Thursday, June 28, 2007

4th Chemo - Pump Removed

I meant to post yesterday but between one thing and another I am steadily falling behind in my duties. Karen had the chemo pump removed yesterday and is doing well. Actually surprisingly well, considering how the week started.

As always we got a CEA reading yesterday and once again it is down. If you recall last time, CEA was 356, this time it's 221. I'm tracking it in a notebook so to-date the progression has been...

  • 628 to start
  • 511 after 1 chemo
  • 356 after 2 and now
  • 221 after 3.

Again, this is great news and we're hopeful there's a linear correlation between the CEA and the tumors.

A CT scan is scheduled for Monday and consultation Tuesday. Anytime Karen has a CT scan she has to drink a special fluid in preparation. It tastes pretty dreadful and there's a lot of it. As for the results of the scan, we're not really sure what to expect. There's a chance Dr Dan will recommend surgery, in which case we'll go into a hyper-drive of preparation that includes figuring out an actual surgeon as well as go off chemo for a month or so.

There's also a chance Dr Dan will recommend continuation of chemo, based on the shrinkage thus far. I'm not sure what I'm hoping for.

For now we're just getting ready to enjoy the weekend.

Monday, June 25, 2007

4th Chemo Session

Kate took Karen for her 4th chemo session today, thanks Kate. It was thankfully uneventful by all accounts. Doctor Dan met with Karen as usual and is pleased with the progress. I was able to conference in via speaker phone. Karen's been having lots of pain from Neulasta and he talked about trying Neupogen without me bringing it up. Karen's blood counts are doing well so Dr Dan cancelled the Neulasta shot for this week.

Since this is the 4th session, Dr. Dan has wasted no time and has setup a CT scan for next Monday. In his words, he's "curious" as to the results of the scan.

Lastly, in great news, my sister Teresa gave birth to a new baby boy back home in Ireland this morning after wait for it...7 minutes of labour. Amazing. Congratulations guys and welcome Conor Loughnane. Sydney is excited to meet her new cousin.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Getting Back on Track

It's been a few days since the last post and thankfully not much to report. I think I spoke too soon last time as Syd's fever returned. We've had a lot of sick kids, cranky kids, a lot of waking up in the middle of the night and all that goes with that. Thankfully we are getting back on track.

Karen has been suffering from the usual bone pain from the Neulasta shot. It's supposed to last 24hrs but in her case it seems to last 3-4 days. Percocet seems to do the trick but K uses it sparingly due to the fog it brings. I have done some research and come across a drug called Nupogen which may be easier on her. I'm going to ask Dr Dan.

As of tonight Karen's doing much better and as she put it "I assume I'll feel ok tomorrow".

Next Monday will see the fourth round of chemo and we schedule a CT scan soon after that to measure progress. Logistics for chemo weeks are really important to ensure K can rest as much as possible and that the kids are looked after. I think we still have a few holes in the schedule for next week but hopefully we can figure that out before Monday.

Although it's not going to be for a few weeks, I am already looking forward to the CT scan and have high hopes for an excellent result.

One more thing tonight: Don, if you're out there, can you email me? I'd like to know how you made out on the 5th and how recovery is going.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Running on Fumes

A quick update: Karen caught some kind of bug Friday that caused a severe sore throat. We took a trip into the Oncology center where they did a quick blood test. Sure enough her white-blood cells were sky high indicating she was fighting off something. The bug has since righted itself over the weekend and K's doing better now.

Huge thanks to Kate and Chris who took the kids swimming on Saturday. I had big plans of painting and cleaning the entire house but these plans were de-prioritized in favour of catching up on some much needed rest.

Unfortunately Sydney caught the same bug and developed a high fever over the weekend. She spent all day Sunday on the couch in and out of sleep. Around 5pm her fever broke and now she's on the mend. Sleeping all day meant she was up all night so we are running on fumes today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

3rd Chemo - Pump Removed

Karen's doing well. She had the chemo pump removed today and got a shot of Neulasta to take tomorrow. It's in the fridge next to some yogurt.

Grandma and Aunt Brenda took the kids to the aquarium yesterday. They had a blast, (even the kids enjoyed it) and Karen slept most of the day. Taking the kids during chemo weeks is SUCH a big help. It's better on Karen and just as importantly it's better on them too so thanks for that guys.

K's taking Compazine again (the tongue paralyser) but with Benadryl and it seems to be working. The side effect is complete exhaustion but at least she can keep food down which is important. She's taking a bunch of other stuff that I was going to post but I think I'll skip it.

Two more things tonight: First a funny story that'll give you some insight into Karen's strength. The other day whilst sitting through chemo, Karen left the room to meet with Dr Moriarty. They keep you hooked up to the IV whilst you have your consultation. Once her exam was done she wheeled the IV back into the center of the chemo room and announced to all present "Well....I'm CURED!!!" to which the entire room burst into laughter. Contrary to what you'd think the chemo room is quite an upbeat hang-out.

Lastly, I called the hospital today to inquire as to K's CEA level. It's down to 356. I'm tracking it in a notebook so to-date the progression has been 628 then 511 after 1 chemo, now 356 after 2. This is a very good sign that we are out-pacing the cancer.

I'm going to sneak out now and get her some MaryJanes.

Monday, June 11, 2007

3rd Chemo Session

Karen's sister, Jen took her to chemo today whilst Sarah stayed over and scored huge points minding the kids. This allowed daddy to go to work. Thanks guys.

The chemo regime has not changed, still 5FU, Avastin, Oxalyplatin. This time they changed up the nausea and "supporting" medications. I haven't gotten the full rundown but I'll post it when I do. One thing I know is they switched from an oral to a IV administration of Atavan. By giving the drug through the IV it enters directly into your blood stream and hence has the maximum effect. It's not easy but Karen is amazing and withstood it all with flying colors.

They also re-introduced Compazine as an anti-nausea combined with Benadryl. The Compazine is the drug which caused Karen's tongue to go nuts [LINK]. The Benadryl will act as an instant antidote and we will be watchful for a recurrance.

Needless to say, Karen is sleeping soundly after a very long day.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Neulasta and our Medical Team

This day last week Karen gave herself a Neulasta shot. Chemo kills your whiteblood cells leaving you vulnerable to infection. Neulasta remedies this by giving your bone-marrow a kick in the pants to start producing more. The net effect is you feel extreme pain in your bones, mostly in your hips and spine (areas of lots of bone marrow). The doctor told us it'd feel like you'd been kicked by a mule.

So for the last few days Karen's been on pain killers and today the pain has started to recede. It's tough to manage as you can't really drive a car (to take the kids out) when you're loopy on Percocet.

A lot of folks have been inquiring about our care providers and offering references to other doctors etc. It's always better to get a visual, especially if you're reading this overseas (as I know a lot of you are). I thought it'd be nice to post a little bit about them.

We've been attending Overlook Oncology Center in Summit. Our oncologist is Doctor Dan Moriarty. Here's a link to his credentials [LINK] and he's pictured on the right.

Doctor Dan has been great, a sincere, caring and knowledgeable doctor, and is truely committed to making Karen well. He's been doing this for 30 years so this isn't his first rodeo. Exactly the type of person you'd want as your "cancer quarterback".

Another key-player on the team is our nurse Nancy. She's pictured here in the back row, right hand side.

Our team of nurses

Nancy has called us a couple of times now off her own bat just to check-in and I think you can tell just by looking at her that she's a very caring person. As you can see from the pics, this is a great group of folks, very upbeat and positive without being patronizing.

Overall we couldn't be happier with the care and support we've received at all levels. If you'd like to learn more about the center or group we're working with click here: [LINK].

We start the 3rd chemo round this coming Monday.

Monday, June 4, 2007

PET Scan Results

Today we got the results of last Friday's PET scan. All was "as expected" meaning there were no new areas of cancer detected. This was good news as now we know what we're dealing with: liver and colon. Period.

The last few days we fell into a real "funk" here, chemo weeks are just like that. It's hard for K to go through, it's hard for the kids to be apart from her and if I'm being honest it's hard to watch K go through it. By the end of the week things are about ready to unravel. This is a new week and we got some good news today so it's time to shake off the funk!

We got more good news today in the form of a lower CEA level. The baseline before chemo was about 629. After 1 chemo treatment, that number has come down to 511. Over 100 points in the bag! All being well this number should continue to trend downwards until it reaches a normal level of between 0 and 3.

It's time to take a break from the big C. Wonderful Aunt Brenda is here! Cynthia and Brad are coming Thursday so it should be a fun week.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Tough Questions and More Side Effects

Although this 2nd round of chemo was better overall, it seems there is no end to the side effects. Most recently Karen's hair has started to thin out, detected by the rather sizable hair-ball in the drain this morning. Luckily her hair is thick to begin with so perhaps this won't be that noticeable.

The sweating has abated and nausea returned over Friday and the weekend. New anti-nausea meds were prescribed to augment the current stuff.

This morning Karen's feet were sore with what she described as a feeling of severe blisters on the balls of her feet. It seems to have worn off as the day has worn on.

Also Sydney has become quite "clingy", waking up each night at 2am this past week, something she rarely does. Yesterday she told me she was worried about Mommy and asked if she was going to "disappear". I think all the coming and going has been hard on her nerves and we resolved to do a better job of making sure she knows when mommy will "go to work".