Saturday, July 19, 2008

Starting Chemo!

The meeting we were looking forward to on Friday with Dr. Quevedo, the Oncologist, went very well. He answered our questions, but more importantly we really liked his optimism and concern for my situation as a person, not just fulfilling his role as a medical professional.

Dr. Quevedo was surprised that we had traveled all the way to Rochester when we only live 30 minutes from Scottsdale Mayo, and we explained that we were still waiting to be seen there. To make a long story short he told us that we could begin a Chemo cycle if we'd like to stay here in MN on Tuesday, with the hope that we'd be able to get in to Scottsdale for the 2nd cycle. A cycle of chemo is administered ever 2 weeks or so until the cancer is gone or my body starts being unable to take the side effects.

This decision, whether to stay here, keep searching out the other facilities, or to wait to start in Scottsdale, was a hard decision for me to make. We had some time to think about it and went back to the hotel to mull it over. Justin went home early on Thursday morning, since we were thinking we'd be heading back to AZ on Friday and he could then get another two days of work in. So he and I discussed our options over the phone. He wanted to be here when I started, and we weren't sure that we wanted to start here because as mentioned before once you start treatment somewhere your odds of getting in at another facility go down dramatically. The chemo I'd be started on is a 'standard protocol' of sorts, and we were hoping to get to participate in some clinical trials for very promising new techniques that I won't go into here. There were no openings for these trials, and so we only had this one option...which is by no means 'bad', just not exactly what we were hoping for.

While we were back at the hotel, Dr. Quevedo called and asked me if I wanted to come back to the hospital to meet a patient who was currently on the same chemo treatments that he had recommended for me. We jumped at the chance and went right away.

When we got back to the Hospital we were introduced to Debbie and her sister Patty. Debbie also had/has colon cancer that has metastasized to her liver. She had already had surgery to remove the portion of her colon affected back in April, and was on her 4th chemo cycle. During our meeting with him earlier the doctor had gone over the risks of chemo, and I admit that hearing them made me anxious/scared and a host of other emotions all wrapped up in one. But meeting Debbie was exactly what I needed to get over those fears and be ready to move forward. She greeted us with hugs, it's funny how you feel connected to someone who is experiencing something so personal, just like you are. She was so perky and energetic, not at all what I pictured someone on chemo as being. She shared what side effects had manifested with her, but that they were all manageable, and she was able to carry on quite normally with her day to day life. She even still had her hair! :)

My dad spoke with Dr. Quevedo and had a few more questions answered that we were concerned about and now we're ready to move forward!!

So....I'm more nervous for this part of the chemo prep than the chemo itself...

Yikes! This is a "portacath". We first learned about this during the meeting with the surgeon on Wednesday, and I had a small mis understanding about what exactly it entailed. I've told my family all along that while I hate having IV's, blood drawn etc, that I would be fine as long as I never had to have anything like that in my neck... well when the surgeon described this all I heard was "Catheter in my neck" and nothing else really registered from that point forward. I'll be asleep during this procedure (for the better of all involved!!). I now understand that it is a catheter and a 'pump' about the size of a quarter that will be implanted under my skin in my chest and the line will run to my jugular vein where its much better for the chemo drugs to be administered this way. Like any surgery there are risks involved, and I'm not going to list them here...but if you'd like to pray for something specific pray for me to be at ease for this procedure on Monday :) Debbie showed me her portacath, but hers was not implanted beneath her skin, hers was a large thing that stuck out...I'm not sure which I'd rather have, but I don't really have a choice!!
So this is the exciting news for this update...I'll get the portacath put in on Monday, it's a quick 30 minute procedure or so, then on Tuesday start the chemo. It will take approximately 40 hours for the chemo to 'drip' into me, then I'll be able to come home whenever I feel up to it. Possibly as early as Thursday!
So, I have to admit that initially on Friday after the meeting I was feeling kind of discouraged after the meeting, mostly because I was not looking forward to making the decision. When we were walking to the car, I was noticing all of the sick children walking past me and I started to feel so guilty for wallowing in my pity. My situation seems to pale in comparison to many of theirs, yet they are SO happy, cheerful and smiling. I know it seems like I'm young to be going through what I am, but then again I'm not at all when I look at these little guys. If they can smile through it, so can I!! One thing that Debbie said to me (she and her sister were exceptionally happy people) I don't think I'll forget. It's something that I've thought before, but again hearing it from someone who knows because they are 'in my shoes' so to speak means more. She said, "You know this is just a blip on your life's journey, so treat it that way. It will be over soon enough, and you don't want to look back and wish you'd been happier etc." She's right!
Yesterday was a great day, THANK YOU all for your prayers!!


Our Family said...

Again, Suz! You rock! We will be praying that you will be at ease and praying that you will be able to come home soon. Love you!

Kristin said...

Susan, we will be thinking of you as you begin your treatment. You have been so brave and have amazing courage. We love you!

hlmortensen said...

Hey Susan,
It sounds like you are pretty nervous about the portacath. Mike says that it shouldn't be bad. (Hopefully he's right! :) I'm glad that you were able to meet with someone else and she could give you the inside scoop about chemo. I'm also glad you are going to be able to get started right away and then come back home. YEAH! Hope you feel better fast. We're still thinking of you. :)

Michael & Sarah Jacobson said...

Hey kiddo, Sarah and I are thinking of you and praying for you. I am glad you were able to meet with Debbie and speak to her about her experience. Her upbeat attitude (and yours) always helps. Reminds me of a few of my favorite quotes.

"Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present"

"Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it. ~Lou Holtz"

-Michael and Sarah Jacobson

Brad, Briene and Brayden said...

Susan we will continue to pray for you. What a great experience to be able to meet someone who knows what you will be going through. We love you and can't wait for you to be able to come back to AZ but are so grateful that they were able to help you out so quick in MN. Thanks for the updates.

Mike Steph and Brooklyn said...

Suz I am so happy that things are moving along like they are. You definitely are receiving blessings during this whole experience. I am sure you are looking forward to getting through this week and hopefully being reunited with Justin and your family. I will be praying that everything goes well this week so that you can get back.
You are so BRAVE girl, I am so proud of you and how you have been handling this! I wouldn't expect you to take it any different, you have always had so much strength! I hope even when times get tough you never forget how much everyone loves you!
Love ya!

megan allen said...

Oh Susan, I'm so glad things went so well for you! WE most definately will be praying for peace for you and your family. I love you dearly!

Anonymous said...

I had a device similar to the portacath when I was sick last year. I hardly knew it was there, it worked great and made everything simplier.

Susan we are encouraged to know that you are receiving such excellent care. Between that, your great attitude, and the love and support of your family and friends; you have a winning team!

You are in our thoughts and prayers everyday.

Aunt Donna

Lizzie said...


I have been thinking about you so much lately. You and your family are in my prayers. I love your positive attitude-you are making some pretty good lemonade girl :)

Good Luck tomorrow!

Lizzie Beeson

Lorinda said...

Your mom told me about your blog, so I hope you don't mind me reading. What a pleasure it was to see you and your parents! What kind, wonderful, optimistic people you are. Thanks for taking the time to be interested in our kids and stopping by for a visit. We're happy to help in any way while you're here in Rochester. We, too are praying and fasting for you! Take care.

Anonymous said...

I visited with two people today who had portacaths, they both said that it made things so much easier....
You are in our thoughts and prayers continually. Your positive attitude is an inspiration!

Aunt Gail

Cynthia (Strange) Stubits said...

Susan - so sorry to hear about all of this, but so glad you're keeping a positive attitude. When we were worried my mom might not recover from her chemo/stem cell transplant in time for our wedding, the doctors at Duke told us that getting there was exactly the thing keeping her alive. Never underestimate the power of staying positive! We'll be praying for you. If you ever end up at NIH for some reason, our home is open to you and any family.

Ben said...

I just realized how formidable of a scrabble opponent you are going to be after all of this... "portacath", "metastasized".... just remember that the scrabble dictionary only goes up to 7 letters in length :) Thanks for keeping us included, we're all praying for you. Ben

Adriana said...

Mary Anne Radmacher:
Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.

Although I think you are roaring much louder than I ever could, I think you are doing an amazing job of facing each new day with a great attitude!

Way to be! We love you and your family!

Anonymous said...

Susan -
Our family's thoughts are with you...stay strong! I don't know if you already have a dog, but having one around that's insanely happy 24/7 can help keep the spirits up. Take care and God Bless.

J,J,E&E Klages

Amber said...

YAY! for skipping the colonoscopy! and if the portacath means less poking you with needles and I think it will totally be worth it! :-) If you are stuck in a hospital bed during the chemo treatment make your parents go get you a good book. If you haven't read twilight yet you should read it--it is very addicting and sucks you into the story so much that you forget everything going on around you. Which isn't the greatest For those of us with chores to do --but it might be the perfect thing to take a break from all the thinking you have had to do :-)

Donna said...

Dear Susan and Family,
I am Dolly Martinez’s sister, Donna and live in Indiana, near Chicago. Dolly knows your parents from church. Dolly sent me the link to your blog because I have been undergoing treatment for Multiple Myeloma cancer. It’s a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow; a blood cancer in the same family as leukemia and lymphoma. I have been through slow, low dose chemo as well as the high-dose chemo and an autologous bone marrow transplant. So, while I have some insight into your ordeal, everyone is different as to how they deal with and respond to treatment and its side effects. I will say that it is infinitely better on you and everyone else if you have a positive outlook and look to God and prayer for your well-being. It appears that you already do that!
I’ve had the portacath and a double lumen port; one on each side of my chest. The portacath was inserted for the treatment related to the transplant and had triple pigtails that I had to flush daily. While it was nice to have the cath and not be stuck for every treatment, I was glad to have it removed after about three months. The double lumen port is under the skin and can stay in indefinitely. It is still used for different treatments, such as infusions and blood draws. However, most phlebotomists do not use the cath’s for blood draws. :(
I am sure it was a great relief for you to interact with the other colon cancer patient you met. Being able to speak to someone who is undergoing the same treatment for the same disease is a great stress reliever. I have met only one other patient the same age with the same disease and that was at the university hospital where we were not able to speak at length. I have a friend who is going through colon cancer treatment but we see each other so rarely, and have been going through our individual treatments, it is hard to keep track of what’s going on with one another. If you find a good support group, I think it would be beneficial to you to attend when you can. Probably, the best piece of advice I can give besides trusting in faith and prayer, is to not own the disease. It’s not MY cancer it’s cancer or THE cancer and you are doing everything you can to get it out of your body and your life. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. You will get through it—one breath, one smile, one day at a time.

Patty McDonald said...

Dear Susan,
You and your family are in our constant thoughts and prayers … Sara told us about your colon cancer and then shared your site with us. We are so moved by your strength and attitude. With each blog, you continue to inspire others with your constant knowledge and gift to find the positive in each new day. I hope your portacath went well today and pray your chemo tomorrow goes as planned.
Jerry and Patty McDonald

McDonald said...

Dear Susan,
You and your family are in our constant thoughts and prayers … Sara told us about your colon cancer and then shared your site with us. We are so moved by your strength and attitude. With each blog, you continue to inspire others with your constant knowledge and gift to find the positive in each new day. I hope your portacath went well today and pray your chemo treatment tomorrow goes as planned. Jerry and Patty McDonald

Whitney/SeanShields said...

Good luck today Susan! I hope yesterdays procedure went over smoothly. We will be thinking of you today and throughout your treatments. Stay strong!

Scott Mortensen - MHA '09 said...


I hope things went well with the port-a-cath and that you are doing well today with the Chemo! You are in our thoughts and prayers today....that is for sure!
Cousin Scott and Kara Mortensen

Scott Mortensen - MHA '09 said...


We hope that everything went as planned with the port-a-cath and that today goes well with the start of the Chemo. You are in our thoughts and prayers today and consistently! Game-time!

Cousin Scott and Kara Mortensen

Denise said...

Hello, Susan!

You, your husband, and family are in our thoughts and prayers! Two comments:

1. My baby sister was diagnosed with a rare colorectal cancer. She underwent chemotherapy (also kept her hair...but she was prepared to lose it). That was 3 years ago and she is going strong! Had she had the same cancer 10 years ago, the doctor said the story would have been different. She is cancer free today and loving life.

2. We discovered a minishower for Bethany's baby's diaper. Well...she hasn't used it for a diaper, but she and her husband now say every toilet in the house will have one. My baby sister (above) is getting one; she said it would have been heaven when she was going through her problems. Here is a link if you are interested:

Remember this...YOU ARE LOVED!

Taylor Family said...

Hi Susan! It's been since Olivia's camp reunion that I saw you last but I heard about you and through other blogs found yours. I am amazed at your optimism and strength. Thank you for sharing your story. Our family is praying for you and we hope your procedure went well and you are handling the chemo well. Love, Cassy.

Anonymous said...

Justin and Susan,
I asked if my brother (Mike L. who works for your dad?) could forward the link to your blog in case I could be of help in anyway. I live in Gilbert and am in treatment for cancer (not colon, however). Please don't hesitate to contact me if I can help you negotiate through the medical system which can be a challenge in and of itself! I would happily pass on how to manage the massive amount of information you will want to track, etc. There are a number of "tricks of the trade" so to speak that will make the journey more manageable. If it would be easier for your husband or father to contact me, they are more than welcome to do so!

The port placement surgery is an easy surgery, I can hardly remember having it done. (However, I would definitely want to know the method and type of doc performing it as there are a couple of ways of doing it.)

Many blessings to you,

laura said...

Oh my gosh Susan! I was looking at my facebook and saw your comment of "thanks for all your prayers" I didn't know what that was for and I cannot believe what is going on. I am in tears and wish there was something I could do for you. You said you welcome stories (I know that might get annoying). My mother-in-law has had colon cancer and just had miracle after miracle. All I can say is keep the faith, which is what you seem to be doing. My mother-in-law is the most wonderful lady I know. It seems bad things happen to such strong people because obvisouly you have a great attitude! I will let you know if my mother-in-law has any advice. You are in my prayers!

Marcus said...

I will be praying for you like crazy. I know I have not talked to you in a while and your probably wanting to spend time with family but if you get a brief moment I would love to be able to email or talk on the phone with you if you get the chance. Its crazy I was just looking at some old pics of you, me, and Jeremy yesterday at bahama bucks back in the day and then I got an email from Steve Larsen that directed me to your blog this morning. I will pray for peace for you, your husband, and family.
Your Friend,

Marissa Marie said...

Susan!!!! You and your mother are just TOO MUCH!!! First of all you sound all cheerful and full of faith...something that's not easy for me all the time...and then you go ahead and send a PRESENT!! Don't you know you get a free pass to be totally selfish at this point, seeing as how you and your family have a lot on your plate right now??? Wow, just, thanks you guys. The griddle is great, but more than that, your examples and thoughfulness have touched me to the core. I guess I can't whine and complain and expect everyone to cater to me when I have the sniffles anymore. I've gotta be tough and full of faith, and thoughtful and positive like this girl named Susan! Who also has a great mother who I'm sure taught her those things. :) I hope things are going well, you're in my thoughts and prayers.

briansarahannah said...

Suz, I hope everything went alright. Hang in there and stay strong! We'll be praying for you!
Brian and Sara Lee

Steve & Erin Larsen said...

Hi Susan,
My name is Erin Larsen and my husband is Steve Larsen (he said he knew you in High School.) My friend Heather told me about your condition and I am very sorry. I have a client that had colon cancer and found out at stage two. She had such an amazing doctor and nature path that she found in Scottsdale. She didn't even lose her hair in chemo because of how her nature path helped her through it all. She went to Southwest Hemotology and Oncology and saw Dr. Kukunoor and she absolutely loved him. She said her nature path made such a huge difference in her healing. His name is Dr. Daniel Rueben and he is on Osborn just east of Scottsdale Road. Hopefully that can be of some help for you. We will keep you in our prayers. God Bless you.

Erin Larsen