Christmas Passed

Daphne the Christmas Pooch!

Daphne – All dressed up for the occasion.

So we are through part one of two for the holidays.  Christmas is now over and we have New Year’s to get through.  This new phase in our lives has meant some significant changes to how we “do” Christmas.  In years past we would go carolling up and down the street or get together with friend’s at our house, their house, it changed from year to year.  We’d have a nice Christmas Eve dinner – usually surf and turf, drink Bailey’s and watch The Christmas Story.  We go to bed late, and get up late the next day.  Christmas Day would be turkey with all the trimmings and generally people arriving throughout the day for appetizers, drinks, carol singing, dinner and later on games.  We’ve always been sure to take pictures and plenty of them.  This year was a much different affair.  We managed to do a bit of a drive around our city to look at the Xmas lights on Xmas Eve, my husband and I along with his sister, two of the kids and two couples that are dear friends of the family.  The next day we had more family, including our two grandchildren, stop by but it was for a few brief hours, no meals, no games, no drinks.  The only consistent thing from years past is that we took pictures, and lots of them.

My husband had a poor response to the Zometa infusion and it took him down for about 8 days.  Today, the 28th, is the first day he has had an appetite and been able to participate in conversation with the family.   It was just bad timing for the reaction to the Zometa, but it did make me realize that I had slipped a bit on my research on recommended treatments.  If I had read up on Zometa and chatted through the side effects with my husband prior to commencing the treatments I doubt he would have opted for it.  This is what WebMD states regarding Zometa Intravenous under Common Side Effects:

The following side effects are associated with Zometa intravenous:

Common side effects of Zometa intravenous:

  • Bone Pain –  Severe
  • Feeling Weak – Severe
  • High Blood Pressure – Severe
  • Low Amount of Magnesium in the Blood – Severe
  • Low Amount of Phosphate in the Blood –  Severe
  • Low Amount of Potassium in the Blood –  Severe
  • Trouble Breathing – Severe
  • Backache –  Less Severe
  • Chills –  Less Severe
  • Chronic Trouble Sleeping – Less Severe
  • Cough – Less Severe
  • Diarrhea – Less Severe
  • Dizzy –  Less Severe
  • Feel Like Throwing Up  – Less Severe
  • Fever – Less Severe
  • Fluid Retention in the Legs, Feet, Arms or Hand – Less Severe
  • Head Pain –  Less Severe
  • Incomplete or Infrequent Bowel Movements – Less Severe
  • Inflammation of Skin caused by an Allergy – Less Severe
  • Joint Pain –  Less Severe
  • Low Energy – Less Severe
  • Muscle Pain  – Less Severe
  • Throwing Up  –  Less Severe
  • Urinary Tract Infection –  Less Severe

Click on the link if you want to see the other side effects listed under Infrequent or Rare.  There is also a good site in the UK that I often refer to when looking up this type of information, Patient.co.uk.; it provides suggestions on how to deal with the side effects.

Back to our situation and nope, we definitely would have considered other holistic ways to enhance his bones rather than infuse them with a bisphosphonate.  There is plenty out there too – therapies like mind body healing, osteotapping, Tai Chi, Xi Sui Jing; a wide range of supplements and dietary supports.  We just need to get through New Year`s and then settle back into a routine where there is time to do the much needed research.

The Sister-In-Law

Yesterday was a big day for my sister-in-law.  She’s been hospitalized since the end of October while she battles sepsis.  The sepsis was the result of a complication for surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her intestine.  Yesterday she had a meeting with her surgeon as well as some of the other medical professionals at the hospital.  They are preparing to release her to her home as early as the end of this week and wanted to go over what to expect, what supports would be in place, what supports she will require and also, of course, the results of the original surgery back on October 20th.

The medical team are pleased with my sister-in-law’s progress in the last five days.  She has done well and has achieved the key physical requirements necessary to consider releasing her to convalesce at home.  There are supports that have been contacted, including CCAC and another program recently started that will provide her with a PSW on a daily basis for the first week.  There will be ongoing assessments throughout, so it appears that this part of her care is well addressed.

The surgeon needed to discuss future treatments as well as the results of the surgery in October.  Unfortunately this was not the best of news.  During surgery the tumor was removed along with some lymph nodes.  Of the 18 lymph nodes sampled, two proved to be cancerous.  Consequently my sister-in-law will be required to undergo, at a minimum, chemotherapy.  The surgeon has now moved my sister-in-law’s file over to the oncology department at a nearby hospital and has advised her to expect a call within the next two weeks to start this part of the process.  Not the greatest news, but hopefully the spread of the cancer was caught early enough that the chemotherapy will put an end to it.

One thing is for sure, this will be a very different Christmas from any we have had in the past.  This Christmas will be about celebrating our family and friends and valuing the time we have together.  Life can, and does, change in a heartbeat.  Never has this been more apparent to me than this year.  There’s a degree of complacency that most of us have when things are going well and it means that sometimes we don’t value or recognize how good things are.  For me, I often long for our ‘old’ normal back but I know it is gone for good.  So it’s about what we do have, not what we used to have, this is our new focus.

My Sister-In-Law – November Update

You loose a little something when your life screeches to a halt.

You lose a little something when your life screeches to a halt.  Sometimes you have to lay a little rubber to get it going again.

This week just completed was quite significant for my sister-in-law.  She continues to improve on a daily basis although she would argue this point.  She’s been in the Surgical Ward for just over one week now and in that time has had her tracheostomy removed and is functioning completely independently of all machines.  Her blood pressure has stabilized, her appetite has improved and her body has commenced healing to the satisfaction of all the doctors and nurses charged with her care.  The doctor is preparing to move her over to the Rehabilitation Ward in the hospital; this should occur in the next couple of days.

The rehabilitation process will not be an easy one.  Her memory of the events leading up to the state she is in is limited.  She doesn’t really comprehend how ill she was and for how long and what the physical outcomes were.  That doesn’t mean she has lost any mental capacity, it just means it’s still all a blur to her.  I think a number of people have tried to prepare her for the hard work that she will be required to put in to get back to full independence.  As of this point in her recovery my sister-in-law has been required to stand supported by a walker, for as long as she is capable of, and also to sit in a chair.  Both these activities drain her strength completely.  She feels nauseous as a result of the strain of moving or standing.  She’s woozy if she stands too long.

I suspect that we will have lots of tears, anger and frustration as she moves through the rehabilitation phase.  The rehab staff will push her to determine what her limits are and whether they should push her a little harder.  In this case the anger and frustration will likely fuel her determination to get out of there faster.  I can hardly wait to hear the nicknames she develops for the rehab folks, she’s had some doozies for the nurses where she is now – “Evil”, “Jekyll”, “Dropkick” – and the explanations behind each moniker are priceless and likely heavily influenced by the drugs she was prescribed during this time.  As I left her tonight I took a picture of her to share with my hubby, he hasn’t seen her for over a month.  It was a great photo ( even she was pleased with it) and providing visual evidence of her improvement to my husband lifted his spirits tremendously.

My Sister-In-Law

Yesterday my sister-in-law was moved from the ICU to a Ward.  It was a gruelling day for her.  She moved under her own steam more in one day than she had in the last four weeks.  Absolutely knocked her out.  When I arrived there in the evening she was not very happy.  She was still fairly congested so she was suctioned while I was there. (She still has her trach, but the doctor hopes to have that removed in the next couple of days.)   Although she didn’t have a headache she was a  little nauseated which she felt was a result of the hospital staff pushing her too hard.  She doesn’t have any strength and they were making her do things that were too much for her.  Unfortunately, this is going to be her new reality and I told her so.  The rehabilitation phase will start soon and they will make her work hard to gain back her strength and capacity.

Being in a Ward is a significant change for her.  She’s come from the ICU where the nurse/patient ratio is 1:2 or 1:3; now she’s in a Ward where the ratio on paper is likely 1:4 or 1:6, however is considered “dynamic” and consequently likely higher.  The nursing staff will not be able to attend to her needs immediately and this will take some getting used to for her.  However, the perk of being in a Ward is that now she can have some visitors (although yesterday she told me she didn’t want to see anyone).  She’s a social creature and needs the distraction.  The work she has ahead of her is going to push her to her limits, so distractions to take her mind off of her present reality may help make her existing situation a little more tolerable.  Anyway, she’s got her voice back now and I suspect she is on her way to letting the nursing staff know what she needs!

Today’s Hospital Visit

Today I managed to get over again during the day to visit with my sister-in-law.  A number of her machines have been removed as she continues to progress forward.  Today when I saw her she looked absolutely exhausted.  Not only that, it was also apparent that she felt miserable and was in no mood for company.  Through simple signs she managed to tell me she had a headache, was completely exhausted and her that her stomach was causing her discomfort.  I spoke with the nurse assigned to her and she told me that my sister-in-law had a good day from the perspective of making strides forward.  There was not much they could do for the headache since my sister-in-law had tugged out her nose line which was how they administered her Tylenol.  The stomach pain could be addressed by removing some of the gas that had accumulated and the nurse went about doing that.

Although she was pretty tired we visited for about 45 minutes.  In the last few days she has made some pretty incredible strides forward, however, she is still in Intensive Care.  Her breathing is laboured, although she is breathing on her own now – through the tracheostomy.  She has a lot of congestion in her lungs and is being suctioned every few minutes, as well as taking medication to break it up.  It is exhausting work trying to cough up all that phlegm as well as breathing on her own after three weeks on a machine.  So she’s tired and frustrated.  A couple of times she pointed to herself and mouthed “stupid”.  Somehow she figures that this was all her fault.  I suspect that the road ahead of her is a tough one and she will be tired and frustrated throughout, but each day she is getting stronger.  It will be a momentous event when she finally is transferred out of the ICU.