Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Last cycle...?...

Mom had an appointment with Dr. Porubcin today before she started the next chemo cycle. Overall he was happy with the progress... all of her blood counts were good (liver, kidney, white blood, etc). The last CA125 count was down to a little over 700, but he didn't have a count to go on today because it takes a couple of days to get the test done. They took a CA125 count yesterday so hopefully it will be ready in a couple of days.

Depending on what the next CA125 number turns out to be, she may have to go through another cycle of the chemo. She was a little disheartened because she thought this would be her last cycle, but, as he said, if it doesn't go down enough then she will need another cycle to bring the count down to where it should be. She could go into February if he feels she needs another cycle.

We had a great Christmas weekend. She spent a couple of days at our house and lost a little sleep because the Rock Island snow plows were going by every 30 minutes to clear the snow. There was a lot of food - we had steaks for Christmas Eve dinner and then plenty of cookies and chocolate nut clusters. The Monday after Christmas we drove to Ottawa to meet up with her cousins Marge & Myrna (from Grandma's side of the family) for lunch at the Cracker Barrel. They looked the same... just a little older, as we all do. It was nice to see them and we all discussed doing the same thing again next year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Third week - time for a break

This series of chemo has been much better than last month. Mom didn't have as many "clotting" episodes, probably because of the increase dose of Lovenox (twice a day). This week has been ok, barring the headaches and bone pain. Hopefully in a few days she'll have fewer aches and pains and will be able to enjoy Christmas next week.

Scotty and Ethan are home and Chad will be flying in next week sometime. We also have a new addition - a 7 week-old puppy named Peter. Ethan and his girlfriend adopted him a few weeks ago and brought him back from Iowa State with them (are on winter break). Puppy cuteness aside, he is quite a good little fella and get along with Paddy and Lucy just fine, so Grandma Barb will have her lap full when she comes to visit next week.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Second week

This week has been pretty good thus far. Mom had her second session of chemo on Tuesday and it went along without a hitch. The nurse had her CA125 report and the number had dropped quite significantly - down to a little over 700. Compared to what it was a couple of months ago, she seems to be responding well to the treatment (other than the clotting issues).

She said she felt pretty good today, other than a headache, so hopefully she won't have any harsh side effects for the rest of the week.

Scotty's birthday is this Friday so we are all going out to The Cellar in Geneseo for dinner. I'm sure Scotty would be just as happy at Culver's (like his Grandma) but there are some good things to celebrate this week: a birthday and the CA125 drop.

Next week will be her third week of chemo, and then she gets a break on Christmas week so I'm sure we will have a good holiday as well.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New three-week series

Mom's veins in her neck looked better today. We had a great Thanksgiving - inlaws Tim and Lisa hosted it at their cabin on the Mississippi. There were two different types of turkeys - Tom's version and Tim's version. Both were delicious and I got my cranberry sauce.

We met with Dr. Porubcin before chemo first to talk about her blood counts and general overview of her treatment. Dr. P said her counts looked good. Her blood pressure was a little high today, but not too concerned about it.

He talked about continuing to manage the "thrombosis" (clotting inside the vessels) with a twice a day shot of Lovenox. Since she's doing that for the last couple of weeks, she should have a one-up on this round of chemo and preventing any problems with the clots. I've got to think that there can't be much more to break free and make their way upward.

Mom requested a CA125 count yesterday so that should be done in the next couple of days. That test takes longer than the rest of the counts.

We talked a little about genetic testing and decided to put that on the back burner. Mom's case isn't really typical since there is no family history of breast or ovarian cancer. And the fact that it developed late in her life is another factor against it. I'm going to do some more reading about it and maybe bring it up again in a couple of months.

The chemo session went fine and we'll see how the next couple of days go. Hopefully better than the last month.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week off

It seems that by the time the third week of chemo hits, all the symptoms and the clots are at their worst.

Even though she ended Friday on a good note, yesterday mom wasn't feeling well again yesterday. Her neck was still sore and more body aches and pains (more than the usual). The veins in her neck were still a swollen.

She was feeling better again this morning and got up and went to church. Hopefully this week will be much better and she can get some strength back before the next round starts (Thanksgiving dinner will take care of that). Luckily, the next break (three weeks on; one week off) will fall on Christmas week so she'll have a good holiday week without a lot of symptoms or worry. Fingers crossed.

Friday, November 19, 2010

More clots

Chemo weeks are always rough... mom has had a rough couple of days with blood clots dislodging from her lungs and moving up into her head. She had to get checked out yesterday as her neck was sore and there were veins bulging out... and sure enough there is a clot there (right side of neck). We went to Trinity where Dr. Porubcin could take a look at her and decide what to do from there. He increased her dose of Lovenox to 100 ml; which equates to 50 ml twice a day. She will do one shot of 50 ml in the a.m. and one shot of 50 ml in the evening. There isn't anything else they can do about it except just wait for it to dissolve.

We were reminded that this is a side effect of the chemo/Topotecan and that is something that mom's body is doing because of the drug (clotting). Increasing the Lovenox should keep on dissolving the clots accordingly. Each chemo session aggravates the clots which is a theory of why they keep breaking off after each time. She had her last chemo session on Tuesday, and felt ok but yesterday (second day after chemo-typically the hardest day) the symptoms arose.

I stayed over last night just because of the fact that she had a blood clot in her neck and I was afraid that the entire thing was going to dislodge and wanted to be there if any more symptoms happened. She was very tired and fell asleep early. This morning the vein looked a little bit better - she said it felt a little stiff, but better than yesterday. AND she didn't have any pressure in her ears... which is a good thing b/c that is one of the more annoying factors.

About 1/2 an hour ago she said she was feeling ok and went out to run an errand. I may go back out tonight or wait until tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chemo day

Today went well, nothing out of the ordinary. Mom was feeling ok and there was a slight sensation in her ears, but it didn't get any worse by the time the chemo was finished. Hopefully this week will be better than the last few.

Next week mom has the week off from chemo - so that makes a nice Thanksgiving Day holiday. Tim and Lisa (in laws) are hosting this year and Tom is making a turkey (professed to be better than Tim's but I think they both do a good job) and of course mom is bringing the Cranberry Sauce. We had a conversation about cranberry sauce today when she was in the room at Trinity. One of the guys from the local Gilda's Club always comes and visits the cancer patients, and we were talking about Thanksgiving. He described mom's cranberry recipe to a T and said that it was his favorite kind (the sauce with orange, apple and sugar in it). Too bad I won't be saving any leftovers as I'm sure he would love to have a sample, but I only get it once a year so he'll just have to dream about it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Good day

Mom had a good day yesterday and today (so far). No sort of pressure in her ears or anywhere in her head, so hopefully that is behind her now.

Dr. Spector, the other oncologist (in the same office as Dr. Porubcin), said that maybe what is happening to mom has something to do with the clots in her lungs breaking away a little piece at a time and going to her head. Even though she has the filter in place now to prevent clots from reaching her lungs, she still has clots in her lungs and those are dissipating into her blood stream. Some smaller ones can still make their way through her system before they dissolve, so that may be what is happening with the pressure in her head... it's a clot.

The clots will dissolve in time. Mom just has to make it through until they do. There's nothing to do but wait... all the other preventative measures are in place. She got a prescription to help alleviate the anxiety when the symptoms start up, so hopefully that will help.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chemo day

Mom had a pretty good day Monday, although she is still feeling some pressure in her ears. This morning before chemo the pressure wasn't there, but soon after (about 15 minutes into it) she started getting that sensation in her ears again.

One of the nurses, Carrie, said that she would speak to Dr. Spector (the other oncologist in the practice... Dr. Porubcin is out until Thursday) to see if there should be some other tests to run or a way to pinpoint the cause.

Now that mom has the IVC filter in place, I think her stroke concerns are alleviated a bit, however there is still something that is bothering her about the pressure in her ears.

I've searched a few cancer discussion boards about the side effects of Topotecan and ear/sinus pressure and other cancer patients who have been through Topo and there was only one response that said that the person had terrible sinus pressure and had to sleep upright until the treatments are over. Mom is keeping her head elevated at night so that is going for her, but not working in the morning when it seems like the pressure strikes.

I forgot to ask about a CA125 count. There are so many things on my list and cross off and re-circled again that I need to make a new sheet.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Back home again

Mom went home on Friday after lunch. They didn't give her a Lovenox dose that morning to offset any more potential bleeding.

This morning when she woke up she had the pressure feeling in her ears again - not as bad as the other day, but I was surprised to hear her say that when she felt so good after the filter procedure on Thursday. It subsided a little bit during this afternoon but would come back again.

If it happens more tomorrow she is going to call Dr. Mullins office and see if they can do any more exploring as to why this in happening. She has chemo again on Tuesday.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hammond Henry Hotel

Dr. Atwell came back in and said again that the procedure went well. They took an xray to check and see that the filter was positioned correctly (it was) and now the only concern is to make sure that the leg incision "behaves" and doesn't swell or bleed. They stitched the skin closed, but not the femoral vein where they inserted the catheter with the filter.

They are keeping mom overnight as a precaution, due to the fact that she is taking the Lovenox and that it prevents clots (as it should). In hindsight maybe she shouldn't have taken her dose of Lovenox this morning, but as the incision isn't that big nor did they do full anesthesia, there wasn't really a concern. Keeping her from clotting is more important, so they are going to continue with the Lovenox but there is a little risk of bleeding in her leg. She doesn't have any swelling in her leg and they have these "sandbags" on the area to keep the pressure on, so she's good.

The good news is that mom feels 100% better! This morning she had another one of those "throbbing" head episodes and it lasted about a half an hour. When I picked her up I could tell by the look on her face that she didn't have a good start. Her ears were bothering her also. But after she came back in the room after the procedure today her head and ears felt 100% better - no pressure at all. And she felt better also knowing that the filter was in place and that it would prevent clots from getting through. Peace of mind makes all the difference at this point.

She'll go home tomorrow morning. I think she will take it easy tomorrow and over the weekend - no straining - and she'll be good for chemo on Tuesday.

Out of surgery

It is 2:30 p.m. and Dr. Atwell (surgeon) popped in to say that the procedure went well, and mom should be back in the room momentarily. Apparently bleeding is an issue (incision in her leg) and with the Lovenox that is to be expected since it is an anti-clot med, so they are keeping a lot of pressure on the incision area. He'll be back in to check in on her in a moment.

IVC filter

The nurses just wheeled mom into the surgery area (2:00 p.m.) so she should be back in about a half an hour.

The IVC filter (or they have been calling it a Greenfield filter) is a little thing like an umbrella without the material attached. Picture is on wikipedia >>

The surgeon is going to insert it through an incision in her leg (about 1" incision very small) and then work it up to her inferior vena cava below the heart. This is the most typical type of filter used for people with Pulmonary Embolisms/PE's/clots in the lungs. I think that this is going to be a permanent thing... no one has said anything about retrieving it after a certain period of time (and I forgot to ask) but apparently people have had them in for years and have had no complications.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Week 1; round two

Mom got a late start today on chemo. She had a visit scheduled with Dr. Porubcin before hand at 9:30 a.m., however he was running late with his visits so we sat around for quite a bit. Mom made a pan of pumpkin dessert for the nurses and staff - that was well received and even some of the other cancer patients in for their chemo had some as well.

Mom had blood work done last week on the 25th, however I think some information got crossed because they didn't do a CA125 report. Other levels were normal except for her white blood cell count. They had to do another blood count again before they started chemo to check her white count again. If it was too low they weren't going to do the chemo. Luckily the white count was back up so they started the chemo at about 11:30.

Dr. Porubcin still comments on mom's constant coughing but I keep telling him it's been going on for 40 years of my lifetime and that's just the way it is. I can tell he's puzzled by it but I say let's just concentrate on the cancer forget the cough. I was disappointed that there wasn't a CA125 count available but we'll get next week.

Mom asked Dr. P about putting in an inferior vena cava filter (IVC) - a type of filter to prevent the blood clots from going where they shouldn't go. It traps large clot fragments and prevents them from traveling to the heart. It is used in patients with a high risk of Pulmonary Embolisms (PE's) and mom fits that category as her lungs keep developing clots. He agreed and said that she should get in in this week, so mom is going to Hammond Henry on Thursday to have the surgeon there put in the filter. I'm hoping that there aren't any more clots forming, but she has been short of breath quite often... and I'm not sure if it is because of the fluid build up or the blood clots, but if we can get preventative measures in place to keep the clots in check then there's no reason not to do it.

From what the nurses say in the chemo room, the IVC filter is an outpatient process and she should be in and out in an hour or so.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Iowa City visit

The trip to Iowa City went well today. The resident went over mom's charts and thought that starting chemo again (with Topetecan) was the best option considering how fast the CA125 counts shot up over the last couple of months. The woman (can't remember her name) also said that in her experience, it was common for the CA125 to spike a little after the start of chemo treatment, so we shouldn't be surprised or concerned if next week's counts go up a little.

Next Tuesday mom starts another round of chemo for the following three weeks. Dr. Porubcin wants to see her right before, so I'm sure he will have new CA125 results.

Mom said she has had more energy over the last couple of days... but the pressure in her ears was pretty bad yesterday (better today). Sleeping at with her head elevated seems to help... but we were both hoping that the week off of chemo would take care of the symptom. The Iowa City resident doc didn't seem to be too concerned over it so I guess it's something she'll have to put up with for a little while.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Week off of chemo

In lieu of a week off of chemo, mom has to make a trip to Iowa City on Thursday for a check-in/check-up. As routine as these visits are, I will be interested in their take about what is going on (starting treatments w/ Topetecan, fluid buildup in abdomen) and have a list of questions to REMEMBER to ask if they don't cover it otherwise. Mom had blood work done yesterday so I don't know if we will have those counts by Thursday but it would be nice if the counts were available at that time.

She felt ok over the weekend... a little tired, and out of breath at times. Scotty went out and helped her Saturday with some yardwork. Give him an axe and he'll cut anything down to size. And he enjoys spending time with his grandma. I think he is still digesting all of this "cancer stuff." 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chemo session #3

Mom's chemo session went fine this morning. Her port area looked a lot better than last week and the week before... there was quite a bit of bruising. The nurse Tracy has been very careful about not accessing the port with one of the veins in the way, and that seems to have fixed the problem. The bruise on her arm is gone so mom is clotting ok (but hopefully not too much!). 

The pressure in her ears was bothersome this morning but nothing unmanageable. I will be interested in seeing if that symptom goes away next week since she will have a week off of the chemo before she has to do another three-week round starting on November 2. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Topetecan side effects?

Mom had a pretty good weekend other than the bothersome ear sensation (feels like they are full or plugged up). I've been doing a little reading about the drug Topetecan and in one article on sciencedaily.com there is mention of side effects such as neurosensory effects or allergic reactions. There is also a big occurrence of "myalgia," (which is akin to fibromyalgia) a condition in the muscles that is reacting to some sort of drug. Mom was having terrible leg cramps in her calf and it started when this particular round of chemo started.

None of these side-effects are really severe... but just annoying. 

She has another chemo session tomorrow, and then next week she has the week off, so hopefully she will get some relief for a week before the next three-week round comes up. 

She is keeping busy though... got some sewing done and just trying to keep occupied. She finished her first wedding quilt for whichever boy of mine gets married first so she's got two more to go. I don't see any immediate nuptials in the future, but who knows? In my twenty years of motherhood I have not been able to anticipate their plans so I don't think anything is going to change at this point. The boys definitely have their own agendas!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Better week

Mom has been feeling pretty good the last couple of days - definitely better than last week. She still feels some pressure in her ears but it comes and goes and isn't that annoying. She has been sleeping in her recliner to keep her head elevated and that does seem to help. Surprisingly she has been able to sleep this way as well, so I guess that she will be doing this for the rest of the course of the chemo treatments. Next week is week three and then the week after she gets a break before starting up the three-week cycle again. She will get a blood count in a couple of weeks so hopefully she'll have some good results.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Better day

Mom had a better day today - she had a little bit of the pressure in her ears... but not as bad as last week. She slept in her recliner last night in order to keep her head elevated... the Trinity nurses thought that should help alleviate the symptoms. So far so good...

Last year at this time mom was recovering from major surgery. I remember thinking/feeling relieved that hopefully (always the word hope) that the cancer journey would be over. I did have that impression. I thought that there would be an end to it. I wish someone would have said from the beginning that the cancer is never going to go away. It is always going to be there and in order to survive you have to stay one step ahead.

The things that one would expect to be thankful for are always available - good friends and a caring family... but I find myself thankful for strange things like a good insurance plan, or a friendly pharmacist. When a person has to order thousands of dollars worth of medicine in order to curb the nausea after chemo, or to prevent clots from forming, you find yourself being thankful for every step in the process. I think it's outrageous that people have to get permission (or get approved) for medications... as if there's even an option to not take medications when it's a life or death situation.

We have to be thankful for the things that mean the most... our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, fathers, sons and daughters. Life, with our without cancer, is the priority. Unfortunately I don't feel that insurance companies feel the same way.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Second week of chemo

Mom went home from the hospital last Friday afternoon. She didn't have any symptoms that day, however Saturday morning she had a little episode where her head felt like the pressure was building up. I could see a couple of veins on her forehead bulging, but it didn't last long-nor was it as strong as the ones earlier in the week. She felt fine the rest of the day Saturday. Sunday she felt really good and went to church and ran a few errands.

Monday Aunt Ruth and Uncle Bernie arrived in Ottawa. Mom was really happy to see them both and everyone had a great time visiting. Aunt Carol had shirts made with the official McCann crest on the front (will post picture later). They looked very nice. Aunt Ruth brought a ton of her jewelry so we all picked through that for awhile and I added some more pendants to my collection! Gayle made a really good gluten free cake and I couldn't even tell the difference between that and a recipe using flour. Then the sisters started talking about farm business and Uncle Bernie had to crack open a beer.

This morning mom said her ears were bothering her a little but she felt ok. The nurses at Trinity were trying to trouble shoot her symptoms and suggested that she sleep with the top of her body elevated (at least her head) so that there is less of a chance for the pressure in her head to build up. Over the next week or so the clots should dissipate and the Lovenox will prevent any more clots from forming so in theory mom shouldn't have as severe symptoms as last week. She had a little bit of a headache this evening, more like a sinus headache, so that is probably an effect of the chemo today. We'll see what happens tomorrow - if she sleeps partially upright tonight then hopefully she won't have any episodes.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Party floor

Mom had a ton of visitors yesterday - everyone was going back and forth between her room and Nancy's room down the hall. She was feeling better by the time I left (around 7:00 p.m.) and then Scotty stayed with her for another hour or so. She didn't have any sort of problems or other symptoms yesterday, so she will be good to go home today. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

One more day

Dr. Mullin came in at about noon to talk about his conversation with Dr. Porubcin. They both felt that the best course of action is to increase the daily dose of Lovenox to 70 ml as mom continues with the chemo treatments. Dr. Porubcin didn't think that mom's port in her chest had anything to do with the blood clotting.

Dr. Mullin couldn't say what caused the episode/reaction of what was making all of her blood vessels in her head dilate, other than maybe a clot did get loose and cause some problems - but the good thing is that it resolved itself. Just as clots clot; sometimes clots dissipate themselves too.

Believe it or not, one of mom's best friends, Nancy Craig, had her knee replaced yesterday and is staying in a room right down the hall. Mom has been down there a couple of times to check on her and say hello.

So mom will be able to go home tomorrow. I think it's best she stay another night as well. Just because she doesn't feel as bad as yesterday doesn't mean that nothing else will happen. There's still the issue of the small fluid buildup in her abdomen, the doctors aren't sure what is causing it (other than the cancer). Hopefully with the new round of chemo, the cancer cells will be killed off, and the fluid will subside. I guess we will know that in a couple of weeks after some more treatments are out of the way.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Overnight in hospital

Mom has developed blood clots again in her lungs, so she's going to spend the night tonight at Hammond Henry. Earlier today she was feeling short of breath and then she had an episode where she felt like the blood was rushing to her head, so she called Dr. Mullin's office and went in to get some blood work done and get a scan - and the clots showed up on the scan.

The nurse gave her an extra shot of Lovenox (the clot preventative) so that will help prevent more clots and then hopefully start to break up what is there.

There was some discussion about whether or not her port is causing some of these clots since this is the second time around.

The scan also showed some fluid buildup around spleen and pelvis area - but no tumor anywhere. The fluid buildup isn't a good sign but at least there's no mass anywhere.

Tomorrow Dr. Mullin and Dr. Porubcin will talk and figure out the best approach. She will probably go home tomorrow afternoon but they wanted to keep an eye on her tonight.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Post chemo

Mom said she is feeling OK today - other than she woke up with a headache overnight. Nurse Marty said that this was a common side effect with this particular treatment - headaches - so that is nothing out of the ordinary. One of the other side effects that Nurse Marty said was common was constipation... and I'm not going to ask mom if she is constipated so we'll just leave it at that.

Marty is one of my favorites - I see her from time to time in Longview Park across from my house. She walks her dogs over there and we always have discussions about rescuing animals and such. Her niece is a huge animal advocate and frequently fosters dogs and is also a big pit bull fan too. That's always a plus in my book. 

Tomorrow we'll see how mom feels - she reminded me that the second day after chemo is tougher than the first day after chemo, so we'll see what happens. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back in the chemo room

The round of chemo went very well today - mom was done in about 45 minutes and we were out of there in less than an hour. The nurses didn't have any trouble with her port and they were able to access it right away. They gave her the Topotecan and another bit of some other drug to curb the nausea. She can take some of her other nausea medication if she wants to later - all and all she felt fine although a little tired after we got back home. She doesn't have to go in tomorrow for the neulasta shot so this process is easier on her system that the last time. She won't have that much hair loss either.

I looked up in my notes from last year because I remembered that the first oncologist, Dr. Konda, talked about using Topetecan as well. I had written down that his strategy was also to go three weeks on and one week off with the treatments. At the time, her CA125 count was at 2500 (on 3/26/09) so in some respects she is kind of right back where she started, which is disheartening, but today the nurses felt that she should respond well to the drug and hopefully we'll see that in the lab work in the next couple of weeks.

We didn't hear anything about the scan she had done last Friday, hopefully we'll hear about that in the next day or two to rule out any growth areas. If there are no growth areas that is a good thing. Her treatment next week is on Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More chemotherapy

Mom had another blood count done last week and unfortunately the CA125 count went up again to 1900. Dr. Porubcin was disheartened by the high number, but advised that the best thing to do was to start chemo again with the drug Topotecan. In some respects this drug is a good option as it has minimal side effects and mom doesn't have to go through the "cocktail" of meds before starting treatment... so no need to take steroids, benedryl, emend, etc. That is at least a good part. The drug (topotecan) should be able to kill the cancer and bring the CA125 number down.

Dr. Porubcin ordered another scan of her midsection and she will have that done Friday morning. They may be able to detect where (or if) the cancer is collecting somewhere. The last scan she had in July didn't show anything because the number was so low, however this time may be different.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that the cancer is growing.

She starts treatment next Monday, and will have it weekly for three weeks. Then she will have the fourth week off, and then start the cycle again... so three weeks chemo, one week off... etc. for four months at least. The treatments only take an hour.

Dr. Porubcin told her to stop the Tamoxifen too.

We talked a little bit about the Cancer Research project in Iowa City. The project is using the carboplatin and taxol, along with Avastin, for the treatments. Dr. Porubcin felt that regimen was a little harsh and didn't think that mom was up for that and making all of the trips to Iowa City. I agree in a way and want to try the Topotecan route right now. At least we can act on that pretty quickly and get her in for treatments next week.

No one thought that her cancer would come back so quickly - but then if cancer was so predictable then more cures would be available. The only thing she can do is stay one step ahead and with all of this attention from Iowa City doctors and Trinity doctors and nurses, she's in good hands.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mom talked with Sherrie (nurse) at Dr. Porubcin's office on Monday, and she (Sherrie) is going to check into the chemo research project that is being conducted in Iowa City. Mom may be a good candidate... but having Sherrie call and ask the right questions is the next step. 

For now Mom is going to stay on the Tamoxifen. Hopefully that will keep the count from going any higher. Her next blood test is in four weeks and then after that will have a visit with Dr. Porubcin to talk about more options. 

In the meantime fingers are crossed - hopefully she won't start having symptoms otherwise.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cancer counts

Mom went in for another blood test this week and Dr. Porubcin's office called her Friday to tell her that the CA 125 was over 1200 - which is extremely high given the time frame. The last time the count was over 200 which was high to begin with in the first place. The doctors were concerned a month ago but also said that they don't treat "the number" necessarily.

Well now "the number" is high and she needs to look at some options. Dr. Porubcin put her on Tamoxifen - a drug that is mostly used for breast cancer patients, but there has been some success with ovarian cancer patients. It blocks the estrogen activity and prevents the cancer cells from binding to some sort of protein. It has the potential of reducing the original cancer... so in theory it could potentially inhibit her cancer or at least keep the counts from skyrocketing up any more. 

She wants to talk to Porubcin's office some more. I'm sure the doctors in Iowa City will have some information as well, so we will be doing a lot of talking in the next week to see what the next step is going to be.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Iowa City visit

Mom and I went to Iowa City yesterday for the scheduled three month check up. All said and done, it was a routine appointment, except for one factor.

A couple of weeks ago when mom went to Trinity in Moline to get her blood work done (routine), they were a little alarmed that her CA 125 count was extremely high. This prompted the need to get a CT scan of her pelvic area to see what was going on. Nothing showed up on the scan. The Iowa City radiologist is reviewing it as well, and they will call if they see anything discernible.

The Iowa City doctor ordered a chest x-ray to see if anything was going on in her upper torso. Mom is going to have that done at Hammond Henry probably early next week. She wasn't sure how soon they could get her in.

Yesterday the physician's assistant went through some possibilities, but the bugger is that mom really doesn't have any symptoms. She feels fine and has been active... going to Jazzercise and walks. Her weight has been steady (it was at 108 yesterday). She isn't bloated. There are no symptoms of anything.

Maybe the chest x-ray will shed some light or not. Mom goes back to Trinity in three weeks and they will measure her CA 125 level again. And if it goes down, then maybe there was something out of whack. If not, who knows. More tests?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Back to Geneseo

Mom returned home on Saturday. The group arrived at O'Hare at about 2:30 p.m. and then arrived in Geneseo at about 7:00 p.m. It was a long day of traveling but they all made it home safe.

She had a great time and is getting her pictures done so hopefully I'll be able to post some picture of the trip.

The New Busy think 9 to 5 is a cute idea. Combine multiple calendars with Hotmail. Get busy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Off to Nova Scotia

Mom and the "Classic Club" are off to Nova Scotia this week. She arrived at O'Hare last night around 5:30 p.m. and then a direct flight to NS. It would have been nice for her to have a digital camera to take but I wasn't on the ball enough to get one for her this time around.

I'm glad she's going on trips again. The only barrier is squeezing the time to travel in between port flushes and doctors visits. Her energy is slowly creeping back and the warmer weather (our should I say plain HOT and HUMID) has helped her get out and walk more, etc.

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Monday, April 19, 2010


The whirlwind doctor visits last Thursday went well. Mom got her stitches out and the nurse Ione said her incision looked good - and the best news of all that the lumps were benign. We thought this from the beginning, but given her history of cancer, it's good to hear officially that the lumps are just lumps.

The Iowa City visit went well - she was done in less than an hour. The doctor said that everything looked fine. Her CA 125 count went up slightly to 15, however it's not a concern. If it reaches 35 then they will look at treatment options, but for now she's good to go.

She's up to 108 pounds! That's a record. Must be the many trips to Culver's. We do like the Butter Burgers.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Doctors and check ups

Mom is still a bit sore from last week's procedure but healing nicely. One of the side effects of taking the Lovenox every day is bruising and tenderness, but she has been taking Tylenol for that, and it has been making it a little more comfortable.

Thursday she goes to see Dr. Atwell (Geneseo surgeon who did the lumpectomy) in the morning. He will have the pathologist report about what they removed last week. Then we head to Iowa City for an appointment with Dr. DeGeest. He wants to check in on her and do the blood counts, etc. We're hoping that things stay the same - that her CA 125 level is staying low and that she is on an even keel.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Out of surgery

Mom got out of the surgery at 11:10 a.m. She was in there for about 25 minute total. Dr. Atwell came in and said that they removed a large area of the right quadrant of her right breast as they found more lumps after they got in there. All said and done, the pathologist's immediate impression is that they were cystic fibers and benign. The lumps will be examined more closely and Dr. Atwell thought that the rest of the results would be in on Monday.

Mom has a larger than expected incision so she'll be sore for a few days - but the good news is that the lumps were removed and they look like they aren't anything serious. She's resting right now and we should be able to go home in an hour or so. She'll do a follow up appointment next week with Dr. Atwell. We also go back to Iowa City next week to check in with Dr. De Geest! Lots of doctors to see still!

More updates later...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter blessings

About a year ago, the battle with cancer began. One year later, after surgery and more chemo, the cancer is in remission. Last April there were a lot of unknowns - how long the cancer had been there, how long the chemo would be, when would be a good time for surgery, and how the symptoms would have an effect on daily life. We have some answers, but the basic question remains: will it come back? She found another lump in her breast, so she made an appointment to have it removed this Thursday. She's not going to mess around with a biopsy - just take it out. They will look at it later and determine if it was a serious threat. I hope it is like the last one - just a lump.

We went to the Easter service this morning at First UMC in Geneseo and then to The Cellar for a hefty brunch of pan fried chicken, asparagus, wild rice, salad and the tasty sticky rolls that you always get with your meal. Had I known that the order consisted of a half a chicken (half breast, thigh, wing and leg) mom and I would have split a meal. The Cellar never disappoints - one always leaves with a full stomach. The decor has been updated -- it was a heavy 70's gothic back in the day, with lots of wood and spanish-medieval accessories. I almost ordered a steak but stuck with the brunch menu. Mom still needs to take Chad out for his graduation dinner so we'll be back to The Cellar in a couple of months.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ready for spring

Mom has been taking her Fosamax every week and been tolerating it well. She takes every Wednesday and it catches up with her by Friday and wears her down a little. Her stomach seems to be handling it well too. We went to the Rocky/Galesburg game last night (in Geneseo) and had a good time - she hasn't been to a good basketball game in awhile and wanted to catch Chasson Randle this season. Fortunately - the team won and played well (few instances of missed shots to which mom was quick to criticize... that's where I get that from) so now they are on to Ottawa next Wednesday. Aunt Carol and Gayle are coming in today to see mom and go to lunch at the Victorian Inn.

Mom's last CA 125 count was at 6.3 so it is staying down at a manageable level. From what the doctors say, it will always be there, so as long as it stays down her cancer is being controlled and everything should be fine.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Celebrating Aunt Rosemary's birthday

Saturday mom and I drove to Kewanee to have lunch with Aunt Rosemary on her birthday. She is now officially 70 years old, and wears it well. Aunt Carol and Alaina also drove in so we had a nice crowd for lunch at Good's. She got a lot of nice gifts... one was a large statue for her garden that all of the sisters chipped in for. It was too heavy to take out of the bag so Aunt Rosemary was going to take a picture of it when she gets home and send it to mom and Aunt Ruth so they can see what it looks like.

The aunts have started to sort through their photos, so every time we get together we each get a small batch of old photos to take home. I now have my third set of kindergarten through high school portraits. Aunt Rosemary brought a good photo of a gathering at Aunt Netties. Everyone was sitting outside but couldn't really tell what the occaision was about. I picked out the back of mom's head and Aunt Carol in a tank top. Given the style of clothes it must have been from the early eighties. Alaina got some photos of David and Travis in their cute years... we both were lamenting about how fun it was when our kids were young and did what we told them to.

As many pictures as we took on Saturday - I can tell the aunts are going to have a lot of photos to sort through for awhile.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Insurance company strikes again

The insurance company put the kabosh on mom's Boniva prescription for her osteoporosis, so she is going to start taking Fosamax once a week. Apparently Boniva is too expensive and the company wants her to try the cheaper prescription to start. Fosamax doesn't come in IV form, so she has to take it in pill form. Dr. Porubcin would have liked her to start on an IV with the Boniva as it would have given her a jump start in reversing the bone loss. But, as it stands, insurance companies don't seem to make the best decisions for patients and only do what is in the companies best interest.

Last week she seemed to be achy all over and didn't go to Jazzercise for a few days. Hopefully this week will be a little better. She is still doing the Lovenox daily, and will go in for a port flush I think next week. I'm sure once the weather warms up and the sun comes out for more than an hour at a time, her body will start feeling better.

We're going to Good's in Kewanee next Saturday for Aunt Rosemary's birthday dinner - 70 years old! Despite all of the trials over the last year there always seems to be something to celebrate.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Mom got the results from her bone density test back last week, and it showed signs of osteoporosis. This was a bit of a letdown, as she really doesn't want anything else to think about or have to take another prescription for. But, it is a fact... and therefore once a month she will be taking Boniva to build her bones back up.

The osteoporosis could have been there for quite awhile, as this was her first bone density test believe it or not. The chemo didn't help either, and make her weak all around.

She went to Trinity last week to get her port flushed and they were talking about doing the Boniva through an IV so that it would get her going sooner. After awhile she would take the pill form. BUT, it all depends on what the insurance company says! If they will pay for the IV prescription of Boniva, she'll do that, if they won't pay for it, she will take the pill. I'm dumbfounded on how much say an insurance company has over medications.

And recently, (couple of months ago), the insurance company told Mom where she had to go to purchase her prescriptions. She had always had her prescriptions filled at Northside, a family-owned pharmacy in Geneseo. Mom has known the Shannon's (owners) for decades and Tim has always been so helpful and went above and beyond for all his customers. Now she has to go fill her prescriptions at Walgreens (yes there is one in Geneseo now) because the insurance company says she has to, or they wouldn't pay for the prescriptions.

I know, I know... let's not get started on how this broken health-care system doesn't put health-care first...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jazzercise here she comes

The Iowa City visit went very well today, the doctor gave mom the clear to go back to Jazzercise. Her CA 125 level came in at an 8, which is an increase over the last CA 125 test she had a couple of weeks ago, however Dr. didn't seem too concerned. There will be fluctuations from time to time, a few points here and there, and is not an issue. If her CA125 level reaches 20 (the very highest mark is 35) then they will start to find out what is going on and discuss options. She'll be keeping her port in for awhile. No one is ready to take it out. She's ok with that as it doesn't bother her much.

She will go back to Iowa City in three months for another review. So, between now and April she'll be bouncing between Dr. Porubcin, getting her port flushed every four weeks, and then visiting Iowa City. The doctors are all keeping very good check on her, and that makes me feel better as they will be on top of it if she starts exhibiting other symptoms (bloating, etc.). For the time being, she's good to go and looking forward to Jazzercising her heart out.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Iowa City visit tomorrow

Mom had her bone density done yesterday - Dr. Porubcin wanted to see what those results would bring. It's an easy procedure so she was in-n-out. We go to Iowa City tomorrow to see Dr. DeGeest for a check-up. He wants to check her post-surgery progress and talk about anything she needs to talk about. Mom is hoping that Dr. DeGeest will give her the green light to go back to Jazzercise.

Yesterday she volunteered at Hammond Henry Hospital and clocked 2.5 miles on her pedometer! I don't know what they had her doing but she did a lot of walking around. And handled the activity pretty well although she said her hip was sore this morning.

Scotty and I went out to see her on Sunday and we went out for lunch (Culver's of course) and she was feeling pretty good despite the cold weather. The hair that has grown back thus far is mostly gray (if not white) so it will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of months.

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