What Passes for Normal

I know a lot of people want to know how Susan’s doing, and most of you don’t want to wait until I finish writing my story about the TriathAlon to find out.

Plus, the two stories don’t go great together.

Last Wednesday
To really understand where things stand for Susan’s treatment, we’re going to have to jump back about a week, and then follow the timeline forward. I’ll try not to bog myself down in the details too much.

Last Wednesday, Susan had a CT scan, to find out to what degree the tumors have come back in her lungs and liver (and, potentially, elsewhere).

A couple years ago, a test like that would have freaked the two of us out beyond belief. Now, it was just another test — an indicator not of whether there was damage, but what kind of treatment the damage warranted.

But we still made a rookie mistake: we expected that we already knew all the possible outcomes.

Last Thursday
On Thursday, Susan was scheduled to have a bone scan, to find out whether there were any new tumors growing in her bones.

But before she could have the bone scan, Susan’s oncologist called her and told her to come down right away. “You’ve got blood clots in your lungs. These can be fatal.”

I got there before Susan. I’m not afraid to drive fast when I need to.

The doctor told us that Susan’s surgery, combined with her reduced activity, has probably caused blood clots to form in her legs. These have migrated to her lungs. If they had continued the trip to her brain, the clots would have killed her.

But they didn’t. So it’s a good thing we found those clots, while we can do something about them. Namely, we’re ramping up the coumadin to a much higher dosage (Susan already took a little bit each night to keep clots from forming in her port-a-cath), and a daily Lovenox shot in the meantime while the coumadin spools up.

Two quick observations. Did you know that the active ingredient in coumadin is the same active ingredient as in rat poison? Nice. Also, did you know that the copay for Lovenox is practically as expensive as crack?

Anyway, the blood clot scare is now behind us, and we got a bonus piece of good news: the CT scan also shows that the tumors in Susan’s lungs are not growing fast at all.

Yes, around here, we consider “very slow growth of the multitude of tumors in your lungs” good news, because that means Susan doesn’t have to go on chemo for now. Hormone therapy instead: stuff to block estrogen production in her body, since estrogen’s what Susan’s kind of breast cancer eats.

Yeah, cancer eats. (At least Susan’s kind of breast cancer does.) But only certain things — estrogen, in this case. So one of our strategies is to try to starve it.

Last Friday
Thursday evening, Susan started having a tough time lifting her left leg, and when she put weight on it, it would buckle.

By Friday afternoon, she couldn’t walk at all without use of the walker.

There should be a law against having cancer progress on you during weekend hours.

Monday morning, we called and wormed our way into an appointment (our original appointment for Monday had been canceled since we spent hour upon hour with the oncologist on Thursday).

Not surprisingly, Susan’s new trouble makes good sense in the context of the tumors she’s got in her pelvis and hips. So this Wednesday, she’s going in for an MRI to get a better idea of what kind of structural damage has been done (if any), and what we ought to do about it. Radiation? Surgery? Nothing?

Who knows?

We also learned one by-the-way piece of good news: the bone scan shows that there appear to be no new tumors growing in Susan’s bones.

In other words, apart from the bone damage caused by existing tumors, things are going pretty well.

Yeah, that’s right. Around here, this is what passes for “going pretty well.”

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