Cancer knows no holidays. Even, somewhat ironically, Memorial Day. So here we are doing the T thing, round 2 of twelve.
One of the good things about SCCA is that it is near REI. So we went there first and got some stuff we needed. Everyone else was there, too.
Then lunch at a funky place called The Lunchbox Experiment. Essentially a burger joint with a bar, spiked milkshakes and experimental menu items that change every week. This week’s theme was Arrested Development.
Loretta liked it so much she got it all over her sweater. She’s so delicate.
Now she’s getting the drugs.
We are hopeful that the T will be easier. Everyone says it should be and the last round seemed to bear that out.
Yesterday* Loretta started the “T” phase of her chemotherapy program. This one is Taxol (“T” in the AC T program**). The really interesting thing is that taxol was first sourced from the bark of the Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) which was first collected from trees in the Gifford Pinochot National Forest when Loretta was a little more than 1 year old. She might have hiked past those very trees around Mt. Rainier and Mt Adams while training people to climb Mt Rainier.
Anyway, she gets to go to SCCA once a week for the next 11 weeks. This is only the first day after her infusion so it is a little early to say for sure, but it looks like this one will be easier on her than the AC was. Her oncologist thought that she had the maximum dose of AC that she could have tolerated without having dire (“catastrophic” was his word) affects. The good news is that if the drugs work (and they do) then they did their job very well in Loretta. Hopefully she will not have as difficult a time and will have a chance to heal a little. The effects of taxol are cumulative, though, so it is likely to get harder as the treatment progresses.
So why “Two for T”? The best part about this infusion was that Fiona got to go and support her mom. That was good for both of them. They look so peaceful, the two of them, with their phones and shoes on in bed:
*Sorry that this post is so late. It was another long day and I just couldn’t do a post justice once we got home.
**It is really called paclitaxel but that just doesn’t sound as good as taxol. And ACT is easier to say than ACP. Try it.
Loretta and Team Loretta are at the Arms Around Bainbridge Spinathon where they helped to raise more than $16k! They were hoping to raise $10k. You can learn more about AAB here. Team Loretta has awesome T-shirts featuring this blog’s logo art. We’re so proud. And proud of being part of this very worthwhile event.
Here are some of the team members:
And Loretta on one of the new bikes for the first time:
Loretta had her last AC chemo infusion on Monday, 6 May. The effects of the four rounds are cumulative so this latest cycle is the worst (assuming you discount the whole going to the hospital due to life-threatening neutropenia). The last couple of days were the worst for her. She doesn’t have any energy and tasks that used to be easy are draining. The good news is that historically she starts to feel better starting on day 5 (today) and gets better each day after that. And she is starting to feel better.
The good (great!) news is that she is done with the AC. The not-so-good is that she still has a long road with the “T” rounds starting in a little more than a week. We don’t know how she’ll fair with that set of drugs. It’ll be faster cycles, too, since she will get an infusion every week. Then it’s more surgery and radiation. One day at a time…..
There are a couple of things that amaze me about this whole process:
She is incredibly strong emotionally. She has her moments when things seem a little too tough but those moments are few and far between and pass quickly. I’ve known her for more than thirty three years and I’m still amazed at her ability to exude grace and dignity.
Her web of friends and family are an incredible resource for her. So many people – even people she has never personally met – are helping her through this. She (we) are truly blessed to have such a wonderful group of people behind her. I can feel comfortable going to Seattle every day knowing that you are all out there ready to help.
Her brother was here the last week (thanks Ed!) and our daughter is here starting tomorrow for two weeks. And many of you are here at a moment’s notice. We really couldn’t ask for more.
Thank you all.
As a little tribute to Loretta and to celebrate the end of the third phase of her treatment, I’ve been working on a little project which I will introduce in another post. I hope you all like it.
The infusion for round three is underway. She has finished the easy stuff – the anti-nausea drugs – and the pump starts beeping to let people know that it is time to do something else.
The “something else” in this case is the “Red Devil” – Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) – which is the stuff that is so caustic that the nurse has to use a special gown, gloves and mask to protect herself. They also have to have another person verify that what they are about to inject straight into her heart is the right stuff. They don’t like to make mistakes. Probably because it is so expensive.
Dinner (for Loretta) was tomato soup, some crackers and Lorna Doones. For some reason, Lorna Doones seem to be the cookie of choice in places like this. I’m not sure if it is because they get them cheap or if there is some curative property of the lowly Lorna Doone.
Late last night Loretta decided that it was time to go sanscheveux*. So, using a shaver for the first time, we buzzed through it. She tried a couple of passes and I finished it off. I hope this is the last big emotional hurdle in this set of chemo. This morning we made it a lot better with my electric shaver. Now she has a relatively smooth scalp.
I’m conflicted because she looks really great without hair and really great with hair. She could easily pull this off as a style choice. I think maybe 1/4″ of hair (when it comes back) would be a really great look. (And cheap to maintain – a real bonus.) I guess it was to be expected – she’s a beautiful person.
Here’s a little video of how it went. It only took a little longer to do than this video takes to watch.
*This is French for “without cheveux” which might be “no rabbit” for all I know. My French is limited to fries and dressing.
We just got the word that Loretta will be released from Paradise this afternoon. Her blood numbers have all gone in the right direction with the neutrophils at 1000 early this morning. The good news is that she has responded beautifully to the antibiotics they administered. The bad news is that this is likely to happen in the future. She has three more sessions like this and no expectation that she won’t have to do this each time. The oncologist might have some tricks up his sleeve to help prevent or limit the affects so we are still hopeful that we will not have to do this every time. Paradise is nice but it isn’t like home. There is no place like home.
So, with ruby slippers* and an odd assortment of companions, this Dorthy is headed home tonight.
*She doesn’t actually have ruby slippers – I mean, who does these days, not even the Pope! Instead she has some heather green Eco-Steps and some nuclear-yellow sneakers that will do the trick.
Paradise is what Loretta has named her room here at the hospital. It has a view of Lake Washington, mountains with snow, trees, birds, and the Surgery Pavilion. People here are all concerned about how she is feeling and are at her beck and call. She can order room service all day. Free cable TV, Internet, and telephone. In other words: Paradise.
We hang out all day doing nothing except the occasional vitals check or an antibiotic infusion.
She likes it so much she isn’t sure when she’ll go home. Maybe Wednesday or more likely on Thursday. Who knows? The rules say that she has to have a white blood cell number of 5 (at last check she was at .01) or at least moving in that direction and no fever for 24 hours. She had one around 3pm today.
Other than being in Paradise, she says she feels pretty good. She also says thanks for all the well wishes. I say the same thing.