Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This is our worst week yet (by Susan)

After four months of being the star chemo patient at the Foothills cancer center, George hit a big bump in the road last week.  This past week has been pretty terrible (i.e., exhausting, terrifying, and, in George's case, painful) but there are signs that things are getting better.

After a big weekend 2 weekends ago (50 mile bike ride plus 4 hours in a crowded bar watching the World Cup on Sunday) George came down with a fever on Sunday night.  After some Advil the fever was down on Monday morning, so he got his chemo on schedule on Monday, including the Bleomycin, which had been removed from the regimen the previous time due to some concerns about lung toxicity.    His while blood cell count was also really low, so they gave him two shots of Neupogen, a white-cell boosting drug that makes a person feel kind of bad (George described it as having his bones hurt).  He continued to get fevers and chills off and on all week and saw the doctors several times, but the fevers weren't that high and the doctors adopted a "wait and see" attitude.

We had planned a trip to Crested Butte this week with all of our kids finally in one place, which only happens about once a year.  We had kids flying in from Europe, Seattle, and Montana to be with us.  We also have my mom and my brother Jim visiting Colorado this week, although they are staying with my sister Celia.

Based on George's prior experience with the chemo, we thought he would be fine on the trip to Crested Butte and he could relax and just participate in the activities that he felt like doing during that week.  The kids had all assembled here by Saturday and were ready to head up to Crested Butte on Sunday, when on Saturday night George came down with a really high fever (103.5), chills, shakes, and difficulty breathing. By this time it was about 10:00 at night, so I made the call to take him to the emergency room to get looked at.  Caitlyn came with us, and after a few harrowing hours, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and they kept him in the hospital that night after putting him on heavy duty fever reducers and IV antibiotics. 

The next day he had several doctors looking at him and they basically told him that the lung problems could be due to a bacterial infection, a fungal infection, or bleomycin lung toxicity, and they scheduled a lung biopsy to figure out specifically which one it was.  Meanwhile, they put him on antibiotics, anti-fungal  meds, and steroids to help his breathing.   They are saying that he will be in the hospital until Thursday of this week.

So, we had to cancel the Crested Butte trip and all the kids are here in the house with me and supporting me while I am trying to support Geo in the hospital.   I kept thinking about the old Scottish poem - "the best laid plans of mice and men go oft astray" - and I should add, especially when a person is getting chemo.

The good news is that all of these meds are helping George to start feeling better - he was breathing much better and was able to do a few laps around the Foothills medical center today.   The doctor said that these kinds of lung infections are not uncommon among Hodgkins patients - the lowered immunity and the bleomycin treatment make patients susceptible to lung problems.   It was all probably the scariest episode that we have had through this whole thing, and I'm just glad we have a really understanding family who love and support us so much.

We will have to see how the week progresses to know if he can get his next chemo session on time.   I think at this point the Wing Woman could use a new set of wings!


  1. Her wings have done pretty great from what I have seen! They just need some rest. The flight/journey is almost over. This is all hard...but I'd say the team has been doing hard well.

    Digging deep and giving thanks for the good fortune until now. A big thanks to all those out in the ether giving good prayers and positive energy to Dad's journey back to health!

  2. Agreed. The Susamatic has some awesome wingwoman wings! They're undoubtedly a bit tired from carrying my heavy lame ass around these past few days.

    Here's a typical example: I'm on the couch, spiking a BIG fever, shaking, having trouble breathing (like, I can't talk because breathing is so hard).

    Susan: Ok, I'm getting you to the ER
    George: Well, let's just wait 1/2 hr to see if this goes away (me being lazy, since getting into the car at 11:00 on Saturday night with a 103 fever is a bit daunting.)
    Susan: Nope. I'm calling the doctor, and we're going!

    And from there, my super-duper-best-in-the-universe wing woman guides me through the medical system and back to health!