Monday, August 23, 2010

Kathy Passed Away on August 12, 2010

I don't think there is anyone who doesn't know by now and I didn't intend to write on this again. My sister Maries suggested I make one final entry so I will but I will make it brief.

Kathy went suddently downhill about two weeks ago. We went to the hospital due to trouble breathing and she had turned yellow. I was more worried about the yellow as it reflected liver issues which is where the cancer had been detected several years ago. She had fluid drained from next to her lung but the blood tests came back showing trouble in the liver. We were allowed to go home for Sunday but were told to call our oncologist on Monday to discuss further.

Our oncologist was on vacation that week. Kathy could barely stay awake on Sunday but managed to go to church and hear Jacob's mission return address. On Monday the oncologists finally called and told me that they were sorry to give me such bad news and that they really wanted to talk to us in person. They wanted us back at the hospital.

Once we got there we were told that the liver numbers were very bad and that her "time was short". Once we were admitted to the hospital we tried to find out what "time is short" means but it took us until Tuesday afternoon to find out that it meant a few days to two weeks. Unfortunately, Kathy was hardly able to pay attention and was mostly asleep so I'm not sure she got it all but she understood most of it.

The doctors did their best to get Kathy well enough for a short flight to Utah for the wedding but it didn't seem likely. On Wednesday her kidneys failed and we took her home late Wednesday night. Josh and Tara flew home to see mom and just made it before she couldn't focus on anything else. She passed away at 9am Thursday morning.

I want to thank Mark Forsyth's family for setting up this blog for me. It made it easier for me to track the journey. Thank you all for reading along on Kathy's journey.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Radiation and Family

Kathy began radiation last week on the large tumor above her right clavicle. It affects her sholder and next and has been pinching the nerve causing numbness and loss of function in the right arm and hand. Considering that she is right handed the loss has been significant and a real burden. We are glad that her Doctor decided to put a hold on chemo and radiate the spot to shrink it faster.

Once Kathy had seen the radiation guys she knew a little more. It would be easier in time and energy and pain than last time but she wouldn't see immediate results. It may take a month after she completes the 12 days (next Thursday) before she starts to see the tumor shrink. We are just hopeful the tumor does shrink. The bad news is that they can't say that she will regain all or even a part of the use of the arm and hand. When nerve damage is done it isn't easily repaired. We aren't sure if nerve damage has been done or if they have just been stretched. Time will tell. In the meantime we have to be hopeful and realize that if nothing else it will stop or slow the growth of the big tumor.

Kathy hasn't had chemo for two weeks but she still has the same symptoms as if she was. She is nausious some days, tired every day and caughing off and on. Weird. It could be just a general decline but I don't want to think about that. Maybe it is just residual chemo.

We did see some positive results on the chemo so we are anxious to be done with radiation and start the nasty stuff again. It is a two edged sword, cutting back on the tumors but also cutting back on your lifestyle.

The boys all were here for Jacob's mission return. We don't have six sons home often but it was a fun and busy weekend last week when Jacob came home and Josh came home with his fiance (Tara) for the week. We had 10 people sleeping everywhere in the house. I was concerned Kathy would overdue but she has been good about naps and going to bed at a reasonable time.

Josh and Tara leave on Saturday. We will go to Utah in two weeks to the wedding. See, there are some good times amid the bad.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Game Plan

Kathy and I, David and Kathryn, Daniel and Matthew went to the Hardy reunion in Idaho last week. Kathy had a few fevers leading up to the day we left but nothing serious and she felt just well enough to make the trip. Fortunately, with all the drivers she was not required to drive at all and slept a lot. We also stayed in a motel most of the time to make sure we could get a nice quiet place to sleep as long as possible. That worked out well for us and we slept in several days.
The reunion was very nice and Kathy had no side effects except fatigue.

The external tumors have not slowed down which is an indicator to us that the current chemo either hasn't had time to work or isn't working. She had a doctor visit yesterday and I noticed the night before that there just could be a little fading of the external tumors. We were hopeful but at the same time Kathy's use of here right arm (the one with lymphodema) is hardly usable and aches a lot.

Dr. Chew looked it all over and believes the arm issue is due to the increasing tumor in her next and clavicle area and has recommended radiation of the area. This is good as it will help reduce the size of that one tumor but it also means being off chemo for as long as the radiation is necessary.....a two edged sword. Still, we are optimistic and believe it is the right process. The radiation will take place in Cameron Park which is only a few miles from our home rather than the 35 miles down to UC Davis Medical center.

Kathy took her chemo yesterday and is scheduled to go to radiation on Friday. She is resting at home. The next couple days will be her "sick" days which will hopefully end just as radiation starts. Our biggest hope is that she will regain the use of her right arm from this radiation and then the chemo can address the other tumors. We will see.

If it all does't go smoothly then after Josh's wedding next month she will begin a more difficult chemo treatment.

In case you were uncertain, cancer and the fight against cancer, is no fun.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kathy in Hospital but Doing OK

Kathy has been having respitory problems for a couple months along with everything else. On June 8th she went in and had the fluid taken out of the left side around the lung (not in the lung) and we thought that would be all she needed as it seemed to be helping. Last Tuesday she had her new chemo treatment and on Wednesday she was sick which is what they said might happen the first time. She actually threw up for the first time in all her chemo treatments.

Thursdsay she was feeling somewhat better and Friday morning she felt a lot better. But after lunch on Friday she started feeling sick again and threw up again. Very unusual. As she was preparing for bed she took her temperature and it was 102. She called the on-call oncologist who suggested we go into the Emergency Room. We got there at about 10:40pm (does anyone go there in the daytime?) and she was quickly (in ER time, not for anywhere else) admitted to the Emergency Care Room with a separate room for those who need to be isolated. They soon determined she was not nutropenic (low white blood cell count) so not such a risky situation. However, even after getting the fever down she was still not feeling well and they weren't sure about the lungs and fluids etc. She got a big needle put into her back to take out some of the fluid in the right side (I was right there and watched intently) to be tested for infection.

Finally at 4am they told us she was going to be admitted and no more tests for the night. I went home and slept til 9:30. When I got up Kathy had just called. She had just gotten in to her room. I thought she was on her way basically when I left. Sheesh!!

Anyway, she has been there for a few days. They took a CT scan last night and determined that she has a lot more fluid in the right side and it needs to be drained today or tomorrow morning. They suspect some sort of infection in the lungs and the antibiotics are working on that. I don't think she'll be home until Wednesday at the earliest but all is looking pretty good.

What a roller coaster ride we are on.

No chemo this week but next infusion is next Tuesday.

Friday, June 11, 2010

New Drug, More Procedures

We found out the last chemo wasn't working so Kathy begins a new treatment on Tuesday. The CT scan also showed a lot of fluid build up around the lung. Not in the lung but in some sack around the lung (who knew there was a sack around the lung?). She has been coughing a lot and uncomfortable when getting up and lying down so it really bothered her. Her doctor told us that she could go in and have it drained. A routine procedure 99% of the time.

My problem with routine procedures is that they aren't. Kathy rarely if ever has a routine recovery from routine procedures. Infection, ineffective, needs to be redone, stiffness, soreness, errors. That is our experience with hospitals and treatments. When the routine procedure involves putting a needle thru your back and into the sack around the lung it doesn't sound so good. Especially when the 1% issue is usually that the needle goes too far and they puncture the lung. That is bad as it collapses the lung.

So, after feeling worse and worse after the doctor visit last week, Kathy decided she needed the stuff drained. We went in on Tuesday and it went pretty well. Not as much pain as we feared (is it ever?) and more fluid then we had imagined. They only do one side per day so they drained the left side and out came 1/2 liter of ugly looking fluid. It was amazing to watch it shoot into the container but sorta gross and depressing as well. The other side has almost as much. She is still considering whethor to do the other side or not.

So Tuesday new chemo. Can't wait. One of the side effects: tiredness. She is getting sorta down by all the tiredness. She has to pull back from her temple service and that really bothers her. She doesn't feel like she has much fun but hey, isn't laundery, cooking and taking care of me fun? Hmmmm. I've suggested she help at the library or some other service that doesn't require such a precise schedule. Usually my suggestions aren't too good.

We've also been troubled by her sister Darlene's emergency surgeries and recovery process up in Seattle. Kathy wants so badly to go and help but can't because she has treatments and problems right now where she needs to stay close to UC Davis Medical Center. We'll see how that goes, she is anxious to go. We are praying for Darlene's recovery.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

CT Scan This Week and Changes Next?

Kathy and I are both pretty sure this chemo drug just isn't doing it. The tumors do not seem to be shrinking and she is always tired. She has gone in for a CT scan today which they will compare to the results from six weeks ago and we'll see what is happening. She isn't scheduled to visit her doctor for another two weeks but we think she might be able to know the results before her next infusion next Tuesday. No sense getting a drug that isn't working, right?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tiredness Tiredness and more Tiredness

Well, if you had one word to describe how Kathy has been feeling over the past month it is tired. She is always tired with the possible exception of the day after she receives her chemo treatment and then she is on a chemo drug high. However, if she works at the temple for four hours (which she does) which she does the day after chemo, then she is tired at the end of the day. Naps are crucial.

She was sooo tired and not feeling well two weeks ago when she went in for her infusion that they cut back the chemo by 20%. She did a little better. Last Tuesday we went in to see the Dr. which we always do on the week "off" and discussed the progress. Kathy and her Dr. decided to keep the chemo at the reduced 20% reduction and to get more CT scans in three weeks. From that we will be able to see if there are any changes and if we need to either increase the dosage again, change drugs, or keep on going with this drug.

We have a few people pop over and bring dinner occasionally. We really have capable people at home but Kathy still does almost all the cooking. I occasionally do either Lasagna or Meatloaf but really she does OK as long as she gets her sleep at night and her naps.

The one problem with her sleeping is that some nights she just can't sleep. So she is up for hours in the middle of the night and can't relax. She takes something for that and usually it works but last night it didn't. I hope she isn't building up a resistence. What are you going to do?

We continue to enjoy having Dan and Mike home. Kathryn went to NY this past weekend so we even had David at home. Nice.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Two Down and Going Well

Kathy had her second infusion on Tuesday and she is feeling well enough to go out to lunch today which is a good sign. Not a great sign because she would have to be feeling really really bad not to go to lunch with her friends but it is still a good sign. We like those.

Last week we went to Daniel's graduation at BYU. I wouldn't let her drive at all so she could rest and relax some. I think it worked. She rested and I relaxed some. She seemed well all the way there and back and was able to see the graduation and participate with all the activities. Just needed a nap or two and was rearing to go.

Dan came home with us (in his own car) so we now have Dan, Mike and Matt living at home for awhile. Dan will go when he finds work. Mike we don't know what his plans are and Matt for two more years. The house seems full again and I can't watch whatever I want on TV again. Hey, something has gone terribly wrong.

Kathy's white blood cell count has actually gone up the past week which seems very strange to me but is really great. The danger is when is gets down in the 1's and it was 3.4 last week but 5.3 this week. Weird. Let's just hope it stays that way. Next week is the 3rd in this cycle and then she gets a week off. I hope this time her week off is actually something she can enjoy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

3rd Infusion, Risks and CT Scan Results

Kathy had her 3rd infusion last week and then went to Idaho to pick up Michael from school. It is hard to believe his school year is over already.

Since coming home she has not felt strong. She is tired and achy and is having a harder time than she has in a long time. We have been watching her temperature to make sure we don't miss the signs this time. We are both hoping to avoid another hospital stay.

With each infusion her white blood cell count goes down. It was low when she went in last week so it could be almost 0 after the third infusion and could explain her not feeling well. She could be fighting the beginning of a sinus infection or just about anything else. It looks like we are back in the world of worrying about the chemo almost as much as we worry about the cancer.

She has noticed her hair is starting to feel crunchy which, as we have discovered twice already, is the precursor to losing her hair. This is an emotionally draining thing that I can't relate too. Or, I relate to it so well that it doesn't bother me much but is defistating to her each time. This will probably be the last time she loses her hair since I believe we have used up all the known medications that don't cause hair loss.

The good news is that the CT scan didn't show much growth in size or number of the tumors. That was a relief but Kathy was so stressed out about the results and everything that she didn't feel like celebrating. I told her the results couldn't have been better but she looked at me and said, "yes they could, she could have told me the cancer was gone". Well, I guess there is that.

After the appointment at the Dr. I went home with her and stayed the rest of the day. She needed to rest and not take Matthew to the DMV for his Learner's Permit. So I drove him there and Kathy slept in the car while we were in the DMV for two hours. Good times.

We are a bit anxious right now over the possibility she might be sick but so far no fever and her Eyes, Nose and Throat Dr has given her some anti-biotics to fight a sinus infection just in case. Thanks for keeping her in your prayers.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Two Treatments Down

Well, we really don't know much at this point. Kathy had her second infusion of her newest chemo cocktail. She did well and didn't let us know she was in pain on Friday and Saturday. That was because we had David and Kathryn up for a fun Saturday and she didn't want to be a downer. Only Sunday did she let us know she had been really tired and sore in the bones and muscles.

Two days ago her sister Darlene sat with her thru her 3 hour infusion. Tonight we should see a little more how she feels. Last night she couldn't sleep and was wired all day yesterday. Funny how these things affect the body. You never know. Kathy says she was up til 3:00am before she could sleep. I'm assuming she took some Adavan or whatever but don't know. She didn't wake me at all.

Next week she gets her CT scans again which are supposed to provide a baseline for this chemo mix. It is a little late since she will have already had two infusions but what can you do. That will be interesting to see once we get the results back. She has felt lumps increase so you know something is going on in there. Hmmm.

After her infusion next Wednesday she wants to drive to Reno, pick up Kim and then drive Thursday to get Michael in Idaho. Nothing keeps her down for long.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Update From Kathy After Dr. Visit

Dear Family and Friends:

Well, once again, I get the opportunity of updating you all on life in the EDH Ricks' household. Never a dull moment--though I often wish that weren't true.

I went to see my oncologist today (Dr. Helen Chew @ UCD Cancer Center). Due to some recent tumor activity she has recommended that, as of this week, I change my chemotherapy treatment.

For the last nine months I have had the luxury of taking my chemotherapy in pill form at home (Xeloda). The side-effects have been mild and manageable--my hair is back in, my blood counts are stable, the biggest problem has been rawness of the hands and feet.

Starting next Wednesday, I get to return to my old routine of having my chemotherapy administered in weekly infusions (three weeks on, one week off) at UCDMC. The new drug is called Ixempra. The side effects are more similar to what one expects with chemotherapy--neuropathy of hands and feet, fatigue, unstable blood counts, and the ever popular hair loss (yes, I get to wear my scarves and wigs again this summer). Bummer.
Honestly, the hair loss, even the third time around, is the most difficult to face. No more cuts and colors (sorry, Tammy).

Will I be able to keep up with a normal lifestyle? I hope so. My option with this chemo was to have it weekly (as we chose), or once every three weeks at a higher dose. This every three week option would have basically wiped me out for 10 days after the infusion. Having the smaller doses administered more often should even out the side-effects and allow me a better quality and consistency of life.

Ray, Matt and I are taking off for a few days during Matt's spring break in a few weeks. I am going to Idaho to get Mike from BYU-I, I am coming to Provo for Dan's BYU graduation, I am coming to the Hardy reunion in July. I will continue to work at the temple and teach Relief Society and do my Visiting Teaching. I will continue to be a mother. I may just need to take a few more naps and fit in these darned doctor's appointments around my life. That's my goal!

As for the rest of the family, here is a quick update:

David finally passed his translator's test with the FBI and is now a full linguist. He is busier at work already and sees signs of soon being the primary breadwinner for his family. In the meantime, Kathryn continues to work at ClearBags (Benny Wilkin's company) and loves her opportunities there. We (Ray, Grandpa and I) went to their home for a fun St. Patrick's Day dinner last night. We love having them close.

Dan has successfully defended his thesis and will graduate with his Masters in Mechanical Engineering from BYU on April 22nd and 23rd. We are very proud of him. The job hunt is on in earnest. He will continue his job hunt from here in EDH after his graduation. Any leads are welcome.

Josh still has one more year at BYU in Secondary Ed. He is dating a sweet girl, Tara Jackman, is working as a T.A. on campus, and is all around happy.

Jacob's mission has been extended for about three weeks so he will return from Mexico sometime around July 24th (we still don't have the exact date). He loves serving in the mission office as an Assistant to the President and is busy helping with the additional work of preparing his mission boundaries to be realigned on July 1. He will return to BYU in September.

Michael is about to complete his first year of college at BYU-I. I will be going to get him and bring him home on April 10th. He still doesn't have a job lined up for the summer, but I know he is working on that. His future plans are a bit uncertain, but we'll keep you all informed as he figures it all out.

Matt is still home and keeping Ray and I feeling young (or old, depending on the day). He is playing the piano a lot under the instruction of his older brother, David, and we enjoy hearing him practice and seeing the progress he's making.

Ray is able to ride his bike more now that we have more sunlight. He did, however, buy some really cool lights for his bike and he's almost disappointed that he can't use them more--next winter will come all too soon! Work has been really busy this winter with no let-up in sight. Keeping the company afloat is time consuming for the employees that have not been laid off. We are grateful he still has a good job.

Life is still good. We take our knocks, we have our slumps and our "I hate cancer days", but overall, we are happy.

Love to all--Kathy

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sinus Surgery Complications and Chemo

Well, just when we thought things were going smoothly and she was all recovered from her sinus surgery she had a bloody nose all night long that wouldn't stop until early in the morning on the 12th. She called the doctor, went back in and they packed her nose with gauze. It was in there all weekend (which we had planned to spend in Monterey) and finally taken out early last week. It even bled all night one night after her nose was packed so they took her off chemo.

Being taken off chemo helps things heal and gets her over some of the side effects of the chemo. So she has been feeling better while being somewhat miserable with the sinus issues. Mixed blessing at best. The downside is that the cancer sees it as a chance to move forward. Last night Kathy told me about a few lumps that had suddenly appeared. Yikes.

Today she had her regularly scheduled visit with the doctor. Her doctor was just starting to tell her we might get another week or so reprieve when Kathy pointed out the lumps. AFter looking more closely at the one Kathy pointed out and another on her neck she told Kathy to start her chemo again tomorrow. Her next appointment is in 3 weeks and if we don't see improvement on these lumps it may mean changing chemo treatments.

Changing chemo treatments is bad. It means one less defense is gone. Also, you don't know what the next side effects will be but probably means loss of hair----again. That is the worst thing possible to Kathy. There are other things like the unknown side effects, the trips to the cancer center to get infusions (the pill chemo has been great) and other things.

I knew we were feeling too comfortable. Now its another reality check. I guess I shouldn't get down until we find out in 3 weeks what the story is. I've learned to not get negative before necessary. This is a roller coaster.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sinus Surgery Done and Recovery Going Well

Yesterday Kathy went to the hospital to have outpatient surgery for her sinuses. They have been bothering her for a year (since the last hospital stay) and have not responded to medications. Finally, they had decided to do something more extreme and go in and do some repair work to something that was done on her last sinus surgery about 15 years ago.

After checking in at about 11am and scheduled for 2pm surgery they were running ahead of schedule so they called her in right after she got there. The surgery was completed before 2pm and her sister Darlene called me and told me she would be out to recovery shortly. I left work and got there about 3pm but Kathy wasn't there yet. After about 15 minutes they wheeled her in. She had a big gause (I can't spell) banadage taped to the bottom of her nose. She looked great!!

She was still groggy for a while so we sat and waited for the doctor to show up and tell us what he thought. That took two hours. By then Kathy was a little more clear headed and certainly more cleaned up. We washed her face off and she changed her bandage to a smaller version of the same thing. She got dressed and still we waited. Finally we told them we were leaving and I went to get the car. Of course that is when the doctor showed up and told her that it all looked good. They didn't see anything else that would cause a problem so we are hopeful this will work and she will not be dripping all the time..............time will tell.

Kathy was in no pain and slept pretty well with that gause banadage at the bottom of her nose absorbing the small amount of blood etc that drained. She says now that the draining has stopped. She is resting and taking it easy for a few days. She is doing well and we are hopeful for success.

Because of the surgery she hasn't been on her chemo meds so the side effects have subsided some. Not as much as I would have thought but enough to feel some relieve. We take the small victories we can get.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kathy Gives Her Own Update

Dear Family and Friends:

I just sent out my annual letter to many of you that live far away and now I have my latest health update.

I had my oncology appt. today where I would learn the results of my latest CT scan taken last week. For some reason, I was really nervous about this appt. I asked Ray to go with me eventhough he is extremely busy at work. I tried to be calm, but my blood pressure and pulse were both a bit higher than normal......

Anyway, all my worries were for nothing. All is well. The scans showed that my cancer is still in check---no growth. I was so relieved!

Furthermore, I am having a sinus procedure done on Feb. 3rd and my oncologist says I am doing well enough that she recommends I take a few extra weeks off of my chemo until after the sinus thing is done. YEAH!!!!!!!!!!! I can't even tell you how excited this makes me. My hands and feet will get two extra weeks to feel better before going back on the meds.

Don't get me wrong....I am grateful for the chemotherapy. I am alive and functioning (though dealing with some side-effects). I am very grateful for modern medicine and that my life is being prolonged with a decent quality to it. It is nice, though, to get a break every once in awhile so my body can heal a bit.

Thank you for all of your love and concern. I am at peace with all that is happening in my life. That is a good thing.

Love, Kathy

Monday, January 11, 2010


The holidays went pretty well. Kathy was so busy with all the boys home that she didn't take it as easy as she should have. Instead of being just more tired it seems it affected her feet too. She had much more soreness in her feet than she had in prior weeks and would get up and walk around gingerly the whole time.

Eveyone left on Saturday, January the 2nd to go back to school etc so Mom and I and for part of the time David and Kathryn just relaxed and watched NCIS marathos on TV. It was a very lazy day and much needed. On Sunday her feet felt much better and on Monday she was back on her chemo drugs.

We changed insurance coverage at my company January 1. So we are finding out that we have to get clearance on all the drugs and procedures from the new insurer. We can't just assume it is covered. She had to buy a few drugs last weekend just to get her thru the weekend and it was over $250.00. I asked her today how much a daily dose of medications would cost and she said over $250.00. That doesn't count the infusions she gets monthly, the docstors visits, the treatments for lymphodema or anything else but the drugs. She is an expensive lady!!

I am so glad for insurance. I wonder about the future and hope we can always have the coverage we need. We would go broke quickly if we had to pay for this for long.

For now, Kathy feels good and is strong. It is January, though. Last year on Martin Luther King Jr. day we took Kathy to the hospital. Too many bad memories. Things aren't the same this year. This medication doesn't lower her white blood cell count like last years. We are hopeful.