Saturday, July 2, 2016
It's raining, It's Pouring…..
A Terrible Tragedy:
On May 23rd we got word that Mike's mom had gone into a coma. We got ready to send him to Chicago the next morning so that he could be there. She had done well overnight and it was decided that Mike would not leave in such a hurry, and that he would go later to see her. He wanted to get Lochlan and I set up with some concrete help before he left. She came out of the coma, and was doing cardiac rehab near her home in Illinois. Well, life gets crazy, and before we knew it it was June 10th and we got the call that she was again not well. I booked Mike for the next morning, and he was on his way. Sadly, on the morning of June 11th, Mike's mother passed away. She had been battling congestive heart failure for over ten years, and her heart just couldn't keep up any longer.
Having battled cancer herself 3 or 4 times during her life, she was not a stranger to cancer. She nursed many family members with different cancers (mostly breast cancers) back to health or comfortably to death. She was a tried and true caretaker who spent her life caring for others when they needed it the most. But she had lived it. She had survived it. And she had never let it slow her down. She was a true warrior who came back from the brink more times than anyone should ever have to do. I admire her for that.
You see, Mike has spent his whole life as a cancer caretaker. His mother's first diagnosis came at his ripe-old-age of 6. Being the oldest, he remembers caring for her over the years. He remembers the treatments and the ups and downs. He remembers it coming back 30 years later after a 1% chance of return. He speaks of her resilience and her confidence and her unwillingness to back down against the fight. She epitomizes the war on cancer - a never ending siege that comes and goes, but is not given into or compromised with. She was a truly amazing woman - one a wish that I had gotten the chance to spend more time with.
A Terrible Emergency:
Mike's trip to Illinois ran right into a business trip to Atlanta so he went straight there. He was home a week after he left.
Not 24 hours after Mike got home, I spiked a high fever. I was taken to the ER and admitted to the hospital for a week. My diagnosis - Pneumonia - but I was also in need of blood and severely malnourished. I received two units of blood, three different IV antibiotics, and a host of tests - including a bronchoscopy and full CT scan, and lots of food.
The month of May and half of June became the "Experiment" (as one of my practitioners calls it). No different than when conventional treatments are tried and fail, the combination that I tried did not work for my body. The combination of the Ketogenic diet (which I had been feeling pretty confident about) and the high dose cannabis oil (which pretty much had me sedated for most of the days) didn't have the predicted effect. Instead, the heavy sedation and full feeling I got from the high fat diet left me unable to eat enough food to keep my body healthy. The reality is that I just waited too long to try and put multiple high intensity therapies together. I let my complacency toward my cancer get the better of me, and I let my "strong willed" attitude blind me to the changes just a bit too long.
It took a good fever to kick me in the ass and wake me up to the fact that my current - stressful, bereaved cancer parent, entrepreneurial, mother-to-a-toddler, PTSD, financially unstable (read BROKE) - life was not conducive to my "I'm fine" attitude toward my disease. The constant stress finally caught up, and my body finally gave me a warning.
I had my first ever true panic attack in the hospital. This is the first time I have been hospitalized for my cancer (only other times were for kidney stones and having babies), and it was a reality that I was not ready to face. I kept having them, pretty much every day, the whole time I was there. You see, Saoirse died following a series of extremely similar symptoms (with very different causes). And while I was reassured over and over again that this was a very different situation (hers was tumor related and mine was mostly infection/nourishment related), the image in my head was still the same - I was going to swell, have trouble breathing, move up to the ICU, and never come home. And while I know that Mike and my parents and family were experiencing the same trauma watching from the outside, living it from the inside has been a terrible nightmare. My one and only goal was to get OUT of the hospital.
After nearly a week in the hospital, and all bacteria cultures coming back negative, I came home that Friday afternoon with a plan. (I did go back to the ER Sunday morning after a mini panic attack about still being swollen, but all that they did was labs that reassured me that I was getting better, and sent me home.) It was time to finally say enough is enough to this cancer and take back control. I was ready to take control on my terms, in my own way. I was ready to ADD convention therapy into the picture. I made a plan with my oncologist to start Brentuximab Vedotin one week from going home.
As all of you know this was my "back-up" drug. Now, Murphy's law says that if you have a back-up, you won't need it, but life doesn't always follow that rule. Very quickly I was able to put in place my plan of action for this additional treatment (kudos to the amazing teams that work with my oncologist and deal with my very demanding self).
I AM NOT GIVING UP MY ALTERNATIVES!!! I will still be going to Tong Ren, using cannabis oil (at a much lower dose - and with full knowledge/encouragement of my oncology and nursing team - its great side effect management anyway), and, while I won't be doing full on Keto for the moment, a whole foods - no sugar- lower carb diet.
With my current status of swollen and at high risk, I need constant eyes on me and care. I cannot dress myself, wash myself, get my own food, or get up down and around myself. I cannot be alone with Lochlan, and I cannot care for him - which means he needs care too. Mike has taken on a full time caretaker roll as well as full time business roll, which means he really hasn't been working much. This has led to extreme financial stress for us personally. We are very careful to keep CareAline going so that we can continue to help all the patients we can with our products, so we allow our personal finances to slip rather than the business'.
A Terrible Situation:
Currently we are in a survival mode situation. We are close to drowning financially. Not only are we behind on our mortgage and utilities, but putting the right kind of food on the table is getting increasingly difficult. We are facing the fact that we have no idea where or how we are going to catch up. It's seeming more and more hopeless that we can figure out a way to get financial assistance from programs or the state in time to make a difference. I am working on assistance applications, however those take time (and sadly many take me having to physically be able to go to an office and apply) and it will be a while before it all kicks in. Being a self employed family makes paperwork extremely complicated, and often times makes it so that we can't figure out how to make the applications work. Any support - financial or otherwise - is more than appreciated, and I know that some day we will be able to give back as much or more than the amazing support we have and will receive.
We also have immediate needs at home. Until I can get situated with a state paid for caretaker, we have to have two EXTRA people here at all times. One for me and one for Lochlan. I need constant care, and so does he, and Mike NEEDS to be able to work at least some hours so that CareAline stays afloat. For those who can't be a caretaker, we also could use some meals that we can put in the freezer or the random errand or household item done. For those that have already reached out and helped, I am truly grateful and please know it is not overlooked and not taken for granted. I am linking to a page on here that has our specific needs that you can look over for insight.
(Needs) - (Meal Train Link to sign up for meal delivery)
I just want to say thank you for everything. I know that many have been at odds with my decisions, but that is not what I am focusing on. I am focusing on the now - the reality that is today, and going through things one day at a time. I will post an update on how the drug is going and that type of things in a day or two. But for now, THANK YOU, and happy fourth!