Sunday, May 3, 2009

Last Chemo For My Mom

I am so glad to report that my Mom had her last chemo treatment this past Friday! I am so very glad. I have been so worried about what this chemo was doing to her. I know I should be worried about the cancer, but the chemo symptoms are what are visible at the moment and it is so hard to hear what my mom is going through! She emailed her circle of friends and family last night with the latest. Here is what she wrote...

Chemo, Numbness, Fingernails & Leaks‏

Sat 5/02/09 8:11 PM

Chemo or No Chemo?Last Friday I went in for my blood work and a private exam by one of the Oncology nurses. Primarily we discussed the numbness which had taken over my fingers, the bottom of my feet, my toes and, strangely enough, my upper lip and bottom of my nose. Katie sighed and said, "You know, Judy, you have been through so much and have had so many side affects to deal with. When you come in next week for your treatment you need to discuss this with Dr. Code and if you really want to, they will allow you to pass on your last treatment." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I could have a free pass? Why that was like the "get out of jail free" card, wasn't it? I contemplated what she said the rest of the week and decided that if the doctor could answer two major questions I would go ahead and pass go and head straight for home.

Tom and I arrived at 8:30. I was surprised to see all my chemo buddies still sitting in the waiting room. Usually they were there ahead of me and already setting up their beds, saving one for me in the middle. We all started discussing why we had been allowed a little extra bed time and decided it was because of The Oaks (the fillies equivalent of the Derby always run on the Friday before the famous first Saturday in May). In fact, all morning and into the afternoon the Oncology Clinic had their own versions of The Oaks and The Derby right there in the hallways. It was a gas! As Tom and I waited in the examination room I was a little on edge, not having met this new Dr. Code on previous visits. Would he be able to answer my questions? He arrived and I had to stifle myself from laughing out loud. Why he was barely wet behind the ears! Was this a joke? Doogie Howser was going to answer my questions? Let's get real. But in his eyes I saw such kindness. I asked him, "Have you read my records?" He replied that he had read every single word and couldn't believe all I had been through. Such gentleness...such empathy. I liked this guy. He asked me some questions and then it was my turn. I asked, "I have experienced unusual numbness in my hands, feet and lip. Will this next treatment of Taxol mean that since this numbness is still with me, that it will be twice as bad as the last time?" His answer, "It could." Second question, "Can you assure me that if I have numbness again that it will eventually go away?" His answer, "No, I can not." Well, that was to the point! Then he continued, "For some people it subsides rather quickly, maybe within six or eight weeks after treatment. For others it can last a year or so. And for some, it never goes away." So I said, "Katie mentioned to me last week that I could consider not having this last treatment but that I should discuss it with you before making a decision. I know there has to be a reason why 8 treatments were prescribed for me. Can you tell me what you think?" He answered that eight is not necessarily a magic number but that in trials eight treatments were used with the most successful results. He told me that considering the type of cancer I had it would be wise to take full advantage of the treatment recommended and the results would be a less likelihood of the cancer returning. But, he also told me I could opt out if I really wanted to.

I looked at Tom. He had heard the whole conversation. I asked him for advice. His reply was, "Judy, you need to weigh the options here. Opt out and take a risk that the cancer will return at some point but you won't have the numbness. Take the treatment and know you have done everything you can to squash this thing and risk having some numbness." Well now, that was simple. You heard him, Doc! Dr. Code did say that he would instruct the nurses to give me a lesser dose, instead of the two and a half hour Taxol drip, I was to get 30 minutes lopped off. So the grand total treatment with premeds, flushes, (Oh you bet I make sure I get flushed out!) and other drips came to six hours instead of six and a half.

I was the first one back to the beds so I staked out claims for all my friends who arrived shortly thereafter. For Lorrie it was to be her last treatment, too. She admitted to me in private that she almost opted out, as well, but not for the same reasons. She just has had enough of the pain. She had breast cancer when she was 28 years old and begged the doctors to take both her breasts. They told her it was too drastic a step for someone so young. She said, "Judy, if they had listened to me I wouldn't be laying in this bed right now with stage 4 cancer in my gut and I can't get that out of my mind." Mid morning Donna Gunnoe arrived with Panara Bread quiches and pink roses (two of each - one for Lorrie and one for me). Right before I left one of the nurses brought me a card that had been signed by all the treatment room medical staff. They had each written a special note. It meant so much to me.

When I return for my last blood work and doctor's visit I am going to bring them all a big box of My Favorite Muffins. Yum! Everything has been set up for the radiation. My first appointment to get records in and pre-examinations with tattoos put in place will be within two weeks at Bluegrass Radiation in Frankfort. I'm delighted they would take me. What a blessing. The actual treatments won't start until June.

Fingernails It appears that, unless the Lord intervenes, I will be losing all but my thumb nails. The nails are working their way out from the nail beds which is a strange sight, believe me. Last week I spoke with the Athem BCBS advisor who insisted that I needed to take the polish off so that the nails could "breathe". When I did, I could see that my nails were turning black and blue, just like I had hit them with a hammer. I decided they didn't need to breathe at all so I covered them back up with polish. Today when I was working on them I could tell that they were buckling up and away. All it would take is a nice sized bump, tug or pull and adios! My toenails might fall to the same fate. The last time I wore closed toe shoes I was in agony so I'm glad that spring and summer have arrived so I can wear open toe shoes/sandals without freezing my little piggies off.

Leaks No, ladies, it's not that kind of leak. It is my tear ducts! I think it is the steroids I have to take right after my treatments. Whatever it is, though, it is a nuisance. My tear ducts drip/leak constantly and at the most inappropriate moments. Some days it is all day long. Other days it comes and goes. When I'm working and someone comes into the model I just have to apologize and say, "I'm so sorry. I'm really not crying. I'm having a reaction to some medicine I'm on. Don't mind me." Everyone has been so gracious and understanding thus far.

The Last TimeSo here it is, Saturday evening and, yes, it has started. It begins in my back and then my shoulders. Tomorrow it will be in my feet, legs and knees. But this is the last time, Alleluia!!!


Next comes the radiation treatments in a few weeks. They will be every day for 6 weeks. Whew! I am so glad one leg of this journey is over, the next one is soon to come, and then by mid-summer it will be over and we can all breathe!

I covet your prayers for my mother once more! Thank you so much for your intercession!