Monthly Archives: March 2012

“Summer in the City”

The old Lovin’ Spoonful song from the mid-1960’s is very appropriate for the weather we have experienced the past ten days. Temperatures have run 25°F – 35°F above our average of 42°F. Yesterday was the earliest 80°F reading the Twin Cities has had since official records started in 1871 (but only by six days) and we were flirting with 80°F again today.

Our forsythia bush has started to bloom even before the squills, snowdrops and crocuses have poked up. The maple trees are quite messy now that they are shedding their red fuzzy flowers because the leaf buds are opening. We have already had a bluebird in the birdbath, the grass is getting green, and the lilacs have leaves forming. Our gentle March breeze isn’t gentle because we were dealing with 20 – 30 mph wind gusts today.

Lucy is still having stomach issues. She is managing with Ensure, Activia yogurt, and an occasional Immodium. The stomach noises are quieting down gradually but the noise keeps her awake at night. She still has some stomach cramping, but they are lessening.

Her legs are back to normal size and she shows no sign of clot formation. She has tolerated the Pradaxa well. Once her stomach problems abate and she starts walking more, her ankle stiffness will subside. Lucy also started her Hexalen oral chemotherapy yesterday. We’re a bit worried about the Hexalen since stomach problems are a common side effect. It’s only the second day, so it is too early to tell how well she is tolerating it.

Diane called yesterday and helped Lucy’s mood improve. She heard from Steve and Julie this morning.

For my Northern California cousins, stay warm and enjoy your snow. For our Upper Midwest readers, enjoy summer in March, and for all of you, remember Lucy and I are blessed to have you supporting her!

Leave a Comment

Filed under cancer battle, DVT, family, friends, gardening, music, weather

“How low can you go?”

That’s a great question to ask someone doing the limbo dance, but not for Lucy’s hemoglobin level. She had a port draw today and came in at 5.3. We knew she was getting low because her low energy level and pale color. That necessitated an immediate transfusion at Fairview Southdale. We arrived at 6:00 pm. It sounds like she will receive two units, and if all goes well, she’ll go home around 1:00 am. Her first unit started at 9:00 pm and each unit takes between 1½ – 2 hours.

Her stomach and intestinal problems greatly improved after the Augmentin completed. Her oncologist suggested she eat yogurt twice a day to help with the noise and slight queasiness. Antibiotics knock the helpful bacteria in the gut for an unfortunate loop. It will take a couple of days for her system to re-balance itself.

Lucy’s leg is almost normal sized again. We will have to lotion her leg a couple of times per day to help soften the skin. That will help with the tightness she feels. Both ankles are much less swollen and loosening up. Her walking speed is increasing though she still needs the walker.

At this point, she has not started her Hexalen yet (the oral chemotherapy). I think she wants to start it tomorrow depending on how her digestive issues are doing.

The extremely warm weather we are experiencing has been very beneficial to Lucy’s gardens. The east side gardens have irises, tulips and daffodils about 3″ tall. Her blue flax is back and some of it is 6″ tall already! No signs of the sqills, snowdrops, or crocuses yet, but they are buried under several inches of leaves. The lilacs and maple trees have leaf buds on them. She also has sedum popping up. A few of the forecasts are hinting at 80°F a couple times in the five-day forecast. That will drive the frost completely out of the soil.

We hope you are enjoying decent weather where you are. Thank you for making the time to support Lucy!

4 Comments

Filed under cancer battle, gardening, hospital, transfusion

Hexalen en route

Lucy’s still having some stomach issues. She has had stomach problems with every oral antibiotic she has taken even before her cancer. The Augmentin is done Thursday morning. She called the doctor and was told to take some Compazine for her stomach upset. The stomach problem might take a few more days to resolve. As such, her oncologist extended her disability to April 5th. She was originally scheduled to go back to work this Friday. That was disappointing for her, too.

Lucy’s legs are almost back to normal size. Her ankles are still somewhat stiff but are getting better. She still needs her walker because of her ankles, but her movement speed is getting faster.

Her Hexalen will arrive tomorrow. It sounds like she will be taking five capsules per day, but we can spread the dosage throughout the day.

Lucy’s sisters have been very supportive the past couple days. I ran into a long-time (I hate the word old in this case, because he isn’t even if I am!) friend yesterday and had a nice talk with him. Thanks Dave, you don’t know how much you helped! And thank you to everyone who sent emails of support!

Leave a Comment

Filed under cancer battle, family, friends

Alimta is out, Hexalen is in

The Alimta is not working as well as it should and is discontinued. Her CA125 level has been slowly increasing and the PET scan showed signs of increased growth. Her blood clots and the anticoagulation factor discovered in a previous blood test are a direct result of her cancer. The hope is to find a drug or drug combination that will stop her cancer from progressing. Lucy still has chemotherapy options available.

The new drug is Hexalen, an oral chemotherapy drug. Lucy will be taking it every day for two weeks, then get two weeks off. She will need weekly blood tests because of her clotting problem and the fact her blood counts were generally low because of the previous rounds of chemo. Her next blood test is a week from today, and it can be a port draw. That will give her arms a chance to recover from all the pokes she received in the hospital.

Her hemoglobin was still at 8.1, so that was a good sign. Her white count and platelet count were in the normal range. Her legs are slowly getting less swollen, she is having less discomfort, and she has not had a fever spike since leaving the hospital.

We still don’t know if the Pradaxa is working. There is no slam-dunk blood test that will help. The drug waiting in the wings is Arixtra, the injection drug mentioned a few posts back. The challenge will be trying to figure out if she has a clot forming. Both legs are still pink and have peeling skin on them. It will be tough to spot the tell-tale erythema (rash) or streaks from a forming blood clot. As I have mentioned, Homans’ sign is wrong a lot, and Pratt’s sign is not any better. If Lucy’s leg pain starts increasing or if she starts having fever spikes, we’re going to get her in for an ultrasound.

We’re both frustrated and disappointed at this time. It’s been hard trying to find the bright spots in today’s events. The biggest bright spot we have is your compassion. Thank you for that, it helps us through these rough patches.

Leave a Comment

Filed under cancer battle, chemotherapy, DVT

Home and resting comfortably

We were concerned Lucy would have to be held another day. She had a fever spike last night of 101.4°F, which took about an hour to break even with Tylenol. That was the last spike. This morning she took her antibiotic (Augmentin) and her Pradaxa on an empty stomach. After some mild nausea and a shot of Zofran she was fine.

Dr. Dittes came by to tell Lucy that he was confident her symptoms were clot related and not infection related. He wants her on Augmentin for 10 days and saw no reason for her to spend more time in the hospital.

Dr. Weinshel was rounding for Dr. Thurmes and he was delayed. Lucy’s hemoglobin was at 8.6, her pain was manageable, and she had no fever spikes today. He saw no reason to keep her in the hospital any longer.

The only snag came when Fairview’s pharmacy thought they would be filling the Pradaxa prescription even though it was called into our local Walgreens. That took a while to straighten out. Fairview’s pharmacy is out of network so there is a higher co-pay.

Lucy will get a couple of days of downtime. Her next oncologist appointment and Alimta treatment is Thursday. I believe she will also be due for a vitamin B12 injection.

We’re both hoping for a quiet boring week for Lucy. She will need a couple of days to decompress. For the first time in nine nights, she gets to sleep in her own bed. She won’t be awakened every two hours and won’t listen to medical equipment.

Thank you for your love, thoughts, and prayers! It helps get us through the rough spots. There may not be another post until Thursday.

 

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under cancer battle, DVT, hospital

And the winner is…

Pradaxa (the pills)!

Dr. Thurmes told us that Lucy is going on Pradaxa twice per day for her clotting problems. He wanted something with a shorter half-life in case she starts getting the serious nosebleeds again. Pradaxa has approval for DVT therapy in cancer patients in Europe. FDA approval is pending, but Pradaxa can be legally prescribed for Lucy’s situation.

Lucy’s hemoglobin was at 7.2 and she received a one unit transfusion. Her IVs are disconnected. She had two long walks today while still tethered to the IV tree. Her longest walk came after untethering.

As of now, the only thing that would keep her in the hospital is a fever spike higher than 101.5°F tonight. Her pain management is fine. She started her oral antibiotic. That will be twice per day for a week starting tomorrow. The pills are very large uncoated capsules, so we will split them so she has an easier time swallowing them.

Lucy heard from Steve, Julie, and Suzy today so she told them about her imminent release. The nice thing is the pace here has slowed down.

Leave a Comment

Filed under cancer battle, DVT, family, hospital, transfusion

One small step for Lucy…

She still hasn’t had the giant leap towards going home. Dr. Rousey (hematologist) stopped by this morning. He and Dr. Thurmes are still digging though research studies to see if Pradaxa will be the drug of choice, with Arixtra as the runner-up. Pradaxa apparently has a shorter half-life, which is helpful in case of a complication. Lucy likes the fact that it is oral and not an injection (OK, so do I!). Neither drug will need as frequent blood testing as Coumadin requires. I think it is because both drugs manage specific coagulation factors while Coumadin takes more of a “scorched earth” approach.

The IV antibiotics are still going. Right now, she gets Vancocin (vancomycin) and ampicillin, and both are available orally. While the hematologists are researching Pradaxa, Lucy is still on IV heparin. She has not needed a blood test because she hit the therapeutic range.

Julie stopped by this afternoon and really made Lucy’s day! It was nice having nearly no interruptions while Julie was here.

Lucy took two walks today. The first was about 50 feet. Her second was close to 150 feet. She would go farther when they finally disconnect the damned IVs. Her left ankle is loosening up a little. On her second walk, she was able to get her heel on the floor while walking, at least for a few steps. There was still discomfort walking, but she was not wiped out afterwards. Like last time, her pain started decreasing when she sat down.

Dr. Thurmes will be on rounds tomorrow and said he will stop by. He’s been so good to Lucy through this ordeal. He might have the home care anticoagulant and antibiotic choices tomorrow. If so, she could be released tomorrow.

Leave a Comment

Filed under cancer battle, DVT, family, hospital