Sputter, Sputter, Back to Life

13 09 2011

Theo and Don giving summer one last hurrah! Photo by Amy Rauch Neilson.


It’s been a rough week or two. I haven’t blogged in a while. And you noticed.

I’m glad.

It’s nice to know that when I don’t blog, there are people out there who notice. Lots of them.

So, what was the hang-up? I’ve thought a lot about it and it really wasn’t any one thing. It was a lot of things.

I was scheduled for chemo last week, but when I got to the infusion center, my white blood counts were still too low from my bout in the hospital, so they had to send me home.

My CT Scan results came in from two weeks ago and they were very good. My condition remains stable to slight improvement. The tumors in my lungs — two on each side that started out the size of blueberries — continue to shrink.

I should be thrilled. I AM thrilled. But I also get scared.

Sometimes, the CT only captures my lungs. This one was more comprehensive, taking a snapshot of my lungs, abdomen and pelvic regions. So, this one showed my liver.

Months ago, a CT report showed spots on my liver. But, because there has never been a baseline of my liver prior to my January diagnosis, no one knows for sure what those spots are. Are they cancer? Could they simply be hemangiomas — harmless clusters of blood vessels that my family is quite prone to?

There’s no way to know without a biopsy. And a biopsy doesn’t make sense. Because, whatever those spots are — cancer or not — my treatment wouldn’t change. A biopsy presents risks. It’s surgery. And there’s always the chance that when the surgeon goes in to take a piece of the suspicious growth, a cell or two could escape in the process — something that’s known as “seeding.” In essence, it’s taking a chance cf spreading cancer as a big downside when the additional information — whatever it is — doesn’t offer an upside.

The CT Scan results showed that the spots on my liver had shrunk considerably since they were first noted in the spring. But no one knows whether that means they are cancer — and the chemotherapy shrunk them — or, that they are something else, and they shrunk for some other, unknown reason.

Regardless, they DID shrink. Everything has. I’m doing really well. That’s the rational interpretation.

The not so rational reaction is the emotions, the fear I feel when I get test results back, wondering about these strange, rogue, uncooperative cells that are in my body. How many and where? And my incessant prayers and continuing journey to annihilate them. When? I wonder. When will this part of my life’s journey be over? When will life return to
“normal.”

So, there was the letdown of not being able to get my “medicine,” followed by the scan results which should have had me leaping for joy, and did, in many ways, while also causing me to question and to fear.

Yet, I feel from the depths of my soul that I am not only moving in the right direction, but that I am going to be on this planet for a long time to come.

My doctors have also been slowly weaning me off one of my three chemo drugs — Gemzar. That is the drug that so ravages my bone marrow and causes my counts to plummet — landing me in the hospital two weekends ago. There are two sides to this news: One, my chemo treatments will be shorter and less toxic. I’m at chemo this very moment with my bff Kristi Lynn Kahl, going through my first “test round” of what it will be like with one less chemo drug entering my body. Will it make a big difference? Will I be a lot less sick as a result? That’s my hope.

It’s also scary. Though I was unable to get chemo from the end of June til mid-August due to low blood counts and hospitalization, and during that time, nothing grew — it actually continued to shrink — there’s always concern when a drug goes away that the cancer could regain its foothold. So, that was on my mind last week.

Thank God I was blessed with a strong spirit that rebounds quickly. This week is a whole new week and I’m feeling quite fine.

Sunday, Don, Theo and I wandered the Toledo Zoo with close friends and had a blast. Monday, I watched dockside (I’m still not allowed in the water) as Don took Theo on a jet ski ride — what a beautiful, big grin on Theo’s face! And today, my counts were in line and I am able to get my chemo treatment.

In short, I’m back. But thank you for noticing my absence. It’s so very uplifting to know there are people out there thinking about you and praying for you, even on the days when it’s hard to offer anything in return.

I may have sputtered, but I am back to life and loving it.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

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Begging for Chemo?

22 02 2011

Theo insisted we "picnic" on my bedroom floor before I left for the hospital yesterday.

Mondays are blood draw days. The docs need to check my counts to make sure my body can tolerate the chemotherapy treatment. I offer up my arm, they take the sample, and within a few minutes, they’ve got their answer.

Yesterday, everything looked good. Except.

Except one of my blood counts, which was at 1.2. It needs to be at least 1.5, or I can’t have the Carboplatin & Gemzar component of my chemotherapy today.

You’d think I’d be happy to be able to duck out of it. After all, I got a taste of the good life last week — my week off chemo — and, hey, I could get used to that. Real quick. Not to mention my worst side-effects come from the C&G. The PARP is mild in comparison.

The C & G drugs are part of my Tuesday trio — Carboplatin, Gemzar, and the PARP Inhibitor. Whatever my counts, I can still get the PARP.

But I’m a glutton. I want all three.

I was sitting on the edge of my seat — OK, make that the edge of the examining table — when Cynthia Kresge, the Physician’s Assistant from my team, came in with the run down.

“One-point-two is too low,” she said as she skimmed the stats, zeroing in on the single outlier.

My heart began racing, my mind churning with possibilities of how I could get around that number and get my full dose.

“Is there anything I can do?” I asked.

“Well, yes,” she said. “We’ve found that exercise — like a brisk 15 minute walk — can boost this count enough to get it to where it needs to be.”

“I’m so there,” I said, already visualizing myself doing laps around the hospital corridors before offering up my arm once again Tuesday morning.

Then, I realized how strange it sounded, this begging for a chemo treatment thing that I was doing.

“Bet you don’t get that much,” I said.

“Actually, we get it all the time,” Cynthia said. “People want their treatments.”

So do I.

Send up some prayers to heaven today that my count is up and over the top by the time I get to the hospital.

I’ll get back to you later on that.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson








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