Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kathy starts chemo again today

Well, here we go again. Kathy has been regaining her strength but it has been very slow progress. She is up and helping around the house more all the time but still wears out quickly. Last Saturday we went grocery shopping and when we went to the second store (yes, I actually shopped) she rode the little mobile shopping cart. It was fun but also an example of how tired she still is.

Today she met her oncologist and they determined that she should start chemo. After all, the cancer hasn't been on hold and we need to fight. We all hope and believe that Kathy will do better now that she doesn't have the Sutent in the mix of drugs she is taking.

She should feel good until about Thursday night and then be even more tired until about Saturday night. We are all praying that this goes well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Three Week Hospital Stay for Kathy

Kathy began chemo therapy again last October. She had exhausted all the non-invasive medications to fight her stage 4 breast cancer and chemo is the last option. We had switched oncologists about six months ago for several reasons, one of which was to be able to participate in studies done by UC Davis Medical. This allows Kathy to be in studies that will benefit other women with cancer even if it doesn't help her. Kathy volunteered to be included in a new study when she began her chemo which combines two known cancer fighting drugs......just not two used together. One drug, tomoxofil (I'm not really sure of the spelling) was used in her chemo treatments in 2005 and the other Sutent (an abbreviation) is known to fight another kind of cancer.

In October Kathy began taking Sutent daily (a pill) and received weekly infusions of tomoxofil. She received the infusions for three weeks and then was to take a week off before starting the cycle again. She had two cycles before Christmas. Each infusion causes the white blood cells to go down and her overall drug buildup to increase so she feels worse after the third application than the first. We could tell exactly how long she would be sick and for how long.

After a little break for Christmas where we went to Monterey for a week with the boys, she started up the cycle again in January. All went well until she just about started the third infusion. She got a synus infection and was on medication for it but was thought to be in good enough condition for the chemo infusion. For a couple days after the infusion she felt OK but on the day she should feel bad she started to feel really bad. The next day was worse and we thought it was because of the sinus infection. We gave her some cold medication and she slept for most of the next two days but didn't get better.

Finally, on Monday, January 19th I had Jennifer Hunsaker, a good friend and nurse come by to take a look. I thought Kathy was dehydrated and she had fainted the previous night in the middle of the night. Jennifer said we needed to get her to an urgent care facility because she needed liquids right now. By this time Kathy was throwing and diarrea too. We were losing the battle. Kathy was so week we had to carry her out to the car.

When we got to the urgent care facility we found out she had a fever of 104. For chemo patients, when white blood cells are depleted, this can be life threatening. We rushed her next door to the Emergency Room at Folsom Hospital where they began emergency treatments. She was in bad shape. In the midst of all these other problems she also had developed pneumonia.

It was a tough few days. She would sleep most of the time and not very restfully. We transferred in an ambulance from Folsom to UC Davis down in Sacramento so she could be close to her oncologist who has physician rights at UC Davis. She received an isolation room used primarily for bone marrow transplant patients but it was ideal for Kathy. They put tubes in her neck, down her throat and everywhere else. It was not pretty.

Her digestive system had stopped working. They listened with there little stethoscopes to her tummy and couldn't hear a thing. They said it wasn't that unusual with chemo patients but they sure seemed worried about it. Finally, after about three or four days there were some rumblings in her stomach and the doctors breathed a sigh of relief.

The Sutent drug seems to have done a lot of damage. It made her skin peal all around her knuckles on her hands causing the to be sore and ugly. But, worse than that we found out after they wanted to start feeding her real food that her mouth and tongue were covered in sores. They told us that if it was on her tongue it was also all thru her digestive tract. That was realllllly ugly and she needed morphine to eat. Finally that healed.

The last major problem was that her digestive system still didn't function properly and even though they put a lot of fluids in her, more was coming out. So, internally, she was still dehydrated. Man, how much fluid does it take? The doctors didn't really know what to do but speculated it would right itself and thought if they put less in than less would come out. I think even I could have predicted that so there must be more to it but that is how it was explained. That turned out to be the solution and she was finally pronounced good enough to go home on February 7th. That is almost three weeks.

Right now she is recovering at home. She still doesn't get up from her comfortable chair too much but she does putter around the house and get stuff done.....especially on the computer. We are all glad to have her home and see a slow but steady increase in her strength.

We are especially grateful for all the people who have taken care of her at the hospitals and for our friends who have provided meals and support. It seems everyone we know has Kathy in their prayers and that is a great comfort. It helps.

We will be OK.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tour of California

Thanks to Mark Forsyth we are in the new world of blogging so I'm trying this out to see if I'm technologically smart enough to include pictures. On Feb 14th Daniel and Mike and I went to the Prologue of the Tour of California in downtown Sacramento. This is a picture of Lance Armstrong. We stood at a corner so we could watch them all slow down and come extra close to us. It was pretty cool for those of us in the family who love cycling.

Daniel had flown home from BYU to see his mother and spend the long weekend with us. It was just a coincidence that the Tour of California was in Sacramento on the same day. Kathy wasn't strong enough to make it but we had fun anyway.
Hello everyone! This is Kathy. I've been home from the hospital for a week now. The recovery is really slow, but it is steady. Thanks for all of your love and support while I was in the hospital. I am supposed to start chemo again on Feb. 24th if I feel strong enough. I will not continue with the clinical trial as some of the problems I had in the hospital were a result of my trial medication. Wish me well......Kathy

Thursday, February 12, 2009