Monday, January 31, 2011

Can you believe it? Treatment - week #7

Happy Monday to Everyone!

We met with Dr. Mirda this morning to review Mom's tolerance of the chemotherapy.  He was very pleased with today's lab results.  The blood transfusion from last week eliminated the anemia and all other categories looked great.  He does not expect her to need another blood transfusion and feels she will do well with the final two chemo treatments.

He said she was handling this better than Michael Douglas!  Well, of course she is - she is Mary Bickford!

Mom got a lot of rest this weekend.  Saturdays and Sundays are great days for her body to recover from the weekday treatments.  She enjoyed her visit with Sr. Anne, who came up from the city on Saturday for an overnight stay.

We hope you all have a very good week!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Another week completed!

Mom has finished her sixth week - the countdown is left with:

6 radiation, 2 chemo

She has had a pretty good week.  The ointment the doctor prescribed for the radiation burn (Silvadene) seems to be providing her some relief.  I would like to think it looks worse than it feels....but I know that's not true.  Mom never complains - she has been so tough during all of this.

The chemotherapy really impacts her white and red blood cells.  They draw blood each week before her infusion to check the levels.  This week, they felt her red blood cells were too low - so she had a transfusion yesterday.  This should give her a boost, helping with her fatigue and energy.  Once again, we met a new group of wonderful medical professionals - this time the group of nurses at the Same Day Surgery Center at the Queen.
Mom and Marjorie, yesterday - following her blood transfusion
We are looking forward to a weekend visit with Sr. Anne.  It's hard to believe that January is almost over.  February 8th will be here before we know it - that is the last scheduled day of treatment!

Have a wonderful weekend,

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Count it Down With Us!

Yesterday, Mom had a lovely visit with one of her cousins.  Sheila, Chris and Anu stopped by the house on their way to Sonoma.  How nice it is for her to have these visits from friends and family!

Monday, January 24th
Chris, Sheila, Mom and Anu

After today's treatments are completed ..... Mom will have only 9 remaining radiation fractions and 2 chemotherapy infusions!!!!  Radiation is expected to be completed on Monday, February 7th and chemo to be finished on Tuesday, February 8th.  We are all so proud of her.  She certainly is ONE TOUGH LADY.

This last phase will be the hardest - so they tell us.  All of your support and best wishes are very much appreciated.  The many visits, phone calls, cards, emails and blog posts have certainly aided in her perserverance.

Let's keep them coming as we all cheer her down the home stretch!!!

Thank you all so much,

Friday, January 21, 2011

Our role model!

Here are a couple of photos taken yesterday.  Despite her challenges, Mom looked adorable - dressed beautifully for her trip to the city to see Dr. Ryan:

A bright, sunny day in Napa - 1/20

Walking into the Helen Diller Head & Neck Cancer Center - UCSF


Thursday, January 20, 2011

23/35 AND 5/8 !!!!!!

It's hard to believe Mom has completed over half her treatments of both radiation and chemotherapy!  We are almost finished with the fifth week.

She had visits with four doctors this week; Dr. Mirda - her chemo oncologist on Monday, Dr. Knister - her radiation oncologist on Tuesday, Dr. Freeto - her gastro doctor and Dr. Ryan - her Ear, Nose & Throat surgeon today.  Wow - how many of you GET to see so many physicians?  And they all love her!  You can imagine how many heart pins were handed out this week!

We received POSITIVE reports from all the doctors.  The treatments are progressing as they should and Mom's reactions and symptoms from the treatments are normal.  She has been such a "trooper" through all of this!

The current challenge is the burn in her neck area.  It is very sensitive and the skin is very delicate.  We are slathering her with moisturizer frequently, in attempts to protect it as best as we can.  It is still painful for her and might possibly get worse as we finish out the remainder of the radiation in the coming two weeks. 

We hope you all have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the fantastic spring-like weather we are having!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Treatment - Week #4

This is Tuesday of week four.  16 radiation sessions completed and 4 chemotherapy infusions done!!  I thought it might be nice for you to see a few more people that have been providing such loving care to Mom.
Dr. Knister (radiation oncologist) with Mom this morning
Beth (radiation therapist) with Mom yesterday
Dr. Knister feels Mom is doing very well with her radiation treatment.  Her complaints are not serious and those that she has, she is dealing with them with her typical strength and courage.  Beth has been so wonderful with Mom each day.  She has become Mom's "daily" friend, as the radiation technician everyday.

Following radiation, we went on to chemotherapy.  She has had three nurses; Ula, Mary and Robbie.  Today, Robbie is taking care of Mom.  They have all been so kind!
Robbie - getting prepared to start her chemo infusion

Today was also a day to share her HEART pins that she has been working on.  Mom's presence can be known just by the appearance of those special sequined pins!!!

Have a great day,

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Shhhhhhh ..... lower your voice!

It sure has been cold here in Napa this past week, low 30's at night and low 40's during the day.  Each day, Mom bundles up warmly before going to radiation.  She has completed three of the seven weeks of treatment - and so far has remained strong and healthy!

This weekend, she is relaxing ..... watching NFL playoffs, mending clothes and working on her HEART pins.

Saturday, January 8th
 We are observing a consistent pattern in how she is responding to the treatments.  After three cycles (weeks) of treatment, she now knows what she can expect each day.  On Thursdays ..... she knows she will feel better on Saturday.  On Mondays .... she knows she will have a couple of days of "euphoric" energy.  Pacing this energy is important so that she doesn't become too tired on Thursday.  We should have it completely figured out by the seventh week!!

I'd like to share an interesting piece of information we received from Dr. Knister last Tuesday.  Since Mom is being treated at her vocal cord area, it is important for her to not "over use" her voice.  She has become hoarse from the treatment - which is expected and is normal.  Her voice will return after completion of radiation.  Until then, she should not raise her voice - an instinctive response when you are hoarse. We try to increase the volume to compensate for the hoarseness.  SHE SHOULD NOT DO THIS.   If she does continue to raise her voice, she will develop calluses on her vocal cords, which will remain post-treatment, causing the integrity of her returning voice to be diminished.

So ..... if you are talking with her ..... and cannot hear her, please remind her to just listen and rest her voice. Or say, "Shhhhhh, lower your voice!"

Have a great weekend,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Congratulations to the Bennett family!

We have a new arrival in the family ...... adding a new generation to Mom's family.  She is now a great-great grandmother!

Cathy is a great grandmother ...... Terry is a grandmother ..... and Michael and Hayden are the proud parents of a baby girl, born this morning at 5:14 am.  Aubrey Ann Kornbrust weighed 7 lbs, 2 oz and was 21" long.

Aubrey Ann Kornbrust

Mom sending best wishes to the Bennett family!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

We are into the third week of treatment and Mom is doing really great.  Today was her lo-o-o-ong day.  On Tuesdays she has both radiation and chemotherapy, so we are out for almost six hours.

Her day began today with a warm, relaxing shower - followed by a nice visit from her friend, Mary Donohoe.  Mary was kind enough to bring her the Eucharist.  It hasn't been ideal for Mom to attend Mass in recent weeks, which she has dearly missed.  So it really was great that Mary brought Communion to her today.  She is hoping to go to Mass this Sunday.  The forecast looks good and so long as her strength holds up ..... that's the plan!

After Mary's visit, we had to leave for the Queen and radiation.  We have weekly meetings with the radiation oncologist and today was the day to talk with Dr. Knister.  He reviews with Mom how she is responding to the treatment, helping her to deal with any negative symptoms she might be experiencing.  He is incredibly compassionate as well as empathetic to how she is feeling.  It is quite obvious that he truly LISTENS to his patients and responds accordingly.

After this, we went across the driveway - literally - to Redwood Regional Medical Group, the chemotherapy facility for her weekly infusion.  Today her attending nurse was Mary, the same nurse that provided us with the "chemo teaching".  Consistent with every single medical professional we have encountered, Mary was absolutely wonderful to Mom today!

Keeping her hands busy while resting comfortably
Let's hope the remainder of the week progresses as smoothly as the first half!