Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Final Chapter

Mary passed away Monday night at , surrounded by her family.  She died peacefully in my arms.

During the last two weeks the pains in her abdomen were getting more intense and she was feeling weaker every day.  On Sunday, May 22nd her friend Barbara drove her to her daughter’s baby shower.  I don’t know how she made it through the day as she was already feeling very ill.  On Monday she stayed in bed almost the entire day.  Early Tuesday morning she was feeling nauseous and light headed and at I took her to the emergency room at Jeff.  She was admitted right away.  Tests for signs of infection were negative.  It was the cancer that was taking its toll.  After talking to her oncologist she decided to stop all further treatments.  On Friday we moved her to the hospice of the University of Pennsylvania.  A nice, new facility with 20 rooms and friendly staff.  There she was kept comfortable.  She was ready.

Mary gave me the best 8 years of my life.  I miss her terribly.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I’m Still Here

I know some of you are concerned about me because I’ve been quiet the past couple of weeks. Well, it hasn’t been quiet from where we sit. I think in my last blog I mentioned that I had new pains in my chest – which is not really my chest but sort of the chest- abdomen area. I did call the doctor on Monday the 2nd and got an appointment immediately. This was Dr. D at Penn. They took a chest x-ray, did blood work and had me get a PT scan. We got home about 5:00 p.m. that day, having left at 10:00 in the morning.

Dr. D called me on Tuesday evening to tell me that the pain came from the liver and that the tumors were still growing. She told me I would be going off the study immediately and that she would contact Dr. A at Jefferson to talk about future treatment. It was a big decision deciding to go back to Jeff and to stick with Dr. A and not go back to Dr. M, my original oncologist. This was one of the major decisions we had to make that day, which caused me much angst. We had to think about the convenience of Jeff over Penn to receive treatments; Jeff is closer if I need to go to the emergency room, or what they offer in hospice care – to name a few. I liked the fact that Dr. A and Dr. D didn’t seem to have any problems talking to each other – there didn’t seem to be any egos or territorial issues involved.

Later in the week, while the folks at Jeff were trying to work out all the details with my new treatment plan, I received a call from Jeff saying that my platelets and white counts were low. The platelets were too low for me to get treatment. This would mean a delay in beginning the new chemo.

On Wednesday the 4th I sneezed and got a searing pain down the right side of my abdomen. The pain was debilitating and hurt especially when I took a deep breath, belched or sneezed. We had our friends take me to the emergency room at the hospital – fortunately there was only a 1.5 hour wait. They immediately plugged me into a morphine IV and came up with a list of tests: chest x-rays, ultra-sound of my gall-bladder, blood tests and cultures. They sent me home at 7:00 a.m. the next morning, unable to tell me anything. They did give me scripts for morphine. It’s amazing how quickly you become constipated on morphine. Now I have to take more stool softeners and laxatives to keep things moving.

I was told on the 13th that my platelets and white counts had gone up and that I could start the treatments this week. On Saturday evening, the 14th, I came down with the chills. When I took my temperature it read 99.9 which is high for me. We cancelled the plans we had to go out for food and drinks with friends, and I went to bed instead. When I awoke Sunday morning my temp was 100.8 – at this reading the docs would have wanted me to go to the hospital. I took two Advil and took my temperature every couple of hours. It went down and settled to about 97-something. This morning my temperature was normal.

As soon as the office opened today I called the oncologist and spoke with her assistant. I explained everything that was going on with me. She had me come in for a series of blood work, cultures and an x-ray. There will be no chemo this week either – we just have to wait for the tests results.

I think I’ve been handling things pretty well. This may be due to the anti-depressants I am now taking and the constant state of “high” I think I am in from the morphine. My support system has been here for me. During these last two weeks I was treated to a massage, been to lunch and movies with friends and family, went shopping and bought an outfit to wear to Lauren’s baby shower, which is this weekend.

Thierry was busy as well – when he was not sitting in a waiting room somewhere, he managed to plant twenty-four tomato plants,30 hot pepper plants and roughly 36 sweet pepper plants in my dad’s garden. Thierry also planted a tomato plant in a pot on our balcony and filled out the containers. The grass we had planted last year came back. (Unfortunately, Jeannine’s bulbs that she planted in the fall did not.) We picked something with a purple flower and they look great with the grass.

Hopefully I’ll find out what is going on this week and we can get a handle on it. It’s very odd to roll along with a temp of 97.6 and in a few hours have it read 100.8. Have a great even week!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Bit Up and a Bit Down

I want to thank everyone who commented on last week's blog. I realize I must have sounded like I was throwing in the towel, but I was really a bit angry at some of the things I had been hearing - and I guess about the cancer itself. All of your kind thoughts and words meant a lot to me. Many folks sent me emails because they are unable to post on the blog.

It's been a bit of a seesaw week. I have had my dark days, but have also had a couple of really good ones.

Lauren had a big crowd at her house on Easter Sunday. Lots of food and family from out of state. My dad's brother, along with his wife and son, were visting from New Hampshire, as were my sister's two sons. It was great to see everyone.

I had to have blood work done three days in a row. All for the study, but I found out that not all the blood work would be paid for by the study. So, after several phone calls and suffering a minor meltdown, I learned that because my family doctor is at Jeff, I have to go to Jeff for routine blood work and tests (like MRIs, etc.). I guess I should see all this as a minor inconvenience. Thursday was the big day. I had to be at Penn at 7:00 am for a blood draw before I took the meds. Blood was taken two more times, 4 and 8 hours after the first, so we had to hang around all day. Fortunately, Lauren was able to get away for lunch so she picked Thierry and me up and we scooted across town to an old favorite restaurant. She was in great form and her humor and spirits really picked both of us up.

Friday I met with a psychiatrist (for the second time) to talk about things. She prescribed an anti-depressent which I will begin taking today. Hopefully this will smooth out my moods. When I asked the trial nurse if this would be okay she told me that everyone is on an antidepressent and no, it wouldn't impact the study.

Friday afternoon I actually felt very upbeat and happy. I went to the movies with friends and then out to lunch. After a very big glass of wine and spending time laughing, I actually had a lot of energy. Thierry and I went out for coffee, then later friends came by and we ordered a pizza. Then Saturday came. I awoke with terrible pains in my chest/abdomen which hurt only when I move. It feels like things are growing or swelling - just what, I am not sure.

Lauren treated me to a fundraising luncheon Saturday afternoon, which we did attend. Unfortunately I was not great company. I came home and took some Advil and lay down for a while. I felt a little better and Thierry and I went out to dinner and then to a friend's joke party. What a great idea for a party, isn't it? It was really fun to sit back for a couple of hours and just listen to jokes - and laugh! I am amazed at how comfortable some people are in getting up and letting jokes roll off their tongues - and the fact that they remember them. Two couples did skits that were really funny. If you've never been to one, time to host one!

This morning I am in pain again. I took some Advil and it seemed to help for a while, but the pains are creeping back. I'll try to see the doc tomorrow.

Much to do this week, so I am hoping for a good one.