Friday, December 19, 2008

First Cycle Complete!

We just finished giving Isabella her last dose of Temodar and she really didn't make it easy. She threw up the first batch that she got, and fortunately, the hospital pharmacy was able to make her a second batch. With lots of patience and water, we were finally able to give her the entire batch with small squirts from the syringe (approximately 0.25 to 0.5 cc's per squirt). We had started with the first batch at 9:20 PM and she took the last squirt at 11:00 PM.

Earlier, they gave her the vincristine, and that went uneventfully as they just pushed it through the port in her chest. They also removed the access from the port, so she no longer has any tubes dangling from her. They'll have to re-access the port next week when she has another vincristine dose.

So round 1 is complete and we just hope that these drugs are doing what they have to be doing and that whatever is left of the tumor is reacting to the drugs.

We also just found out from the attending physician that they will allow Isabella to come home on a day pass on Sunday! We can't wait to have her home, even if it will just be for a day.

Things I Miss (Daddy Version)

I miss...

...coming home off the train and having the kids race over to see who could give me a hug first.

...going to Friendly's and "helping" the kids finish their desserts.

...sleeping in on Saturday mornings, only to wake up being crowded out of bed by all 3 kids (and the cat!).

...doing a triple-piggy-back with Annalise on my back, Isabella on Annalise's back, and Nathaniel on Isabella's back.

...finding Isabella sleeping in unique, precarious positions all over the house. My favorite is still when she fell asleep in bed with a book on her face!

...wrangling up the kids to go shopping at Costco or the mall. Of course, once we get to Costco, filling up on all the food samples.

...doing our "home-run handshake" whenever anyone on the Yankees hit a home run.

...going to Dave and Busters and spending $20 to win tickets on the arcade games. Annalise and Isabella would then spend 30 minutes trying to pick out a prize worth $0.50.

...being a good, ol' regular boring family...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Almost Done With This Cycle

Isabella had some problems taking the Temodar medication. This portion of the chemo is given orally, normally by capsule, but since Isabella can't swallow the capsule whole, they need to open it and dissolve it in water. Isabella had problems taking the medicine because it tasted so bad and she ended up gagging on it and vomiting it back up.

For the cycle, Isabella is supposed to take Temodar once a day for 5 days. She took it fine on Day 1 and 2 (Saturday and Sunday), but threw up Day 3 (Monday) and Day 4 (Tuesday). Since she basically missed the Day 3 and 4 doses, they decided to extend the cycle for two days to make up for it. Last night, Julianne discovered that if we put a couple drops of flavoring in the medicine and give Isabella a lollipop to suck on after taking the medicine, then Isabella is less likely to throw it up. It's been working fine so far since Isabella has been able to take Day 3 on Wednesday and Day 4 today and keep it down. She has one more day of Temodar on Friday and will be done with it until next month.

She also has two more doses of vincristine scheduled for this Friday and next Friday, but this is given intravenously so she shouldn't have any problems taking this. Just for completion's sake, the other medication that's part of the cycle is called carboplatin, and that is administered via IV drip over 4 hours on Day 1 and Day 2 of the cycle, so Isabella is done with that one for now.

Isabella has also been tranfered back to Rusk and just like before, immediately perked up and began playing with her friends again. She should begin her therapy sessions on Friday.

*** IMPORTANT ****

One of the side effects of the chemotherapy is that it reduces your white blood cell count which makes it harder for your body to fight off infections. Isabella's blood count has already dropped dramatically and she will soon begin receiving medication that will help her regenerate her white blood cells. So, not only does that mean that Isabella can't have visitors, but we also need to limit the visitors at our house to make sure that Julianne or myself do not get sick. So please call before dropping by and if you are sick or may even remotely be sick, please postpone your visit until you are sure you are not sick. They expect her blood count to be back to normal within a couple weeks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Things I Miss

I read somewhere recently that after something so devastating as a cancer diagnosis, people learn to truly appreciate the small things in life. How true this is! Before Isabella’s hospitalization, I would have said, “Yeah, yeah . . .” But now I long for all those little moments.

I miss the constant commotion at home: the kids running after each other, dancing or singing with their shows, arguing over whose turn it was to play with Nathaniel, etc. Now there’s a different kind of commotion – extended family members coming and going trying to keep Annalise and Nathaniel taken care of and entertained, trying to keep everything at home in order, trying to plan who should do what for the next day.

I miss the “stressful” commute home from work: racing from the office to get Annalise and Isabella from the afterschool program just in the knick of time, throwing them in the car and racing down to Stamford to pick Nathaniel up at Lola’s house. We wouldn’t get home until 7PM, but one of my favorite times was sitting in traffic, singing the girls’ favorite songs with them over and over again. (Thank goodness for Sirius radio record and repeat!)

I miss the weekly trips to the library, desperately trying to find Annalise a new series of books to be interested in, while trying to keep an eye on Isabella in the beginning-reader book room, and running after Nathaniel as he grabs books off the shelves and makes a run for the stairs.

I miss our bedtime routine, including the girls’ last-ditch delay efforts requesting one last drink of water, one more back scratch, one more tuck in, and one more hug and kiss.

I miss sleeping in on Saturday mornings, only to wake up being crowded out of bed by all 3 kids (and the cat!).

All of those little things I used to complain about – I would give anything to have them back if that was all I had to worry about.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not Such A Happy Monday

Isabella had a slight complication on Sunday and the doctors wanted to keep her another day in the Pediatric Unit. Isabella checked out fine medically this afternoon and we are trying to get back to Rusk as soon as we can. Hopefully, we can get back on Tuesday.

Isabella is also starting to feel a little nauseous from the medication. Her appetite is getting slightly affected and her digestion may also be starting to get affected. She also had the 3rd of 5 daily doses of Temodar. This is the only one given orally, instead of through her port, and unfortunately, she vomited both times they tried to give it to her, so they gave up and we will see how this affects this cycle of treatments. Hopefully, she will be able to take the medication tomorrow without vomiting.

Touching Moments

Isabella wrote a letter today:
“Dear family, when are you going to come and see me? I hope you come soon. (Heart, heart, heart) Isabella.”

The letter is really meant for her sister and brother. It was heartbreaking to read this, but it’s really difficult for Annalise and Nathaniel to visit more often. They were just here yesterday, but it’ll be another week before they are likely to visit again. Weekends seem like the only reasonable time to drag everyone in on the train and not feel guilty about getting home so late.

Tonight she asked when she was going to go home. I gave her the usual answer, “When your right arm and leg start working better.” Then I reminded her that we’re supposed to go back to rehab tomorrow morning. When she said, “That’s what I meant,” I realized that she’s now calling Rusk home.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

First Cycle of Chemo

Isabella sailed through her first cycle of chemo. She had a dose of vincristine IV push, then a carboplatin infusion over 4 hours both days. For 5 days she’ll also take an oral med, Temodar, that has to be on an empty stomach, can only be crushed and mixed with water, and reportedly tastes horrible. She complains and cries about the oral med, but does take it because I’ve told her how important it is in helping her get better. She’s scheduled to get another dose of vincristine on days 7 and 14 as an outpatient.

Her only complaint was a tummy ache at times. And she really didn’t eat very well on the second day. But at least there was no vomiting. The doctor said in about 2-3 weeks we’ll start to notice some hair falling out, and then it all comes out within a couple of days. I haven’t warned her about it yet – I’m not sure how she’s going to react. (She might not mind - no more crying about combing out the tangles every morning for a while! And I can pull out some really cute hats that I have collected through the years if she wants.)

She really is used to hospital stuff at this point. When the nursing assistants come in, she offers them her arm for a blood pressure check, and then holds her hair aside for them when they check her temp (they use a temporal artery gauge). Her port is no longer so sore, and she even lifts up her shirt to help the nurse check to see if it flushes correctly in a nice, matter-of-fact way. Wow, all of this from a kid who used to refuse to take Tylenol!

She seemed to do well with the inpatient stay this time, too. She spent most of the morning in the playroom. A group “Bryan’s Dream” donated gifts to the kids today and she got this gorgeous soft yellow and orange flowered blanket. She was so happy with it that she had it wrapped around herself most of the evening while we watched TV.

So far, so good

Julianne has a couple blogs to upload later, but I just wanted to give a quick update. Isabella received a couple rounds of chemo over the weekend. So far, we haven't seen any noticable side effects. She has a couple more medications to take for three days. We're hoping to get back to Rusk (the rehab building) on Monday so that she can continue with her physical therapy. More later....