Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Final Trip: Day 2 and then we hit the road home!

This day would bring our last official visit to the University of Minnesota.  After all of the stress of our first day in Minneapolis it was nice to have a bit of time to sleep in, eat a relaxing breakfast and then pack the Jeep for the drive home.  Once we were all checked out of our hotel, we headed over to the Veterinary Medical Center to meet with Dr. Pluhar at 10am so we could discuss the results of Rilley's final MRI, blood work and physical exam.
One last visit to the Veterinary Medical Center at the
University of Minnesota!
As always there is some anxiety involved with this process.  The fact that Rilley's treatment is new and experimental has not been lost on us.  Whenever we come here we are always wondering if there will be any bad news.  Did they find anything during the MRI?  Could the tumour have come back?  Is there something else wrong?  While the girls kept Rilley entertained, Sara and I went off to a viewing area to look at the MRI with Dr. Pluhar.

Just like every other time, she pulled up the scan from our last visit and placed it side by side with the new scan.   They were identical!  The new scan was completely clear of any cancer cells!  We were all relieved.
The final MRI:  Completely clean, no tumour cells!
The only difference is that Rilley had grown some more bone where they had cut through his skull a year ago to remove the tumour.  I found this very interesting as I didn't realize that this long after the surgery there was still some healing going on.  Additionally, Rilley's blood work was normal.  Ever since the beginning Dr. Pluhar has kept an eye on his liver enzymes as his old anti-seizure medication, Phenobarbital, had cause these to rise to dangerous levels.  Once again, they were normal as well, indicating that his current medication is not causing any ill effects.

Rilley is now considered to be officially cured of his cancer.  He is expected to live out his years to their full extent and Dr. Pluhar does not foresee any recurrence of his brain tumour!

So, good news all around but sadly, it was time to go.  This having been Rilley's one year, post-op checkup also means that his participation in the brain tumour clinical trial has come to an end.  We said our goodbyes and Rilley posed for one last picture with Dr. Pluhar.
Rilley and the two Elizabeths!
Before we left the University for the last time, we went over to the school book store to pick up some souvenirs, U of M sweatshirts to be exact and then it was time to hit the road for the drive home.
Bags of U of M souvenirs and it's time to head back home.
Having done this drive a few times before, we decided that we would not attempt to do the entire 16 hours of it at once anymore.  We've done that before, but it just wasn't worth the fatigue.  Those who have driven through Michigan and Wisconsin will know that there is a lot of deer along Interstates 90 and 94 and they have a tendency to become large scale road kill.  Therefore driving during daylight hours is definitely the safer method, especially when travelling with children.
At a rest area in Wisconsin.  Notice the snow in the background?
Still there from a few days before!
We drove six hours, straight through Wisconsin and spent Friday night at the Sheraton in Elk Grove, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.  Sara had always wanted to try true Chicago style pizza.  Before we even left home Sara had done some research and found out that some of the best pizza is from a pizzeria called Lou Malnati's and as luck would have it there was one just around the corner from the hotel.
Two pies from Lou Malnati's in Chicago.  Darn good pizza!
I must say the buttery, pie-like crust was a surprise but added an interesting texture to the pizza.  We've never had pizza like this before but was very good!

The rest of the trip home was quite uneventful.  We were back on the road Saturday morning and sailed right through Chicago.  The weather was great which helped make the drive through Illinois, Indiana and Michigan much, much easier to take than the snowy Wisconsin weather I drove through on the trip to Minnesota.  We finally arrived back home around 7pm that evening and everyone was glad the last drive was done.

As I said, this was our final trip to the University and Rilley is no longer part of the clinical trial.  However, the story is far from over.  We will continue to stay in contact with Drs. Pluhar and Ohlfest to keep them informed on Rilley's progress.

This is also not the end of Rilley's blog either.  It's been such an adventure so far and we know there will be many more stories to share in the future.

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