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!


Advertisements

“What does the Fox say?”



Good morning! This is William, aka the Hubby, the Fox.

Nice technology this wordpress.com. It notified us that we have not reported out much in the last week or so. Call it a lull. Well more than that; call it difficult times. In clinical terms it is mid-cycle in the pre-operative treatment regime. In human terms it simply sucks. I see Dawne struggling at just about every level we call life. We know all the rationales for staying positive, for thinking long. We do have hope, we do have confidence. It is tested for sure.

As I sat staring at the walls late last night before bed, and then again at 3am this morning, I wondered about how we are responding to friends who inquire about Dawne. These wonderful and welcomed contacts that remind us Dawne is not alone in her struggle.  There certainly has been a place for straight up honesty. Life is altered when undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. It is a guarded place. We are concerned. We do not wish to dwell on the negative. We are by nature upbeat people; although speaking about hurdles has seemed proper.

My father was a very candid man, yet he spoke little of his health. Friends ask. “How are you doing?” Some write or call expressing compassion. They wish Dawne to know she is loved. I assure you those moments brighten her day. Some query; it is an in-depth perspective they seek, as they learn about breast cancer. It is in these moments Dawne is allowed to forget about herself and help friends. Some friends having lived cancer, personally or otherwise, they look for common ground offering sage advice. All of these gracious contacts give hope and confidence a big boost. Most importantly, they warm Dawne’s heart. All are immensely welcomed moments.

So forgive me my candor this morning. I do not speak of me. I speak of precious Dawne. Let me assure you that today she is not stuck in hell, but she surely feels for the moment like she is living in it. There are glimpses of hope – the softening of the tumors and a sense that these buggers are getting smaller. I hear these things from Dawne and hope her mind isn’t playing tricks. She is beating this ugly disease, right? Against that backdrop I can assure you that the chemo is also trying to kill her. This is the reality she fretted over when considering her options moving forward. I spare you the details, but there is little in her daily life today that resembles what was our happy, blissful life.

Dawne wrote earlier this week, “Cancer is not for wusses.” Amen! I add today, cancer reminds you daily of love, of family, of friends. While chemo “kills you to save you”, “how are you doing” is the best antidote. Care cures cancer! Thank you for your calls, notes, cards, emails, and posts. Thank you for adding your voice to Dawne’s Choir. Thank you for kindly listening and smiling when this singer, me, is a bit off-key. Bless you all. While it may well take a village to raise a child – I’m convinced it takes a world to beat cancer. You all are Dawne’s world and your choir rocks!

I share with you today one of the many bright lights in Dawne’s life; that would be one out of the many which are you all. It is our granddaughter Frankie Vaughn Lee. She turns two on February 13th. Her mom and dad created, shot, edited and produced her birthday video. I asked, “What does the Fox say?” Don’t ask unless you wish to volunteer for Frankie’s year three birthday video. Hooked!

“… waooohhh …”

Translated, “Care Calms and Cures Cancer!”


Quick Update … William Writes



Hello friends,

Dawne is resting today. It’s Day 3 after receiving Cycle 3 treatments – chemotherapy plus two anti-Her2 therapies. Day 3 thru 5 seem to be the toughest on Dawne with each day thereafter getting gradually better. The emphasis is on gradual with recovery coming harder with each new Cycle. I think Dawne posted how happy she is to be receiving Perjeta, which means the maximum number of anti-Her2 Antibody drugs are now going after the Her2 Proteins which are over-expressed and form the foundation of the tumors she has. The doctor expects no complications from adding Perjeta. He looks for nothing but good news.

There has been one additional change – Dawne received Neulasta for the first time. This is a standard drug which increases her white blood cell count in order to stave off possible infections from the public; as well as, to reduce/eliminate mucus sores which Dawne developed as far back as her first treatment. The known side effects of Neulasta are bone pain which is here in spades. It is the Yin/Yang of the one chemo drug she is getting. Trading bone pain for no mucus sores is a bit of a Hobson’s Choice in my book. The next couple of days will tell.

These days are difficult, no doubt. Dawne is soldiering on and doing so as graceful as ever. No surprise. This is how we know her. There are a few breaks she looks forward to which I’m sure will help ease the bumps in the road ahead. We talk about the next 3 months being the toughest this year. I’m convinced that early reports of her tumors shrinking into oblivion will provide all the encouragement Dawne and I need to overcome what are clearly emotional life changing events. Look for updates on what the doctors call “pathological complete response” – otherwise known as “pCR” for the nurses and researchers reading this.

I thank you all for your support as Dawne works her way through this challenge.

With much appreciation and affection,

William


3rd Chemo Treatment Today


I wrote several weeks ago about us actively working to transfer my care and treatment to Dr. Margileth, The Center for Cancer Prevention and Treatment, St. Joseph Hospital, in Orange, CA. Today marks the completion of this move. I received Cycle 3 treatments today.

Particularly noteworthy, they gave me all three drugs which were originally prescribed to start on December 16, 2013. Yes, the Perjeta saga has ended – I’m finally getting it.

The new support team is wonderful. Many details I could talk about tonight, but honestly I’m beat tired. The steroid regime given to prepare my body for the one chemo drug – Taxotere – is brutal. One of the side effects is you don’t sleep. Two hours of sleep last night. Six hours at the doctors office. Time to hit the bed and hope sleep comes easier tonight, although if the last two cycles are predictive that isn’t likely.

We’re back in the doctors office tomorrow for check-up and a shot which is supposed to help keep my white blood cell count elevated at normal levels. This is a first time for this drug. They told me that it also helps with suppressing skin lesions which have been troublesome over the last two cycles. All good news today! Not without a little drama today, but on balance the drama was well worth the outcome.

Good night friends!

Thank you for checking in.

Adjustments, Healing & Living …



 
I wrote last Friday about difficult times leaving my job behind for a while. Today began new days for me; an extended period of time where I focus singularly on my breast cancer. Work projects will go forward without me. I will miss working with our customers and helping our team with project deliverables and deadlines. I look forward to resuming my career with this company as early as possible, recognizing my health is first priority among many; and hopeful we can cut short what is now scheduled to be a one-year leave of absence.
 
Time to adjust! Time to heal! Time to live! I start the preparation of my resume in order to be considered for re-selection by my previous boss. I try not to worry about things out of my control. I help William, as he develops our financial workout plan. I look forward to finally receiving “standard of care”, as I go through pre-op (neoadjuvanrt) treatments. Yes, Perjeta is scheduled to be added. I’m thankful the new doctor said that he see’s no reason why Perjeta would be denied, going so far as to say that it has been a standard of treatment for many of his patients for quite some time. I’m waking up, I’m realizing that these are the times when we are best served by gathering around family and friends, and graciously finding openings in what was once a harried life. We look to discover hidden doorways into secret gardens. We look for precious moments which otherwise we would have missed.
 
Cycle 3 treatments are on-schedule for January 27th with a full 3-drug prescription. Bye-bye 2-drug regime and all the unnecessary drama foisted upon us by my previous medical provider. EDD Staff is working to straighten out my State Disability pay. My company’s HR Staff works over the coming days to knit together what are interestingly divergent medical leave programs, a subject all to itself, before the planned re-selection process muddies the water. Our home gets a little TLC this weekend so that April Guidetti, our amazing realtor and friend, can list it. All good things! Another good thing too, I hope! I have lost 25 pounds since February. Getting healthy all the way around!
 
I’ll have to write more later on the healthy eating subject. Strangely, William is experiencing the exact opposite. He gains weight, as he tries to track with me. We are watching both of our weight-curves closely. We had high hopes that my changes would be productive for both of us. Our regime is essentially organic, non-GMO, non-gluten, limited-processed (practically non-processed), non-antibiotic, non-hormone, nonalcoholic, non-soda-poppy, ultra-low-dairy, and measured-kosher-meats (read clean meats). And … yes … this means seriously revising and updating my cookbook.
 
See you Thursday Southern California, if all goes well. William will drive as I sleep and read and sleep and read. A small change in plans Sacramento family. Cousin Danene will be visited my her brother, Cousin Terry, so she will stay back.  William and I will take it slow. I expect you can find us in Agunaga as William packs up the house one more time, as he has done all too often over the last decade. This too has its opportunities; sorting and purging is advisable before hauling a lifetime of gathering to Carmichael.
 


 

Partnerships … Full Disclosures


Hello Friends,

You will read posts written by me and my husband, William. Our writing styles differ so in time you’ll figure it out. William built this website for me starting it around Christmas 2013. We wanted it to be a living journal that captured my experiences with from the day I was told I had Her2 Breast Cancer. This required reaching back into Facebook and pulling much of that content into wordpress.com

William continues to write for me. He hears me and he writes. There was a day when I wrote daily in my paper journals; and once I figure this new technology out, I hope to transfer these energies here. There also was a day once when chemotherapy drugs didn’t fog my brain. Meanwhile, I’m grateful to my hubby who married me just about 40 years ago and took those commonly spoken words to heart, “…and the two shall become one.”

Ha! I guess this makes me a celebrity. I have a shadow writer for a while. William writes long letters with long sentences with way too many commas. He knows it. Too old to change I think. He says going back to 6th grade might help because it makes more sense now. He also takes suggestions real well, so speak up. We are working on putting as much content on breast cancer, dietary needs and lifestyle changes as we can find. If our research saves you time, then great. For us, it is a nice place to save off material without creating boxes and boxes of magazines and newspaper clippings.

I hope our notes, letters, and posts are worth cluttering up your Facebook pages and email history. For sure, this new technology sure is a nice way to keep all of you up to date and build a very cool scrapbook at the same time. This year is a year I will want to remember for a long … long … long time.

Love you!
Dawne

Tears in My Eyes, Hope in My Heart



Tears in my eyes tonight, hope still in my heart!

Today’s workday was a struggle … the heart was willing, the body and thinking mind not. Common sense caught up with my heart and asked passion to give it a rest. The doctor’s office called late afternoon. The doctor is placing me on medical disability through the balance of 2014. The call to my boss at the close of business was difficult for me.

Writing my formal notice about moving from intermittent to continuous leave was no easy task. The letter expressed my sincere desire to be re-selected for a job I have done for 13 years, while at the same time having to explain my need for continuous medical leave. I understand the medical necessity of disability leave through 2014, yet I still hope for a real chance at returning to work and my company sometime this summer. It’s not out of the realm of medical possibilities.

  • Keep rooting with me for these anti-Her2 drugs.
  • Keep listening for magical words – “pathological complete response.”
  • Keep hoping I’m eligible for breast conservatory procedure.
  • Keep thinking out-patient procedure.
  • Keep praying post-operative treatments are easy on me.
  • Keep positive thoughts about re-selection by my old boss.
  • Pray William and I get creditor cooperation on our financial workout plan.

William, Danene, and I travel together this coming Thursday to begin the sequence of needed tests and appointments for Cycle 3 treatments. I will return to our temporary home in Carmichael with Danene after chemo treatments. William will stay behind to finish packing the high country ranch house in Agunaga. The present plans have me stopping in for a day or two to say goodbye to our lovely home as we list it for sale.

I’m reflective tonight. We hoped-against-hope that my newish chemo regime wasn’t too powerful a personal adversary, while believing it to be the ultimate adversary for my Her2 Cancer bug. It is a worthy endeavor. There is ample reason to conclude that my personal struggles with this chemo regime means I’m kicking cancers butt. I have no way of knowing for sure for a couple more Cycles, but the tumor does feel softer and less attached to my breast bone which it pressed against. Did I write about this before? The doctor mentioned at my Cycle 2 appointment my tumors seemed to me smaller already. It’s a crude measurement, but I’ll take it.

We will do this!

Rally call:

  • Remember – pCR!
  • Remember – Remission!
  • Remember – Re-Selection!
  • Remember – I love you all!