The end of a “long cold lonely winter…”

 

 Shortly after my sister, Amy, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November, she saw an old SNL episode on TV featuring George Harrison and Paul Simon singing, “Here Comes the Sun.” The lyrics immediately “spoke” to her and she took the song on as her chemo mantra: “Little darlin’, it’s been a long cold lonely winter…” promising the sun–an end to treatment and her cancer– as she underwent the aggressive chemo regimen.

Well, this past winter HAS been a long cold lonely winter for my sister while so much of her family has been physically far from her. The beautiful thing is that Amy learned how loved she is by others, outside of her immediate family. So many have stepped in to help her from all areas of her life: nutritious ready-to-eat meals, transportation to and from treatments and her many doctors’ appointments (in the worst of weather!), shopping, companionship during treatment, visits, cards, messages, and so much love while we were away. There are so many incredibly good people in this world!

Amy’s CT scan following the end of her aggressive chemo provided both good and not-so-good news: The good news is that the treatments she has undergone have shrunk the tumor on her pancreas. The not-so-good news is that the cancer marker number in her blood was up and the CT scan showed a “spot” on her liver. With that news, her oncologist decided to do one additional aggressive chemo treatment (her 7th, in mid-March) and then begin radiation teamed with a once per week infusion of a different chemo: Gemzar.

And so, Ron and I returned to Charlotte Harbor about a week earlier than usual to put Thyme Hyssop & Wry “away” until we decide what we’re going to do (ship her north to sail her this summer if our Niagara 35 sells?). We drove home via the Florida Panhandle so we could “pick up” my parents in Orange Beach, AL to help them with their drive home. As we made our way home, Amy was having a really tough time with side effects from her 7th treatment. For the first time she experienced mouth sores/ulcers that prevented her from eating or drinking very much of anything. It was difficult for her to talk. It took over a week (with medication) for the sores to subside enough to allow her to begin eating again. In that time, she lost more weight and by our return home, was very weak. It was so wonderful to be back together again, but scary to see what her treatments had done to her. Still, it was a joyful morning as Amy joined our parents and me to tour our parents’ new apartment they’ll be moving into next month. We love the view from our parents’ new balcony! It’s not Grand Traverse Bay, but the woods take us back to our family’s beginning, to the house my dad built on 40 acres of wooded land. 

  

Now that we’re home, I take Amy each Wednesday for her chemo and radiation treatment. She generally manages the M/T/Th/F radation treatment trips by herself. The Gemzar chemo infusion only takes about a half hour and her radiation is only about 15 minutes (and all but about a minute of that time is the actual radiation treatment), but it still ends up being a long afternoon at the Lemmen Holten Cancer Center on Wednesdays. She is not experiencing the dibilitating side effects of the aggressive chemo which is a relief. However, the side effects of radiation are cumulative and she is experiencing much fatigue and more nausea.

Arriving home 2-1/2 weeks ago, my crocuses were coming up. Today my lenten rose is blooming, my trillium and daffodils are nearly ready to bloom. I love spring. It feels so good to be back home again. Hope is in the air…

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