Thursday, March 5, 2009

Here We Go Again

Mike asked me to marry him on July 11, 2006. Mom was diagnosed with B cell, abdominal, non-operable, non-hodgkins lymphoma on August 6th of the same year. It's classified officially as stage 4, but just barely, as only little spots of cancer were present in her marrow. So we call it stage 3 1/2. Later in 2006, she underwent nine weeks of chemotherapy - cytoxin, vincristine, and rituxin - but the lymphoma didn't budge.

So her oncologist decided that we would wait to pour more toxins into Mom until the cancer was once again on the move. Cancer reacts to chemo when the cells are dividing, so a slow-moving cancer like Mom's doesn't react as well as fast-growing cancers do. So Mom would do scans every 3-6 months to see what was going on, and so far, so good.

Pessimists see a glass as half-empty. Optimists see a glass as half-full. I see a glass with something in it.

On one hand, yay! No chemotherapy! On the other hand, Mom still has something in her that's not suppposed to be there. It's kind of a catch-22.

Around March of last year, Mom developed a spot on her right cheek. After visiting three dermatologists (and asking each one of them to biopsy it, which they wouldn't), she was finally referred to a plastic surgeon to remove what all the doctors thought was a subaceous cyst. Yep, it was a manifestation of the lymphoma. We went straight to her oncologist, who was rather frustrated that she didn't get to take a stab (no pun intended) at it, but we figured it was a one-time deal. It was gone, and now we just had to deal with the scar that was left.

Last week another spot came up on Mom's face. It's just above her left temple. She happened to have a follow-up appointment with one of her surgeons on Tuesday, but he said that we can't remove this new spot surgically: it's too big and in a spot on her face that doesn't have much fat. We went to Mom's oncologist on Wednesday morning. Her scans all show a stable status: the lymphoma in her body hasn't moved. But Dr. Shumaker believes that Mom's symptoms are enough to consider treatment as opposed to maintaining the status quo.

Dr. Shumaker put Mom on Keflex, an antibiotic, Tagamet, a histamine 2 blocker, and Benadryl as needed when she breaks out in hives on her arms and legs (this happens about once a week). She also upped Mom's Lexapro because Mom and her oncologist have a suspicion that maybe the stress from tax season leads to these nodes popping up on her face. I'm not convinced of that but hey, at least she'll be happy about what's going on!

So we're going to wait the 6 weeks until tax season is over and have a follow-up on April 20th. If the spot is still there, we'll have it biopsied. If it turns out to be lymphoma, we'll start on a systemic chemotherapy for reoccurrent lymphoma, even though Mom's cancer has always just sat there and hasn't really occurred again.

Her last chemo was relatively easy - one day every three weeks. If we do go in for this new chemo, it'll be more involved - five mornings every three weeks, depending on her cell counts. Again, on one hand, yay! She may get rid of the lymphoma! On the other hand, boo. Chemo.


Katy Agnew said...

OK cousin... Let me know what I can do to help. I don't really know what else to do other than pray but I'll do whatever you/Auntie Dee needs me to. I can cook, offer entertainment during chemo, whatever. I love you both dearly and am here for you!!

Neal McQuinn said...

Hi Fran,
Thank you so much for the update. How does she feel? Tax season is a bug-a-boo! Please let me know what I can do. I've got pretty much time to take her to chemo, feed animals, cook, whatever. You sound like an MD! Let me know and love to you both. Neal


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