Saturday, May 24, 2014

Chemo update

Hi, friends.  Steve here with a brief update...
Gabrielle had her dreaded triple chemo yesterday which was an all day affair.  It took an extra hour on the front end because there was a backup in the lab mixing concoctions for other patients (and you'da thunk she'd go to the front of the line by now).  After that, she needed an additional drip of magnesium as that's a tad low.  But after all was said and done, she rolled home about 5:00 PM and the first words out of her mouth (apart from the much anticipated, always dreaded, "wipe your feet") were "let's go for a power walk as I've been sitting all day".  So off we went!  I could barely keep up with her.  I don't know what Dr. M. but in the juice she gave Gabrielle, but I could use some of that pep about now.
We are delighted to report that Gabrielle's CA-125 has dropped!!!  As a reminder, it had a low of about 12 after initial diagnosis of around 130.  This recent recurrence saw a rise to 16 then to 20 in early April.  Right now it is around 14...a drop of 6 points (yep, I'm a math whiz), which is very encouraging.
So the plan is for another single treatment next week and we'll see how things go after that.
Need to dash along now.  I will leave a more complete blog to Gabrielle when she gets rolling.  As for me, I have to dash off to get my haircut then go for a brisk dip in the sound.  I'd tell you more about my adventures at the barber shop, but they have absolutely nothing to do with chemo, so will remain taciturn on the subject. 
Cheers.
Steve

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Yes, we have no chemo; we have no chemo today....

Dear family and friends,
Steve here.  Try singing the title to the tune of that silly song about bananas and you'll get it right.  Of course you have to be at least my age to remember that song.  Anyhow...
Sadly, Gabrielle's lab tests revealed that her cell counts were too low to get another much needed, eagerly anticipated (and dreaded at the same time) dose of medication yesterday as we had planned.  That's the second time she's been "too low".  I'm not liking this limbo stick game of how low can you go (sorry, another reference to an old Calypso song).  So instead of getting the medicine, she got a shot of Neulasta which stimulates the bone marrow to squeeze out extra cells.  From what I gather, it is significantly more potent than Neupogen which she had been getting periodically up to this point.  I understand it is a tad on the pricey side, so much so that they won't let us give it to her at home.  She had to go in and get it at Dr. M's office yesterday.  It is associated with about three days of pretty significant bone pain that will most likely kick in today or tomorrow (happy Mother's Day).  But for now, she is doing all right.
This has been a rougher than average week, post chemo and all.  She has been nauseated every single day and had very little energy which has been unlike her.  Yesterday, we went for a delightful walk around the neighborhood (her first in three days, which for her is very unusual).  It was the highlight of my day, walking and doing my best to keep up with her.  I always enjoy my walks with her as we have a chance to walk, talk and enjoy the scenery (lots of wonderful spring flowers out in the neighborhood...love those rhodies!). 
On our walk, among other things, we had a chance to catch up and reflect on the many blessings we have and I would like to share them with you, though I am sure that I am leaving some out.  If so, I apologize for the oversight.
First of all, she had enough energy to attend a Children's Hospital luncheon yesterday with Renee as guests of Luanna at her table.  Gabrielle remarked on how Bill and Luanna are very dear friends and I agree.  They even sent cards home for each of us.  Gabrielle had a chance to visit with some of her former colleagues and friends (not "former" friends...they are still that!), though elbow bumps only.  No hand shaking or hugs with her counts so low.  She had a wonderful time.  She was absolutely beaming about the event when I got home. 
Thanks to Loretta for bringing amazing lemon rice soup yesterday which was oh so tasty.
Thanks to our niece, Katia for shipping us the most amazing pots that she had made, one of which was turquoise...the ovarian cancer color.  They are now gracing our fireplace.
Thanks for meals from Sandy, Mary, Bryan and Kristin, Dean, Stohn, Joan, and Alison.  You guys are keeping us amply fed and it's such a blessing to not have to stress so much about what to buy, prepare, and clean up for dinner now and then!  Oh--and the most amazing chocolate cake you have ever tasted walked up the hill with our friends/neighbors, Laura and Jerry, and we have eaten every last morsel!  Just pop those anti-nausea pills then cut a nice slice of cake and add a dollop of vanilla ice cream. A taste of Heaven!
We appreciate the cards and letters of support, cheery e-mails and many prayers on our behalf.
Thanks to Pastor Blake for taking me out to breakfast at The Pancake House (they do breakfast good up there).  He was kind enough to offer up a prayer of absolution such that the calories didn't count...I like that. 
We also are being increasingly made aware of how precious a gift it is to have the community of friends to walk this journey and have a renewed sense of our desire to pray for and help others.  That's been a blessing too...to be able to reach out to others as the needs arise.  I am especially looking forward to "ministering" to Tom by inviting myself down to his boat someday and firing the engines up and making sure the batteries don't run down.
Oh, and thanks to Matt and Ami for putting up with my marginal boating skills and agreeing to ship out on this, my second annual shrimping venture.  It would have been miserable pulling those pots all by myself.  And thanks for buying me lunch at Maggie's Bluff while the shrimp pots soaked.  Speaking of soaking, we got soaked on the outing but had a lot of fun.
Well that's it for now.  I want to end by wishing you all a wonderful weekend and especially want to send warm greetings to all the mothers out there:  Happy Mother's Day.  To my mom, Abby.  To Gabrielle's mom, Gloria, and to Gabrielle...three of the best moms I know and to all the other moms as well.
Till next time, please keep those prayers coming.
Love,
Steve

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Post-chemo update (can't think of an interesting title)

Dear Family and Friends,
  Gabrielle here.  I am very pleased to report that after three days of neupogen shots in my stomach last week to boost my immune system, I was able to get my triple chemo day drugs on Friday!  Oh, it was a L-O-N-G day.  It took six hours from start to finish.  First the blood work and waiting for the lab results.  Then the pre-meds--anti-nausea, steroids, things to help me not react badly to the chemo, etc.  Then the first chemo drug.  Then the second chemo drug.  Then the third drug that helps prevent blood vessel growth to feed tumors.  I was blessed to have both Renee and Daniel with me and as you might have guessed by now, we played Scrabble (I won at the very last second by adding an "S" to Renee's word "quads" and it crossed a triple word score.  Woo hoo!).  We also watched the old movie "The American President," which Daniel had never seen.  I came home so happy to have received cancer-killing medicine--but I was truly wiped out.
  Since then I've had a lot of nausea and fatigue.  And still some depression.  It's tough adjusting to all this again, and my days can get long and a bit lonely.  But we continue to do three things:  Keep our eyes on Jesus, order our days well, knowing how precious they are, and look for joy in each day. 
  Today's joy came in the form of a lovely walk/prayer time in the sunshine, and "deep and real" conversations with some dear friends and family members.  It also came in the form of dinner being brought to us by Dean--that we are just now going to enjoy! 
  In closing, remember when I told you during last year's chemo that the chemo kills off hair cells?  Well, the hair on top of my head is still clinging to life, while the hair in my nose is gone.  The hair in one's nose plays a crucial role of keeping the snot where it's supposed to be--in your nose--most of the time.  Take home message--never, never bend your chemo nose over the tray of salsa, avocado, and chips you've just set out for your family for Cinco de Mayo!  Gross!!!
  Thank you for all your kindnesses--meals, cards, flowers, treats, and most important of all, your prayers.  You are precious to us.


Love,
Gabrielle