Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tracey's Update: Superwoman

After only three days in the hospital, Tracey came home today. She is doing very well -- a bit too weak for her own liking, but she always seems to have very high expectations for herself. She is my superwoman!

Dr. Madden (Oncologist) is very pleased with her progress. In a few days Tracey will have an appointment with Dr. Gunter's office as a follow up. On March 5 (Tracey's birthday) she will have the staples on her head removed. Then there is another post-op appointment scheduled for March 14. Dr. Madden indicated that he, Dr. Ezekiel and Dr. Gunter will get together to discuss what will be next for Tracey's treatment.

Stay tuned -- more exciting news coming soon!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Tracey's Update: Lunch visit

I spent lunch with Tracey and she is doing much better than any of us could imagine. She is walking, eating regular food, and Dr. Gunter began the process to transfer her to a regular room as soon as one is available. Such wonderful news! :-)

A thought from a dear friend

I received this from a dear friend and wanted to share it with you:

One day a woman's husband died and, on that clear, cold morning, in the warmth of their bedroom, the wife was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn't anymore; no more hugs, no more special moments to celebrate together, no more phone calls just to chat, no more "just one minute." Sometimes, what we care about the most gets all used up and goes away, never to return before we can say good-bye, say "I love you."

So while we have it, it's best we love it and care for it and fix it when it's broken, and heal it when it's sick. This is true for marriage, and old cars, and children with bad report cards, and dogs with bad hips, and aging parents and grandparents.

Tracey's Update: ... And she talks!

Tracey made it through yesterday's surgery with flying colors! As soon as she woke up she said: "I can talk!" As she was moved from the recovery area to ICU, she heard her Mom in the hallway and she said: "Mommy, I hear you and I can talk!". I have never seen someone so grateful for the chance to use an ability many take for granted.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Shake on it?

Shake on it? More and more, I wonder if I should. I wonder if shaking hands is really such a great idea anymore. As much as I enjoy the human touch that comes with a handshake, I wonder if we are being naive and transmitting all sorts of diseases by this friendly gesture. Perhaps we should acknowledge each other in a different way. Perhaps we could bow instead like other cultures do. Do they suffer less colds than we do? And if we give up hand shaking as a common ritual to prevent the spread of diseases, then what will we be forced to give up next? Will we be required to give up kissing? Come on someone, let's find the cure for the common cold and the flu -- I don't want to give up kissing!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tracey's Update: February 13, 2007

It has been quite sometime since Tracey's last update -- sorry about that! Here is what has happened since and how Tracey is right now.

In January Tracey finished radiation therapy and things looked good. However, on SuperBowl Sunday (February 4), Tracey began experiencing double-vision, excessive fatigue, and a headache. We spoke with Dr. Ezekiel (Radiation Oncologist) and he re-instituted the use of the steroids to full strength. He also ordered an MRI for that coming Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 7). The following day (Wednesday, Feb. 8) Tracey underwent a PET Scan. On Thursday we received a call from Dr. Ezekiel's office indicating that the swelling had gone down but that Tracey should continue using the steroids at the present rate. On Friday, February 10, Tracey received a call from Dr. Gunter, a neurosurgeon, concerning an appointment for a consultation for possible surgery. That, as you can imagine, was a huge (bad) surprise.

On February 13 we met with Dr. Gunter to discuss Tracey's status. He indicated that, sadly, Tracey's cancer is not curable. He explained that once breast cancer reaches the brain, the aim of medical science becomes to extend the patient's life as long as possible. He told us that the largest tumor in Tracey brain is pressing against the area that controls speech. Unless she has surgery soon, the likelihood is that she will be unable to speak, then be unable to recognize speech at its latest stage the tumor would put pressure on the brain stem and she would die. This would happen over a period of a few weeks to a few months. With surgery, Tracey has a chance to live longer doctors cannot tell how long, but it could be as long as a year or more. One of the potential problems of this surgery is that she may not have use of her speech or be able to recognize speech.

After Dr. Gunter's visit we met with Dr. Madden, Tracey's Medical Oncologist. He gave us good news in terms of the PET Scan results becaue the test showed no additional cancer presence below the neck. If they had detected any new growths then he may have recommended against the brain surgery. However, he is still optimistic that Tracey will have anywhere between a year and maybe a few years of quality life.

Based on all the information we received, Tracey decided to schedule surgery for next week. She will be operated on February 22 at Noon. Dr. Gunter indicated this will be a four-hour procedure. Tracey will in ICU for a day after the surgery and three-four days in a regular room after that. During the first day there is a 50% chance that she will not have use of her speech. After that, there is a 10-20% chance that she will not regain use of her speech/speech recognition (and, unfortunately, there is no rehab for this type of functionality loss). However, there is an 80-90% chance that she will -- and that is what we are focusing on.

These are sad news in many respects -- but medicine continues to make great advances in the treatments for cancer. Maybe in the next year we will have other choices available. For now, we will focus on the positive odds and on enjoying every moment of every day. We hope you will too.