The Last Chemo Session

Hi all,

I’m so sorry it’s been so long since my last post. A lot has happened. I am going to break up the information in to several posts however, because I feel that this will be the best way to update you. This post is about my Mom’s last chemo session.

January 9th was Mom’s 5th chemo session. Chemo up until then was relatively manageable. Although my Mom wasn’t manifesting side effects such as nausea and her hair was only slowly falling out, she was starting to manifest peripheral neuropathy quite severely.

On Sunday January 13th, I talked to my Mom and she said she was finished with chemotherapy. She met with Dr. Beck shortly thereafter, and they cancelled her last chemo session.

With only one session left (scheduled for January 30th), many of us questioned her decision. Was this the right thing to do? Was she stopping chemo prematurely? All of these questions cross your mind when a loved one decides enough is enough. But in the end, it was the right decision.

My Mom’s doctor, Anna Beck, concurred with her decision. My Mom had dropped significant weight, her neuropathy was only enhancing, and so it was time to reevaluate treatment. In addition, her hearing appeared to be getting worse.

We signed my Mom up for multiple acupuncture sessions to help with the neuropathy, purchased different creams, tried exercise and decided we need to do all that we can to help with that issue. It has since improved, but it’s taking time.

In addition, we started to shift her diet, quite significantly. I’ll touch on that in a later post.

Dr. Beck scheduled a PT scan to investigate the results of the chemotherapy on February 4th. On February 6th, we received the results of the scan… more on that later.

Acupuncture in Mom’s legs. She also received acupuncture in her hands.

Mom reading for the 1st time in several months!

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Quick Update on Mom’s CA-125

Hi family & friends!

I intend on posting info on Mom’s 5th chemo session (which was yesterday) and additional information on Mom’s genetic test. BUT I just wanted to get out a bit of great news!!

Mom’s CA-125 was at 11 yesterday!! That is the lowest it’s been!

The chemo is definitely attacking the cancer. And I think Mom is actually feeling the attack going on inside. While I was with her last time, she described pains in her abdomen not as cramps – which she has had consistently since surgery – but she explained it as if she felt a fight going on inside her. As if she could feel the chemo attacking the cancer.

I just spoke with my wonderful aunt Tante Elke, she is with Mom now through Jan. 19th. Bless her for all she has done for our beautiful Mom!!! And she said Mom woke up with that same feeling in her legs and other areas of her body.

There is no doubt that Mom is feeling the effects of the chemo, but I think it’s incredible that she is explaining these sensations in this way – as if a war is happening. And by the looks of it, the chemo is definitely attacking the cancer.

Dr. Seuss said it so wisely…

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead and some come from behind.
But I’ve bought a big bat.  I’m all ready you see.
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”

Lot’s of love to all of you! And continued prayers for our beautiful Warrior!!

-Josie
xo

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Chemo #4, Neuropathy, Supplements, Daily Activities

On December 19th, just one day after Mom’s 79th birthday – we made our way through a snowstorm to her 4th chemo session. The day was pretty routine and everything went really smooth: (1) They put Mom’s IV line in using ultrasound (to locate the vein). They found her vein after just one try! (2) Blood was drawn to check her CA-125 – it was 17! They also drew blood to check her white blood & red blood cells, her INR and various other tests. Everything checked out okay for chemo. (3) Mom then met with Dr. Beck. She reviewed Mom’s labs and her condition. Mom had gained 7 pounds from her previous visit! (4) We then had a hurried lunch. (5) And off to chemo she went. (6) During chemo Mom met with her genetic consultant regarding the results of a test for the ovarian/breast cancer gene mutation (more on this in the next post). (7) I can’t leave out – Mom was hungry all day! Chemo lasted about 6 and 1/2 hours and then we bundled her up and drove home to tuck her in to bed.

Mom’s reaction to this last chemo session has been pretty remarkable. She didn’t suffer at all from nausea. She also had very little aches and pains in her legs and feet this go around. I think by now, most of her hair should be gone, but it isn’t. She still has hair on her head and her eyelashes and eyebrows are still there. Mom’s fingernails and toenails are still growing (a good sign). Her appetite is holding strong – she’s gradually gaining weight – thanks to my dad who brings home sweets every day and insists she eat all day long, as well as family who provide scrumptious and high calorie meals daily. She is taking all of her supplements daily and working hard to regain use of her left arm and hand (thanks to a OT schedule Amber and her dear friend Jill created). And I put her back on a physical therapy program (which she had better keep up!). Mom has of course been fatigued, but even that seems to have lessened just a bit. However, she is experiencing chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) in her hands…

CIPN defined: “The body’s nervous system is divided into two major systems; the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is also divided into two major parts, the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. The somatic nervous system consists of peripheral nerve fibers that send sensory information to the central nervous system and motor nerve fibers that send signals to skeletal muscle. The autonomic nervous system controls smooth muscle of the viscera (internal organs) and glands… Peripheral neuropathy results from some type of damage to the peripheral nerves. Certain chemotherapy drugs can cause peripheral neuropathy…” Reference: http://chemocare.com/chemotherapy/side-effects/numbness-tingling.aspx

“It usually starts in the hands and/or feet and creeps up the arms and legs. Sometimes it feels like a tingling or numbness. Other times, it’s more of a shooting and/or burning pain or sensitivity to temperature. It can include sharp, stabbing pain, and it can make it difficult to perform normal day-to-day tasks like buttoning a shirt, sorting coins in a purse, or walking. An estimated 30 to 40 percent of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy experience these symptoms, a condition called chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN).” Reference: http://www.cancer.gov/aboutnci/ncicancerbulletin/archive/2010/022310/page6

Mom started going to acupuncture last week to treat her fatigue and CIPN. She’ll continue going every week through the end of treatment and most likely a little longer depending on how she is doing. She is also soaking her hands in Epsom salts and cayenne pepper. We’ll try anything! 🙂

I would like to list for you the variety of supplements Mom is taking daily: ASEA, Poly-MVA, Vitamin C, B-12, Krill Oil, CoQ10 and D-3. This is in addition to a few medications, but we believe these supplements are really really helping! This list of supplements was a combined effort by family involving research and personal experience. But I would like to add that Dr. Youngblood and my Mom’s best friend Annette have been incredible proponents of these supplements and their benefits – and so I thank them deeply for their support and insistence that Mom get on a regimen of daily supplements! Just for fun, I have included a snapshot below of a daily chart I created months ago outlining Mom’s day. Early on, Amber and I realized there is no way we will remember what Mom needs to take and when, and so this chart has evolved over the last several months. It has been an incredible daily tool!

Mom only has 2 chemo sessions left! And I have put a countdown chart on her wall to her last chemo session on January 30th – only 29 days left of treatment! It’s hard to believe we are in to the 6th month of her cancer diagnosis. I’ve included a few photos of Mom during her 4th chemo session. She actually had her sparkle back in her eyes as we went in to her 4th session (you can see it in her picture). She is a warrior!!!

Much love to you all! Please keep your prayers strong!

Josie

xo

Putting in the IV with ultrasound for Chemo session #4

Heading in to Chemo – see the sparkle in Mom’s eyes?

Chemo #4 in session

Mom’s 24-Hour Chart

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How will we track Mom’s cancer after treatment?

Hi all,

I’ve been wanting to post this information for some time, but was waiting for just a bit more data and understanding. The big questions is: How will we track Mom’s cancer after treatment? Basically, the same way she was diagnosed, as well as, how her oncologists are tracking it now.

As many of you know, Ovarian Cancer is extremely hard to detect in its’ early stages – well in any stage really. It’s typically diagnosed with a combo of the following: symptoms, CA-125 (blood test), PET/CT Scan (tumors). Mom was diagnosed using all three. We have all been wanting to know how the doctors will track her cancer once treatment is complete – and what we’ve been told: they will track her CA-125 (blood) as well as PET/CT scans for tumor re-growth. Below is a bit of information explaining what that means.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Computed Tomography (CT) imaging have become essential diagnostic tools physicians use to reveal the presence and severity of cancers. PET/CT imaging helps physicians detect cancer, evaluate the extent of disease, select the most appropriate treatments, determine if the therapy is working, and detect any recurrent tumors. As soon as therapy is complete, they will scan and compare that scan to the first scan (at diagnosis) and second scan (after surgery) to check for tumors. (Reference: http://www.petscaninfo.com/zportal/portals/pat/cancer)

CA-125 is the most frequently used biomarker for ovarian cancer detection. Normal values range from 0 to 35. Around 90% of women with advanced ovarian cancer have elevated levels of CA-125 in their blood serum (Mom’s CA-125 at time of diagnosis was 550), making CA-125 a useful tool for detecting ovarian cancer after the onset of symptoms. Monitoring CA-125 blood serum levels is also useful for determining how ovarian cancer is responding to treatment and for predicting a patient’s prognosis after treatment. This is because the persistence of high levels of CA-125 during therapy is associated with poor survival rates in patients (Mom’s CA-125 is now 17!). Also, an increase in CA-125 levels within individuals in a remission is a strong predictor of the recurrence of ovarian cancer. (Reference: Wikipedia, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CA-125)

Below is a chart I created so we can watch Mom’s progress: Mom’s CA-125 Chart. As I noted earlier Mom’s CA-125 has gone from 550 to 17! It’s absolutely incredible how well she is responding to chemotherapy. Her oncologist told us she is doing great – clinically speaking – and they are very encouraged by her progress!

Mom’s CA-125 Tracker

Love you all so much! More soon on Mom’s Chemo #4 and an update on how she is feeling/doing.

Thank you for your continuing prayers, love and support! They are working!!

-Josie
xo

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Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving this year was wonderful! Tom & Sarah hosted a beautiful meal for our entire family! Mom came and was there much longer than any of us suspected! She looked gorgeous, gobbled a ton of great food and we all had such a special time together. I’m so very grateful for my amazing Mom, my husband, my family, my friends and all the love and support of everyone in my life.

This week, Kim forwarded me a quote I’d love to share with all of you. Please read and sit with it for a minute. It’s very powerful. Every moment is golden…

‎”Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate, or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, or evil can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.” -Henry Miller

xo
Jos

2012 Thanksgiving Family Shot!

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Chemo Session #3 is really #2 – TREATMENT IS IN FULL SWING!

Hi everyone,

Mom’s chemo session on November 8th went really smooth, well, minus the IV. They had a really tricky time putting in her IV. They finally brought in the “picc team” – who use an ultrasound to find a deep vein, numb her arm with a local anesthetic, then put in her IV.

Chemo lasted for almost 6 hours. She slept for most of it. Luckily she was in a bed, so she was really comfortable. She ate a big lunch and enjoyed a quiet afternoon at Huntsman.

The next day, she was completely wiped out and has been for the last 4 days. It’s day 5 now and she is feeling a little more energetic, but still very fatigued. Her side effects have been minimal, other than fatigue, she has only had nausea a couple of times and a few other aches and pains. So far so good.

It’s chemo session #2, because her oncologist is not counting her first session as a part of her treatment plan…

Mom has 4 sessions to go! Each will be approximately 3 weeks apart. Next chemo is scheduled for November 27th and then again on December 26th – so Mom can enjoy her birthday on Dec. 18th and Christmas with the family! Yay!

We are so happy to know that her treatment plan is in full swing!

Thank you everyone! I love you all so much! Mom loves you and appreciates all that each and everyone of you have done for her!

xo
Jos

Mom relaxing during chemo

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The Climb, Reflections 2012 by London Gay

Sweet London created a video for a project in school. She dedicated it to her Omi. Be sure and pause the video so you can read the written reflection at the beginning of the video (it’s also posted below the video). It’s so powerful and so true.

We all love you so much Mom!! Keep up the fight!! We are winning!!

xo
Jos

The Climb, Reflections 2012 by London Gay from Josie Gay on Vimeo.

The Climb, Reflections 2012 by London Gay

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Judi Dench move over!

Well, as Mom always does, she makes the best of what’s happening! So, instead of feeling sorry for herself, as her hair slowly and steadily falls out…she decided to get a super sassy haircut – similar to Judi Dench. Except… Mom is way sassier and way prettier!

Check out the gorgeous haircut given this week by my Mom’s bestie – Annette!

Getting her haircut!

Up close…

Mom looking stunning after her new haircut!

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Weight loss and steroids

As you can all imagine, Mom has lost a lot of weight. She weighed in, just before surgery, at 126 pounds and on November 2nd, she weighed 102 pounds – her lowest weight yet.. Losing twenty-four pounds has made a big difference in her appearance and in her health.

The weight loss is, of course, attributed to: surgery, recovery and complications, loss of appetite (repulsion of food) and inability to absorb nutrients properly.

The challenge has become, how does she gain weight when she doesn’t want to eat, isn’t processing nutrients properly and has weeks and weeks left of chemo?

Just before her last chemo session on 10/18, Mom was prescribed a medication in the steroid family called Dexamethason. She had the biggest appetite she has had since before surgery! So… my Dad called her oncologist and asked if we could get a prescription to see if this would increase her appetite. Indeed it has. And not only has it increased her appetite, but it has increased her energy level. I think those two go hand in hand.

At the moment she is taking just one small tablet a day. Many of us are concerned about short-term and long-term side effects, but while we search for another solution (medical marijuana is on the list of alternatives), she will stay on this medication.

She has gained 2 pounds in 4 days. Her energy is soaring. She is planning her days out, running errands, eating full size meals, nibbling on Jon’s yummy zucchini bread every night, and for all intents and purposes – feeling better than she has since before surgery.

It’s such a relief to see Mom feeling good. Thank you for your prayers!!

Love you all,

xo
Josie

Mom looking fabulous while running errands!

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Mom’s 2nd Chemo went well…

Hi everyone,

Mom’s chemo was actually postponed from 10/17 to 10/18 and for various reasons. She went it to Huntsman at 11am on 10/18 and left just over 5 hours later. She is now on two different chemo drugs: Carboplatin and Paclitaxel (brand name to this one is Taxol).

The side effects of the Taxol are a bit more harsh than Carboplatin. The week following chemo, in addition to nausea and severe fatigue and loss of appetite, mom experienced aches in her ankles and legs. And about 1 week ago mom started losing her hair.

Mom was also taken off lovonox blood thinning shots (which she was receiving daily – and earlier in Sept. twice daily) – and put on coumadin. The process is important and has been monitored closely, with finger pricks each week to make sure the transition went smooth and that her blood is being regulated properly.

Her next chemo session is scheduled for this Thursday November 8th.

She is putting up a good fight! And Mom is also beginning to gain back a lot of independence. More on that later…

THANK YOU ALL for your love and support!!

xo
Josie

Paclitaxel (aka – Taxol) – Chemo Drug

Carboplatin – Chemo Drug

 

Mom eating dinner during her 2nd chemo session. They have room service!

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