Monday, December 2, 2013

Good Reports

     We travelled down to Toronto last Tuesday to see the surgeon about Beth's parathyroid glands. Here's a bit of technical stuff (skip it if you don't need to know and the picture just freaks you out). Most of us have 4 parathyroids, but Beth only has 2 - the two on her right side were lost during her surgery for thyroid cancer in 2002. This surgeon we saw at Princess Margaret Hospital was the one who took out the rest of her thyroid (on the left side) in 2003 and he was able to preserve those parathyroids. However, as has been shared in a previous post, there is now a benign tumour on one of them, which has been causing her calcium levels to rise significantly. The hopeful news from our visit with the surgeon was that he felt he would be able to just remove the one affected gland and leave the other one intact. If the one remaining parathyroid would be able to do the job of regulating Beth's calcium level that would be wonderful, as having to take synthetic calcium supplements can cause some other challenges long term.
     On Wednesday we had supper at our place with some friends from way back when we were in youth group together (sometime in the previous century). We had a lovely time visiting and then rushed off to hear the author Malcolm Gladwell speak. His latest book is called "David & Goliath" and it's all about the power of underdogs. He didn't talk about it that night but there's an interesting profile in the book about a doctor who revolutionized cancer treatment back in the 60's. He was the first one to use a drug called Vancomycin and he also was the doctor who began using a mixture of different drugs to treat various cancers. Both of these revolutionary ideas are significant to us because Beth has, of course, received the "cocktail" treatment for her cancers, and in fact when she received chemo for Hodgkins disease back in 1983, one of the drugs in that mix was vancomycin. Our son David bought a copy of the book for Beth and got it signed by Gladwell, to encourage her in the battle against the giant she's facing. Interestingly, Beth has not been able to read much while she's been off, and she had thought that she'd be able to get some extra jobs done around the house. But it seems that just dealing with this disease is pretty much a full time job - she recently tallied some of the things that have taken up her time: 21 doctor appointments, 19 tests, 5 chemo treatments, a variety of workshops & info sessions.
     Beth had blood work done on Friday, as well as meeting with her chemo oncologist. All of the levels that have been a concern had improved - her calcium level had come down, the indicators for her liver were all much better, and her iron level was the best it's been since this all started. It seems that some combination of drugs (she had the infusion for the calcium level last week, and has begun taking 2 tablets daily for her liver) and prayer are certainly working! As well, the doctor said the breast tumour has continued to shrink in size significantly.
     Today (Mon. Dec. 2) was Beth's 5th chemotherapy treatment and it went amazingly well. The port-a-cath worked right away (without needing to be flushed) and they could administer the drugs more quickly since there have been no reactions during the previous infusions. Josh went along with her this time and they were home by shortly after 1:00. Then Beth had a pretty good sleep by the fireplace in our family room and after supper she even wanted to put up our Christmas tree!

1 comment:

MLee said...

So wonderful to hear all this good news. Beth is a glowing testimony of grace under pressure.