Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Chemo Days for Cycle 6 are finished! Hurray!! Maura tolerated them okay, and her blood counts yesterday were pretty good. She has platelets (yes!); she has white blood cells (yes!). She's still pretty anemic, but we're working on that. The hurricane caused some delays in her schedule and confusion about her treatment, but everything is straightened out now and we're back on track.
Ten days without power, and not seeing much else besides the house and the hospital can get to anyone, and Maura was a bit down. Last week, before chemo, when Maura found out she didn't have to show up at the hospital for a whopping two days in a row, and I found out that there was still no electricity at work, we took advantage of the free time and set out to visit Kara in Austin. That sure chased Maura's blues away! The girls giggled and laughed and played and talked and talked. And when we got back home, we had electricity!!! The perfect end to a perfect outing.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Platelets and Ike, Part 3

Ike has come and gone, and we are all fine. Still no electricity, and we lost our fence and banana tree, but the damage is so very minor compared to those on the coast who lost everything, or even to others in our neighborhood with trees that slammed into their houses. We saw pine trees snapped in half and large oak trees completely uprooted. It's a miracle that our flimsy windows did not break.

On the night of the hurricane, Joel had to stay at the hospital to work, so Maura and I laid up supplies in the bathroom and put our mattresses in the hallway before trying to sleep. We waited in total darkness, not wanting to use up our precious flashlight batteries. The hurricane brought such weird noises. We could hear the wind bending the windows and walls. We could hear the cracking of the pine trees--a bit like the creaking of stiff joints, but a lot louder. We heard branches, pine cones, and unidentified objects hitting our roof and rolling down. And, of course, we heard the howling wind and rain. When the eye passed overhead, it was quiet for awhile, and then the winds started from the opposite direction. Early on, Maura decided that the hallway wasn't where she wanted to be, so she took up her spot in the bathroom for the night.

The hospital's outpatient services were closed for four days, so the transfusion of platelets before the hurricane was a very good thing. During our visit with the doctor last Tuesday, he recommended a new drug to combat thrombocytopenia, a big word meaning that Maura has low platelets, in this case induced by chemotherapy. The drug, administered several days before chemo and immediately after, should help her platelet level return to normal faster, allowing her to stay on her chemo schedule without the delay caused by low blood counts.
So, in preparation for round Six, Maura had the helpherplatelets shot on Friday, and the preventmouthsores shot on Sunday, and chemo starts on Wednesday.

And we continue to be blessed, especially in Ike's wake.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Platelets and Ike Part 2

Yesterday, the decision about bloodwork was made for us. Dr. Benjamin told Maura that she had to go to MDAnderson regardless of how long it took us to return. As we drove south to the medical center in the morning, we saw that the northbound lanes of I-45 were already filled with the bumper to bumper traffic of evacuees. Oh, well--we would soon be part of that mess. Still, it was a good thing we made the trip in. Maura's platelets had dropped to 12. Since outpatient services at the hospital would be closed on Friday and Saturday due to Hurricane Ike, Dr. B ordered a platelet transfusion just to be safe (10 is the normal threshhold). We prepared for the long ride back to Spring after the transfusion, about 7 pm, and, to our surprise, I-45 was clear. Yippee!

We are prepared for the worst hurricane to hit Houston in at least the 21 years that we have lived here. Water, duct tape, food supplies, flashlights, gas in the car, Maura's medical supplies, a couple of good books. Joel has already gone to work at the hospital. Since Tropical Storm-force winds and rain are expected in our area tonight, about the time he gets off work, it's pretty certain he won't come home tonight. Maura and I would be allowed to stay at the hospital, but her white blood cell count is so low, that the hospital isn't necessarily the safest environment for her. If we get scared, this afternoon, we might go anyway. I'm very thankful that we are prepared, that we have close friends and neighbors to run to, if the need arises.
Of course, Danielle and Lydia's flights were cancelled. They were both in tears, not being able to come home to see Maura. And it's never fun to be far away when those you love are facing a crisis.
Pray for Houston and the surrounding area. Pray for the people with medical conditions that are compromised because of the storm. It's going to be a long weekend and a long recovery season.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Platelets and Hurricane Ike

Low platelets.  Even after her platelet transfusion last week, she still has a low platelet count--14 at last check, just 4 points away from transfusion levels. 
 The bad news is that, because of low platelets,chemo has been delayed for a few days.
The good news is that, because of low platelets, chemo has been delayed for a few days.
I've been doing a little research, trying to find foods that increase platelet counts, as well as hemoglobin and white blood cells.  thank God that we all love salad! Leafy greens, spinach, broccoli, and beans all seem to be on the list of great foods. Yum yum. Really, we do love those good foods and, frankly, I am the best salad-maker that I know. I can't cook worth a darn, but, oh, my salads are really tasty, if I do say so myself.  If you ever invite me to a pot luck, ask me to make a green salad.  For your own sake don't ask me to make a casserole--my brand of creativity and casseroles are not a good match.
But I digress...
Folic acid and vitamin K are the only things I've found that might (notice the italics) increase platelet count. Most sites seems to say there is nothing that can be done to increase platelets. What a sucky attitude-nothing can be done==of course something can be done. I may not know what it is yet, but, duh. 
So Ike is in the Gulf and flooding in Houston is an almost certainty. Sigh. So we have to figure out if we need to get Maura for her daily blood test today. We can get to MD Anderson without too much trouble today, but returning, we would be in the midst of heavy traffic due to coastal evacuations. We're not sure how bad it will be today. We don't want to get stuck on the freeway or risk getting in an accident (low platelets means no clotting which means bleeding to death) and we don't want to add to the congestion. So, decisions, decisions, how badly does Maura need that blood work today? At least we know that her chemo will not be interrupted this time because of a hurricane.
For those of you who live far away, know that we have never flooded or needed to evacuate. We don't live that close to the coast or in a low-lying area. So, don't worry about us in a hurricane. We just hunker down and wait for the electricity to go out, which it will. We're fine.
The hurricane itself will only be an inconvenience for us. Maura's two sisters were supposed to fly in for the weekend. Their flights may be cancelled. Bummer. And Joel is scheduled to work this weekend, but during a natural disaster of this kind, he usually has to stay overnight at the hospital, so we may not see him for two days. Double bummer.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Stand Up to Cancer

This evening the three major networks will jointly sponsor Stand Up to Cancer to benefit cancer research.  My only frustration is that I did not see sarcoma mentioned even once in the advertising for the event. It's just too rare--most people have never heard of it. Unfortunately for Maura and those also afflicted by this disease, the bulk of the funding for cancer research goes to the biggies: breast, colon, lung, prostate-carcinomas and lymphoma.  Nevertheless, I encourage anyone who reads this to watch the show. 


Maura had a couple of different transfusions over the last week or so. On the last day of chemo they gave her two units of red blood cells. Then, yesterday, her platelet count was so low (7) that they gave her 6 units of platelets.  Maura needs to go in for extra days of bloodwork until her counts come back up.  Platelets gave Maura an allergic reaction--not uncommon. Despite medication to prevent such reactions, she broke out in hives, her eyes puffed up, and she used a box of kleenex. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

You Know You Are Sick When...

You know you are sick when they put you to the head of the line in the emergency room.
Yesterday we spent about eight hours in the E.R. bececause Maura's fever spiked to 101.4. Once it hits 101 the MD Anderson protocol is "get thee to the hospital." I got to admit that I was a little nervous that they gave her a room so quickly. After all, the waiting room was full of people who had been there for much longer than the 15 minutes or so that we waited. To Maura's great joy, they discharged her at around midnight, allowing us to treat her with oral antibiotics. Blood cultures won't come back until tomorrow, but, until then, she'll sleep better at home than in the hospital.