Monday, April 25, 2016

6 Weeks

Denise had her follow-up CAT scan and results meeting with the doctor today.  The nice thing about this visit was that we were able to do both things the same day!  We had to get up at stupid o'clock and head out the door to make it there for her 7:30 AM appointment.  Driving into Cleveland is a crap shoot during rush hour and we didn't want to take any chances.  We got there plenty early enough and they took her right back and got her prepped.  The scan went well and then we had a couple hours to kill before her other appointment.  
When it was time for the appointment, the doctor came in and right away told us the results.  
Nothing new on the scans!  
Everything was just as it has been on the last couple scans, no changes, nothing new.  But, he wants to play it safe and do another scan in 6 weeks rather than 3 months.  There's a few areas he wants to keep his eyes on just to make sure there's nothing to be worried about and he seems confident there isn't anything to worry about, but he wants to be sure.  Also, her blood numbers are getting back into shape properly, so that is a good sign!  Her white blood counts have been rising faster than gas prices, but they are on the way back down.
So for now we are playing it optimistically happy, but, have to wait until the next round to know for sure.  At least for now he said that she no longer has to go through any more chemo, we are done! Hopefully for good!  The only ongoing concern is the amount of water she is still retaining which is a known side effect of the chemo.  Hopefully that will go down because it's causing her a lot of uncomfortableness when she walks around.  Her muscles feel pretty beat up from it all.  
So with that news, we headed out the door and went to enjoy a lunch to celebrate our wedding anniversary today.  Hopefully between now and June 6th her life will start getting back to normal.  For now, we'll just take it one day at a time.

Editors note: The Cleveland Clinic has a REALLY good cafeteria.  Pancakes, good ones too, only .69 cents each!  A steal!  That's how we passed some of the time between appointments. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The end of some things, the beginning of new things.

(Hit Play!)
Well, we made it through another week without a hospital visit!  Denise was discharged from the hospital on Sunday of last week.  She received two units of packed blood cells via a transfusion because her red blood cell counts dropped to 8.  By the time we left, they were back up to 9.6 and she was looking and feeling much better.  While she was in the hospital, we talked at length about continuing with the 6th round of treatment or taking the option the her oncologist said we could and just forget about the 6th.  We decided that we were going to tell him that we prefer to just skip it.  The plan was to have our normal meeting with him tomorrow, Monday, and just say that we've had enough.  But they beat us to the punch.  They called us this past Friday to let us know that he didn't feel comfortable with doing the treatment and we'll just go with scans and follow-ups from here forward.  So, I guess we can say that we have come to the end of this chemo adventure.  Hopefully for good.  Now we will visit the clinic hopefully one last time for a while next Monday, the 25th, for scans and a follow-up appointment.  Hopefully.  Especially since I've come to the end of another road at my now former employer, so insurance coverage is going to be an issue for a bit.  But as we've learned over these past several months that we are stronger then we ever thought we were and we can get through just about anything.
We have new roads that we have to travel now, one to healing and one for a new career.
We got this.

Friday, April 8, 2016

It's all uphill from here. Hopefully.

We had that gut feeling again.  
This week was our visit with our old pal Taxotere.  To be honest, I don't think that Denise had really even fully recovered yet from her last Taxotere treatment a couple of weeks ago.  But we went ahead and had the treatment as scheduled and like I stated in the last post, Doctor M said that 5 treatment cycles is what he really wanted.  So all week I worked from home because she was really dragging badly and needed someone to keep an eye on her.  No energy what so ever, dizzy, lightheaded, heart racing like she ran up three flights of stairs and all she did was walk across the room. Basically a mess.  As our history has gone with post-Taxotere weeks, Thursdays are the days when things start to happen.  This week was no different.  I was working in the office and Denise had me put the pup in the kennel so should could go take a nap.  She wasn't asleep too long when she got up and said that she could feel the afib coming on.  As her cardiologist Doctor G had said last time this had occurred, she needed to take her "pill in the pocket" Rythmol.  Two when it first occurs and then two more an hour later.  We took the first two and waited.  Her heart was still acting like Napoleon Dynamite dancing at the talent show. The next hour, the other two. Things started to calm down a bit so we thought that might be that.  So she had a sandwich for dinner.  Then it started up again.  It was time to head down to the hospital again.  By the time we got there however, the heart had gotten itself back into regular rhythm.  The ER staff wanted to play it safe because anytime she got up to move, she was getting super dizzy and very light-headed.  They also drew a bunch of blood and took a urine sample with his history of UTI's that occur these weeks.  After a while they came back with the results.  Major UTI forming and her white blood cell count was really high.  The afib might have been a blessing in disguise actually because she was having none of the normal symptoms that were the "tells" that the infection was coming on.  They started her up with an antibiotic drip and admitted her.  We were both relieved with that.  Last time they sent us home and we didn't want another innocent of having to come back in an ambulance a couple of hours later.  It was after 11 PM at this point and she was settled into her room for the night so I headed home.  
On Friday morning she sent me a text
Her morning blood tests had shown that her hemoglobin level had dropped pretty low.  With her constant fatigue, the afib and the UTI, they felt it was time to do a blood transfusion.   So this afternoon they brought in a bag of packed red blood cells to help to her levels up.
I checked in with the oncology team up at the Clinic and they were cool with the procedure.  It's not uncommon for chemo patients to have to do it.  Only took about two hours for the bag to be drained. Hopefully this will help get her numbers moving in the right direction, but we won't know until tomorrow after her morning blood draw.  
So where does that leave us?  For now, she's where she needs to be.  In the hospital under observation.  If something else goes wonky, she can get someone to help her out and they can address it right then and there.  I'm planning on getting up tomorrow morning and heading down to stay with her.  She at least has a really nice room this time.  Used to be the hospice room but since a local hospice house had opened they never use it anymore except for patients.  It's like a hotel suite in there, except it's in a hospital.
The real silver lining tonight was Molly's friends Noah, Justin, Caitlin and Austin.  They made us a huge rigatoni, garlic bread, salad and cookie feast and brought it down to us.  Those kids are awesome.  Well, they are band kids after all, so, that alone makes them awesome.
I'm hoping that now that the Taxotere is in the rear view mirror, she can start the healing process.  We still have the option of doing just the Gemcitabine treatments, but right now that's not looking too enticing.  Hopefully this is the last of the bumps in the road.  Hopefully the rest of our journey will be all uphill from here.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The End?

The last Taxotere?
Well, we got some interesting news today.  We're up here in Cleveland at the clinic for her treatment, the big week with two treatments, and Doctor M is confident that this, the 5th round of chemo should be sufficient to combat the cancer!  So, we could:
1.  Be done
2.  Just do the first week of the 6th cycle and get the normal 1 Gencitabine treatment
3.  Do the 6th cycle with two weeks of Gencitabine and no Taxotere
We talked about it for a while with the doctor and we landed on this action plan. As I stated above he feels very confident that 5 rounds of chemo is enough to kill off this cancer.  He doesn't have any data that suggested we must complete 6, but 5 should be good enough.  We however figure if we can do at least the 1st week of cycle 6, we would feel better and he frankly has not problems with that and supports that approach.  BUT, since this is week 2 of the cycles, this is historically when things go wonky for Denise.  Already these past couple of weeks the water retention has gotten pretty bad and she is up about 25lbs in weight just from the water. The plan for now we are going to wait and see.  If she makes it through this week without incidents of dehydration, UTI's or a frantic heart, then we are going to go with one more Gencitabine treatment.  If, however, we run into problems, then we may hold off or cancel all together.
We know we're not out of the woods yet.  There is still a lot of road ahead of us but at least there is a feeling in our hearts that there is even more road behind us.  She's got a new round of prescriptions called into the pharmacy so on our way home tonight we'll stop and get those.  Hopefully we can get rid of all this excess water in her system because that's the big stress on her system now.  If that can get regulated, then hopefully other things can get working and her healing from this can begin.
For now, we celebrate!