We recently passed the mid-point for Angie’s chemotherapy so it seems a good time for an update. I know it’s been a while, sorry ’bout that! Last Thursday (not Thanksgiving, the one before that…) was her 4th session, by far the worst to date. She was so wiped out last weekend that she couldn’t manage to stay awake to watch the last 5 minutes of the Dallas/Redskins game! Fortunately for her, we (the Redskins) crumbled as usual inside of the last 2 minutes, so her pre-game smack talking stands and I didn’t get the chance to rub an upset in her face. Oh well, maybe next year.
The fatigue has gotten more severe each time, as have the flu-like aches and pains. She is feeling the effects more quickly after treatment, and it takes her longer to rebound. This treatment she dealt with severe nausea for the first time. One thing we are very thankful for this week is that her red and white blood cell counts are at reasonable levels after dropping very low around her third treatment.
She’s done now with the first 2 chemotherapy drugs, so starting this week she will be on a third drug for the next 4 sessions. (Taxol, for those keeping score). This infusion takes a lot longer, each chemotherapy session will take something like 5 1/2 hours. I’ve loaded up an iPod with music, movies and some good podcasts for her! We’re told that compared to the drugs she just finished 4 out of 5 people find Taxol to be less generally uncomfortable, but for the 5th it is much worse. We’re praying she falls in the majority!
So… 4 chemo sessions down, 4 to go, and then a year of Herceptin treatments. I don’t think we’ve covered Herceptin? Her tumor tested as being receptive to a certain protein, HER2, that can be suppressed by this drug. The good news is that in cases like hers it can reduce the risk of re-occurrence by as much as 15%; the bad news is that it’s another IV infusion every 3 weeks for a year. More needles, more side effects, more being extra-careful about infection. Despite it all I’m very thankful that she’s managed to stay in good spirits for the most part… that’s huge. She has her struggles and her dark moments, but they are just moments. They do still pass.
I think the hardest part of all this right now for her is the isolation. Recently I watched her break down in tears when a friend suggested they go to a concert after she’s recovered… the thought of actually having a life again after all of this was overwhelming. This is our new normal; where we used to be so active and involved and … busy … now we are not. The initial rush of grappling with the diagnosis and going through surgery has faded to the dull routine of surviving chemotherapy. The flood of cards and letters and flowers when people first heard about her cancer has waned to a trickle of cherished well-wishes. Entire days can pass where she doesn’t speak to a single person between breakfast and dinner.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been well cared for; our kids have been loved well, meals provided, and Angie has a few close friends who have been faithful to call and visit regularly. Her parents have been lifesavers; staying at the house while I’m away to help Angie and the kids. We have much to be thankful for.
I guess if you have ever moved, then gone back to visit shortly afterwards, you have some sense of how we’ve begun to feel… everything is more or less the same as when you left, yet at the same time it’s completely different. Life kept marching on without you. Dealing with cancer has already changed us in so many ways, I sometimes wonder what it is going to be like when we are able to start ‘re-entry’ next Christmas after 16 months…
Thanks again to everyone who has been praying for us, who have served us tangibly, and to everyone who has taken a few minutes to call or write Angie. (and I’ll try to update you a bit more often!)