Friday, December 28, 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Getting ready

Today Michael and I went to the facility where I will have chemo. I though it would be a good idea to see what I was in for. The first thing that washed over me was the smell. The place is old and soon (2 years)to be replaced with a shiny new cancer center. There is the smell of old and sick and drugs and disinfectant and more old. Six or eight people were sitting around in recliners with IV's in their arms.Most of them were sleeping, the others just sat quietly. Family members looked up at us with vacant eyes. An older man sat slumped in his chair. He was skinny and even though his hair was cut short, you could tell that it had come out in clumps. He looked like a a holocaust survivor. The air inside was still, stuffy. I think I was having trouble breathing in. I wondered if I would be able to bring a fan. Then I saw a splash of color in the corner. A woman with silver hair, like me, and a smile to share. There was light coming from her side of the room. I went to meet her. She comes every 6 weeks for treatment for arthritis. Maybe I'll see her again.

I walked out and burst into tears. How can I sit in there for hours and hours, even minutes and minutes? I called my sister Danita. She is coming up so that she can sit with me during my first treatment. This you must know about my sister. She gets claustrophobic in any enclosed building, possibly even the Super Dome. I called to tell her about the facility and that she should change her plans to sit with me. She said, "I am going to sit with you where ever you are. What are we going to wear?" I think she was even smiling. I know I was.

So, on January third I will become the splash in the corner. My sister will be with me. We are already planning what we will wear. I'm thinking maybe my red flannel pj's

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How it all began

Last February Debbi came home from a missions trip to Honduras. She has done this several times, and this time , like every other time, she brought home some unwelcome stowaways. Usually these invaders leave within a week or so, but this time she continued to have a swollen lymph node in her neck. Another visit to the doctor - more antibiotics and the message that sometimes those nodes take quite a while to go down.
Skip ahead 9 months - after a complete physical, Debbi mentioned to the doctor that she had this node that has not fully resolved in the last 9 months. Even though all her lab work and other exams were normal, he thought she should have that node "looked at" and made her an appointment at the head and neck surgeon.
The head and neck doctor did a needle biopsy of the node and made and appointment for the results in a week. Now we thought all this was "much ado about nothing" as this was obviously an infection brought back from Honduras that just hadn't left.
The next Friday, we went for the results - The doctor said "there is no easy to tell you this, but it looks like you have lymphoma". Stunned would be an understatement, my first thought was that he needed to review Debbi's chart because what she had was infection, not cancer! But alas, the diagnosis stuck. She was scheduled for an excisional biopsy, where they take the whole node out for a good look. This was scheduled for November 8th.
Well the node came out and was found to be an "indolent (or low grade) follicular lymphoma."
This disease is staged by nodal chain involvement: stage 1 - only one node group involved; stage 2 - more that one group involved but all either above or below the diaphragm; stage 3 - several groups of nodes involved both above and below the diaphragm, and stage 4 is the same as stage 3 but with the addition of having the bone marrow involved. It would take a PET scan and a bone marrow biopsy to determine the staging. (for more info:
After a PET scan we found out that Debbi has involved nodes on both sides of her neck, supraclavicular area, spleen and inguinal areas, which made her a stage 3. The only question left was about the bone marrow. That was answered after the December 2nd bone marrow biopsy. Visually there was no involvement, however the "flow cytometry" (which is basically a way to look at every single cell in a tissue sample), did show a very minimal involvement. While this won't make any difference as to how she is treated, it will help her oncologist predict how her blood counts will react to the chemo.
In her case, watchful waiting was not recommended. She will begin her chemo ( RCVP: rituximab, cyclophosphamide, vincristine and prednisone) on January 3rd. She will get 6 treatments (or cycles), one every 3 weeks for the next 18 weeks. Follow up will be by CT scans, however we don't know the follow up schedule yet.
Debbi is currently doing well, her spirits are good and while not looking forward to chemo, she is looking forward to the new adventure God has for all of us during all this. Please pray for her and us during the riggers of chemo, that her side effects may be minimal, and that we, her family, can support her well. Pray that God may have his will in our lives and that this "adventure" will bring us closer the Him and some way make us look more like Jesus.
If you would like to, you can respond to this letter on this web site or at I'm sure she'll check it often. You may also call her at home, (828-628-9171) and don't worry about bothering her, if she isn't in the talking mood, whoever answers will take a message and let her know you called.

Thank you for your prayers and support,