Jody's Cancer Update
December 9, 2009

For those of you who have kept tabs on me and are interested, an update.

Chemo is never easy for anyone, so when it wasn't easy for me, I just figured I would have to bite the bullet and endure it. Lots of things have made it more bearable, including an anti-nausea drug called EMEND, expensive as crap, but a miracle in controlling the nausea associated with the chemo.

I think it was THE VOICE who told me that medicated Head and Shoulders would make my rash easier to tolerate, and if that was you, thanks a million because it was right on. I went from being in twenty-four hour a day pain to comfortable almost immediately. The rash never totally went away, but when the pain associated with it did, I could handle the rest.

About a month ago, my oncology nurse said to me, "Enough is enough, Jody. It's time to think about stopping chemo."

Each time I had chemo my white blood count and my blood platelets were dropping a little lower and a little lower. It was taking up to four weeks for them to bounce back enough to have another treatment, and as my nurse said, they weren't bouncing back to normal. They were just improving enough to be within what the team called the tolerable range.

She told me that in Europe, doctors are only doing six treatments instead of twelve, but because the FDA makes us jump through hoops in this country, research was going to have to prove six is enough before doctors here are allowed to change the treatment schedule.

Meanwhile, chemo has always given me diarrhea, first three or four days, then five or six, until after this last treatment, it lasted just shy of three weeks, and that was with the best perscription and over the counter drugs the doctors could order.

Early on I would lose three or four pounds one week and gain it back the next. But this last treatment I lost five pounds I didn't gain back. Again, I'm not the only one to lose the weight so I thought it was normal.

But my oncology nurse said the diarrhea wasn't all that normal, the abdominal cramps and the aches and pains, they weren't all that normal. Out of all the patients my oncology team was treating, I was the only one suffering the symptoms I was suffering.

I got something called hand and foot symdrome. It hurts to walk across the floor, or to pick something up with your fingers, and my feet and fingers were cracking and bleeding. My fatigue was debilitating, and I spent most of my time in bed.

For four weeks, the team and I and my husband disucssed the pros and cons of my quitting the treatment. I had had eight scheduled treatments, and sixteen clinical trial treatments. I was reluctant to quit because I had decided to do the clinical trial, and it didn't seem right to bail out before I made it across the finish line. Besides, I had a cousin die of colon cancer a year ago, and I'd have an out and out panic attack every time I considered quitting.

I reached the point where I cried somewhere on the trip to Iowa City every Wednesday for the last month. I had to give myself pep talks, "Get a grip, Jody, you can do this, you HAVE to do this." All this time, my team was trying to tell me, "It's your choice, and you can say, 'I've had enough. I'm going to quit!'"

When I arrived for my Wednesday appointment this last week, it had been three weeks since I had had a treatment, and I was prepared to have number nine of my scheduled twelve. First of all, my oncology doctor said the panel in charge of the clinical trial med had decided they had enough data to end the clinical trial. There went one of my reasons for why I had said I was going to keep going with the chemo treatments.

My team was still advocating quitting, anyway. The resident intern, the oncolocy doctor, both my oncology nurses, all of them discussed it with me. My oncology doctor said he would support my decision either way, but if I continued, he was cutting back my drugs again. One of them was already cut back to 50% of what it was supposed to be so I could tolerate it.

After he left, both my oncology nurses came in to try to reason with me. One nurse said, "I never tell a patient to quit. I'm a cancer nurse, and I'm in the business of helping patients get through chemo. I tell them to suck it up, take the treatment and quit whining because they need to make it to the finish line, but Jody, I'm telling you, you need to think about this." Both nurses said the same thing. So I asked for a week to think about it.

Call me stubborn, but I had spent so much time talking myself into making it through all twelve treatments, I faced a personal battle to let go. I didn't sleep the first couple of nights while I went over it and over it in my head. My husband said he would support whatever decision I made. By Friday, I realized that all of my oncology team were on the same page about it and believed it was in my best interest to quit treatment. I would be quitting with their blessings. I realized I wanted to quit. I wanted to do cartwheels over the idea of quitting, and that once I made whatever decision I made, I couldn't keep second guessing that decision, be it right or wrong.

The chemo wasn't to get rid of the cancerous tumor. The surgery I had May 10th was supposed to do that. The chemo was supposed to be insurance to keep the cancer from coming back. In Europe, they believe six treatments is as effective as twelve treatments, and I have had eight. I'm quitting. When I called ny nurse, she went in and told the team, and a few minutes later my other nurse called me back and said they all cheered. She said my doctor wanted her to assure me I made the right decision.

All things seemed to conspire at the same time to give me my answer until quitting seemed the obvious answer. We've bought a ranch style house, a single level dwelling so my husband doesn't have stair-steps to try to manage with his disability. I need to be well enough to at least direct and supervise, and help to the best of my ability with the move.

It still amazes me to realize we bought a four bedroom house, in the city with eight acres of timber in our backyard. It's gorgeous to sit at the dining room table and watch the squirrels play tag in the berry bushes across the road, or to come home from church and see three deer in the back yard. Hunter wants to try out his new sled on the slope behind the house. With our snow storm of the last two days, that is a distinct possiblity this afternoon.

Thanks to you all for your moral support and words of encouragement. I know I'm not going to bounce back from this chemo over night, but it is the season to believe in miracles, 'peace on Earth, good will to all men,' and I'm ready to believe I'm on the mend. Seasons greetings to you all from The Bresch Family.

Poetry is a refreshing brevity of words that flirts with epiphany - Jody Bresch

Love, Jody

Jody's Cancer Update
June 11, 2010

For those of you who have kept tabs on me and are interested, an update.

My colonoscopy a month ago and my cat scan yesterday were clear and clean. Apparently I had two polyps that were removed, and I'm good to go. I will have a follow-up in three months, but all considered, everything is looking good. We all heard this with a sigh of relief. Hunter's reply was, "Maybe now this family can be done with cancer!" Lol...this family hopes he is right.

Whenever, I post something about how I am doing, I'm asked how Hunter is doing as well, so I'm going to include Hunter is this update as well.

Hunter's oncology/radiation physician says Hunter is doing fabulously. That's a pretty good superlative. I have to agree. When I think back on where we began 5 years ago, it is truly amazing where we are at now.

He was 3 1/2 years old, and had most of the gross/fine motor skills, and cognitive skills of a 12 month-18 month old child. Hunter is still behind his peers, but using his own baseline from a year ago to now, Hunter had made a year's progress cognitively. He's managed to do that every year since his shunt was put in when he was three years old.

The child disabilities clinic staff at University of Iowa Hospitals are amazed and thrilled. They had orginally said, based on their first IQ tests, that Hunter might never read. He can read, and is only about 9 months behind the national 2nd grade baseline. He loves math, and is making steady progress in that as well. Don't ask me how he does this, but he gets 80, 90, 100%'s on his spelling tests. I asked his teacher if she is modifying them for him at all, and she says, 'no', he's using the same test the rest of his class are using.

His doctor believes Hunter's brain tumor has shrunk as much as it is going to shrink, but that it is stable and shows no signs of regeneraring itself. We are going to have an MRI next Wednesday as a follow-up.

He is obviously weak in speech skills, and we continually work on them. He sometimes gets discouraged and just wants us to fill in his blanks. I tell him he has to practice to get better, and he perserveres.

Tuesday he played his xyllophone in the school talent show, the last day of school. He principal called him the little show, and I think that is because everybody on staff there knows his history. They, also, are amazed at his progress, and we couldn't ask for a more caring, involved school staff than the one that we have.

This year has been hard on him because he's been one seven year old out of thousands who, when he was told his mother had cancer, actually knows what it means to have cancer. One day, back in October when I was so sick from chemo I didn't want to eat or drink anything, he said, "I know it's hard, Mom. I'm the one person who knows exactly how hard it is, but you've got to do this." And I did.

How can you tell a worried 7 year old 'no.'

Something occurred to me Wednesday when I had my appointment in Iowa City. My white blood count had been so low, using a metaphor here to explain it, it was like down the toilet. That basically is why my oncology team had pleaded with me to stop the chemo, that and the fact my blood platelets were just about as bad.

I had a child in elementary school bringing home every communicable disease that elementary children get. Swine flu was rampaging across the country, was in our school district, and my son got it. Yet, I never caught one single solitary communicable disease through the duration of my treatment and after.

I know that there are Bartcoppers who profess atheism, are agnostics, and who pooh pooh anything to do with God and religion, anything they can't scientifically process or analyze. However, I believe there are forces in this universe that go beyond human comprehension, like the positive energy that well-wishers send to somebody who is sick, suffering and struggling. I believe if we do something good, those good deeds are rewarded. I believe that if we send up a prayer, that prayer is heard and answered, maybe not in the way we want, but it's answered nevertheless. I believe when we ask for them, there are fleets of guardian angels ready to assist us when we are at our very lowest, and that they do.

Maybe they exist in that 4th, 5th, 6th dimension that Einstein was interested in. My scientific mind is as curious as anybody's about how this can be so, but it doesn't prevent me from believing as it does some. I actually feel blessed about that.

Love, Jody

Poetry is a refreshing brevity of words that flirts with epiphany - Jody Bresch

Putting a Personal Face on Cancer Part I
Putting a Personal Face on Cancer Part II
Putting a Personal Face on Cancer - In Conclusion
Jody Bresch Home Page
Mars Hill Church Official Web Site