It's been a busy week, for someone on medical leave. On Monday I saw Dr. Drake for my post-surgical follow up. In his words, "Girl, you heal fast!" I always seem to from surgery, with one notable exception that was not my body's fault. He cleared me to start systemic treatment, and told me I was okay to go back to work the next week. What a wonderful man; very concerned about me, told me that he'd even consulted with the surgeon who performed my nephrectomy in 2005. At the end of the appointment he gave me a big hug.
Wednesday was Rebecca's first day of second grade. She was very nervous the night before, to the point of making herself sick, with worries about whether her teacher would be nice or mean, and if she would be able to do second grade work. Fortunately, she woke up with a much sunnier attitude and was all smiles as she got on the school bus. I missed seeing her get off the bus in the afternoon (see below) so she called my cell to tell me about her day. It sounds like her teacher is pretty strict, pretty serious. I hope that the atmosphere loosens up once the school year is well underway. Several people have mentioned that this is a good teacher, so maybe she's one of those who isn't as friendly as some teachers, but really gets the kids to learn... the most important thing. Getting off the bus at home is new for Rebecca; last year she went to the after care program at the same place Carly attends preschool. We decided that while Jim is still unemployed, Rebecca will just come home directly, saving us that tuition. Hopefully we can keep Carly enrolled because I think she can really benefit from the program; it will depend on our bills and on how long Jim continues to receive unemployment. Carly moved to a new classroom this week; she is now officially in Pre-K 2. It's a smaller class, 12 instead of 25 or so. Carly started there Wednesday as well, and that morning was very tearful about it. As we talked about her anxiety, I learned that she was upset because her new class is in the basement at her school. She was afraid that if they were to have "a real fire drill" (aka an actual fire) that she would not get out of the building in time. I mentioned this to her teacher, who told me that this was one of the subjects she was planning to discuss and to reassure the students about. Sure enough, that afternoon Carly was all smiles when she came home, announcing that she LOVES her new class. Here are both girls on their first day:
On Wednesday afternoon I saw my oncologist Dr. Rini about starting systemic therapy. Quick lesson for newer readers: renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) doesn't respond to traditional chemotherapies, that is, drugs that work to kill the cancer cells in the body. For many years, the only treatment was High Dose Interleukin-2, which is extremely toxic and has a low response rate. In the past several years, a number of drugs have been approved to treat kidney cancer via anti-angiogenesis. These drugs stop the growth of new blood vessels, thus cutting off the 'food supply' to tumors. I remember when my dad was being treated for lung cancer in the late 1990s, he read something about the then experimental idea of anti-angiogenesis and was fascinated. Who knew that more than a decade later, this process would become very important to my life? Dr. Rini and I had pretty much decided at my last visit that I would try the first and most popular drug, Sutent. It's a pill that I am to take once a day for 28 days. I then have 14 days off the medication, then start it again for 28 days. After two cycles they will re-scan me to see if the drug is helping me. The scan reports were unclear about exactly what we're looking at; they mentioned possible new mets in my liver, though they were comparing the MRI to a previous CT scan, which means that they were looking at apples and oranges, basically. The mesentery mass still exists of course, and a left adnexal mass by the uterus was noted as still being there. I had been under the impression that they were removing that mass in my surgery but I guess not. There was one sentence on the MRI that scared me, however. I don't have the exact wording right now; I didn't get a hard copy of the report at the appointment, and so I need to have my results put into my electronic medical record. At any rate, something indeterminate was noticed at my L-2 vertebra. It could be nothing, or it could be the start of bone metastases. I asked Dr. Rini about it and he said that there is really no information about it at this point, so while it's not an area that will be looked at in terms of assessing whether Sutent is halting progression of the cancer, it is something that will be watched in future scans.
I feel so out-of-control about my situation right now. How did I end up here? Statistically I wasn't supposed to have any recurrence once the kidney was removed. But here I am now. It baffles me and it scares me more than I want it to, though I will continue to throw everything I can at it.
Thursday was open house at Rebecca's school. Yes, on the evening of the second day of the year. What is that all about? The teacher was polite but had little to say. She did ask Rebecca if she had told us of her 'big' award that day, which Rebecca had... if a student is behaving particularly well, they get an "Emmy Award" to place on their desk for that morning or afternoon. Rebecca earned the Emmy that day, which didn't surprise me at all. As we walked out of the classroom, Jim asked me what people were signing up for on the wall. Turns out it was the conference schedule; had Jim not noticed it, I would have completely missed it. The teacher hadn't mentioned it to us. Luckily since we were there right at the start of open house, we got a desirable slot for us.
Then today Jim and I got a chance to do some real clearing out at home. He's been working on clearing out the garage, and earlier this week we were able to get two boxes of stuff into the trash. We found an item of my dad's that my sister had been looking for, so she was able to get that, along with some other items; two more boxes' worth... yeah! Then Jim's brother's family was having a garage sale this weekend, and my sister in law (SIL) had asked me if I wanted to bring anything to sell along with their stuff. We have a stroller that nobody in our circle of family or friends needs, that my SIL knew I wanted to get rid of. I could think of a few other candidates to try to sell too. So, this morning after the girls went to school Jim and I loaded up the van... along with the stroller were a sump pump (bought new for my dad's house but dissed by the inspector hired by our buyer, so Jim ended up re-installing the old one!), a deep fryer, some various electric decorative items that were never used, and a light therapy box. I then went into the kids' stuff and got out a riding toy that Carly is too big for, a set of squishy 'tiles' that have cutout alphabet blocks, and some unopened buckets of sand toys. In the garage Jim found a toddler seat that straps onto a chair, and a plastic easel that he'd pulled out of the trash at some point. We put the stuff out at the sale and sold over half of it in four hours' time. In fact, as I walked up the driveway with the first load of stuff, a lady stopped me and bought the package of squishy tiles right there! We had to leave the sale before it closed for the day, but I think my SIL sold the stroller for us after we left. There is almost a clear wide path now from the garage door to the back of the garage now... so we're on our way to getting a car back in there... my car, thank-you-very-much.
The girls have been pestering us for a hamster for the past several weeks. We had told them that they need to really clean out their bedroom before we would consider it. Today I discussed it with them and we decided that if they could pick some toys that they could part with, we'd see if those toys would sell at the second day of the garage sale. Any money we make from the toys will go toward hamster expenses. It will be interesting to see what they decide thy don't need any longer!
I hope we can keep up this momentum once I get back to work next week. I like having clear, open spaces in the house and we've had too few of those for too long. And right now the house is not company-ready at ALL. I really want to have people over more, to spend as much time as we can with the people we care about. Maybe as we declutter the house, my body will declutter the cancer. That would be the ultimate.