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Five years into widowhood, after one year of incredible happiness and nearly 14 years of single blessedness. Have given up perfect manicures and pretty hands in order to resume playing the soprano recorder and to see if I can figure out how to play bluegrass banjo. Singing in the shower. Still really, *really* love to knit!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

If no news = good news, then...

News = bad news. In this case, mostly true. We’ll start with the trivial bits first.

Yesterday morning, when I was sitting on the bed in Houston, ready to add in the second color, I reread the instructions. Which is when I discovered that I had had it wrong from the set-up row. Thankfully, Jitterbug frogs well. I took it back to the slipknot and started over. I am happy to report that while it looked pretty amazing, done wrong, it looks incredibly better, done right. I have one row left before adding the second color. I figured that would give me adequate stuck-at-lights knitting for the morning commute.

The other news is more significant. First, I will praise the good people at MD Anderson for their thoroughness as well as their jaw-dropping kindness. [While we were waiting to meet with the oncologist, a nice young man walked around with a basket of healthy snacks: graham crackers and pretzels, etc.; they certainly didn’t do that when Beloved was treating at Parkland.] When we were there two weeks ago, we mentioned Beloved’s headaches as well as his mobility issue from stepping off the curb wrong and pulling a muscle in his gluteus maximus while crawling around harvesting the leeks and beets from the garden. Expensively-educated eyebrows started flapping. So they scheduled CT’s and MRI’s for this visit. That’s what happened when YoungerTwin took him down last week.

We got the results back yesterday. They compared the new CT scans with the ones taken in August. Lungs are basically okay at this time - there are some cancer (sub centimeter nodules) cells; in his liver, one of the tumors has increased from 5.6cm (about 2”) to 6.6cm (about 2.5”). So those scans pretty much tell us what we already knew. The lungs are holding their own, and the liver is revolting, which is something at which liver excels, on principle.

The MRI of his brain raises concerns; the tech and the doctor reviewing this MRI recommend an additional scan (skull base MRI) to check some soft tissue abnormalities that will need to be investigated. My unprofessional guess? More tumors.

The MRI of his spine showed some natural degeneration due to getting older. However there is metastasis into the spine. So the pain he has been having in his lower back above the right buttock may also be due to the metastasized cancer, in addition to the muscle pull.

They can give him injections to strengthen the bone; however, a possible side effect could be necrosis of the jaw tissue. Basically, that which would strengthen his spine and hip (critical in case of a fall) has a distinct possibility of killing his jawbone. So we have a hard decision to make in that area.

His hemoglobin should be 14 or so. It was 10.7 in August and has dropped to 8 as of last week; Beloved’s metaphor: 8 cylinder engine running on 4 cylinders with some bad spark plugs. MD Anderson will be coordinating with our local oncologist to set Beloved up for a blood transfusion, which we hope will get him back up to speed.

As far as the swelling in his right leg swelling, it is evidently a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot) and possibly a partial blockage in the femoral artery but this will be addressed in the near future.

There is some good news: several of the liver enzyme levels which had been rising (not good) have dropped a little (very good), meaning that the liver is doing what it can to fight the cancer.

Another positive note is that he has gained five lbs since two weeks ago. This is very good news. I keep telling him he can have some of mine.

Remember the brouhaha with UT Southwestern a few weeks ago? They did not want to play with our HMO. The drug in their clinical trial has been approved by the FDA, and it is an oral medication, which means it could be administered locally, presumably by our wonderful, local oncologist.

As far as the Phase 1 that we thought we were in? The doctor at MD Anderson has another patient who qualifies, who has seniority on the list. Unless that patient declines to participate, Beloved will not get into the study after all. On the one hand, much of what we learned yesterday (except for taking the second blood sample) could have been taken care of over the phone; on the other hand, news like we got is best delivered in person, so it was worth the time, expense, and physical stress of making the trip.

I will close with Beloved’s words to our children: “Cancer is leading in the scoring at this point - but I never learned how to quit and am too old to learn how now - so the battle is not over. Prospects in the 2nd half look good.” As for me, I am strangely calm and peaceful. (Or maybe just calmly strange.) But I have the unmistakeable sense that everything will work out perfectly and elegantly, so I intend to enjoy each day as it comes. Thank you for your prayers and positive thoughts. Please keep them coming.

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