On September 12 my husband developed a significant blood clot in his left leg. It stretched from his ankle to his groin. Here it is some seven weeks later and we still are dealing with the residual effects of the clot. He had developed petechiae and purpura in the left leg as well which was quite alarming. Where are we at now? At our visit to the Oncologist on the 21 of October, the doctor looked at his leg and decided that there could be a bacterial infection under the skin and consequently prescribed an antibiotic. My husband’s been on the antibiotics for over a week now and the leg, in particular the petechiae, is looking much better. The swelling continues to exist but much slighter now and is in the lower calf, ankle and foot area. He continues to require a Fragmin® injection every day, and likely will for several months after his chemotherapy ends. We have been able to successfully transition to a smaller, less painful needle (6mm insulin) for his injections so there is less bruising on his stomach.
He has developed peripheral neuropathy in all his digits, and the toes on the left leg are particularly sensitive. I’m not sure if this is caused by the swelling that seems to worsen over the course of the day, or if it is in part due to a stroke he had about 9 years ago. Regardless his toes on both feet are quite sensitive and he sleeps with his feet uncovered. Despite this and all in all, he’s on track with the clot dissipating; the medical professionals (doctors and nurses) had all indicated it would be a month or two before it was gone and that’s precisely where we are at.
Yesterday was definitely a high point in our journey to date. It was unfortunate that my husband was so ill while we were at the hospital for this appointment. He definitely had an adverse reaction to the CT preparation that he’d had to drink the day before. When we had met with the nurse prior to our appointment to go over vitals, etc., the nurse and I talked about how terribly he had reacted to the CT scan while he sat there clutching his little puke bag. It’s not unknown for patients undergoing chemotherapy to have a different reaction versus their pre-chemo CT scan experience. Apparently it’s not uncommon to experience severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea or vomiting. I wish we had of known, it would have eased some of the tension associated with our visit. The night before our visit my husband had felt like the cancer was winning and it was a real challenge to get him to his appointment. Oh well, that’s past history now and we move to the present.
Presently, he’s still not feeling great. Today he had wanted to wake up and feel so different, but unfortunately it was more of the same. Yes he had great news, and psychologically it was a real boost, but it didn’t change his existing physical challenges. He’s rather beat up right now. He still has his blood clot, although the leg is coming down quite nicely now. The area of his leg that remains swollen is from the tips of his toes to his knee – previously it had been all the way up to his groin. He has the purpura and petechiae, although this too seems to be lessening; he was given a prescription for antibiotics that should help. He has the new concern of pleural effusion in his lungs to contend with. His sense of taste is still off which makes him miserable. His fingers and toes are exceptionally sensitive to hot, cold and touch. Perhaps most significant – he still has the fatigue associated with chemotherapy. Next week we will meet with the Oncologist who will have had a chance to review the CT scan with his peers. We are mindful that this group of experts may identify issues or concerns that may not be so good. At this meeting we will find out his future treatment plan – most likely including more chemotherapy, scans, tests, blood work, appointments, etc. Although we do have reason to be more hopeful about his prognosis, we recognize that we still have a lot of hard work, education, treatment and unknowns ahead of us.
We did get over to see his sister at the hospital. She came through the surgery well, however, she is experiencing considerable pain and discomfort. She has developed swelling in both of her legs. The nurses are pressing her to walk but she isn’t feeling too steady or solid on her feet. She did have a chance to meet with the surgeon who encouraged her to keep mobile but not at the cost of significant physical pain. During our visit she appeared quite wan and exhausted which is a little worrisome. While we were there she had a few other visitors so we didn’t stay long. She had originally told us that she thought that she would be released on Thursday but I just don’t see it happening; another day or two would give peace of mind since she is not bouncing back quickly.
For me, I sit here and wonder now what? Two siblings on a similar path – both of them travelling down it at the same time. Kinda like having twins – I just wasn’t ready for it.
The title of this painting is “The Musicians”.
With all that chemo splashing around in his veins, it will be interesting to see what his next painting looks like!
For the first time in weeks it seems, today was a decent day. It started off a little rocky, there was some nausea, but as the day progressed my husband started to visibly improve. He knew that today had to be heavy on the proteins. The chemo has gone through him and wiped out all his blood cells so he needs the protein to rebuild. The toxins from the chemotherapy also still need to be flushed out – so a day that would also be heavy on fluid intake. He was game. By mid afternoon he was starting to perk up. This was a good thing. His taste buds are still off – at dinner tonight he informed me that most of the food I served him was a little “off” but since it didn’t seem to bother me, he ate the food anyway. This was quite funny really – the two big culprits were white rice and water.
He’s busy painting a submission for an art exhibition right now – which is another good thing. We’ve rigged up an arrangement where he can keep his left leg elevated in deference to his blood clot and still paint at an easel. The clot is still very apparent and his leg is still very swollen. By the end of the day his foot is smooth and shiny and his ankle is completely puffed up. Despite the swelling the pain has begun to subside which suggests he is well on the way to recovery. Not out of the woods completely but hopefully close.
There’s always a hitch though. On the 20th of this month he goes for a CT scan. There are three potential outcomes: 1) the chemotherapy is not working; 2) the chemotherapy has managed to stop the progression of the cancer, and 3) the chemotherapy has managed to reduce the presence of some of the existing cancer. He told me tonight that the chemotherapy has taken a significant toll on him physically and mentally and that, depending on the outcome of the CT scan, he has decided that he may take a break from the treatment. I know that when he starts to feel better, like he is now, he’s loath to go back in for another treatment. It’s important that he have a sense of control in his own wellbeing, and also the knowledge that he can and will feel better. There will be much more conversation in this regard prior to the 20th but for now there will be no more dialogue on this topic – decisions will be made after we get the CT scan results.
The sun shone today in more ways than one.