Monday, March 28, 2016

The second to last round has begun

As with most Monday's since the start of the new year, Denise and I ventured north to the Cleveland Clinic this morning.  Today officially started the second to last round of chemo for her.  The difference today is that our daughter Molly came along for the ride.  As with most 11th graders, she's not sure what career path to follow in life, so she wanted to come along to see what it's like at a world renowned institution like the Cleveland Clinic since nursing is beginning to become appealing to her.   She also wanted to see what it's been like for her Mom since the start of all of this.  I'm glad she did join us because the nurses there spent time talking with her and telling her some stories.  I think that might have cemented her desire to take up a noble career as that.  I don't know if I've said it on here, but I know I've said it aloud to others; nurses are the true heroes of medicine.  I saw that first hand when I  was in the hospital for my back surgery 11 years ago and then with Denise's recent visits.
Aside from watching Molly's wide-eye enthusiasm, we met with Doctor M today.  He's been kept aware by us on Denise's recent issues and wanted to make sure everything was okay.  The plan right now is to continue on with 6 rounds of chemo.  If however next weeks Taxotere round takes her out again and causes her more hospital time, he may cancel the last Taxotere treatment and just finish up after this round.  We will see.  Of course Denise and I are hoping to do all 6 to make sure this cancer is beat, but at the cost of her overall health, it's a slippery slope.  The good news also today was that with Denise starting to take iron supplements regularly now, we saw a marked increase for the better with her blood numbers.  So that is a good thing.
Before her normal chemo appointment though, Denise got to have what every women, (and even some men), get to go through regularly.  A mammogram.   Now I'm not going to go into detail, but let's just say that took longer then it normally does and she was in a very foul mood afterwards.  I'm sure you can fill in the blanks 
Now, we wait.  Hopefully this weeks single treatment will go easy on her like normal.  And with all of the things we've learned over the past several weeks, hopefully we can do enough prep for next weeks visit and not have it take as hard of a toll on her as the previous ones have.  We can hope.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Revenge of the Taxotere.....

Another round of chemo behind us.  Only two more cycles to go.  But with every cycle of chemo, the second is always been the one that we worry the most about because that's the one with Taxotere.  This week was no exception.  On Monday we spent another very long day up at the Cleveland Clinic.  Denise got all settled in for treatment and I settled in to try and get what work done I could for the day job from there.  Things went like normal and there weren't any problems.  The only thing different at the start of this week was the fact that Denise had put on a lot of weight from water, over 15 pounds.  They gave her a water pill to take so we hoped that would help get things back in order.  The rest of the week went like normal, just really run down and feeling kinda blah.  The extra water weight really made her tired easily and walking even around the house was becoming more and more of a chore.  Thursday, it started to get worse.  Denise put a call into her cardiologist because of it and also because the clinic team was a little worried that the water pill may have been putting too much stress on her vascular system.  I had already planned on taking Friday off in hopes we could get Denise into a doctor and I'm glad I planned ahead.  I think I am getting a sixth sense and/or jedi premonition about things with her health.  Unfortunately, I was right again.  3:30 in the morning Friday, Denise woke me up.  She had gotten up to use the bathroom and she could feel her heart racing like it did when she had afib when she was in the hospital for her infection in January.  We waited a little bit to see if it cleared up on it's own, it didn't.  We got dressed and rushed down to the hospital.  They took her right in and hooked her up to monitors.  It was a full on afib attack.  Her heart was beating fast and irregular.  Watching her monitor, I could see it.  Her blood pressure was okay, just the heart had gotten itself out of rhythm again.  The likely culprit was all the extra water weight in her system.  They put her on IV and started giving her a drip of medicine, ( I can't recall the name), to help get things back in order.  After a couple of hours, it started to and then suddenly it was just fine.  They then gave her 4 pills of another medicine called rythmol.  They were ready to send us on our way, but I asked if we could just hang out and have her monitored.  They agreed and after another hour, things were still good so they sent us on our way.  I asked before we left if it was okay if she could take all her normal BP and diabetes meds and they said that shouldn't be a problem.  My spidey senses went off, but thought that they knew better then me, so we went home.  We got home about 10:30 and we took it easy in the living room.  She had taken her meds just before and quickly passed out asleep.  After a few hours she woke up and said she wasn't feeling good at all, really nauseous.  She got out of the chair and was making her way to the bathroom.  She stopped and sat down in another chair and began to get upset.  I came over and tried to talk her down, but I could tell something was going on.  She got up and I got behind her to help her to the bathroom.  I had a firm grip under her armpits and she started to stumble and then start to fall.  I guided her down to the floor gently and had to snap her out of it.  She passed out for a quick moment and her lips were turning a little blue.  I got her up and back to a chair and that's when I called the ambulance.  I wasn't going to risk trying to get her to the car and to the hospital this time.  Called 911 and within minutes a truck pulled up out front.  A few firemen were up the street from us when the call came in and came over to start the pre-work of checking her out.  
They checked her heart right away and everything was beating just fine.  It seems like the mix of medicines she had in her system once again started to play hell with her and caused her to pass out.  Moments later, the ambulance pulled up our front and they brought the stretcher in.
Back at the hospital, Denise got hooked back up to the heart monitors and everything was good there.  Her BP wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either.  After some more blood tests and consulting with the ER doctor and the cardiologist, they decided to keep her overnight for observation.  Which was a good thing. Not that anything happened because it didn't, but just to keep her on the monitors all night and make sure her heart doesn't freak out again.  
Today, Saturday, I headed back down to the hospital to see her and hopefully get her.  Her cardiologist came in and we all talked.  He said that it's likely all the water weight is to blame for this latest afib episode and then the passing out came from the cocktail of medicines she got to combat it. He also pointed out that her red blood cells are getting pretty low, thanks to the chemo, so anything that hits her, hits her hard.  The doctor recommended that she start taking iron and that can help combat that.  He also gave her a prescription of rythmol to have on hand in case her heart starts playing crazy again.  A "pill in the pocket" is what he called it.  I guess that's like Barney of Mayberry carrying around a bullet in his pocket. In case of emergency, it's there.So with that, we were on our way back home.
The beagles were of course happy to see that she had returned home, so we settled into another Saturday.  But, as luck would have it, another urinary tract infection began to make it's presence known.  Of course.  It seems like anytime she gets a taxotere treatment, one of those pops up as well. Ugh.  She made a call up to the clinic and they called her in some more antibiotics.  So now our kitchen is beginning to look like a pharmacy.  Hopefully now she will get on the mend and things can get back to a little normal, just in time for the next cycle to begin and we can start all over again.
Taxotere is a predator.  It looks for the bodies biggest weakness and goes after it with a vengeance.  It's been successful at taking her down, hard the past couple of times.  There are two more rounds to go, so I am hoping that we can make it through that without any further visits to the local ER.  I'm just going to stay hopeful about that.
I'm wondering if just next time she's going to spontaneously combust.  I think that's the only thing we have yet to have happen.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The day we got good news.

We got good news today.  We are officially half way through treatments!  Denise had her CAT scan imaging last Monday on our "off" week so we had to wait until today to get the results.  That has made for a VERY long week.  As per our normal procedures, we got to the Clinic early and made our way up to the 8th floor.  We got called back and she got her vitals checked.  Her blood pressure is back to normal as well!  Getting off those extra meds this past week has made a world of difference.  She's been much more active and doesn't get as tired as easily.  Such a good thing to have her "back".  Just seemed like she was in a fog when she was on all those meds.  We had to wait for a little bit for Doctor M to come into the room.  He came in, sat down, looked right at her and said, "Your scans were perfect".  I was in tears.  She was in shock.  I think we both spent the past week waiting to hear the worst and we got exactly what we had hoped and prayed for.  So the plan for now is to complete three more cycles.  Two weeks of chemo, week off, repeat.  That means that our last treatment should be on our wedding/first date anniversary.  I think we also know, but won't admit at least now, that we know there is still a lot of road ahead and will probably have some bumps along the way.  But at least for now, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I cannot wait for that last day to get here.

I'll keep updating the site along the way.  Thanks to all of you who follow along and for your positive thoughts/prayers/positive light and energy/karma/encouraging words/most importantly LOVE.  That has meant the most to us through this.


Now if I can wrangle the remote control away from her as she's sleeping, I can change the channel from Friends. Ack.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Remember that time we went out to eat a couple days before your CAT scan?

Denise 2/24/2016
Well, the third cycle is now officially behind us.  That of course doesn't mean there weren't any problems.  We thought we made it out of the woods with this one.  Made sure that she had plenty of fluids and kept up with her meds.  But the weeks where she has her Gencitabine and Taxotere are the hells weeks.  She held up pretty good at the start of the week, but Thursday she started feeling a pretty crummy.  By Saturday, she was feeling up to getting out of the house and go grocery shopping with me as well as a bite to eat.  So we headed into town and stopped for lunch at El Pappa's, (local Mexican restaurant).  We were enjoying the chips and salsa and it started to happen.  Right after our food arrived.  It came out of nowhere like a freight train.  I could tell something was going on because she just stopped eating and was looking weird.  I asked her what was wrong and she told me that she was feeling woosy.  Then she started having a panic attack.  I jumped out of my seat and moved the table out of the way.  The wait staff and owners rushed over ready to call 911, she told them no and then she just passed out, unresponsive for what seemed like an eternity, but was only probably 10 - 20 seconds.  The weird thing is how quickly she bounced back.  She immediately became responsive and started getting color.  One of the fun side effects of this whole journey is what it's doing to her blood pressure.  It keeps dropping out of nowhere.  And that's what happened at the restaurant and tack on the panic attack, well, let's just say it sucked.  Badly.  But with another visit to the cardiologist today, we all figured it out together that her constant low blood pressure is due to the increased blood pressure meds she's been on since she landed in the hospital and had the afib episode.  At least now the cardiologist is taking the approach that, to paraphrase, "he was treating something that happened once, hadn't happened again, then why continue to take such a high dose of medicine?"  So with that, he told her to cut back on what meds she is taking to the levels she was taking before things went wonky and we'll go from there.  Hopefully this will get her back on her feet.
Yesterday was a big day, the follow up CAT scan.  The original plan was to have three cycles of chemo then scan.  Yesterday was that scan.  We won't know the official word until we see the doctor next Monday, but, we did hear back today that there's nothing new.  Of course Nurse Practitioner "J" doesn't want or can give everything away over the phone, but Denise said she sounded positive in her voice, so we'll take it as "good news".  We know we have more chemo in front of us, at least 3 cycles, but hopefully this is the beginning of the end of it.  So at least we don't have to go through until next Monday thinking the worst.
With Doctor M's help though we should be able to get through this.