Category Archives: Cancer

Our new tabby

Came home from fiddle lesson to find a big orange and white tabby cat asleep on one of the patio chairs. I seem to remember seeing him (her?) lurking around the back forty the last few days.

When I saw him (her?) in the chair, my first, irreverent thought was: Debra, you came back as a cat? I seem to be getting over the shock of losing her. Though not the fact of it.

UPDATE:  Like Garfield, Mr. B. said. Like that, yes.

Debra Ann Davis Stanley, Rest In Peace

A woman of valor, who can find?

She is more precious than fine pearls.

Her husband trusts in her and so he lacks nothing.

She does him good, never harm, all the days of her life.

She perceives that her labor is rewarding, her candle burns into the night.

She reaches out to those in need, and extends her hands to the poor.

She is clothed in strength and dignity, she faces the future cheerfully.

She speaks with wisdom, the law of kindness is on her lips.

Her children rise up and bless her; her husband sings her praises.

Many daughters have done valiantly, but you exceed them all.

An adaptation of Proverbs 31 from the Hebrew.

Mrs. Charm is on hospice care

Mrs. Charm has been in a steep decline since Oct. 13, her advanced cancer taking away her ability to think clearly and speak coherently. She has enormous trouble communicating with me and Mr. Boy, which causes her endless frustration. She’s fallen twice on her walker and is no longer able to stand, even with help.

On the 16th she said she knew she could not recover and she wanted to go with Hospice Austin’s care rather than suffer through another round of chemo. The stuff called R-CHOP she had last fall that helped her get into remission until July was nothing compared to the high-dose ones called RICE to fight her recurrent lymphoma. Two rounds of that in late August and late September cut her pretty low and caused scary neurological episodes each time. Recovery was hard, especially after she got the news Oct. 7 that it hadn’t worked and the cancer was steadily spreading.

Her M.D. Anderson doctor called Sunday to see what our situation was. He wasn’t surprised. Cancer moves fast, he said. “God bless you,” he concluded.

So Mrs. C. will stop taking the multiple pills she was on for various, presumably chemo-related problems such as a thyroid condition, and antibiotics to defeat possible infections from her weakened immune system. Now she will take only those drugs that will mask her pain to keep her as comfortable as possible. With hourly visits each day from Certified Nurses Aides to see to her hygiene and a weekly visit daily visits from a hospice nurse to monitor her condition.

And when the shut-down of one of her organs inevitably occurs, we’ll call the 24/7 hospice line instead of 9-1-1.

UPDATE:  Mrs. Charm, my wife Debra Ann Davis Stanley, passed away at 5 p.m. on Oct. 22 after a long and exhausting struggle with cancer. She was 55 years young.

Mrs. Charm’s cancer worsens

Our latest trip to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston featured a PET scan. It showed two rounds of the high-dose chemo that is the standard treatment for Ms. C.’s refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma have failed to slow, let alone stop it.

Once confined to more than a dozen of her lymph nodes, the cancer has now spread to her uterus, her bowels and her left kidney. It isn’t the end but we can see it from here. The only thing left is a second-line trio of drugs with a high toxicity, risking infection and possible neurological damage, that has only a 30 percent chance of gaining remission for her.

We should know by the middle of November whether it’s going to work. If it doesn’t the docs say she would have no more than six months to live and we should call in hospice to keep her comfortable until the end arrives.

Mrs. Charm comes home today

She’s been in Seton Hospital for ten days now. The first four were for her second round of high-dose chemo for her recurrent lymphoma cancer. The next five were to recover from what was initially diagnosed to be a probable seizure but has since come to be regarded as a particularly intense version of “chemo brain.”

So bad on Monday and Tuesday that her Austin onocologist considers it a show stopper. Either she’ll get a smaller dose for the next round or she’ll get a different brand. Of course whether there’ll be a third round at all depends on testing to be done Oct. 6 at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

This last day of her Seton stint will be spent (as began last night) charming the nurses down to their toes. It’s good for Seton she’ll be coming home this afternoon. Otherwise there’d soon be a mob of nurses making pilgrimages to her room.

UPDATE:  And then the oncologist decided her potassium and magnesium counts were too low and she might need a platelets infusion by Sunday morning. So she’s still in the hospital.

MORE:  Finally came home Monday evening. Probably wishes she was back there as my cooking cannot compete with hospital fare.

Second chemo round Thursday

We’re about 24 hours away from the beginning of Mrs. Charm’s second round of high-dose chemo for her recurring lymphoma, this time at Seton Hospital in central Austin. And it can’t come too soon. Her two-week recovery from the first round at M.D. Anderson in Houston has not been very pleasant. Her abdomen pain is back and the fever also, though neither are as bad as they were before the first round and the fever, at least is lower and it comes and goes.

The fever (possibly signifying an infection) will have to be gone before they’ll start the second round, according to the Austin doctor with Texas Oncology who will handle it. We met with him on Monday. The good news was that the swelling of her leg (called lymphedema) had diminished almost back to normal. The bad news is that it is swelling again. At least she has not been much bothered by nausea from the first round, though she has had trouble sleeping and so is tired much of the time and has little energy.

Once the second round has been over for two weeks, around Oct. 5, we’ll go back to M.D. Anderson for tests to determine if a culminating third round would be meaningful. If so it will be done in Austin again. If not, her Anderson doc will enroll her in a clinical trial of an experimental drug, probably there in Houston. Other alternatives also may be available. So we’ve got a ways to go yet. As always, thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

Mrs. C. “somewhat better”

On Saturday afternoon, after 24 hours of chemo at M.D. Anderson for her recurrent B cell lymphoma, Mrs. Charm said she felt “somewhat better.” Suggesting the chemo she’s been receiving almost continuously and will still through today might be knocking back some of the tumor load that was making her increasingly sick.

Hasn’t been all roses, of course. At one point in the treatment her O2 count was so low they had to put her on oxygen for a while. An X Ray of her lungs showed no problems, so apparently it was the tumor-filled lymph nodes pressing against them. The swelling of her left leg, from groin to toes, called Lymphedema, continues, however. Docs say it could take two weeks to go down. There is no cure for it, but only in severe cases does it lead to amputation.

UPDATE:  Two days later, when she returned to the Rancho, “somewhat better” had gotten a big boost. Mrs. C. said her night sweats of several weeks standing were gone. Likewise her recurrent fevers, and pain, for which she was medicating non-stop several times a day. Swollen lymph nodes in her neck and under one ear also have diminished. All of which promises to make her two weeks of recovery from the first dose almost pleasant. Before the second one continues at a hospital in Austin.