Archive for November, 2009


November 28, 2009

The fever that sent Mary Jo to the ER last week continues to give her trouble.  Add that to continued nausea and this week has not been an easy one. We took another trip to the doctor today and even had the sinuses scanned to see if there might be an infection.  But nothing presents itself, so we all remained mystified.  Mary Jo remains uncomfortable.  The good news is that blood tests today showed that all the various blood cells are in a normal range.  That bodes well for the second chemo treatment on Monday the 30th.

Hair Loss

November 24, 2009

Today Mary Jo  began losing her hair.  This is a very difficult thing for her because she has always had so much hair!  Thus far, it is coming out many strands at a time but not in clumps.  A friend  who is a hair stylist came today and gave her a very short, pixy cut.  We did Web Cam with our family tonight and we all like it so that’s a good thing!   She will cut it again on Wednesday or Thursday evening and then again on the weekend if need be.  It’s predicted that by the weekend she will have lost all of it.

Most of us care about our appearance.  It’s the way we present ourselves to the world.  It’s interesting though to hear Mary Jo tell her grandchildren that when she loses her hair she’ll still be the same “Nanna” or Grandma.  That won’t change.  She will still be the same Mary Jo that God so wonderously made.

Chemo cancelled

November 23, 2009

We were set to take our second chemo treatment this morning, but blood counts were too low.  The white blood cells looked great after the bone marrow was  stimulated the last two weeks with medication.  The problem now was the platelets (the blood clotting cells) that were too low to do treatment.  Bone marrow stimulation doesn’t help them.  They need to regenerate on their own. We’ll try again next Monday.

We were close to getting the H1N1 shot for her as well, but she continues to run a low grade fever and is not feeling “up to par”.  So we’ll see later in the week or next Monday where things are at.  

Having this disease requires learning a great deal about the body that we don’t think about or know about.  How intricate and wonderful are the bodies God has given us!   Days of Thanksgiving indeed!


Trip to ER

November 20, 2009

A spike in body temperature sent us to the ER last night.  The low blood counts last Monday suggested extra care be taken with a temperature.  After blood tests, chest x-ray, etc.  things looked normal. They gave her IV fluids, Tylenol for the temp. and sent her home about 11 p.m. The ER doc suggested that the antibiotics started on Monday may have caused the temp.  The good news was that the white blood cells had hit 10,000 (up from 500 on Monday the 16th) which was a good sign.  We’re hoping that with the counts up that the scheduled chemo on Monday might be able to go forward.  

ER folks are a special breed.  A conversation with “Tammy” suggested that God had given her this gift and she couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  Thanks for all the gifts God gives.

Counts down

November 17, 2009

Mary Jo got her first blood test on Monday.  It was disappointing.  Her blood counts were low enough that they immediately put her on antibiotics and had her continue the injections of neupogen that she’s giving herself to help stimulate the bone marrow. Since she is very vulnerable to other infections, she’s being advised to stay out of public places to avoid the germs that are around us constantly.  That means she’ll probably also take a leave from her work at church for a few weeks in addition to her leave from school.  She feels okay physically, but taking away her participation in music and social interaction is difficult.  The disease effects every part of a person’s life.

Through this Mary Jo reports feeling the presence of God with her in those occasional wakeful hours of the night.  That presence is felt as a sense of calm.  In those times a “Sounds Like Love” anthem goes through her head:  Be Still and Know That I am God.  We are thankful for this gift of peace and calm.


Tough week

November 15, 2009

The days following chemotherapy weren’t easy.  The medical community made a mistake and did not order an important anti-nausea drug that Mary Jo was to take for 2 days after her chemotherapy.  As a result, she found the nausea getting ahead of her for most of the week.  She felt pretty lousy and didn’t want to eat much through Friday morning.  She called the oncology nurse to ask about how to use another anti-nausea pill that had been prescribed to her.  That medication helped so now she is back to enjoying most foods again.  She did go to her rehearsals on Wednesday night, but has a lot of fatigue.  Thursday, she napped in the morning, afternoon, and evening as well as going to bed at the regular time.  

She really appreciates the cards she’s gotten.  The Sunday School classes have been taking turns providing her greetings each week.  She is really enjoying the students creativity.  Phone calls have often been good for this social butterfly. The struggle is to still enjoy this God-given life, while retiring for a time from some of the people contact that energizes her.

We’re thankful for medicines that work.  Where does the inspiration come from that allows for people to come up with these new chemical gifts?  We can only suppose that they too are God’s continuing gift of providing the health that God desires for us.

The first step on a chemical journey

November 10, 2009

On Monday,  Mary Jo had her first chemotherapy treatment.  Before that, however, she had a port inserted in her chest to minimize the number of needle pokes required over the next four months.  

Then it was off to the oncology department for the first chemo treatment.  The folks in the infusion lab are very kind and helpful.  Mary Jo received anti-nausea medication before the drug-infusion began, and some good instruction about their use for a couple of days following the chemotherapy. We got good information about side effects, including hair loss, fatigue, low blood counts, flu-like symptoms, etc.

The infusion session went on without incident.  Mary Jo slept through some of the time, possibly in response to the sedation she had earlier in the day when she had the port surgery.  She seemed to tolerate the chemicals well.  The first four treatments involve Adriamiacin and Cytoxan (doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide.)    She was also taught to give herself an injection every day for seven days to stimulate the bone marrow.  This will allow her have her chemo every two weeks instead of every three weeks.  

As always we are impressed with the professionalism of the medical staff and appreciate the caring attitudes of these folks in the helping profession.  We are glad God calls people into this kind of work that is in the end God’s work of helping and healing.  We also see God’s work in family and friends who have been very supportive through this time.  Our daughters have been very good about keeping contact by phone on a daily basis.  Our daughter, Kjerstin, and our grandsons, Johnathan and Isaac, were able to spend the weekend with us to help us get ready for this leg of the journey.  Thanks everyone for continuing prayers and thoughts.


Decision Made

November 5, 2009

After much prayer, conversation with family and friends, and some tense moments, Mary Jo has decided not to be part of the clinical trial.  Instead she will be aggressive with chemotherapy and undergo the usual treatment.   Doctors will put a port in her chest on Monday, November 9, and the chemotherapy will begin that same day.  She will take treatments every two weeks for four months.  She will receive shots to stimulate the recovery of her bone marrow.

A significant side effect of the chemo is the loss of her hair.  For Mary Jo, that’s a difficult part of this treatment. But she’s being proactive and in the process of purchasing a wig to help her through this time.   

For now, the oncologist has strongly recommended that she not teach during November and December.  So she has a long term sub.

Again, we thank you for your prayers, your positive thoughts, your cards, emails and overall support.