No news is good news… at least that’s what they say!

Here's Patty on a hike this past weekend in the mountains above Palm Springs. She and her sister Kathy had a quick "girls getaway."


As they say… no news is good news.  How that applies to Patty… life is good!  Her hair is pushing the one inch mark.  It’s funny, but her hair is really coming back curly!  I joked with her the other day, but looking at the top of her head reminds me of a weather broadcast showing the high and low pressure systems.  Her hair is swirling in every direction.  It’s really cute when she gels it up.  As a friend from church said yesterday… “It looks so European!”  That’s my wife, always on top of fashion!  She just made an appointment with the hair dresser to throw some color on it next month so she’s been busy researching cuts and colors for short hair.  She wants to do something “fun!”

Patty is still having the neuropathy issues in her hands and feet, but yesterday she told me that she thinks it’s getting a little better.  The doctor said the neuropathy would peak around 5 to six months after her final chemo, and if what she said was true, she may be over the hump and on the road to recovery in that department.  We have noticed that her immune system still is not at 100%.  She’s had several colds over the past few months which is unusual for her.  Patty rarely gets sick, but we notice now when she gets a cold, it hangs on longer than normal.  She has one right now that’s been hanging on for over two weeks.

Reconstruction is right around the corner.  Patty’s reconstruction surgeon dropped a bomb on her about a month ago.  He announced he’s retiring.  This was really disappointing news.  Patty had developed a very close relationship with him over the past 10 months.  He was involved in the mastectomy and has treated her regularly every couple of weeks since then.  Now he’s retiring.  Now what?  It turns out that one of his associates in his office is taking over his practice.  We had met her before and really liked her.  Patty had an appointment with her last week for an exam and to discuss her options going forward.  As before, we both felt very comfortable and have confidence in her. She agreed with the previous surgeon that Patty is completely healed from the mastectomy and Patty could go forward with the reconstruction process whenever she felt she was ready.  Believe me… Patty’s ready to get this party started!  The surgeon discussed several options for the reconstruction.  Without going into details, she recommended one process that Patty felt comfortable with.  Patty wants to wait until after we get back from Kauai to have the surgery.  So, it’s officially scheduled.  Patty will have the surgery on Friday, July 29th.  This is so ironic.  July 29th of last year was the date of her mastectomy!  Exactly one year to the day!  How crazy is that?  The surgeon told us the procedure will take about six hours.  Patty will be in the hospital for at least three days and then be able to come home.  She’ll be down for a good three weeks following the surgery then we can expect another 4 to 5 weeks after that until she’s completely recovered.  I joked with the surgeon when she talked about Patty’s recovery time frame and made a comment: “She’ll still be able to wash dishes, vacuum and do laundry right?”   She gave me a look then said if she had to, she’d write a note for Patty that said “no housework!”  Damn!  Well, I tried!  She’ll have more procedures after that, but hopefully no more surgeries.  The surgeon said when everything is said and done, she can expect the process to take about one year from start to finish.  Patty is a little nervous, but she really wants to have this done.   I’m behind her 100%!

Earlier I mentioned our trip to Kauai.  We’re so excited!  We’re going for 8 days and leave in less than a month!  We can’t wait!  Patty had told me while going through chemo, one thing (amongst many) that kept her focused was our trip to Kauai.  We’ve been there a couple of times before and don’t really need to do the sightseeing.  The title for this trip should be “Relax and Enjoy!”  That’s exactly what we plan on doing.  Those white sandy beaches are just what the doctor ordered for both of us.  We rented a condo on the north shore overlooking Hideaways Beach.  I have a feeling we’ll be spending a lot of time there.  While in Kauai, we’ll be celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary as well as Patty’s 1 year “Cancerversary”.

Oh… I wanted to thank those people from El Dorado County again!  Lead by Becky the Queen Fundraiser, they raised another $238.00 for Patty’s Komen Walk in November!  Patty is now at $1,518.00 towards her goal of $2,300.00.  She’s 66%  of the way there!  Thank you so much!

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W.A.R!

When I started this blog back in early August, I titled it “What a Ride.”  When you set up a blog one question they ask is “what’s the title of this blog?”  It’s hard to come up with a title on-the-spot, but “What a Ride” was first to come to mind so I went with it.  The second reason I used it was because What A Ride has the acronym of WAR!  Since we were in the midst of a battle of some sort, it just seemed too easy and so appropriate! 

As I said in my first blog, I had wished that I started “blogging” when Patty was first diagnosed, but there was so much going on at the time, blogging was the last thing on my mind.  So I had to play catchup for the previous 3 1/2 months in my first post.  I’m sure I left some things out, but I did my best to try to remember the highlights, or lowlights!

So here we are… this nightmare started in late April 2010 and here it is December.  In one sense, the time just flew by, but in other respects, it took forever.  This past weekend was very quiet for both of us.  Patty was far from feeling even 80% so we stayed pretty close to home.  Since we had “quiet time” without any “Adventures in Chemo” going on, I took some time and read my entire blog, from start to present time.  I’m really glad I’ve been doing this because I found there was so much I had forgotten.  Let me recap the last 8 months in bullet form:

  • Patty found the “lump” in late April
  • June 22nd – the biopsy confirmed she had breast cancer
  • June 23rd – we met with the crackpot surgeon who was totally rude
  • June 27th – Patty had the notorious PET Scan
  • The “Black Cloud” accompanied by the “Elephant in the room” keep hanging around!
  • June 28th – We booted the rude surgeon and changed care providers to Scripps
  • July 2nd – Patty had her first appointment at Scripps
  • July 2nd – We were given the devastating news that the results of the PET scan showed that the cancer had spread to Patty’s chest wall.  We were told the cancer was incurable and surgery was NOT an option!
  • July 2nd – Our nurse practitioner from Heaven told us that she was not sold that the cancer had spread and she needed proof that it had, otherwise, her experience tells her that the cancer was localized in Patty’s breast.
  • July 22nd through July 14th – Patty went through countless tests.
  • July 14th – The Pulmonary Specialist confirmed the cancer had NOT spread and the doctors were going to “treat for cure!”
  • July 14th – Patty did a “Happy Dance” on the outside deck of the Beach House Restaurant scaring most of the patrons on the deck!  Moments later the patrons are giving Patty words of encouragement and congratulating her for only having breast cancer!
  • The “Elephant in the room” pokes his ugly head out.
  • July 29th – Patty had the mastectomy.
  • July 29th through August 5th – back in “waiting game” for the lymph node results.
  • July 31 – Patty’s sister, Kathy, came out from Az to help out!  (What a huge help she was!)
  • August 5th – One in twelve lymph nodes biopsied were positive for cancer. 
  • August 5th – Patty did another “Happy Dance!”
  • August 10th – Faith, Family & Friends!
  • August 11th – “Hey cancer!  You picked the wrong broad!”
  • August 11th – I learned of the “Secret order of Women!”
  • August 14th – Patty spoke at the National City Relay for Life event!  She was amazing!
  • The “Elephant in the room” is still here!
  • August 16th through 27th – Countless blood tests, ultra-sound, biopsy, chest x-rays, PET Scan, CT Scan, Marker scans, Bone scan, Heart scan etc…
  • August 31st – with all the test finally completed where the doctors literally know every inch of Patty’s body, Patty declared: “ok I’m ready to kick this cancer’s ass!”  (that’s my girl!)
  • Sept 1st – Patty’s first chemo
  • Sept 8th – Patty took some control of the situation and shaved her head before the chemo took her hair!
  • Sept 22nd – Patty’s 2nd chemo infusion
  • Oct 1st – We learned Patty will NOT need Radiation therapy after chemo!  HUGE NEWS!
  • The side effects from the chemo were a little tougher on Patty than before.
  • October 3rd – Avery Nicole Cox, our newest granddaughter, was born!
  • October 12th – Chemo infusion #3 is done!
  • October 18th – Patty had a 2nd surgery related to the reconstruction.
  • October 16th – We learned what Adventures in Chemo are!  Patty passed out in the bathroom, lodging herself against the closed bathroom door!  Kinda tough to open when she’s passed out against it!
  • November 3rd – Chemo #4 done!
  • The chemo side effects are really getting tough for Patty, but only two more to go!
  • November 6th – We learned that Patty’s office in Placerville held a “Pink Party Day” to raise money for the Susan Komen Race for the Cure.  The money was donated in Patty’s name!!!
  • November 6th – Adventures in Chemo have returned as Patty passed out in the middle of the night while returning from the bathroom, striking her head on the nightstand.  We spent nearly 7 hours in the middle of the night at the emergency room!
  • The side effects from the chemo keep intensifying!
  • November 23rd – chemo #5 is done!!!
  • November 26th – Adventures in Chemo return!

So here we are… One week away from Chemo#6!  Can you believe it??? Number 6!!!  The last one… final… finito… done… over… no more!  The side effects keep getting stronger with each infusion.  They really knock her for a loop!  I will admit, there were a couple of times from this last infusion that I really debated in my mind whether or not to take her to the hospital.  She was sooooo weak! 

This last chemo is somewhat of a Catch 22 for Patty.  In one sense, she’s looking forward to having her last one.  In another sense, she’s dreading having to go through the side effects again, even knowing it’s the last time!  I’ll take all the necessary precautions to avoid another episode of Adventures in Chemo even if that means removing the bathroom door again!  She’ll have the last infusion on Tuesday, Dec 14th.  The side effects will be tough for the first week and then she’ll start getting stronger.  Unfortunately my guess is that she’ll be pretty fatigued on Christmas Day as that’s only 11 days after the infusion.  She should be feeling pretty good by New Years.  My guess is that her taster should be around by then and she’ll be able to bring in the new year with a glass of champagne!  Plus, we’ll also be able to celebrate Patty’s new sprouts of hair growing in around that time also!!!

There you have it!  What a Ride it’s been!  Just one more to go!

“Adventures in Chemo… The bathroom chronicles”

Chemo #5 has reared its ugly head and this bad boy has come on with a vengeance!  Patty did really well yesterday at Nicole’s house.  We got there around 2 p.m. and it was a houseful!  As much as Patty wanted to be up and mingling, I was being the party pooper and made her sit on the couch to visit.  (Hey, I know her… she’ll push her limits.  Someone has to keep an eye on her!)  We had a wonderful dinner with everyone around 5 p.m. and by 6, it was time to go home.  Patty was the one who actually realized she needed to go.  Patty plopped on the couch when we got home and she was asleep within minutes.  She got up and was in bed by 7. 

She slept good all night and woke up around 10 a.m.  A good 15 hours night sleep!  She tried to force herself to do some things this morning (when she thought I wasn’t looking)  but she just didn’t have it in her.  I was in the front of the house and realized I hadn’t heard her in a while.  I went to the bedroom and found her sound  asleep.   I heard her get up around 1 o’clock and go into the “notorious bathroom.”  I didn’t think much of it, but after a few minutes I realized she didn’t come out!  Guess what?  “Adventures in Chemo” were back.  Of course the door was closed.  I knocked on the door to which I got no response.  I tried to open the door but guess who was propped against it… deja vu!  Here we go again!  Long story short… I was able to get in and get her back to bed. 

As a result of “Adventures in Chemo… The bathroom chronicles” I’ve now removed the door!  If she won’t listen, then I’ll just take matters into my own hands.  The door will stay off until I’m comfortable that she’s getting stronger.  This will most likely only take a couple of days.  So, if you stop by, please go before you get here, or hopefully you’re not modest!

*** I’m writing the below about two hours after this post ***

Patty just discovered the bathroom door is missing!  She’s not happy about it, but you know what?  Sometimes we just gotta do what we gotta do!

Sunday, 11/28 – Just to let you know, the bathroom door went back on early yesterday.  Patty seems to have turned the corner, at least for now.  Today she seems great!  But, I realize feeling great can change at any time.

No news is good news!

It’s been well over a week since my last blog.  It’s not that I’ve been ignoring the blog, it’s just that there’s been nothing to blog about.  After the last blogs, Adventures in Chemo etc, life has been pretty quiet.  That’s a good thing since there was all kinds of action in the Sousek household over that several day period of time. 

There’s only three weeks to go until Patty is done with the chemo!  Only two more infusions in the next three weeks!  Can you believe it!  December 14th can’t come soon enough!  We’re both a little nervous about the next two infusions since we’ve really noticed an increase of the intensity in the side effects after the last couple treatments.  I told Patty that I’m really going to be strict about what she does, or attempts to do, after the next infusion.  Last time she was so weak.  I don’t want to be driving her to the emergency room at midnight because she fell or passed out!  You know how she can be.  She’ll start feeling good, then she’ll do too much!  Not this time! 

Speaking of the emergency room, yes, Patty had her stitches removed.  It actually looks pretty good.  Much better than, as she’d call it, the “Frankenstein” look… no hair, missing a boob and stitches across her forehead.  It’s a good thing she’s so pretty.   Not everyone could pull that look off!  She can! 

Patty’s taster is back!  Yippee!  It’s been back a few days!  That means we get to eat real food.   I grilled a couple of steaks on Friday night.  What  a treat! 

It’s been cold, rainy and crappy here the last couple of days, so yesterday I made some Turkey/Tortilla soup.  It was perfect!  Today will be more “comfort food.”  Just not sure what to do yet.  This was kind of funny… I was at the grocery store yesterday to pick up things for dinner.  I was in the produce department and looked over and saw a woman from behind whom I thought was Patty.  She wasthin and wearing a white hoodie like Patty… jeans… a pink ball cap and it was obvious she was in the throws of chemo. I thought to myself “What the heck is Patty doing here since she just sent me to the store?”  I was going to sneak up on her and do something (I didn’t know what, but you know me, it would have been something completely stupid but still would have had a good element of surprise).   As I got closer to her I started to think… “what if it’s not her?”  I got closer, trying to figure out if it was Patty or not… closer and closer.  The woman turned around and looked at me with a disturbed look as if she was thinking “What?  Hasn’t this guy ever seen a woman with no hair before?”   I quickly realized it wasn’t Patty.  The woman turned back and dug around the broccoli.  I felt stupid for starring so I approached her and said: “I’m sorry.  I thought you were my wife.  She’s going through chemo also.”  The woman gave me a polite laugh and said: “I get that all the time.”  She turned around and went back to her broccoli!  I walked off thinking that was a  really strange thing to say.  She just blew me off thinking I was some pervert!  Oh well.. that’s probably not the first person with that thought!

Speaking of weather… like I said, it’s been really cold, crappy and wet here.  But, I really feel for our friends up north!  We’ve been watching the live “cams” in the Tahoe and Placerville area and wow, this is really early for this strong of a winter storm!  I’m sure our house in Pollock Pines has a couple of feet of snow!  In a sense, I do somewhat miss it, but one thing that I’ve learned living back in San Diego is that you don’t have to shovel rain!!!  The snow is beautiful, and you always look forward to that first snow, but it sure is a lot of work!  Plus, I had that horrendous drive to work each day.  I don’t miss that in the least! 

Here’s a couple pictures of Tahoe’s first snow of the season!  Yuck!

Thursday is Thanksgiving!  Patty’s next infusion is Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving.  She should be ok on Thursday, but then again, if it’s anything like last treatment, the fatigue kicked in on Thursday night.  So, we’ll just have to play it by ear and see how things go.  Patty’s son, Nate, and his family are coming out from Arizona on Tuesday to spend the holiday.  Patty’s not only excited to see them, but our granddaughter, Mia, will be here!  As I said before, I really have to keep an eye on Patty so she doesn’t try to do too much! 

You know we’ve been living in that tiny condo the past 10 months.  Yep… 708 total square feet!  Pretty tight to say the least.  We had just started looking for a house when Patty’s diagnosis came up.  We decided  back then to get through this journey before we started looking again.  So, that time has come.  Patty has just three weeks to go and we’ve decided to start looking again.  We’re prequalified for a loan so here we go!  I’ll keep you posted on how the house hunt is going!

Like I said, life has been pretty “normal” these past 10 days or so.  We haven’t had to face anymore “Adventures in chemo.”  Patty has been doing really well.  I wish there was more to  report, but as they say: “No news is good news!”

Adventures in Chemo!

Over the past four chemo infusions, I thought I was getting pretty good about knowing what to expect from the side effects, when they’re going to hit, how to help Patty etc… but I have to admit, I had no idea chemo #4 was going to come on like “gang busters!”  First of all, the side effects, nausea and fatigue,  came two days earlier than usual.  She had her infusion on Tuesday and we normally have until Friday night or Saturday before anything happens.  This time both fatigue and nausea hit on Thursday evening!  Nothing we haven’t dealt with before.  But Friday, the side effects, mainly fatigue, was much more intense than usual.  A close friend of ours mother had recently passed away and the services were Friday afternoon.  As weak as Patty was, she insisted on going to support to our friend.  (Sometimes she just won’t listen to me say “NO!”)   By the time the hour an a half service was over, you could see on Patty’s face that it was time to go!  But, she went and felt good about it.

I got Patty home around 3:30 p.m. and she got into some comfy clothes and immediately flopped on the couch for a good three-hour nap!  Obviously she needed it.  The night went pretty well… she got the card that I mentioned in the previous blog and things seemed to be ok… that was until around 8:30 p.m.  The fatigue just whacked her.  She looked so weak and frail.  I knew she just needed to go to bed and get a good nights rest… and that’s how the night started.  We both went to bed around 9:00 p.m. and she immediately fell asleep while I watched a little TV and dropped around 10:00 p.m.  I was in a sound sleep when I was awakened by a “thump” and moaning!  I immediately popped out of bed to find Patty laying on the floor, on her side of the bed.  Without going into detail… what had happened, she got out of bed to go to the bathroom.  She returned to the bedroom and was so weak and dizzy, she tripped and fell, hitting her head on the nightstand!  Not good.  The next thing you know, we’re at the emergency room a little before 1:00 a.m.  We walked into the empty reception area (notice I said “empty!”)  checked in and waited to be seen…. and waited… and waited.. and waited!!!  Patty and I were finally taken back into the ER around 2:30 a.m.  The ER doctor did a quick exam and said he wanted to do a CAT Scan to make sure there was no internal bleeding from the blunt force of hitting her head… he’d also stitch up the cut and we’d be on our way.  So… again, we waited and waited and waited.  Finally around 5:00 a.m. they wheeled Patty off to do the CT scan which took a matter of minutes.  Shortly thereafter, the doctor came in and stitched up her head… 10 stitches total and we were finally home by 6:30 a.m.!!!  Hmmm… 5 hours at the ER.  What a night!  Needless to say, we were both exhausted.

God is amazing!  Patty attends a bible study group on Wednesday mornings.  She really looks forward to this day of the week for both the Subject matter as well as the women who attend.  The other day all the women in this group decided they wanted to make dinner for us and bring it over on Saturday (yesterday)  Patty’s been hesitant about anyone cooking for us since it’s just the two of us and her taster is out of whack.  But, she agreed.  There’s no doubt this was part of Gods plan, knowing we’d be exhausted and could use a little help.  So, He sent two of his Angles to our house yesterday… Donna and Bev.  The nicest women you’d ever meet!  They came by around 2:00 p.m. with bags of food that included fresh-baked pumpkin bread, salad, pasta, marinara sauce, french bread, chicken enchiladas and some apple treats!  The timing of this present couldn’t have been any better!  We were both still so exhausted from the previous night’s activities.  We gobbled down the chicken enchiladas and salad last night.  Patty ate every bit on her plate!   Her taster may be out of whack, but the food tasted sooooo good she was not about to let the taster get in the way of a meal from God. 

Patty’s doing much better today.  Sure she has 10 stitches on top of a little “goose-egg!”  She has her color back which is always a good sign!  I’m going to keep her quiet today.  I’ve told her it’s “against the law” for her to go against my orders!  If she does, there’s a price to pay!  (you know her… we’ll see if she listens!)

Hopefully the Adventures of Chemo are over for this round.  If not, we’re ready to take them on!

We knew it was too good to be true!

As you know, Patty had her first chemo this past Tuesday.  She did remarkably well through the process.  She has been feeling great this entire week… then yesterday hit.  Wham!  Like a freight train!  She woke up feeling a little tired and as the day progressed that feeling turned into big time fatigue with, as the doctors and nurses predicted, “flu-like symptoms.”  (By the way, the phrase “flu-like symptoms” doesn’t give it any credit.)  I got home a little early yesterday, around 2:00 p.m.  Patty was sitting on the sofa and you could see in her eyes that she wasn’t feeling well at all.  I brought her pillows and she crashed for a good 1 1/2 to 2 hour nap.  She woke up feeling better, but not 100%.   I could see her doing better as the evening progressed, hoping that she had turned the corner.  This morning she woke up feeling really well!  She said she wants to get on the treadmill this morning before we start our day!  That’s  a good sign!

So, we know what to expect in future treatments.  They say that the chemo will build up over each treatment and the symptoms get stronger.  So be it.  She still has a very positive attitude and she knows she’s getting better!

Monday, Sept 6th.  Ok… so I had to add to this post.  We were hoping she had turned the corner, but we were wrong.  She woke up Saturday morning feeling pretty good.  She actually went on the treadmill and walked two miles!  I was impressed.  She returned from the gym saying she felt pretty good, but a little nauseous.  She took a nausea pill and everything seemed to go away.  But, I could see her sinking as the day went on.  Her eyes don’t lie!  Early afternoon, she told me that she didn’t want to be cooped up in the condo.  (that condo can feel pretty confining!)  We decided to take a drive over to Coronado, be by the beach, and have a late lunch over at the Hotel Del.  We almost made it, then Patty told me she didn’t feel well so we turned around and headed for home.  We did stop in Rancho Bernardo and had lunch at Islands.  Food really helped her.  She ate a good lunch and seemed to be on the mend again.  We went home and as the evening approached, she wasn’t feeling well again.  We had a very quiet night.

She woke up Sunday feeling pretty good.  We got up  and had  a light breakfast.  I’d ask how she was feeling and if you know Patty she’ll always say “I’m fine.   I’m sure Patty was wondering what was up with me as I kept staring at her trying to size up how she was really feeling.  As I said, her eyes tell it all.  We showered and dressed and headed off to church.  (Church is always a good thing for us as it takes our mind off of any troubles we have!)  On the way Patty said: “I don’t understand it.”   She continued: “When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you physically feel fine.  You feel normal.  You can do anything.  But when they treat you for cancer, you feel horrible, physically and mentally!”  It’s so true!  We returned home from church and I asked if she wanted to go out somewhere for the afternoon.  She looked at me with those big blue eyes of hers and apologized, saying she just didn’t have it in her to go anywhere or do anything.  That was ok.  Patty  then went into the bedroom and took a good two-hour, if not longer, nap.  I cleaned the deck, watered the plants and watched the Padres lose their 10th game in a row!  (That’s another blog!)

Patty was able to go for a short outing with me to the grocery store and that was about it.  We had another quiet night at home.

I’m hoping today (Monday) will be a better day for Patty.  We’re both learning just how powerful chemo really is.  I just want her to feel better.  I know each day will get better for her, but the question is… when???