Bouncing Back

Image

Today I ended up in two random discussions about cancer.  In the first one a parent from Parker’s class shared about a cousin who has colon cancer.  He was given mere months to live well over a year ago.  I love hearing about people blowing those predictions out of the water.  The second talk was with someone I barely know.  His wife was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, and they are treating it aggressively.  Her chemo treatments are just starting so he is looking for any and all advice as to how to best support her.  We shared information, and I said something about Dave’s side effects being cumulative over time.  He said he hadn’t really considered that.

Later I was thinking that the effect of chemo is kind of like throwing a tennis ball against a wall.  In the beginning you have all the energy of your (formerly perfectly healthy now you have cancer) self.  So you throw that ball with all your might and eventually it bounces back to you – and YOU bounce back almost as good as before.  As time and treatment go on though you have less energy to throw that ball and find that when that ball bounces back, it falls shorter and shorter of its goal.  Sometimes you need help even picking up the darn ball and flinging it towards the wall.  Sometimes you want to skip the ball and just beat your head against the wall.  I feel like Dave has been at this point recently.  So he is visiting his parents for a long weekend – golfing, getting some rest, and eating yummy food.  He is also giving some thought to altering his work schedule to work with his current energy level and take some pressure off of himself.  On Wednesday, we went to the Life with Cancer Center (http://lifewithcancer.org/index.php) and discovered the many many options they offer.  Dave needs to take some time to reenergize so that he can continue this tedious arduous exercise.

xoxo

Robyn

Family Weekend, Social Security and Strange Bumps

We went to CNU for Family Weekend.  You won’t be surprised to hear that Sam’s room and bathroom at school resemble her spaces at home.  Luckily her roommate is equally untidy so it works out well!  We went out to lunch where I had to remind Sam that her cell phone has to be put down while eating.  I think it was kind of a weird weekend for Sam.  She is used to being on her own and doing her own thing.  So, it was probably strange to have to follow family rules even for a little while.  It was great to see her, and she certainly seems to have adjusted well.  I don’t think that she is getting nearly enough sleep (again, that would require putting the cell phone away), but she is doing well in her classes so I can’t really say too much.  We did a few of the organized activities, but I much preferred the time that we had on our own.  Sam stayed at the hotel with us so we swam, watched tv together and got to catch up a little.  

On our second visit back to the dorm, Sam’s roommate and her parents were there.  Although I had met the mom several times before and the dad at drop off, this was the first time the four of us really had a chance to talk.  The conversation naturally went to cancer and where the two dads are in the process.  Ken told us about his new treatment and the details of what he has been going through.  He mentioned that he had applied for social security and was sort of fast tracked since he has a terminal diagnosis.  He told us how sleep deprivation is a huge issue for him.  He ended by saying “It’s a heck of a way to live…actually it’s a heck of a way to die.”  We all laughed even though it is not really funny.  I think that it was good for Dave to have someone to talk to who totally understands.  After a while though, he had had enough and was clearly ready to leave.  

It seems that on my last update I spoke too soon.  Literally later that night Dave noticed that he had a few bumps near his nose.  It is not overly noticeable.  He looks like he has a few white bumps and dry skin.  However, the bigger issue is that it is uncomfortable.  He is experimenting with a variety of lotions and was prescribed something by his oncologist.  I think the bigger issue is that it is demoralizing, and I know that he is feeling a bit down right now.  On the drive home he asked me to look into social security – that he wasn’t sure how long he was going to be able to work.  I’m hoping it is a phase and that two upcoming trips will help.  We are also meeting with a counselor from Life with Cancer tomorrow night.  She has many years of experience working with colon cancer patients and their families, and I am hoping she can help us navigate this bump in the road.  I’m also hoping that we will hear good news when we meet with Dave’s radiation oncologist on Wednesday.  He could use some good news to lift his spirits.  

xoxo

Robyn

Anatomy of a Doctor’s Appointment

Aside

We drive separately since Dave has to go to work afterwards.  (why is it always so hard to find parking in this garage?)  He heads to the lab for blood work, and I make myself comfortable in the waiting room.  (hmm…Life With Cancer pamphlet….could be interesting.  FINAL CHECK LIST.  eessh.  i definitely don’t need to read that.)  Dave gets called back – weight check, blood pressure check (that was quick. did she really take it?), pulse, temperature, standard list of questions about appetite and symptoms.  (click, click, click on the computer.  she isn’t even looking at us.  has to get through her checklist of things to do.  SO routine for her.)  We wait.  I remind myself to breathe while at the same time ignoring subtle stress-induced digs from Dave.

Dr. S comes in.  He is a whirlwind of energy.  He is noticeably surprised to see me and comments that I usually am “only here for the big appointments”.  (so want to defend myself.  dave doesn’t want me to come to all of his appointments.  i have to work.  do other spouses come to every appointment?  am i not keeping up?  do you know how supportive i am?!)  Dr. S tells Dave that his blood work looks good.  His numbers are good.  CEA is 3.4.  Dr. S pokes and prods a bit and asks about side effects.  Dave tells him his concerns about “chemo brain”.  That he is getting increasingly forgetful and aggressive.  Conversation moves on to discussion about what we are going to do after the 12th cycle of this chemo.  After some questioning, Dr. S tells us Dave can choose to take a break altogether (alarm bells.  this is a terrible idea.)  or he can do a lesser chemo but we will talk about it after the next scan.  Dave reminds Dr. S that he is going to be out of the office after the next scan.  Chit chat about where he is going to be.  I ask a few questions about going off the trial if Dave takes a break.  Dr. S mentions that we don’t have to decide today.  I ask about taking a break from chemo, and Dr. S says that obviously we know Dave’s tumor is aggressive but that it is up to him if he feels he needs the mental and physical break.  (no, no, no, no, no.  easy for me to say.)  Then it is handshakes all around, a few jokes about the kids, and we are out the door.  As I am driving to meet some friends for lunch, I wonder what we really learned today.

xoxo

Robyn