Friday, April 27, 2012

What a Wonderful Day!

  One reason it is wonderful is because I am done with 5 treatments. Woo Hoo!! Not alot of side effects yet. No tiredness, no redness, best of all no nausea or scoots. The only slight thing is the pain every once in a while in the liver area. I thought I would see Dr Kelly today who is kinda like an assistant to Dr Das. NOPE, I got to see the big dog and I have enclosed a snapshot of my good doctor. He stated he was happy with my progress; my kidney function is stable, and platelets are at 139,000. On Monday, my platelets were at 152,000. He believes the drop is due to the chemo pill I take on the five days of radiation, then off of them for two days which should give my body a couple of days to re-coop. If every week goes like this, I will probably wonder if I need MORE radiation but when I asked the nurse today if more was better, she replied there were many studies done for all the organs and I am at the level everyone receives for liver cancer. More does not mean would probably damage other organs, and we don't want that to happen.

Oh the Lord has been good to me today! I spent such a good day with my mom. We ate lunch at The Rotary House (where we usually lodge), I took her to the gift shop so she could buy an MD Anderson T-shirt, and as we were coming into the apartment, we decided to check the mail (one of the highlights of my day) and I had 6....6 cards in the mailbox. I  started jumping up and is like winning the lottery to hear from friends and family back home. Thank you all who have sent a guys get extra HUGS this week from me!!

Pat comes in tonight. He will be here about 7. Mom will probably stay another week and head home. I am still contemplating coming home for Jenn's graduation next weekend....we shall see. I did get it ok'd by the doctors.

Mimi is snoozing in the chair with her mouth open again. Earlier this week, she did that and I sent a picture of it to "selected people" because I knew she would not be happy with me if I sent it to EVERYONE in my phone. I would put it on here today but I am afraid she would serve burnt toast the rest of the week.....I like to eat too much for that to happen!!
I am just on cloud nine today for the first week going so well...thank you, Jesus!! I am on cloud nine for all the cards I received, and for my husband to get in here this evening. Mimi and I have our schedule down pretty good, but Pat mentioned using the shuttle on a daily basis instead of driving. We have valet parking that is free so we might have to draw straws to see who wins this one. Of course, I will have one that is short for

Take care and have a blessed weekend. God is so good to me and I praise and thank him daily for all he does for me and for all you as individuals do for me.

Hugs and Prayers,

Thursday, April 26, 2012

4 days down.....24 to go!

Well, today mom and I drove to MD Anderson as usual and she sat by Elevator G as I went on to Elevator A, then up one floor to get my bloodwork done. In and problems. Then back to the main floor and to elevator G. I picked up mimi and we took elevator G to the basement and then to our waiting area C. We had a small wait but nothing to complain about. Once I go behind the heavy doors, I am in and out in 20 minutes. I asked about a ground hamburger feeling I felt inside my upper abdomen (about where the liver is) and they said it was totally normal. I believe God is already making my tumor shrink. It is sure aggravating it as it has had some stabbing pains throughout the day. Nothing to whine about, you just are aware of it being there. I finally took some pain meds for it about 8 as I was tired of dealing with it. I also asked the radiation dept. about the nausea as alot of people get it. Now they say it could happen around week 3where as before they said it could happen as early as the second week. I will just pop an anti nausea pill and hope it stops it in its track. I sure like to eat so nausea is something I just don't have time for.
Mom and I ventured to JC Penneys, out to a place called Souper Salad. It was a huge salad bar with 5-6 soups...kinda like a buffet. Then we went to CVS as I have a shoulder bothering me and mom thought a sport cream might help. After getting out of the car, I had a large man approach my car and he asked me to take him across town to get a hose for his car....and he wanted me to pay for it. I told him I didn't know the area and was not comfortable doing mom had already stranded me out there as she went in to shop. I finally got away from the man and as I was chewing mom out for leaving me, she informed me she had been stopped by a lady who needed a ride to The Holiday Inn. My mom said she didn't know where it was and we knew it wasn't on our way home. Then mom scurried into CVS and the lady found someone else to peddle. I don't know if we were just in a bad part of town or what but we will not stop there again unless Pat is with us. Speaking of Pat, he will arrive tomorrow evening as his flight comes in at 6 pm. YEAH!

Tomorrow, I get to see Dr. Kelly who we have became a fan of. He will address any questions I have and any side effects he might be able to help me with. It's a little early for any of that but I am still excited to see him! Dr. Kelly works under Dr. Das who is the radiation oncologist. Dr. Kelly is also a radiation oncologist, he is like a secondary doctor at MD Anderson and Dr. Das is the primary radiation oncologist that planned my radiation treatments and what type of radiation was best for me at this intersectioon on the cancer journey. 4 1/2 weeks to go after tomorrow. Amen!!

I feel pretty good and so far am still functioning with a high degree of normalcy that I have always had. I feel blessed to still be here and have made it past the one year diagnosis. I ask people to pray for this tumor to shrink to the size of a raisinette (I just love chocolate!!). I ask God to grant me this request and let me continue to praise Him and thank Him for his generous hand in my battle. Oh.....I thank God for so many thins, but alot of time it is for my friends and family who stop to see me, make a phone call to me, send a card, prayer groups who pray for me, just all of Gods warriors that have a part in my life. It means so so so much to me and the feeling it gives me is indescribable! So thank God for each and every one of you.

Our apartment is right across the street from Reliant Park and that is where they just picked (tonight) for the NFL draft. Kinda cool it was just across the street in this big dome by us. Houston is SO big but I am already kinda starting to like the place. The lady in the radiation dept asked how I liked Houston earlier this week and I explained I came from a small rural town and Houston was too big and I didn't care for it. She looked up at me and said there is one thing about Houston we should all thank God for....I said, "what's that?" and she said MD ANDERSON! I said AMEN to THAT!!

May God watch over each and every one of you!

Hugs & Prayers to you all!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hump Day 3 (in Houston, Tx)

Well, so far so good. Mom and I had to get to MD Anderson by ourselves today, and we did just fine. The main building at MD Anderson is about the size of a country block, so when we get into the building, it is still a journey to find out how to get to Elevator G from Elevator A. Then we have to go up a floor to give blood, then back to Elevator G and then to the basement....then find waiting room C (there are waiting rooms that range from A to I). It is just a little mind boggling but we have it down GOOD!

I have been having a twinge of pain or burning like sensation in my liver area so I asked the radiation team about it today (just to make sure my imagination wasn't getting the best of me), and I was told it for sure could be some burning or pain sensation in that area as that is where they are shooting all the x-ray beams. I asked to see the screens that guided them to know exactly where to point this gigantic machine that does a 180 all around my body. It shows my bones, spine, ribs and then they also have the CT with contrast from a few weeks ago. Together, the x-ray machine and the CT let them know EXACTLY where to shoot the beams. I thought I would see my liver tumor but there are no pictures of it. I guess it would be like a pilot flying in the clouds....they use other guided tools to make sure they are going into the right place. Make sense?

I called Joel Olsteen Ministries today to see when he would be at his church (which is non denominational). He will be there not this Sunday but the next. So.....if Mimi is still here, we might just go see him. If Mimi is gone, I am sure we will find a Catholic Church (Pat & I).

The weather is beautiful here and no rain so far. We took it pretty easy today. I took about an hour and a half nap. Mimi is a little honked at me as she fell back asleep this a.m. in the recliner and her mouth was wide open. I took a picture on my phone and sent it to all my family members. Oh boy was she not happy!!  Oh was just too good of a shot! Gotcha Mimi!!!

Samantha went home last night. She had a plane delay for about two hours but she finally got home about 2:30 am. She wasn't real happy with Southwest Airlines! She was a huge help in getting us settled in our cozy apartment and we couldn't have made it down to Texas without her.....or the two tickets she got!!  :-(

I praise God for my mother being in as good a shape as she is to stay with me....and she's a pretty good cook, too! It is amazing to me that there have been so many people here with me on this journey. Right down to our cab driver, Moh, who parked his car at the airport, guided Sam inside, helped print her ticket, and watched her go through security before she turned back to wave at him and he was there to wave back. Who does that on an everyday basis in a big town like Houston, Texas? He doesn't know us that well but he is an angel who we can call for anything.
This battle with cancer might be a battle, but I have no fear that God is not here with me. He is present and beside me to help me feel the calmness that I have inside me. I believe in Angels and I have witnessed several on this journey! God is good to me. He has given me the strength to carry on and fight this cholangiocarcimona with all my might. God has blessed me with a family willing to fight with me and also many, many warriors that are helping and encouraging me to keep fighting the fight. I have no doubt that the people who have reached out to me will be blessed greatly by our Heavenly Father from above!!

Hugs and Prayers,

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day 2 in Houston TX

Second day of radiation went well. Mom drove to the radiation center this morning so she knew the route and did great. After mom's treatment, Mimi took us out to lunch at Olive Garden, and then we came back to the apartment. Mom was a little tired, so she took a nap and is well rested now. I will be flying into St. Louis tonight, and Pat will be flying here on Friday, so Mom and Mimi will be spending a bunch of quality time together. 

While Mom was resting, there was a knock at the door from a UPS man with a package for Mom. The knock woke her up, and she opened her package, which was a huge bouquet of lillies. On the card, it read "For our Steel Magnolia. We Love You Weezer!!!!! Love, Travis, Erin, August, and Gentry Michels". Thanks to the Michels family for brightening moms day as she loves flowers and hates missing hers all starting to bloom at home. Mom made me take a picture of the purple allium outside of the valet parking. Hers was just starting to bloom when she left and I am sure when I get home they will almost be in full bloom. God bless!

Written/posted by Samantha

(Mom's Radiation Team!!  From the left: Travis, Courtney, and Danna)

(Mom with her flowers from the Michels Family)

Mom's favorite flower: allium (this isn't the exact
type that mom has at home, but it's close).

Monday, April 23, 2012

First day of radiation....

It came....and it went. No big deal. They took a pink colored marker and marked me all up again and said NO Lotion as it just smears the markings they put on me. There were three individuals who were completely attentive to me; making sure I was aligned "just perfect". Then they all left the room, shutting the big iron-like door behind them and went to another room on the other side of the door to see me on a monitor and start the machine as it went from side to side...over my belly....and just making a slight hmmmm noise. I was all done in 20 minutes. The "head lady" states she doesn't think I will have sickness but I am not to eat for three hours before the process.
I also started the Xeloda pills today along with Ativan for any allergic reaction that might happen. It still could happen but we are hoping it will not. I am also taking B12 that Dr. Dy had me on when I was on Xeloda before. I will ask Dr. Javle if it is ok when I see him next week. It helps with skin problems, etc. I started wearing my silicone socks with my feet caked with Aquafore on them last night and white gloves on my hands caked with Aquafore also. It is weird feeling and I can't decide if my white gloves make me look like Mickey Mouse or Micheal Jackson....
Mimi did a kicking good job of walking today inside MD Anderson as there is alot of walking. When we first got there, I had to get bloodwork which was WAY far away from the Radiation area. When we got to the lab at 9, there were appr. 200 people waiting for labs or waiting with someone for labs. They are pretty efficient, and we were done within 20 minutes. Then we had an hour and a half wait before the radiation appointment. So we hit the gift shop and sat to just "watch people" as they were walking in from the street.  All walks of life and all types of ethnic groups were in and out the doors....I like to wonder which one of the "couple" has cancer when they come in. Alot of times you can tell but sometimes you cannot.
We talked Mimi into going to Galveston Beach, and we hit a JC Penneys so she could get her a new bathing suit. Woo Woo!! ;-)  The beach was not the prettiest by far that I have seen but nonetheless, it was a break from the C word and all the hospitals. We arrived back home around 5 p.m. and Samantha is going to eat supper with our friend, Mike Sullivan at his house a few miles away. Mimi and I are staying in and maybe having fruit and yogurt for supper.
So, in closing, I thank the Good Lord for my first day of treatments with no bumps. It has been an enjoyable day. I ask God to be with me and bless me with many more good treatment days and to watch over me as I get all of the radiation and chemo meds. I thank Him for getting us here safely and so far, we haven't even gotten lost thanks to Samantha and the GPS in the car!!  God is Great and He is right here beside me. I was not afraid today and I just felt a calm about me during the treatment.
I will probably post most days as long as I am up to it. If I cannot, one of my daughters might. Thank you all for caring and God Bless~
Hugs & Prayers,

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's not home sweet home....BUT close!

Greetings from Texas!

We arrived in Houston at about 11:30 on Sunday. After finding 8181 Fannin Street, we unpacked our car and then decided to venture out and about the town. We made a trial run to downtown where mom's radiation will take place in the Main MD Anderson Building. We found it with no problems! We then went to the Super Target to get groceries for the next couple weeks, and came back to the apartment to unload groceries and relax a bit. Mom and I went swimming in the freezing cold pool right outside our room, and sat outside for a while just enjoying the weather. It was 85 degrees today with low humidity, and gets about 60 degrees at night. Our apartment is very pleasant, and exceeded our expectations by 100%. It has 2 California King sized beds that have tempurpedic mattresses, and it was move-in ready when we got here.

We had spaghetti tonight for dinner, and Cindy Bateman and Mike Sullivan joined us.  Mom enjoyed seeing Cindy again, and Mike has always been a family favorite. I met Cindy for the first time tonight and she's a barrel full of laughs! She will only be here for the next 3 weeks, so we hope to see her again atleast once before she leaves Houston.

Mom has a bloodwork appointment tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., and then she'll get her first radiation treatment at 10:50 a.m. Her radiation treatment will only take about 20 minutes and then she'll be done for the day. We discussed maybe going to Galveston Beach after that, since it's only about 45 minutes from Houston, but we're not 100% sure yet. We just thought that it'd be nice to enjoy the beach, and listen to the waves roll in.

Aside from that, we will post tomorrow night about mom's first radiation treatment and how she's feeling. Keep the prayers coming! :)

Written/posted by Samantha

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Address

My new address for my stay while in Texas is:

Fannin Street Station
8181 Fannin Street, Apt. 1712
Houston, Texas  77054
C/O Patty Corcoran

Phone number will be 713-383-9998

Getting things in order....

Saturday morning I will begin my journey to Houston for 5 1/2 weeks. It is hard to try to gather everything you use daily plus things you might need in the weeks ahead. All the special creams, special socks for night time so I can lather up my feet with lotion to keep them from cracking and special gloves for my hands to lather them up also. Making sure all bills are paid up for 6 weeks, scripts filled at the pharmacy, some food so we don't have to buy like spices, trash bags, etc when we get there.
Then there is making sure I see close family and friends.....EXTRA HUGS for grandchildren, etc.
Since I work everyday until 4, it makes the day not quite as long when I get home. Pat had a planned vacation to see his son in the US Virgin Islands before we knew I was going to have treatments in Houston so it is pretty quiet in the evenings. Kate (Pat's daughter) still lives with us but she seems to always be gone when I get home. She will atleast be there to feed the animals, answer phone calls, etc.
My mom is going to stay with me for atleast a week if not a little longer. Samantha will fly home on Tuesday as she has to return to work. Houston is no fun to travel by car in so we will shuttle alot or call our airport driver who has volunteered to help us with getting us anywhere we want to go (atleast until Pat gets there about the 27th).
As the time ticks closer to April 23 (the start date of chemo pills and IMRT-radiation), I get a little more excited to get it started. The more time I sit idle...the more time this tumor has to spread. I have scripts from MD Anderson for nausea, diarrhea, chemo pills, and a few more that I will pick up today.
I thank God there are still options to slow the growth of my tumor. The best thing would be to shrink it so much that they could take it out.....I will need God's grace and help to make this one disappear.....if anything, it will shrink and buy me time and I am happy with that. Please pray that I have few side effects and lots of shrinkage. I also have those two lymph nodes close to the liver that have snuck in some cancer cells so we hope to zap them for being such bad little nodes! Some people thank God for each day....I praise and thank Him for each hour, each minute, each second, each breath that I still take on this earth in the good physical shape I am in. I thank and praise God for the friends and family who have stepped up to send cards, a phone call, a prayer group who all sign a card to let me know they are thinking and praying for me, for the monetary gifts to help with expenses once we get to Houston.
They all mean so much to me and I am going to give my address so anyone who wants to drop a line can while we are down there. It is Fannin Street Station, 8181 Fannin Street, Apt. 1712, Houston, Tx 77054. I don't think you will have to put in care of Patty Corcoran but it might not hurt.
I short story before I close: I donated some vacation hours about a month ago for an older lady in our Agency who was off sick and had run out of time. I just donated two days worth of pay due to using mine up pretty rapidly myself. My boss called and said...why are you donating time.....don't you think you will need it? I calmly quoted to her.....Give unto others as you would have others give unto you. She hesitantly said ok but I truly believe God will take care of me. I have an army of people praying for me and that is the best gift of all. So all you prayer warriors keep it up and I will see you all in about 6 weeks if all goes good with the treatments.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Planning for Radiation

Mom, Pat, and I drove to St. Louis yesterday evening. We were Houston-bound at 7:45 a.m. via a non-stop flight (why do we ever fly anything except Southwest!?).  Moh (our oh-so-awesome driver) picked us up and drove us to MD Anderson where we had breakfast and sat in the courtyard.

At 1 p.m. Mom had an appointment with Dr. Javle to discuss her chemo regimen while getting radiation. She will begin taking Xeloda again (chemo pills) when she starts radiation. Because she was previously hypersensitive to it, she will take Atarax (like Benadryl) with a decreased dose of Xeloda every day on which she gets radiation (Monday-Friday; off on the weekends). Dr. Javle discussed giving Mom FU-5 (an IV form of Xeloda) via chemo pump, but it would require a PICC line which Dr. Goswami said is very risky (due to increased risk of getting clots). So 28 days of pills and radiation it is.

When I asked what Mom's course of treatment would be if the radiation didn't work, Dr. Javle replied that radiation is like putting a heat-lamp on your leg. You know it's going to burn you, you just don't know to what extent. He said it's guaranteed to have some effect; we just don't know how much or how long it will last.

At 3, Mom had a CT with contrast performed to determine where the radiation beams will enter her body. She is now a PROUD owner of three tattoos :D  A teeny dot on each side of her chest (sorta under each arm) and one just beneath her xiphoid process (in the center of her chest). The dots are permanent, and for now, she also has a bunch of purple lines near the tattoos. The radiation team was going to leave tape on the purple lines, but luckily Pat remembered the issues Mom had with tape on her back (allergic reaction, blisters, and gross-ness), and they quickly pulled the tape off.

We got a chance to meet with Dr. Kelly (the radiation doctor) before we left. He is the nicest, most gentle guy ever. He again explained the risks, side-effects, and such. The type of radiation that Mom will get won't produce superficial burns on her skin, which is great news. It will probably produce dryness, but it is usually easily remedied with Aquaphor. Because she is getting chemo with the radiation and because the radiation will pass through her stomach, it is likely that she will be nauseous. Her nauseousness could start the second day but is more likely to start about two weeks into treatment. She has anti-nausea medicine and will start taking it at the earliest sign of feeling ill. There are some other side effects, but they are less likely to happen.

All in all, a very good day. We're waiting for Moh to pick us up now and take us back to the airport. Please pray for a safe trip for Mom, Samantha, and Mimi when they drive down next weekend and that this new treatment regimen works like a charm. 

Thanks again for your prayers thus far. Have a great weekend!!
Written/Posted by Jenn.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A HUGE Change In Plans...

I received a call from MD Anderson yesterday with biopsy results showing that the two lymph nodes close to the liver are showing they have cancer cells (which we already knew). So, they cancelled starting a new chemo regimen today (Wednesday) and want me to come down for a radiation consult next Friday afternoon. Pat, Jenn, and I will fly down there Friday morning, have an IV put into me at 1 (for IV Contrast), then at 3, I will have a CT scan with contrast to see exactly where the tumor/nodules are and where the radiation needs to be positioned for the best coverage. We want to irradicate the two nodules plus hopefully put my tumor in the liver asleep for as long as possible! We will also meet with Dr. Daas, who is the interventional radiologist. He will fill us in on "The Plan" and side effects, etc.  We will fly home Friday at 8 p.m. and that's it for a week.

Then, the weekend before April 23, I will drive to Texas and start photon therapy radiation (also known as IMRT). I think we went from proton therapy to photon therapy due to the lymph nodes testing positive for cancer cells. We need more than a pencil beam at this point that would have went straight into the liver. We now need it to hit the liver AND the nodules that are cancerous.

I will be in Texas for 28 treatments, 5 days a week, for 5 1/2 weeks ...that is also only if all goes perfect and no interuptions in radiation happen due to side effects, etc. I am now trying to find extended stay lodging, hopefully close to MD Anderson. Cheap it will not be! The one I really want is $2295 per month. They do include all things an apartment would need...pots, pans, linens, tv, pool, shuttle service to MD Anderson, gated security.

I, of course, am thinking more about events I will miss back here....Jenn graduating from EIU, Walk N' Roll (for the second year in a row), my nieces wedding, my two grandaughters growing....and me missing it. Yes, hopefully this will lenthen my life so I will see them longer in my is just hard.

So, I ask for prayers asking for strength, encouragement, good health during this treatment plan. Easter is a sign for living, so I ask that you pray I have a long life to live ahead of me. Pray that the doctors have great knowledge of where to point that radiation to effectively kill those daggone monsters growing around my liver....and to kill the cells in my tumor also...or to just make it sleep for years.....thats a far reach but God has great plans for me so I am not going anywhere!!