Thursdays have been our chemo day forever. We go to the cancer center and have some blood drawn then head upstairs to our oncologist ofices. We go over the blood work to see whether Karen's levels are up to treatment. Dr. Levy has always listened to our concerns and we've never felt rushed. We've always been partners in all the treatment options. We feel that he and the entire staff are part of our team. We're more than patients; we've become friends and partners in this journey.
Which brings us to cookies. After we meet with Dr. Levy we head down to the infusion area. Basicaly a large room with 15 or so recliners where the patients are made comfortable for the sometimes long process of receiving an IV drip with the chemotherapy drugs. So people pass the time naping, watching tv, reading and chatting with our nurses.
Our nursing staff has been wonderful. Always professional, attentive and personble. They always are interested in us as people and we love them in return. One of the lovely little quirks is that someone always seems to be dropping off some lovely munchies to share with the staff and all of us sitting for treatment or sitting for support.
So with our last chemo before the new year coming up we made cookies to share. We apprecate our caregivers. We'll hear a bit of grumbling about how their patients are trying to fatten them up but what the heck, we just gotta show our appreciation.
Photo - William Evertson - Karen with her cookies
People have off days, and even off weeks. Usually that means you're having a bad time of things; things aren't going your way or you're just having a run of bad luck. For us this means we're not having some medical intrusion that day or Karen gets a week off from chemo.
This wasn't one of those. This was a busy week with visits from our new pallative home care team which consisted of a RN, a physical therapist and a social worker. We had to have a blood draw and work up. We had our Oncologist visit plus two hour chemo session and capped it all off with another visit to the hospital for a thoracentesis.
This last one, the thoracentesis, is the procedure where a needle is guided via ultrasound to just outside the lung and fluid is removed. The fluid as it accumulates keeps squeezing the lung, making it harder and harder to catch a breath despite being on oxygen 24/7.
Definitly not an off week. Our next off week might be the week between Christmas and New Year. That would be a great present.
You would think with all the negative stuff that goes with cancer and treatments that I would always be very sympathetic. Karen's lack of mobility is frustrationg. She's always been active so finding fulfilling activities is challenging. She spends more time on social media; which has its plus's and minus's. The minus being her love hate relationship with Facebook. After a few months of her liking and sharing odd things as she purused Facebook signed in as me I signed her up for her own account...behind her back..without asking.
I think she'll eventially forgive me because frankly she doesn't have anyone else willing to deliver cookies and milk at a moments notice. In the meantime she's taking friend requests.
Photo - William Evertson - Holding Karen's hand; waiting for the thoracentesis.
This was a rest week from chemo. Letting those platlets recover for next weeks round.
Unfortunatly bad news is the new normal on the right hip; which not only hasn't healed but continues to be painful.
We've got five steps to the main level of the house that were getting progressivly more difficult for Karen. We'd navigate over to the top with Karen's walker and then slowly down a step at a time with a cane while juggling the portable oxygen. Getting out and about has been getting progressivly more difficult so we went ahead with a ramp this week.
Although these accomodations are necessary, make life easier and are welcome...... they are also milestones on the cancer journey. I think about how ramps go up and down. So simple yet like hope I only want the ramp to go up.
Canes, walkers, wheelchairs...it's not a great progression, but there it is .........and we'll make do, make accomodations and keep on getting about as best we can for as long as we can.
The ramp went in this week and we're still getting used to it. I think our best use of it happened today. I was spreading a bit of stone dust around the bottom when suddenly an eagle flew over the house and landed in a tree across the road from us. I went inside to show Karen but we couldn't get an angle to see it. We never would have been able to get outside quickly with walker and cane but with the wheelchair and ramp Karen got to see our eagle. We always meant to go on one of the riverwatch trips to see them but never got to it. Now one came off the river to visit us at home.
Milestones and little victorys.
Photo- William Evertson -Karen and her new ramp
Some things don't change very much. The uncertainity of various treatments; managing pain and managing side effects. Another week, another round of chemo.
Plus we try to find time for both distractions and Karen's work on putting affairs in order. This last item is something I've felt uncomfortable with but someday I'll appreciate the effort. It's all sad stuff; we didn't expect to spend Karen's retirement picking cemetary plots. Damn that term; "putting affairs in order", its not like we've given up. Rambling this week because....well... stress.....nerves....almost time for a PET scan to tell whether the gemzar is actually working. Maybe we'll know in time for Christmas.
Through my study and love of Japanese woodblock printing I find myself thinking about Buddhist teachings. The four noble truths concern managing our suffering. The Buddha would love our friends. I know many weeks I've mentioned the importance of friends in managing suffering. They are crucial and I'm beginging to think they are better medicine than the surgery, radiation and chemo put together.
It's a much different holiday season this year; Karen is less mobil and in much more pain from the spread of the cancer. Our art party friends Teri and Flip, Cynthia and Roger and Nancy and Lance continue to come up with fellowship, support and good times that helps us cope with the loss of mobility.
We just had another of our art parties where we made some paper mache birds. It's wonderfully odd how these days we can make use of third grade crafts to distract and fill our hearts and minds with the joy of simplicity.
Photo - William Evertson - Karen and Bill with their paper mache love birds
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.