Category Archives: Treatment Updates

The Second Half

Today was the first infusion of the last half of her Chemo treatments.  Woot!

Diana is here and she got to meet the oncologist.  The oncologist was impressed that Loretta managed to have some unusual symptoms – something she has done all along.


The nurse doing the infusion is Debby – one of our favorites.  She wanted to be in the bed, too, but Diana was hogging it.  (Not really.  Debby is a consumate professional.)  Here they all are checking the Google for instructions on how to set up the IV pump:


T-Ville catch up

I have been a bit lax in my posts this past week.  Last Monday Roberta was my chemo buddy.  We went furniture shopping beforehand at Kasala.  I actually found the couches, chairs and ottoman for the new house.  It was the fastest furniture choice ever!  Scott and I went there on Wednesday for him to do the “butt test.”  They passed the test!

My sister Diana is visiting for two weeks.  Her sister-in-law, Sue, visited this weekend from Pasco, Wa.  We had a good time.  We met Sue in Seattle.  After going back to Kasala to order the furniture, we toured Pike Place Market.  We spent the rest of the weekend on Bainbridge walking around town and hanging out.  We cooked some great dinners and enjoyed each others company.

The photo on the left is Cathy, my chemo nurse, and me.  The photo on the right is me and Roberta.  I am so lucky to have great nurses and great friends.


This week in T-Ville

I am waiting for my third round of Taxol to start.  After today I will be 1/4 of the way through this round of chemo!   Taxol is kinder and gentler than AC.  Fatigue can still be an issue but all in all I am feeling better.  Yesterday (and so far today) I felt pretty darn good!

I had three interesting encounters with strangers and cancer this week.  The first happened at Home Depot when an employee came up to me and tentatively asked me if I was a cancer survivor. I was about to say, “Well, I am standing here aren’t I?” but decided not to be flippant   She was a breast cancer survivor who had been through treatments a few years ago.  It was very nice to talk to her and hear her story.  She was not so lucky in the support department.  While she had one friend who took good care of her, her family was not supportive at all.  She is doing well now.  Our conversation ended with a hug.

My second cancer encounter occurred outside Classic Cycle.  For those you of not from around these parts, Classic Cycle is the bike shop below the condo/townhouse we are renting.  I was passing by the shop and a man in an orange “Fuck Cancer” t-shirt came out.  Well, my friend Dee had sent me the same sentiment t-shirt in black some weeks ago and it was the first one I had seen on somebody else.  (I haven’t had the courage to wear it it public yet.)  I asked him about the shirt and we got to talking.  He is a nurse that was just diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.  He was on his way to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to meet with a surgeon to get a plan. He said a lot of people stop him and ask about the shirt.  Some people even want to take his picture to send it to someone they know with cancer.  Our encounter ended with good wishes on both our parts.  I hope he will be okay.

My third encounter occurred in a deli.  I was in Poulsbo (a small town near Bainbridge Island) and needed to eat.   As is often the case these days, trying to decide what I actually want to eat can be a lengthy (difficult, indecisive, i.e. not easy) process.  I decided to stop at Jak’s deli because they have Boars Head products.  The deli has been there about 5 years and this is the first time I have ever stopped in.  There was even an on-street parking space in front.

While waiting for my sandwich to be ready, I overheard a women talking about starting radiation the next day.  She went on about how it was lucky she hadn’t waited to see the doctor and other such things.  A minute or so after she finished her conversation, I went up to her (not my normal thing to do) and told her I was going through treatment myself.  I was wearing my hat so I tipped it up so that she could see my bald head.

She looked at me and said, “I have something for you.”  I was a bit startled because she talked to me like she had been waiting for me to show up.  She said she had it in her car. She got up from her lunch and practically ran to her car.  She came back and gave me a book called “Jesus Loves You.”  She told me that I just needed to open it to any page when I felt sad or worried or afraid and read what was there.  She told me I was beautiful and that Jesus did love me and that I was going to be okay.

I had a hard time holding back the tears.  She was so sincere and kind and loving.  We parted with a hug (people really do like hugs.) I got to the car and started to cry.  The encounter was so unexpected.  I was in a place where I had never been before and walked in at the exact time this women was telling her story.

Were these three experiences coincidences?  I think not.  I think each of us needed something from the other at that time.  The woman at Home Depot needed to share her story and I think she felt truly happy that I have such a great support system.  The cycle store guy and I shared the reason we decided to seek care at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.  And the deli woman needed to give me the book and I needed to accept it along with all the other amazing gifts I have received.

So, that is what was up in T-Ville this week.  David was my chemo buddy today and I forgot to take a picture of the two of us at chemo.  So instead I will include this picture of me wearing my special t-shirt.  One more bracelet down.



T Off

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.

Fingers crossed.

Two for T

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’s Last AC Cycle

Hello Fellow Loretta Fans!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


Loretta is beeping

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.

Here is the red going in:

A lovely day for chemo


Another perfect day in the Pacific Northwet as seen from the waiting room at SCCA.  Another day of chemo.  This will be number three of the four AC rounds.

They are working up her blood first to see if she’s ready.  We are waiting to see the oncologist next.  Then the infusion.

Stick it, stick it good

When it was decided that I would give myself the white cell booster 24 hours after chemo (I had the first dose immediately after the first cycle of chemo) to see if it would work better, I thought it was going to be an auto inject.  The preloaded type that you push a button and a small spring injects the needle and medicine.  But, no…this was a regular syringe preloaded with the medicine.  No auto inject here.

My oncology nurse gave me an injection lesson.   You practice on a pretend piece of flesh.   She showed me how to do it with a practice syringe.  Then I practiced.  Lo and behold I bent the needle!  I was reassured that this would not happen when I gave myself the real injection.

For the next 24 hours I went over and over the self injection steps in my mind.  I imagined grabbing stomach fat, stabbing the needle, pulling back the plunger a bit and then slowly injecting the Neulasta.  When the time came for the injection, all went well.  I did not bend the needle!  As a matter of fact, I barely felt the injection

I don’t know if the Neulasta is boosting my white cells. I hope it is.  I try to imagine my bone marrow going to town producing those lymphocytes.  I do know that I won’t have any issues injecting the next two rounds of Neulasta.  After all the worry, it turned out to be a non event.

Monday Chemo On Tuesday

Monday chemo on Tuesday, cause that’s how I roll!   Actually, I couldn’t have chemo on Monday this week because there was no room at the Inn.  I will go back to Monday’s in two weeks.  All the low blood counts are way up so that is a positive.  My sister Christine came with me and we walked from the ferry to SCCA (about 2.3 miles) another positive.  My friend Jeanne picked us up and drove us home, yet another positive.

I am home.  My friend Sandi brought over dinner,   David and Rachel came by to say hello. Positive, positive, positive.   Right now I am laying on the couch, cause that’s how I roll.