Tuesday, February 18, 2020

PET scan... results?

Yesterday morning we got the preliminary results of my scan, but we couldn't make heads or tails of what was in there. So, we forwarded it on to my doctor. She didn't answer until late, when I was already in bed. All she wrote was "Good evening! Results of the blood tests and PET CT are good. Therefore we plan to stop treatment with that." Will asked her about a telephone consultation, and, yes, that will come later. It sounds like the doctors have to get the disk and final results of the scan, then have a meeting and discuss and decide formally. After that we should be able to find out more details. For now that's absolutely all we know. It sounds pretty good, but of course, we still have many questions.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The first few Poland pictures

I'm back from my PET CT scan, Will has started on our residency paperwork (it's much more relaxed with 90 days now, instead of the 45 we had years ago), and today is the last day of quarantine, unless they extend it again. So, I'll start to tell about our trip to Poland:

We flew to Kraków on a Tuesday. Some friends of ours happened to be on the plane with us, and their little girl was thrilled to see our girls. She entertained everyone on the plane with her joy in her first flight, too. When we arrived, we said goodbye to those friends, and our Kraków friend met us and drove us to the apartment we had rented for the week. He had a whole bag of food for our dinner and breakfast. We ate and went to bed. That night, between some very loud neighbours and not-so-good sleeping arrangements, we didn't sleep much, but we survived.

Bogdan drew this view.
The next morning Will and I went to Starbucks (!), then the Ukrainian consulate to apply for our visas. Our kids stayed by themselves at the apartment. (They don't need visas.) The consulate was packed with people. They accepted our documents, but weren't sure about our insurance. It's the insurance we buy every year for residency; still, the man behind the desk said that he would need to ask about it. We went out to pay at their bank, then back to the consulate to show that we had paid. All that took a while. Then we were supposed to come back again at 2:30. So, we walked to the apartment, ate lunch, and rested a little. When it was time to return to the consulate, we all went. We planned to pick up our visas, then walk on to our friends' house. The consulate decided that our insurance wasn't enough. It's good for living in Ukraine, but not for entering Ukraine and for the 90 days after entrance that they visas would be good for. So, Will went off to buy more insurance. The man warned him that it might be hard, because most places don't want to sell to non-residents, but he gave him several options to try and told him that he would wait for him to come back, even though the consulate was closed to visitors. The rest of us walked on, saw ducks in a creek, and enjoyed time with our friends. When Will was done, Jon picked him up, and we all had dinner together. 

Drawing, first thing in the morning
To record the fact that she was practicing
First picture of the ducks in the creek
That night we arranged everything better for sleep, and our new neighbours were quiet, so we were much happier. There aren't many photos from that first day, but get ready for lots from the rest of our time in Poland....

Monday, February 10, 2020

PET scan plans

Tomorrow night I'll travel to Kyiv for my PET scan, which will be on Wednesday at a new-to-me place out beyond the edge of the city. PET scans use radioactive sugar to show how active tumours are. The CT scans I've had before this just show size and shape. It sounds like this will be quite a procedure. Will called to see if they could take me earlier in the day, so that I don't have to fast as long, and they said, no, melanoma patients always go last, because their scans take the longest. I can eat breakfast though.

We had planned that I would stay overnight afterwards in Kyiv and see my own doctor the next day to go over the results, but again... melanoma. They say the results take longer than with other cancers, so we cancelled with my doctor. I'll just come home that night, and when we get the results (around 3 working days), we'll email them on to my doctor.

Please pray for my travels, the actual scan, and for good results, of course! It is possible that this scan could show that what is left is not active cancer, and then I could be done with treatment.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Home from Poland

We are home from what turned out to be a really wonderful trip. As I sort through photos, I hope to post a bunch more. Thank you to everyone who was praying!

We have been getting questions about the visa and residency process here, so I'll try to explain a little. Americans can visit Ukraine for up to 90 days without visas. However, if we want to live here, we have to have residency. That means getting a short term entry visa outside Ukraine and then applying for residency back in the country. Then, with temporary residency like we have had, we renew every year in Ukraine... if we get all the right documents in on time and they don't change their holiday work schedule, like they did this year. We've renewed for seven or eight years before this without any problem.

So, now that we're back, we will get all our documents together again and go apply for residency. Getting visas was just the first step.

Also, we came back to this:

School quarantine! Flu and cold season reached the official threshold to close schools. Music school is closed for all group lessons. Individual lessons are still available, if the student is healthy and the parents aren't afraid. Our art school is private, and they're choosing to stay open. It will actually be nice to have a little bit of a chance to catch up on our homeschooling, as our kids stay home from group classes and rehearsals. Although we'll still send everyone to individual lessons.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Update before Poland

I've been so, so tired since my most recent treatment, and we've been busy with all our usual life, plus preparations for travel. All is well, though. The documents we need on this end are ready. Will did get our visa applications switched to Krakow, so we'll fly there on Tuesday and turn in our documents on Wednesday. Then we should have our visas and free time to enjoy Krakow, until our flight home on the 4th.

These cheap plane tickets we have don't include baggage or even full sized cabin luggage, so our girls are having fits about how they're going to pack. Asya's flute teacher is also trying to figure out how Asya can practice in Poland. Today she sent home a lighter flute case, hoping that Asya can somehow take her instrument with her in that.

I am also set up for a PET scan on February 12. When Will called the place my doctor recommended in Kyiv, they didn't have anything until May 22! And we couldn't connect with anyone in Poland, even with Polish people helping and trying to make calls for us. But, there's another place outside Kyiv, and they'll take me. So that and all those travel arrangements are set for after we get back from Poland.

School with Cinnamon again

Monday, January 20, 2020

Keytruda #11 (and no Warsaw?)

The travel itself wasn't fun, but otherwise I had a really good trip this time around. That's just what I needed after the difficulties last time. My friend Anne gave me her whole day. The time at the clinic went smoothly and quickly, and then we had lunch and went back to Anne's to rest. In the evening her small group from church came over, and I got to meet them (and all their babies!) before my train home.

Anne took this photo.
My blood work was good, and there weren't any problems. My doctor said that I have had such good results with Keytruda, that it might be time to start talking about finishing treatment. So, she wants me to get a PET scan, instead of scheduling another Keytruda. It is possible that what CT scans show as remaining tumours might just be dead tissue, and a PET scan should tell us if that is the case or not. There are only a few places that do them in Ukraine, so it can be hard to get an appointment. When she heard that we're going to Poland soon, she jumped on that and suggested that we do it there. My friend in Poland already did some research for me, and Will's going to call to the other option in Kyiv today. Then we can decide when and where and how.

Also, there are visa appointments at the Kraków embassy now, so Will is going to try to pull our applications out of the Warsaw queue and get us in for Kraków.

I seem to be even more tired than usual this time around, but otherwise I feel fine. I'm enjoying naps and early bedtimes. As always, it's just really good to be home.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

2nd Christmas, back to school, and Warsaw

We had a really nice "2nd Christmas." Will and the kids went to church, while I watched online. They brought home gift bags for our neighbours. Raia went to a Christmas play at another church with her friends, but the rest of us had a nice Christmas dinner at home. In the evening, after Raia rejoined us, we went around to our closest neighbours to carol. Some of them had been waiting and asking long in advance. This year Asya played her flute for them, too. When we got back to our own house, we took treats over to our neighbour here. The mother and children are in Crimea for the holidays, and we miss them terribly. Their father got them on Skype for us, though, and there was a joyous virtual reunion. (They should be home soon. Hurrah!)

The next day we started back to school. That's going well. Only Bogdan got a cold, so he hasn't been able to go back to music school, but it's not slowing him down otherwise. His teacher was cancelling lessons yesterday, too, because she was sick. I'm hoping all will be healthy to start again soon.

And... Warsaw. We already made our travel plans for Krakow, and that's the only flight anyway. However, when we tried to turn in our visa applications online, we found out that there are no appointments at the Krakow embassy this month or next month. We had to do something, so we applied to Warsaw. Now we'll fly to Krakow as planned, spend the night, and then Will and I will take a train on to Warsaw early the next morning, while our kids spend the day with our friends. When I told Bogdan that they would be staying with our friends for a day without us, he wanted to know if these friends speak Russian. (He calls them "the friends that I don't know," because he was too little to remember anything the last time we were together.) I told him that no, they don't speak Russian... or Ukrainian. They speak English and Polish. He was upset. I reassured him. Then he gave a big sigh and said, "Well, that's better than Chinese."

We will go back to Krakow that same day, and we're really hoping that we'll have our visas with us. Somehow. But Warsaw apparently takes 10 days to process, although that can be expedited to 5. Could they be ready on that Monday? Maybe Will can go back again alone to get them, just before our flight home Tuesday? Or something. We need lots of prayer, for that part and that our documents here will be ready in time; the offices here can be notoriously slow.