Posted by: Ken Wheatley | March 11, 2008

Premonition, Hope, Perspective

We got the long awaited news about her progress over a week ago, but I haven’t written because I wasn’t confident in the results. We started at the new hospital, UCSD and doctor, Dr. B.

The first meeting didn’t go too smoothly. The Radiologist didn’t generate a very thorough report of the CT scan and the Fellow that was meeting with us first got the brunt of my anger. The report failed to measure the tumor in Sheila’s lung, it didn’t mention the other tumors at all and didn’t compare the current CT to the prior. The CT also didn’t include Sheila’s neck, so we’re not sure what, if any changes have occurred there. So even though she agreed and apologized for the poor report, I wasn’t too happy with the lax approach to Sheila care and I certainly let her know, as well as Dr. B.

The most recent CT scan showed that the primary tumor, the one in Sheila’s left lung, had reduced by 60%. That, of course, is fantastic news. We actually saw the printout and the reduction was amazing. We couldn’t believe that it could have shrunk that fast.

Where I am less confident was Dr. B’s report that the tumors on Sheila’s stomach and spine seems to have “disappeared.” Her body language and tone of voice didn’t convey confidence in that report. Almost skepticism. I’m sure she didn’t mean to convey that, but that’s the impression we were left with. Plus she didn’t have photos of those areas to support that statement. She said that it would have taken too much time to print them out and she wanted to get in the room to see us. Hmmmmm……

So I was left with an uneasy and tentative happiness about the news, but bracing myself internally for it to not be true. The events of the following week seem to be supporting that view, perhaps.

The one piece of information that I don’t think Sheila has shared much is that they also found that she has a pulmonary embolism in her left lung. That’s serious. It could cut off the blood supply to her lung and possible kill her. So they immediately started her on 80mgs of Lovenox. She has to give herself a subcutaneous shot in the stomach area every morning to hopefully prevent the clot from doing any damage.

She started the next round (round 3) of chemo on Wednesday, but she didn’t feel or look well all last week. Much more tired and also hallowed looking. She’s been falling asleep on the couch early at night. I called her last Thursday afternoon, and she was laying on the floor in her office because she was so tired. Not good.

By Friday she was coughing up blood and was more nauseaous than she’d ever been. Over the weekend and yesterday, Monday, she progressively got sicker. So here we are today at the UCSD hospital in Hillcrest getting another broncoscopy to find out why she’s coughing up blood. She’s also running a low-grade fever – about 101.

She’s went into the procedure about 40 minutes ago. It’s horrible sitting outside the room. I can hear her gagging terribly and throwing up. They didn’t sedate her like they did at Scripps, so I suspect that she’s fighting it/them. They had offered for me to be in the room with her, but I can’t stand to watch her being hurt. And from the sounds coming out of that room, I would have definitely have a problem sitting there now.

We’re supposed to go to Colorado on Thursday to visit Mick and Bobbie. Sheila really wants to try to go skiing, but that seems highly ambitious. It’s just that she’s not been able to go for the past two years due to work issues and she really misses it. And I’m concerned about what, if anything, the altitude might do to her breathing. She’s already having some problems breathing as it is. So we’ll see if the trip actually happens.

About perspective, as I mentioned, Sheila was pretty sick yesterday morning. She had gotten up early to go to work, but almost immediately got sick. She still got showered and dressed to go in, but ultimately decided that she was too tired and sick to do so. I stayed home with her until 11 or so, but I had to go into work. I can’t remember the last full day I’ve had in the office. But there were files I needed and calls I had to participate in, so I left.

As I rushed to the office a hearse pulled up along side me. Now I can’t remember the last year I’ve seen a hearse. It’s been a very long time. So of course it struck me as weird timing.

It was obvious that the driver was in a rush to get where he was going, so I let him pull in front of me when the road narrowed to one lane.

It was then that I noticed that in the back of the hearse was a coffin beautifully adorned with a U.S. flag. I don’t know why, but I turned off my radio and just drove, silently behind the car. I looked behind me and in front of the hearse to see if there was anyone in the funeral procession. There wasn’t. I was very saddened to think that he/she was alone. I was hoping that he would turn down Poway Road so that I could follow him, but he didn’t. I was very tempted to keep following regardless of where he was heading. But realized that was impractical. I wanted to get to the office, get my work done, and get back to Sheila.

But certainly seeing the coffin was a reminder to slow down, literally and that all of “this” is temporary. Painful, but temporary.


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