Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What's Up With the Doc 20? - or Beating Anemia, Among Other Things


Cycle #7 went without a hitch yesterday. I am bright red again due to the decadron but otherwise feel just dandy. My red cell numbers were better yesterday than they have been, I assume due to the iron I've been taking. I'm thinking that may be contributing to my higher energy level and my pulse yesterday was 75, down from the ~100 it's been running for the last couple of months.

I'm working today. Tomorrow is end of camp volleyball tournament at Wesleyan for Hannah, a little bit of administrative work time and then Philip to the orthodontist. Lindsay and her friends are coming up tomorrow and I'm off Friday so will be able to spend some time with them. Working Saturday and Sunday, which will be kind of gross, given that those are usually my not feeling very good days, but whatever. My stepdaughter is coming in Saturday afternoon and will be here until Wednesday. I leave Friday to take Hannah to another volleyball camp at George Washington University and I'll get to see my stepsister, Tanis, on that little excursion. Next chemo is 8/12. Next scan 8/26. Alaska 8/31 - 9/7, which will push off chemo #9 (!) by a week if we're still plugging along with it at that point.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What's Up With the Doc 19? - or Something's Working


I know I promised to recap New Mexico and THEN come back with scan results, but we got in at 1:30 am Monday and I've been working and exhausted. It's worth the wait, though. Today's CT scan report shows that the measurable lesion in the liver is down to 3.2 cm (from 5.4 on 3/13, 4.5 cm on 5/13 and 3.8 cm on 6/1) and the lesion in my lung (presumed primary) no longer has any solid component. Everything else is unchanged from prior scans. At this point it would definitely appear that I am ahead of cancer on the scoreboard so we'll keep trying to knock it silly with the current chemo regimen. No new or worse side effects and I've gotten so used to the bald look that I no longer scare myself every time I pass a mirror. That means chemo on 7/22 and 8/12 with another scan on 8/26.

As for New Mexico, I can't ever remember taking a better trip in my entire life. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon and went directly to Faith and Bruce's house. This was the first time I'd seen them since the diagnosis in March, so very big hugs were had all around. Once Emma got off work we went out to dinner at Monroe's, where I indulged in flat blue corn red chile enchiladas with a fried egg, a chile relleno with green chile sauce and a sopaipilla. I also stole some of Emma's flan for dessert. Robert ordered a margarita, not realizing that they only had a beer and wine license and so it was a wine margarita. Suffice it to say that we never heard the end of that insult! My stepbrother Bill, who timed a business trip to be able to spend some time with me, joined us for dinner.

We stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast down the street from Faith's house where the grounds and architecture were classic NM adobe hacienda and the breakfasts were delicious. Bill and his brother Greer joined us there Wednesday night after a sucky Tuesday night in a Red Roof Inn.

Wednesday we went to see the clinic where Emma is working this summer and met the scary vet who is mentoring her. Well, scary to Emma. Not so much to me. I had my green chile cheese Lotaburger fix with my friend Earl, with whom I share 36 years of friendship, history, and things I'll never tell my mother. We sat and caught up for an hour and a half. Then I visited briefly with the woman who was my office nurse when I was in practice in New Mexico, lo these many years ago. Lindsay and Emma were just babies then so we caught up on everything that has happened in the last 20 years for both of us. Next was a stop at the New Mexico Cancer Center to see my friend Clark Haskins and get my counts checked. Counts were good, Clark was wonderful and gave us the nickel tour. Dinner that night was on Bill and Greer at Antiquity in Old Town. It was absolutely delicious, but more important than that, gave Faith and I time and opportunity to reconnect with them - life and grown up responsibilities have pushed our childhood memories and closeness into the background.

Thursday the golfers played golf and I had lunch with my friend Gayle who drove down from Farmington. She and Cindy colluded to make me the most beautiful quilt - evocative of the Southwest and perfect for the chemo chair. We shared gossip about old friends and colleagues, talked about work, and shared hugs and a few tears. Lunch was at Sadie's where I once again fed my flat blue corn red chile enchilada jones and had sopaipillas for dessert.

Later in the afternoon Mom drove in from AZ and Chris and Sheri drove down from CO. They were staying at a bed and breakfast that had a huge courtyard and patio so they went to El Modelo to pick up dinner to eat on the patio. They brought the best tamales on Earth, enchiladas, sopaipillas as big as dinner plates, but best of all a completely new thing to me - chile relleno burritos. MMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Friday Emma took the day off and we took it easy. She and Sheri and I hit Lotaburger for lunch. Dinner was at Maria's New Mexican kitchen in Santa Fe. They were reported to have the best enchiladas and margaritas in the state and I have to concur. I have never tasted red chile to compare and the margaritas were great. They also had the best flan I've tasted since the last time my mother made. My friend Claudia (the only friend I've had for longer than Earl) drove down from Los Alamos to meet us and had a ball catching up with my mother and Chris. We trekked up to see Falstaff at the Santa Fe Opera. It was really cold, but lots of fun. Robert and I followed Claudia up to her place in Los Alamos and everyone else headed back to Albuquerque.

Saturday Earl and his wife, Pamela, drove up. Pamela has the distinction of accompanying me on a wild and wacky road trip from TX to NY in 1982. We were in my '72 VW bug that had no starter and had my little dog, Sleazy, along for the ride. Enough said. We spent the day on the deck, gazing at the mountains and talking about kids, parents, love, cancer and these amazing longterm friendships that can pick up in a heartbeat without a moment of hesitation or ill ease.

Sunday Claudia drove me back down to Albuquerque for brunch at Garduno's, after which we left for the airport and home. I'm always sorry to leave New Mexico (definitely my heart's home) but it was orders of magnitude worse this time. I couldn't have asked for a more delightful few days of family, friends, gorgeous scenery and skies and FOOD.

So, really, the news all around couldn't be any better. Staying the course is the plan of the moment. Next on the travel agenda is Alaska after the kids start school again.

Thank you for all the good thoughts, prayers, and crossed fingers, toes, arms, legs and eyes. Keep up the good work!


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What's Up With the Doc 18? - or Wasn't This Supposed To Be It?

6th chemo was today and was uneventful. Remember when I thought 6 was the most I'd get? I was all macho about how I was going to set a new record for number of cycles of Carbo/Taxol and the oncologist just laughed at me. He said, "We only limit to 4-6 for lung cancer. I published a paper on giving that combination to elderly patients for ovarian cancer and we gave many, many, many cycles to an octagenarian who tolerated it just fine. If you want to beat her, you've got a real marathon ahead of you." So I said, "Fine. We'll just hope that the stupid tumor cooperates."

Then we talked about what happens when we stop the Carbo/Taxol. Sloan-Kettering suggested continuing the Avastin and adding Tarceva. Unfortunately, that's not being done off protocol and I'm pretty sure my insurance will refuse to pay for both and both are disgustingly expensive. If I stay on the chemo until tumor progression it's not an issue because we'd stop the Avastin anyway, but if I stop because I've reached tolerance I'll have to ramp up the appeals process.

A man down the row of chairs from me got hauled out on a stretcher because of an allergic reaction today. Apparently, it caused quite a stir among the other patients but I was so dopey I really barely noticed the stretcher rolling out.

Friends are coming into town tomorrow and taking us out to my favorite restaurant. I work tomorrow but then I'm off for four days. Work Monday and then leave for NM on Tuesday. Clark Haskins is doing my count on Wednesday - I am so excited to see him! It's been over ten years. Next scan is July 15th and, if the tumor is still shrinking, cycle #7 on July 22nd.

This last cycle was completely uneventful and I feel great. My oncologist is loading me up with just in case antibiotics to take to NM with me. I'll see my sister, Bruce, my mother, brother, sister-in-law, best childhood friend and Emma while in NM, not to mention eating green chiles with every single meal. We're all going to the Santa Fe Opera together on Friday evening after dinner in Santa Fe and then Robert and I will spend Friday night and Saturday with my childhood friend in Los Alamos. NM is my heart's home and I haven't been there for 7 years so there is much happy anticipation.

If all goes well, you probably won't hear from me until it's time to recap the NM trip, followed closely by scan results. Keep all appendages crossed.