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Friday, June 27, 2014

Of chemo and cupcakes

We're ending the last week chez Wells before T begins his treatments on Tuesday, July 1.  While I can't speak for T, although I guess I do by way of the blog, I'm feeling a huge rush of emotions while we wait for the chemo/radiation to begin.

I'm ready - MORE than ready- for T to start his treatments at Northwestern.  The sooner we can get this cancer on the run, the better.  This tumor is a constant cloud over everything we do, and I want it gone.  The sooner we can get started, the sooner we can be done.  I find myself trying to cram in every last activity, every last bit of fun we can before T won't feel like doing much.  Dallas has already told me that this summer hasn't been as fun as he thought it would be, so I guess I'm going overboard to try to make things REALLY SUPER FUN so the kids don't remember the summer of 2014 as the summer their dad was sick all the time.  I mean, we have told the kids as much as we think they should know about T's cancer and how it's all going to work, but in the end, they're just little kids who don't understand why we can't travel or go to the beach every day.

I'm relieved that the treatments are beginning because I'm tired of the constant waiting.  As there always is with many facets of life, we have gone through the hurry-up-and-wait phase of this cancer.  T has had test upon test, appointments with various doctors, and filled out enough paperwork to reach to the moon and back.  We're both ready for action because sitting around and waiting is making us crazy.  Although we only got the diagnosis a month ago, it tends to feel like six forevers.  I want to shake everyone and remind them that my husband has cancer, and we need to deal with it NOW.  I know that, unfortunately, he's just one of many cancer patients at NMH, but he's the most important one to me.

Along with the relief and eagerness to get started, there is the fear and the anxiety.  As a general rule, people tend to fear the unknown, and we're no different.  I have avoided researching anything about colorectal cancer because I know that cancer is really such an individual thing.  The way one person reacts to chemo and/or radiation is never exactly the same as how another person reacts.  While that's comforting to know in a way, it's also scary.  Will T be nauseous?  Will he lose his hair?  Will the fatigue drive him to bed at 6 PM every night?  Will he be safe going to and from Chicago every day for twenty-eight days? Will he get to spend any time with the kids?  Will I be able to handle everything while he is healing and recuperating? After all is said and done with the chemo, the radiation, the surgery, and the second round of chemo, will T still be the same?  Will anything ever be the same again?  Because cancer is so individual, there are no hard-and-fast answers to my questions.  I have my own gut feelings, but I have no absolutes.  I'm okay with that, but again, the unknown can be a big, dark place.  I honestly have no worries about the overall outcome: I know in my heart that T is going to be okay.  But sometimes my head and my heart clash, and the what-ifs try to overrule the happily ever after.

When I was explaining this all to T the other night, I didn't get a chance to tell him that I don't want or expect reassurances. It's not like I was kidding with that whole "in sickness and in health" vow. I know it's all going to be okay, but I need to express how overwhelming it all is.  It's like having a bad day at work or at school: Sometimes you just want to come home, get it off your chest without anyone trying to fix it, then eat a cupcake.   There are an infinite number of people who have it so much worse than we do, so I only want to unburden my roiling thoughts and move on.  People have asked why I write publicly about our lives, both the great times and the struggles.  Writing is my cupcake, plain and simple.  Some people play golf or run or actually eat cupcakes, but I write.  To paraphrase the great Lesley Gore, it's my blog, and I'll write what I want to. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Moving forward

Here we are chez Wells, and we keep on keeping on.

Starting out with the good news: the PET scan T had to check a spot that was seen on his lung came out clean, so the cancer has not spread anywhere else.  It's always wonderful to have a ray of sunshine in the middle of a storm.  And my scan came back clear as well, so now I can focus all of my energy on getting my love healed.  

T and I met with his radiological oncologist yesterday at NMH.  He seems to be another fantastic doctor, very calm and informative.  The current plan is to get T going with chemotherapy and radiation before even thinking about surgery.  He'll have approximately twenty-eight days, Mondays through Fridays, of the chemo/radiation combo and then anywhere from a six to ten week healing time before surgery.  The doc said that the chemo/radiation combo pre-surgery has been shown to dramatically lessen the chance of recurrence post-surgery, and the wait time afterwards allows the combo to keep working its magic of shrinking the tumor and allows time to heal before the surgical oncologist gets a chance to do her thing.  My lucky guy gets to go back to NMH on Wednesday for another colonoscopy and then again Thursday for another CT scan to determine exactly where to aim the radiation.  Scans and tests and contrast IVs, oh my!  We don't have an official start date yet for the chemo/radiation treatments, but we're hoping to know more after Thursday's appointment.  We both got the impression from the doc that he hopes to start within the next two weeks, so we're keeping our fingers crossed for sooner rather than later.

Admittedly, it will be inconvenient to drive into Chicago every weekday for approximately six weeks, but the benefits far outweigh the hindrances.  We trust the doctors at NMH and love the way they all communicate with each other. People in Valpo drive to Chicago for work every day, so doing what we need to do for a finite amount of time is no big deal.  And truth be told, I sort of love being "stuck" in a car with T during the drive because it's more time we get to spend together that we wouldn't have in a normal work day.  Sometimes our conversations run to the deep, but mostly we find things to laugh about.  Heaven knows we need a lot to laugh about lately. 

It's looking like chemo/radiation throughout the summer with surgery sometime in the fall.  T and I did our best to explain all of this to the kids last night.  We had done a bit of explaining earlier on, but we also knew we had to go a bit deeper.  We're telling them as much as we can without scaring them, but I think everything unknown is scary to five and seven year old kids.  There has been so much upheaval already this summer, and we're in for a whole lot more. They need a schedule and some normalcy, and unfortunately, I can't guarantee any of that right now.  This parenting thing is hard on a regular basis, but adding cancer into the mix makes it even harder.  I am more than confident that T is going to get through all of this, that we all will, but it's going to be a bumpy ride.  Once again, I am thankful for all of the love and support we have gotten from our family and our friends.  Keep praying, sending the mojo and juju, and just thinking good thoughts for us. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Update

First of all, thank you SO much for all of the support we have received from all of you!  Trevor and I are truly overwhelmed with gratitude: We had no idea people liked us this much!  (Especially Trevor because sometimes he's a bit of a pill.)

Since I last wrote, T has been to a couple of appointments at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH) with some great doctors.  We met with a surgical oncologist who put his cancer at a stage 3 and gave us some options.  She said she could either do surgery first and then chemo/radiation after or a round of chemo/radiation, surgery, and another round of chemo/radiation.  The next day, T was lucky enough to score an appointment with a medical oncologist at NMH with the same opinions as the surgeon.  The two doctors planned to present T's case at the next tumor conference next week to see what their colleagues think as well.  Doctors who seek opinions of others and voluntarily share information and experiences?  Ah-MAY-zing as we tend not to see that too often around here.  In the meantime, T is having another colonoscopy, another CT scan, and an MRI.  I love that both doctors were very positive and ready to get going on whatever needs to happen.  The waiting and inactivity are driving me CRAZY because I need to do something or I'm not making the situation any better, you know?  (By the way, who else is picturing a tumor conference as a bunch of tumors sitting around a conference table with their Androids and iPhones?  My friend Kristin says the tumors will all attack the free food at happy hour then ask where the nearest Hooters is.  Classic!)

Apparently there are pros and cons to each option, and the docs are going to weigh those during the conference.  I felt like the first doc was very genuine in her opinion that either option would be viable and they would make what they felt was the best decision in this individual case.  That's exactly why I have forbidden T to look up any statistics and studies about stage 3 colorectal cancer: each case is specific to an individual just like his case is only about his cancer and his treatment.  I threatened to cut the cable line so he wouldn't have access to the Internet. but when he shuts himself up in his office to work, I have no idea what he's looking at.  Coincidentally, we did lose Internet service for a couple of days last weekend, so score for T not being able to torture himself with random numbers!!

I wasn't able to meet the second doc because I was receiving my Radioactive Iodine (RAI) treatment that morning.  My dad went with T as a second set of ears, and I'm pretty sure we passed each other in the NMH parking garage as I was leaving and they were arriving.  I have been in Isolation 2: The Revenge from Wednesday when I got home at 12:30 PM until this coming Thursday.  I'm on day two, and I feel like I want to scream.  I miss my kids, I miss my husband, I miss the rest of my family, and I miss my friends.  I mean, FaceTime, texting, email, and the phone all are fine, but there is nothing like real contact with the people I love.  But I'm keeping my eye on the prize of getting healthy without
harming anyone else.

So, we have seen some forward motion, and I think that has been a great help to us both.  We have no idea what the new few weeks or months will bring.  Of course, no one really knows that, do they?  But we do know we have each other, and that's all that  matters.

Thank you again for all the emails, calls, and texts.  We treasure all of your thoughts!