Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Boys, In Brief

More and more each day he doesn't look like a little kid; I'm amazed and heartbroken all at once.  I know the days that I am able to pick him up are numbered; his legs now brush near my ankles as his head, heavy with sleep, rests on my shoulder.

He is exploding with growth in every sense of the word.  I am enjoying him having this last year in Montessori school but am so thrilled with anticipation for what he will experience in next year's Kindergarten class at The Odyssey School.  His body is a spindly beansprout, obviously taking after his father.

He is now 19 months old, the same age Jackson was when he became a big brother.  His solid body definitely comes from my family, namely my father.  The eyebrows are mine for sure (sorry, sweetie!).  He relishes life with his brothers and doesn't have any problems with making his demands heard.

Please, Sir, Can I Have Some More?

Matt went solo for Treatment #3 on Tuesday; he figured if old ladies could be there by themselves that he didn't need to bring his mommy along.  I'm sure he managed to keep busy with his trusty companion, the beloved iPhone.  What can't it do, really?  I'm surprised there's not a chemo infusion app by now...

The medical report, in brief--his white blood cells continue to rally, which certainly contributed to his feeling great during this past week in between treatments.  He worked at the office every day last week, right up until the day before chemo.

While the original understanding was that there would be 4 cycles of chemo (8 treatments), Matt learned on Tuesday he would actually undergo 6 cycles (12 treatments).  Surprise!  Four cycles of chemo is most often coupled with radiation treatments afterwards, so although it is a bummer that Matt will winding up his tour of cancer duty in February instead of December, it is still much more preferable to avoid radiation if he can.

Up until this point, having cancer hasn't been that bad.  Slight nausea? Yeah, but no big deal. Fatigue? Sure, a bit.  Really nothing too terrible.  The third time having poison pumped into your body is the charm, apparently, because Matt came home from his treatment looking yellow.  While this experience previously was more akin to a Thomas Kinkade painting, the past few days have been more like Van Gogh's The Parsonage Garden in the Snow. 

It is common for the effects of chemo to worsen as the treatments add up.  This treatment has hit him much harder than the first two, and the 'fun' of this whole thing is wearing off, to put it mildly.  It is difficult for him to muster up the energy to speak, his body is very sore from the Neulasta shot, the nausea is more pronounced....

I had my photographer in the field (Bohdana) snap this picture of the elusive cancer patient...

One alternative medicine really does help with his side effects (take note, all you lawmakers out there).  Previously, Mom fretted over his disinterest or inability to even have some water (which helps the body to process and flush the chemo drugs out of the system sooner).  This afternoon, Matt managed to sit outside, looking unintentionally but convincingly Hunter S. Thompson-esque, for a bit for a more enjoyable form of medicine.  As I write this, he is eating some pretzels and sweet potato soup.

Here's hoping that he only has a few of these really uncomfortable days each treatment.  Throughout all of this, Matt has always said to spare him an ounce of worry.  The knowledge that so many little kids are subjected to this process is unbearable.  For any of you who feel compelled to do something for Matt, you can donate a toy to your local pediatric cancer center.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Making His Cancer Hurt

Now, I went to Florida under the guise of visiting my brother, but I have a confession: I have been dreaming about the chocolate/lime swirl ice cream cones at Nokomis Groves, a nearby citrus grove.  I woke up on my birthday yesterday, eagerly awaiting an hour where it would not be absurd to suggest ice cream, and checked the computer for the citrus grove's hours.  To my chagrin, they are closed until November.  November?  Darn those citrus groves and their seasons.  Luckily, Dairy Queen was waiting patiently in the wings, with its long hours and convenient location, so I was still able to get my fix and fulfill my promise to the kids.

One of the highlights of my trip (other than being able to peacefully sit on a plane, sipping a coffee drink and reading a magazine) was the fact that I got to be Auntie Annie.  I became a mother before I became an aunt, and I have found it difficult to be a fun aunt when I have my own kiddos to tend to.  I got to read stories, snuggle, play, help a wounded knee--and I loved it.

Bohdana bought Lexie a new bike, which we assembled on our own, and Ty was the lucky recipient of Lexie's old Radio Flyer bike.  We took the kids out to the park for some test drives and playground fun.  Matt didn't join us on this and other outings because chemo makes his skin more sensitive to sunlight, and I can't blame him at all--even though I grew up here it is very difficult for me to be outside, even after the strongest heat of the day has subsided.  Give me Colorado altitude and blue skies any day (and cue John Denver's Rocky Mountain High).

The following is a oft-told story in our family, but I'll give a shortened version since some of you may not know it.  Bohdana was originally my friend.  We met and became fast friends as au pairs in England one summer ten years ago.  In a twist of fate, there was one weekend where my parents were over in London for my dad's business trip, and my brother and his friends were heading through London on their way back from traveling around Amsterdam.  We all met up at a historic English pub in London, and I brought along my friend from the Czech Republic, Bohdana.  Matt and Bohdana hit it off, and within just a few months of emailing back and forth, he sold his worldly possessions, quit his job, and moved to Prague to be with her as birds chirped and the sun shone all around him.  I couldn't be happier that my brother married this girl, as my friend is now my sister. 

For my birthday last night, Bohdana and I went out to an English pub (shhh, don't tell Mom that we left Matt to fend for himself!).  Granted, we weren't single and in England in our early twenties, but it was great to sit and drink a pint together and have a bit of the old days together. 

On Friday, Bohdana and I went out to lunch at a great place on the beach; we even saw dolphins frolicking in the ocean.  Mom called home while we were out, and Matt told her he was helplessly lying in a pool of his own filth. :)  He is waited on 95% of the time, and if he does something on his own he'll jokingly say in a pathetic voice that we are 'making his cancer hurt'.

Truthfully, Matt is doing really well.  He took anti-nausea meds just for the first couple of nights after chemo.  Our awesome aunt (guess which one!) sent Matt some natural (albeit illegal) anti-nausea meds, so occasional use of this has made a difference this round as well.  We use the Eating Well Through Cancer cookbook daily--name your side effect, and it has a number of recipes that work to ease symptoms and get good nutrition into a patient.  They are good recipes, too--we all ate the chicken with a sauce made from black beans, peaches, green onions and the sweet potato bisque.  Matt has lost six pounds since the start of all this, but that will level off.  He handled Treatment #2 much better than #1--less mouth burning/soreness, less nausea.  He plans to go to work much of next week, since the Neulasta shot does such a great job of keeping his white blood cell count at a reasonable level.

Matt is so fortunate that he has a wife and family that can do things for him so the only thing he needs to focus on is resting and letting the chemo do its thing.  I was glad to pitch in with the effort, and get some good sister/niece/nephew time in as well.  I love these people; we should all see each other more often, no matter the sickness or health.