It bears repeating that friends and family always show just how wonderful they are when a crisis arises. Deb and I have been so blessed by prayers, letters, cards and phone calls. Today we received a bouquet of cookies from my sister and her husband. Last night the Hicks gave Deb a great angel. When I was visiting my Mom over the weekend, my sister sent a beautiful necklace home to Deb. The best gift for me is seeing Deb smile when she reads the e mails and cards.
We were talking today and we think that the answer to all the prayers may just be that all the tests show no cancer anywhere else but the original tumor. So to all of you that are following this blog, thank you and God Bless You!! We don't know where this is leading but we know who is leading us.
Today we met with Jill Behm, a certified nurse practitioner with Dr. Weyburn, Deb's oncologist. She is very skilled in sharing all the nuts and bolts of chemotherapy and how Deb may be affected by the process. She decribed the initial meds used, Cycolphosphamide (Cytoxan) and Doxorubicin (Adriamycin). They will be given one at a time during a two hour session every three weeks for four sessions. Adriamycin is called the red devil, as it goes in red and comes out red. Benadryl will be given first, before chemo starts.
Both of these chemicals cause hair loss, and Jill thought by the second session, May 24th, the hair would start coming out in clumps and be totally out within three days after the second chemo session. I volunteered to give Deb a buzz cut before all of that. I don't know if wigs or hats are part of the program, but Deb will look so Brittany :).
When the first round of chemo is finished on July 5th, a decision will be made by the doctors how to proceed. If the tumor, now about as big as a lime, shrinks enough, they may recommend surgery to remove it. There is a certain charm in having the offending item removed like you would a loud obnoxious guest at a wedding or a drunk in a midnight choir. The removal is more symbolic than anything else, because even with surgery, chemotherapy continues for several weeks or months. Cancer cells are so small and the hope is that with continued chemo there will not be any lesions developing. Speaking with people who have survived cancer, they all tell me that the thought of recurrent cancer never leaves your mind. Any new ache or pain, a bloody nose or a cramp, can send the worry index higher than the Dow Jones index. It doesn't hurt to be optimistic. You can always cry later. ~Lucimar Santos de Lima
Chemo starts with a visit to the doctor and doing a blood screening. White cell counts are critical, but after checking general health Dr. Weyburn will sign off and chemo will be started. We toured the area where chemo is administered. Lots of nice people, comfy reclining chairs and large windows looking toward a beautiful garden area. There are benches and ponds, with ducks and flowers. In the garden of course. I know what you were thinking.
It is expected that the day of chemo Deb will feel fairly well, although until she actually goes through it, we won't know for sure. Within two or three days she may feel very tired and have to stay home for a day, or she may not experience any of this at all. Then, as we understand, between the tenth and fourteenth day the greatest risk occurs of picking up a germ as the immune system is at its weakest then. If Deb has a fever we are to call the doctor at once no matter what time of the day or night. There can be great danger because Deb will not be able to fight off most germs. Deb must keep a diary of every medication taken, when taken and be able to communicate that to the on call doctor in case of an emergency.
Jill did say that we shouldn't become hermits and live in constant fear. Some common sense thoughts should be used. We should avoid crowds and sick people and wash our hands frequently. We may want to avoid travel on planes and traveling in areas were there is little access to a hospital.
After the first course of chemo, most likely Deb will start Taxol or something similar. This may go on for several months and will continue the hair loss (it should all be gone by then).
Oh, I didn't mention nausea. Deb will get something for nausea before chemo, and I filled a prescription for her today. My buddy Gene Parvin at Metra, told me that his wife, who is going through this as well, but about two months further in it than Deb, had some anti nausea pills that cost thirty dollars a pill! We are so blessed to have health insurance.
Deb will go to Good Shepard Hospital on Tuesday at 6:30 am to have a medi port surgically implanted in her chest. This will allow the direct infusion of chemo without trying to find a vein in the arm. Hopefully blood can be drawn from the port too. Next Thursday, 5/3, is the first day of chemo.
Deb and I understand that while this is new to us, all the professionals have been doing this for quite a while. We are very satisfied with the doctors and their staff. They all seem so compassionate and caring. I am sure that I would have a very difficult time doing what they do with the grace and charm they exhibit, and then go home to their families and try to forget for a little while the life and death battle they see every day.
One thing strikes me and that is Dr. Weyburn's waiting room. I suppose it's only human nature, but I find myself looking at the others sitting there, wondering which of the couple has cancer and praying they get well soon. There are a lot of support groups for cancer, more for breast cancer I suppose than others.
The journey is just beginning and as we draw strength from our friends and our faith, we know that we are all the richer for knowing all of you who read this and think of us. Not what we give, But what we share,For the gift without the giver is bare.~James Russell Lowell