Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Good Recovery

     It has definitely been too long since an update - I guess I'm taking this retirement thing pretty seriously;) These few weeks since Beth's surgery have been full of many good things. A real highlight was a week ago when we snuck away to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to soak up some warmth between appointments. Beth's niece Tina and her husband Brady have just acquired a condo down there so we flew down in the wee hours of Tues. Feb. 4th and stayed until Sunday the 9th. It was beautiful, peaceful and hot! Beth's two older sisters and husbands were also there for a good chunk of that time so it was great getting to hang out with them as well.
     Going back a bit to the surgery recovery, things went really well - Beth took pain pills for a couple of days but never was very uncomfortable, her range of motion on her right side continued to be excellent, and she was able to get 2 of the 3 drainage tubes out just 6 days later. The community care nurse came every second day or so to check the dressings, and I emptied the drains regularly. The last of the drainage tubes continued to produce significant fluid (it needed to drain 25 ml or less a day before it could be removed) for 3 weeks. This was a bit of a complication in trying to get away to Florida as we had to check if Beth could fly with it in and could we take it out while away. In the end, since it continued to drain above 25 ml until we returned, the doctor removed it when he saw Beth for the followup appointment.
     There also was a meeting with the parathyroid surgeon in Toronto the last week of January to try to determine the date for that operation. In the end it was kind of frustrating as we didn't get a confirmation and have had to make several phone calls to get things set up. Now we're glad to know that Beth will have that surgery on Monday, February 24th at Toronto General Hospital. They did blood work the day of the appointment (Tues. Jan. 28) and in talking to a nurse that Friday Beth asked about her calcium level and found out that it was quite high again - it was surprising to us that nobody had followed up on that and in fact that she had to ask! At any rate Beth herself did some following up with that so she could have the treatment to have the pamidronate (the drug that brings the calcium level down) when she went in to have her herceptin treatment on the following Monday.
   So that Monday (Feb. 3) was a bit of a whirlwind (along with being my first day of retirement!) - Beth had an echocardiogram, then the two drug treatments at the hospital, then a lot of calling around to determine if we could actually do this Florida trip. In the end we decided around 6:00 that we could make it work, and we were on the road by 10:00 to drive to Niagara Falls for a late night flight on Spirit Airlines. As I explained earlier, we had a wonderful time there - it's amazing how quickly you forget about the cold and snow back home. [By the way, as people have been asking about the shady character in the pool with the hat, it's actually Beth's brother-in-law Ted].
     We got home early the next Monday as Beth had 3 appointments: Monday with the mastectomy surgeon, Tuesday with the radiation oncologist, and Wednesday with the chemotherapy oncologist. All of them were extremely pleased with the pathology report from the tissue removed during the mastectomy as it showed that the chemotherapy was very effective - the tumour itself was non-existent (and it had been fairly significant in size: over 5 cm) though there were some traces of the cancer in the breast ducts, there was no evidence of cancer in the "margins" (the edges of the tissue which they check to see if there had been any spreading of the cancer cells), and of the 14 lymph nodes that were removed only 1 of them showed a small amount (7 mm) of cancer. And of course, all of that has been removed - the surgeon said that really Beth could at this point consider herself to be cancer-free. The radiation doctor mentioned how this kind of positive response to the chemo is also a good indicator for being cancer-free in the long run. As well, Beth was able to get things decided about the radiation - she goes next Tuesday, Feb. 18th to get everything set up and then begins the actual treatments on Monday, March 3rd.
     This past week also began a new adventure for us - I had said that when I retire that I'd be willing to help take care of our grand-daughter Lindsay a couple of days a week when Rachel went back to work. Well, Rachel just began a new job in downtown Kitchener at a very innovative company (called Thalmic Labs) and so we took care of Lindsay on Thursday and Friday - what a delight she is and what a privilege to get to spend extended time with her.
     So thanks once again for all of your support. The reports this past week were a real answer to prayer. There's still a bit of a way to go but we can see the end in sight (Beth made me mark April 4th on the calendar as her last day of radiation!).

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