It's Heather's Birthday!
Hi all! Rick here...writing on this super special day....Heather's Birthday! Many of you may know it also as Christmas Eve, but we're going to stick with calling it Heather's Birthday for this post. Before we get to the celebration, a few updates over the last two weeks...
Goodbye Red Devil
Round 4 of chemo was last Thursday, December 17, which marked both the halfway point of the overall chemo treatment, and (thankfully) the last round of the "Red Devil" drug cocktail. Prior to the session, we had a meeting with the surgical oncologist that will be performing surgery once chemo is complete...and after some time to rest (potentially early March?). It's a little premature to discuss exactly what the surgery will entail--that will require input from all the scans once chemo is completed, but overall we were pleased to hear the general plan. Beyond the surgical discussion, we reviewed bloodwork numbers with the team of doctors, and while not ideal, they are around what you'd expect at this stage of chemo (low white blood cell count, low hemoglobin). Nothing too concerning, or requiring new actions like blood transfusions, etc. We also discussed what Round 5 will look like with a new cocktail, which is mainly Taxol. These are longer sessions, but hopefully less severe side effects. Those sessions begin on December 30 with the same every other week schedule. The new side effect to watch out for is hand/foot tingling and numbness. Also, Heather will take steroids the night before each treatment. The doctor warned she may have trouble sleeping the night before, which isn't ideal for our frequent insomniac friend.
(I'm always blown away at Heather's courage and grace on the Thursday mornings before she heads in--alone, sadly--for a session that she knows is going to take a toll on her. When I see this picture, I see those incredible eyes, her kind smile behind the mask, and her knowledge that this all will pass. How she rocks chemo with such a great spirit is inspiring.)
Round 4 Sucked
There's not much more to say than that. After prior sessions, Heather started to feel very fatigued on Saturday, and even had a lot of energy on Thursday given the steroids used during the session. For Round 4, Heather was exhausted immediately on Thursday, and had more bone pain/soreness than prior rounds. On Saturday, Heather was asleep on and off (mostly on) for 20 hours, and for 19 hours on Sunday. And yet she still managed to find a way to coordinate a celebration for my birthday (thank you Jen and Matt for all your heavy lifting as well), and stayed awake for most of a Zoom call before falling asleep on my shoulder an hour in. Hey, we've all fallen asleep on Zoom calls this year; Heather just had a more valid excuse than the rest of us :)
The fatigue has continued through the week, and has been significant enough that she's not driving, needs frequent rests, etc. Once again, thanks to everyone who has given so much help this week--the meal train that was set up; and all the help with the boys, especially from her mom. The "takes a village" phrase can seem cliché and trite, but damn, what a village Heather has. I know how deeply thankful she is for all of you.
The journey has been hard thus far, and is a long, long way from completion, but we're gonna set that aside for a few days, and focus on today as a day of celebration. Heather always likes to deflect things about her and focus on others--she clearly started that at the earliest possible age by choosing a birthday of Christmas Eve. But I say we don't let her be behind the scenes this year, so I'd encourage you to text, post, call, etc. so much that she gets cringey with all the attention and love thrown her way.
Happy Birthday to this incredible, smart, kind, funny, beautiful woman, and to everyone reading, a very happy holiday weekend!