2016 Archive

The following posts are from our original CaringBridge site, with health updates from December 2015 to the end of 2016. 

An End-of-2016 Update – 12/28/2016
Giving Thanks – 11/19/2016
Gamma 2 Follow Up – 9/22/16
High Scanxiety – 8/23/2016
Gamma Update – 8/9/2016
Back to the Brain Scans – 7/28/16
Summer Summary – 6/30/16
Brain Scan Update – 5/4/16
What the Scans Say – 4/19/16
The First Finish Line – 3/29/16
Gamma Knife Done – 3/18/16
Yale Fail – 3/15/16
Gamma Rays, Skull Screws, and Chemo…Oh My – 3/9/16
Head Games – 2/27/16
Four Down, Two to Go – 2/17/16
We’re Halfway There! – 1/26/16
The One About My Brain – 1/22/16
Two Chemo Cycles Down, Four to Go – 1/4/16
A New Year’s Update – 12/30/15

An End-of-2016 Update

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 12/28/2016

We have another good news update to share. The neck-to-pelvis CT scans I had this past Friday showed no progression of the cancer. This means I’ll continue my immunotherapy treatment every three weeks since my body appears to be responding positively to it.

I’m due for an echocardiogram next month to make sure the immunotherapy isn’t damaging my heart. They order one for me every 3-4 months as that is one of the risk factors of these particular drugs.

After the first of the year I’ll have another follow up brain MRI to check on the metastases there. Right now it’s tentatively scheduled for February 21, but the neurologist and the radiation oncologist trade off on my MRI scheduling so it’s possible it may get shifted earlier by the neurologist’s office (since my last MRI was ordered by the radiation oncologist).

We hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. An early Happy New Year to you all!

~Paula & Tim

Giving Thanks

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 11/19/2016

Happy Fall everyone. It’s been a while since we updated so I thought I’d post before the holidays get into full swing.

I had an MRI of my brain last week, which found that the spots treated by the last Gamma Knife procedure have continued to improve. I’ll go back to Yale in early January for my next follow up brain MRI. I am also due for new full body CT scans before the end of the year to check for any other progression of the cancer. Other than exhaustion and ongoing foot/leg neuropathy, I’m feeling pretty good. I continue my IV immunotherapy (Perjeta and Herceptin) every three weeks.

img_5644My mom has come out to Old Saybrook to spend the fall/winter with us and has taken a rental place near the beach here. It’s been nice having her help and ongoing presence (and Jasper really enjoys the home cooking!).
We are thankful to all of you for the continued support and love. We will be counting you among our blessings as we sit down to our Thanksgiving meal next week.

Gamma 2 Follow Up

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 9/22/2016

Hi all. Just a quick note to let you know that the news from my six week follow up on my second Gamma Knife procedure was good. All but one of the spots they treated has shown improvement. We’ll go back in a few months to get another MRI and check on things again.

In the meantime, I’m feeling okay but still very tired. I’ve had some new leg pain develop that likes to wake me up in the middle of the night, but an x-ray didn’t reveal anything so we think it’s probably just increased neuropathy. Nothing to do about that but keep taking the medication and keep on keeping on.

Wish I could come up with some clever gifs and memes to link to, but I need a nap. Thanks to everyone for the messages, emails, texts, cards, and other well wishes. We love you all.

~ Paula & Tim

High Scanxiety

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 8/23/2016

I had a set of CT scans (chest/abdomen/pelvis) on Friday, then we spent the weekend trying not to stress about it as we waited for the results. Life seems to move from scan to scan these days. Anyway, I heard from Dr. K yesterday and there was no progression of disease on any of the scans (just the existing skeletal metastases). So we are thrilled with that outcome and things are encouraging from the neck down.

Next on the schedule will be my 6 week follow-up brain MRI to the second Gamma Knife procedure, which will happen towards the end of September. I’ve been sleeping a ridiculous amount of time since I had the last procedure, and feel more cat than human. The nausea has also returned, although nowhere near as bad as it was when I was taking Taxotere at chemo. I’m hoping these are both temporary symptoms that will ease off as time passes. I’ll be asking my doctor about them at my treatment on Monday.

I can’t believe September is almost here. Jasper is gearing up for his sophomore year of high school, Cas is leaving for Smith next week, and Chris just started his first post-college job and has moved into a place outside of Boston. We hope to squeeze some more fun out of summer before the leaves start to fall, provided I can stay awake long enough to do so.

As always, much love to you all and thank you for your ongoing support.

~Paula & Tim

Gamma Update

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 8/9/2016

We just wanted to update everyone on the outcome of last week’s gamma knife procedure. I’m really, really tired these days so I’ll make it short. 🙂

The MRI on the day of the procedure revealed 11 metastatic spots (up from the 5 shown on the preliminary MRI). They managed to zap them all. There was new news on the potential leptomeningeal metastases. Both my radiation oncologist (Dr. Yu) and my regular oncologist (Dr. K) are of the opinion that we should wait the six weeks until the next follow up brain MRI to see what it’s doing before pursuing any further treatment options. Tim and I agree with this strategy.

Dr. K has ordered follow up scans for my chest, abdomen, and pelvis which I will be getting over the next couple of weeks. This will tell us if the two IV drugs I get every three weeks (Perjeta and Herceptin) are still working to shrink and prevent new metastases from the neck down. I will keep everyone posted on how those turn out.

Much love to all,
Paula & Tim

Back to the Brain Scans

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 7/28/2016

Monday was my MRI and follow up with Dr. Yu on the Gamma Knife procedure I had back in March. First, the good news. The 14 metastatic spots they treated have all diminished in size, some even further than they were at the last MRI done at 6 weeks post-procedure. So we know that the stereotactic radiation worked on the previous metastases. Huzzah!

Now for the not-so-good news. There are five brand new spots of metastases that appeared on Monday’s MRI. While that is disappointing, it’s not completely surprising. We knew going into it that Gamma Knife treatment can be a bit like a game of whack-a-mole and I might require subsequent procedures to take out new cancerous areas.

But what is concerning is that one of the five new metastatic spots, or tumors, is near the leptomeninges of the brain, the barrier that covers the brain and spinal cord. According to Dr. Yu, it is “suggestive of” leptomeningeal metastases, which is cancer in this brain barrier and/or the cerebral spinal fluid (the kind of cancer Valerie Harper was diagnosed with in 2013). However, they can’t be 100% sure that it is leptomeningeal metastases, as the doctor also said it “has some hallmarks of parenchymal dissemination” (translation: it may just be in the brain, which is easier to treat than the brain barrier).

So we will treat it and the other new tumors with another round of Gamma Knife on August 4th. We may get a clearer idea of the questionable tumor’s location when we do the “extra strength” MRI just prior to the Gamma Knife procedure. There may also be further diagnostics done such as a lumbar puncture. If the tumor is leptomeningeal metastases, my oncologist may change my chemotherapy regimen to try and attack that cancer systemically. I will see him on August 8th and we’ll discuss what the game plan is.

In other news, more kudos for Dr. Yu, who encouraged me to email him with any questions at the appointment, and then promptly answered my deluge of questions within an hour. He is awesome. Unrelated: Yale/Smilow has many Pokemon Go stops, which I admittedly took advantage of on Monday (come to think of it, Leptomeningeal might be the name of a Pokemon).

Thanks to everyone for your well wishes and concerns. You’ll probably be hearing more from us in the coming weeks as things develop. Love to all.

~Paula & Tim

Summer Summary

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 6/30/2016

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in so I figured it was time to post an update. We don’t have any big news to report. I am getting my 3 month follow up brain scan on July 25th, and my other follow up scans for the rest of me aren’t booked yet but should be around that same timeframe.

Overall, I’m feeling okay. I have had additional bone and joint pain in my legs/knees/feet that has made sleeping and walks to the beach (one of my favorite activities) difficult. On Monday, at my oncologist and treatment appointment, my doc put me on some heavy duty pain medication to improve the situation. Now I’m trying to find the right balance between pain relief and not feeling completely out of my mind on the drugs, but I think I’m getting there.

unknownIn better news, Tim and I had a great trip to Laconia, NH for bike week in June. It was a lot of fun and we were able to cross one item off the bucket list – a trip up Mount Washington.

Thanks to everyone for the continued support and love. We will post again after the next set of scans are in (or earlier if there is anything to report). Love you all!

~Paula and Tim

Brain Scan Update

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 5/4/2016

happycatWe have great news to report today. I heard from Yale yesterday with the results of my follow up brain MRI. All of my treated metastatic spots have shrunk, and there are no new metastases.

My next follow up brain scan is in three months, shortly after my next bone scan and CT follow ups. So we have a good portion of the summer to breathe a bit, enjoy life, and maybe knock a few things off the bucket list. I’ll continue my immunotherapy treatment every three weeks in the meantime, but that’s a walk in the park compared to chemo.

Thanks to all for the ongoing well wishes, cards, lunch dates, and many other kindnesses. Our family appreciates all of you!

~ Paula & Tim

What the Scans Say

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 4/19/2016

We have good news to share today! According to my latest bone scan and chest/abdominal CT scans, my cancer has not spread or grown. And my lymph nodes actually look a bit improved. As a result, my oncologist is giving me a break from my current chemotherapy, Taxotere, for a while.

I’ll continue my intravenous immunotherapy treatments, Perjeta and Herceptin, every three weeks. Both of these drugs are targeted therapies used for HER2 positive breast cancers like mine. While they have some side effects, they should be significantly less without the Taxotere, so I’m looking forward to growing some hair back and feeling better in general.  One rare but possible complication of these treatments is heart damage, so I need an echocardiogram every three months to keep watch for that (I have one scheduled on Tuesday afternoon).

Next up (April 30th) is my first follow up brain MRI since the Gamma Knife treatment. Fingers crossed that the news from that scan is just as positive.

Tim and I appreciate all the support and well wishes coming our way as we’ve waited anxiously for this first set of scans. We love you all.

~Paula & Tim

The First Finish Line

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 3/29/2016

I’m happy to report that my sixth and last cycle of this current chemo round was yesterday (woot!). Over the next two weeks I’ll get several CT scans and a bone scan, and on April 18th we’ll sit down with Dr. K, my oncologist, and find out how well my chemo and immunotherapy has worked its magic.

chemoBest case scenario is that it worked to shrink the existing tumors, and nothing new and unknown has popped up. If everything seems under control, I most likely will get a break from chemo for a while, along with regular follow up scans to make sure no new areas of metastases are brewing. Since I’m really tired of hatswigs, and bandanas (not to mention feeling blech all the time), we are really hoping for this outcome, so please send all positive vibes, prayers, thoughts, and any hoots you have our way.

There is also the possibility I will need to continue on this chemo for a while, or switch to a different second line chemo/immunotherapy option if it appears this combo isn’t working for me. But we are hopeful that it is indeed working as I haven’t developed any new symptoms.

Then on 4/30 I have a follow up brain MRI on my Gamma Knife procedure, where we’ll see if I’ve developed any significant new metastases. Hoping to see no more than the 14 previously blasted tumors on that scan. I should hear the results from the team at Yale the first week of May.

Thanks to all for your constant support, uplifting messages, funny cards and emails, gifts, and the general outpouring of love we feel each day from friends and family near and far. Love you all.

~Paula and Tim

Gamma Knife Done

Journal entry by Timothy Hemhauser — 3/18/2016

Hi All,

Paula, Myself and her Mom Mary arrived at Yale early this morning for her treatment. As expected everyone was great. And before long Paula was prepared and had her head gear installed and was off to the super Tesla magnet MRI.

Then we waited in the gamma knife waiting room and had lunch and waited for Paula’s treatment to be designed by the super brain trust of doctors.

When the plan was complete Dr Chiang came in and reported that the new MRI shows 14 tumor locations in the brain and they mapped out a plan that would nail them all. It would be 2 hours 45 minutes in the gamma knife. So at around 1pm she went in, and after 2 hours and 45 minute exactly it was done.

It went well and Paula is doing well. Her head is wrapped from where the head gear was screwed in, but she’s home and comfortable. So arrived at 8am out by 4:30, 14 tumors lighter.

Thanks everyone for your concern and love and gifts and support

Tim and Paula

Yale Fail

Journal entry by Timothy Hemhauser — 3/15/2016

So last evening Yale contacted Paula to tell her there is a electrical issue with the gamma knife. At 10 pm, they called back and said they were still working on it and that they would call as by 4 or 5 am to give a go/no go.

At 5am it was a no go. They will call to reschedule.

UPDATE: We are rescheduled for this Friday.

Keep you posted, love Tim and Paula

Gamma Rays, Skull Screws, and Chemo…Oh My

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 3/9/2016

In a Nutshell

We have lots to update everyone on, but I’ll give you the “to the point” highlights first in case you don’t have the time or patience to read my ramblings. We had our second opinion appointment at Yale and it went great. I’ll be going in for a gamma knife neurosurgery procedure (which is basically targeted radiation – no knives involved) on Tuesday, March 15th. And in other news, yesterday we finished the fifth of my six chemo cycles, so there’s just one more to go!

The Second Opinion

Monday was our second opinion on radiation treatment for my brain metastases at Yale’s Smilow Cancer Center.  They booked us two back-to-back appointments, the first with Dr. Yu, a radiation oncologist, and the second with Dr. Chiang, the neurosurgeon who runs their gamma knife program (a stereotactic radiation procedure we’ll get to in a minute).

The whole atmosphere at Smilow is different, with free valet parking at the door and spacious, cancer-patient-friendly waiting rooms (complementary snacks and beverages, anyone?)  When the receptionist saw us looking at a large brass gong in the waiting room, she informed us that patients bang the gong as a rite of passage when finishing their full radiation treatment cycles. We were starting to love the place before we even saw the first doctor.

Since Yale is a teaching hospital, we visited with a very pleasant and thorough resident first before meeting Dr. Yu. She ran through my latest MRI results and why she thought I’d be an excellent candidate for stereotactic (or targeted) versus whole brain radiation. Then Dr. Yu came in and walked through my entire brain scan with us, pointing out each lesion and explaining the location and impact, then echoed the residents words. They tell me I am young, active, and with a manageable number of metastases to target strategically; therefore there’s no reason not to pursue a more conservative stereotactic approach that won’t burn out healthy brain tissue and risk cognitive side effects like whole brain radiation likely would.

Also, I won’t lie…the fact that every doctor I saw at Yale called me young, at 47, certainly didn’t hurt my opinion of them.

Next up was Dr.Chiang, the neurosurgeon, who was just as warm, knowledgeable, and communicative as Dr. Yu had been. She ran through my case history with us (resident in tow), and then thoroughly explained the entire gamma knife procedure to us. She also has an Australian accent, which I think lends anyone credibility, and also led Tim to pull out the old Crocodile Dundee knife quotes once out of earshot. Feeling confident that this team has our back and gamma knife is the right treatment for us, we signed paperwork and picked a procedure date (3/15/16) with the surgical coordinator before leaving.

What is Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?

There is no actual brain incision or traditional brain surgery in a gamma knife radiosurgery procedure. Instead, the “knife” is several hundred beams of targeted gamma radiation that converge on each spot of metastases to obliterate it.

The most invasive and uncomfortable part of the procedure is the fitting of the head frame required to keep the brain absolutely still during the pre-procedure MRI and the radiosurgery itself. After Novocaine injections (what I’m told is the most uncomfortable part of the whole day), Dr. Chiang will make four very small incisions for the head frame screws that will go just into the skull to affix the frame firmly. After the frame is attached I will undergo another extremely high resolution MRI, more powerful than the last two.

Once the MRI is done, we have some down time while the results are mapped into a special software program and Drs. Yu and Chiang, plus a radiation dosimetrist and a physicist (talk about your brain trust), map out my treatment procedure. The treatment procedure itself may take anywhere from a half hour to 3 or 4 hours depending on the complexity of the plan they end up with.

Finally, when the plan is complete, treatment begins. It’s painless, and not much different from getting a CT scan if you’ve ever had one. You lay on a padded platform and the head frame is attached to a funky looking helmet that has several hundred holes in it designed to focus the gamma radiation beams to the appropriate treatment spots. Like a CT, you’re alone in the room while the treatment is happening but are in audio contact with the technicians and doctors in the next room. Once the treatment is complete, they remove the head frame, wrap your head in gauze, and you are off on your merry way.

In Related News

img_5259So after a full day at Yale Monday, I had my fifth chemo cycle (of six) on Tuesday. We’ll do our final cycle of chemo on Monday, March 28th, followed by a new set of scans to see what impact the chemo has had on the tumors.

I have also started to develop a painful spot in my lower back near the tailbone. Since this is lower than the area I had radiated late last year, our oncologist has ordered an MRI to see if there’s anything new brewing. It’s nowhere near the pain I was experiencing in my spine prior to radiation, so hopefully it’s just normal wear and tear for a 47 year “young” woman.

As always, we continue to be grateful to all of you for your supportive words and gestures.

With love,

Paula and Tim

Head Games

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 2/27/2016

rightmeowThe Short Update

The MRI showed some growth in the existing brain metastases and 2 additional spots of metastases. The latter finding is not unexpected given this scan was more detailed than the first scan four weeks ago. But we weren’t comfortable with the radiation oncologist’s recommendation of whole brain radiation and the side effects that come along with that, so we are setting up a second opinion consultation over at Yale to get their take. We will keep everyone posted.

The Long Version (Or, The One in Which We Bitch About the Doctor)

This was a disappointing week. I had my follow up brain MRI on Tuesday and a brief conversation with the radiation oncologist, Dr. W., on Wednesday about results before a scheduled Friday consultation.  He indicated the results weren’t drastically worse than the original scan four weeks prior. He also assured me he would go through the scans personally with the radiologist in detail before we met face-to-face on Friday. So when we headed to our Friday consultation, we were optimistic that we’d leave with a plan, but things didn’t quite shake out that way.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Dr. W had been on vacation during my original brain MRI and consultation, and we had met with his colleague, Dr. A, at that time. We loved Dr. A (and even inquired about switching my care to her permanently, but she is based in a satellite office that would make daily radiation treatment logistics difficult). She was thorough, current on the latest research, and approached us by laying out options we could discuss together in the context of my individual patient needs versus dictating a treatment plan based on scans only. She walked into the exam room with my entire file and her detailed notes to reference and share, which set the tone for the meeting.

Dr. W, on the other hand, came into the exam room with a 3×5 index card bearing just my name and patient number and a singular recommendation. He wanted me to undergo whole brain radiation (WBR) without any discussion of potential side effects and how they might impact my quality of life or mesh with my treatment goals at this point in time. Initially, he echoed our earlier conversation on the phone, saying my scans didn’t look dramatically worse but since I had “more than 4 or 5 spots of metastases” in total he still recommended whole brain radiation. When we pushed on stereotactic (or targeted) radiation as an option that could be effective with fewer side effects, he revealed he hadn’t gone through the scans with the radiologist as promised. After a call to radiology and a quick visit down to that department, he returned 10 minutes later to tell us that he was concerned that the growth in four weeks was significant from scan to scan, I had ten spots of metastases, and we shouldn’t wait to take action and start WBR. W.T.F.?

If that wasn’t enough, there were other red flags during the visit – his insistence that most of his patients had no side effects from whole brain radiation when the literature says up to 85% of WBR patients do experience some cognitive difficulties at one year following treatment. And his contradictory assertion that he’d put me on a new Alzheimer’s drug regimen he’d tried with other WBR patients to diminish cognitive side effects, only to reveal a few minutes later that I would actually be the first patient he tried this on. There were so many subtle contradictions that I would have questioned my own comprehension had Tim not been there to hear the same things.

To his credit, Dr. W did successfully treat my spinal metastases in December and I am thankful to have come from barely mobile to a currently pain-free state thanks to that treatment. But medicine is both an art and science and the more difficult part may very well be considering and communicating with the human element to apply the science appropriately. I think like many older and “old school” physicians, Dr. W was not used to his patients actually attempting to engage in discussion on his recommendations.

So we have decided to head to Yale for a second opinion, hopefully quickly. The doctor’s office is transferring records and getting the ball rolling, but I have a feeling I may be on the phone a lot next week trying to nail down an appointment and getting approval from the insurance company.

As always, we want to thank everyone for the lovely cards, notes, care packages, flowers, emails, food, and other thoughtful gestures. Your love and support holds us up during this time.

Love,

Paula & Tim

Four Down, Two to Go

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 2/17/2016

Just a short update on our progress. Yesterday was my fourth chemo cycle. It was business as usual – five hours in the chair and then home to sleep it off. The stronger anti-nausea infusions they have started giving me before chemo seem to be doing the trick to make my gastrointestinal issues controllable. The worst of the side effects usually last just a week or so following chemo and then ease off, so even though I come out of it feeling crummy there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

My next brain MRI is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. I’m looking forward to getting that done so that we can figure out next steps on brain radiation.

As always, thanks to everyone for your messages of love and support. They keep us going.
~Paula & Tim xox

We’re Halfway There!

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 1/26/2016

I’m happy to say that as of yesterday, I am halfway through this chemo treatment. Just three more cycles to go, which puts us in late March to wrap it up. That could change depending on scans and radiation options, but it feels good to reach a pretty solid halfway point. 🙂

With love to all,
Paula & Tim

The One About My Brain

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 1/22/2016

This is kind of a long post but it’s a complicated subject.

I finally had my brain MRI on Monday and received a call from my oncologist, Dr. K, on Tuesday to let us know the results. Unfortunately, the scan showed seven spots of metastases in various parts of the brain. If there’s one thing I’d like to keep healthy for the time being, it’s my brain, so the news was a little scary to say the least.

Dr. K put a call in to the radiation oncologist immediatelyto consult us on how to handle this new development. My regular radiation oncologist who treated my spine is out of the country on vacation, so we met with his covering physician, Dr. A, on Wednesday. With no disrespect to my regular doc, we were truly impressed with her knowledge and her bedside manner. In addition to going back and reviewing my original cancer history and consulting with her colleagues, she actually went down to radiology and went through my scans slice by slice with the radiologist all before seeing us on Wednesday. And she took all the time required to explain different scenarios of treatment, discuss possible outcomes, and answer all of our questions. In short, she knew her stuff.

So here’s the good news. All the spots of metastases are small (between 2mm and 6mm in size), and there is no significant swelling around them. While they could be the reason behind my amped up nausea, it’s difficult to pin it on them alone (chemo, cancer stress, some of my meds, and the spine radiation could all have contributed). And its possible that these spots have been there percolating for some time as this is my first brain scan. Dr. A gave me a neurological exam that I passed with flying colors, and I’m not experiencing any balance problems, also common with brain metastases. Tim also verified that I haven’t been any more scatterbrained than usual (thanks honey).

Then we talked treatment options. Most chemo (mine included) doesn’t treat the brain because it doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier that’s in place to protect our brain from toxins. So that’s why radiation is the standard treatment. There are essentially two routes to go:

  • Whole brain radiation. Like it sounds, they treat the entire brain with radiation. When there are a significant number of metastases (usually more than 3 or 4), this is an option. It would catch any additional microscopic spots not picked up on MRI as well. Unfortunately, whole brain radiation also kills healthy brain tissue, leading to side effects like concentration problems, memory loss, and other cognitive issues. In addition, it’s a one shot deal; if you have it once you can’t go back a second time and re-treat the whole brain if the cancer advances further.  This option would also require me to stop/delay chemo during the radiation treatments.
  • Stereotactic radiation. With stereotactic radiation, they target the spots of metastases, leaving the healthy brain tissue alone. The up side is fewer cognitive side effects, the down side is that microscopic spots that might not have been visible on MRI can continue to grow, leading to future treatments and a game of whack-a-mole. But this is also an advantage; unlike whole brain radiation, if other metastatic spots appear in new places in the future they can be treated. I could also continue chemo during stereotactic radiation.

In the end, we decided to take the doctor’s recommendation that we sit tight about four weeks, until I get my fourth cycle of chemo under my belt. At that time, we’ll get a more detailed MRI scan done that we can compare against the old one and see if anything has changed. The new scan they will order will be more detailed than the original (the image “slices” of the brain are closer together), and so it is possible we’ll discover some new spots that were between slices in the original MRI. As long as the number of spots stays reasonable (about 10 or less). we can probably still proceed with stereotactic radiation in stages (treating several spots at a time). That’s our preference given the pros and cons described above. And even though Cas tells me I have plenty of brain power to spare, I’d like to conserve as much as possible.

So that’s it for now. I’ll be back in chemo on Monday for cycle 3, and will post an update after that. And again, thank you so much to everyone for your outpouring of love and support. Tim and I are so very grateful to have so many lovely friends and family members behind us.

Two Chemo Cycles Down, Four to Go

Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 1/4/2016

chemotwoA quick note to let everyone know that I had my second round of chemo today. All went smoothly, even though the room was freeeeeeeezing today and Tim and I spent the session huddled under heavy coats and blankets (winter has finally arrived in CT). We’ll be back in again tomorrow to get a shot to help boost my white blood cells, and then I hopefully have a couple of weeks off from the doctor until round three  later in January.

Radiation finished up on 12/31 as predicted, and the pain relief from it has been amazing. Now if we can just get the chemo-nausea under control, things will be looking up (I feel like I’m pregnant with Cas again with morning/noon/night sickness). The doc is going to boost my post-chemo steroids to hopefully alleviate that, as the antinausea drugs haven’t been cutting it. He’s also ordered an MRI of my brain just to rule out any CNS involvement.

Thanks to everyone for the wonderful messages of love and support, the cards, and the homecooked meals. We feel incredibly blessed to have such a supportive circle of friends and family. Much love to you all.

A New Year’s Update
Journal entry by Paula Ford-Martin — 12/30/2015

To update everyone on where I am in treatment, here are a few details.

I started six cycles of chemo on December 10th. My cycles are three weeks long, which means I go in for treatment for about five hours of infusions once every three weeks. This means that we’ll be done around mid to late March with the chemo. During chemo, I actually get one “true” chemotherapy drug (docetaxel) and two targeted immune therapy treatments Herceptin and Perjeta) for my HER2 positive cancer.

I also started ten sessions of radiation on my spine in December, which will finish up on New Year’s Eve. The radiation has been a huge help in relieving the back pain I was having and improving my mobility.

If all goes according to plan, the chemo + radiation will shrink the existing tumors enough to eliminate or alleviate symptoms (specifically, the bone pain) and will stop further spread of the cancer. We’ll be doing periodic scans to check on progress and will post any updates here.

For the Cliff Notes version of details on my diagnosis, see the My Diagnosis & Treatment page (in the menu, above). 🙂

~ Paula

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