Sunday, April 6, 2014

4/6/14 Photos come pouring in!

 We've received our first batch of "We <3 Gabrielle" pictures! It gives us all a boost of encouragement to see that people all over the country are thinking about us. Please keep them coming, and help us show Gabrielle lots of love! ~Renée

 Adele taking a study break in the Linguistics Library of her college

 Gabrielle's cousin Elizabeth and family

Arlo and Penny, the awesome kids Renée nannied last year (with their own interpretations of "We <3 Gabrielle")

 A Christmas family photo from Steve's aunt Peggy

Renée's good friends Houston and Megan send love from California 

Adorable Arlo again!

Even crocodiles love Gabrielle!

Grandma Abby loves Gabrielle!

Please keep sending pics to or post them to Renée on facebook :)
Thank you!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

4/5/14 Send us a photo!

Hi friends--Renée here. We've thought of a fun way that you can help encourage my mom: take a picture with a "We  Gabrielle" sign and post it to facebook or email it to me: We'll compile them and show my mom that tons of people are rooting for her!
Let's see how many pictures we can get! 

And as always, thanks for your support--we are feeling loved!

4/5/14 First chemo session done

Steve again (who else would be up early on a Saturday morning around here?).

Well, we got through the first chemo session and it was a marathon day.  Gabrielle and the kids (speaking historically, of course, as they are now 24 and 25) showed up at the day surgery area of the hospital for her infusion at 10.  By around noon, the first of three drugs arrived.  Normally, she gets the chemo right in Dr. M's office, but they were so rushed to get started that there was no room at the inn, hence the little change in venue.  I thought it was nice as this is the same wing of the hospital Gabrielle spent a day or two in back in July, 1988 as it was the post, "just had my first baby" wing.  For all I know, we were in the same room.  Somewhere in the basement, we've got a picture of me holding Renee sitting in a giant rocker in the lobby of this same wing.  OK, so much for memory lane.

Aunt Julianne came by with chocolates to help keep everyone's spirits up.  The drugs went in one after the other, but it was indeed a long session of one infusion after another.  By around 3:00, she was ready to go home, so got unplugged and made a bee line for Casa Dudley in Shoreline.  Upon her arrival, she was greeted on the doorstep by a wonderful care package from the Poulsbo Dudleys (Paul, Heidi and gang) containing a beautiful blue scarf, amazing gourmet soap (OK, gourmet isn't the right word, but I can't think of it...designer? fancy?  Anyhow, it looks good enough to eat), and gourmet chocolate (now that's gourmet), and a candle.  It warmed our hearts and showed up at just the right time.  There were also two bunches of flowers...a wonderful assortment of pink tulips from Riley and an assortment of cheery yellow ones from Lynette.  They are beautiful and so cheery. Aunt Peggy from Rehoboth send cards (thanks so much!).

Gabrielle had so much energy, that she corralled us all into going on a long walk at Richmond Beach.  It was a beautifully sunny afternoon and the perfect thing to do after being indoors at the hospital all day.  When we got back home, our dear neighbors Jerry and Laura brought us dinner.  They asked Gabrielle (not me) what we wanted and since her appetite hadn't tanked yet, she asked for a super combo pizza with the works and Greek salad from Spiro's.  It hit the spot!  They are good friends, neighbors and moderately good canasta players. 

We topped the evening off with a couple of TV shows while we noshed on chocolates and sat around in a stupor from the wonderful food and unpleasant news of the past 36 hours.  I am pleased to say that we are all doing a tad better emotionally.  We only went through half a box of Kleenex rather than a box a piece the day before.  It has been great getting so much well-wishing from all of you.
As for now, she's upstairs asleep, which is great.  If things go like before, she'll feel "fine" till about 2:00 today then have a couple challenging days, then will do better for a couple more.  As far as I know, next week's session will only be one drug and the following week will be no drugs, which is great as that'll be Good Friday and we all know what that means:  Easter Eggs!  OK, there's something about Hope, the Resurrection and stuff like that in there too!  But the nice thing is the entire Easter Weekend will be a "drug free" weekend (except the resveratrol in chocolate, of course).

We are still trying to figure out how to manage in the next few weeks.  I still have some work obligations I need to attend's tough being the local expert at ear wax removal...and Daniel has this little academic journey he has embarked upon which demands at least a modicum of attention.  People have already offered to come by and keep Gabrielle company.  Be forewarned, if you do come by, she'll challenge you to canasta or Scrabble or cribbage and she likes to win, is wicked good at all three and she takes no prisoners.  Of course, she might make you sit in the basement and watch Jeopardy re-runs as well (she's good at that too).  What she's not good at is playing the pity, poor me card.  In the midst of all this, she hasn't uttered a word of complaint and has the most amazing spirit of calmness and serenity.  She is cheerful (as much as she can be) and spends more time making sure those around her are doing well than the other way around (unless she is your opponent at a game, then the gloves come off).  Even in the hospital, she was asking the nurses how they were doing and offering them chocolates.  Whatta gal! 

So that's the news so far.  We are having a birthday celebration for Daniel later today.  He wants to go to the art museum (SAM) and then grab a bite to eat.  We had planned on sushi, but that's off the list, now that Gabrielle is on chemo.  We'll find something for her to eat.  Oh, she's rustling around!  She just mentioned she had a good night...only woke up for one hour.  That's not too bad.  Will keep you posted.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

4/3/14 Déjà Vu

“It’s like déjà vu all over again.”  Yogi Berra.
Hi friends.  Steve here with some sad news to report.  For the past two weeks, Gabrielle has been having some stomach and GI issues, which we initially attributed to a little overindulgence at a wonderful weekend beach getaway to Long Beach (aside: thanks so much to Elliott for the loan of his wonderful digs down there…I think I remembered to water the cat and put the house plants out, or was it the other way around??).  Anyhow, back to my story.  The drive home was associated with nausea, abdominal pain and then a fever.  Gabrielle wisely high-tailed it to Dr. M. as soon as she got back.  She met with both Dr. M and her fellow (kind of like very advanced resident, uber smart).  They were sufficiently concerned that they repeated the CA-125 and ordered a CT scan of her abdomen for a week later (today).  The CA-125 had risen by 3 points—still well within the normal range, but it was still a matter of concern.  In the intervening time frame, Gabrielle continued to improve but still had some stomach upset, and not much of an appetite.
The CT scan went smoothly and an hour later we met with Dr. M.  She came in and simply said that the result was “not what she had hoped for”, that the cancer was back.  Before anything else, she stood up and gave Gabrielle a gigantic bear hug (then me too).  She then went on to explain, that there was one spot on the liver along with some lymph nodes which showed obvious involvement near the pancreas.  She said that surgical resection was not an option as some of the lymph nodes were not accessible and the recommended treatment at this time is more chemotherapy (aaarrrggggh!).  So Gabrielle starts in again tomorrow with a triple dose of medication.  There was some initial talk of signing her up for a trial with a “cancer vaccine” as well which is part of a study to see if the host’s immune system can be stimulated to recognize the cancer cells as foreign and attack them.  She quickly found that she was ineligible due to the fact that she also has lupus and is on steroids which would counter the vaccine. 
Daniel cut out of class, broke all the speed limits on his race to the hospital.  Renee, likewise, bowed out of her work and I cut my schedule short this afternoon as well.  So we’re all just hanging out at home with one another, trying to get over the shock and numbness of it all.  Dr. M. worked hard on maintaining hope amidst all of this, and we are all trying to do so as well.
So that’s it in a nutshell.  More cancer, more treatment.  We are still not sure of the long-term plan.  Initial goal is to have three cycles of treatment (I forget the exact drugs she’ll get, but tomorrow will be the worst of the three).  Will re-assess after two cycles, I believe.  Renee and Daniel are both going to go to her initial chemo session tomorrow.  After that, we aren’t sure.  Renee is thinking she can change her days off to Fridays such that she can take Gabrielle, but expresses some nervousness over needing to match wits with Gabrielle at Scrabble.  She forgets that the Benadryl pre-chemo ought to give her a decided advantage.  
We have appreciated all of your kind words and prayers, cards, etc.  Today alone, I have gotten several hugs, many kind wishes and they go a long way.  At this point, am not sure what sort of help we’ll be asking for in the future.  We may try and bum a meal from time to time, but not quite yet.  I am pretty handy with the grill and we are planning on fresh halibut tonight.  If my luck holds, I may even just beat Gabrielle at Scrabble after dinner. 
We will definitely keep you posted as we move forward.  After all, you are all part of our rope team and are a key element in this…our very own “12th man”, to borrow a Seahawk analogy.  And since I started with a Yogi Berra quote, I may as well end with one as well:  “It ain’t over till it’s over.” 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

3/11/14 "March"ing onward...

Dear family and friends,

I'm sorry I haven't written since January!  I have been busy savoring time off from work and the joy of fully immersing myself in the gift of each new day.  When the Psalmist says "this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it," believe me, I have learned to thank God for the good, bad, and ordinary days, realizing any day I am given is indeed a gift.

As you recall, I left my job at SPU on January 9th and had planned to begin a new job for the UW School of Medicine today (March 11).  Instead, I felt led to turn down the wonderful offer from my colleagues at the UW in order to have more time off to make memories with family and friends.  It's  a very strange crossroads in my life where I feel as if I have one foot at the gates of Heaven and one foot on earth.  I have no idea if I will live one year or thirty years (though the odds are pretty strongly stacked against the latter).  In addition to more time off to make memories, I need to figure out what type of work would best support my health concerns.  Probably that means part-time and less stress.  The UW job would have been a high-stress job, raising big money.  And while I love doing that, it is indeed very stressful.  So I am praying now for the right part-time thing to come along when the time is right.  And in the meantime, boy, am I making having fun and making memories.  Here are a few (photos at end):

1)  Valentine's Day was so much fun.  We had Daniel and my dear friend, Maribeth, join us for a delicious dinner of homemade ravioli and fierce rounds of Canasta, with the most decadent chocolate dessert ever--an Ina Garten recipe called "chocolate blobs."  (I think that's right--ask Daniel!)

2)  My birthday was Feb. 18th and during the day, Renee and Riley took me to a Mexican lunch (ok--I had to have a b-day margarita even though it was only noon) and then the three of us had "girls day" at Ladiewells spa in Greenwood.  Pink sea salt sauna where you lay on sand, dry sauna, steam, hot pool, tepid pool, cold plunge, then drink herbal tea while hanging around on rope swings reading good books.  So relaxing and fun!  Then that evening, Daniel made "my favorite protein" for dinner--salmon!  And of course, chocolate cake from Simply Desserts for dessert, along with another favorite card game, Estimate.  I don't recall if I won or not...but I hope I did, since it was my b-day after all. And some of you know this about me--I LOVE to win!!  :-)   I also enjoyed NUMEROUS b-day celebrations with girlfriends and so many lovely cards in the mail.  Thank you all!  You bless my life in ways too numerous to list on a blog post!!

3)  I enjoyed a Valentine's/B-day trip with Steve to our favorite romantic spot--The Stephanie Inn at Cannon Beach.  It snowed three inches!  I have never been in the snow on Cannon Beach--what a thrill!  If you have a special someone and haven't taken him/her to The Stephanie Inn, get on their mailing list and watch for the $199 specials.  You will thank me for this advice!

4)  Then Steve and I could barely keep up with dear friend, Frank, who at 80, can out-snowshoe us both.  We had a couple of feet of new snow to enjoy, a picnic lunch, a hot thermos of herbal tea, and fresh chocolate chip cookies.  Perfect!

5)  At the end of February, Steve and I headed off to Rancho La Puerta in Mexico for ten glorious days of hiking, swimming, dancing, circuit training, spa cuisine, and laying in the sun by the pool reading good books!  Well, I read good books while Steve studied for his Family Practice Board exam which happens but once every ten years and is next month.  We met lovely people there including the top designer for Marc Jacobs and Bill Moyers (and wife Judith) from PBS.  Bill asked me what it was like to get my cancer diagnosis and prognosis and I told him about how my faith in Christ is the only way I got through it.  I quoted the Scriptures I relied on and told him how they aren't just verses you memorize in Sunday School but real promises that God will be there and help us through whatever it is He calls us to.  Bill served as Press Secretary for Lynden Johnson and has interviewed famous people all over the world for television and books.  I never dreamed in a million years that he would "interview" little old Gabrielle Dudley from Seattle, WA in Mexico and give me the opportunity to share how faith makes ALL the difference.  What a joyous and God-ordained appointment that was, and he is the MOST wonderful, humble man.  Just a dear, kindred soul, as is his lovely wife.   

6)  Next week Daniel and I take off for Scottsdale for his spring break for five days.  More sunshine and of course--our beloved MINI-GOLF!!!  Some hiking and Mexican food will also be on the agenda.  Cantina Larredo is calling, with guacamole made in a stone bowl at table side.  Can't wait!  (Recall, of course, that Renee got a trip to Kauai in December so now it's Daniel's turn for some sun with Mom.)  :-)

My next CA-125 test and visit with my Oncologist is April 11, one month from today.  Please pray with me that my count will still be normal!  The verse I am clinging to is this:  "I will not die, but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done."  Psalm 118:17  Let's cling to it together, shall we?!


Renee and Riley at my b-day Mexican lunch.  I think that's my margarita in the foreground!

Daniel in front of the perfect salmon he grilled for my b-day dinner!

Fresh beets I picked from the organic gardens at Rancho La Puerta!  What pretty colors!

Me in front of the Stephanie Inn--getting ready for a walk in the SNOW on Cannon Beach!

This is the meal we made in our cooking class at Rancho La Puerta.  The class was called "Tacos, Tacos, y Mas Tacos!  Yummo!

Me holding up my fresh pineapple salsa at cooking class!

OK--So is Steve the BEST husband in the world to get his first pedicure with me at Rancho?  Every man reading this better give him a hard time!!

Snowshoeing with Frank and Steve east of Snoqualmie Pass.  Such beauty!

Out of order, but here is a view of the grounds at Rancho La Puerta.  Those hills in the background are where we hike--up and over them to wonderful views.  We saw a wild mare and foal a few feet from us on one hike!

Lastly, I was invited to be a cheerleader for Daniel's first year med school men's volleyball team at their Championship game.  They made it to the final two and sadly, lost to the dumb ol' Aeronautical Engineers.  But when they huddled and cheered, their cheer was "GABRIELLE!"  Their team name is "Bro-B-Gyns"  :-)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

1/16/14 Happy News!

Dear Friends and Family,

This is just a quick note to tell you that I had my quarterly CA-125 ovarian cancer tumor marker blood test today and it was normal again!  As a reminder, a normal reading is anywhere from 0 to 30, and mine was 12.8. 

We are rejoicing over this good news and in fact, are about to go rejoice over a plate of spinach enchiladas to celebrate.  News this wonderful might even require a side of guacamole and chips, don't you think? 

Thanks be to God for all the prayers that He answered for me through this great test result, and thanks to all of you for praying!  Fifty-three and cancer free--that's me!  :-)


P.S.  Daniel was interviewed and photographed for a story that will appear in the Seattle Times either tomorrow (1/17) or Friday (1/18), so if you get the Times, look for his picture! 

P.P.S.  Go Seahawks!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

1/4/14 Happy New Year!

Dear Family and Friends,
Happy new year to you all!  I'm sorry I am so late with this blog post.  After rejoicing over my great CA-125 score in late October, we threw ourselves with gusto into making memories in November and December. 
November brought Steve's 57th birthday, celebrated with carrot cake from our favorite bakery, Simply Desserts in Fremont. And our counter is now totally overcome by his b-day gift--a fancy 14-cup coffee maker.  I thought that he wanted this just for "entertaining," but alas, he loves his new toy and does not want to put it away.  Then we hosted Thanksgiving for Steve's family, where a good time was had by all.  And Daniel's chocolate chip pecan pie with bourbon whipped cream was a huge hit.
One week later, Steve, Renee, and I took off for Kauai for 8 nights of heaven!  We had not been to Kauai since our honeymoon in 1982.  On that honeymoon trip, the island had just been devastated by hurricane Eva and our trip to Waimea Canyon was hindered by fog.  On this trip, the weather couldn't have been more perfect and Waimea Canyon was one of the most beautiful sights I've seen, as were the beaches and mountains of the north shore.  We swam in the ocean, pool, and saltwater lagoon at our hotel, snorkeled, read good books, and had deep and wonderful conversations.  Oh--and Renee and I took an intro to SCUBA diving course.  She was a natural--a true fish, like her dad. 

I was also blessed on this trip to meet three women on their own cancer journeys.  One woman at our hotel, about 35 years old, was struggling to walk up the path from the pool to the lobby.  Her head was bald and she had little strength or breath.  We spoke and I learned she had just finished chemo.  This was her celebratory trip.  I encouraged her, I hope, that just months after chemo ended, I had hair and energy, and told her she would too.  I told her she was doing GREAT!  Then at the top of the water slide, I met a 29-year-old bald woman and her husband.  I learned that she had just had chemo to shrink her tumors and that in three days time, she would return home to a double mastectomy.  She has a baby boy.  She is a strong Christian and I was able to share more words of encouragement and hope.  We had a great hug.  Lastly, I met a woman about my age as we were both gazing at an endangered monk seal napping on the beach (there are only about 1,000 of these left in the world!).  We got to talking and the next thing I knew, she showed me her breast surgery scar and said her chemo would begin in January.  She was also a Christian with whom I exchanged words of assurance that God would help her through.  We hugged and committed to pray for one another in the year ahead.  What a joy to play a small part in comforting others with the comfort I myself have received from God in my cancer journey. 
December 18th brought our 31st anniversary, which we celebrated at Canlis.  Daniel's friend Kyle, who is a manager there, made our evening extra special.  This was our "do-over" from the Valentine's Day Canlis trip we had to cancel last year as I had just finished double chemo!  Later in December, we arrived home from a movie with Renee to a dark house.  As we entered, lights flew on and many of our dear friends yelled "surprise--happy anniversary!"  We could not have been more shocked!  A perfect surprise party, complete with some good friends, tasty appetizers, fun games, and lots of hugs and smiles. 
On Christmas Eve, we went to a Mexican restaurant near our house, Puerto Bonito, for a new favorite tradition--Feliz Navidad dinner.  Check out the photo below to see the mammoth amount of food I enjoyed!  Oh man, does it feel good to be able to eat after starving with nausea for half of last year.  We also enjoyed a wonderful Christmas Eve church service at Ballard Lutheran church, complete with a live nativity acted out by the kids in the church.  When we walked up to look at a real "baby Jesus" in the manger, he was sound asleep, sucking his thumb.  His real-life mom, playing Mary, smiled at me and said "this is a true Christmas miracle!" 

Christmas day brought few gifts to the Dudley tree.  We decided this would be "homemade" Christmas, since money has been a bit tight after cancer, med school, Kauai, and a master bath remodel.  This simple Christmas was one of our best ever.  We hosted Christmas dinner for my mom and aunt and uncle, Julianne and Oliver, as well as Renee's girlfriend, Riley.  Daniel and I treated everyone to a choreographed dance we had worked on to Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You."  So much fun!  Then on the 26th, we celebrated with Steve's family at an amazing dinner hosted by Steve's mom at Anthony's restaurant in Kirkland.  Once again, there were lots of smiles, hugs, good food and more Christmas memories to cherish.  It was extra special since Aunt Peggy made a special trip to be with us all the way from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. 
To work off some of that Christmas food, Daniel and I headed to Snoqualmie Pass for "snowshoeing."  Alas, we needed only boots.  The ski area was closed due to lack of snow.  But we did enjoy a snow "hike," with a little bit of snow, here and there. 
On New Year's Eve of 2012, I just lay on the couch with severe stomach pain and was unable to eat any of the king crab leg dinner Steve had made.  We had no idea what was about to unfold just a week later with my cancer diagnosis.  Well guess what?  On New Year's Eve 2013, I ate three king crab legs!  I was overcome with memories of all we went through last year and how faithful God was to provide strength, peace, hope, expert care, loving support, and ultimately, healing.  My heart is full of love for God and for all of you, who were the hands, feet, and voices of God (in prayer and words of encouragement) for us. 
Now it's January and though it's only the 4th, a lot is happening!  First, we resolved to learn to make homemade pasta and practiced last night before a debut dinner we are hosting tonight.  It turned out GREAT!  So much fun and so much better than store bought pasta!  Second, we (Steve, Gabrielle, Daniel) are having "no sugar January," to make up for all the excesses of Daniel's baking while he was home for Christmas break.  Day four and so far, so good.  Next, I am leaving my job at SPU on January 9th after seven years of joy serving my alma mater.  I will have a few weeks off then will be heading over to the University of Washington.  I hope to give you more details on that as they develop. 
Please enjoy the photos below and please, would you pray with us that my CA-125 test on January 17 will be normal?  Thank you!!
Love and hugs,

Renee and Steve take a dip, Kauai, Dec. 2013

Steve and Gabrielle enjoy 31st anniversary dessert at Canlis, Dec. 18, 2013

Steve and Gabrielle at Feliz Navidad dinner, Christmas Eve, 2013

Renee and Daniel enjoying happy hour at Sunshine Tavern, Portland, Dec. 2013

Gabrielle on our "snowshoe" hike, Dec. 2013

New Year's resolution--learn to make homemade pasta!