Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Automatic

A new post is coming, I promise. Things here are hectic to say the least. For those of you that keep checking in on us (Tessa, stop hinting. I’m doing it!) and for those of you who have e-mailed either Kay or myself, we are both trying to respond as we can. Thank you in advance for the understanding.

If you have called the house and I have yet to return your call, please just know that all the messages have been received and I’m working my way through them as quickly as I can. Again, thank you for understanding.

For those of you that are here to check on Kay, she could use some good thoughts and prayers if you are the praying type. To say that she is having a rough go of it would be a major understatement. Her treatment is going as planned, her next chemotherapy is scheduled for Friday (28th). The effects of the first treatment hit her harder than she expected and she is still dealing with the aftermath from the treatment three weeks ago.

Soph is back in Hong Kong for a few days to settle up a few things. This was the best time for her to go as she wanted to be here in time for the aftermath of Kay’s next treatment. She has been gone over a week now, and I speak for Kay and myself when I say that we miss her and pray she comes back soon.

My Dad has been in Boston for the past week. I was to go with him, but instead stayed with Kay so Soph could leave. I am glad that we made that choice rather than leaving Kay alone as it snowed (okay, the correct term would be that a blizzard hit) in Boston and left my Dad stranded for a few days. He is back home as of last night and is leaving today to join some friends on what is becoming an annual boy’s week. We will miss him and we hope that he has a relaxing time in which he is able to put the focus back on himself for even a few days.

How am I? I am exhausted. I am too tired to even think (which right now is a blessing) and am running purely on automatic. Kay is most important right now, and everything else seems minimal now. That doesn’t mean that moments don’t hit that tear me apart. They do, trust me. It doesn’t mean that every moment of each day doesn’t find me thinking of my Mom and begging for her guidance. It doesn’t mean that I am not grieving. I am doing all of the above and more . . . just right now, my primary focus is Kay’s well-being.

My husband is back in Germany. I can’t wait to see him again. Emily is with her grandparents in Ohio. I speak with them both each day and am looking forward to holding them both in arms again. When it’s time, it will happen. Right now, I am where I need to be.

A full post is coming, I promise it is. Thank you again for understanding and caring so much for all of us.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Questions

Thank you all for the kind comments, e-mail messages, and phone calls. It is comforting to know how many of you are still checking in on our family and still saying prayers and wishing good thoughts.

A few of you have privately e-mailed me to ask specific questions about Kay’s course of treatment, her disease, and prognosis. After speaking with her about it, I have decided to post a few links that you are more than welcome to check out at your own convenience.

The first link is concerning her cancer cell type: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) .

The second explains how they have and how they will stage her disease: Stages of IDC.

The third explains her treatment plan:
Systemic Chemotherapy.

The fourth shows exactly what a Port-A-Cath is and how it works: Ports for Chemotherapy.

The fifth talks about one of her chemotherapy agents: Adriamycin.

The sixth is about the second agent that makes up her treatment: Taxol.

If anyone has any other questions, feel free to e-mail them or leave them in the comments.

Kay’s surgery for the port placement and a more invasive lymph node(s) biopsy went well. She spent some extra time in the recovery room and then we went with her to sit while she had entire body scans (PET) . She was admitted that evening to pump her body full of fluids. The first chemotherapy treatment was started on Friday. She slept during the entire treatment, most of the night, and woke up for a short time Saturday morning only to come home and go back to sleep for the major part of the day.

She has slept a lot (this is good) and has had some trouble with severe nausea since her release on Saturday. We are trying to juggle anti-emetics enough to help control this. So far, we haven’t been successful. She is refusing to drink until we get it straight and we are working on finding the correct dose as we can’t let her get dehydrated right now.

The rest of us . . . well, we are hanging in here. It’s bringing up some memories that we were not prepared to face and had hopes of never facing again, but we are trying to cope and help Kay right now. She is most important and we are doing everything we can to hold her up as she conquers this.

Thank you for your continued thoughts, prayers, and well wishes.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Thrown

This evening my family and I are walking on known and previously trodden ground. Words are not being spoken regularly, but the tears can be seen frequently flowing. In a few short hours, we will step into a world that we have tried our best to outrun. We are being thrown into a world that has shattered our lives and we have no choice in the matter.

At 1:30 tomorrow afternoon, my Aunt Kay will enter the surgical unit at our local hospital for a Port-A-Cath to be placed within her chest wall. When she gets out of the recovery area, we will take her to the radiology unit and sit with her for complete body scans. We are once again being thrown back into the cancer world.

On December 21st, Kay was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC). This is a very treatable breast cancer and one of the more common cell forms. She will be undergoing a fairly aggressive form of chemotherapy, a double cocktail of Adriamycin and Taxol (AT) beginning Friday. She will also have a double modified radical mastectomy during the course of her chemotherapy treatment plan (most likely after the second treatment). When her chemotherapy protocol is completed to the satisfaction of her oncologist, she will undergo four weeks of harsh radiation to rid any remaining cancerous cells.

Her treatment plan is very aggressive. I have said this. It is not because her cell type demands it, it is aggressive for preventive measures. She, like us, doesn’t want to take any chances, just in case. Kay’s oncologist is not the same doctor who treated Mom, but she is familiar with the case, nonetheless. She also thinks aggressively treating it is best, given the family history. We all feel slightly relieved at the harshness of the treatment plan, not because we want Kay to go through the same hell that Mom did, completely the opposite, in fact. We want her to have the best odds at beating this and we all feel like she is being given that with the aggressive treatment plans.

The hardest thing for us as a family to grasp is that this is NOT what my mother had. This cell type that Kay has, it is entirely different in comparison to Mom’s cell type. Mom’s cancer was unresponsive to chemotherapy, but Kay’s isn’t. Mom’s cell type invaded her entire organ system, Kay’s has not and will not. Mom’s cell type was fatal and her prognosis at the time of diagnosis was bleak. Kay’s cell type has an excellent prognosis of a complete cure with proper treatment.

My Aunt Kay is lucky. They keep telling us this. It has been diagnosed before it invades her body. It is highly treatable with the proper course of treatment. Her treatment plan has an anticipated end, even before it begins. My mother was not this lucky, but we are trying hard to set aside our anger and focus only upon Kay’s mental health and her physical well being.

As I write this, my Aunt Sophie is bustling around the house packing for Kay’s hospital stay. They have shown nothing but support for each other in the entire time Sophie has been in our lives, but the past few days, she has been the strong anchor for all of us. She continually reminds us that this is not going the beginning of the end, and this will not capture my Aunt Kay. She reminds us of lessons we learned via my Mom, she reminds us of the everlasting love we have for each other, and she reminds us to hold on . . . to whatever we can right now.

There have been many tears shed by us, and many more shed by Kay. Please hold her with good thoughts and/or prayers as she enters this stage of her life. We are trying to hold onto each other right now, do what is best for Kay, keep reminding her that what happened to my Mom is NOT going to happen to her . . . we just won’t let it.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Valley

Each year as I grew up and began a family of my own, I remember my mom writing a New Year’s Eve letter. It was always a letter that told of what she hoped for us in the upcoming year, what she loved about the past year, and most of all, the lessons she had learned during the previous 365 days. This year, I would like to take on her tradition, one I would like to continue throughout Emily’s life.

Tonight as we say a good-bye to 2004 and welcome 2005 into our lives, I cannot help but recall all that has happened this year. We have been taken as a family to new heights of joy and have reached deeper lows than we have ever seen before. To quote my mother "the mountaintops were stunningly beautiful, but I learned the most while walking in the valleys."

We stood united as a family as we helped my mother fight for her life through countless treatments and procedures. We remembered my baby sister as we marked the first full year she has been gone. We mourned along with the rest of the nation the remembrance of 9/11 which took the life of my eldest sister and thousands of other innocent people. We said good-bye to the matriarch of our family, our strength to do this came from her. We made choices we didn’t want to be making as we released her to the heavens. We once again joined together as a family to hold each other as my aunt was faced with horrible choices. We faced the holidays with broken hearts, shattered joy, and a lack of peace. On the last day of 2004, we said good-bye to Sara’s beloved dog, Lucky.

There were good memories. We learned to love each other stronger, hold each other tighter, and lean on each other more. We listened to my mother as she showed us to face life and death with wisdom, beauty, and grace. We spoke with our hearts, poured out our souls, and held onto each precious moment as tightly as we could. We laughed as Mom left us with funny remarks, embraced each other as we cried with her, and held her hand as she went to join her angels. We learned much about ourselves by watching her journey. She taught us to be brave in the face of fear, live each day as if it is your last, and to truly love life.

As a mother, there were certain special memories for me. Emily’s first tooth, the first time Emily used that first tooth on my finger, Emily’s first word, her first steps, and her first trip to the States. I will always hold close to my heart the last image I have of Emily and her grandmother. They were laying side by side, asleep and content, together. Each had a smile upon her face and it is an image that I have made sure to brand upon my memory so as not to forget it.

There were many other memories made in 2004, both devastating and wonderful memories. I will treasure 2004 as the best and the worst year of my life. I learned how strong I am as well as how weak I truly am. I learned that my heart can remain broken and I can still find joy in other parts of my life. I learned that God is always there, even when I am angry and walk away. The mountaintops were beautiful, Mom . . . but you are right. I have learned more about life by standing in the valley.