Chemo

Wowie. Where has the time gone?

The last time I was here, I was wishing everyone a wonderful holiday and here we are, well into the new year. The wreaths are down and all red and green decor stowed away until next year. There are no more candles in windows or gifts yet to open. And while some might see only cold winter days ahead, my hope is that some of the holiday warmth we all love so much has stayed with us somewhere, somehow.

If I’m to be honest, I’ll say it’s that way for me.

I was sick during the holidays. I don’t know how I got up each morning to bake or put on the Christmas Carols. But I did. I coughed so much no one wanted to share my space, and who could blame them. No matter how much concealer I dabbed on, my circles remained blue/black and my nose stayed an irritated red. Christmas day was wonderful despite all that – how could Christmas day be any other way? The day after, I crashed, slept nearly all day. There had to be  a way to fight off this cold/flu/allergy/whatever, and it seemed rest was it.

By New Year’s Eve, I was feeling better but not quite myself. My fear was if I didn’t get better immediately, I’d bring whatever germ I had to Colorado… to my mom. And that was not an option. I self-medicated, rested, drank plenty of fluids and washed my hands a million times. All this so when we flew out to Colorado for my mom’s FINAL chemo treatment, I wouldn’t be the one to stress or test her chemo-compromised immune system.

And so, in the wee hours of the new year, we boarded a flight at JFK and headed out there with hope in our hearts.

The first day was wonderful. My mom had one more day of Chemo, the next day, and then she would be done. With luck, they’d say her leukemia was in remission and she’d go on going on. We celebrated, rested, caught up on ‘stuff’ and otherwise had a wonderful time.

And then Sunday morning came.

My father, who has not missed a day of work in nearly three decades – and then it was only because he’d nearly died of blood poisoning from a severe allergic reaction to poison ivy – called in sick. Food poisoning, we all thought. Had to be. Anything else would be something my mom could catch, and that was simply not an option.

He was sick all day and we did what we could to keep him comfortable and my mother safe. Daughter, meanwhile, started coughing like I’d been just a week before.

Monday, Sister and I take mom for follow-up blood work. It’s not good, but that’s to be expected right after chemo. Her immune system is practically non-existent and will not bounce back for about a week. She has to be careful – wash her hands constantly, stay home, not go shopping or out to dinner or anything else that might put her in contact with germs she cannot fight off.

And so we go home.

And I start to feel queasy. Tired. Dizzy.

Father, meanwhile, has stumbled out of bed for the first time in 24 hours and has plain broth and white rice. I merely look at it and… I’m done. Food poisoning, it is not.

Houston, we have a problem.

The dreaded stomach virus.

All I could think as I wretched up my last meals was how this would effect my mom since she would be unable to fight it off. And then I thought of my grandmother – at 94, how would the stomach virus affect her?

Hubby, meanwhile, was skiing, because if you’re in Colorado and there’s snow in the mountains… what else are you supposed to do with yourself?

To sum things up… I spent the next 30+ hours in bed, unable to move or eat. Let me tell you, if there’s anything good to come out of having the stomach virus, it’s being able to lose those last 5 pounds so quickly… though not so effortlessly. :-/

The next day my sister calls. She’s got it now. By that night, I’m up but unable to eat. I scrub everything, washed hands, sheets and pillow cases. Everything I could think to do to keep mom from getting this, I did, she did, we all did.

Except hubby who went skiing again.

By Wednesday we think the worst is over. Daughter is sick with a cold but not the virus. Grandma is downstairs safe in her own living space, Dad is back to work, Sister is able to get out of bed, I’m eating again, Brother-in-law is feeling just fine and Hubby… is out skiing for day #3.

He’s no fool, out there in the fresh, stomach-virus-free air.

By Thursday morning, mom’s not feeling so good. We’re supposed to leave for home the next day at noon. By Thursday, noon, it’s clear she’s got it, too. And now panic sets in. She’s gone through four months of chemo without getting sick. We’re here, now, at the end, and she suffers this setback. What should we do?

I call the emergency number and try to calmly express my concerns. To my great relief I’m told this: The stomach virus is just that, a virus. It will have to run it’s course. If it were food poisoning or some other bacterial issue, THAT would be a major concern. This virus will have to run its course.

Hard to believe anyone would be happy they ‘only’ had a virus.

The next day, Hubby goes home alone. Why? Because he has events to photograph that weekend so he cannot stay. I cannot leave because mom’s still recovering. I also cannot leave because Grandma woke feeling nauseous. And Daughter? Well… she can’t leave because now she’s got it, too.

The next day proves even skiing and flying hundreds of miles away is not enough to insure freedom from such a wayward and determined bug. Hubby now has it, too. And Sunday? Brother-in-law is also out for the count.

And so… the moral of my story is thus… share and share alike. What goes around comes around. There’s no escape. If anything can go wrong it will. And any other Murphy-esque law you can thing of.

We’re all okay now and life has gone back to… normal (whatever that is). I’ve gotten back to my story… YAY! …daughter has gotten back to her schooling and activities, mom’s immune system is slowly rebounding, and the rest of the family is otherwise healthy and doing their thing.

Some more good news after all the bad?

My mom’s CLL is indeed in remission, and so, all that anxiety, all that fear and diligence has paid off. It might be for only a year, it might be for ten. However long it is, my hope is science will use that time to find a cure for this and other cancers.

Well, that’s my long, drawn-out story. I’m glad to be back. I’ve missed all my blogging friends and I WILL be visiting your blogs regularly again. <<hugs>>

Oh… and one more thing…

Happy New Year.

Chemo – Week 3

We’re either at the midway point or right near the end. Originally, the doctors told my mom she’d need six 5-day chemo treatments. Well, three of those have been completed and, fortunately, the side effects have been minimal – considering what they could have been.

Great news is that her body’s responses so far have exceeded their expectations. Greater news is that the next round of chemo – her fourth – might be the last she’ll need.

We, of course, are hoping for that. That round will begin the Monday before New Year’s Day and will end the day after New Years. Daughter and I will be here again that month for the week-after care, but Hubby will join us as well. We’ll have much to celebrate this year. Possibly the end of successful Leukemia treatments, and treatments whose side-effects were manageable.

The horrors of chemo still exist but not to the level they were before. The very thought that, in controlled amounts, poison can be introduced into the human body and actually help the human body fight disease is an amazing thing. If this chemo has done what it’s supposed to do, my mom’s CLL will go into remission.

Remission can last 4 or more years. With all science has learned about this disease – and others – in recent years, and with all science has done to defeat or stave off recurrences, a four-year remission might bring new and wonderfully successful ways of destroying – dare I say, “curing” – this disease.

We have a long way to go and nothing is set in stone – we may have to endure the full six 5-day treatments – but we are hopeful and optimistic. Hope alone is a wonderful gift our family has been given for this holiday season.

We Can and We Did & Chemo Recovery Week 2

I was not at home in New York when Senator Barack Obama won the US Presidency in the most enthusiastic election of my lifetime. I was not even near a TV or radio. I had no idea he’d officially reached the required electoral votes until I called Daughter from the Emergency Room where we’d taken my mom just hours earlier.

This week of recovery after chemo has not gone as well as the last. This week, my mom’s white blood cell count is next to nil. Considering she has CLL, you’d think a low white blood cell count would be a blessing. However, it was so low, the concern was that if she were to get any type of infection, her body would not be able to fight it. Well… Daughter and I are here to help but Daughter has been suffering a terrible cold since the moment we arrived. She’s basically been banished to one or two rooms of the house so her germs can’t reach Mom. She’s such a trooper.

However, last night, mom started to run a fever. The on-call doctor told us to go to the ER. We still don’t know what caused the fever, but I’m happy to say, it’s gone. Antibiotics are involved. Antibiotics and watchful waiting.

Meanwhile, history was being made. I am relieved and hopeful now. With the man, Barack Obama, as the new – and clearly WANTED by a huge majority – American President, we may be able to restore some tattered alliances. We may be able to regain some pride in our country and our leaders. We may even find new hurdles leapt and new understandings abound. I am hopeful. I want a unified America. I want people to ask questions of each other and listen to the answers. I want no more of the preach and pander of the past eight years. I want no more of the hostility or fear of being either ‘for or against’ my country.

I am a proud American. I’ve always been. But I have never been more proud as when people of different faiths, nationalities, races, sexual orientations and parties came together as a unified force and voted in favor of the future. In favor of hope. In favor of change.

To those who still think we can never conquer the hate and divisivness of the past eight years, I’ll take the words of our new leader and make them mine – Yes. We. Can.

And we will.

Chemo Recovery – Week 1

Hello from Colorado! Still no elk or deer sightings. 🙁

Yesterday was my grandmother’s 94th birthday. Ninety-fourth!! One of the cards she received was musical and played the birthday song. She must have opened and closed and opened that card 100 times. She was like a little kid with a new toy. 🙂  

Yesterday was also the first day my mom actually looked better – the week hadn’t been too good for her. However, when she corrected the way I made the coffee… …I knew she didn’t just look better, she also felt better. Yay!

Right now, the majority of her blood work looks “phenomenal” according to the medical assistant. We’re thrilled about that but the chemo has destroyed a large portion of her immune system. They worry when the results are at .5%. My mother’s are at .9% so they are keeping a watchful eye on her.

This Tuesday she’ll have a 7-hour office visit where she’ll receive immune globulin to help boost her immune system. It’s a risky thing because the possible complications from that include anaphylactic shock and coma. Yeah… you read that right. However, she’s already had this once before (with a benadryl drip and hovering medical team) so we’re not as concerned about it this time. Until then, she has to be extremely careful to avoid infection. With luck, thetreatment should balance things out to a safe level for her. And then it all starts again.

That’s the funny thing about chemo. It kills the cancer cells, which is what we want, but it also kills healthy cells. It can’t distinguish between the two. Chemo is tough but it ain’t that smart. Still, it’s good to have this since without it… well… I won’t even consider that.

Daughter has been a trooper and Hubby is having a blast as a bachelor. 😀 The cats, I’m told are doing well, though they tend to sit at the top of the stairs looking down. Waiting for Daughter and me, perhaps? Well, we’ll be home soon enough and we’ll cuddle them until they can’t stand it anymore.

One month down and five to go. Here’s hoping things continue to improve from now until then and beyond.

And here’s hoping some deer or elk come out of hiding so I can catch a glimpse of them before we leave.

I’m sorry I haven’t been a good blog neighbor by stopping by daily. Things have been busy here this week but I will be making my rounds once I’m back home. PROMISE.

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