Sunday, December 21, 2008

An Update...

Hi all,

Well it's been a few days... just wanted to post an update on how John's doing. He officially made it through the first week of treatments. During the treatments, he was experiencing a bit of fatigue and some nausea, but nothing that wasn't controlled with the meds that he was given.

We stayed home the whole weekend and just laid low, so he has been able to get plenty of rest. Today the nausea was pretty bad, so we have been trying to find foods that are easy on the stomach that he will be able to keep down. Hopefully the nausea will pass. Here is John in his go-to spot these days:
If there is any upside to the fatigue that John is feeling, it has to be that I am not making him help me dig our driveway and front walk out of the foot of snow that we have gotten in the past couple days. John's friend Brian offered to come over to help with the shoveling...I might have to take him up on that.

Anyway, four days until Christmas. John's parents will be coming on Tuesday to visit for a few days. If John is feeling well enough, we are planning to go to the Boston Pops Christmas Concert and do dinner in Boston on Christmas Eve.

Also, I wanted to post a couple pics of our Christmas tree. John went to a tree farm with Brian & Sarah and Jason & Julie while I was in Chicago with my mom and sisters. They were all a little shocked that I let John pick out a tree by him self because I am insanely particular about Christmas trees, but I think he did an amazing job. It is just the perfect size to fit next to the fireplace. Last year our tree was too big, so we had to keep it in the dining room because it didn't fit in the living room. This one is perfect. I'll be sad when we have to take it back down.

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 15, 2008

Now You See It...Now You Don't

Well leave it to John to dive head first into this whole process. Since he is determined to avoid losing his hair in random clumps, he decided it would be best to just preemptively shave it all off. He had some fun in the in-between stages, but he is officially now beardless and bald (the beard was an addition since his surgery). Here's a little picture of his new do:

Anyway, he had his first day of chemo today. It went pretty well. We had been told he would have to be there for about 5 1/2 hours each day, but they had us done in about 3 hours. So far he has not had much nausea. They put him on a pretty solid regimen of anti-nausea meds, so we are hoping the rest of the days this week go as well as today. We'll keep you posted...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Next Up...Chemotherapy

We had our follow-up visit with the oncologist in Friday, and they finally had all of John's test results. The good news is that his PET scan was clear, and all his tumor markers returned to normal. The other news was that the pathology of his tumor showed that he has two types of cancer in the tumor. The first is embryocarcinoma, which is fairly common and not terribly aggressive. The second is choriocarcinoma, which is rare and much more aggressive with a higher chance or recurrence. Usually when a choriocarcinoma does recur or metastasize it shows up in the bone, lung, or brain, which would obviously be not good. That being said, he has a Stage 1 choriocarcinoma which is highly treatable, and in fact, even more rare because usually by the time someone is diagnosed with this type of cancer they have already advanced to Stage 2-3. In this sense, John is extremely lucky to have had intervention this early.

So with all that comes treatment. He still has to have an MRI of the brain this week to insure that the cancer has not spread there at all. From the way the doctors sounded, they do not believe that is has spread (based on all the other test results), but they still have to do this last MRI to be sure. Next comes chemotherapy. John will be going through 3 cycles of chemo therapy, each cycle lasting 3 weeks, so 9 weeks in all. We have a teaching session scheduled for this Thursday with one of the oncology nurses, where they will go over the procedure, the side effects, etc, and we are supposed to come armed with all of our questions.

His first cycle of chemotherapy begins on Dec 15th. The 3 week cycles are broken down as follows:
Day 1-5 - come in for chemo each day for about 5 1/2 hours, may experience nausea, fatigue
Day 6-10 - at home, probably will feel okay
Day 11-17 - at home, will feel the most fatigued and weak, since this is the stage where all his blood counts will be depleted from the meds. Will be most susceptible to infection, so definitely can't be at school around kids
Day 18-21 - will be feeling better, recovered for next round of chemo (to start Jan 5th...and round and round we go)

His doctor has said that he cannot work during any of this time, not only because he will be feeling pretty lousy, but also because chemotherapy depletes the immune system, especially during Day 11-17, so being around school kids with all the stuff they carry, would be too risky. Even a common cold would be very dangerous. In fact, were supposed to monitor his temperature. If he starts running a fever at all, he will be admitted to the hospital for IV antibiotics. His boss has been very supportive through all this, and his district has approved his medical leave for the 9 weeks that he will be going through the cycles.

That's all for now, we'll keep this blog posted with updates on John's treatment.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Loss

I figured I'd wait until after Thanksgiving to share this news, so I wouldn't be a Debbie Downer for the holiday...

Last week I had a miscarriage. My hcg levels dropped, and my midwife had me do another ultrasound, which confirmed the loss. They scheduled me for a D&C last Wednesday. Physically, I am still in a little discomfort, but overall feeling well...emotionally, John and I have been trying to cope with this as best as we can. We have definitely been wrestling with this. It had seemed that God's hand was really in this pregnancy considering the timing along with John's cancer. With John's treatment may come fertility challenges for us, so it seemed as though getting pregnant when we did was such a blessing.

All we can do at this point is take one day at a time. We return to John's oncologist on Friday after some more blood work and a PET scan this week. We will find out whether or not John has to do any chemo.

In addition to all that, John is also seeing his orthopedic specialist this week. He had been having low back and hip pain for a number of months. When he was diagnosed with cancer, there was a concern that perhaps the cancer had spread and the pain was a manifestation of the metastasis. That does not appear to be the case. His MRI showed that in fact the pain was coming from spinal stenosis and two bulging discs in his back. When he sees his doctor this week, they will discuss the treatment options. From all the reading we have done it looks like they will be considering either cortisone injections along with more physical therapy or surgery. Right now, with everything else that is going on, the surgery option seems daunting... Anyway, we will find out more after he sees the doctor this week.

At this point we are just feeling a little overwhelmed. I am not naive, I know there are people in the world who are much worse off than we are, who deal with tragedy and hardships...however, for us in this time, it seems like it's just piling up a little too heavily.

We thank you for your continued prayers.

My friend Kristin posted some thoughts on her blog that were really encouraging considering all that we have been going through. In the margin was a link to another random blog entry that was edifying as them here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Good news so far

Well, just an update on how things are going with John. His surgery went well, and according to Dr. Wong, his CT scan looked clear. That might mean that the surgery got all the cancer. He goes back to both the urologist and oncologist next week for follow up tests to make sure his tumor markers have gone down, and to check on the pathology of the tumor. I guess from the pathology they can tell how aggressive/invasive the tumor was, and it will determine if he might need a couple rounds of chemotherapy. We are not in the clear yet, but right now he has been having the best possible results. Hopefully it will continue that way.

As for his recovery, he is doing well. He is in quite a bit of pain, and aside from the occasional walks around the house, he is not really getting around too much just yet. Thankfully, he is doing the stairs pretty well, so at least he doesn't have to sleep in his chair in the living room. Our couch is a little too deep and low to the ground, so it is kind of painful for him, so we have one of our Lafuma lawn chairs that reclines completely set up with blankets for him in living room. He has pretty much been living in that spot for the past few days.

Other than that, all is well. I had another ultrasound on Friday, at which point they still couldn't see the heartbeat, but based on the measurements they say the baby is growing which is all they are worried about. From all the reading I have done about this whole tipped uterus thing, it seems pretty common that they are unable to see the heartbeat at the beginning. Some women have said that they were unable to see the heartbeat at all until the second trimester. That being said, they told me dates which absolutely make no sense. We are really waiting until the uterus flips forward to get an accurate date. All in all I am still feeling well. Still no nausea, and I'll feel really fortunate if it stays that way since I am terrified of throwing up.

Well, gotta go. We'll keep this updated as we know more.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

All in Equal Measure...

Well it has been a busy past couple weeks.

About a month ago, John and I learned that we are going to become parents. We are very excited, and so far everything has been going pretty well. I have been feeling great - aside from some late-night heartburn and the fact that I just can't shake the feeling of being tired. Working nights probably doesn't help the fatigue, but it's not all that bad. We went for our first ultrasound last week, however we have to go back this week because they were unable to see the heartbeat. It turns out I have a tipped or retroverted uterus, which is not really a problem for the pregnancy because at about 16-20wks it will just flop forward into the normal position on it's own. Until then though, it makes it difficult to see the baby's size or heartbeat on ultrasound. Because of that, we have been getting dates that are all over the map. All I can say at this point with any certainty is that at some point next summer we will hopefully be having this baby... :)

The other news that we learned last week is that John has been diagnosed with testicular cancer. He was supposed to have a CT scan yesterday, but it got rescheduled for today. Hopefully it will give us some more information about the extent of this tumor, such as whether or not there is any lymph node involvement. His surgery is scheduled for tomorrow (Thurs) at 10:00am. We are really asking for prayers for him at that time, and we are praying for the best case scenario which is that the tumor is removed and there is no other cancer.

We are also praying for a speedy recovery for John. He is having a radical orchiectomy, which is an outpatient surgery, so they will operate in the morning and only keep him in recovery for a few hours before sending us home. At the very least, he is probably going to miss our ultrasound which is scheduled for the next day, which he is really disappointed about. They told him to expect a 2-3 wk recovery before returning to regular activities. I know he is not looking forward to being stuck at home for that long, not to mention having to get lesson plans ready for a sub for that amount of time.

I guess that's really everything. Please keep us in your prayers during this uncertain time.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lazy Saturday

Well, the fall weather has set in, and it has definitely gotten colder. I love the crisp air in the fall, that is, I love it when I'm outdoors....but our reluctance to turn our furnace on for the season has left me not loving the extreme crisp air indoors. The inside of our house actually seems to be 10-15 degrees cooler than outside, which has been getting a little uncomfortable.

You might ask why we don't just turn on the heat. Well, we strive each year to hold out as long as possible. I thought we might last until Thanksgiving, John thought until just the beginning of November. We might make his mark if we can hold off a few more days, but we definitely won't make it to Thanksgiving.

The reason we procrastinate on turning on the heat is that we have an 80 year old giant of a furnace that sucks oil in the the most inefficient way and is sadly not all that effective unless turned up pretty high. Thankfully, it looks like oil prices are dropping a little, but considering we have a 250 gallon oil tank in our basement and oil is still above $3 a gallon...we are not looking forward to having to fill it.

Take today for example. I worked last night, and slept most of the day, and while I am cocooned upstairs in my bedroom with the space heater running, it's actually pretty comfortable. Once I leave this room, that's when comfort ends, because the rest of the house is frigid. Unfortunately, John is down in Philly at his parents new (warm) house, so I am left here in the cold all by myself. I was thinking of going to Panera Bread for two reasons - 1) hot soup sounds amazing, and 2) they heat that place... The only problem is, I really need to shower if I am going to allow myself to go in public, but the thought of my ice cold bathroom is enough to deter me from my dreams of steaming cheddar and broccoli soup with a grilled chicken caesar salad.

Okay, so it's possible I may be overstating it just a bit, but it's just really cold in here...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Best of Summer '08

I have been going through some of my photos from the summer, and there are so many that I haven't even gotten to yet. That's the thing about digital photos, I feel like some of them will never be put to any use. They will stay neatly filed away in folders on my computer. Probably never printed, and for sure never sad. So, here are just a few that I thought deserved to see the light of day.

These were taken when we went home to Philly one weekend in June to do some packing. While there, Cissy took me to Chanticleer Gardens in Radnor, PA. The place was beautiful. There were so many flowers in bloom, fountains, sculptures, ponds, trails...needless to say my camera got heavy use that day. Since flowers are my favorite thing to photograph, I snapped away all afternoon while Cissy patiently waited. Here are some of the best shots.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

September...Full Swing

Well we are officially back into the swing of things here. I am in my second week of night shifts, which will be my regular shift for the foreseeable future. I like the shift, and I like the girls I work with, but getting my sleep schedule on track will be the challenge over the next couple weeks.

John is back in the routine too. In fact, he will be a lot busier than usual this year. He is starting his masters degree at the University of Rhode Island this fall, so he has class a couple nights a week on top of everything else. Between work, school, physical therapy, Bible study, homework club, basketball, and intramurals, I don't know how often we will actually see each other. Most days I will be gone for work before he gets home from work, and vice versa in the mornings. Oh well, I'm sure we'll make it work.

Not much else going on with us. My task for today (which I am putting off by tooling around on the Internet right now) is to start sewing the cushions for our front porch furniture. I'll take a picture and post it when I'm done. Well, I better get back at it...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I haven't decided yet...BUT...

There is obviously no secret that I am a Republican surrounded in a sea of liberals living up here in New England, so I always feel outnumbered at election times. That being said, in general I consider myself an educated citizen. I don't just vote a straight ticket Republican for the sake of voting Republican.

Anyway, I was really anti-Hillary during the primaries, but I don't really get that excited about McCain or Obama either. I figured I would just have to learn a little more about both of them before the election. Well, here is some interesting reading about Obama that would really make anyone think twice about voting for him. (
The best part is, I can't even be accused of presenting Republican biased information, since this information is put forth by a group called Clintons 4 McCain. This is a group of Democrats and Independents who really can't stomach the thought of Barack in the White House.

The sad part is, most of the info and video that they provide pretty much stands alone as proof of Obama's naivety, dishonesty, and even his own running mate's belief that McCain is a better qualified candidate that Obama. Watch for yourself:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The end of summer...

I can't believe summer has flown by so fast. It seems like no time at all since I graduated and started my job, but now here we are near the end of August already. John actually had his first day of school today.

Since my last post, we have been trying to enjoy some of our summer. John's family was up in Rhody, and we stayed with them at the amazing house they rented in Jamestown, RI. It was beautiful. Good times, good views, good eats...

I enjoyed snapping some pictures while we were there. Some really cute ones of our nephew Liam. Also having Narragansett Bay literally in the backyard provided great opportunities for photographs as well. Here are some of the faves:

Our backyard dockOn one of the days of bad weather, I snapped shots of what I thought was a tornado, but what was actually called a waterspout...which is really just a type of tornado.
This was literally right off our back deck. Kind of cool...
Taking pictures of Liam at the beach was fun. In a two hour timespan I managed to take over 200 pictures...I can't imagine what will happen when we have kids of our own...
Liam the future quarterbackSunrise on the bay - view from the backyard...not too shabby.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sara Claypool, RN, BSN

Hi...okay, so I did exactly what John said I would do... I posted a few times, and then got side-tracked and forgot about the blog. Anyway, since my last post, a few exciting things have happened.

I started my new job at Miriam Hospital, which I am really enjoying. I am on 3 North which is a med-surg floor. I am in my 5th week of orientation on the day shift (7a-7p), and in 3 weeks I switch to the night shift (7p-7a). It's going well, but I am pretty exhausted...I'm not exactly a morning person, so 7a is a little bit of a challenge for me.

Also, even better than the job is that I took my boards on July 15th and passed. I am officially an RN. No more studying, no more practice questions...!!!

John and I officially joined Christ Church. We have been going to church and small group Bible study there for a couple years. Every time we saw the announcement for the new members class in the bulletin we said we should go, so we finally did. Here's their website:

Other than that, John and I have been getting underway with some more house projects. John has been working on trim and painting in the kitchen and I am working on the front porch. Always something to work on in this house.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Everyone needs one...a good mechanic.

Tow charge from Tasca Ford to Precision Automotive.....$60
New battery, battery cable, and labor.....$167
Finding a good, honest mechanic to rescue me from the fangs of the Ford dealership...Priceless!

A couple days ago I went to Roger Williams Park, as I have been doing a lot these days, to relax and take some pictures. I brought a lunch, with the idea of spending the afternoon there. As I was pulling into the park, there was a little bit of a road block as a mass of geese and a couple swans decided to cross the road all at once. There were cars lined up in both directions honking at the birds as if that's the way to motivate them to get out of the wasn't. I found the whole situation a little comical, and since there was a swan in the bunch, I got out to take some pictures. You see, my mom started a photo scavenger hunt for the month of June, and one of the items on the list was a "bird that is mostly white." I have taken pictures of the swans at the park before, but one of the rules was that the picture had to be taken this month, so I figured this was perfect.

Anyway, I parked my car and spent a few minutes taking pictures of the swans and geese, and got back into my car to head to the picnic area to eat my lunch. Well, my car wouldn't start. It wouldn't even turn over. Unfortunately, John was still at school, so I was stuck. I wandered around the park for a while and found a place to eat lunch. I was hoping by some stroke of luck that when I made my way back to the car, somehow my car would just start up...wishful thinking.

After a couple hours at the park, and many phone calls, I finally got in touch with John to come meet me and a tow truck. The tow truck driver, who was really nice, took a look at the car before we left, and showed us that the problem was leaking battery acid that had eaten through the positive cable and connectors on the battery. The battery would be a simple fix, but the cable which ran from the battery to some mysterious location underneath the engine would require a lift to get under the car, which we did not have. So we needed to get to a mechanic.

Unfortunately, Ford Roadside Assistance will only tow cars to Ford dealerships, so off we went to Tasca Ford in Cranston. They said that just to look at the car to tell us what was wrong (even though we had already told them what was wrong) would cost me $90 for a "diagnostic fee," but not to worry, the cable was probably covered under my extended warranty in which case the $90 fee would be waived. Two hours later, a phone call from Ford told us that in fact the part was not covered (how convenient-nothing ever is), and that the parts and labor would cost $835!! We were floored, since my brother-in-law had told me to expect somewhere around $200.

So, now I was in search of another estimate because obviously $835 was a little insane. I called a few friends for recommendations, and then thought to call my church for a recommendation as well. Jodi, in the office, referred me to Mike at Precision Automotive in West Warwick. He gave me an estimate of around $150-$200 for parts and labor. After the quote from Ford, I am not sure what I was expecting, but definitely not that low! We had the car fixed yesterday for $167, and even though we had to pay another $60 for a tow to another garage, it was worth it.

I did call the Ford dealer to let them know that I was taking my car somewhere else. I tried to get out of paying the $90 "diagnostic fee" since all they had done was tell me exactly what we had told them when we walked in the door, but it was to no avail. Basically, I took a $90 gamble that the part would be covered under my warranty, in which case everything would be taken care of free of charge, but things never seem to work out that way with Ford. I bought that extended warranty for times just like this, but every time I take my car in, nothing seems to be covered under the warranty. The problem is, they won't tell me whether or not a part is under warranty until after I've paid the $90. They are holding my warranty hostage, and I told them as much when I called. I also questioned how they can feel right about quoting $835 for work that only cost $167 elsewhere. Instead of responding to my question, I got a polite, but annoyed "Can I help you with anything else, m'am?"

Is there really any wonder why Ford is tanking? When a company sells useless warranties, doesn't stand by their product or abide by their recalls (this is not he first problem with this car), and has service people that are trying to rob you blind, is it any wonder why people would rather buy a Toyota?

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Yesterday was our 3rd anniversary, so John took the day off work to hang out. We went to the Roger Williams Park Zoo, mostly because I was really interested in going to their new butterfly exhibit called "Flutterby." The majority of the zoo was kind of a disappointment, as it seemed like many of the animals were not available or something...a lot of empty spaces. Plus they are doing massive construction on the zebra/elephant/wildebeest area, so we couldn't see the zebras or elephants either.

BUT, the Flutterby exhibit was awesome. It was a small greenhouse filled with flowers and swarming with various types of butterflies. I had way too much fun with my new camera taking butterfly pictures. Of the 700 or so pictures we managed to take at the zoo, well over half were of the butterflies. I tried to get pics of each of the different types of butterflies they had in the exhibit, but I think I missed a couple. There was one butterfly, a Buckeye, that made a home on John's finger for the majority of our time there. He named it Cleveland. Here are a few of the butterfly was hard to choose.
"Cleveland" the Buckeye
Zebra Long WingPainted LadyGreat Southern White

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

The kick-off to summer...

We had a great weekend, although four day weekends seem to fly by way too fast. This is the first year that our anniversary hasn't fallen on Memorial Day weekend, so we decided we would put off the anniversary festivities until next weekend. Instead we spent time with our friends, Brian & Sarah on Saturday. Brian did smoked BBQ ribs, which were awesome.

On Sunday and Monday we busted our behinds in the yard trying to plant more flowers and get rid of dead grass. We had a huge dead patch which we thought was from over-fertilizing. We were going to pull the grass out and reseed in that area, but when we pealed the grass back it we saw the real culprit - grubs. They have infested part of our yard. So we ripped out the infested grass and spread grub killer everywhere. My mom gave me a trick to keep the grubs away from my flower beds. She told me to poor beer in a lid and put it in the flower bed level with the ground. Apparently the grubs are attracted to the smell, but will die when they crawl in the beer. Hopefully, because I really don't want them to kill all my plants.

Anyway, we also went to dinner with John's Uncle Pete & Aunt Dawn yesterday. They are in Rhody for a week or so, but will be doing some traveling in Europe before they head back to Kazakhstan where Pete is currently working. Such world travelers...

Thursday, May 22, 2008


So, I got my diploma in the mail today, and before I had opened it, my friend Carin called me to alert me to the errors on hers. Not only did they mess up her honors as they did mine, but the word Bachelor was misspelled. So I opened my diploma to see if the same mistakes had been made on mine, and sure enough... I have been awarded a "Bacheor" of Science in Nursing with magna cum laude honors instead of summa. I have tried calling the records office like 6 times today, and I guess their solution to deal with this mistake is to simply not answer the phone. I did leave a message, but I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Cake That Keeps on Giving...

My friend Laura and I worked in the office at the Donovan Dining Center during our time at Rhode Island College. Since we were both graduating this year, Debbie and Marsha invited us for lunch and cake. Debbie made the cake and decorated it herself, which we were all pretty impressed by, not only because it was super cute, but also because it was delicious. It's still yummy and moist four days later. We've still got leftovers in the fridge...did I mention it was huge? Anyway, thanks again to Debbie, Marsha, Vinny and all our friends in the office. It was really nice. Unlike Laura I have not loaded my picture frame yet. I am still working on choosing pictures for it. I have too many, I can't decide which ones make the cut.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Busy Week

Well, the past week and a half has been very busy, but great. The weekend of May 10th, we were treated to an amazing time in New York City by John's parents. We went to The Cloisters, which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was very cool, mostly because I got to take my new camera, a Nikon D60 (a graduation gift from Bill & Cissy), for a spin. It is amazing! I am having so much fun with it. We also had a wonderful dinner at Chez Josephine before we saw Wicked on Broadway. Wicked was by far the best musical/play I've ever seen. I highly recommend it. The actress who plays Glinda the Good Witch really steals the show. On Sunday, we walked through Central Park and went to see The Frick Collection.

I took hundreds of pics with my new camera, so it was hard to choose just a few to post here. Here are a couple faves from the weekend that were taken at The Cloisters. There are a bunch more posted on my flickr account (link at right).
After the great NYC weekend, I had my last final on Monday!!! My family came out to RI over the course of the week for my graduation. They rented two cottages in East Matunuck, RI, and I got to play tour guide. We spent some time at Roger Williams Park, visited the mansions in Newport, and took the ferry over to Block Island. A few of them took a day for a trip down to NYC, while others headed north to Cape Cod.

Here are a few pics from the week of sight seeing:
A Venus Fly Trap at the Botanical Center (RWP)
It's still got part of the bug in its trap...
Orchids at the Botanical Center (RWP)
Chinese Tea House at Marble House (Newport, RI)Marble House (Newport, RI)
Jeff & Lisa on the Cliffwalk (Newport, RI)Carey Mansion (Newport, RI) - now part of Salve Regina UniversityOn the ferry to Block Island, RILobster pots (Block Island, RI)Block Island, RIBlock Island, RI

It ended up being a really great week that culminated with graduation on Saturday. The ceremony was long and really kind of boring. Rhode Island College's president is retiring this year, so the ceremony ended up being 3 hours worth of praise to John Nazarian. I guess that's okay, but there seem to be plenty of other occasions for that, like his press conference, the Commencement Gala, the Alumni Awards Dinner...and on and on. It would have been more appropriate to let graduation be about the me crazy.

Anyway, this was probably not as big of deal as I felt like it was (as is the case with most things, I'm sure), but I was kind of perturbed at graduation because the program said I graduated with magna cum laude honors, when in fact, I earned summa cum laude honors. I know, not a huge deal, but it was to me because I felt like I worked really hard to achieve that. Oh well, let it go, right?

Here are a couple pics from graduation: