Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Round 4

Happy 22nd Birthday to my little brother, David, today!

Hard to believe, but I am again hooked up to the chemo ball for round 4! The time between treatments goes by pretty quickly.

We were able to get away for the long weekend for a much needed escape; my aunt and uncle were not heading up to their cabin and offered to let us use it. It was great to have a change of scenery for me, and be able to sit outside and enjoy the cool mountain weather…fun for Justin to do one of his favorite hobbies, quading with friends! Normally I’d be along for the ride, but I had to be honest with myself, I'm a weakling right now, so I opted out except for a few leisurely trips when there were kiddos in tow, and I could be a passenger. We had a great time, thank you Kent and Gail!!

Justin, Kevin and Jackie got a little muddy after a rainstorm!

Sam and Rachel...that's my helmet she is wearing, does this mean I have the same sized noggin as a 5 year old? At least it got used :)

I had a few exciting events over the last two weeks that I could have blogged about, but I admittedly wasn’t feeling too well. Two weekends ago on Saturday morning I woke up unusually late and strolled out to the family room and sat down on the couch. I was gearing up to eat breakfast when I started to feel a bit nauseous, and stood up to make my way to the bathroom. The last thing I remember is feeling a little ‘weird’ as I walked in and sliding down with my back to the vanity…then I remember Justin over me talking on the phone telling someone in a slightly panicked tone that I just finished a chemo treatment on Thursday, and wondering who the heck he was talking to. Then I realized I was lying on the bathroom floor, and being the germ-a-phobe I am knew I was not their by choice! Justin helped me sit up, and by this time I deduced that I had passed out. Justin had been in the family room with me when I got up to go to the bathroom, and heard a commotion, something being knocked over. He went in to check on me, and I was unconscious, white eyes, and stiff. He tried to wake me up with no success, and that’s when he called 911. After what he said was about a minute is when I came to. The fire department was at our door within a minute of when Justin hung up the phone, I was very impressed. He helped me out of the bathroom and back into the living room where there was a buzz of activity with about 7 fire fighters and 2 EMTs. They checked my blood pressure, sugar, heart rate and everything seemed within the normal range, however they were worried that I had had a seizure based on what Justin described to them, and they wanted to take me to the ER. We live only about 2 miles from the hospital, and being the cheapskate I am I decided that since them taking me wouldn't get me in any faster if I absolutely had to go that I’d rather drive myself, rather, Justin drive (I do still have some common sense!) One of the nice fire fighters told me that he was worried that the cancer had spread to my brain, I just smiled and thought, or... maybe I just stood up to fast : ) No reason to jump to awful conclusions right away!

We signed the paper work that said we declined to be transferred to the hospital by them and gave the on call Oncologist from my office a call to see if we needed to actually go to the ER or not. We waited about 30 minutes to hear back and we weren’t too surprised to hear him say "yes", so we packed a few things up and headed over. I must say that one positive of being on Chemo is that you get the royal treatment at the ER! They don’t want you sitting around people who could get you sick, so they took me right back to a private room. It’s funny the looks you get from people when you’re wearing a mask in public…I used to think I needed to avoid people with masks, but now I know people with masks were more than likely trying to avoid me and my germs : ) Even though I didn’t have to sit in the waiting room long, we spent the rest of the day at the ER, of course you have to go through their protocol of tests, but we really just were looking to have a CT Scan of my brain and abdomen to rule out blood clots, or internal bleeding.

At 9:00 or so that night we got the okay to be discharged, and this is what they concluded (directly from my discharge paperwork):

“Today it has been decided that you had Syncope (Fainting Spell).”

Well I figured that much….but I guess its better to be safe than sorry! We were glad that it wasn't something more serious.

I took it easy for the next few days, and then had another what I will call ‘episode’, this time I had a significant amount of blood in my stool again. So again I called my Oncologist as I’d been instructed to do. As part of the chemo cocktail, I am on a drug called Avastin, which is designed to slow blood vessel growth. The hope is that this will not only target the tumor in my colon, but the main focus as I understand it is for the liver tumors since the tumor in my colon can ‘easily’ be removed with surgery at this point. The drug by nature is making me more susceptible to bleeding, particularly from the colon tumor so I’m supposed to be on high alert for any blood that may be passed. My doctor wanted me to come in ASAP that day, so in we went. The first thing he said when he walked in to the exam room was, “You’re scaring me.” I had to laugh, it had been an eventful past few days between the ER visit and now this. I told him that seeing him every other week just wasn’t enough! We talked about the bloody stool, and how many more doses of Avastin he was planning to administer. He was only planning to give me one more dose (round 4) before giving my body a break, and ceasing far enough in advance to get it out of my system in preparation for the colon resection surgery. He decided that I should have my blood drawn every day for the rest of the week to be sure that I wasn’t bleeding internally and to monitor my other numbers.

The rest of last week was pretty unremarkable, I am conquering my fear of needles after 5 consecutive blood draws. Back when I posted about the port-a-cath, I had no idea how great it would be. As long as it keeps working properly I’m able to get blood drawn from it as well as the chemo administered through it. IT IS GREAT! Just one poke every time, guaranteed!

We had some good news yesterday at my pre-chemo appointment with the Oncologist, but before I go into detail about that, I'll mention that we decided not to do Avastin this round. We elected to do this to prepare for surgery, which will be no sooner than 6 weeks from the last Avastin treatment two weeks ago. I'll continue on the other Chemo drugs in the meantime, and at some point in the future, after surgery on the colon tumor I may or may not be put back on the Avastin. Now, onto this good news!

There is a tumor marker that they monitor through my blood work called Carcinoembryonic antigen, or CEA. A normal person has a number somewhere around 2.5, and someone with cancer like me has a number off the charts. Back in the middle of July, my number was 66. Two weeks ago it was at 35, and as of last Friday, 8.8! This number will probably still fluctuate from week to week, so it could go back up…and the Dr. warned that it can be an unpredictable indicator of how chemo is working….but with such a significant drop, we’ll take it for now! : ) I should also be getting an update on the liver tumors this week after the Dr. has a chance to compare my initial CT scan from back in July to the one taken in the ER. So stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed that there will be some more good news from that : )

A few weeks ago we had some requests for pictures (this one is for you Jody!). I've avoided posting pictures of myself because I'm not lookin my best these days....but I agree that a blog without pictures is a little ho-hum, and Justin has taken on the role of cancer historian…here are some of the latest (and ones I'm willing to publish!)….even a video he took so you can see all the exciting action live from round 3.

Above - The infamous "Ball-o-Chemo"

My new best friend, Port-a-Cath

I'll be sure to post any news we get this week about the CT Scan comparison. Hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend. Thank you for your prayers and support!


mjm said...


It was good to see you guys last weekend at the cabin. We left so early in the morning taht we didn't get to say bye! I'm so impressed (although not surprised) that you can manage to smile through all of this - I say I'm not surprised because you've always been one tough son of a gun and have never backed down from a challenge! Remember the Cielo turkey trot in 2nd grade? You were cramping up like crazy, but you kept up the entire race and won! I know you'll keep going in this race as well!


Jody said...

Oh how you indulge me! And you outdid yourself. Not just pictures but video, too!

And you're beautiful even wearing sweats and drugged up. Plus you still have hair!

Glad to hear your numbers are improving. Good luck on your scan. We're all rooting for you!

suzanne said...

I hope it's okay that I am commenting. You don't know me at all. I am Jayne Sargents sister (Dyan Sargents mom!) She told me about your inspiring blog and so I followed the link. My husband has had cancer twice. He's now 51 and we are about 3 years out from the last bout. I can just so feel some of those same emotions you write about. I can certainly relate better to what your husband is going thru. It's hard to do what you are doing and hard to be the spouse! Hang in there husband! You will be so blessed thru this and will surprise yourself by your inner strength! Heavenly Father just gives it to us when we serve our spouses! Oh, the blood markers! I so remember the days! On a really positive note - my really good friend has had cancer 3 times! One breast cancer and then Stage 4 ovarian cancer twice. She finished up her last time last summer. She was not supposed to still be here but thru her determination and prayers and fasting in her behalf, she is alive and well. She teaches school, loves on her grandbabies, and is so grateful for every moment. I know you can do this! I just do somehow. As people have asked my husband and I about our experiences with cancer I always tell them "I would never wish this on anyone but I would never trade what we have learned from it." I know you will come to appreciate this more and more thru your treatments and especially when you are on the other side of those treatments. I know we appreciate each day - we know and love each other on such a different level - we know and love our children in different ways - and we really know that we are an eternal family. We had a few gut checks about that one along the way. Keep up the good attitude - keep working hard at this - God will bless your lives beyond belief. Thanks for letting me share just a bit...........suzanne stewart

hlmortensen said...

I'm so glad you are still blogging. I don't think you realize how many people are checking out your blog. I liked the pics too! :) PS- You still look beautiful, so don't you worry about posting pics. SO you've lost a lil' weight.... but you still have absolutely beautiful brown eyes and a gorgeous,contagious smile! I think that people following your story take one look at you and they see an amazing, beautiful,courageous person that is doing their best to make lemonade out of lemons! Keep it up lemonade maker! You're inspirational!!! ;)
Love Always,

Anonymous said...

Dear Susan & Justin, I am so glad to read your blog today, as I check everyday to see how you are doing. Your outlook is remarkable, and believe me that is very important. Everyone I know is praying for you, and they have passed your name on to people they know, so God is with you at all times. My faith has always been so important as I know yours is. My best to you both, and keep smiling.....Maureen Amirault, Paul Corbett's mom

Kyle said...

Thanks for the look great!! Sounds like you had a fun vacation! You have such an awesome attitude! Congrats on the whole number going down thing...hopefully that is a good sign! Thanks for keeping us updated!

Our Family said...

Sooooos!! Thank you so much for keeping us all updated. We love hearing how you and Justin are doing and want you to know that we are always thinking of you. I'm so glad your numbers are going down, and even happier you got to get away this past weekend. We are thinking of you and love you!

Chelsea said...

I've been reading your blog for a little while susan and I hope you know I love you. I'm sorry you have to go through this... what a bummer! take care! Dusty and I are thinking about you and sending our "good vibrations" your way!

Ben and Amberly said...

Thank you for posting on your blog. I know it can be hard when your not feeling good. I have to say you look great!! I hope your CEA number stays good. I can't beleive how much your number has gone down. That's great. Stay Strong!

Andréa Morrow said...

yeah pics and video..glad you were able to go camping :)hopefully next time you can come with us, although a cabin is way better than a tent! I'm glad round 4 went well and we'll be praying and let us know if you need blessings anytime, especially before surgery

megan allen said...

So glad to hear from you! Let me tell you, you look Fabulous!! We will continue to pray! Love you guys!

Anonymous said...

I am so impressed with how you are handling this. The true test of character is not how you respond in good times but how you respond in hard times. From your blog both you and your husband have excellent character.

My best friend's wife has cancer. She lost all her hair. Upon hearing this news my daughter went down and donated her long blonde hair to Locks of Love. She was going to donate 10 inches of hair but decided to get it cut very short so that someone would get a beautiful blonde wig. My daughter was also the top fund raiser for a cancer drive at her school. Like my friend's wife, your experience will influence people way beyond your immediate circle of family and friends.

You're an inspiration to me, my family and all the other people who read your blog (don't tell the boss, but I see others at work reading your blog).

Cal from Work

Mike Steph and Brooklyn said...

Suz thanks for posting pics, of course you still look beautiful!!! Sounds like you had some fun ER visits, I know you just love spending time down there, there's nothing like a fun day spent at the hosptial!
So glad things are going well, you are so strong, thanks for being such an awesome example. Whenever I want to get down about something I always think of you and how positive you are and I quickly change my attitude. Not a day has gone by that we haven't prayed for you, keep fighting not only for you but also for all of us who love you!

Brad, Briene and Brayden said...

I am so glad you got to get away for the weekend I am sure that was needed. We will continue to keep you in our prayers and are excited to hear what the Doctor has to say. You are amazing and I love reading your blog and hearing how you are doing. You look great! We love you!!

Melanie said...

I look forward to your post, they are always so touching. Thank you for sharing such personal times with people you dont even know. You have and will continue to touch so many live. You are an amazing person. Good luck to you and Justin. We are keeping you in our prayers.
Melanie Jones (Adams)

Adam and Jessica Cooley said...

You look so great!! As beautiful as ever. So glad to hear an update. We love you so much!

Adam and Jessica Cooley said...

You look so beautiful! So glad to hear from you. We love you so much!

Kristin Hamblin said...

Susan I am so glad that things are going well! You deserved a nice get away to the mountains after the week you had. Hopefully the CT results will be favorable too. We are still thinking of you everyday. Justin is a great husband! I love the new pictures.

Anonymous said...

Trey and I are probably the only ones who call you that--it is out of pure affection! We are so happy to hear your encouraging news and pray that it gives you a burst of faith and hope! You are so darling and beautiful in every way, and an inspiration to all who know you. This challenge has to be one of the most difficult you or anyone else could endure and you are doing so in such a brave and amazing way. We send our love and prayers--You are Awesome! Remember the deer's head at Girl's camp? That is one of my favorite and funniest camp memories.
Loves, Sharon

Anonymous said...


It is a real treat to read your blog. You are extremely remarkable and I thank you for the time you set aside to inspire the rest of us.

Smiles and hugs, Kadi Jo

Jenny Lynn said...

Oh I am so glad you finally posted pictures! You look amazing- definitely not like a cancer patient. You are hot as ever! Good luck with all the coming treatments and everything, we are all thinking of you and keeping you in our prayers!

Our Family said...

Soos!!! I am so glad you posted. We love hearing how you are doing. We are also so glad that your CEA numbers are going down. That's great news!! Please let us know if there is anything we can do for you. You are ALWAYS in our prayers. We love you!!

laura said...

Love the pics and the video! I don't know what you are talking about because you look so good to me :) I am sorry about the trip to the ER and all the trials you are going through. You are so inspiring. Keep up the posts, I love to hear how things are going! I will continue to pray for you.

Anonymous said...

Susan and Justin,

We are glad that you had fun at the cabin! I checked your blog as soon as we got back from our trip.
You are both wonderful - please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers continually!!

Kent and Gail

Kathy said...

Wow - what great numbers! I am so happy for you that the chemo is working. As a life long fainter myself (often induced by needles which I always in the category of drugs I am allergic to on any medical form), it is a very weird feeling. So glad it wasn't anything more serious. And your pictures are beautiful. With that great smile you hardly look sick at all. We are keeping up our prayers for you.
Take care,
Kathy Thomas

Adriana said...

I am a true believer of "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and beauty comes from within... you have got it all :D

We'll keep praying as you prepare for surgery!
Glad to hear that you guys got some time away to enjoy the BEAUTY of the Earth!

Anonymous said...

Susan, you really are amazing! I love keeping up to date with your blog. You look great in the pictures. I recently donated my hair to locks for love cutting off around 12 inches and I thought about you while doing it, but you are lucky and still have your hair. Stay positive and keep on smiling!

Whitney Shields

Gail said...

Susan and Justin -
I'm so glad that you had some R&R at the cabin. I checked your blog as soon as we got back from our trip. Great pictures! You are in our thoughts and prayers continually!

Gail and Kent