Monday, December 31, 2012

Update on Tabby - 12/31/2012 Taking a Break

We went in to see the doctor today with a great deal of trepidation.  Tabby's body has taken as much abuse as a human body can, and it's starting to wear on her.  Apparently, most people can't take two full batteries of cisplaten-laced chemotherapy, and Tabby's done that and smiled through it.  But recently, her body has begun showing signs of wear.  Constant vomiting, constant fatigue, bone loss, muscle loss...  It's a fight.  A serious fight for her life.

Often, Tabby's doctor has offered to give her a break.  Every other time, Tabby's said she could handle it.  This time, however, we recognized that she needed a break.  Her body stopped recovering between chemotherapy sessions, and I wasn't sure if the cure was hurting her worse than the disease.  So this time, she said she needed the break.  The doctor agreed.  She needs to recover.

So here's the long and the short of what's happening for now:  First, no round 14.  Chemo stops now.  No more nulasta, no more cisplaten, no more beating her to death with this stuff...For now.  Tabby will go back for another CT scan in February to see if the tumors have grown or stayed the same, and we'll figure out what to do from there.

The good news is, she will have time to recover, to purge the poison from her body.  She'll rest, regain some of her strength, and maybe her appetite again.  There will be no three-to-four days of hell while nulasta makes her bones ache.  We might be able to get somewhat caught up on the mounting medical bills.  But there is a down side.  First, we don't know what stopping treatment, even for a month, will do.  It could do nothing.  It could spiral out of control.  It could do a number of things that I don't want to think about.

So here we are...About to begin the new year.  In fact, it's the last day of 2012, and we're looking forward with uncertainty.  We don't know what 2013 will bring, only that with uncertainty comes even a glimmer of hope.

Again, and again and again, thank you to everyone who has wished Tabby well, sent gifts, bought copies of DROPLETS, and kept us in your thoughts and prayers.  Every message she receives, every card, gives her strength and courage.   I'll let you know what happens in February.  Until then, please keep her and our girls in your thoughts. Make no mistake, this is stage 4-b cancer.  This literally is a fight for her life.  The odds are long and stacked against her.  But she's going to keep fighting.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2013 - Goals and 2012 - Accomplishments

Every year around this time, people start putting together a list of "resolutions" for the new year.  Not me.  Not that I don't plan on doing things in the new year, I just don't believe in resolutions.  If I'm going to make a change, I make it for good at the time I need it.  That's not to say resolutions are a bad thing, just not for me.  I had a look back at my list of things I wanted to do this year (I called them goals), and it really only boiled down to a couple of things.  I wanted to lose weight (because I felt like a fat slob) and publish more.  Everything else seemed to be an offshoot of those two things.  So since there were really only two things I wanted to accomplish this past year, let's tackle that list first.

  • Lose Weight/Get Healthier - Check, and check!  2012 marks the 2-year anniversary of my quitting smoking, and by the end of the year I've dropped 40 lbs.  You read that right.  I no longer weigh in at 240 pounds, I can now outrun most of my Kajukenbo students, and my pants fit better.  I've worked hard to get this way, and I'm planning on keeping the weight off.
  • Publish More - I don't know if this counts as "more," but I did have two books come out this year.  The first one, ECTOSTORM, was the third of the "Stanley Cooper Chronicles."  The second, DROPLETS, was bittersweet because, while it was a collection of all my short stories, the proceeds helped to fund my wife's fight against cancer.  Nice of the publisher, sad that the situation arose where I'd need such help. 

So what's on tap for next year?  Lessee....

  • More Weight Loss - I'm planning on getting down to 180 pounds.  That's twenty more pounds to go.  Yes, I can do this.  Yes, I will do this. 
  • Publish - Really, this is more up to my agent than me, so I think this should actually read "write quality things that publishers will pick up."
  • Write More - I've been a bit distracted this year, and the writing has taken a back seat.  With all the garbage going on in my personal life, it's easy to get bogged down.  And that's just what I've done.  But I'm getting back to it.  I have ideas for not one, but three books, and I'm going to try to finish two of them this year.  

I'll spare you the depressing wants for next year.  I'm sure, if you follow this blog, you can guess what they are.  What I will say is that I look forward to the new year with a considerable amount of trepidation, a bit of uncertainty, and not a small amount of dread of things that might come to pass.  But also, hope.  I have, and will continue to have hope.  I am not, by nature, an optimist.  I'm more a pessimist or (as I prefer to think of myself) a realist.  I have no illusions, but hope springs eternal.

And now, a challenge for you.  Are you up to it?  I hope so.  Over the course of the new year, make a life change.  I don't mean resolve to exercise and give it up after a month, make some real life changes.  Things that irrevocably alter your vision of the world.  Things that make you a better person.  Stuck for examples?  Glad you asked. 
  • Exercise - I don't care if it's walking around the block or running a marathon.  Take up exercise. Get healthy.  Do it now.  Don't wait until your health fails you because you failed it. 
  • Try New Foods - My wife once made this horrifyingly putrid-looking substance she called "football dip."  For the record, it's made of cream cheese blended with picante sauce.  It looked awful, but she made me try it.  I need to tell you that this stuff is like food crack.  It's addictive, bad for me, and wonderful.  Try new food.  You never know what you'll get.  
  • Get Into the World - Have a new experience.  Expand your experience.  Something you've always wanted to do?  Now.  Do it now.  Something that terrifies you that you've never done?  Try it.  You might like it.  
  • Adopt an Animal - Maybe I'm having a case of missing my dearly departed pup, Bogie, but it's a good thing to do.  Go to a shelter and adopt a dog or cat, puppy or kitten.  Adopt a creature that wouldn't have a chance to survive without you.  I can tell you, honestly, it's one of the best things I've ever done, and you'll get a friend for life. 

The last thing I have to say may fall into a "no shit, Sherlock" moment, but I'm saying it anyway.  Tell someone how much you love them.  Your wife, husband, partner, children, mom, dad... Tell them.  Even if you've said it, say it again.  You never get those moments back.  You can never say it enough.  Let them know that they're loved.  Don't let it ever be too late. 

See you in the new year. 


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Stasis... An Update on Tabby - 12-05-2012

Round number twelve began yesterday with a CT scan and a gentle probing and visual exam by her doctor.  Incidentally, if you're ever diagnosed with cancer (and believe me, I hope you're not), Texas Oncology is the place to go.  They're the folks taking care of Tabby and keeping her alive.

Back to the narrative:  The CT scan came back and everything was... The same.  Stable was the word they used.  I took a look at the report and it showed all the tumors were within .01 cm of what they were last month (either give or take) or exactly the same.  So what does that mean?

I'm not sure.

On the one hand, it means she's not getting any worse.  We've managed to stop the progression of the cancer so there's that.  On the other hand, it means she's not getting any better, which points to the reason for the title of this blog entry.  Stasis.  Nothing has changed.  She is unable to move forward or back.  We are all just pulling in, trying to support one another, and trying to keep hope alive.  I choose to take this as a good thing because it means I still get to have her around. Yes, it's selfish.  Sue me.

The medication is beating the hell out of her.  The "hooded nightmare," Cisplaten, is a brutal drug that appears to be doing its job, but it's taking its toll on her.  She's constantly tired, weak and her daily bouts of nausea are becoming routine.  It's almost like morning sickness, but it happens morning, noon and night.  She's currently on more than a dozen different prescriptions, including two for the nausea (which don't appear to be working...), magnesium boosters, bone strengtheners, blood pressure medication, and a host of other things pills that equal a handful and a mountain of empty pill bottles in our kitchen.  The Nulasta is one of the worst drugs ever to be necessary.

And yet, through it all, every time the doctor asks her if she can continue, she smiles and says "yes."  Doctor Smith has given her an out multiple times, asking her if she needs a break.  Tabby's determination has never wavered.  Her spirit continues to be indomitable.

This week, in addition to everything else Tabby is going through, she had to go through the pain of losing her father.  Walter Piszczyk was a gentle giant bear of a man who once threatened to break my legs if I broke his daughter's heart.  That's the man I choose to remember.  The man who, along with her stepfather, walked Tabby down the aisle.  His passing hit her hard at a time when she was already beaten down.  And still, she does not waver.

Consider that for a moment.  Think about your worst day.  Think about having those worst days for an entire year.  Think about the strength that it takes to hold your head up and continue to fight.  That's Tabby.  That's my girl.  If you ever had a doubt, it should be gone now.

As usual, if you're wondering what you can do...  At this point, not much.  I'm so thankful for all the messages from you all.  All the visits help her outlook.  My parents, my brother and sister-in-law, my Mother-in-Law, our friends...All of you have helped more than you know.  Our children continue to help and be morale boosters.  At this time of year, money's tight, as always.  Those of you who bought Droplets, you're the reason why we're able to have a Christmas this year, so thank you.  So I guess for now, all you can do is wait, hope, and call in any favors you might have owed you by any deity in which you believe.  Light a candle and spare a thought for Tabby.  She feels it.  I feel it too.

Love to all of you.