Friday, January 13, 2012

Elephant eviction notice...

Tuesday I was armed with questions for Dr. Panwalkar. But the first thing he mentioned was that my platelets were pretty low and he didn't know if the study would allow me to do chemo that day. He also brought a third year med student with him. We are both a bit taken aback when he suggests that she do my physical exam. Clearly he was in a jovial mood and I climb on board.

The med student smiled bravely, but she seemed unsure of herself. Especially when Dr. Panwalkar grins and says "Lets see if she can find your lymph node." I chuckle and shake my head knowing he is sending her on a wild goose chase.

Of course she heads for my left side first, the wrong side, and I can barely feel her attempts to find a swollen node under my arm. Her touch is light and hesitant. I can sense how "put on the spot," she feels. I catch her eye and motion her to my right side. "Hey, no cheating," Dr. Panwalkar says sternly, but he is laughing. I grin right back at him as I lift my right arm for her and whisper to her its tricky. But again her touch is too light and I know without pressure and a firm touch she won't find it.

She finally looks to Dr. Panwalkar and says, "I'm not finding it." I empathize with her as I've only just discovered it for the first time myself a few weeks ago. He steps in now, gently guiding her step by step teaching her how to perform the exam, until she finds it.

She is equally perplexed when she goes to listen to my heart. Again, I just want to tell her what she is hearing is okay. I can feel how fast my heart is beating and sense her alarm. She listens and listens and then timidly says "Well, its beating pretty fast." Dr. Panwalkar and I both get a good laugh as he assures her its normal for me.

He then completes the exam.

He is surprised to hear I still have an elephant sitting on my chest- an elephant that went on a diet, but he clearly hasn't gotten the eviction notice we've sent him. I am prescribed a medication used for ulcers with the thinking my esophagus may be damaged and needs help to heal.

We then tackle the issue of the next set of scans I need. With both the oncologist on call last week and the ER doc saying no way would they risk giving me CT scan dye again after reacting to it twice, we need a new option. We could do a PET scan but with our insurance benefit covering one scan a year- and me getting them every 9 weeks, I can't afford a 7 thousand dollar scan. We will have to think this one through.

Its nearing the end of my visit so I broach the subject of my newest lung spot and brain "blob." I ask him what it will take for him to "call progression," and take me off the study. He reminds me that the two new areas aren't delineated as cancer yet. The lung spot would have to grow, and the spot on my brain has to assert somehow that it is cancer. Even though they suspect that it is, it has to not light up on the MRI or clearly show growth, neither of which it has done yet. It could be he says, that my lymph node will progress or new spots will show up elsewhere first, before either of the other two will do anything. I smile a bit thinking the "light" in the blob is keeping me stable and on my study.

I hadn't even thought of these options. I get so focused on one thing sometimes, to the exclusion of all the other equally important things. I've taken up the full hour and its now my infusion time. But I also realize with more certainty, just how uncertain the road ahead looks. I have to stick to my mantra of staying in today and letting tomorrow take care of itself.

He calls the study mentor who says that I have just enough platelets to do my chemo. Treatment number 14 is now complete.

I'm still counting gifts: Tuesday I count "laughing all the way through a visit with the oncologist." Someday I have to figure out a way to record Dr. Panwalkar's laugh. Its hearty, and infectious, and filled with a joy that he seems to carry with him.

I also capture bare feet in the middle of a January day in Minnesota, and this counts twice in my book.

The kids have asked daily that we try the new ice cream maker.  So after a good nap after chemo I got up and made ice a batch of ice cream.

It was slick, and in no time we had creamy, vanilla, sweetness on a spoon.  Yum-o.  

Low platelets have kept me feeling a little more fatigued than normal.  If anyone has any suggestions on how to manufacture some or boost my platelets, I'm all ears.  


  1. You are so patient, Vicky (no pun intended there, either.) For you to have the intern exam you (and you give hints as to the side she should look for the gland on) is so "Vicky"...and by that I do mean "Sweet Vicky." Sweet and patient. I love your spirit, my friend.
    I am hoping that you find the info from friends, family....anyone who can help you in boosting your platelets. I am hugging you from a distance and counting on God to see you completely through this. I am.
    I love the photo of you in your bare feet. It is a blog in itself....the warmth in the midst of what should be winter's strongest blast....but there is warmth.
    I love you and continue to pray for you daily.

  2. Vicky I have no suggestions, but know that I am sending virtual hugs and much love your way.
    You have made many, many batches of lemonade with the lemons you keep receiving.
    Your attitude is a gift unto itself.

  3. I remember my gramma had colon cancer. They operated, (the second time, 10 years after the first one).
    She was fine on tubes but when they took the tubes out and gave her her first meal the food went through the linings of her internal organs because of low platelets the doctor said. They had to go in and clean everything up inside.
    This didn't make any sense to me This was the time we made a stink cause the doctor left her to students and they were experimenting on my Grand mother.It paid off to make a stink. She died twice that night but they put in the resident doctor to sleep in her room and she got her heart beating again.
    She got better and went home to live another 10 years.She had cancer from 50 and she lived to 98. The only way I know to get good platelets quickly is through blood transfusions. You have to be able to eat to get nutrients into your blood and if you can't eat....
    My Grand mother was strong willed she could have made it to 100 but I was not there to fight the good fight with her and my aunt listened to the doctors and they are not really interested to waste time and money on old people.
    This is what I don't like about health care. Things should not be so expensive.
    Tabouli salad is very good for you full of iron. You need to eat lots of enriched food to build up the platelets ASAP. So if you can eat, do it.

  4. I am sorry I meant 89 Got the numbers reversed. She died just short of her 90th birthday.

  5. I remember my Grand mother eating lots of garlic and walnuts. She had her old medicine book she read and followed what they said to keep well.

  6. I wish I could send you platelets via the internet knowing it would make you stronger.
    Can you drink a bit of red wine? a tiny bit every evening with your dinner? (I guess it does not mix well with all you meds, right?)
    Sending you virtual hugs and prayers for strength :-)

  7. I'm with Jackie and everyone here and in comments on your other postings who remain amazed, awed, blown away, encouraged, and simply stunned at your continued attitude of gratitude and how you handle everything with such grace and goodness. Praying, praying, and wishing I could fly there and give you whatever platelets you need. Can you find the healthiest person you know in the community who shares your blood type and do a direct transfer? That's what I'd go with for improvement in a hurry. Use cast iron cookware for immediate entry into your diet. I had to cut back because all of our iron was so high. I'm telling you, I wish I could give you my blood but someone near you has the blood you need. Love you and praying, praying, and waiting for our miracle.

  8. Vickie, I am glad you managed to get some sunshine on those feet, what a gift in January, and that ice cream I am sitting right next to you having some. I am praying and praying, I don't know a thing about platelets, but I am going to learn....As for the 7000. for the test, it is outrageous. I believe that all things necessary should be made available to anyone whom is ill. sending love and admiration your way.

  9. Wholesome and nutrtious food.......and lots of good sleep! Not sure if that would help the platelets, but feeding your body with good food will help you with the fatique problem.

    I'm so glad you have a good, caring doctor. Always thinking of you Vicky.

  10. Oh, how I remember the are an inspiration and your words such a reminder for each of us to enjoy the "joy" of today! I continue to pray for you! Love the tootsies in January!

  11. Vicky, you are such an inspiration to all of us. Living in the moment, enjoying each day to the fullest. Wish there was something we could do to ease you heavy load.
    Love the bare feet photo. Hugs to you, and hope you know you are in our thoughts and prayers.

  12. Those toes would be pretty cold on a day like today!

    Praying you continue to make progress and have your strength renewed.

  13. Vicky, Dr. P is lucky to have such a wonderful patient. I know you feel the same way about him. Such a tender relationship, doc and patient. Thanks for taking us inside and giving us a glimpse. And that ice cream, yum. Brings me back to days of making ice cream with my mom and sister in the summertime. Such a wonderful treat! I am wishing you a weekend that brings life. :) XXOO, Roxane

  14. LOL.. loving those toes in winter on the deck :-)

    Wish I had some advice... as for the elephant on the chest (esophagus/acid woes) a home remedy that helps me and my sister is a tbs. of apple cider vinegar (the kind that says "with the mother" - braggs) in a mug with 2 tbs honey.. hot water added, mix to make a "tea". I happen to like the taste, but not all do. Sip it till gone, once every day.. seems to really help.

  15. Wheatgrass juice (read Ann Wigmore), spirulina, anything green ..:)


  16. Enjoy today with your boys. You are one loved mama. xoxo

  17. Sunshine and ice cream in January sound kind of blissful. I read your post Saturday night and as I laid in bed, I just prayed for you. And thanked God for the encouragement you give to so many people even though I know that giving encouragement in this way is just not what you had in mind for yourself.

  18. I don't know of any platelet boosters but I do know some yummy ice cream ideas!!!

    make the vanilla again and add some mini chocolate chips its super yummy. Or one of Nathan's favorites in buy "Simply Organic - Peppermint Flavor" add one tsp, 1 drop green food coloring, and those mini chocolate chips and you got some super good mint and chip ice cream...
    I've got more but we need the spring to get here!!! :)
    Have fun...
    And I'm right there with ya! ;)

  19. I'm thinking your doctor knows you as well as you know him, he knows you'll be a good sport w/ the intern. How very much that says about your sweet and very tender heart Vicky.
    I am tickled about bare feet in January in Minn. YES, that definitely counts twice!
    love you my friend

  20. Great photo of your bare feet. You gave me a big smile with that one :)



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