The length and type of radiation my mom will do continues to change. She met with the doctor yesterday during her treatment. The doctor examined her skin, took awhile to think about her recommendations, and then told mom that she needs to do one more at this strenght and then three scans over the entire area at a lower strength. Then she will be done...four more total. Mom told the doctor she is willing to do the eight additional at the full strength that she had initially recommended but the doctor told her that at this point, her skin is so burned and if they push it any more, that she could have damage to her muscles that would affect her long term arm use. The whole treatment process is such a balance. How can we give the most treatment to treat and prevent the return of cancer while doing the least long term damage as possible? My mom has been doing some form of treatment for the last seven months and the doctor feels that her body is at the maximum that it will tolerate. So three days after today, my mom will go in for her last treatment. She will meet with the cancer doctor in several days to find out what the next step is as far as continued monitoring.
This year on Thanksgiving, I was thanful for those I had around my table, especially my mother. It was wonderful to see her getting back to "normal." She was able to stay for a couple nights. She even had the energy to participate in the annual tradition of getting up way too early and going shopping on Black Friday with my mother-in-law. She was out for most the morning. I am also thankful for her good humor. My mother has a small amount of hair growing back in. Of course, there is just enough to see some color. My daughter has always seen my mother will all dark hair (um...with help from a professional) or with no hair. As three year-olds will, she remarked most honestly about the new hair "Grammy you have panda hair!" I guess you cannot get grey hair past a child. Many may be offended, but my mother thought is was hillarious and told Addison to come tell the family about her hair. I am thankful to have that kind of mom.
As far as treatments go, she is still doing radiation. Last week, she expected to have her last regular radiation session and would be starting booster sessions this week. Her doctor said after examining her that her skin is still in very good shape and, therefore, they would like to do eight more radiation sessions and then decide what boosters need to be done. They made this decision because the type of cancer (inflammatory) is a much more aggressive type and they feel that if she is able to tolerate more treatments they would like to do them. The doctor said they would hate to regret not being more aggressive while they have an opportunity. I know that she was hoping to be done with treatment by Christmas and with the extra sessions, this will likely not be the case. Mom is in good spirits about it and said she is willing to do whatever necessary to prevent the cancer from returning. Either way, we are looking at her being done with radiation by the end of this month.
When I think back to previous family birthdays celebrated, I remember trying to get a card together, finding the "perfect gift", and maybe spending extra time with family. Tomorrow is my mom's birthday. Tomorrow is so different from previous birthdays. My mom has always been one of my favorite people...even when I was a teenager! Six months ago, I starting thinking about, and worrying about how many more birthdays my mom might have. What if this treatment did not work? We have been so blessed. This treatment has been working - better than expected! My mom does not have a mass of cancer sitting in her body. Tomorrow is a day to celebrate. Celebrate that we get to have my mom here with us, celebrate that her body is successfully battling cancer, celebrate that due to this - there will be many many more birthdays ahead. Happy birthday mom!
Things have been going really well. Mom has been doing very well being back at work. I know she does get a bit stressed getting to radiation treatments every day, but she has been able to make it there and back each day without too much disruption. Mom is so relieved to be back with her coworkers and with kids. She says she feels "like a normal person" now that she has a daily routine and has purposeful work to do each day. Her days are long since she does a full day of school and then does after school care as well. Most of her days are eleven hour days. She has been getting through them very well and she has been blessed to have several church families prepare meals for her three days a week. This has been such a help, now when she gets home she can just warm an already prepared meal and spend the rest of the evening relaxing and resting.
My maternal grandmother, Betty Morris, worked as an administrative staff member for the Church of St. Mary. I do not remember much from her funeral except that the funeral was in the main church and it was completely full. It looked like Sunday Mass, but the church community was there to say goodbye to her. I also remember the priest holding up the opened ledger and talking about the entries for babies baptized - church members that received sacrament, all in her handwriting. Three of her five children attended the School of St. Mary, my mom and her two brothers. The other two did not attend only because the school had not yet been built when they were in school. When it was time for me to start first grade, I went to St. Mary. My brother is a year younger than I am, and he was a student in my mother's first Kindergarten class as a teacher at St. Mary. She has been there since. When I was going to school there, teachers that taught my mother were substitutes for my class. I have not been a student at St. Mary for over fifteen years, but when I go to visit, many of my teachers still work there. Those same teachers came to my wedding, most have met my daughter, and they keep up with my life through my mom.
How many places do you know where many of the staff members have not changed in fifteen, twenty, or more years? To me it says a lot about the community there, the support among coworkers, and the care given to the teachers by the school and church community. The amount of support my mother has received from the school and church community is amazing. My mom has been so well taken care of by her coworkers, parents of the school, and the church community. The types of support are extensive and have included things such as prayers, cards, visits at the hospital, forming a Race for the Cure team celebrating her, dressing in pink on the day of her surgery, meals being prepared for her, and several other tangible and non tangible means of support and love. I think about all of this as my mother prepares to return to work tomorrow. She is so excited to be back, as most people would if they were so blessed to work in the type of community she does. I know that she is also nervous. This will be the most physical work she has done since being diagnosed almost six months ago, and she has been really tired with radiation. She is worried about how the students will react to her. She does not have any hair and it may not be realistic that she can keep her head covered through the entire day. She is still recovering from her surgery and is very sensitive due to the radiation, she does not want the kids to be fearful of her, but at the same time, she knows she will have to set limits with them as she can not have the kids hug her too hard. But, the School of St. Mary is where we come from, it will feel like home for her to be back. She will be so well taken care of.
As I type this, I think that all the students there, with the exception of first grade and Kindergarten have been her students in the past. Most of the kids that have not yet been in her class have been with her during Sunday nursery or have siblings that have been her students. She is in some way connected to almost every student there. For those few that have not been her student yet - they will be soon - and she will love them. Who would have thought that the place my grandmother worked around fifty years ago would be the place my mother now works. Through the day tomorrow, I will think about how blessed my mother and our family have been to be part of St. Mary and I will know that since she is there, she will be well cared for on her first day back.
So mom was able to do two treatments last week. She said she is glad she knows what to expect. On the second appointment, she had to wait a couple hours because both radiation machines were down. She was able to get done that day. She has about 25 regular treatments and then she will need to do a series of additional treatments on her incision site - maybe 5-8 additional. Her doctor told her that she will be able to get a couple weeks in before her skin starts to burn. She will return to work next week. We are hoping that she has a decent amount of energy to get through an entire work day.
So over this previous week, mom has been to several appointments to have scans done and be fitted for a form to keep her arms in one place during the radiation treatments. The doctors will look at the scans to determine the strength of radiation. They told mom they would be very aggressive with these treatments (likely as her type of cancer is a rare and aggressive type that was at an advanced stage at the beginning of treatment). She will start treatments on Wednesday and they will be daily (Monday - Friday) for six to seven weeks. She has already started to take her medications that she will continue to take for the next 60 months to help prevent the cancer from coming back.
Mom has been doing pretty well over this previous week. She was able to get a ride to Oklahoma City over the weekend and watch Addison play soccer. She was very excited to be able to pick her up for a few seconds as she has not been able to do this for months. She stayed for several hours that day and seemed to do pretty well. I am sure this was helpful for her (and us) to feel like she is advancing in her recovery. BC (before cancer) it would not be uncommon for her to come to OKC 2-3 weekends a month and to stay for several weeks during the summer to spend time with Addison. I think this weekend was the third time she has been here since May. She was able to visit school last week and I know that she is ready to get started. She returns in just a couple weeks. She is starting to do some of the things she was able to do before diagnosis and treatment. Of course, she does get tired much more easily and you can see that she does not have the same physical strength, but it seems as though things are improving. I will keep you updated on radiation treatments.
Tomorrow will be mom's first radiation appointment. They will likely not start radiation tomorrow, but do tests and get the machines set up for when she does start. Several months ago, if felt this step was so long away. And, especially for mom, it has been a long road. I know that she is excited to get this started as it is another step towards completing treatment.
Monday was actually the third follow up with the doctor since surgery. This has been an exausting two weeks for mom. Of course there was the drain incident. Then last week, she went in and was told that there was not enough fluid to insert another drain and that the opposite drain would remain until at least the next week. Monday mom went to the doctor and was able to have her drain taken out. This is huge as it allows her to be able to have some freedoms of going places and eliminates the stress that the remaining drain would also come out. She has had some pain near one of her arms and the doctor told her this was due to nerves near the site the lymph nodes were removed. The pain extends down her arm, but since she has been able to do her arm exercises, she reported the pain has shown some improvement. The official pathology came back as well. She had one spot in tissue that has less than a two millimeter spot of consumer and something like ten of the lymph nodes removed had a trace of cancer.
This was expected. Even though her MRI did not show any cancer, her doctor had told her that there could likely be traces remaining that were not large enough to be detected by the tests at this point. This is the reason that it is so important that she continued with the surgery and with the radiation that will start in the next 2-3weeks. She has been doing well and in fact, told me that yesterday was the best day she has had since May! Her toe is now fully healed, so she has mobility to go a few places with her siblings and friends. She certainly has to be cautious to not do too much as she still is in pain and still gets tired very easily. I think that being done with the chemotherapy and the surgery has made her feel that there is an end in sight as far as the treatment. She is expecting a call in the next week or so to get an appointment scheduled to start radiation.
I will start by saying that everything is now okay.
Friday in the early evening Addison and I were packing up our things to head back home. Mom had been doing really well after her surgery. I will skip all the details of her drains, but will summarize by saying that it was clear something was not working right. Mom called her doctor (it was around 5:00pm) to see what she needed to do. The doctor called back and told mom to get there right away. This was not necessarily an emergency situation, but more that the doctor had to be somewhere by 7:00pm and if mom were not there by 6:30 she was have to go to the emergency room instead. We were staying at her sister's house in Sand Springs and needed to drive to the hospital where the doctor's office is located. We made a very quick trip there. It seems that on one side, the drain was starting to come out which was the reason for it not operating properly. The doctor tried a few ways to fix it, but was unable to do so and took it out. She will need to go back Monday to have it put back in. She must have a certain amount of fluid built up before they can put another one it and this is the reason she was unable to place a new one Friday. Mom was discouraged about this, but it should not set back any of the recovery process. We left the office a little after 7:00pm. Mom is blessed to have a fantastic doctor that always will stay extra if needed and really puts her patients first. Mom is still doing well in her recovery and is being careful to restrict her activity so that she can fully heal.
Mom was able to come home this afternoon! She is doing really well and seems to be getting around. She is very restricted with the use of her arms, but is learning ways to get around or move without use of her arms. She will meet with her doctor Monday. She anticipates starting radiation therapy in about four weeks, depending on how she is healing.
Things have been busy and I am just getting a chance to update. Surgery went well. They pathologist said that he was having difficulties finding anything as he was looking through tissues that were taken. The first day was very difficult. Mom looked very pale, had difficulties sleeping, and was in quite a bit of pain. Today she got sick about three times in the morning. The doctor said she had very low hemoglobin levels any may need a blood transfusion by the end of the day. Mom is not able to use her arms to lift herself, pull, or really anything. This means that for even tasks like getting out of bed, she needs someone to help her up. She will have drains for the next 10-14 days which also complicate being able to get around.
By this afternoon, she was doing much better. She was able to eat for the first time. She did not end up needing a transfusion, and she has been able to sit up in a chair. She has been able to get more rest today and was even able to get up and walk around a bit. She looks much better as well. She would like me to tell everyone thanks for their support, prayers, and good thoughts. This will be a long recovery, but she is excited to have the next stage in treatment done. We plan for her to be able to go home tomorrow afternoon. So, I will try to get another update on here by the end of the week.
Tomorrow mom will go in for surgery around 7:00am. We do not know when her actual surgery starts or how long she will be in the hospital. This last week has been pretty hard for mom. She has still be on restricted activity due to her foot and developed an abscess on part of her neck which has been very painful. I think she is ready to get this next step done. We are happy that she is going in to surgery without the cancer mass. This next step is so important because although she does not have cancer right now, once the chemotherapy starts to wear off, it will come back if she is not proactive in the treatment. I will update tomorrow evening once we have more information after the surgery.
I have to collect myself to type more. My mom went in today to meet with the surgeon to discuss her mastectomy. She had her MRI completed last week (or was two weeks ago- they all run together). The test was done so that they could see the location and size of cancer to guide surgery. To our surprise, shock, amazement, her doctor told her that the scans show no cancer. Not that it is smaller, not that it has improved, but that it is GONE! Okay, just one more time folks...the cancer is gone!
Now that being said, my mom still has a lot of work to do to prevent cancer from returning. She will have surgery (double mastectomy) in less then two weeks. The recovery from that will take several weeks. During this surgery they will also remove lymph nodes that were PREVIOUSLY infected with cancer. This will affect the usage of her arms for a period of time. She will then do radiation every day for several weeks. She will also have to take medications daily for the next five years to prevent this from coming back. That is for later. For today, the cancer is gone.
It seems there has been an endless list of appointments in the last few days and there are more in the next week to come. Last week, mom had her second MRI. This will determine where the cancer is currently as they prepare for surgery in about two weeks. From mom's perspective, the process of having the test done was much more lengthy and difficult than the last one. Yesterday she went to the foot doctor and (sigh) was told she would not be able to go back to work. This means she will be staying home until her surgery and then will start the time off for recovery from this procedure as well. I know that she was really wanting to get back to work, get back to the kids, to be around her very supportive (and wonderful and fantastic and loving - I could go on and on) coworkers, and get back to having a "normal" routine. She has accepted that this additional time is necessary for her health and has tried to not get too stressed about not being able to return.
On Friday, she will meet with the surgeon to go over the MRI and answer questions regarding the surgery. Next week she has another appointment with the foot doctor, an appointment to be fitted for orthopedic shoes (will help with the foot issue), an appointment with the cancer doctor, and a preop appointment. This will be the most activity my mom has had in several weeks as she is not to be putting any pressure on her foot. She seems excited/anxious to get to the surgery. On the checklist for treating her type of cancer she was given four things: chemotherapy, double mastectomy, radiation, and hormone treatment through medications. She feels that once the surgery is finished, she will have worked through the most difficult parts of the checklist. I think it will feel like a large step towards recovery. And, I must admit, the mental image of the doctors actually removing this horrible cancer from her body during surgery is just glorious.
So as it turns out, we were not able to visit mom this weekend. We had the car packed up and as we were loading, Addison kept complaining that her throat hurt. Since mom has a weakened immune system we stopped by the walk in clinic on our way just to make sure. Turns out she has a double ear infection and tonsillitis...no trip for us. May have worked out better this way. Mom said that this treatment has been very difficult for her. This makes since because each treatment is not its own, it is more cumulative. So this treatment also included what remains of the previous seven as well. She said she was much more tired even the day after treatment. She said she took two naps (pretty good since she has not been getting much sleep). She says she has been in pain and that the anxiety has been back as well. When I talked to her last night, she seemed to be doing better. Additionally, she said that her foot has made significant improvements and she is hopeful this means that her surgery will go forward as scheduled.
On the fighting cancer "To Do list" finishing chemotherapy was a huge step. As I type, mom is walking (very slowly) out of the cancer treatment center, her veins full of the chemicals necessary to attack the cancer cells and rid her of them for good. This was the last scheduled treatment. She is now done with chemotherapy. Of course, as the chemicals will attack the cancer, they must also battle with everything else in her body - uncluding her blood cells that would be fighting infection. Her doctor is putting her on antibiotics to help fight infection from her foot once her white blood cells are weakened. The hope is this, along with the precations she is taking with her foot, will eliminate infection so that she can go forward with her surgery as scheduled. Surgery is the next big check to put on her list. We are hoping to be able to visit this weekend. With all the foot problems, we have not been able to see her in a month. I believe this is the longest she has gone without seeing Addison - ever.
It looks like mom will be home for another two weeks. As you can imagine from the information from the previous post, she has been upset about this. This time may be a little easier as she will be allowed to do very very light walking. This will mean she can walk to the kitchen or that if someone picks her up, she may be able to walk to her car and go have bed rest at their home for a few hours. This may sound funny, but I am sure once you have been in your room and nowhere else (except chemo - but that really does not count does it?) that being able to do bed rest somewhere else could really elevate your mood. I am sure her siblings will be picking her up soon. Mom's big adventure for tomorrow will to go to her chemotherapy treatment. This is the last one!
I have not posted in several days because I have not been sure what to say. These last couple weeks have been really hard for mom and I wanted to obtain her permission before posting. Mom is still essentially on bedrest. It has been about two weeks now. She is not supposed to get out of bed even to go in the other room to fix or eat dinner. She is not able to walk around to get ciculation or look out a different window. She can go from her bed to the chair in her room. She must take special care to stay off her foot at all times if possible. Of course anybody would want their body to heal. This is especially important for her as she has very stong chemicals running through her body that affect her blood counts, as she has a weakened immune system and is suseptible to infection, and as she is preparing to have a major surgery in a few weeks. All these reasons increase the importance that she follow all the rules her doctor has given so that her foot can heal.
First of all, the pain from the previous chemotherapy treatment has really been hard for mom to take. The first few days after seemed to be going pretty well, but the pain has been increasing since then. She has pain in her joints and especially in her knees. She does have prescription medications to help manage the pain; however when she takes the medication, it causes her blood pressure to drop too low. This leaves her with trying to find the balance between a safe blood pressure and relieving some amount of pain.
Second, she is experiencing excessive anxiety symptoms. This is not surprising - she is dealing with a lot. In some ways the cancer diagnosis is still setting in(for her and for us). It is hard to believe that it was only three months ago that she was diagnosed. Her body has been through so much trauma already and she has so much to go (one more chemotherapy, surgery, raditation, and several tests). I think this has all become overwhelming for her. She also loves her job and the kids she gets to work with every day. I know that she has anxiety over not being able to work and not being part of their school year yet. She is so ready to get back to work, the kids, and her coworkers. Mom is so accustomed to being able to do things for herself. It has been very difficult for her to rely on others to bring her meals to her, to take her to appointments, and even to substitute for her at work. Both the pain and the anxiety have led to difficulties sleeping. I know that several days may pass with only a few total hours of sleep.
As I said before, I asked for mom's permission before posting this. She told me that the point of doing the blog was to let people know how she was doing - good and bad. I have tried to keep things general without going into too many details. When it comes down to it, this is all part of dealing with cancer. Cancer is a horrible disease and we all look for a day that nobody has to deal with this anymore. Now I will tell you, that as my mom talks to me about some of her symtoms she adds this:
"You know, being at home I have had no choice but to watch a lot of television. I have seen so much about the miners that have already been trapped for so long...they may be down there for so much longer. When I think about that, I don't think I have much I can complain about."
Of course that is what my mom says...of course it is.
So I have checked in with mom and not too many problems with pain at this point. I know that she is getting bored of staying in bed all day, but I think she also recognizes that this is may be part of not being in so much pain.
Mom went in for her chemotherapy treatment today. Her hemoglobin levels have dropped again, but still high enough to continue with treatment. The problem is that she is having neuropathy in her hands and feet. The doctor told her that nerve damage can be a side effect of the chemo and that it can be permanent. Since she has already lost feeling in her toes, the doctor decided to change her chemotherapy type to avoid further nerve damage to feet and hands. This treatment was faster to administer and mom is hoping she will be in less pain in the days after treatment. Saturday seems to be the telling day of if she will be in pain and the extent of it. The trip for chemotherapy is the first time she has been able to get out of bed in a couple days due to the toe issue. She quickly returned home and to her bed rest per her doctor's orders. She was given some medication to help her sleep since she has not slept much at all in the last couple weeks, especially this week. Tomorrow she will get another quick break from bed rest when she goes in to get her shot. I will update again on Saturday.
Today was the first day of school for the kids. Mom has spent time over the last few weeks going to the classroom to get it ready and bringing home the new books and lesson packets to get them ready for each of the kids. She has been very concerned about how much time she would need to miss for her chemotherapy treatments and wanting things to be as consistent as possible for the students. Seriously people - I have seen her get her calendar out to try to figure it up. She hated that she was going to miss Thursday for treatment since it was in the first week they were back. She tried to get her Friday appointment changed for getting her shot so that she would be there to take the kids to their first time at church this school year. So she was NOT HAPPY when she went to the doctor today and was told she was going to have to miss two weeks. I was told the details about the toe but lets just say it is gross so that you can be spared reading and I do not have to relive the story while typing. The result is that she has some type of ulcer on her toe that was treated today and she must stay in bed on off her feet for two whole weeks. She does have permission to go in for her chemotherapy treatment Thursday and for her shot Friday. I will update Thursday as tomorrow will consist of staying in bed and NOTHING else.
Mom had previously made an appointment with the doctor as she had a sore area on one of her toes. Today she said that her toe is enlarged and there is a large blood blister on it (this was her own diagnosis). She was back to work today and she said as she left, the teacher in her room gave her a hug and mentioned that she felt warm. Mom said that she took her temperature when she got home and sure enough had a fever at 101. If she has raises in her temp (above normal) she must immediately start taking medications. She started taking her antibiotics today and has an appointment to have her toe looked at tomorrow. She said her cancer doctor told her that this should not affect her blood levels and she should still be able to do her chemotherapy treatments. I will update to let you know details of the appointment. Mom said that she is feeling well.
Mom had her appointment with the breast surgeon today. Upon exam, the doctor stated that things look much better. She did an ultrasound in the office and stated that the cancer is... ALMOST DIMINISHED! This is fantastic news. Mom said the doctor is very excited about this. She has two more chemotherapy treatments and the doctor told her the chemo stays in your body for several weeks after your done as well. It looks like mom will have surgery sometime around the end of September and may have radiation after that. Mom sounds very encouraged by the progress. She says that all the pain she has been in over the last couple weeks is worth it as long as she gets the good end result.
Mom said this round has not been near as bad as the last one. She said that she is in pain though and is pretty much staying at home to not stress herself. She has been doing heating pads and cool packs as well as her medication for relief. She said that she is able to get around though and that things are better.
Thursday mom completed her sixth treatment. I know that she was not looking forward to this one as she has been in so much pain after the last one. Her doctor did give her medications to help with the pain and mom plans to stay on top of it over the weekend to try to prevent the pain for getting to the level it did last time. Most of her blood work came back good. Her hemoglobin levels have been getting lower each time and they are now below normal. Now I can't tell you what that really means except that this is the level they monitor to see if she can do treatment for that day. She was very restless through her treatment. Her sisters tell me she was shifting a lot in her chair, was getting up and down, and was "irritable." I know that when I would call to check on her she continued to worry that it was taking too long and that it did not seem like the chemotherapy bag was emptying quickly enough. She went back to get her shot this morning.
We are staying in Tulsa this weekend and when I woke up this morning nobody was in the house. I went outside and mom was in the swimming pool with Addison. They started swimming at 7:30 this morning. She says that she thinks tomorrow will be the test of how she is going to do as Saturday was when she started having problems last time. She is getting to be fairly tired. Not only from the chemotherapy, but she said that she is having a hard time sleeping most nights. She seems pretty determined to keep doing things as close to the pace she would before. As I type this I can overhear her talking (read complaining) to my aunt because she may have to miss an hour of work after her next treatment... The conversation has now gone to wigs vs. hats.
I will update by the end of the weekend to let you know how she has been doing with the pain. By the way from the sound of it...hats win.
I just wanted to put a quick update on to say that mom is doing a little better and is in less pain. She said that she is still taking medications but that she is able to move around much more in the last day or so.
So this weekend has most certainly been more difficult for mom. We came to Tulsa for a visit. She was able to get in the pool during times there was full shade, but was not able to swim around much. She has started to have a great deal of pain in her hips and legs. She took a nap at her sister's house and was in enough pain that she said that she considered calling her sister in the other room from her cell phone to bring her Tylenol (notice I said considered, she did not do this). Her brother's retirement party was scheduled for Saturday and she has been looking forward to going. On Saturday afternoon, she did not think she would be able to go and was considering staying home (again notice I said "consider"). She did go to the party, but was not able to stay for any activities after dinner. She was very uncomfortable through the night and said that she did not sleep much at all. The next morning (Sunday) she was really struggling with getting around and was in quite a bit of pain. Mom did manage to get herself ready for the day and made it to St. Mary and worked in the nursery Sunday afternoon. When I talked to her Sunday evening, she said that she was able to take some of her prescription pain medication and that she was "finally feeling a little normal."
The pain could have two causes. First could be the shot she receives the day after every chemotherapy treatment. This shot contains white blood cells which are absorbed by her bones and pain in her joints/bones/body was a possible side effect. The new chemotherapy that she is doing has a side effect of flu like symptoms (among others) and could be also be causing pain. Overall she is still doing well. The negative treatment effects are certainly starting to show and she is struggling a little. She is a very tough person and has a very positive attitude. I know that she will adjust to any side effects. I will update again in a few days.
Mom went in this morning for her first Taxol chemotherapy treatment. Her blood work came back good and she was cleared to do treatment today. This type of chemo apparently has a higher probability of the patient having an allergic reaction. She was administered Benadryl before treatment and received one hour of medications to monitor her reaction. Mom said that her wrist was itching a little and she had some minor pain in her back. She did not have any significant reaction though, so they started her on the last three hours of treatment. After she finished treatment she asked the nurse what types of reactions they were looking for and they told her that some people have heart problems, rash, severe pain in back, and other not so fun things. We are very fortunate that she did not experience any of these. When I talked to her tonight, she said she is still doing well. She said that she has been a little tired and has taken two naps today. She plans on this being her big weekend to swim, so hopefully she will feel well enough.
Last weekend mom was able to come to Oklahoma City for a weekend visit. This is actually the first time she has been able to drive herself and stay a couple nights this summer. This has been a drastic change from the last couple summers. Not that she has not been capable of driving, but since she is doing treatment every other week, has doctor's appointments, ect., there just have not been many opportunities. This was the first weekend since mom has started treatment that I was able to see a real difference in her overall health. She seemed more tired than usual and she had a hard time walking longer distances. (The walking is due to the white blood cell shots she gets the day after each treatment). She is having some pain in her throat (due to tissue change - a side effect of the chemo) and has some mild trouble eating. We did get the chance to take Addison to see her first movie (Toy Story 3) and I know that mom really enjoyed doing this.
Tomorrow she will start her new type of medication. Of course, we all hope that she does as well with this round of medication as she did with the last. She will say that even if she does not do well, she will be grateful that the negative symptoms indicate the medication is working. She always says she would trade several weeks of being ill if it meant that she was able to get past the cancer. This round of medication will take longer to administer. The "red medicine" took about 2 hours, and this will take about 4. Her doctor told her they would do an even slower administration tomorrow to monitor how her body reacts to the new medicine. She will be at the treatment center tomorrow at 7:15am, will have blood drawn and wait for results, then a few hours after arrival will start the chemo drip. I will update tomorrow evening on how she is doing.
Mom's incision from her port has completely healed and she is cleared to go swimming this weekend. We will all be in Tulsa and she is looking forward to her first opportunity to get in the pool this summer!
Today mom finished the first half of her chemotherapy today. To this point, she has been taking what the doctors and nurses are calling "the red medicine" or "red devil." She will start a new kind of chemo in two weeks. She was told by her doctor that the medicine she is taking now is typically harder on the body compared to the chemo she will start in 2 weeks. Her blood work today was fantastic. Her white blood cell count is higher than before she started chemo and the other numbers are all better as well. Mom is happy to get through this first type of medication and is ready to move to the next. She said as of tonight, she is feeling well.
Today mom met with the surgeon. She had an exam and an ultrasound. The doctor said that her skin surrounding the cancerous area is softer (a good thing) and that everything already looks better. The ultrasound indicated that the affected lymph nodes are smaller and that everything is looking better. As long as chemotherapy continues as scheduled (meaning blood levels continue to be high enough to continue treatment without having to wait additional time), she will have surgery approximately three weeks after chemotherapy. This is all very good news. Mom was very excited to hear that improvement is already visually obvious.
After mom told us about her cancer diagnosis, we were concerned with how to tell Addison. She is only three and obviously the word cancer does not mean anything to her. We waited until mom had her port in to talk to her about it as we knew it would be important that Addison could not climb on mom. The only thing that Addison was able to take from the conversation was that she did not want her Grammy to have "baby hair." We talked about it a few times and her response was "mommy, cancer is disgusting" said in a three year-old accent of course.
When we got to Tulsa, Addison told mom several times she did not want her to have baby hair. My mom got out her hats and wigs to try to show Addison, get her interested, and make the entire situation less scary. Addison wanted nothing to do with it. Nothing. My mom even told Addison that she could cut her hair. Still, nothing. So almost two weeks ago she tells me "I want to cut Grammy's hair." I told my mom. So a few days after her last chemotherapy treatment (#2), she drives to Oklahoma City with the intention of letting my daughter cut her hair.
It was actually a really great day. My aunt Jeannie drove mom here and we made a day of it. We all went to the park. We drove by Addison's new preschool so she could show her grammy where she would be going to school. When it was lunch time I told mom that she needed to pick where to eat since she just had treatment and I was concerned about her stomach being upset. She picked Red Robin (Addison's favorite restaurant). They took Addison to get ice cream. Mom's hair was starting to fall out - she had a little time left. Her first priority was getting to Oklahoma City so that Addison would be able to cut her hair. She was most concerned with making sure she could alleviate any of Addison's distress. I had also told her that I needed to see her hair come out. She has been doing so fantastic with her treatments. We are so so happy about that. It is hard to believe though, that the chemotherapy is working when she is doing so well. I told her that I needed to see some hair come out to be convinced it was working. She never said it, but I know she also came so that I could see some coming out. But for those that know my mom well, you are not at all surprised that her priority was to make sure that her family was handling her cancer well.
Addison was so excited to cut mom's hair. Addison was laughing at points. She had no problems with it at all (except that she was not allowed to handle the scissors by herself). My mom kept telling her that she was doing such a good job cutting her hair. We have not heard a single word about not wanting grammy to have baby hair since. We finished mom's hair after Addison went to sleep, so we will see what she thinks when she sees all the hair gone. Leave it to my mom to make an undesirable symptom of chemotherapy into a great day for her family. Enjoy the pictures while they last, the "powers that be" will probably make me take them off when she sees that I have posted them on here.
Mom's blood levels are still very good and she was able to get her chemotherapy treatment today (which started at 11:15). She met with her doctor before treatment. He did an exam and told her that her skin pores are already getting smaller (which is a good thing) and that he feels things are going very well. She still has an area that is healing from her port and he said that it does not appear to be infected and is healing well. Mom is ready for the port area to be completely healed so that she can go swimming. She said that she is feeling good today. I called her around 9:30 tonight and I could hear a lot of noise and laughing in the background. She said that she was having a dinner get together at her sister Jeannie's house with both sisters, her brother Dick, and his wife. They seemed to be having a great time. She will go in tomorrow for her white blood cell shot. In two weeks she will do her last treatment with this type of chemotherapy. At that point she will be 50% completed with chemotherapy recommended for this time. She will start a different type of chemo two weeks following that. Hopefully she will so as well with the next type of medication as she has with this one.
Tomorrow mom will do her third chemotherapy treatment. Her appointment starts at 9:00am. We were joking today about what time it may actually start. In her optimism, she said 10:30...I said 11:20am. When she gets there, her blood work is done to ensure her levels are still safe to move forward with treatment that day, she meets with the doctor, and then they start her on nausea medication. Once her blood work is cleared, they start mixing the chemo. This takes about 45 minutes to mix. After it is mixed she sits for a couple hours to get the chemotherapy. I will post tomorrow about how the treatment went.
Mom just returned from a mini vacation in Branson with her friend. She had a great time and they were able to get lots of shopping done, they went out to eat at a few nice restaurants, and had really enjoyed thier time. Mom said that she was feeling well the entire trip.
My mom is now 25% completed with the chemotherapy that has been scheduled at this time. You would have no idea. She has not been sick at all and has only required a little more rest than usual. She has been able to work, to go out with friends and family, and to do all the things she was doing before starting treatment. We are all so amazed. Of course, she has had the best attitude about this, which I am sure has helped as well. She has a large family that is able to accompany her to her various treatments and doctors appointments (and there are many). She has wonderful coworkers that have been incredibly supportive and have been unbelievably generous with her. This generosity has helped alleviate so much stress and I am sure is directly related to how well she has been doing thus far. She has began to receive cards and well wishes from friends, family, coworkers, and her church family. My mom is truly blessed to have so many supportive people in her life. She has talked about this every day. My mom checks this site from time to time, so please feel free to leave any comments for her. She is truly appreciative of all the support she has been given by others.
Mom's second chemo treatment went really well. They draw blood before each treatment to make sure that her hemoglobin levels are high enough. Hers are still very high which meant they were able to move forward with treatment. They also told her that her port is doing really well. Mom was maybe a little more tired after this treatment but went to lunch with her sister and then took a nap earlier today. She said that she is feeling well and has not been sick at all yet again. She will go in tomorrow for her shot to increase white blood count.
Tomorrow mom will go in for her second chemotherapy treatment. She did so well after her first treatment and she is certainly hoping this one goes as well. She has had very good medications that have prevented any nausea up to this point and still has energy to work and go out with her friends just as she was before starting treatment. She is scheduled to go in the morning and I will update tomorrow evening.
This weekend after mom's first chemotherapy treatment has been going great! The day after injection, mom said that her hips were hurting a little (the shot builds bone marrow so this is a typical side effect) but she was able to take Tylenol and did not seem to have any significant problems. She was a little more tired than usual but was able to run errands Saturday and went to her brother Dick's retirement party for about two hours. She was able to spend a lot of time with Addison and the family outside, and this morning she went to work! Hopefully this week will continue to go well for her.
Today was mom's first chemotherapy treatment. Yesterday, mom and Kris went to the American Cancer Society to pick out a wig. Mom says the experience went well considering the task. Kris and mom were able to share laughs while trying some interesting wigs. Mom was able to find one as well as a few hats that she liked.
Today mom's chemo was scheduled to start at 10:15am. When she arrived, they were still waiting to get her echo results to enure they could give the dosage the doctor recommended. Mom said that she was very nervous before it started and I am sure that waiting for the results to come intensified the anxiety. Her heart tests came back great as did her iron levels in her blood. She was able to receive the recommended dosage of chemo. Once the treatment started, she felt much less nervous and she says she is very glad to have the treatment started. She says that all the nurses and doctors she has encountered so far have been very wonderful to her. As I type this, she is watching Addison play with toys and you would never know she just did her first chemo treatment. Tomorrow she will go back to the cancer center to get a shot that will increase white blood cells in her body. She will have this shot after every treatment. At this point her spirits are pretty good and she is very thankful that after only 13 days of diagnosis she has been able to get all her tests done and has been able to start treatment.
On May 14, mom went into for a mammogram. During the tests, mom was told that she had inflammatory breast cancer. She was called back that day for a biopsy and was told that the tests were to confirm the cancer diagnosis. The biopsy came back positive for the suspected area as well as at least one lymph node. Since that time she has had a PET scan, an echocardiogram, and a MRI. Friday she had a port inserted that will allow her to receive chemotherapy and for blood to be taken for various tests without causing difficulties with her veins. Friday, mom was called and told that the tests indicated that cancer has not spread to any other areas. Mom will start chemotherapy this Thursday as the first step in her treatment process. So far she has been really positive. She knows that she has a long and hard fight ahead and is motivated to get better. She has asked to keep this blog so that all her friends and family could keep updated on what is going on, especially on days that she is not feeling well or is too tired call everyone. I will try to keep this updated at least once a week.