High Fives for Jan!!

    Jan has reached a huge milestone — she wrapped up her chemotherapy and radiation treatments last Friday, August 13th!!

    She will continue to receive Herceptin infusions once every three weeks until the end of the year but we aren’t counting them as they have no negative side effects and little impact on our lifestyle.

    We will meet with her Oncologist before the next Herceptin infusion for an examination and hopefully an update on the medical community’s perception of her progress in beating the beast.  All indications are positive and we anticipate a good report.  Her hair and energy levels are increasing daily (the former being much more important :-)), and radiation burns are decreasing.

    It has been a long run for her … for both of us … and I am pleased that she has come through this with her positive attitude intact and her health on the upswing.

    Thanks to all of you for your interest, love, and support over the past eight months.  Our journey would have been much more difficult without your kind words and support.

    Midway through cycle 5!

    My apologies for not posting anything in almost a month. May has been a month of ups and downs, and posting here took a temporary back seat.

    Cardinal at Mom's feeder

    The short story is that as of the half way point in cycle 5 Jan is again enjoying her favorite foods and activities. A longer version would have to mention that cycle 5’s effects were a lot worse and lasted a day longer than cycle 4’s (see the April 28 posting). Even though a change in the infusion schedule (moving infusion day from Tuesdays to Thursdays) gave Jan two extra recovery days at the end of cycle 4, the extra time did not seem to make a difference. She experienced ten days of weakness and discomfort — much longer than previous cycles considering that the discomfort began the day of the infusion and did not let up for ten days (as opposed to previous cycles when the discomfort started on day three). As a result, Jan is not looking forward to cycle 6 and is taking every opportunity to do the things she enjoys while she is feeling good.

    Cycle 6 will begin on June 3 and will run through June 23.  After a short break, she will begin radiation treatments.  During the break, she is looking forward to a visit in Florida with cousin Claire.

    Thanks to all who have provided the encouragement, food, and love that helps Jan and me keep our spirits up.

    Day 9 of the Fourth Cycle

    Jan and Ian
    Jan and Ian

    We completed day 9 of the fourth infusion cycle today, and Jan has finally shaken off the effects of the chemotherapy she received on day one. Both of us have been surprised at the length of this recovery period, but have been assured by Jan’s medical team that all is well.  According to them, the effects of the treatments accumulate and we are seeing the impact of the accumulation.

    We visited with Jan’s surgeon today, and she received a “thumbs up” on her recovery from the surgery in which the tumor and lymph nodes were removed.  We will not visit with him again until chemotherapy and radiation treatments are completed.

    She and I stopped by a sandwich shop for lunch and to celebrate the good news, and since she was feeling up to more time away from the house we decided to call James & Gretchen to see if we could drop by for a quick visit.  Jan had not met new grandson Andrew (who is a week old) due to her slow recovery, and now that she was beginning to feel better, really wanted to meet him.  When we called, it turned out that they were close by returning baby items, and had time to join us at the sandwich shop for a quick visit!!  Hooray!!

    We had a great visit, and Jan has felt great since.  Click here to see a few photos of the visit.

    Jan is convinced that her turnaround was the result of our fortuitous meeting with James, Gretchen, Ian, and Andrew.  I’m convinced I’ll send her to visit Ian and Andrew immediately after the fifth cycle begins.

    Closing out the third cycle

    Jan has had a great week since her Herceptin infusion last Tuesday.  She felt good enough to pay Starbucks several visits, attend a PEO social event, and join the family in celebrating son John’s birthday.  The week was capped off by a visit from John and Jo Anne Caldwell today; they were en route to Nashville from John’s ??th high school reunion in Madison, Georgia.

    We’re counting on good days continuing through Tuesday when she has her next infusion session.  This will be the beginning of the fourth cycle (out of 6) so we are making progress!  The first infusion of each cycle includes Taxotere and Carboplatin in addition to Herceptin.  If she reacts to this infusion in the same way she reacted to the other three similar infusions, Thursday through Sunday (April 22 – 25) will be difficult days and recovery will begin Sunday / Monday.  Here’s hoping we beat the plan.

    Jan will stay with John and Sharon this coming Friday and Saturday nights, freeing me to help Atlanta Motorcycle Club run AHRMA dirt track races in Washington Georgia on Saturday.  Thanks for helping out John & Sharon.

    Our thoughts are with the Lancaster family.  We learned that Aubrey’s father Hilton passed away yesterday.  We’re confident that Aubrey greeted him with open arms.  Godspeed Hilton.

    Friday the 9th

    Jan sailed through the dreaded major chemo session Tuesday a week ago (March 30) with a minimum of negative side effects.  This was a pleasant surprise given what she experienced after the last major chemo session.

    However she felt kinda “low and tired” over the weekend, and by the time we arrived at this week’s infusion session (Herceptin only) the medical staff thought she was a bit dehydrated.  They pumped in an extra quart (OK — it was only a pint, but our motorcycling friends will appreciate “add a quart”. )

    She is doing fine now, and looking forward to a good weekend.

    We aren’t out of the woods yet, but we are much encouraged by the way Jan’s treatment is progressing and her increased ability to cope with the physical and emotional discomfort associated with the treatment.

    Itty Bittys about our week

    My masculinity is at stake by considering using the “Itty Bittys” headline, but I’ve loved it since Gretchen began using it as a side bar heading on her blog.  It is descriptive and much better than the vogueish “news flashes”.  To heck with it — I’ll use it.  Just once.

    Enjoying a beautiful Friday afternoon at our favorite Mexican restaurant

    We’ve had a good week, capped by a nice meal at our favorite Mexican restaurant Tijuana Joe’s.  Food was palatable, company was great, and the weather was divine — even for a mid-March day in Atlanta at the beginning of March Madness.  Try saying that three times after several margaritas.

    Our week had its ups and its downs.  It started off on an up note (see the “miracles” post), but then began to trend downward as Jan experienced a general lack of energy and stomach discomfort for several days.  She was disappointed at the turn and by Thursday was beginning to question the whole treatment regimen (right Claire?).  Fortunately things turned today.  The cold rainy weather turned bright, clear, and warm and our patient was able to sit comfortably outside and read most of the day.  Starbucks-lust got the best of her mid-afternoon and she headed there for a caffeine fix and more sunshine prior to joining me for dinner at TJ’s.

    The week also had its light moments (which is what prompted the use of the headline).  Jan has a propensity for collecting nails in her car’s tires.  I’ve regularly accused her of being a “nail magnet” as I removed, plugged, and re-installed tires.  Been driving on construction sites, eh?  Driving around parking lots looking for nails?  OK, more than accused; how do you spell maligned?

    Page 2.  Her car gets lots better gas mileage than the 15 passenger Club Wagon I drive and she has not been driving much, so I’ve been driving it to the grocery store, doctor visits, and the odd meeting.  Tuesday night when I arrived at the NFARL meeting (the ham radio club in which I am active) I looked down & there was a nail in her tire.   I haven’t picked up a nail in 20 years so it must be her nail.  She drove the car once last week so the car was obviously booby (no pun intended) trapped.  Needless to say, I got little sympathy when I got home.  Once again I was in the garage removing, plugging, and re-installing her tire.  Jan is still giggling.

    The weekend is going to be nice — nice weather, nice attitudes, nice family time.  Hope yours is nice too.

    It’s like a miracle …

    Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were rather crummy days for Jan.  She didn’t eat a lot Friday and Saturday due to mild stomach discomfort and general weakness (expected side-effects of the chemo treatments).  She slept most of both days.  Julie came by Saturday to spend time with her Mom, and she and I had a very nice lunch and visit before she released me to suffer through the Tennessee / Kentucky game while she & Mom visited.  Kentucky was awesome, as was their visit.

    Today Jan’s appetite is returning, and we’re struggling to find things that taste good.  After a few false starts, stove top chicken dressing and a rotisserie chicken hit the spot and she consumed a good dinner.  Shortly after the dinner, things started to come around and she is feeling much better.  According to her, it is like a miracle!!  Hooray!!

    The experiences of the past several days have us thankful for the great medical resources available to Jan, and the family and friends who buoy us up when we’re looking at the less-than-good side of this journey Jan and I are on.  Thanks for your support.

    The day after …

    Fox News Poster Girl!!

    Jan had her fourth infusion session yesterday.  This was a session in which she received all three medications and from which she can expect some negative side effects — but as James was quick to point out, it also means that we’re at two down and four to go!!

    She slept most of yesterday afternoon after we returned from the infusion center.  I think she had worried about the session a lot and not slept well several days before the session.  Today she has had a pretty good day.  A bit draggy & tired, but feeling OK.  I expect this will last through the weekend if the last cycle is a good model.

    The pace of hair loss is increasing, but wig, hats, and scarves are at hand when she is ready to venture out.  She is comfortable with her appearance in them around family and close friends, but not yet with the general public.  We’ll hang close to  home for a few days and let her build up her strength and comfort with the head coverings.  Fortunately it rained today, and is expected to do so tomorrow as well.  Good weather for indoor activities like naps, reading, and taxes.

    We love cancer success stories and were heartened today to learn that good friend Bob Adams, also a cancer patient, was declared in remission by MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  Bob, if you are reading this, congratulations to you and Connie!!  You continue in our thoughts.

    A beautiful week!

    This has been a marvelous week for both of us.  Jan felt great all week, and we were able to enjoy good time together with less interference from her illness.  The weather is finally beginning to show signs of springtime, and the anticipation of warmer weather and dirty hands from planting a few colorful flowers helped put us both in a good mood.

    The trauma of the week was proactively addressing Jan’s hair.  We expect that it will begin to fall out mid to late next week after her fourth infusion session (one of the sessions in which all three chemicals will be infused), so Friday she had it cut to about 1/4″, had her wig styled, and selected a number of hats and scarves for daily wear.  Her wig style is very close to the hair style she wore a dozen + years ago — fuller than her recent style — and I think it looks really really great.  She is still adjusting to the cut’s fullness, and left the door open to go back & have it trimmed a bit, but I hope she leaves it like it is.  The hats and scarves are really cute too and nicely complement her wardrobe.

    Anticipating the first showing of her new look was trying for Jan, but she could not have had a better audience.  Niece Christy, whom we have not seen in several years, laid over in Atlanta with James and Gretchen en route to spring break in Costa Rica.  The family congregated several times to visit with Christy … and preview Mom’s new look.  It was very well received.

    We will spend tomorrow preparing for Tuesday’s infusion session.

    End of Week 2

    Jan’s week since her second infusion has been the best since mid-December.  She has had no side effects from the dose of Herceptin infused last Tuesday and is beginning to regain her jovial spirit.

    The week has been busy.  She ventured out alone for the first time in at least six weeks (I swear I heard bits of MLK’s “Free at Last” as she departed).  Carol Silva dropped by to visit and deliver armloads of healthy foods.  Gretchen’s Mom Lynne D’Huyvetter, a 15 year cancer survivor, carved a lengthy visit out of her busy schedule and shared her strength, experiences and wisdom on handling the disease with Jan.  We’ve selected a “cranial prosthesis” in anticipation of Jan’s hair loss.  We’ve taken a walk by the river, and we’ve ventured to the gym for a light workout.  Sunday we spent some time being entertained by Ian and his parents.

    As we’ve gone through the week, we are learning that Jan’s energy levels drop late afternoon.  Consequently we’re scheduling social outings at mid-day instead of evenings.  We also tend to avoid large public gatherings given her reduced resistance caused by the infusions.

    Tomorrow Jan and Gretchen are attending a presentation by Cookie Aftergut and her Chemoflage organization.  Cookie is a cancer survivor and puts on the sessions to teach others to deal with the disease.  After the session, Jan will head back to Dr. Austin’s office and receive her third infusion.  It will contain Herceptin only, so we are expecting next week to be another good week.

    We appreciate all who have called and / or sent notes to Jan.  She checks email regularly and enjoys hearing from all of you.  Your contacts help maintain her spirits as she prepares for the March 9 session — the next session in which she will receive all three drugs.  You can reach her at janet1025 at gmail dot com.

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