Is No News Good?
The week has passed with no major victories or defeats on the cancer front. We had a follow up with Karen's doctor who specializes in hip replacements for cancer patients. In minor good news it seems that her hip fracture is finally healing. The downside is that the socket has healed such that we have the equivalent of a round peg in a square hole. So while Karen's danger of more spontaneous fracturing of the hip is diminished her mobility continues to be impacted as well painful.
We're back to the original dilemma that before the hip could be replaced Karen would have to go off chemo and continue to be off while the transplant heals.
We already wasted the last three months on a chemo that failed and have just started a new one. It takes about three months to find out if something is working. It's unfortunate but our decision is to kick this decision down the road for three months while we see if the new chemo kicks in.
Otherwise everything is looking ok. Karen's blood work following the new chemo has been fine, so she'll have her next infusion on Feb. 9th. So far the worst side effect has been a day of so of nausea following the infusion.
We actually have the rest of this week off from any doctors or treatments. We're going to try for a day trip. Probably to MassMoCA. We tried a year and a half ago on an autumn leaf trip but arrived on a Tuesday when it was closed. We tried last winter but Karen was hospitalized with pneumonia and we haven't had a good opportunity since. I know it sounds like a major expedition and in many ways for a stage 4 it is an Everest. We're stocked up with enough oxygen tanks.
Our fingers are crossed for weather and good health this Thursday.
Photo - Karen Evertson - Handmade love button pillow by Ramona Sablon
A Good Day?
What makes a good day these days? Cancer does its best to make sure there is no such thing. It makes its presence known with pain, with nausea, with fatigue. It saps your energy in a myriad of ways, it fights your spirit, best intentions and your will.
Good days come when we find ways to overcome the odds. Days when we make the effort to get outside even though it might be easier to stay indoors. It's warm, the sun is peaking through the clouds so we assemble the oxygen equipment, the wheelchair and other transfer helps and the meds. We make it into the car and make the short drive to the little park on the banks of the Connecticut River. We reverse the operation and settle Karen into her wheelchair and enjoy the sun on our faces during a brief thirty minute walk. People are out with their partners, their kids and their dogs; it's reassuring to see the normal flow of peoples lives. For us this is a remarkable day. We are still together and still in love; even after all this damn cancer that is doing its best to separate us.
It has been a lovely weekend. Our dear friends Eileen and Andy Foster came from Ithaca, NY to visit for the weekend but they have just left to return home. They are some of our oldest and dearest friends. They came and made us feel like Queen and King for a day or so with their attentions. Yesterday they helped us get to the Wadsworth Atheneum to see an exhibit of Utamaro's woodcuts and paintings. A lovely afternoon and they helped us feel like we were in control not the damn cancer; that we could have normal days where we are in charge.
So, overall the chemo drug Doxil is treating Karen alright. There is fatigue and some nausea but most importantly her blood counts rebounded to normal levels which seems to indicate that she'll be able to have a second dose in February. The fear being that the drug is too damaging so that its efficacy can't be determined because the body can't tolerate it.
This week we'll make a trip to Yale for a follow up visit to the doctor that is advising us on Karen's hip. We don't expect much news there. Otherwise more follow up bloodwork to monitor the Doxil.
A fine weekend and a good day today but tonight Karen's fighting waves of nausea. I help as best as I can and write our post in between those waves.
And So It Goes.
Photo - William Evertson - Karen and Bill in Hurd Park
Next Chemo in Line
This past Thursday was the start of a new chemo infusion treatment; this time something called Doxil. It promises to be potent and time-released with only one infusion per month. Karen will need to return to the cancer center each week for blood work-ups to see how the white and red counts hold up to the chemo.
Earlier this week she had an echocardiogram to see if her heart was in good enough shape to take this drug. Apparently it is very hard on the heart and unlike some of the other drugs we've tried there is a maximum or toxic limit to how much of this a body can take. The Echo was fine so the strawberry colored Doxil was infused over an hour or so.
The promised side effects of fatigue and nausea started Friday night but have been diminishing since. So this next Thursday we'll just need bloodwork. We'll find out how good or bad her blood counts and immune system is holding up during prime cold and flu season.
Easy to catch a bug but tough to catch a break lately.
But on the support side of life our friends continue to be a source of love and distraction. We enjoyed company on Saturday for an Art Party themed on Year of the Rooster. These are evening full of art,love, and laughter.
Love our friends!
Photo - Cynthia Abraham - Karen and Bill at the Art Party
Karen's PET scan was bad news all around. The months on the chemo drug Gemzar didn't slow the cancer. Even a little. In fact the cancer has spread to lymph nodes around the lungs and worse still to the liver.
We began the new year hoping for a break or a plateau but for cancer hope is just another four letter word.
This is the first time a drug has had no effect although we did try a newly approved hormone that Karen's body couldn't tolerate. So as our doctor put it, we generally don't give up until we've had three failures unless we decide that the treatments are just too much to take.
Karen does not want to give in. Our next best option is a drug called Doxil. It's not something she can stay on long term because it also damages the heart.
Our first step is to have an echocardiogram to see if her heart is in good enough shape to begin this therapy.
Then we get to see which of the side effects we'll face; always the worst part of these finger in the dike treatments.
Yesterday was punch to the gut day and today is pick ourselves up and try to get on with living and love.
Photo - William Evertson - Detail from my woodcut in progress with Icarus falling.
The Next Year Begins
,We celebrated the begining of 2017 with a kiss. Two lovers enoying another years worth of love and life. So precious and as we have discovered, so fragile. It's been a year of pateaus, sudden declines, hope, and tears.
One thing we've cherished during this trial of the spirit is how many friends are pulling, praying and cheerleading. We couldn't ask for better friends, several living close by and are able to stop in to keep up the healing vibrations, some farther away include us in their travels and others we see via correspondance or social media.
We love all of you and owe so much for your support that I'm sure it's more than we're ever able to repay.
As we begin this new year our first appointment happens to be one of the PET scans. I've described them before, but what they do is tell us how well the chemo has been working. Karen's been on a drug called Gemzar for about three months and now we'll learn if it was a good guess. If it's working we'll continue and if not there are still more drugs to try. Ironically or sadly, I'm not sure which, the ones with the most promise (even with genitic testing of this particular cancer) eventially stop working or sometimes don't work at all. It's all percentages; rolling the dice combined with science I suppose.
Overall, Karen is in good spirits. The week between Christmas and New Year was an off week from treatments. So Karen got to rest just in time to devote energy to family and friends and the holidays.
Both Christmas and New Years were wonderful and filled with friends and family. The greatest gifts of all.
Photo - Selfie - The New Year's Midnight Kiss
William and Karen - Karen and I have been married for 41 years. Karen's breast cancer has reached stage 4. This is what happens next.