...when it feels like we're stuck on the spin cycle.
This was supposed to be the off week from chemo and a chance for Karen's body to rest and recover. Instead the fluid around her lungs that had been relatively stable suddenly began to increase.
Another thoracentesis was scheduled for this past Friday. It was just in time because during the week Karen's breathing became more labored and we increased her oxygen saturation almost daily.
I don't think she's out of the woods yet because despite removing 1600 ml (about equal to a couple of bottles of wine) of fluid I haven't been able to reduce the O2 levels very much; certainly not as much as in the past.
To add to the oxygen anxiety this week our large stationary O2 generator suddenly quit working. I was trying to get some outside work done and luckily Karen's friend Jill was visiting and was able to let me know so we were able to get her on our portable O2 unit. The oxygen supplier was able to get us a replacement unit by the end of the day. While it was good they were quick to supply the replacement it's a bigger heavier machine.
The hip continues to be a problem. We are still waiting to have a cortisone injection to be scheduled.
Karen's been strong through all this and it has been a busy week. We are so grateful for the support of so many friends. Karen had several visits this week topped off with an art party/ birthday celebration. All that love and support is the best medicine!
Next chemo is Thursday so luckily she has a few days free of medical procedures to rest.
Photo - William Evertson - Karen working on her ostrich at the Art Party
Karen has gotten her third dose of Gemzar and we're still learning what the side effects might be. It makes me into that annoying nurse that's always asking "are you ok?" It seems that on the third day after her infusion she has mild flu-like symptoms. Temp up just slightly and blood pressure higher; enough to worry us but not enough to go to the ER. Luckily it doesn't last too long and seems to resolve by itself so far.
Unfortunately, this chemo is again producing fluid around the lung. Karen's oxygen needs have been increasing so we know it's time for a thoracentesis. This is an off week for chemo so they've scheduled one for this Friday provided her blood counts are ok.
So is this particular witches brew doing any good? We don't have a clue but at least she's getting systemic treatment again. We'll find out during the next PET scan, which is going to be a wait. she's going to have to go through a few rounds of this. Three weeks on and one week off for about three months is the ideal. One set down...two to go.
The hip is still a problem. The radiation didn't help with the pain and again we won't know if it killed any active cancer until the PET. We went back to Yale for a follow-up with the specialist and left with mixed feelings. Hip replacement doesn't seem to be a good option unless the cancer settles back down. The pain is limiting Karen's level of activity. The doc is conferring with our oncologist and we may at least have some cortisone injected into the hip joint to see if that would provide at least some relief even for a short period of time. It's not scheduled but then nothing seems to happen as fast as we'd like.
In the meantime we're enjoying the fall with some trips to the lake house to continue our fall cleanup and shutdown.
Photo- The witches brewing up the chemo?
Karen was Ok'd for her second round of Gemzar this past Thursday. Her platelet count finally rebounded but it took a second week off after the first dose.
It's strong and we keep fingers crossed that it's doing a number on the cancer cells. It certainly knocked Karen out for most of the week following the first dose. It caused fatigue and low energy that took the extra time to stabilize.
We're trying to look on the bright side; in effect if it feels bad maybe it's bad on the cancer cells.
The hip seemed marginally better from the radiation but not where we had hoped it would be. We'll have a follow up visit with the hip specialist at Yale/New Haven this coming week.
Otherwise we stay positive with all sorts of support from friends. On Monday we had an impromptu Art Party with Cynthia, Roger, Lance and Nancy. We made some collages for a Day of the Dead exhibit in Santa Fe . On Wednesday our Ithaca friend David Cedarbaum stopped by for an overnight. As we often are reminded.....Cancer support takes a village.
Photo - William Evertson -Karen's Halloween socks with eyeballs
The first week of Gemzar was tough. Nausea went away but fatigue left Karen with zero energy for the week. Does the effectiveness of a chemo drug correlate with tough side effects? We don't know; and we won't know until a few months of it's use pass and we can do another scan. If that's even possible. Karen's platelet count was too low to do a treatment this week.
We'll give this another week; do another blood panel and see what happens.
In the good news department, on the sixth day after the Gemzar she felt well enough for an outing and we spent the afternoon at an art exhibit in West Hartford. It's frustrating to remember that last year we were able to do a six day swing through New England to catch all the fall colors. This year we seem to content ourselves with watching them change closer to home.
Still we have our fingers crossed because sometimes the first dose is the worst and the body is better able to tolerate it with time. Or perhaps it was too soon after her last bout of radiation treatments for the hip; which thankfully seems marginally better pain wise.
Photo. Karen E. - card from former workmates to brighten the spirit!
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.