Friday, April 30, 2010

Platelet Transfusion

Amy was asking about what the Platelet colour.... so thought I would include it! This was taken as they were giving me the Platelet Transfusion last sunday.

Thanks again for your care and wonderful words of encouragement!We have been so blessed by your kindness.
We love you! Lorna

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"It's that chemo called asparagus" - Jess

This week I returned to work after two weeks off. Being back into a regular routine reminds me of how much our lives have changed. During those two weeks we gained a new vocabulary, a new appreciation for life, the support of friends and family, new concerns and a whole set of red flags to watch for. It is hard to believe that tomorrow will mark three weeks since Mom first went in to the hospital.

We continue to marvel at how we see Gods hands all over this situation. Not only has he prepared us for this time, he is stirring the dust around our lives and feet and creating something new, as only he can: beyond what we can ask or imagine. The Lord is speaking to others around us, He is drawing our family closer together, and using this event as a catalyst for change in our own lives.

We are blessed but we are weary. The chemo treatments have brought Mom's hemoglobin low again. She will receive another blood transfusion tomorrow. She has tingling in her fingers, which is slowly slithering up her hands. During her last visit they asked her if she was still able to dress herself, as some patients struggle with buttons as the treatment progresses.

Tomorrow Mom begins her L-Asparaginase chemo, which she will receive every day for the next twelve days. Each day she will be required to go down to VGH for the treatment and return home to rest before going back into Vancouver for the next day. The weekly chemo has taken quite a toll and we are concerned that this next week will be especially draining. She is well in spirit, but weary in body.

Please pray that Mom will respond well to the Chemo, and will be able to get lots of rest during this time. Pray that she would sleep deeply at night, and stay healthy. Amy and I are beginning to feel like we have colds coming on. Please pray that we stay healthy so that we can continue to support and spend time with Mom.

More to follow....

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Of Blood and things

Hmm, seems like it's time for a bit of an update.

Mom was back at VGH again today for more chemo. Blood work came back showing her red blood cell count (RBC) is at 84, so she'll be receiving another transfusion on Friday when she goes back. Mom will start the final chemo drug for this round on Friday-L-asparaginase, which she will receive every day for 12 days. Since that will fall over Mother's Day, Mom has already started planning a Mother's day party with all of us in the hospital! If there's a party to be had in this whole experience, you can bet my Mom will be planning it! It seems that nothing can slow her down, although some things will make her pretty tired.

Mom took four naps yesterday and was quite tired all day (although likely connected to her low RBC count). Today the occupational therapist came in and met Mom for the first time in the hospital. She talked with Mom about the difference between being tired and fatigued and gave her strategies for tapping into her inner energy reserves.

We have received some questions from you on how exactly Mom's blood count factors into her immunity and her energy. I'd like to explain a little about how that all works. I'll try to use lay-men's terms.

Your blood is made up of "formed elements" and fluid.

The fluid, called plasma, makes up 55% of blood and is mostly water with other solutes dissolved in it.
The "formed elements" are 45% of blood. Mostly Red Blood Cells (RBC's), the formed elements also contain White Blood Cells (WBC's) and platelets.

Everyone knows about RBC's, they have a big protein called hemoglobin that carries oxygen. RBC's are important because they carry oxygen to all the cells and exchange it for carbon dioxide thereby feeding your body's cells so they can carry out their functions.

Platelets are what forms the scab you get when you scratch yourself. If you break a blood vessel the platelets are 'activated' and start to form a wall that blocks blood flow out of the blood vessel. This is the scab you see that covers the original wound.

WBC's are the infection fighters. There are five different types of WBC's: Neutrophils, Monocytes, Lymphocytes, Eosinophils, and Basophils. Neutrophils are the most numerous and along with Monocytes and Lymphocytes are responsible for the majority of the "battle" against invading pathogens to the body. A pathogen is basically anything that is foreign to the body whether it is a germ (bacteria or virus) or a dust particle, or even transplanted tissue. Eosinophils and Basophils are kind of like the cleaners, they come in after the other three WBC's have done their job and clean up. Basophils are also responsible for releasing a chemical involved in that wonderful thing called allergic reaction. The next time you're sneezing and coughing from seasonal allergies you know who to blame!

Of the fighters, Neutrophils and Monocytes work basically the same way, they see something foreign and they eat it. Chemicals inside the cell then break it down and destroy it.
Lymphocytes work a bit differently, they are more specific. Lymphocytes make antibodies which recognize a particular component of the invading pathogen. The antibodies then bind to that component, thereby disabling the pathogen.

But where do all these blood cells come from? I thought you'd never ask. Blood cells are formed in your bone marrow from stem cells. You may be aware of all the debate over stem cells in the last few years. I won't get into the debate now, but if you've heard of it you're aware that stem cells are very amazing things. Your body is made of millions of cells. These cells are constantly dying off, which isn't a problem because they are able to replace themselves. Divide and conquer! Your cells have the ability to divide, so where once there was one, now there is two! But each cell can only make a duplicate of itself, it can not make any other cell. This is important because there are thousands of different kinds of cells in your body. Enter stem cells, a stem cell is called such because it has the ability to become different types of cells! Stem cells in your bone marrow divide to make nine different types of blood cells.
Two stem cells arise from the first division of the stem cell in bone marrow. The first stem cell is able to make RBC's, platelets, and most WBC's. The other stem cell specializes to make the WBC the Lymphocyte. I mention this because it is from these stem cells that Mom's type of Leukemia arises. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia is a cancer of the cells in the phase of division between the lymphoid stem cell and the final product, the lymphocytes. These cells are called Lymphoblasts, hence the name of Lymphoblastic Leukemia, and Acute, means that it develops fast (as opposed to Chronic).

How does this relate to us, you ask? Let me tell you. The Leukemia developed in Mom's bone marrow, as the cancer cells grew they plugged up the portal that the blood cells would have used to exit into the blood stream. This is what caused Mom's anemia that initially put her in the hospital and led the doctors to discover her Leukemia. Now that Mom has started chemotherapy, the drugs she is being given are killing the leukemia cells. But because Mom's WBC's look almost identical to the cancer cells, the chemotherapy kills them too. This is what has caused Mom's WBC count to drop. It is also somehow connected to Mom's RBC count, but I haven't worked that all out yet.

In lay-men's terms, chemotherapy causes the destruction of Mom's blood cells. As her RBC count drops Mom becomes tired because her body's cells aren't getting the oxygen they need to function. This is when Mom gets a blood transfusion. Her WBC's are responsible for all of Mom's immunity. If her WBC count is low (which it is right now) Mom has to be very careful to not expose herself to germs. This means that she is not able to go out in public places where she will be in contact with a lot of people because her body has no way of protecting itself from the normal everyday bugs we all carry around with us. And of course, as we have mentioned lots on this blog, it also means she is not able to see anyone who is sick, for the same reason that she can not fight off the germs that she would encounter.

You may not realize how many germs your body comes into contact with everyday because whenever a germ enters your body your WBC's come along and destroy it. You get sick when a germ has the ability to multiply and make itself at home in your body faster than your WBC's can destroy it. For Mom, and other chemo patients who have no immune system, any germ that comes into their body will be able to multiply like crazy. As the germs grow they use all your body's resources, like oxygen and sugar and water. All the things your body's cells need to survive. Well, if the germs are taking all those nice nutrients, than your body's cells are left with nothing. It only makes sense that things die when they are starving. Of course all of this takes place on a microscopic level and we only begin to appreciate it when it has a large enough effect to be visible at the bigger level.

Well, let's step out of the microscopic world of blood and it's origins and come back to the everyday world of people. I hope you understand a little better how Leukemia works and how all this talk about blood counts effects Mom and what she is able to do. If you know anything that would bring more clarity to this post, please feel free to share.

Thanks for reading, praying, caring and walking with us!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Busy Girls!

Jessica, who had two weeks off work during this whirlwind journey, is back to work.
Much going on... so there has been no update.

Let me just say, I have been home a week. I have gone in and out to Out Patient @ VGH 3 times.
My numbers are all dropping. My white blood count was ".2" on friday!! The Doctor said getting closer to "0" is basically where I am, at the bottom. My white count will begin to climb again for maybe a week. Then I start a new chemo drug on April 28- May 12 every day. That will drop my counts back down again. They did give me a "platelette" transfusion on sunday.

I am mostly well, other than tiring out easily. My fingertips are all buzzing and tingly due to the Vincristine. That will go away when I am done this chemo. I am not handling any acidic food.
I have just a small amount of a rash on the inside of my mouth. This is the easiest gateway for germs to get into my bloodstream, If i cut myself when brushing... SO, the oral hygiene is very rigid. Three meals a day, brush and gargle with something they use to treat "gingivitis"!! no eating between and be very careful!

Thank you for praying!! YOU BLESS US !!


My Dearly Loved Photography Teacher, from High School; Myra Ottewell, came by to visit me at VGH.
My room-mates husband saw the rainbow before we did. Myra captured it with me! Here is the poem she sent with the photo.

God's Rainbows

Rainbows appear after mighty storms,
When things look their very worst.
Just when skies are darkest gray,
Look for the rainbow first.

The rainbow is a sign of God's promise,
That He will guide us through any storm.
That He will see us through all our troubles,
No matter what their form.

When you feel battered by Life's storms,
And you are filled with doubt and dismay,
Just remember God's rainbow will come,
For it's only a prayer away.

Blessed Leukemia Mamma

Hello Dear Friends and Family

Saturday was a home day and in my quiet time with The Lord, I was reading in John 3.
Verse 28-29 say; "But the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegrooms voice. And so this JOY of mine has been made full."
I just started weeping... because I have heard the voice of The Bridegroom through so many of you, through the Word, and though God's abundant faithfulness. It is true!!
This Joy of mine has been made full !!

God uses the fire in our lives to draw us into His glory! What a privilege!
May you know the blessing of resting in the arms of the One who not only calls us by name, but searches after us to bring us to a place of green meadows and running waters. All that a sheep could need.

When still in Emergency, a praying Friend sensed God leading her to anoint my hands with oil.
Which she did. I gratefully received it as a promise that not only was "the work of my hands" not yet done... but that God had more for me to accomplish yet. What a gift.

Well, in the last weeks a printer who uses a special development treatment, contacted me.
He has been printing orders from designers across Europe and the US for 8 years and has been wanting to find a local artist (his shop is in Surrey on the Langley border) to represent to his designers. He looked me up on the Prof. Photographers of Canada website, BC Chapter. Found my page and loved what he saw. I was to meet with him the morning I went into Emergency.
It stared weeks before when I was reading a "Kingdom Business" book, where the Author prayed for God to be his business partner. I had never done that before, but it sounded like a great idea!!! So the phone call came after some weeks praying.

Yesterday Amy met with this printer. She saw a few samples of his work, and said it is "Beautiful Mom". He will print out one of my images, bring it to me and then we have many details to work out... but I am again, blessed and blown away by the possibility that there is someone who may be representing my work abroad, while I am home being treated for Leukemia! Wow! What can I say, but that My God is bigger than I can see, more powerful than I could guess, and to be in His hand is the safest and most delightful place!

Blessings to each of you!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Another good day

How many good days are we allowed to have? I'm not even going to hazard a guess. I'll just enjoy them as they come.
The new drug has helped Mom's heart burn immensely so she was able to eat with ease. Mom had a good nap this afternoon and a few lovely visits with friends and family. She sat outside on the sundeck enjoying the warm sunshine for a few hours this afternoon. Overall it felt like a normal day with a few extra errands thrown in. I could settle in to a few more days like this. I even washed my car today!

Mom goes back to VGH tomorrow for a check-up. They'll do some blood work, hook her up to an IV drip and give her some potassium. If all goes well, she should be out of there in a few hours.

Well, I'm going to call it a night. Thanks for walking with us!



Mom had her first appointment at VGH as an outpatient yesterday. It's a lot more independent. You walk in and pick up your clipboard off the wall, walk down the hall and pick an empty room, remembering to put the sticky note with your name on it outside the door so the nurse can find you. Grab the thermometer off the wall and take your own temperature, marking it down on the sheet. Walk out into the hall for the blood pressure machine and hook yourself up to take your blood pressure and pulse, again recording the information on the sheet. The nurse comes in to take a blood sample which is sent off to the lab. Results come in an hour and a half later and then they begin treatment. Mom received her chemo yesterday (vincristine) and we were gone in about 4 hours. Not bad. The nurse upstairs told Mom that coming into the hospital is like going to work for the day, you can expect to be there for 8 hours. The reason for that, as the nurse explained yesterday, is that there are all sorts of protocols that you may not even realize are happening when you are checked in as an inpatient upstairs in "15" (The Leukemia and Bone Marrow Transplant floor). When you're on 15 you're there all the time so time doesn't seem to matter as much. Once you're an outpatient though, you notice time because you're there just waiting to go back home.
All in all, it was a good visit.

Mom's been experiencing heartburn, most likely as a result of prednisone, one of the medications she's taking, so the doctor prescribed a stronger antacid that should help. The results from the blood work show that her white blood cells are continuing to drop so Mom has to be very careful and can not go out in public at all. She tires easily, but of course, this doesn't stop Mom. I think it's hard for Mom to just rest and do nothing!

Jessica went upstairs to visit Mom's old room mate. Please pray for her as she has come down with a virus (diarrhea) which she most likely contracted from her previous room mate (before Mom). It has an 8-10 day incubation period, there's a chance that Mom has also contracted the same bug. Pray for a quick recovery for Mom's old room mate and also that Mom doesn't get the virus.

Thank you!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mom is HOME!!

I walked into Mom's hospital room last night (I was bringing her camera so she could take pictures of the view from her room, but didn't realize that she did not have a memory card in her camera or her camera bag.... oops!), she was standing up, chatting with her room mate and except for the tubes coming out of her chest I would not have thought there was anything wrong with her. My Mom is doing so great, it is amazing to see how God has been faithful to answer your prayers.

Mom has arrived at home! It is so nice to have Mom here, to be able to lay on the bed beside her and chat with her. Jessica was bugging me because I would always make myself at home in the hospital, I would take my shoes off and get comfortable on the end of the bed. But that is what I like, I like to be close to my Mom. I am realizing more and more how much Mom is the rock of our family. For her to be sick feels a little like my legs have been cut out from underneath me and my world has been turned upside down. With Mom doing chemotherapy and responding so well, being able to come home, it feels like things are starting to come back around. The world is the right way up again.

Mom is doing amazingly well, I know I've already said this but it is incredible to see my Mom and see that she is still herself. Leukemia can't change who my Mom is. In fact, it is through this experience that Mom's character shines. She cares about people, she is incredibly strong in spirit and in body. I know that my Mom will pull through this and she will be stronger because of it.

Even though Mom is at home, the same rules still apply as at the hospital. Please stay away if you are sick at all. Mom's white blood cell count is dropping and we need to be very careful to keep away any infection. I have heard from many of you who are staying away because you are sick or suspect that you may be sick. Thank you! But visitors are most certainly welcome.
We have a bottle of hand sanitizer at the door for your convenience. Please make sure to wash up before visiting with Mom. I think that Mom will become more fatigued as her white blood cells continue to drop, but we'll keep you posted as to how she is doing and how many visitors she can handle. You have all been an amazing support to us and have been great about respecting Mom's stamina when you visit. I don't think I need to repeat myself too much more.

Thank you once again for all your prayers and support.

In appreciation,

Monday, April 19, 2010

Incredible News!!

Hello Wonderful Friends and Family
This is the Leukemia Mamma!!

The Doctors came this morning to me with big smiles saying; "you are well enough to go home tomorrow". With a stunned face I thought they were kidding!!
But what about my white cell count... does it not have to completely be killed and then come back up??

Well, the way that I have handled the chemo thus far, so well... no fever, no nausea (praise God), They say I can be home! So, don't come to the hospital.... I won't be here after about 11:00 tomorrow morning!

I still have 6-7 months of chemo ahead of me. I cannot have even a sniffle or cough around me, will have to avoid large gatherings... no going to church... but I can be home with my Rob so he will not be traveling back and forth to see me! This is good.

I will come back and forth to the Out Patient Unit for all chemo treatments.
I still need to watch for fever or any other complication with a phone call to the Out Patient Unit to determine the best course of action. Of course, if there are serious responses... I can always be admitted again... but YOUR PRAYERS are the source of this good news. So, I am trusting God to keep me well enough to be home.

I am part way through my first "Protocol" of treatment. When it is nearly done, they will do another bone marrow biopsy to see how effective the treatments have been and how much Leukemia is left. Then they decide what the next protocol will be. They choose different chemo drugs for each protocol, so my body will not build up a resistance to the drugs.

For those who do not know... the Leukemia attacks the white blood cells, and then multiplies like crazy filling my blood stream with cancerous white blood cells that do not fight desease. So, the chemo kills the white blood cells. When my red blood cells (hemoglobin) drop below 80 (normal being between 120 - 180) then I have another blood transfusion. ( that is what happened this last thursday when my count was 79 - they gave me two more units of blood). When my platelets drop below 10 then they give me a blood transfusion. But, they cannot give a transfusion for the white blood cells. The white blood cells are produced through the bone marrow. So, the Chemo kills all the bad white cells (cancer) and the good white cells. So the next phase is to wait for the white blood cells to reproduce again and then watch to see if the cancer continues to reproduce.

So, it is especially during the time when my white blood count is down, that I am most susceptible to catching anything and I don't have the white blood cells to fight any infection.
What a journey. I have been learning so much.

Thank you again for your love and care. Your words of encouragement and affirmation have been overwhelming. I am feeling held in your love.

If you are healthy, I can have visitors, but please call first. I need to block off 1-3 so I can sleep in the day and rest. So, if you can avoid that time frame that would be good.

Blessings to each of you...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Angela's first post

Well I suppose it's time I added some of my own thoughts and words to this wonderful blog that my sisters set up. First of all an update on my mother: Today the Dr's informed us that she is in the "Honeymoon" stage of her chemo therapy treatment. This meaning that her white blood cells have not started depleting, hence her remaining energy levels. As the chemo begins to decrease her white blood cell count her energy will go down. So please keep her in your prayers as these changes occur. Please also pray for her to get really good quality sleep as quantity does not seem to be an option. The nurses provide a punctual 5am wake up call to check her vitals and she has been having difficulty getting back to sleep. Actually we would all appreciate prayer for our sleep. Otherwise my mom is doing as expected considering her situation.

I feel there is so much more that I could write and that I would like to express in reagrds to what the last 10 days or so have meant to me personally. But unfortunatley now is not the time. It is late and I can't think straight enough to express myself clearly, so a mother update is all you'll get for now.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Dear Friends,

I just spoke with my Mom this morning. Her Hemoglobin dropped to 79 today so they are giving her a blood transfusion this mourning. She is receiving two units of blood. Then later today she will receive another dose of chemo. Due to the saline solution she was receiving intravenously she was gaining weight at a rate of 2 pounds a day and beginning to have major swelling in her legs and feet, so they have put her on a diuretic to decrease the water retention. She was up for an hour in the night, but slept well otherwise.

Thankfully Mom is not experiencing any nausea and there have been no negative reactions to the chemo she received yesterday.

She can now have more than two visitors in her room at a time. We are not sure how Mom's energy levels will be over the next few days. Please feel free to visit, but be willing to keep the visit short should she seem weary.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers

Thursday, April 15, 2010

From "The Mummy"

hello "Dear and Precious" Friends and Family
What a whirlwind of a journey this has been for all of us.

But even in that, there are two things to be said.

1. Being sick for 4 months, then, just when I was beginning to feel better, about 4 weeks ago, I was really having trouble breathing, (I would go up the stairs and be heaving for breath, or be sitting down and get up to cross the room, heaving for air with my heart just pounding in my chest for minutes until I regained stability...) really began to make me wonder if something more serious was going on. Having answers is really Good! For all of us!

2. Due to Rwanda and whenever they are ready to have Rob place the reinforcing steel....
as well as wondering where and when Rob might work on the next big job, and could I go with him, taking the Perspectives Course on the World Christian Movement, as well as wondering where Rob and I might be when He retires in 5 years have all given me a serious commitment to be praying daily for God to prepare Rob and I for whatever is to come!
I certainly was not thinking Leukemia when I prayed that prayer, but God in His Soveriegnty knows what we need to be prepared for most of all! It is truly only because of God's preparing hand that I have had such incredible peace through most of this journey.

I did go to the Doctors on the sat of the Easter Weekend. The blood work needed to be done on a morning before I had breakfast which was wednesday, April 7th. On Friday morning, our world changed dramatically. Our Doctor called at 7:15 am... to say; Lorna, your hemoglobin is really low, you need to get down to Emergency immediately, you should not even be able to walk across the room, you will need a blood transfusion, you will be staying there overnight, I will fax paper work and you go straight there. To my Doctors credit, I had not really given him the symptoms, I had just said; my husband wants you to send me to a Respirologist. My hemoglobin count was at 50-55 when it should have been 120! The Bone Marrow Biopsy was scheduled for monday. I did not want to send out news of distressing possibilities... so we waited for results. The Bone Marrow Biopsy, led to 5 different entry points, no bone marrow, one thin bone core and a good bone core. They went to do the results and the amazing hemeotolgist at Surrey, said he had some news. I asked if he could wait till Rob could be there. When he gave the news, Rob and all three girls, (Angela had just arrived), and my baby sister Lillian were there. He told us it takes days to take the calcium out of the bone core... but there was ONE drop of bone marrow for them to read. I do have acute Leukemia and he would try to get me into a bed in VGH. This was 3 pm monday. By five, the ambulance was waiting for Rob to come and me to eat supper. All was packed up, friends were there to transport stuff home and stuff to the hospital. It all happened SO fast... you wonder if it can be real?

Okay, so I know this is fairly long winded... but, it has been so crazy full of tests, every possible support person you could think of to walk this journey with has come to see me, as well as many of you. I am feeling fantastic today! Go Figure... it is all the prayer!! and as the chemo progresses and all my blood cells die, I will not have the energy to be sitting at this laptop that was graciuosly loaned to us!!! So, if you will bear with my lack of brevity.... there is one more interchange I would like to give. A precious daughter friend asked 'how are you?' I said 'grateful'.
She asked 'Why?!?', so I must give you the answer as it includes each of you!

The amount of love, prayer, kindness, anointing, giving, caring, feeding, and blessing that have been poured out over us as a family is rich beyond measure. Truly we are a blessed family.

These Whirlwind days have been accompanied by the presence of God in many profound ways.
Two hours after diagnosis, a bed being available! How good is God!

Thursday at work, Jessica's boss said; could Jessica stay home friday and monday and then call him? That meant Jessica was able to accompany me into Emerg and be with me all day! what a gift!

We could have already been in Africa with a high percentage that I would be dead right now! God's timing is perfect.

We are in the best hospital in all of Canada. The Team is amazing and they all have the same hearts of compassion and patience! "Ask us again and again if you need to, we know it takes time to process."

Of all the Leukemia's, mine is the one with the highest success rate.

Of all of the treatments, mine is the one least likely to make me nauseous! I just found that out today from the Dietician. What an answer to prayer, as I am often nauseous from movement.

Oh, there is much more to say, but supper has come and I should eat it while it is 'hot' !!

Blessings, Rich Rich blessings to each of you.

A good day

My Mom is having a good day today. Her energy level is good and her spirits are up. It's so nice to walk into her room and see her acting like her normal self, except of course for the tubes coming out of her shirt and the IV machines that follow her around.
She is sitting by the window having an animated conversation with a friend who has just come by, her lunch sitting in front of her and the bright red daunorubicin hooked up to her IV.
I drove into Vancouver all by myself today and didn't get lost. It is so beautiful outside and the peace matches the atmosphere in my Mom's room.

I know we've said this before, but we really do appreciate your prayers. They are making such a big difference. Mom is at peace. I have heard her say more than once "This is the girl who fainted when she got her grade six shots and I've had IV's, blood drawn, surgery and I've been fine!" It is these little blessings that have made such a big difference. Thank you so much for walking alongside us.


The view from here... is beautiful fr:Jess

The first thing you notice after giving my Mom a hug, is the gorgeous view of the north shore. From the window you can see the down town core with Grouse Mountain rising up behind, sholdering against the hazy blue horrizon.

However, that is not what first impressed me. When we walked in, Mom was being visited by a physio therapist who was instructing her in the best way to take care of her shoulder which she hurt three weeks ago, how to arrange the pillows when she needs to rest, and to be sure to sit up and walk around as much as possible. Shortly after she left a dentist came in to check the health of Mom's mouth. Prexisting problems can become worse once patients begin Chemo as it destroys all thier blood cells, but he assured her that her mouth was looking quite healthy. Earlier that day a social worker dropped by, to see if their were any needs Mom had that she could help with. She will follow Mom's case all the way through, a point inforced by her statement to Mom: "If you have a question years later, I will remember you." This morning a diatition was here to give Mom some information about which foods she ought to avoid while her white blood cells are dropping, till they increase again, (nothing unpasturiesed, and no raw meats, as these will all effect the affectiveness of the treatment.) Sadly this means no Brie Cheese or Camembert as Mom usaully likes them.

From what we have heard, V.G.H. is the best place for Mom to be treated for Leukemia. They have the most consistent patient care policies, their attention is extremely wholestic and they have an excellent team as described above.

Last night Rob came after work, and we had dinner with Amy in a quaint little sushi shop, where we muched on sashimi and a a varitey of rolls. When we came back the sun was shimmering off of the buildings like peach champaign, and bouncying brightly in squares off of the window panes. Of course Mom was standing up trying to capture it with her i phone. She made a comment about how she was ready to have her zoom and wide angle lenses with her. We told her that was not going to happen. However, we are glad for this good sign that she is regaining her strength. We will see what the next few days will look like as the chemo will effect her energy levels until the white blood cell count is once again regained.

Later that night as it grew dark the lights of the buildings twinkled out like the stars in the sky against the mountain side. Science world lite up, and you could see the lights of cars winding along the roads and across the bridges.

Finally last night, after tucking Mom in to bed, and making sure she was all cozy, it was time to set up my own sleeping spot. They have a chair here that folds out, and I knew Mom was deep asleep, as I pulled, cluncked, dragged and wrestled it out in the dark, she did not make a single sound! Even when I reached over to turn off the music from her i phone that was by her ear, (normally she would have woken up and made a funny little noise), but she slept deep as can be, without a single twitch.

Please pray for Mom that she will not come in to contact with or catch any infectoin. That the Hickman line she had surgically implanted will heal. (She will have it in until all of her treatments are done which she will continue to recieve later as an out patient, so this is important). Please pray that her body will respond as well as possible to the chemo. That she would not have nausea or fever. She did have a breif fever yesterday as a reaction to one of the treatments, so they put her on antibiotics right away. We were told this was very standard procedure.

Thank you for your prayers, support, and notes, Mom has enjoyed reading through all of the comments that have been posted, here and on facebook. We are still making our way through them. The support has been overwhelming, and we feel very blessed.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

But now that you're one of us....

I (Amy) was able to come to VGH with Mom when she was transferred and help settle her in. She received a Patient Education Manual full of helpful information about Leukemia and how things work on the ward. I haven't read through all of it yet, I got as far as the first paragraph on the introduction page:

"You probably never expected to get an education manual from the Leukemia and Bone Marrow Transplant Program. But now that you are one of us...."

Now that you're one of us-but I don't want to be "one of us"! How do I get out of this club!!

Over the last few days though I've been able to process what this new "normal" will look like. I've heard words like "recovery" and I've been encouraged. Often the word cancer is associated with death or at the very least suffering. I'm learning that this is no longer true. With all of the research that is being done and new treatments being worked out, cancer is very treatable and even beatable.

Having a diagnosis means having more information. I've been needing information to be able to process. I want to know what the road ahead will look like. So Mom's diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) has led to more information and further understanding. I understand that Mom will most likely make a full recovery. The chemotherapy should send her leukemia into remission. I understand more about what her chemotherapy will look like.

Let me share some of my new understanding with you.

Mom will be taking three chemotherapy drugs along with other supportive drugs.
The chemotherapy drugs are daunorubicin, vincristine and L-asparaginase as well as a hormone called prednisone. Mom started the daunorubicin today and will take it for three days. The vincristine also started today, she will take it once a week for the next four weeks. She will take the L-asparaginase from April 30 to May 11.
For those of you who don't need more details feel free to skip this next paragraph, I will describe what the drugs are and what they are doing. Daunorubicin is an antitumor antibiotic that interacts directly with the DNA in the nucleus of cells, interfering with cell survival. Vincristine is a drug that prevents cells from dividing, it interferes with structures in the cell that are needed to permit cells to divide which can limit the growth of leukemia cells. L-asparaginase is an enzyme that prevents cells from dividing. Prednisone is a synthetic hormone which, when administered in large doses can kill leukemia cells.

One other important thing you need to know is that the chemotherapy will kill all of Mom's white blood cells. She will have to stay in the hospital until her white blood cell count is back in the normal ranges-about 10-20 days. After that her chemotherapy will be given to her as an outpatient.

Maybe it's not so bad to be "one of us". This is a very supportive group. Although I still would not wish to be here, I'd rather be part of a group than to have to go through this alone. The hospital staff are great, they are very thorough. Mom continues in good spirits. She is at peace and continues to trust God for the journey He is leading her on.

We have also really appreciated the support of all of our friends and family. Thank you for your care and your prayers!


It all began..

Dear friends and family,

Thank you for following with us on this journey, and for all your prayers and support during this time.

I was thinking lately about how often when we are on a journey, we do not always see which road we are on until we are several steps along the way. Such was the case for us. In December 2009 Mom came down with H191, followed by a case of double pneumonia. Since then she has been in a process of recovery, which was taking far longer than what we thought was normal. She was having a difficult time catching her breath and completing regular tasks. Last week our doctor sent her for blood work, and promptly called us at 7:15am Friday the 9th of April. He informed mom that her hemoglobin was extremely low, and she needed to go to the E.R. for a blood transfusion. Of course, this was a cause for concern. At the hospital we received excellent care from the doctors and nurses, and everything was handled promptly and efficiently. After three days in the hospital we were able to be together as a family when the hemotologist rendered to us the official diagnosis: the battle we are up against is Acute Leukemia.

Two hours later that evening they transfered Mom to the Acute Leukemia unit at Vancouver General Hospital, where she is able to receive the premium in cancer care. Yesterday they ran a series of tests to establish a base line, and put in a hickman line which they will use to administer the chemo therapy, intravenous, and any blood transfusions she may require during her treatment.

Today we received the complete diagnosis. The name for Mom's cancer is: Acutelymphoblastic Leukemia. The nurse has said that one aspect of the Chemotherapy is that it will deplete Mom's white blood cell count, and once the white blood cells increase to a certain point she will be able to return home. This process is expected to take 10-20 days. After this she will be able to continue her treatment as an out patient. We are optimistic and trusting God that he is holding us all in his hands during this time.

Thank you for your concern and willingness to walk this road with us.

Should you wish to visit here are a few things that we ask you to keep in mind:
*Please do not come if you have any symptoms of a cold, flu, virus,or diarrhea. Even cold sores are prohibited on her ward. The reason for this is that all patients on her ward have very little immunity and exposure to any illness puts the entire ward at risk.
*The ward is also fragrance free.
*Visitors may be in her room two at a time only.
*There is a family and visitors lounge where you can wait should someone be there already.
*Flowers and potted plants are not allowed on her ward, but cards are always welcome.
*Please be sensitive to the fact that our Mom will be very tired during this process by being willing to keep your visits short if it is necessary.

Thank you for your consideration during this time. We feel very, very blessed. We have the best of Doctors, Mom has a gorgeous view of the mountains from her room, and all of our friends have been extremely supportive.

Sincerely, Jessica