The Stacey Report

May 10: Shhh! Don’t Tell Stacey…

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 10, 2006

Oh, all right, I guess she already knows about this.

Aside from being unpleasant, nauseating, and physically and emotionally grueling, chemotherapy is also really, really boring. So at my request, Stacey has created an Amazon.com wish list called the Chemo Survival Kit; check it out if you would like to send Stacey a little something that you know she’ll love. (She’ll be adding to it as treatment continues… whether she likes it or not!)

In other news, my sister is not taking my calls this evening, so we’ll all have to wait until tomorrow for a medical update. The other night, after her weekly hormone and Procrit (ouch!) treatment, she reported not sleeping well and feeling “freezing cold” all night. As many of you know, Stacey tends to run hot (bring a sweater if you go to her house in the winter) so that’s a big change. It’s not too surprising, given the extent to which they’re messing with her hormones right now, but still pretty unpleasant. The next day was fine, and there was some very upbeat instant messaging going on earlier today, so she seems to be doing well now.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have some other fundraising schemes in mind, but I’ve decided to focus on one at a time. Many thanks to those who have pledged their support to my walk in the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life.” The response has been so generous that I have increased my pledge goal, so there’s plenty of room for your donation, too!

May 9: Photography and Oncology

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 9, 2006

The Stacey Family had pictures taken today, and the report is that all went well for about fifteen minutes until all H-E-double-toothpicks broke loose, in the form of a very small but powerful bundle of crankiness. Steve Robb was very patient, and Stacey feels that in the end the portraits will be good, it was just a more raucous experience than expected.

After that, a meeting with Dr. Brown the Excellent Oncologist, who said that yes, indeed, the lump in Stacey’s breast is markedly smaller and more diffuse. That, along with the reduced pain in her hip and back, gives a good indication that the radiation and hormone treatments are doing their jobs. And we haven’t even gotten to the really good stuff yet! Cancer cells, your days are numbered!

In other news, you have hit my minimum Relay for Life donation amount — thank you very much! I have doubled the amount on the page so that you can continue to donate; there is no maximum, so keep clickin’!

In the “how are they holding up” category, I’d like to relay part of a conversation I had with Stacey yesterday. We were chatting on the phone, somewhat desultorily, when Stacey said “I’m playing with my pills on the table. Oh, hey, I made a little guy! He’s got a Tamoxifen head, ginseng body, Oxycontin arms, and Senokot legs.”

So, sense of humor undamaged!

(What can I say, we’re easily entertained.)

May 8: An Opportunity to Help

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 8, 2006

The American Cancer Society “Relay for Life.”

On June 9-10, at the Lincoln-Sudbury High School track, I will be joining hundreds of other people in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. We enter the event as a team, and each team commits to having at least one person on the track at all times… all night.

Now, when I heard about this, I couldn’t figure it out. All night? Round and round a track all night? For why? Well, here’s the best explanation I could find: “Relay For Life was originally conceived as a 24-hour event because cancer patients battle the disease around the clock. When we relay, we go on whether it is day or night, rain or shine… cancer never sleeps, so neither do we. There is no finish line until we find a cure!”

So, as far as I can tell, it’s another opportunity to do nutsy things for cash. (I, myself, have absolutely no problem with this; in the next few days, you will see some other nutsy things I’m willing to do for a donation to cancer research.) There is only one catch: I must raise at least $100.00 to be able to participate. If you would like to sponsor my Relay for Life, please follow this link to my Relay page and pledge your support. And thank you!

May 8: Good News from the Garden

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 8, 2006

A few days ago, Stacey asked me if I could come over on Sunday afternoon and help her with some garden stuff. When I arrived at about 2:30, she had been out there for who knows how long already, and was at that moment crouching down, spreading the new apple tree’s roots down into the bottom of the hole Michael had dug. I suggested that perhaps crouching might be one of the things she would like to order me to do, and she agreed.

However, she said, getting out in the sunshine and doing some work was very good for her. She said that she’d spent the day before sitting on her duff because “people with cancer and broken hips shouldn’t overexert.” Well, by the end of the day, she said, she felt horrible. Then, that morning, she went to acupuncture, and she said “you know how you feel all energized after acupuncture?” (Indeed I do! Thanks, Kerry and Judi!) Well, she decided to channel that energy into the garden and said that she felt a thousand times better than the day before.

This week, more preparations for the chemo, some medical, some not. Tuesday is family portrait day. Saturday is haircut day: it is apparently easier, in many ways, to lose your hair if you cut it short first. So Stacey is going back to the super-short cut she had in college… and even in High School… but will she go all the way back in time and leave a long braided tail?

Stay tuned, for that and for other exciting news! (Hint: get out your wallets.)

May 7: Warm and, Furthermore, Fuzzy

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 7, 2006

Ok, so the best thing about writing this blog instead of Stacey doing it herself is that I get to say nice things about my sister and she can’t stop me! MWAH HAH HAH!

So here is my favorite way to describe Stacey:

My sister is like a pinata: she’s hard to get open… but there’s candy inside.

And so when I talk to her on the phone, I am not surprised (although many others might be) when she gets all MUSHY, yes I said it, downright GUSHY about the lovely things people have done and said in the wake of this… this.

“Everybody is being so nice to me!”

Well, duh!

But the main reason I post this is to say that along with everything else Stacey will be doing as complementary therapy (acupuncture, nutrition, sleeping in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, whatever…) I think that knowing how much everyone is behind her, hearing about it in these concrete ways, is going to be incredibly important. Getting a card or e-mail from a good friend must send out some sort of beneficial brain chemical, right?

The upshot: the more contact Stacey has with friends and family, the stronger her immune system will be (I know there’s some kind of scientific evidence for that — Stacey, look that up in the Med databases, wouldja?). The stronger her immune system, the easier and more effective the treatment will be. Right now is a crucial time for preparing for the really intensive therapy she’s going to have, and as this will be a pretty long road, it’s important to keep those cards and letters coming!

And for very selfish reasons, I want to thank you all personally for everything you’re doing for Stacey, it’s a gift to me as well.

OK, fine! I’m shutting up now! (I can feel her glaring at me all the way from here.)

May 6: Just Normal Life

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 6, 2006

I called Stacey last night: “Ok, blog me, baby.”
“Nothing.”
“Whatdaya mean, nothing?”
“I mean nothing–nothing happened today. I went to work, I picked Ruby up from Kindercare, we came home, we ate supper, we’re hanging out on the couch. Nothing.”

Well, frankly, that sounds pretty good to me.

It’s a beautiful day here in the upper-right corner of the US, so I predict a lot of gardening, swing pushing, and lounging.

In other news, the family is setting up for a portrait session with Steve Robb of Robbs of Wayland. This is actualy a very big deal, as someone we know HATES to have her picture taken. The Robbs do a lot of beautiful family portraits, some your basic “everybody say cheese” shots, others (and this is why we like them) really interesting and individual. Steve is really excited about this project because if you told the Neustads to say cheese, they’d all come up with some wiseacre crack: “Mortadella!” “Japanese Sage Darby!” “Venezuelan Beaver Cheese!”

Also, Stacey’s Sister has been concocting some opportunities for you to help, which will be posted next week.

May 4: No news is good news.

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 4, 2006

Apparently, nothing happened today. I know that Stacey was planning to go to work this morning, a great improvement over last week’s treatment, which kept her home for two days. I called earlier and left one of those long, rambling messages designed to annoy the listeners so much that they get up off the couch and answer just to shut you up… no dice. So, either they’re used to me or they’d gone to bed (I suspect I was being ignored.)

Just a few notes, then…
As Stacey’s treatment becomes more routine, I will not be updating this blog every day, so don’t freak if you don’t see a new post: it just means everything is status quo.

Michael, Lyle, and Ruby, by the way, are doing well. Ruby knows that her mom is having lots of ‘pointments, and keeps dropping her off at that weird old Auntie Deb’s house. (Hey, could be worse, sometimes Auntie Deb goes for McDonald’s!) Michael’s response to the question was “hangin’ in there,” in his typical effusive and dramatic way. (That is a joke.) I think Lyle would give me an eloquent shrug, so we’re mostly sticking to deep conversations about Strongbad.

(No, I’m serious, it’s really funny.)

May 3: Appointment with the Oncologist

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 3, 2006

So! Stacey has a fracture in T6. That’s a vertebra. We don’t know which one. I suppose we could Google it…

This showed up in the second MRI, but it wasn’t until Dr. Brown (the oncologist) saw the full results that she realized what was going on. So that accounts for the back pain (as opposed to hip pain.) Now Dr. Brown wants to consult with Radiation Guy to see whether there is anything he can do about this fracture. Meanwhile, she wants to “get going” on the chemo, so Stacey is waiting to hear what that means in terms of scheduling. Currently the chemo is set to start on May 16 (two days after her birthday, thank you very much. “Happy Birthday! Here’s some chemo.”)

In other news, today’s appointment included a lovely IV bag full of Herceptin, but not Zometa (bone glue!) because apparently that’s only going to be once a month. She also got a shot of Procrit, which is to help her red blood cells because she’s anemic (don’t panic, she’s always been anemic. She was on three iron pills a day when she was pregnant.) The Procrit will continue once a week as long as her hematocrit is below 36. So, basically, forever.

The rotten part is that Procrit injections a) can’t go in the Mediport, and b) HURT A LOT. Also, they can’t draw blood from the Mediport, so this is not doing us a fat lot of good so far.

On the other hand, the nurse said that the Mediport looked really great, especially since it was only put in yesterday, and that it had “great blood return.” So, that’s good, and actually, the port did help with the Herceptin treatment. As Stacey realized, if you have to sit around for an hour hooked up to an IV, it’s a lot nicer to have it at your collarbone than immobilizing one of your arms.

The best news of the day was that Dr. Brown said that her reaction to the treatments so far is a pretty good indication of what her reactions to the chemo will be. This is excellent, because she was only tired for a couple of days last week, and feels a lot better this week, so all signs point to yes for the chemo not being too horrendous.

Tomorrow more acupuncture and possibly some hip zapping, but mostly going to work and nice, boring, normal stuff like that.

May 2: All is Well, Mediport-wise

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 2, 2006

I just got a call from Michael — Stacey is a bit nauseated from the anaesthesia, but aside from that, everything went well and she’s not in much pain from the surgery itself.

(As for the nausea, it seems to run in the family: the one time I was put really really out, I thought I would never stop throwing up. Our mother was in for minor day surgery at one point and they had to keep her overnight, so prodigious was the puking. I highly recommend deep sedation over general anaesthesia — SO much more pleasant. But I digress.)

Needles, needles everywhere tomorrow, but ha ha ha! She’s got a Mediport!

(I’m the only one who is this excited about it, aren’t I?)

(Sigh.)

May 1: News Flash! Local resident attacked with lots of tiny, tiny needles. Film at 11.

Posted in Uncategorized by ohthatdeb on May 1, 2006

Oh, all right. It was just acupuncture.

Stacey said that the treatment was “fine, relaxing, nothing earth-shattering.” She’s planning to continue, given that the benefits are cumulative and, hey, why not.

Tomorrow, Stacey’s doctor will install a Mediport. This is a good thing, because we both have “deep veins” that tend to “dodge,” which means that the phlebotomists have to “poke around for a while” causing us to want to “smack them.” From now on, all needles go straight in the Mediport. Except the acupuncture ones, of course. I don’t think there is an ancient Chinese Mediport point.

Then, Wednesday, back to the Oncologist for more Herceptin (hormones) and Zomets (bone glue). This was pretty icky last time, but Stacey read somewhere that the effects may lessen over time.

Updates on the Mediport after Stacey reports back to me tomorrow (personally, I predict that a very long nap will happen first.)