Thursday, April 19, 2012

Our Cancer Journey Week 18

On Friday, after careful consideration, the BIDMC oncologists elected not to treat Kathy because her side effects from Paclitaxel (Taxol)  were so severe - increasing pain and numbness in her hands and feet.   She cannot hold a pencil, use a paintbrush, or eat with chopsticks.   She has to nap mid day because of fatigue caused by constant neuropathic pain.   Thus far, the Vitamin B6 has not helped and her clinicians recommended Gabapentin (Neurontin) to reduce the discomfort.   She's not enthusiastic about masking symptoms.   She'd prefer to monitor her body's progress objectively.

Kathy's attitude toward cancer treatment is aggressive - "poison me today for a cure tomorrow".  She can accept short term pain for long term gain.  The problem with neuropathy is that it may be permanent.    She admits that permanent loss of her ability to create art or feel the difference between silk and sandpaper is challenging to accept.

Tomorrow, her clinicians will evaluate her progress and consider several options:
*Stop chemotherapy and await the results of the April 25 imaging studies.  She may already be treated sufficiently
*Continue chemotherapy with an agent similar to Paclitaxel called Docetaxel (Taxotere)  
*Stop the entire class of Taxane therapies and return to a cycle of Adriamycin/Cytoxan since that seemed to work so well in her early therapy

There are many possibilities and we're confident that all will be well.

Last Saturday we visited the Erikson Grain Mill, a family operated supplier of feeds for chickens, horses, and other farm animals.  As luck would have it, a customer just cancelled their order for six Araucana/Ameraucana chicks (photo above).   Moments after we arrived another family offered to adopt them, but we had already made up our minds.   On Saturday at 2pm we became chicken farmers.   Our young hens are enjoying the warmth and security of their new brooder (a Rubbermaid 37 gallon storage container), infrared lamp, and feeder.    While at Erikson's we ordered the remainder of our 2012 coop population - 2 Buff Orpingtons, 2 Brahmas, and 2 Jersey Giants.

There's one other addition to our property that will begin life in our coop but then free range - Guinea Fowl.   I've had Lyme disease twice and the Guinea Fowl are well known tick eaters.    They'll start in our brooder for 6 weeks, live in the coop for 6 additional weeks, then we'll let them free range over our 15 acres, training them to return to the coop at night for safety.

Although Kathy's hands and feet are numb, she's very capable of caring for the new additions to our lives.   Our move preparations are nearly complete so she can turn her attention to our next life phase.  It's much more enjoyable to design the ideal coop for a  small flock of chickens than to focus on the short term disability caused by cancer treatment.   There are even a few chick brooder engineering problems for me to solve.   More about that in tomorrow's post.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your amazing story with us. I am a year-post my first cancer surgery and doing well.
I hope your wife will be blessed with a full recovery.

Anonymous said...


I have diabetes and started taking Evening Primrose Oil again. It is reported to assist some people with pain in their extremities; I think there may be a slight benefit for me since I resumed taking it. It may be a "do no harm" thing to try with the neuropathy (assuming there are no contraindications).

I mentioned it once before in the blog, but wasn't using it myself at that time. Since I may have experienced a small benefit since resuming, I figured I would pass it along again.

Best of luck with the chickens thing. I grew up around them and they are amusing birds. I once had two pet roosters named "Thundering" and "Herd" and my young daughter had a hen named Gladys.

There are times I think about a small urban coop, which is becoming more popular in laid-back Austin.


Cecil dorman said...

Make sure you investigate ducks as well. They make beautiful eggs and great friends.

Anonymous said...

You could also look at giant continental rabbits. I think they work well with chickens. Baby rabbits and chicks can nest together happily. - Catherine

Unknown said...

hey john

i just stumbled upon your blog while looking for it governance. we run a 500 bed community hospital in bangladesh. i am the it facilitator of that hospital. trying my level best to implement it governance. it will take time ... but i fighting for it.

on a personal note...pls tell kathy to fight on...our prayers will be always with you.

Anonymous said...

I think it is great that you are keeping your eye on the ball and moving forward. I have always felt that Kathy will heal and overcome the cancer (the odds are pretty good for breast cancer) and while the treatments stink, the farm is your balance toward peace and wonderful future.

Cancer is just something you are dealing with now, but the farm and your new home is your future.

You must deal with the present, but plan for the future and live life during it all. Keep your chins up. I am so very happy for you and your new home.

Anonymous said...

Hi, sorry Cathy has had same problems as me.My hands went the same way after one cycle of Taxotere so stay clear of that. I also had locked jaw,swollen tongue, couldn't eat solid food for two weeks. The pain was terrible and ended up in hospital. My hands started to peel and bleed so bad i had to wear cotton gloves day and night. My doctor didn't give me Taxotere again and i went back to FEC, last one 4th May. Scan 23rd May and Lumpectomy 19th June. My doctor told me you shouldn't have to suffer bad side effects and they remain long term.Also you need to be fit and well for surgery and in happy mind.

I really feel for Cathy as i think she needs a rest from chemo. I took one week off just so i could stop thinking about this Cancer.

Hope Cathy feel's better soon