Friday, June 5, 2015

No More Chemo?

Promptly on Monday the flurry of appointments began.

The hospital had done a CT scan of their own along with an echo-cardiogram, X- rays, and many blood draws.

People came and went from his room.  We commented on the fact that we felt the door should just be revolving.
The Neurologist was leaning towards a TIA or what they call a 'mini-stroke'.

No progress was made other than testing and more testing on Monday.  

Tuesday rolled around and when Stephanie and I got to the VA we found that Rich had been whisked off to his appointment with a Dr. Faris who specialized in Psychology.

Steph stayed at the room while I ran down to Mental Health to see if I could catch up to Rich.  
I found him sitting in a wheelchair with his green pj's on.  He looked sad and a bit displaced.

When Dr. Faris came for him, I wheeled him into his office.  Rich asked me to stay and Dr. Faris asked Rich if it was okay that I be included in the meeting. Rich nodded and said something to the affect, that I was always included in all of his mental health interactions.

Dr. Faris works with Veterans who often have major health issues along with PTSD.  Apparently he works quite a bit out of the 'cancer' clinic.

I sort of secretly wondered why we hadn't been seen by him from the get go of the cancer diagnosis.

We talked about health care, we talked about what Rich wanted and needed and we even talked about how the cancer treatments had taken over his life to the point where he felt he had absolutely no control over his life anymore.  How he felt that he was just priming for the next chemo treatment and wondering how it would affect him.
Truly this regime of 33 radiations and 6 chemotherapy infusions done at the same time was brutal to anyone.  Emotionally it is tolling to those who don't have mental health issues.

I raised a question which had been on my mind.

"I wonder if you have had enough Chemotherapy to be effective for your treatment?  I wonder if not having any more chemo would change the quality of your life?  Is this a question you would like to ask your Chemo Doctor?"  I asked Rich, while holding his hand.

Dr. Faris thought this a valid question and could not offer an opinion on it but said it wouldn't hurt to ask.  Sometimes the quality of a person's life outweighs the treatment that is being given.

Stephanie and I had talked about this in great length on our trips back and forth to Madison since Sunday.  
When was enough enough?

The past 3 weeks had seen an Anaphylatic reaction that ended in hospitalization with a severity of 4 out of 4.
A mental health breakdown which resulted in a 4 day stay -- and thus this meeting with Dr. Faris.
A TIA that he was currently being tested and run through the mill for, with another 4 day stay at the hospital.

Dr. Faris let Rich and I discuss the issues and weigh them.  Rich brightened at the thought of no more chemo.

Our next appointment was with Dr. R. the chemo/oncology doctor.  I'd grown to respect and really like this doctor.  He was extremely compassionate and always prepared to answer questions.  He was supportive of using a voice recorder so we could review our discussions.

Dr. R came out to the waiting room and ushered Stephanie, myself, and Rich into an exam room.
That was a bit unusual in itself.

Dr. R, looked at Rich then at us.  He said he'd just reviewed the latest notes.  He looked at all of us and then address Rich.
Rich was exhausted and tired of being rushed from one appointment to the next.

As a family, Steph, Rich, and I asked some questions about the continuation or end of chemotherapy.
We talked at length and Dr. R said he had no issue with stopping chemo at this point, Rich had done over half of the therapies and with all of the reactions he'd had and other health issues, he felt that this would not be a terrible course to follow.
The tumor in the lymph node was gone and he felt that the one in the throat was nearly gone.  The chemo along with radiation had been working very well, but there was the patient's comfort and quality of life to consider...ending chemo?  It may or may not change the final outcome, but...

Of course that had to be the patient's decision.

I held on to Rich's hand and Steph was close to him on the other side.  Rich felt that an end to chemo would be in his best interests mentally and physically.

We would continue with the radiation treatments and then Dr. W the Head and Neck Oncologist from the UW along with Dr. R would then put Rich on monitor 'mode'.
After he had healed some from the last radiation, they would follow up with a scan and then continue to monitor Rich.

I can say this.
This decision immediately showed up in Rich as a catalyst.  His mental outlook, his physical being began to show immediate improvement.

No more chemo?  That was good with us.
In fact it was the uplift that Rich needed so badly.

And it showed as he hammed it up for me just before being released from the hospital.

When we got home that night, Rich used his cane and we went for a walk to see Speedy, the new bull calf.

This was a first.  He had energy and a positive outlook for the first time in many weeks.

No more chemo was a good decision, no matter the end result.


  1. Those last three sentences brought tears to my eyes. How awesome that Rich is being aggressive in getting himself back in shape. It sounds as if he's got a new appreciation for his life. God bless you all!

    1. I can't tell you how difficult the chemo was for him...he kept having such awful reactions. That said, I would advise anyone going through this to talk with their doctor and follow the whole regiment. Every individual is so different.

  2., Rich and Stephanie have been put to the test. How encouraging, that he wanted to go out and see the new calf. Can't imagine how difficult it has been to take care of the farm on top of all the treatments. You are a very strong woman.

    1. We have, but without family support this would have been a huge disaster.