Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers over the last few weeks for my Aunt Debbie who is battling brain cancer, they are much appreciated.
At the beginning of August we set up a schedule to help sit with my aunt. We are blessed with a big family that lives close so it are blessed that there are lots of people to help out when we need to. It was getting too hard for one person to help get her up the stairs alone, and they were working on getting her master suite downstairs finished so she didn’t have to climb up to bed. That was finished a few weeks ago just in time because her brain isn’t communicating very well with the left side of her body and she can’t hardly move her left leg. She was forced to start using a walker to get back and forth from the sofa to the restroom, but still had some strength and would help us along with baby steps. The doctors at Cleveland Clinic put her back on a steroid because they thought maybe that was what was causing her to loose strength. So she went back on that a few weeks ago and while it helped her a little, it didn’t seem to last too long.
They hired a full time nurse to be there with her, but family still is alternating visits with her and keeping her company even when the aide is there. But its nice to have someone there with her at all times, especially when you need to get her into bed and such. The last few weeks she has been losing strength and has lost her ability to walk and hold herself up. So now she is using a wheelchair to get around, and go back and forth to church and family events.
She went back to Cleveland Clinic on 9/8 for another MRI to see how the tumors ware looking. With her type of brain cancer, they can’t remove all the tumor because it kinda has fingers that are intertwined with her brain. So they removed one a few years ago, shrunk the other and it was been stagnant for a few years, and the new one that formed had surgery earlier this year. Ther MRI did not show problems with the tumor but from the effects of the radiation and treatment she went thru after her last surgery. The difference from the last MRI they had a few weeks earlier was significant, a fuzzy white cloud around her tumor that was growing. They have a drug called Avastin they can give her with about a 60% chance it will help her get some of her strength back. There are some possible side effects, that may include bleeding of the brain, blood clots, and long term memory problems, just to name a few. So she and her family need to weigh the risks. The Tumor board at Cleveland Clinic has been reviewing her case since her first diagnosis so they were going to discuss and recommend what they thought was best.
We gathered at another uncles house yesterday for my cousins 12th birthday party. Debbie and her husband Jim came a little later. As soon as I saw her being pushed in the wheelchair I almost started to cry. She looked so scared and vulnerable as she leaned towards her weak left side. She laughed and the men pushed her over the hump into the garage joking that she didn’t know she was on an amusement ride. She laughed a little before gazing back into the darkness again. She would have moments of normal conversation scattered with moments where you weren’t sure if she was understanding anything, then right back to answering your question when you asked it of her. Damn that cancer, sucking the life and zest from my sweet wonderful Aunt. I know she was so frustrated that she wasn’t able to move about on her own and keep focused on what we were all talking about. Of course, neither could we really, but we tried to keep the atmosphere light and happy.
When they got ready to leave, we all hugged and said we’d see her later. I walked over and gave her a hug and told her I loved her and I would see her soon. She said she loved me too and I noticed a tear in her eye. I squeezed her hand a little tighter and we talked about what she would have for dinner at the BBQ place (she likes brisket). She kept ahold of my hand for what seemed like 5 minutes and just kept looking at me. It broke my heart, I didn’t want to let go. I so wished I could help her in some way. I can’t even imagine not being able to control your body and lose pieces of your mind a little more each day. The last week, she has mentioned some things to her husband and around some of her sisters and my Grandma that lead us to believe she is feeling her journey may be getting shorter. I choose not to share them out of respect for her, but it kills me to even think about her saying those things. She feels helpless and knows that her days are limited, even if we all try to keep her focusing on what she still can do, I think her ray of hope is starting to loose its glimmer, and that is taking a bigger toll on me then anything I think. We always say that we have to be strong for her, but she actually is the one being strong for us. And to see her start to doubt that strength leaves an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I know it’s reality, but it is too hard to accept. Too hard to imagine being the only outcome.
But thru it all, she keeps smiling, though not as much as before, but its still there. And when she laughs you can see the sheepish grin that makes it seem like she is up to no good, even though Debbie has never done anything sneaky in her life. I just hope she keeps that grin, even if its only internal, at times she feels like she is losing hope. I will try to keep my grin if only to make her smile when she sees it.
My uncle sent out an email last night and he talked with her doctor. They are going to try to get the Avastin started this week. It will take about 2 or 3 treatments before we may notice any improvement. The treatments are given every 2 weeks. The first one will be done at Cleveland Clinic and hopefully every other one can be done in her hometown.
Pray that these treatments will work and that Debbie can tolerate the treatments without the horrible side effects. She is a miracle and I know she is tired and frustrated, but I hope that the glimmer of hope she has held onto for the past 4 years comes back.