"Mom" Archived Info
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All health updates up until her death on March 15, 2006 are listed here. The announcement page (with additional information) can be found here.
Final update: my mother was put into hospice late evening on March 12th, and she passed away at 10:35 AM on Wednesday, March 15th.
(3/11/06) Been an interesting last couple weeks. On February 28th my mom was checked into the hospital for "high potassium & low sodium" levels, which could cause a seizure. Over two days this was monitored and corrected, though she had to miss her scheduled chemo treatment on 3/1. She felt much better over the weekend but was still having problems keeping food down (this has been going on at various levels for the prior couple weeks). On Monday afternoon (3/6) she began having severe problems breathing and was rushed back to the hospital. Unfortunately she had to spend most of the evening in ER since Naples Community Hospital was "all full", causing my dad to nearly blow a gasket when "discussing" the situation with the staff. However, after a few hours a room became available, followed by a much nicer one the next day, and this is where my mom stayed until late Thursday afternoon.
To summarize, they removed about 1700cc of fluid from her lungs, which was of course an immediate improvement. Her potassium/sodium levels were again way off, which was being attributed to failing adrenal glands...but the good news is that they can be fixed via steroid shots. Her levels were adjusted via treatments and she was kept in check, though another week of chemo treatments had to be postponed. Her eating improved dramatically by Wednesday and she "ate like a horse" (her exact words) without barfing it back up. She was hoping to get out of the hospital early Thursday, but they wanted to finish with their tune-ups. After a blood transfusion, she headed home where my sister, her husband and Isabella were waiting; they just got in for a visit the night before. The doctors still want to do an endoscopy (tube down the throat to see what's going on) in the near future, which I believe she's planning for in the next week or so. At the time of this writing she's doing significantly better, and if she can keep eating well her strength will improve. Also, assuming there are no other imbalances, she'll resume chemo treatments this Wednesday (3/15).
(2/23/06) We were down visiting over my mom's 62nd birthday (2/11) and got some pretty good news on Valentine's day - my mom is being removed from Hospice as the (biopsy) tests run have come back with some potentially effective choices for treatment. Herceptin, which is a newer experimental chemo treatment that's shown good success with breast cancer patients, apparently is a good "match" for the cancer cells. This is all microbiology terminology...but to summarize, this particular treatment should be mostly effective in slowing or stopping the growth of the cancer. A good thing is that the side effects are minimal. Anyway, my mom had her first treatment on Wednesday 2/22 and so far has held up well. We'll hopefully start seeing good results in the next few weeks. As for our visit, she's doing OK but generally tires out rather quickly and does have to use the oxygen at times. Usually when doing things she's good for 2-3 hours then needs to rest. This was of course expected, but if the new treatment shows signs of working she could start regaining some strength. As usual, more updates as they become available. BUT, for now, at least the news is encouraging!
(1/28/06) A lot has happened over the past couple weeks. First, the surgery on January 19th went fine and my mom now has a catheter in place (abdomen) to allow her to drain the fluid buildup. This will make her more comfortable and theoretically would allow chemo treatment directly to the main source. Recovery was rather rough the first few days but she's now sounding pretty good. She's on oxygen when needed. A biopsy was done during the surgery and in a couple weeks we should have the test results back to determine if there will be any specific chemo treatments that will work (so, for the time being, no chemo treatments are being administered). Unfortunately the initial news is quite bad - the tumors are not subsiding, and the doctor is talking about experimental drugs/treatments to combat what has been a losing battle to date. The straightforward news is that time is severely limited. It was suggested that Hospice be brought in, which my dad is looking into at this time. Anyone who's familiar with this knows it's usually the last step. However, nobody has given up yet and my mom is tough. More updates as more is known.
(1/12/05) It's still nice to report that my mother is feeling good and has a very positive attitude...she's determined to keep living and in fact just went out and bought a new car! By not giving up she has certainly won that part of the battle. Now, if we can just get the chemo treatments to really work, she can win the war. Since the tests in mid-December her CA125 tests went back up, which basically means the prior treatments weren't working. Her doctor is now taking the chemo directly to the source - her abdomen - as next Thursday she will go in for minor surgery to place a tube in the primarily affected area. This will serve as a port for the latest chemo treatment (Taxol, which apparently is pretty rough) and also allow her to more consistently drain the fluid that builds up in her abdominal cavity on a weekly basis...which has been her major source of discomfort as she gets a paracentesis every 5-7 days. My mom is actually looking forward to the surger, calling it a "blessing" as it should at the very least help keep her more comfortable. Anyway, a week after the surgery she will start on the new treatment...and I'll report back right here as to the results.
(12/20/05) Some good news just in time for the holidays - the CA125 levels (determines the cancer severity) have dropped roughly 35% since here last test, which was before she started the new chemo treatment. Now, the levels are still much higher than they should be, she's still getting the fluid retention and obviously there is a long way to go, but this is a very encouraging sign that the treatment may just be working! I'll have another update in a few weeks, and hopefully it will be more positive news.
(11/30/05) Since my last update there have been a few changes of note. First, the good news is that there have been no more hospital visits and her bloodwork (while on coumadin) has been fine. The chemo treatments started up about three weeks after her hospital visit, and it was a new type as the previous change did not produce desirable results. So far there haven’t been any major issues with it (either good or bad) but it’s still too early to tell. We should have a better idea as to the effectiveness by late December.
The not-so-good news is that her abdomen continues to fill up with fluid that requires weekly draining (pericentesis); it tends to be quite a bit (5-7 liters in a week) and as you can imagine becomes rather uncomfortable and can make it difficult for her to breathe. Additionally, as would be expected there has been some weight loss and overall weakness…she gets tired easily and rests much more often. However, her appetite is strong, actually she’s eating very well! It just doesn’t seem to be “sticking”, so to say.
This has been a tough battle that unfortunately doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. The one positive is that my mom is a remarkably tough woman and if she’s going down it is certainly not without a good fight. At this moment unless something drastically good or bad happens in the next couple weeks, my next “mom” update will be at the end of December.
(10/13/05) Treatments have went well and assuming her blood levels are at the normal level she'll be released on Friday 10/14. Apparently she feels great and is staying hospitalized as a precautionary measure. Chemo treatments will start up again in a couple week, and in the meantime the rest of the family is making plans for a visit. So far so good, and I'll report more in the near future.
(10/6/05) My parents returned to Florida the day before, for a primary checkup with her main physician and to do a few things at their home in Naples before returning to North Carolina for a few more weeks. However, after the checkup my mother was admitted to the hospital for symptoms unrelated to her cancer & subsequent chemo treatments. She has been very short of breath lately, and upon further tests a blood clot had formed in her right pulmonary artery (this supplies blood/oxygen to the lungs). Doesn't that just figure...it's like this poor lady simply cannot get a break! Though a very serious condition, it was detected and should be successfully handled. She'll be in the hospital in Ft. Myers for 5-6 days to complete all treatments and observations. Afterwards, chemo treatments will continue though per the checkup the doctor may not be quite as aggressive (two days of treatments, then two weeks off). The unfortunate news is that he is not optimistic if this or any other subsequent treatments will actually be able to completely "cure" the cancer, but this was something we pretty much already knew. Of course this new treatment just started so we'll as usual hope for the best.
(10/2/05) As of September 26th my mom changed over to a new treatment, as the prior analysis from a few weeks ago changed...basically that treatment "topped out" and was only maintaining her condition at best. This one is a bit more "aggressive" in terms of the schedule - three straight days of treatment, then two weeks off for recovery. Unfortunately she'll lose her hair again and likely be more tired than usual, but apparently this treatment has shown overall good results in prior patients. A small price to pay for a longer lifetime of health, right!?! As of this writing the first "round" is done, and good news, she's feeling pretty good. Additionally, the fluid buildup that was becoming a major issue from the prior treatments is definitely dissipating as much less was drained this last time.
(9/11/05) The latest test results are in, and the doctors feel that the current treatments are proving to be effective. She'll remain on this type of chemo for the time being and hopefully show significant improvement over the next few months. Right now she's actually feeling really good and is doing everything right (no travel, lots of rest, etc). It will probably be a couple more weeks until we have another update, but for now it appears that she's heading in the right direction.
(9/4/05) We're still waiting for the second round of the new treatments to finish, but so far the prognosis has been pretty good. My mom has been feeling really good and it seems like the fluid buildup has been slowing. As she puts it, she can still fit in her "skinny" pants! Additionally, the CA125 tests (shows ovarian cancer levels) has begun to decrease again, which is excellent. We should know more results soon.
(8/19/05) The verdict on the new treatment (Topotecan) is still out, but after labor day we'll know more. A week ago my mom had a another procedure to drain the fluid in her abdomen, and the good news is that the fluid buildup since has been greatly reduced - a sign that the cancer cells are not reproducing as much, and/or the new treatment is working. As of this moment she's "grounded" from any further travel until after further tests & results (after labor day). However, she's generally feeling good and looking forward to seeing the "kids" and grandkids again soon. You can see a few pics of her with Isabella here.
(8/7/05) About a week ago my mom switched chemo treatments...seems like the last one more or less topped off in effectiveness, plus she was having some unpleasant side effects (primarily bloating of her abdomen due to water retention). The new treatment apparently isn't as "pleasant" in terms of how you feel on the days immediately following it, but the different chemicals may help continue the positive progress that she's been having the past few months. Apparently the tumor(s) aren't growing though are not receding as quickly as the doctor would like. Anyway, more later.
(7/17/05) Progress continues to be positive as the tests are showing improvement. The three weeks on, one week off series of chemo is a bit taxing on the body (to say the least), especially on a 61-year-old lady who had prior health problems. She gets very tired quite easily, which is understandable. However, generally she's been feeling pretty good and of course the positive results certainly help the mood. I'll keep adding updates as they come along.
(6/18/05) A decent update worth noting on the CA125 tests (referenced below). The drop in the levels have started to kick in rather well and showed a relatively significant drop since the last one in May. As mentioned below she feels good and is in great spirits, so keep your fingers crossed and the prayers coming as she is getting better every day!
(5/20/05) As my parents head to their North Carolina “summer home”, some great news was delivered regarding my mom’s current chemo treatments. The blood tests (CA125) that determine cancer levels continue to show a decrease, which would give every indication that the treatments are working. Additionally, she seems to be feeling fine. Chemo treatments are three weeks on, one week off, and though that can't be a whole lot of fun they seem to be showing some progress. Overall this is encouraging news, but what's important right now is that my mom is exercising again and feeling great!
A bit of background: many of you probably know by now that Mary was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in February 2004. To make a long story short, it was caught before it had a chance to spread through her system and the vast majority was removed with surgery. Six chemotherapy treatments later, her test counts dropped down to a normal ("cancer-free") level in the early fall. Great news...however, several weeks later some follow-up test results indicated that she would probably need to continue with some medication, and after more results came back it showed that the cancer hadn't really been "fixed." There is a newer chemo treatment (Genzyme) that is more of a maintenance vs. cure, to slow the growth and spreading while other options become available. That's where we stand right now, and as mentioned all indications are that it's working pretty good so far. The next few months are very important in terms of how she reacts to the treatments.
THANK YOU to those of you who have kept her in your thoughts and prayers, and I will keep you posted as to what we hope will be very positive progress!
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