Archive | March 2014

… from whence we came

Dawne had her second chemo treatment yesterday with the replacement drug, the lower dosage, less toxic chemo drug which she will take weekly until March 31. Best I can tell food is tasting better to her. Dawne seems a little more “with it”, although negative side effects remain. I’m trying to imagine what it is like to go through this amount of physical stress and then add the additional stress of losing your job (I think officially today), selling your home, and packing and moving 500 miles away. As one adds each of these to the mix, you’re inclined to wonder what it takes to maintain a positive attitude. Dawne does.

I’m grateful to Cousin Lona who picked Dawne up at the airport in Southern California yesterday day and took care of Dawne as she took chemo while I finished unloading what is almost 40 years of collective junk into mom’s garage in Northern California. Four gorilla-styled metal racks worth of stuff. If ever I needed motivation to do a life purge, I have it now. Consider this booked as soon as we are done with cancer surgery and treatments. Did I mention March 31st is the last chemo treatment? Big day coming up. Doc says it will most likely take 4 to 5 weeks for Dawne to recover from chemo and then surgery. So, looking to the end of April for surgery which will be done in Southern California.

Cancer, like most of life’s unexpected challenges, brings with it opportunities to redirect your life. Out of pain can come gain, if you allow yourself to be open to change. There is no doubt Dawne and I will be leading significantly different lives as we complete this journey. Reconnecting with our family and friends in Northern California is one of those gains. It has been almost 25 years since I moved the family to Southern California. It was surreal to be driving our stuff back north this week. Very emotional for me as I drove through the night alone hazing at the almost-full moon and cranking the window up and down using the cool night air as medication to soothe my tired butt and wake me up from time to time. Ya, life’s unexpected challenges do bring painful moments.

But, then again! The night air and moon only hinted at refreshing things to come. Nice surprises and pleasantries do have a way of easing the pain, even making it disappear for a while and hopefully forever. An angel dropped in on us when I pulled into Carmichael. An angel who had appeared before. Listen in, you’ll meet her.

Twenty-seven years ago a young adult was assigned by her company to care for our ailing mother who had ALS. This young lady, Lynn, was our mom’s favorite caretaker and quite frankly ours too. Lynn, noted we were back in Carmichael and she came to visit us – all the way from Morgan Hill, California. Within seconds Lynn was schlepping boxes and pieces of furniture and helping me assemble those heavy metal storage racks. What a life saver! What a special visit! We caught up on 27 years and emptied a 26-foot uHaul truck. At the end of the day we were physically exhausted, but our spirits were lifted. Thank you Lynn. Lynn reminded me that productive people are happy people. Lynn reminded me that friends are forever and time has a way of endearing our friends to us in ways quite unexpected.

You’ve heard Dawne speak about my Cousin Danene, generationally could be called Aunt (she is my dad’s 1st cousin). Danene moved to Carmichael with Dawne last summer before the Thanksgiving surprise – Dawne’s diagnosis. Danene has been a mainstay throughout and a principal advocate for healthier eating. Her impact on Dawne is immeasurable. Dawne and I say goodbye to Danene this week as she moves on to the next stage in her life. She will travel to and live in the State of Washington. Her brother comes into town to assist her with her travels. The house will feel emptier without her. We wish her well and we thank her for being a brief partner in this, our transitory time of our life.

Well, today is going to be one of those butt-grinding days. I return the rental truck in Sacramento, sit and wait while uHaul rigs the little car with a little trailer hitch! then back to the Carmichael home to pack in the last bit of stray pieces before driving back to Southern California to pick Dawne up and head back to the Aguanga home. It is sold and escrow is scheduled to close on Friday. Last minute fixes the buyer requires. Last bit of packing and moving. The a final clean sweep and we say good-bye to what turned out to be a short four-year experiment in high chaparral living.

Keep your thoughts and prayers coming for Dawne. The doc says the real big day is surgery day when the pathologist’s report will tell us just how affective the pre-op treatments have been. We wait with bated breath – I think that is the proper way to say it. In the meantime, we’ll keep looking for golden moments that otherwise would not have come but for this nasty thing we call Cancer.

Good day to all.

Approaching Cycle 5

William writes … It has been a while. Yesterday, Dawne’s treatment protocol changed. Her body is not tolerating the chemo drug – Taxotere. This is noteworthy. Sparing you the bloody details, the worst of it is Dawne’s chemically-induced Peripheral Neuropathy; and that’s hardly the entire story. Every person who undergoes chemotherapy knows the horrors and challenges. They also know the extremes beyond which continuing is not appropriate.

Dawne’s new doctor is a very good doctor. Thankfully he saw us yesterday, an unplanned visit. He prescribed an end to the Taxotere every 3 weeks and is moving Dawne to Taxol [Paclitaxel] every week. Taxol is a less potent drug. He called it the drug of choice for 80 year olds. It is given at lower doses, but more often. There is an upside to this beyond trying to rebuild Dawne’s peripheral nerves over the next few months. Dawne will stop taking those damnable steroid drugs and the white blood cell builder called Neulasta, both of which are having additional serious negative impacts on her daily life.

I am optimistic. Dawne’s spirit is tested, yet she is Dawne. Those who know me well know just how fortunate I am to be married to this lovely lady. She is a very strong woman who makes life easier for not just me, but a large number of other souls. Through all of this she finds moments to smile, to check in on friends, to worry about paying bills and well … you know the rest … you’re likely at the receiving end of her endless and unconditional love.

Yup, I buried the lead again. Leaving you with the best part of the story – Dawne’s FOUR tumors are now only TWO and those appear on scan to be ONE. Yippee! Even better that single remaining mass is measuring at 2cm or less, which is just less than half the original size. This is seriously good news considering her original chemo regime was substandard (that all changed with the new doctor). This is the beauty of the new neoadjuvant (pre-op) protocol. You get to know the damn drugs are working. Of course the final – final is not knowable until surgery and pathology are done, but we’ll take these little successes. Screw Cancer.

Keep thinking, Dawne will be OK!