February 1, 2007

It has been more than 6 weeks since my last email update. It has not been a good time for us. Diana has been very fatigued and resting most of each day. In addition, the weather in Houston has been very cold and rainy every day. It makes you feel dismal even at the best of times. Diana completed two treatments of the new chemo – Taxotere . The first treatment was on Dec 20 and the second on Jan 10.

After the first treatment on December 20, Diana spent most of her time in bed resting. Christmas was not very joyous for us this year, Diana’s brother and his wife visited us for about seven days arriving on Christmas eve, Diana ate Christmas dinner with the family at the table but once finished was quickly back to bed resting. Diana did not get dressed and stayed in her PJs and just wore her bathrobe over the PJs. Just about the time Diana got over her fatigue it was time for the next chemo treatment. Diana needs assistance to get up out of bed now. That is my new job along with helping her take a shower and dress. I get to select the clothes she will wear when I help her get dressed and she doesn’t even complain about my choices. I try to only put clothes together that I have seen her wear previously. Diana is happy for me to help and doesn’t even complain about my choices. I know that when she doesn’t care about how she looks, she really doesn’t feel well. The only thing I cannot do well is her earrings – pierced – I cannot get them thru the holes in her ears. So we don’t always wear earrings.

We celebrated New Year’s Eve by going to The Galleria Mall in Houston. About a 25 minute car ride from our house in Katy. We walked through a few stores. Had our New Year’s Eve lunch at a restaurant in the mall and came home. Diana enjoyed being out amongst people. We went home and watched the celebrations on TV and went to bed early. At least we went out on New Year’s Eve. It was good exercise for Diana.

On Jan 10, Diana had her second treatment of Taxotere. We arrived at the clinic late morning for blood tests and an x-ray. Dr. Blumenschein was net and he gave Diana the green light for her second treatment. At Diana’s December 20 treatment, the nurse brought in all of these extra medicines – sort of scared me a little at the time. Once that nurse started the chemo infusion, she stayed with Diana for the first ten minutes – checking her vital signs every minute. I finally asked her what was she doing? This procedure had never occurred for any of Diana’s previous chemo treatments. The nurse told me that occasionally patients have a reaction to Taxotere and what she was doing was precautionary just in case. She told me it was the normal operating procedure they followed when administering Taxotere.

Back to January 10. Finally around 7 PM Diana was called for her chemo treatment. For this treatment the nurse did not bring in any extra medication. Diana had the IV inserted and started with saline and steroids at 7:30 PM. I asked the nurse what time would the chemo start? She told me at 8:05 PM. Since we had been at the clinic all day and had not eaten since lunch,I went downstairs to the cafeteria for some water and goodies at 7:50 PM for Diana to munch on once we were through with her treatment. I wanted to be back before the chemo started since the nurse on the previous treatment had made me a little scared of Taxotere. I returned to Diana’s room around 8 PM, five minutes before the chemo was to start. When I came back to the second floor area and approached the room Diana was in – I could see through the doorway that Diana’s face was as red as a beet and obviously she was very uncomfortable. She wasn’t communicating or moving. I raced to the central nursing station and grabbed a nurse. This nurse immediately stopped the chemo – put Diana on oxygen. Raced out and got some new medication. She started to infuse the drug benedryl to counteract the reaction. The nurse called the on call Doctor to Diana’s room. The doctor appeared very quickly. And they finally got Diana stabilized. Diana had had a reaction to the Taxotere. I found out later that when the second nurse got to Diana, Diana’s oxygen level in her blood was down to 90% – very low. The original nurse had started the chemo infusion automatically – ten minutes before she told me it was to start. And to make matters worse, she had gone home because of shift change and left Diana unattended for the start of the chemo infusion. I was both extremely grateful for the quick action the nurse that I found had taken extremely furious at the nurse who violated the hospital procedure for administration of Taxotere.

About 9:30 the nurse with the doctor in attendance deemed Diana as fully recovered and started the chemo Taxotere again. There were no problems this time as they slowed the rate of fluid into Diana’s blood system. We got home at midnight after arriving at the clinic at 11 AM. Diana felt fine. I was still shaking. I can still see the image of her red as a beet and unable to move or talk in my mind and it is three weeks later. I was very upset and would have been too emotional to speak to MD Anderson about the incident the following day, Thursday. So I waited until after the weekend – a few days had past and then called and reported the incident. I did receive a call from the nurse’s manager apologizing for the incident that should not have happened. Supposedly because of confidentiality laws, she would not tell me if any action was taken against the nurse. She did say the incident would not happen again in her department. I was quite disappointed at how my complaint was handled. I did not let Diana know that I was filing a complaint about her reaction to Taxotere. It would have been one more thing for her to worry about and she did not need to have that burden.

Diana has spent the best part of the two weeks after her treatment in bed. Last Friday January 26, Diana completed a new series of tests – CT Scan, MRI Brain, X-rays and blood tests. We spent the weekend home resting. Yesterday, January 31, we met with Dr. Blumenschein for the results of her tests.

Unfortunately, the news we received was not good. The tumors did not respond to the chemo Taxotere treatments. The tumors (3) in Diana’s liver grew by approximately 25% since early December – the time of her last CT Scan. The tumor in her lung had smaller growth – but it too had grown Diana was scheduled for another round of Taxotere chemo yesterday, but that was cancelled by Dr. Blumenschein. It is so depressing to go through all the pain and suffering associated with a series of chemo treatments only to find out that they did no good.

Dr. Blumenschein thinks that Diana is in too weak of a condition at the present time to continue with any treatment. We decided to not give her any treatment yesterday and give her an additional week of rest. He wants to see if the fatigue is related to the past chemo treatments. He wants to see if her physical condition improves this week. We are all hoping that her strength increases so she can proceed with some treatment. Diana is scheduled to see Dr. Blumenschein next Wednesday February 7. Dr. B. will recommend how we proceed at that time based upon seeing her physical condition.

Unfortunately, in Diana’s current physical condition she is not eligible for most clinical trials. Since clinical trials are attempting to get a drug approved, the sponsor wants patients that have the highest chance of success which rules out potential patients such as Diana who are in weakened conditions. There is a double whammy here. The chemo did no good cancer wise and it weakened Diana’s overall physical condition which rules out additional treatments until her condition strengthens. Plus time is lost. Bad, bad and more bad.

It is sad that cancer treatment decisions are so hit and miss. Doctors do not have sufficient information in selecting treatments for patients. It is all gut feel rather than detailed clinical data about the patient. I am an engineer by schooling and training. I guess my mind works differently. However, it has been pointed out to me many times, cancer research is being controlled primarily by the pharmaceutical companies who are searching for control medicines and not cures.

Needless to say but we are both devastated at the results of this weeks test results. Diana still wants to fight the disease. I am continuing to investigate alternative treatments. It is very obvious that Diana is too weak for any toxic medication which rules out any new chemotherapy. We have been tracking Diana’s weight and she is losing weight. She is not eating well. During the month of January, Diana lost about 4 pounds. She now weighs 121 pounds. We have been monitoring her weight every day and hope to stabilize it. Continuing weight loss is not a good sign.

Thanks for your prayers and support. We really appreciate your efforts.


February 8, 2007

Well it has been a pretty good week. Diana got a little stronger each day. We went out on Monday and bought a portable PC. Diana came to the Fry’s store with me – a short 30 minute ride from our house. Diana likes to play computer games and this will allow her to do so in bed or at the kitchen table. I needed a PC anyway – some of you may not know but I use a Mac and have never used a PC. The are many applications that I have wanted to use but don’t work on a Mac. So we now have a PC. Diana doesn’t like to sit in the office so this portable will make the PC usable by her wherever she wants – even in her bed. She does like computer games.

Diana is now off of all medication except for her pain patch and pills. The end result is good. Diana had an appointment with Dr. Blumenschein yesterday. He was very happy with her progress. The new plan is for Diana to not be on medication for the next 2 weeks. We will meet again with Dr. Blumenschein on Feb 21. If Diana continues to improve and get stronger, he is ready to start Diana on MD Anderson’s newest clinical trial – code name Battle. The clinical trial requires that Diana get a biopsy on her lung tumor. Then based upon the types of cells found – Diana will be prescribed one of four oral medications. The trial is attempting to match the patient’s cancer cell types to to a medication that the patient is more likely to respond positively. Dr. Blumenschein also informed us that approximately 1 out of 5 patients cell biopsies do not match with any of the medications and thus that patient cannot proceed with the clinical trial.

After our appointment with Dr. B yesterday, Diana and I went for a short walk at the Houston Zoo which is located a five minute ride down the street from MD Anderson cancer clinic. It was a nice walk as we both felt good after our encouraging visit with Dr. B. For those of you up north in the cooler climates – the temperature was 72 in Houston yesterday. We enjoyed the stroll together, especially with the weather.

We will now wait the two weeks. In the meantime, Diana is working to make sure she gets sufficient exercise each day to build her strength. Diana is doing her best to eat several smaller snacks during the day. We are concerned about her weight loss. Next weekend , the third son of our Cape Cod friends is getting married in Boston. As soon as we received the invitation a while back, we knew we would not be going. to the wedding However, as the time approaches, Diana is saddened by the fact that we cannot go. She would’ve liked to been able to go even though it is winter weather in the Boston area. The fact that we cannot go is just another example of how her cancer is affecting our personal life. Often, you cannot do things you want or take trips that you want. It makes the both of us very sad.

Have a great two weeks. Will update you after our next appointment. No tests scheduled- just an appointment with Dr. B.

Thanks for all of you support and prayers.


February 21, 2007

During the past 2 weeks Diana sort of hit a recovery plateau. She is a little more active but still tires very easily. She is spending 18 – 20 hours per day resting/sleeping in bed. She will get up each day for breakfast and return to bed soon after. Around lunch she will get up, shower and get dressed. We usually do some errands like go to the bank, cleaners, pick up some groceries, etc. And once we return home, it is back to bed until dinner. An hour after dinner – it is back to bed for Diana. Not a very active day.

On Saturday February 19, there was a fruit tree sale at the county fairgrounds. Yes, every county in Texas has a fair grounds. Dallas hosts the annual State Fair of Texas which lasts for three weeks in October. Well all three of us – Diana, her Mom and I – got up early and went to breakfast at The Waffle House. The Waffle House is a chain of Southern restaurants open 24 hours per day and guess what their specialty is – Yes Waffles. After breakfast we went to the fruit tree sale. Diana helped pick out three fruit trees that grow well in the Katy area – Fig, Lemon and Sumatra – a variation of an orange. We wanted to get a grapefruit tree but they were all gone by the time we arrived. We will need to wait 2-3 weeks to plant the trees until the threat of frost is gone – yes, we do wake up an occasional morning and see a white lawn in the winter. Not often, but it does happen. Diana was exhausted by the time we arrived back home.

The following week was a quiet one spent mostly at home. I would do my best to come up with some errand that I could drag Diana so she would get some exercise. Once we would get back home it was bed rest for Diana.

Well today we met with Dr. Blumenschein. After lots of discussion about future treatments, we came to the conclusion that Diana has improved but not enough to proceed with the clinical trial treatment. Diana has been experiencing some numbness in her lower lip and jaw and we discussed that condition as well. Dr. B thinks it may be from some nerve damage, possibly done while she was getting brain radiation. He will follow up with a scan later to see if any nerve damage shows. Dr. B wants to monitor Diana’s strength over the next two weeks – and have us meet with Dr Blumenschein again on Mar 7. In the meantime he is going to schedule another brain MRI and CT scan before our next visit. Based upon the MRI and CT Scan and Diana’s strength at that time – a decision will be made as to whether to proceed with the clinical trial treatment.

Basically we are in limbo for the next 2 weeks.

Thanks to all who have sending Diana emails, cards and notes – it really cheers her each day to open and read them. She reads each one and really appreciates them. She is upset because she does not have the strength to respond to each one and she asked me to thank you all from her in my email. Diana has lost another 3 pounds so far this month in spite of our efforts to fatten her up.i just wish there was better news that I could write.

Thanks for all of you support and prayers.