (And tastes pretty good, too.)

March 19, 2023

Had a lovely weekend in Austin before things get really crazy. KK, AA, and AL had a mini-makeover at Sephora before an informal photo shoot with our good friend and photographer, Kim, of Blu Tree Studios. In honor of KK and CL’s 10th Anniversary as well as celebrating KK before the surgeons work their magic, we thought it apropos to capture the moment with a Nikon.  (Photo shoot pics not, yet, available.)  KK will be in the thick of radiation during AL and MM’s wedding festivities, so she also took some photos with the soon-to-be newlyweds. We didn’t see the sun, but the love was warm and the hugs phenomenal--as was dinner at Fonda San Miguel.  (Thanks, CL!)

March 22, 2023

KK and CL had the last of the pre-surgery consults at MDA yesterday. “Thundercats are go” for a full day of surgery.  If I were clever, I would draft a ditty about what’s about to happen to the tune of the 12 Days of Christmas—something along the lines of: 12 surgeons prepping, 11 hours [surg-er-ing], 10 drugs awaiting, 9 bourbons clinking, 8 days of no talking, 7 nurses beaming, 6 weeks of radiating, 5 molars gone, 4 months to heal, 3 angry lymph nodes, 2 in the waiting room, and a fibula that no one really needs. Clearly…exhaustion eclipses cleverness. Seriously, though, KK and her A-Team thank you for the love, prayers, photos, white light, texts, memes, emails, and cards.  They mean so much to all of us!  

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Today started early with pre-surgery blood and COVID tests. (Passed!) Lunch and dinner with great friends, a family trip to the pedicure place and here we are at the end of the day. Thanks again for the calls, texts, and emails. Pictured above is KK receiving a blessing from friend and Rabbi, Neil Blumofe. Prayers and white light have been coming from all faiths and parts of the globe. Bring 'em on!  4:00 a.m. is but a few hours from now. AA will post updates through out the day tomorrow. The surgery should be 8-10 hours.  Goodnight...and goodbye to cancer. 

Monday, March 27, 2023

6:00 a.m.  We are in the pre-op room with a carousel of medical personnel prepping her for surgery. Wheels up: 7:00 a.m.

7:10 a.m.

She's been whisked off to the operating room--feeling no pain I might add.  The long wait begins. 

7:15 a.m.

There is a wonderful gentleman in the waiting room who used to work the night shift on the swing bridge in Matagorda. I wonder how many times he and my dad crossed paths for 3:00 a.m. fishing journeys. 

8:15 a.m.

CL found the Starbucks. Thanks, bro. 

10:20 a.m.

Update from the operating room:  surgery started at 8:18 a.m.  KK is stable and vitals are good. 

On another note, I believe the waiting room is the recipient of wafting white light (which is truly meant for the patient fighting cancer.) It's very quiet up here, but there is a connective tissue from family member to family member awaiting news and updates on their loved ones' progress. I'm grateful to the MDA volunteers who are so caring and informative with all of us family members sitting in silence...waiting. 

11:30 a.m.

Just met with our amazing quarterback surgeon, Dr. G.  His part of the neck surgery is done--and there were no surprises. Yay!  He said the computer modeling they use made his part of today's surgery go rather smoothly. (Yay science!  Yay technology!) She currently has a feeding tube. They have not performed a tracheostomy, yet, and hope they don't have to do so. They removed layers of lymph nodes (about 40) and have sent them to the pathologist. To the naked eye, he said they looked normal; some swollen, but normal nonetheless. (Let's hope the pathologist agrees!)  Dr. V. is still at work on the reconstruction part of her surgery--which will last another 5-6 hours, perhaps. They'll be removing part of her left fibula to rebuild the parts of her jaw they cut out. The nurses will provide updates throughout the will I. Love--A. 

12:30 p.m.

Waiting Room Observation and Low-level resistance:  downtime and pop-up windows are not good for my credit card. I have two deliveries coming since 5:00 a.m. this morning. New white Vans?  Why, yes, I did need those. I'm in a hospital noted for medical studies. I wonder what they'd discover from a study on surgical waiting room online purchase practices?


1:00 p.m.

There is a reason why Chik-Fil-A has the longer waiting line in the MDA cafe. Clearly, my Asian chicken bowl had the shortest line--which is why I stupidly chose it. The more you know. 


1:45 p.m.

So, for those who don't know, K's mouth will be closed for the next several days so her new jaw can set. In order get herself in the proper mindset for healing, she has been visualizing that she is on a silent retreat at an Indian Ashram. She even packed a suitcase of scarves (and a lamp) with which I am to decorate her hospital room. My scenic design skills are at the ready...she just needs to get out of surgery and into a room. No hurry...surgeons mustn't rush. 

2:15 p.m.

CL and I just had a phone update from the operating room. The plastics team is still at work. KK is stable. They've just started using some kind of micro tool--perhaps to conduct minute surgical work on her jaw (or maybe to plant micro greens in the empty tooth cavities where her molars used to be.)


4:30 p.m.

Dr. G, the quarterback of our operating team, just stopped by the Azalea Waiting Area to throw us a fantastic pass. Everything thus far is going well. And the best news...when CL asked about how much longer, Dr. G said, "Dr. V (the plastic surgeon) is a perfectionist, so time is irrelevant.  It takes as long as it takes."  


While waiting in the Azalea Waiting Area, I overhear a woman discussing this amazing actress she's heard of in the Texas UIL One-Act Play contest. Of course, she's speaking my language so my ears prick up and I listen in. (Mrs. Kravitz ain't got nothin' on me today.) Turns out, she's speaking of a fine, young actor who I have had the pleasure of working with twice in the past two years. I love it when worlds collide. (And this woman was right. Bri is an amazing actor.) 



Nurses info update:  KK is still under the microscope and vitals are stable. We offered to buy the info nurse supper for more information, but she smilingly declined. At least I think she was smiling...she was masked. 

6:45 p.m.

They whisked her out of the the pre-op room at 7:12 this morning. And now, 11 hours and 30 minutes later, we meet face-to-face with the amazing Dr. V. He's smiling (almost giddy).  He sits down next to CL and me (avoiding at all costs the kale we are sure to have protruding from our teeth as the Sweetgreen salads are fresh on our breath.) He said the mandible fit to perfection in her jaw. He said the skin from her left leg was a bit tricky and thus the surgery ran a bit longer than 10 hours, but all is well. "It takes as long as it takes" says Dr. G.  She didn't need to have the tracheostomy--about which KK will be most delighted. After chatting with us about NPR and salad grads from Georgetown, Dr. V stood up and looked at the two of us and said, "You can both have a good night...and exhale."  Amen, Dr. V!  He said she is awake and her "flap sounds great."  She'll be in recovery for a few more hours...and then to her own, private Ashram surrounded by IVs, leg pumps, and cheek drains. (Scarves and camels soon to follow.)  Modern medicine did a great service today!  Thank you to our surgical A-Team!  Thank you, M. D. Anderson for doing everything you can to "make cancer history"!  

9:15 p.m.

Well, KK is still in recovery. (The nurse called and said pain management was being assessed.) In the giant annex of flower-named waiting areas (azalea area, geranium area, hibiscus area, etc...) it's just CL, me, and the fish. I guess if you're reading this, you know which of us (CL, me or the fish) are snoring. Well-earned snores, I must say.  

10:10 p.m. Last post of the night. 

She is now in a private room awaiting pain meds and some well-deserved rest. Her silent retreat has begun and she greeted CL and me with the following dry erase board missive while we filled her in on the day's procedures. (We feel the same about her 100% btw). Goodnight, everyone!  Enter your night's slumber with gratitude for those who earn a living caring for others. The surgeons, nurses, aids, volunteers, name it...earned our thanks and love today. XO--A.