Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Oct 27: Drugs were making Tanya weaker physically, but that didn't stop her from planning to have some friends over for a barbecue on Halloween and sit outside to hand out candy.
Oct 31: Tanya's back was hurting so badly in the morning that Steve took her to the ER, and they admitted her to the hospital. The tests and waiting began.
Nov 3: A test revealed that Tanya's spinal fluid had cancer cells in it, so Tanya had surgery that evening to install a port to administer chemotherapy directly into her spine. This new port is on top of Tanya's head. She already had a chemo port on her chest. Ports are great. (There's a previous post about that.)
Nov 4: An email said that "Tanya is being an absolute sweetheart despite the pain, and some of the drugs are making her a bit confused."
Nov 5: The drugs were making Tanya very anxious. She kept trying to remove all her tubes, and Steve had to watch her constantly, day and night. Finally a new nurse came on duty at 4:30 a.m. and got a prescription to calm Tanya.
Nov 6: The drugs were making Tanya very confused. Steve said that during the night he had to really watch her because he'd doze off, wake up, and find her trying to remove something she shouldn't. She was really out of it but didn't seem to be in so much pain.
Nov 7: Tanya slept much of the time, shaking. Thank goodness Steve lived at the hospital during Tanya's stay, sleeping on a cot in Tanya's room and watching out for her around the clock. Many of the hospital personnel didn't seem to notice that Tanya was too out of it to answer important questions properly.
Nov 10: Tanya had been taken off the medications that were causing her to be so confused and anxious. However, she was still in a lot of pain, so she was given morphine, which was probably making her loopy, too. Even so, she seemed much more alert and with it to me.
Nov 11: It had been an incredibly emotional roller coaster for Steve this week and he didn't get much sleep. Steve said that someone came to talk to him about hospice and that, for Tanya's situation, it was a no-brainer to choose hospice over a home health care worker. We know of someone else involved with the Relay for Life who has gone to hospice several times and then went home and was out and about energetically doing things for the relay again.
Nov 14: Tanya had surgery to install a pump to administer pain medication directly to her spine. This should help greatly with the pain and require less pain medication, so she should feel fewer side effects.
Nov 17: Steve noticed he had lost 16 pounds during Tanya's hospital stay, despite my dad and I trying to make sure he ate. Tanya was still in some pain but appeared to be doing better. Her thinking was not completely right, but you could only tell because she told you so and because every now and then she would say something a bit odd. She was still very shaky, hopefully due to drugs. But she was much stronger, so the extreme weakness must have been due to drugs, too.
Nov 19: Tanya came home from the hospital. Yippee!
Nov 22: Tanya was still in pain and taking a lot of drugs, so she felt "wooby," as she calls it, and tired much of the time.
Nov 23: Steve and Tanya's 16-year-old basenji (dog) was very sick during the night. For quite some time, she had been getting frail, was almost completely blind and deaf, and was wearing diapers, so we knew it was time to let her go. Thankfully, Tanya was doing well enough to say goodbye. The vet told Steve that Rikki was the oldest basenji she had ever seen. Rikki went to sleep peacefully in Steve's arms. Tanya's Chihuahua puppy, Gigi, is doing fine.
Nov 24: Tanya has taken great interest in watching cooking shows recently, so the family got together for an all-home-cooked Thanksgiving feast.
Today: Tanya seemed to get a little better for the holiday but is fighting an infection or something now. She has been nauseous and the hospice nurse has visited a few times. The hospice nurse house calls are sooooooo much better than having to go to the ER and wait for hours while Tanya is feeling awful. Before the hospice nurse visits, that was the only option other than waiting for insurance to approve a doctor appointment days or weeks later.
Today's big news is that the latest test of Tanya's spinal fluid showed no tumor cells!
Thanks again, everyone, for all you've been doing to lift Steve and Tanya's spirits and help them keep their great attitudes!
Thursday, October 20, 2005
It’s been a long time between updates; thanks for all the inquiries, and sorry for the delay and the length of this post. Much has happened between August 17th and October 20th, but we’ll save the non-medical stuff for an update that we promise will come much quicker than this one has.
Tanya finished up 15 whole-brain radiation treatments about a month ago, and aside from some memory hitches, has had relatively few side effects up to this point. She woke up with vertigo midweek last week and felt nauseous when standing and when lying down which made gaining relief especially difficult. Hoping to drive the devil away, Tanya headed off for a shower. Unfortunately, the morning wake up/refresher shower didn’t help matters at all, and any idea of going into work was reluctantly nixed.
Tanya’s updated objective was to return to work by Friday. We hoped that symptoms would subside as quickly as they appeared, and in time for Friday’s chemo session. Again, no joy. The indications were relayed to Tanya’s onco doctor and he thought the symptoms significant enough to eighty-six the chemo and advised that we head off to the hospital to find out what the cause of the dizziness and queasiness was. So, doctor’s orders in hand, we headed off to the hospital emergency room.
Last time the ER was a grind, and we prepared for a repeat of the drudgery, hoping that Tanya would be able to squeak in early and avoid the Friday rush this time. The stars aligned in our favor this time, and Tanya was able to move into an ER room, have an MRI, eat a Friday’s chicken quesadilla, then move to her own room--all in less than 4 hours!
The MRI was read by several doctors, but we were primarily interested in the radiology doc’s observations, as the physicians making rounds were not in agreement and their pronouncements pretty vague. Fortunately, the radiologist was not equivocal and said that, compared to the previous MRI, there was improvement. So, thankfully, it looks at this point like the brain radiation has done some good! It is also possible that this same radiation caused some damage and is causing Tanya’s loss of equilibrium and consequent nausea. There are other simpler possibilities for the balance problem, e.g., an inner ear infection. Fingers crossed...
After nine courses of chemotherapy, Tanya is going to switch regimens. Gemzar will be dropped in favor of Xeloda. Gemzar is responsible for the precipitous drop in white blood cells each time Tanya has chemo treatments, so the change is welcome. Xeloda is a drug (to oversimplify) that fights the growth of cancer cells by inhibiting cell division. Oh yeah, it kills cancer cells too! It is taken orally, so Tanya won’t have to sit still for so long on certain Friday afternoons. Cocktails anyone?
We are still waiting for a physical therapy schedule, and the prognosis is good for recovery of balance, even if it turns out that there is radiation-caused damage. Apparently, vestibular rehab therapy can help compensate for this type of damage with various techniques.
There will be more tests in the coming weeks, so please keep Tanya in your thoughts and prayers, send positive vibes, mojo, hoodoo, energy--whatever good stuff you have! It’s working--Tanya is happy, smiling, and in good spirits even when bouncing off the walls in the hallway. (She claims to be morphing into a human pinball.)
Thank you again for being an incredible support network for Tanya. You make a huge difference and words fail to capture the import of your visits, generosity, caring, help and consideration.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
The cancer is not curable, but it is treatable. Since the tumor in her lung responded to radiation, the doctors expect that radiation will shrink the tumor in her brain. Her whole brain will be radiated because there are multiple visible lesions as well as the likelihood of other spots that are not visible yet, and the doctors want to make certain to hit all areas. Targeted radiation or surgery may be an option later.
Tanya’s mom and sister came to visit our house last night for a nice evening. And Tanya, Steve, Bev, and Randy will all be going to the ACS Climb to Conquer Cancer in Flagstaff this weekend to keep fighting the fight! (Wouldn't miss it!)
Tanya is still very excited about her new position as Grassroots Manager at the ACS and had a really good conversation with her boss today about working around her treatment schedule and such. Tanya will be going to Washington in early September for advocacy training and the National Lobby Day, and her dad will be visiting later that month for a week. There is still much to be positive about, so Steve and Tanya are taking this day-by-day, and these days are good.
When we have updates, we’ll pass them on here at the blog.
Thanks again for all your kind comments and support.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Tanya had another PET scan and we’re very, very, happy that it didn’t show anything new, showed that the radiation is working, and the treated area looks better now than on the previous scan. Tanya also had a chest x-ray that showed fluid in her lungs in the same area tapped last time, but the doc wants to see what a few more weeks of chemo do to the affected area before they schedule another procedure to drain the fluid. Send powerful vibes-- we hope the fluid will dissipate without hospitalization. So for now, Tanya will have chest x-rays every two weeks to confirm the liquid doesn’t increase and that the chemo is working. The chemo appears to have halted tumor growth, but we want it to shrink them as well. We’ll monitor and doc will make changes as needed.
The great puny puppy search has ended, and we have a whiner... a winner too, but being a little baby pooch, she whines pretty frequently. We had a favorite visitor from Lexington, Kentucky last week. Linda was Tanya’s roommate in Florida and, not surprisingly, was the perfect guest for 4 days. While she and Tanya were out for breakfast on Sunday, they decided to go take a gander at some puppies and in the afternoon, Tanya, Linda, and Gigi landed on the doorstep. Gigi is an Alpha female, and packs 20 ounces of furry fury to impose her will on us. It’s either the weight that forces us or the incredibly cute toy-like face that causes us to do almost anything she wants. Tanya says the puppy is a little Girlie-Girl, so we call her Gigi for short. Naturally, since she’s a Chihuahua, everyone thinks we’re saying Chi-Chi. So, practice with me, “no, her name is GEE-GEE.” Ok, now we can look at the little baby.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Tanya finally made it through an entire three-week session: two medicines the first week, another drug the second week, and then a week off treatment. Previously her white blood cell count would get too low to continue. She will be having a PET scan next week to see if the treatments are working. Steve will post something after that.
Some of Tanya’s hair hasn’t fallen out and is still growing, so she may not go completely bald. Steve likes how soft her short hair is. Her head is really soft. Yesterday she bought some fun hats, so she has a full wardrobe of scarves, hats, and bandannas.
Tanya is looking to get a Chihuahua puppy to carry around with her. If you know a good place to get them, let us know.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Friday, May 27, 2005
Tanya and I had a big breakfast in preparation for her noon chemotherapy appointment. She was in the lazy-boy type chair by 12:30 and hooked up to the IV drips in no time.
T had a craving for orangeade of all things when she got settled in, so I headed out on a citrus-flavored scavenger hunt. While Tanya was in the hospital last week, I brought her orangeade from the vending machine, and fortunately (I thought), the hospital was literally around the corner from where she was getting chemo, so I headed right over there to the orangeade supply. No orangeade. Off to the Texaco convenience store--no orangeade. Fry’s--nope. Safeway? No orangeade! It was looking bleak, so I went back to the hospital and bought the Peach/Papaya drink that was in Orangeade’s rightful place in the vending machine.
Tanya pretended to enjoy the peach/papaya drink, but, you know papaya smells kinda funny and I could tell she was faking! Next time I’ll try to be prepared.
Tanya is doing well tonight--watching The Late Late Show, and laughing. We’re off to have crepes in the morning.
29th May 2005
It’s Sunday, and thank goodness this weekend isn’t a replay of last weekend. Tanya is sleepy, but not in pain. She feels pretty durned good--especially compared to last week. We’ll have a little barbecuey-type thing on Monday.
Tanya says (in a sleepy voice) Thank you, everyone, for all well-wishes, and support.
Thanks also for reading through my nonsense to find out about Tanya, and we hope you have/had a safe, happy Memorial Day weekend! - Steve
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Here are Steve’s responses to Rhonda’s comments. (Thanks, Rhonda!)
You’re right! Tanya’s wings are now visible (and my ribbon is back on).
Thanks to you for thinking of Tanya, and the potluck dinner idea. She will love to do that. When our schedules are ironed out a little more, and she recovers from the radiation treatments (she’s still very tired much of the time), we’ll have to talk.
Tanya will be having chemo treatments 2 weeks on, 1 week off for at least the next 6-8 months. There is also the possibility that she will be doing the chemo thing indefinitely in the future.
Thank you so much for your concern for Tanya—it means so much to her (and me) to have friends and family posting messages and sending her email.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
I forgot to mention that after being admitted to the hospital on Friday, rigorous testing and lung tapping on Saturday, recuperating Saturday night and Sunday morning, followed by shopping in the afternoon, Tanya went to work on Monday. Oy!
And here's a note from Kathy.
Thanks for all the comments entered from this blog! Tanya said that she would love to know who is sending the nice comments. (They show up from "anonymous" unless you enter, select, or sign your name.)
Monday, May 23, 2005
If you're up-to-date with the previous entries, you know that Tanya spent a long, long weekend at the hospital. Fortunately, I was able to stay with her most of the time, making it seem twice as long for her. After food services delivered dinner on Friday night, a gurney was wheeled to Tanya’s room (for a test we did not know was scheduled), and a nurse came in to help Tanya on to it. The nurse said, “You haven’t eaten yet, have you?” Unfortunately, the test couldn’t be performed after eating, so it had to be postponed until the next day.
Saturday arrived, and a battery of tests, scans, pokes and prods commenced. After this royal treatment the docs determined that her kidney has healed; it shows no signs of trauma or disease! Following the scans and whatsis Saturday early afternoon, Tanya’s lung was tapped, fluid drained, and relief gained. She was released in my custody (no longer detained). Tanya was now able to breathe a little easier (Sunday afternoon), and like all naughty patients wanted to go out instead of home. Off to the hairdresser, then to clothes shop.
The nurses and assistants in the oncology wing at Thunderbird Hospital were fantastic. They certainly were handpicked; what a great group of people. They treated Tanya as though she were family.
Tanya’s white blood count should improve by Friday, so the chemo that was scheduled for this past Friday, will happen then.
Thanks again for coming to check on Tanya.
Friday, May 20, 2005
First stop: Radiology
It’s Friday, so today is supposed to be chemo day. Before going for chemo, we had to make a pit stop at the radiologist’s office to find out what is making it so difficult for Tanya to breathe, and why she is out of breath after just a short walk. The radiologist is just down the hall from the oncology group, so the results of the x-ray were sent as soon as they were processed. They determined that the cause for breathing difficulty is fluid in Tanya’s right lung (the one that was treated with radiation).
Next stop: Chemotherapy room
Prior to chemo, the nurse checked Tanya’s white blood count, and the count is too low for chemo this week.
Next, next stop: Hospital
Per doc’s instructions, we headed over to the emergency room at Banner Thunderbird Hospital to have Tanya’s lung drained. Because she was armed with doctor’s orders, we were able to avoid a 36 hr. wait for a bed to open, something the oncologist warned us has happened to patients before.
Tanya will have the fluid drained from her lung and then will be able to come home. She will definitely stay Friday night (I’ll stay with her), and possibly Saturday night as well. To reduce her suffering tonight, I’ll bring her a dinner, so she won’t be eating hospital “food.”
Friday, 6:00 PM
I’m at home to let our old pooch Rikki out to fertilize the desert landscape. Tanya just called and was assigned a room but given no indication of how long her hospital vacation will be. Her spirits are, as usual, high. I’m off to pick up dinner now!
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Tanya’s previous chemotherapy stint a couple of years ago was, not surprisingly, no fun at all. Without going into detail, I’ll say it was miserable for her and tough to helplessly watch for those who love her. How she could endure that kind of misery without complaining is a mystery. We were hoping that this round of chemo would not be so difficult, planned on it being no big deal, and prepared for the worst—a replay of the previous term.
The chemo treatment lasted approximately 3-1/2 hours. It wasn’t a full house in the treatment room, so I was allowed to sit with Tanya throughout. We talked with a man who was being treated for cancer that had migrated from his colon to his liver. He was a hopeful father of 12 children and has 7 grandchildren, too. The collective mood in the chemo rooms were surprisingly light and happy. Tanya’s treatment was completed, and we went for a bite to eat.
Her radiation treatments, administered in the weeks previous, still affect her and cause sleepiness, so we went home to watch the entertainment box, relax, and hope for less severe side-effects than last time. We hoped that the chemo’s effects would not include the intense nausea that it had last time, and we were lucky—no nausea at all. In fact, Saturday, Tanya woke up feeling fine, and ironically, because of the effects of the chemo, had rosy cheeks and looked great.
We went out for crepes, and planned to meet Tanya’s mom, Linda, and her sister, Christina, later. They had a nice surprise in store for Tanya—a visit from Carly, our niece! After a long hike around the Arrowhead Mall, Tanya’s sleepiness returned, and off to home we went.
Sunday, Tanya woke up in pain. Apparently, the targeted radiation treatment and the chemotherapy were reacting with each other. In this case, the effect was startling and severe. Tanya felt as though someone had smashed her in the chest as hard as they could. She had difficulty inhaling because it caused great pain. She was forced to breathe very shallowly, and the pain medications were of limited help. After speaking with the doc’s office, it was decided to double the amount of pain medication and increase the interval. That seemed to help, and slowly, the pain was managed.
Monday was a day of recuperation, and Tanya gained ground and appears to be recovering quickly. All-in-all, this round of chemo was not as bad as the last. Tanya described it as “different“ but was very happy to avoid the nausea.
Next Friday, more chemo. Hopefully, we’ll have crepes on Saturday, skip the pain on Sunday and Monday, and while Tanya can’t skip the rest of these treatments, we hope she will be skipping her way through them. Thanks again to everyone for all your concern.
Thanks everyone, for keeping Tanya in your thoughts. Thanks also for sending notes, comments, good vibes, positive thoughts, and prayers—they really make her happy.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Friday was a very busy day for Tanya. We woke up early, arrived at the hospital by 7 a.m., filled out the insurance paperwork for the surgery, and finished just in time to sit around in the waiting room. Fortunately, Tanya was in the operating room by 9:30 a.m. The surgery was to install a port to make chemotherapy treatments more comfortable. For those lucky enough not to know what a port is, it’s a small disk approximately the diameter of a quarter, but quite a bit thicker, which is installed under the skin (it appears to be a bump). Ports are used to deliver chemo through a blood vessel making it easier to administer the chemotherapy and to take blood for tests. One of the key benefits to having a port is that there is no more needle poking and misses when the nurse is searching for an acceptable vein. Compared with chemo given through a vein in the arm, it is more efficient, as it is delivered more quickly through a main vein via special needle into the port.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
The biopsy results from the University of Arizona agreed with the previous pathology results, and Tanya will be starting chemo this Friday. Right now, the plan is to have chemo treatments on Fridays and see if Tanya can recuperate over the weekend. We'll see how that goes, since we don't know how these new drugs will affect Tanya (different drugs than last time). We don't know whether the treatments will be weekly, bi-weekly, or what yet.
Tanya has been having some back pain. Her doctor has ordered some kidney tests to determine more about that.
Tanya has been tired but feels okay. Thanks for all the emails, cards, flowers, and well wishes!
Sunday, May 01, 2005
Friday, April 29, 2005
If you'd like to join the group, send Tanya, Steve, or Kathy the email address to which we should send the Google Group invitation and blog-update emails. (Steve and Tanya will just forward to Kathy all requests to join the group.)
Monday, April 18, 2005
Tanya will have her last radiation treatment on March 25th, and will begin chemotherapy about three weeks later. She’ll lose her hair again, but this time the goal is to find a balance between what works on the cancer and is not debilitating for Tanya. So this chemotherapy shouldn’t be as hard on her as her previous chemotherapy treatments.
Right now, Tanya is coughing less, still feels good, still has a great attitude, and plans to continue working at the American Cancer Society. Thanks to all of you who have been providing support!
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Tanya has started conformed radiation treatments. It’s possible that there can be some serious side effects, due to where the cancer was found and the fact that she has already had radiation in some areas that will be radiated this time. Tanya should get some cough relief in about two weeks, but the coughing may get worse before it gets better, since coughing is a side effect of radiation, too.
The doctors don’t consider this cancer to be curable right now, but they do expect Tanya to respond well to treatments. Since there are still so many treatment options available, she is not a good candidate for trials, which are mainly for patients with few options left.
If the cancer turns out to be lung cancer, Tanya will probably have weekly low dose chemotherapy for 6 to 8 months, starting before she finishes the radiation treatments. If it turns out to be breast cancer, more treatment options are available, and Tanya will be able to wait about 7 weeks before starting chemotherapy.
The doctors expect that Tanya will go into remission for months to years before the cancer appears again, and they will treat each occurrence as it is detected. New drugs and therapies are always coming down the pike. So we’re hoping for the best and doing all we can to make that happen.
Tanya still has a great attitude, and Steve and Tanya pulled together another successful Relay for Life Friday night.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Tanya says that right now she feels fine except for the cough.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Friday, March 04, 2005
The remainder of the test results won't be available till next week. Then the doctors might know what type of cancer it is, but they may never know. There are a lot of unknowns. Different doctors have different opinions about what they're seeing in the scans, so Tanya will be having another to see if anything can be clarified.
It's not uncommon for breast cancer to metastasize to a lung and look a lot like lung cancer. Or it could be lung cancer. And the doctors haven't completely ruled out that one spot is from the pneumonia. Tanya said that the doctors would only use surgery to remove a tumor if they think they can remove it completely. Otherwise they would not use surgery. (Surgery is not an option for these tumors.)
I think Steve said that it would take a couple weeks of radiation before Tanya would be able to notice a difference in her coughing and breathing. And I think he said that chemotherapy might be for two months. However, Tanya can't have regular radiation because the same area was radiated for her breast cancer treatment. Fortunately, her doctor for radiation is one of the very few who uses the new, targeted radiation, so we'll have to see what he says after she goes to visit him.
Tanya said that she knows that this may be an ongoing occurrence for her, and she's met people who have been through it many times. She's not sad, and Steve's okay. She said that being unhappy won't help anything, so don't be sad!
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
I'm more determined than ever to do my best to make the upcoming relay a success. I will donate at least $25 for the next four people who sign up for Tanya's relay team, Tanya's Trixsters, and commit to raising $100 by March 11. You'll already be a quarter of the way to that goal when you join the team! I look forward to having a great time with you at the relay, too.
If you can't join the team, please click on one of the relay links in the side bar and make a donation in honor of those you know and love who have dealt with cancer or are battling it now. And thank you for your concern about Tanya and helping in the race to cure cancer!
From the looks of the tumors on the scans, the doctor gave a 95% or more chance that they are cancer. There is a very small chance that they are from valley fever or TB. The suspicion is either breast cancer or lung cancer.
Since one tumor is pressing against her bronchial tube, today's biopsy was from that tumor as an outpatient. The doctors are going to treat both tumors the same if it turns out to be cancer, because the other tumor is in a location where there is a 50% chance that her lung would collapse during a needle biopsy. If the second tumor does not respond to the treatment, then they will have to figure out something else. Steve said this time her treatments would probably be radiation and chemo.
Tanya's mom and sister and Steve were at the hospital with Tanya today. She said the procedure itself was pretty quick and not too bad. She seems to be in good spirits now and not too uncomfortable. The doctor said it would be about a week before they'd have the results, and Tanya has an appointment with him on the 10th--the day before the relay.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Tanya had some great doctors; great friends, like Caroline and Valli, who helped her through the breast cancer treatment experience; and great support, even from complete strangers, including a support group at Arrowhead and a breast cancer survivor who came to our house to help Tanya. (Steve is my brother, and Steve and Tanya are my housemates.) Tanya also attended the Look Good, Feel Better seminar, put on by the American Cancer Society.
Tanya became a volunteer for the American Cancer Society while finishing up her degree at ASU West. Tanya organized the campus's first Relay for Life, which was in March 2004 and was a great success. Tanya was hired by the ACS and loves her job--helping in the fight to find a cure for cancer. Steve is continuing his studies at ASU West, volunteering for the ACS, and is helping Tanya organize the March 11, 2005 Relay for Life.