Today was Day 5 of David’s 15 days of radiation. We just drive the 130 mile round-trip daily to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa from SW Orlando. The radiation therapy sessions are now at 2:30 so we miss both rush hour traffic times. That, in itself, is a stress-reducer! HOWEVER, today was an exception. Right after getting on the freeway, the traffic suddenly began to slow to the point where 10 MPH seemed like we were really moving along. After a couple miles of that, we saw an electronic sign that read, “Congestion ahead 6 miles. Crash. Two right lanes (of 3) closed.” After an hour of creeping, we made it past the crash site where, of course, there was no sign of an accident anymore. By 2:30, the time of the appointment, we were only halfway to Tampa. No sooner had we gotten up to speed when the heavens opened with a horrendous thunderstorm and the traffic slowed to a crawl again for many miles. But when David pulled in to Moffitt at 3:30 for his 2:30 appointment (we had notified them), they took him in almost right away and we were still on our way home before rush hour traffic. Near home we were blocked from our usual entry into Celebration via Celebration Blvd. because the storm had affected our home town area, too, and lightening had hit one of the new 3 story apartment buildings along the boulevard, destroying the entire top floor. Water cannons were shooting at it from several directions. There must have been 10 fire trucks there! Returning to our cozy home seemed especially sweet tonight…we weren’t a part of the traffic accident, we stayed on the road safely during the storm, and our home didn’t get hit by lightning! Thank you, Lord.
In the past 2 weeks we have had visits from sons Phil and Pete and also from friends, Ted and Joan. It is easy for folks to think that it would be too much for us to entertain guests with everything else that is going on but, first of all, we don’t treat them as guests. They pretty much fend for themselves. Secondly, they provide wonderful distractions for us, expanding our current daily experiences from being merely medical ones.
This last week it was especially helpful that Dr. Ted was here since David started having sharp, stabbing pains in his right chest, especially front and back, not so much the side. A consult with Ted assured us that using more of the Hydrocodone pain medication was perfectly fine. With that increase, David has been more comfortable and has actually been more alert and engaged in daily activities instead of sleeping most of the time. Yesterday another appointment with a radiation therapist (MD) was very helpful. David’s right chest pain could be from micro-breaks in his ribs or the connective tissue from his coughing (which has actually been under good control) or from tumor pressure against a nerve bundle somewhere (more likely). Bottom line is that if it is the former, there is nothing to do for it and if it is the latter, radiation is the best treatment and that is already underway. Just take the pain meds as needed, they said, echoing Ted’s recommendation. There is real comfort in knowing that all is being done that can be done at this time.
We got the results back from the OctreoScan that David has had annually since 2000 for his carcinoid tumor problem. Nearly all of the hotspots on the PET scan are carcinoid related. In the past, that would have seemed devastating to us. Our world was rocked in 2008 when ONE carcinoid metastasis was found. Now we are relieved that so many of those areas are “just” carcinoid which is very slow growing. Of course, the lung lesion wasn’t carcinoid (no surprise) since we know that it is squamous cell cancer and the 2 tiny liver spots are squamous, too. He will deal with the lung lesion treatment now and cross the liver bridge when we get back to Michigan where a battery of appointments awaits us on May 12.
David is pretty anemic so he tires easily. His hemoglobin is 9.8 now where normal is 13.4 – 16.9. If it takes a nosedive, he can have a blood transfusion but it has to drop to somewhere near 8 to be worth the inherent risks of transfusion. The doctor did say he seemed dehydrated so a couple days last week he had IVs of fluid to plump him up. He is trying very hard to drink his 8 glasses of fluid a day which is difficult because he has no sense of thirst. However, his eating has improved now that the antibiotic for pneumonia is out of his system and everything no longer tastes metallic. Last night we had our favorite: Logan’s Road House has the BEST baby back ribs so we split a full rack and had the loaded sweet potato … and there was no need for a take-home box!
On top of this, at the end of March I awoke with a sharp pain in my right arm if I extended it or rotated it or even thought about doing so. We made quite a pair the next day at the hospital with me wheeling David into the building in a wheelchair (because we had to go all over the place for appointments, too far for him to walk) using my one good arm. We had to laugh at ourselves….pathetic. Dosing with Naprosyn and immobilizing my elbow in the armhole of my jacket improved it in a few short days so it is now back to normal. It is humbling when the caregiver isn’t in such great shape herself! It is also a good lesson for me that I do need to take care of myself, too. I have now resumed my morning walks and my back exercises which have been sorely neglected lately.
While David was in having the scans done a couple weeks ago, his internist, David Young, from Holland called to find out how the two of us were doing. Dr. Young and I had a very good talk on the phone. It is in such moments of kindness that we feel God’s blessing being showered down on us. Your emails, card, and blog comments add to that shower!