The Stacey Report

May 31, 2006: Fundraising Update

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 31, 2006

As of today, the Stacey Report community has given more than $500.00 for cancer research! Consequently, I have raised my donation goal to $1,000.00 because I have faith in you, kids! Please feel more than free to send this link:

http://www.acsevents.org/relay/MAsudbury/debancroft

to all your friends, relations, co-workers, acquaintances, old flames, the loud neighbors with the nasty little dog, that guy who works at Starbucks, you know, the one with the little soul patch…

In brief, anyone. Everyone! And just to sweeten the deal, I would like to announce that Stacey’s son, Lyle, is also walking with a team of kids from his school. He insists that his team will trounce ours, but I seem to notice a distinct lack of donations on his site… You never know, though, so feel free to donate to one or the other or both!!

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May 30: Back to the Chemo Cafe

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 30, 2006

More poison today… but no, we’ll think of it as a magical thing, Chema the good witch, perhaps, floating around whapping cancer cells on the head with her wand and screeching “Begone! You have no power here! Jerk!”

Ohhhh, that’s why Stacey keeps puking!

In any case, we can start to have a sense now of how long the treatment will mess her up, when she’ll start feeling a little better, etc etc.

In more follicular news: the hair has started to go. Right now it looks the same, but if she runs her fingers through it and tugs, a handful will come out.

Here was the report from yesterday:
(from e-mail message)

So, I have confirmed that the hair on my head has started falling out. As to the status of other bodily hairs:
* Arm hair, so far, is not falling out.
* Eylashes and eyebrows are unconfirmed (please, NO!)
* Underarm and leg are unconfirmed (please, YES!)
* Knuckle hair seems intact, as does hair on palms of hands
* General body fuzz seems unaffected

Anything I didn’t mention falls in the category of Confirmed.

By the way, I worked in the garden for about 2 1/2 hours this morning. I did the whole last square, including planting all the seeds (2 types of green beans, lima beans, and picking cukes). Yay me! Oh, and everything is well and properly watered.

So — losing one’s hair is pretty rotten, especially when it is such attractive hair. But, she’s out working, playing with Ruby, cooking when she can, just generally living life every day. It’s just that sometimes life includes chemo.

And, we have an appointment for a wig fitting this week (Stacey is more likely to go with scarves and hats, especially in the heat of the summer, but it’s good to have a wig for certain occasions. By the way, if anyone is looking for a great chemo hat/scarf site, I highly recommend Doma Designs — we’re both in love with the concept of simple hats with tons of different ties, scarves, jingles and jangles to dress them up. We’re also interested in the DoDana, a bandana-like affair that is apparently shaped so that it is easy to tie. If the shape of it is simple enough, I can make Stacey as many as she wants. The only trouble with that is that I’d have to go to eQuilter.com, which is a highly dangerous website. I find my hand clicking that “Add to Cart” button of its own volition. Oh well –a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

May 25, 2006: This Just In…

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 25, 2006

I’ve received an actual report from Stacey for The Stacey Report, and things in general are better. I’m going to reveal myself to be the lazy slob I really am and cut n’ paste her e-mail (with appropriate amendments, of course — she’s such a potty mouth!)

Here ’tis:

1. Went to the doctor yesterday for a checkup. Still anemic, duh. She thinks the lump is even smaller and we agreed that the swelling in the breast (called “peau d’orange“) has gone down. She’s very impressed and happy with the progress so far. She also said that all symptoms I’ve been experiencing are completely normal.

2. Total weight loss: 22 pounds. She’s not worried yet. Says that people tend to gain since they graze to avoid nausea (I guess eating a little bit every two hours or so helps with that, didn’t affect me that way!). I’m hoping I can keep the loss! If I could lose at this rate for the next 15 weeks I’d be positively svelt!

3. On Vyto’s suggestion I had a baked potato last night. Loaded it up with butter and sour cream since I figure I’m not much worried about calories right now. It was great! However, then I tried to take a pill and ended up thowing up a portion of it. Boo!

4. Much more energy. Not sleepy when driving (yes, that’s a bad thing, I know). Stayed up to midnight last night (well, did have a 45 min nap around 5ish). Able to stay awake at desk. Sure that will all go to hell next week after the next treatment.

5. Able to eat more, though still get full feelings after just a little bit (common). Feeling like eating more types of food, but still not back to normal.

6. Still with the hypersensitive gag reflex. Pills almost always make me gag.

Think that’s about it!

So, there you have it, good news all around. Now we just have to figure out how to get pills in through the Mediport…

May 23: Catching up… throwing up…

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 23, 2006

A lot of people have said how much they appreciate the upbeat tone of this blog (Stacey included) and I don’t intend to change that, but, you know, some things just aren’t all that funny. Puking, for example.

About two days after Stacey’s first chemo treatment, I read somewhere that the side effects often really kick in after three or four days. I decided to keep my trap shut in case that actually didn’t happen… but it did.

The first indication that things were about to suck was the internal disturbance. Chemo attacks fast-growing cells, cancer, of course, but also hair follicles (no action there, haircut still looking fancy) and cells in the mouth, stomach and intestines, etc. So, about three days in, the cells in Stacey’s intestines stopped doing what they are supposed to do, and everything else stopped too. This is apparently a very common chemo symptom, and unfortunately, Stacey can look forward to things being either too slow or too fast for the duration. Yippee.

The other side-effect is not exactly nausea, but a powerful aversion to some foods. These foods do not announce their aversive status until one second before the puking starts, unfortunately. Sometimes this means cooking a meal that one can suddenly not eat. The crowning moment of this charming situation was (Stacey, stop reading, I’m going to talk about yucky food) when Stacey made her deee-licious Asparagus with Shrimp and Black Bean sauce — yum. She was using ready-to-cook, flash-frozen shrimp, so she didn’t have to deal with all the prep, but noticed a small piece of shrimp shell in the bowl, picked it out with her fingers… and that was that. Simply touching raw shrimp was enough to put the kibosh on the whole deal.

This, of course, is an extreme drag, and Stacey has already lost 15 pounds on her limited diet. Auntie’s Chicken Soup (slogan: “Auntie’s Chicken Soup: All for Stacey, None for You!“) continues to appeal, as does all sorts of fruit (nectarines, applesauce, and Whole Foods pineapple chunks, in particular) yogurt… not sure what else.

Appointment with the Oncology nurse tomorrow, so Stacey will ask what can be done about this.

(And to those who need an upbeat moment, the Blogger spellchecker suggested that I replace “kibosh” with “gibbous.”)

May 18: Still Queasy…

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 18, 2006

…and Stacey had the NERVE to refuse my offer of a big pot of beef stew. Can you believe that? Sheesh, some people! (Fortunately, Lyle and Michael had no such compunctions.)

All is still well, in general, and Stacey’s stomach is allowing her to have wonton soup (we don’t know why) and fruit. Could be worse, nutritionally! I also hear tell that there’s a batch of Auntie’s famous chicken soup on the way — if that doesn’t fix her up, nothing will.

Oh, and a correction — Neulasta is for white blood cells, not red blood cells. So the white blood cells take a hit from the chemo (thus the drop in the immune system, and Stacey’s further refusal to kiss my hacking, coughing, runny-nosed baby. Can you believe that? Sheesh, some people…)

May 17: Still Largely Unimpressed by Chemo

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 17, 2006

I stopped in to see Stacey this afternoon and found her in the kitchen getting a snack. There seemed to be quite a bit of lounging going on, and she said that she felt “tired and full of chemicals, but otherwise not bad.”

So! Pretty good for a woman whose bod is full of toxic goo racing around killing off cancer cells left and right. As we speak.

She did go in to the treatment center for a shot of Neulasta, which boosts red blood cells. This is apparently a huge and important breakthrough in cancer treatment — use to be, they could only give chemo treatments every three weeks, because that’s how long it took for the body to build up the red blood cells to handle another blast. Now, Stacey gets a blood cell boost the day after chemo, and they’re able to hit her again in two weeks, giving the cancer cells less time to regroup. As a matter of fact, and this is really interesting, what with the Procrit and the Neulasta and the iron supplements and everything, her red blood cells are going to be bigger and healthier than they have been in many years (because of the anemia that she’s had forever.)

Dr. Browne was very pleased with her reaction to the chemo, because this means that they can continue with these treatments and have many more options for future treatments.

May 16: First Chemotherapy Treatment

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 16, 2006

Stacey’s day started out with an acupuncture treatment — I know because I had an appointment at the same time, and saw her car in the lot as I came in. I asked Kerry whether she had mentioned that this was the first day of chemo, and he said no. “Well it is — go stab her some more!” He did — later, Stacey told me she wondered why he came back in. She also said that she’d started the day with stomach pains and a lot of tension, but that she felt a lot better after the treatment.

Then at 10:30, she and Michael headed to the hospital for the chemo treatment. It was a busy day at the Chemo Cafe — there are two treatment rooms, one with a bunch of reclining chairs for the really social people, another with only three, much cushier recliners, for those who want a little more quiet (guess which room Stacey wanted?) When they came in, all the chairs were full and there was a line of people waiting to check in. Popular place!

It took Stacey an hour and a half to check in with the nurse (paperwork, vitals, etc.) and to meet with Dr. Browne. Finally it was Stacey’s turn for treatment, and luckily someone else was just finishing up with one of the comfy chairs.

There’s a whole world of anti-nausea meds available: right now Stacey’s taking one called Emend on the morning of treatment and each morning for the next two days, another one that she takes every eight hours, and a third that she can take if those two don’t work. Those are in addition to the pre-meds that they gave her at the Cafe.

After the pre-meds, a nurse came in to give her the first chemo drug, Adriamyacin. This is an extremely toxic substance: the nurse has to hand-push it into the iv and check every few minutes for good blood return so they can be sure it is going into a vein and not just under her skin somewhere. “It wouldn’t be too good to leave you with this and then come back in an hour to find that all you had was a big chemical burn under your skin!” Um, yeah, I guess that wouldn’t be too good. It’s not actually great to think of this nasty stuff going into a vein, either, but it is, AS WE SPEAK, racing through her body and killing off cancer cells left and right.

After the Adriamyacin, they started a drip of a different thing, which is not quite so toxic, apparently, but which is also, AS WE SPEAK, racing through her body and killing off cancer cells left and right. So we got that going for us. Which is nice.

They didn’t get out of there until 3:00, and next time Stacey will also be getting Zometa (bone glue) which takes another hour. Boooooo-ring! I’d like to take this opportunity to remind our readers of Stacey’s “Chemo Survival Kit” wish list on Amazon.com. I’d also like to mention that Michael just bought her a portable DVD player. Just FYI.

(I’d further like to mention that I would like to borrow that Janet Evanovich novel when Stacey is done with it, so if you’re looking for a lovely gift to send, I vote for that one.)

Ok, side effects. Aside from racing through her body and killing off cancer cells left and right, so far the chemo treatment is not causing Stacey any enormous distress. After the treatment, she felt well enough to drive down and pick Ruby up at day care, and this evening she said that she was feeling “kind of queasy,” as if something wasn’t sitting right in her stomach. She has the day off from work tomorrow, but if she still feels well in the morning she’ll drive Ruby to day care (to stick with Ruby’s routine) and then come home and take a nap.

Barring any complications, Stacey will be having treatments every other week for the next four months.

May 14: Stacey’s Birthday!

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 14, 2006

Also Mother’s Day, of course. The¬†Stacey Family is¬†celebrating with Dim Sum in Chinatown (yum!). The Bancroft sisters are celebrating with a trip to The Fabric Place to buy the makings of Stacey’s Chemo Cape. This is a request from Stacey, a soft cloak, modest black on the outside but fabulous purple on the inside, easy to throw around shoulders or over feet during chemo.

Don’t tell, but the cloak is actually a disguise. No one will know that it is really a Superhero cape for Super Stacey, Conqueress of Cancer! Mighty she stands, wielding the Bat of Justice, as scofflaw cells flee in terror!

(There really is a bat of justice, apparently; she has it on her desk to keep wayward co-workers in line.)

Also, there have been some corrections from Herself: she does not always have to go to bed at 8:30, that has only been a few nights and usually right after a hormone treatment. The arm is bothersome, but it is getting better. I myself noticed that while she still has a bit of trouble with stairs, she is walking almost normally; she says that her hip and back are better every day.

Also the haircut was a huge success: it is short but not as short as the buzz cut from high school, and we now have some very lovely 10 to 13 inch ponytails to send to Locks of Love. Thanks, Jackie!

May 13: Holy Macaroni!

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 13, 2006

And I’m not kidding!

My wonderful father drove out in the rain to pick up and deliver two enormous boxes of frozen meals, homemade by the lovely and talented Sharon Hatch (our step-sister-in-law, or something like that.) I have a chest freezer, so I have volunteered to store and distribute the goodies to Stacey’s family (although I have a feeling that those brownies are going to have a tough time making it out of my house.)

Thanks, Sharon! By the way, John and Sharon are wellness coaches with a focus on Herbalife products; while you’re online, why not check out their store? (plug! plug! shameless plug!)

Today is also haircut day, we’re going to our neighbor Jackie’s house-slash-beauty salon where Stacey will get the crop, and with luck, the cast-off hair will be long enough to send to Locks of Love.

May 12: Feelin’ Crappy…er, I mean Happy

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 12, 2006

I got an e-mail from Stacey yesterday afternoon — she was at work, and afternoons are becoming difficult for her. She has always felt like taking a nap ’round about 2:00, but was able to get through it before. It’s much harder now, she is feeling very tired, and also cranky because her arm hurts. (This is from the swollen glands in her armpit: her arm has felt weak and swollen, and it hurts to move it around. I have personally witnessed acupuncture and acupressure help with this, but it’s a problem that may be ongoing.) She’s been going to bed at 8:30 or 9:00 lately, which is a change from her usual night-owl hours.

There’s also a bit of a problem with the Mediport: the incision is red and itchy, and may be getting infected. The oncology nurse suggested putting Neosporin on it to see if that will clear it up, which would be great because as she goes into the chemo treatments, her immune system is going to be down.

And speaking of immune systems, I read an article about chemo preparation that suggested going to the dentist before starting chemo because a) one shouldn’t have someone poking at one’s gums with sharp objects when one’s immune system is down, and b) chemo apparently takes a toll on the teeth (probably because it messes up the fast-growing cells in the mouth.). I suggested this to Stacey, who said “Gee, that’s a good idea. I wonder if I’ll do it.” So I weasled the name of her dentist out of her, called, and set up the appointment while she was still on IM. So there. Sheesh, it’s like pulling teeth!

The happy news is from the IBCRF — I had read somewhere that solid IBC tumors tend to dissipate on their own, so I was a bit confused by Dr. Browne’s reaction to Stacey’s shrinking lump. Fortunately, I had misunderstood the original article, and this was the lovely response I got:
Thank you for contacting the IBC Research Foundation with your question. I must make it clear that I am not a medical professional. I am a 5 year survivor of IBC and volunteer with the organization in order to help answer some of the questions that come to the website. Nothing said in this email should be understood as medical advice.
Fortunately, in this situation, your doctor is correct. Measurable tumors that have developed from IBC do not go away on their own. Your sister is having a good response to her chemotherapy. That is wonderful news and your sister should squeeze every bit of hope out of it. According to all the research that I have seen, the best predictor of long term survival is the initial response to chemo. Please congratulate her on behalf of the IBC Research Foundation. She still has a long way to go but progress is being made.

So! That settles that (and in future, I shall not be so quick to second-guess Dr Browne The Excellent Oncologist.) Again, we haven’t even gotten to the chemo yet, so this is great.

Also great was a research article I saw on PubMed that gave the best predictors for OS (overall survival) for later-stage IBC, and Stacey has ’em: positive for hormone receptors (HER2+) and fewer than four ancillary sites at the time of treatment. That, plus the good reactions thus far, set her up very nicely to be in the overall survivor group. Just remember that highly scientific chart: