(A friend drew the above picture, added my favourite Bible verse and sent it to us for encouragement throughout the week. Thanks Aunty Karen!)
My 10 doses of radiation finished last week, but unfortunately the side effects really set in early last week. The mouth sores and extremely sore throat have been unbearable at times. I haven’t really eaten any substantial amount of food since last Tuesday … and I don’t really have too much extra weight to lose! Some days it has even been hard to drink water (or even swallow my own saliva) because of the pain. I have been trying to drink as many high-calorie, high-protein smoothies as I can manage throughout the day. If anyone has any nice (and simple!) recipes, please send them along!
It also hurts to talk, so there have been a few more hand gestures used when giving our boys instructions 🙂 Hopefully the side effects start to improve, but the doctors have said they can continue to get worse up to two weeks after you finish radiation.
New Medical Oncologist
We met with our new medical oncologist on Monday and she is really lovely. She had lots of times for questions and even used the paper on the examination bed as a drawing pad to draw lots of diagrams! It’s so helpful when you connect with the doctor you have been assigned and feel comfortable to ask questions.
Chemo Treatment Plan
From the further tests I have done in the past few weeks (PET scan, core needle biopsy) the doctors have still been unable to find the exact location of the primary tumor. Apparently this is not uncommon to not be able to find the primary. The biopsies show it originated somewhere in my GI tract or colon. The two options of chemotherapy they offered are FOLFOX and XELOX.
FOLFOX would involve a lot more travel to Sudbury because the treatments are purely IV. The IV starts on day 1 and you are sent home with a bottle attached to you and have to return to the Sudbury Cancer Centre on day 3 to have it removed. The cycle period is 2 weeks, so after the infusion of approximately 46 hours, you will have a break for 1.5 weeks before starting the cycle again.
XELOX only involves a small amount of IV (for a couple of hours) and then a number of pills both morning and night for 2 weeks, followed by a break for a week. The XELOX cycle period is 3 weeks. We ended up opting for XELOX since it will involve less driving to and from Sudbury. This is something to definitely consider, especially as the winter months approach.
Both treatments are equally effective and have similar side effects. Apparently if patients have a tough time taking all the pills, then they can switch to FOLFOX part way through. They call these chemo treatments the “back bone” and they will add other medications to the backbone structure along the way. They will also be using Bevacizumab (Avastin) in conjunction with the chemo treatment as an immune booster.
They haven’t told us how many cycles they plan to do at this stage. It will depend on how I react to the treatments. A CT scan will be done in 2 to 3 months to see what the cancer cells look like and whether they are being controlled from spreading any further, or have been reduced.
Chemo to Start in 2 to 3 Weeks
It is likely chemo will start in 2 to 3 weeks, God willling. There are a number of appointments and information sessions that have to be arranged before I can start. They will also put a PICC line in before they start. This is a thin flexible catheter (tube) that goes into a vein in my upper arm. The tip of the line ends just before it reaches my heart.
A PICC line saves having to be pricked by needles for the IV (like the HomeCare nurse who had to try 5 times to insert my IV for fluid hydration and then sent me to ER where the nurse there had 2 goes … on the 7th go, they had success!)
I must admit I’m quite scared to start chemo. It seems there are often so many side effects and I still continue to experience no other signs or symptoms that I have cancer … other than the side effects I currently have, which is from the radiation! I’ve often asked, why put myself through all of this? But we have made it a matter of pray and believe that God is directing our lives. Sometimes the journey ahead seems so unknown, but we’re thankful we have a loving God who can lead us every step of the way. We are also blessed to live in a developed country that can provide these services. The doctors have also said they don’t want to hold off much longer with chemo because I may run into complications such as hydronephrosis (there is an enlarged lymph node pushing on one of my kidneys). You also want to be as healthy as possible to start chemo.
Goodbye Dad and Mum
Dad and Mum left for Southern Ontario on Monday and flew out of Toronto on Tuesday evening. They are doing the long-haul flight back Down Under as I write this update! We really appreciated having them around for 5 weeks and it was nice for our boys to get to know their Aussie Pa and Grandma better. Mum was a huge help around the house and with the boys … and we were able to put Dad to work with a few jobs. Dad drove me to a few appointments in Sudbury as well. Mum and I just had to remind him what side of the road to be on ? Safe travels and God bless Dad and Mum. Thanks again for visiting, especially Mum because I know how much you dislike flying!
Thanks for All the Cards
Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to write a card (some have even sent multiple cards). This is really encouraging and there is still something so special about receiving an envelope in the snail mail … especially in this world of “instant” everything. A special thank you to all of you – I really mean that. We have them all hanging up in the basement. As Hadassah mentioned in the update last week, even the lady at the post office has noticed the number of cards being put into our mail box!
We ask that you continue to pray for us as well as the doctors we are working with, especially as we make some key decisions over the coming days and weeks.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12v9