It Shrinks

I’ve had “write blog post” on my to-do list for about 2 1/2 months now.

I’ve started it several times – but somehow I just couldn’t hit publish.

Now I can. Because for now at least, there’s a little good news to go with the bad. It doesn’t just grow. It shrinks.

For anyone not in the know, my mom is back in chemo. Since the last blog post, what feels like a really long time ago, but actually was just a year ago (April 8th to be exact) – a lot has happened.  The short version, she had her follow up CT Scan in October, totally expecting everything to be fine, but it wasn’t.  That F’ing C didn’t stay away for long and in fact decided to make a new home for itself in her liver. Shit.

It was small, so they radiated it.  Doctors were very positive.  Phrases like “we caught it early” and “it’s very small” and “this treatment is new and very effective” were used a lot.

It didn’t work.

She knew she was in trouble when her stool lost colour.

We knew she was in trouble when she turned yellow.

Another CT and more not very nice news, not only had the radiation not worked, it had really not worked – it had grown.  A lot. Almost four times the size in two short months. Quadruple shit.

A stent was put into her liver to get the bile moving in the right direction, and get her skin a little less big-bird-esque. And she started chemo again. Three more rounds.

The last week has been rough. The stent was blocked, the dressing around her abdomen was being changed multiple times a day, her skin was not happy. Another CT and a small surgery to fix the stent were both booked for Thursday.

But alas, a little ray of hope.  A little reward of sunshine for her determination and perseverance. It seems it has shrunk a little.

Full results are not in yet.  We don’t know by how much and we don’t know the full analysis, but the preliminary report “looks good” – and it makes this waiting period a whole lot nicer. The chemo will continue but at least it seems to be doing something.

It’s a win for today.  And that’s worth writing about.

michellepeekphotography1
That beautiful photo is the work of Michelle Peek Photography – that’s another blog post on my list… and they’re too beautiful not to share so it’s coming – pinky swear.

Missed one and another delay

Whoops! I missed one. A chemo round that is.  Mom is now 2 down and 1 to go.  The final treatment was supposed to start today, but she’s been delayed another week because of low white blood cell counts… again.

The bad news? Another delay means another week.  So we’re no longer counting down to February 25 but to March 4.

The good news? Another week off with no Paula the Pump.  This should leave Mom feeling pretty good by the time she goes in for the final assault, and maybe keep her from losing more weight (it’s become a small concern). Maybe she’ll get really crazy and gain a pound or two!

Either way, things could be a lot worse. And while she may be sick and tired of feeling sick and tired – there’s still light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s getting closer.

Thanks everyone for your continued love and support – sorry about missing a round, I’m back on track and staying on top of things. 🙂

 

One Down Two to Go

I think they call this the home stretch.  Or maybe this is the last leg, and 6 weeks from now will be the home stretch.  Either way, we are one chemo round closer to the finish line and I for one will take it.

Mom had her PICC line fixed on Tuesday, they were hopeful they could get it all done in one day, but unfortunately there weren’t enough chairs. So Wednesday she went in again and Paula is back in our lives.

And how did it go? WONDERFUL.  Mom came home for a long winter’s nap, but has had no nausea at all. This is what her doctor thought would happen, that she was so sick with the first rounds because she was nearly obstructed.  But now that we’ve got that pesky stomach out of the way… good to go.

She has been told that the devil in this cocktail will be exhaustion.  Flat out, dead tired, ZERO energy exhaustion.  But now that we’re in the last leg of this tour, we are all definitely rallying around the countdown.  8 weeks, 6 days.

It’s going to be a quieter Christmas than normal in our house that’s for sure, but I feel confident speaking for all the Weldon’s when I say – we don’t mind one bit.

Message from Mom – Do you think I willed the delay by saying I wished for a few more days before they killed me again? Shoot! What a waste of a wish!

Drum Roll Please

We got the call.

Mom asked the Boy to put our phone on speaker.  Our phone decided to die instead.

We called back to get the news.  Dr. Law had just called. He had good news. Pathology news.

Drum roll…..

They took 56 lymph nodes, that’s basically all of them from the immediate area.  Of those 56, just 3 showed positive with Cancer.  Of course we wanted 0 – but 3 of 56, that’s a pretty nice ratio. Plus – they’re gone. And since that ratio is so low, combined with the fact they took pretty much everything anywhere close – that means (in my mind anyway) they got them all.

The tumour was contained to the stomach (you know other than those few lymph nodes) it had not spread to the abdominal cavity. That’s great news.

It’s a Stage 3 cancer – that’s because it spread to the lymph nodes. The staging was no surprise, while typically we’re a Stage 1 kind of family – based on what we knew going in, this was basically what we were hoping for.

But overall, the Boy was right.

They got it. She’s Cancer Free. And its all healing and prevention from here out.

The recovery is going slower than she’d like.  We are really appreciative of your continued notes, calls and positive thoughts. If you’re visiting, please keep in mind that Mom is very much recovering and needs a lot of rest. Doctor’s orders. Right now, it’s best to call first to make sure it’s a good day and a good time.

Mom is tired and getting used to eating without a stomach is definitely taking some getting used to. Each day seems to be a little bit better than the one before. And something tells me that this news is going to offer that extra bit of encouragement.

More chemo is on its way – they will definitely want to address those pesky 3 lymph nodes. Those 3 are gone, but they’ll want to make sure there isn’t any stragglers that missed the memo – the party’s over, get out. We’re not sure when that will start, but it should be sometime in December.

For now, a giant exhale and teeny tiny meals are both on the menu.

Message from Mom: “Thanks for all the prayers, positive thoughts, love and friendship – they obviously work!”

Or… the 22nd

When Mom went to the Surgeon a couple of weeks ago, he told her a couple of things.

1. Absolutely STRICT liquid diet for at least one week before the surgery.

2. The surgery will definitely be either the 23rd or the 25th.

After the pre-op appointment on Friday she learned a few more things

1. The surgery will be at least 3 hours long.

2. Since it will be so long – she will most likely be first – which means starting at 7:45.

3. After the surgery she will be in ICU for at least the first day.

4. The post-op pain management plan is an epidural.

5. The surgery will be on the 22nd… so not the 23rd or 25th.

And the Boy says –  “So on Tuesday, your mom will be cancer free!” 

Yes she will. 

To keep everyone in the loop, I’ll post a post-op update here just as soon as we have something to tell.  Since so many people have subscribed to this little blog – I think this is the fastest and easiest way – you know, short of live-tweeting the play-by-play.

Message from Mom – An epidural? For the first 3, 5 or 7 days? Am I fine with that as a pain management plan? Yes, I’ll take 7 days please. 

 

 

Let’s Talk Shrinkage

Friday is a day Mom has been waiting for 9 fast and slow weeks. Paula is leaving us for a while – that’s right, we’re through the first leg of the relay. The first block of chemo rounds is finished, and we’re waiting for a surgery date.

What else is new? Shrinkage.

That’s right.  It shrinks. Mom had another CT Scan to update the surgeon in a couple weeks.

Drumroll please….

We’re down 2cm.  4.8 to 2.8!!! That’s practically half!

Liver – clear! Lungs – clear! Kidneys – clear! Every major organ you can think of (besides the stomach of course) CLEAR!!

Can I get some big ups!?!

There’s just one small but.

One rogue but actually.

One rogue lymph node.

Was 7mm now 10mm.

BUT since it’s best to bookend bad news with good news – that uncooperative little bastard of a node is right near the shrinking tumour, and will be taken out with the surgery.

So it’s practically ike it’s not there at all… that’s the way I’m looking at it anyway. 🙂

Message from Mom: “It’s the best I could hope for. Now all I have to do is behave myself for the next 4 weeks.”

“Oh Paula I’ll miss you” – said no one ever

Round 3

She didn’t want to jinx it, so she asked me not to post until after the weekend – but to say this round was much better than the last, would be an understatement.

Mom was given an extra boost of anti-nausea meds this time, plus a handy prescription of Ativan. Between the two, she didn’t feel the need to stay in Newmarket post-chemo, she was able to make it home and largely sleep through it.

Dad and Brother got some education in how to start and stop an IV through the PICC line, which meant Mom could easily set herself up with 1 litre of saline each day Thursday-Monday.  That helped.  A LOT.  One of the big challenges last round was that Mom was so sick, she really couldn’t stay hydrated, which of course just made things worse.  Getting the saline in made a huge difference and something she’ll definitely be keeping in mind the next time around.

For now, it’s 2 1/2 more weeks with Paula the Pump, then she gets a good break.  No date for surgery date yet, but it should be sometime closer to the end of October.

Message from Mom – “What am I going to do with all my free time!”

 

Wiggin’ Out

When Mom first heard she was going to have chemo, one of her first questions was how long will I have until my hair is gone.

12 days. Not 12-15.  Not each person reacts differently.  12 days from the first round. Firm.

Since she was in the hospital, and was resolving to the fact that she wasn’t going to get out until after her first chemo, she put me on a mission – find out where to go for a wig.

I called Hairafter Salon and Spa, where my mom has been having her hair done for 35 years. Neither of us thought they’d have them there but the idea was they would definitely point us in the right direction.

What followed was one of the sweetest conversations I’ve had since this whole thing started.

Me – Hi John (John Colombo is the owner, and has been personally responsible for my mom’s head for at least 35 years), My mom has cancer and she needs to know where to get a wig.

JC – Meaghan, I’m so sorry to hear that.  What do you mean where does she go?  She comes to me!

Me – Oh really? I didn’t think you had wigs there.

JC – We don’t.  I will find her one, I’ll cut it and dye it and it will look exactly like her – no one will ever know.

Me – Wow! Okay, she’s hoping not to have spend a million dollars – this is temporary.

JC – Meaghan.  Leave it to me, it’s done.  Send me a recent picture.  I’ll order a bunch, she’ll come in and we’ll pick one, then we’ll shape it, dye it and she’ll pick it up.

Me – Thank you

JC – This is the least we can do, do not worry about it – tell her it will be perfect.

To say Mom was touched is an understatement.

She had her first chemo, and 12 days later…. still a full head of hair.  Turns out they hadn’t given her both drugs the first round, and it was the second that would both knock her down for a few days, and make her lose her hair.  The delay gave her some time, she was able to go down look at a few options and pick one.  The entire staff at Hairafter had a hand in making sure it was perfectly dyed and coifed. She took it home, and John asked her to come in again when her hair started to fall.  Once again, he would take care of it.

Thursday she went to a “Look Good Feel Better” session at the hospital, and Friday morning her hair started getting messy – so back to Hairafter she went, and to no one’s surprise the staff were nothing but wonderful.  They took her to a room in the basement, where her head was shaved and her wig styled.

 35 Years is a long time

Needless to say, it was an emotional haircut.  But having it done by anyone else – inconceivable.  Having a team of staff that were so genuine and caring made it so much easier.

Fresh from her new ‘do, Mom and Sista went off to Changes in Newmarket for some accessories.  While Mom is happy with the look of her wig, it is hot and kind of like a tight ponytail – you can’t wear it all the time – your head kinda gets tired. Changes, sells all kinds of head scarves.  Scarves in every colour and weight. Scarves for sleeping, and scarves for fashion.

The Model

Mom has been known to collect an accessory or two, and what’s extra nice is they’re so reasonably priced, it’s easy to get one for every day of the week.

A girl needs accessories

Once again, the staff person at Changes was absolutely fabulous. She walked mom through how to wrap them, encouraged her to try different styles.  And even gave her one for free, simply because it was slightly smaller than it should have been.

All in all, losing her hair has not been pleasant – as anyone can imagine I’m sure.  But luckily there are people in our world who care so much for her happiness and those that have been called to a profession that makes this whole crappy part, a little bit easier.

From the bottom of our hearts… thank you.

Message from Mom: “I was sitting here looking at this picture from your wedding… they did it. I have the same haircut as I did that day!”

Help from Mom

Yes she does – and just as beautiful.

Round 2

2 down, 4 to go.

A quick update on Mom’s second round of chemo.  She had it Thursday and they changed her cocktail this time.  In round 1 she only got one drug, this round she got two.  And it was rough.

I’ll spare the details, but Mom was quite ill, basically from about 10 minutes after finishing, through to the next day.  Boo.  That’s the bad news.

The good news is, there’s only 1 more to go until she gets a break, and since knowing is half the battle – she can plan to stay at our house just up the street from the hospital instead of making the 40 minute trek to A-town.

Otherwise, she’s been feeling pretty good, but since this round is more the real deal – she’s taking things one day at a time.

In other news the Boy and I are having a wonderful trip – but one with limited internet access, and limited time to blog!  So in an effort of two birds and one blog – here’s a quick photo recap of some of the highlights so far – with more details to come.

Dipping our feet into the Atlantic Ocean

Dipping our feet into the Atlantic Ocean

Green Gables Golf Course - yes that is the ocean peeking out there.

Green Gables Golf Course – yes that is the ocean peeking out there.

Happy hikers

Happy hikers

Left our mark on the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Left our mark on the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Message from Mom – “Spare the details on the blog Meaghan – and keep having fun, I’m just fine.”

– always a mother first. XOXO

The Big C – again

As most of if not all my in real life peeps know – my mom has cancer… again.

This is not my family’s first time with this – and here are my two cents – COME ON! Unfortunately no amount of hating the diagnosis is going to make her better – yes it sucks, but we’ve just got to pick up, stick together and get her through it, because personally, I’m not having it any other way.

For those that don’t know, this is my little family’s 4th visit from the big C.  We have had a lot of success, we know the system, we know the questions to ask but in this case knowledge doesn’t necessarily make things easier. However, we do know that it’s the little things that count.  Positive energy, prayers you don’t know are happening, chocolate, visits and hugs – all little things that go a long way.

Unexpectedly, this little blog might just be one of those little things that make it a little easier this time around – that’s right for the first time we’ve got social media on our side and since every little bit helps, I’m going to use it. 

If you’re new to this blog because my mom just sent it out to you – welcome.  Feel free to look around and get comfortable.  You can either make a point to check back in regularly or you can subscribe in the box on the right side and all posts will come directly to your inbox.  (If you subscribe you will get an email to confirm your subscription, check your junk mail if it doesn’t come to your inbox – you must do this step to complete the subscription). If you choose to subscribe, you might find yourself with the odd knitting project, or something ridiculous the Boy said, but you’ll also get the latest in updates about my mom.

But Meaghan, won’t this make your blog sad? Why blog about not nice things? Well, this blog is supposed to be an online journal of my life – and quite frankly – life is clearly not always rainbows and sunshine.  So it’s logical the blog would follow. More than that though, my hope is we get 2 perks from blogging: 1. Consistent information told straight from the source.  2. Easing the number of phone calls that both mom and our wonderful key family members and friends get asking for new details – not to say that phone calls are not welcome, just this way we don’t have to have the same conversation 55 times.

So strap in – for those readers that have commented I’ve been slacking off for the last little while year or so – I’m back.  And when I’m stressy I do 2 things, I knit and I write.  The five sweaters that I’ve sewn together in the last two weeks can attest to the first part, and this little blog will inevitably get more attention too.

To start – the details. Next post – the updates.

The short version – My mom fainted about 6 weeks ago in a grocery store.  She thought it was because she hadn’t had much to eat that day and it was 30 degrees outside.  EMS came but she refused to go to the emergency room, instead she called me and I brought her home for a chocolate milk and a lie down. She fainted again that night and when my dad said “can we go to the hospital now?” her response was “well, probably – but first get the blood pressure cuff.”  When her blood pressure was in the tank she allowed a 911 call, and by the time they got there she was vomiting blood. 

FYI – that’s not good. 

To the hospital they went, where they treated her for an ulcer.  Everything looked good.  Until it wasn’t.  Yada Yada Yada, she bled out, yada yada, it was a very good thing she was already in the hospital, yada, they sent her home 5 days later and her biopsy to the lab.

We waited.

And waited.

And kind of forgot.

Until they didn’t have results. Then mom booked an appointment with our family doctor.

Then we got first results. Stomach cancer.

Then we said some not nice words.

For anyone that hasn’t done this before, let me tell you – so far in all our times with this – this is the WORST part.  Knowing, but not knowing how bad, or where, or what, or how fast, or where else. When all you’re left with is a whole bunch of questions and your mind is left to wander into the terrible world of ‘what if’ – it’s awful.

Last weekend she had her CT Scan, and on Monday she saw the surgeon at Sunnybrook.  Stomach cancer, and that’s it. It doesn’t appear to be anywhere else, there aren’t any glowing node areas (although lymph-nodes can’t be truly known until dissection after surgery).  The plan, 3 rounds of chemo, surgery (leaving her with 40-60% of her stomach), followed by 3 more rounds of chemo. Followed by all better.  Forever.

The not so good news, the cancer is at the base of the stomach and the exit point is very narrow.  She is at high risk for obstruction and is on a liquid diet starting immediately. Since the chemo will first expand the cells before destroying them – it’s possible that she will not be able to get through the full 3 rounds before running into trouble. If she is obstructed, they will stop the chemo and do emergency surgery followed by more chemo. Followed by all better.  Forever.

So that’s where we are – for one post anyway.  I’ll do my best to keep it as up to date as possible. And I’ll also really try to inject this little blog with some happy along the way.

How you can help today – Positive healing thoughts are always welcome. 

Message from Mom – Thank you everyone for all of your  love and support – we really appreciate it.