Tag Archives: Taxotere

The Xtandi Factor

Part of my life this year has been spent on the road.  While a couple of those sojourns have gone to the southland, most of those traveled miles have been within the northern part of California.  And much of them have been to see my dad, who has been battling prostate and bone cancer for the last five and a half years.  This time last year, my parents made a journey to my neck of the woods, seeing a doc at UCSF, where chemotherapy was advised.  Taxotere was introduced into Dad’s retinue in late January, 2014.  Suddenly this whole cancer-gig was more than the quarterly Lupron shot and doses of Zytiga, which not longer did the job.

And as it seems, just as speedily another year has passed.  How many miles have been collected by my car, how many miles has my father trekked?  Far more than I’ve traversed, for my dad isn’t the same.  He might have been feeling on top of the world in late September, claiming he had another twenty-five years in the tank, but now in mid-December, he’s a different person.  Radium 223 is still off the shelf, so Xtandi is the next option, a drug similar to Zytiga, taken in pill form.  Dad will start Xtandi this week, and we’ll see if it helps, his PSA and overall demeanor our gauges.  He’s also lost ten pounds since September, the chemo-style nausea having returned, without the chemo.

If you’ve never heard of any of these terms, no worries.  Neither had I, until Dad was diagnosed, but the realm of cancer is like an alternate universe.  We’ve been relatively fortunate; prostate cancer is quite treatable, and some men live for many years.  But not all.  Dad also has COPD, so that complicates matters.  When he was first given this news, I wondered how he would cope with chemotherapy; he has an indefatigable spirit, but the body is a separate element.  The doc at UCSF maintained that Taxotere is a milder form of chemo, compared to other drugs.  And for the first seven rounds, Dad tolerated Taxotere like a champ.  But in the eighth and ninth sessions, Taxotere came out with mean left hooks that left my father gripping the sides of the ring, wondering what in the hell had happened.  There was no tenth dose; in early July, Dad was clearly on the ropes.  But in late September, he had regained strength, his appetite, even his love of ice cream was returning.  Another quarter century looked like a walk in the park.

Two and a half months later, those extra years seem fleeting.  It makes me wonder about the nature of medical intervention, but more, I ponder if one day I am in a similar situation, what I would choose.  Dad isn’t doing this all for himself; he’s doing it for Mom, their children and grandchildren.  We all love him, want him to be around forever.  But forever on this corporeal planet just doesn’t happen.

On other planes, yes.  But not on Earth.

As Christmas approaches, I ask my husband and kids, “Okay, is there anything else you want?”  We’re lucky, for tangible blessings are within our grasps.  But the intangible aspects are all I wish for my father; to be pain-free, to be comfortable, to not be nauseous.  I will never forget coming home from that UCSF appointment in a pouring Bay Area rain, traffic on I-280 at a standstill due to a nasty looking accident just south of San Francisco.  My father’s impending date with chemo butted up against intense gratitude that my husband and I weren’t involved in that collision, that life and death were constantly battling for supremacy.  One year later, I mull over that evening, so many nights and days in between, miles on motorways, a baby born, more on the way.  And my father is still here, telling tales, also looking like a man I have never before seen.  He is still my father, but no longer is he the strong, forceful character of past days.

Where Xtandi fits into all this remains to be seen.  I hope it lowers the PSA, I hope it affords my dad some relief.  But respite isn’t a cure.  Through all of this, I have prayed for the will of God to be done.  And every day that prayer has been answered.  I don’t know why chemo left my father so debilitated, while his PSA bounced right back up as soon as Taxotere stopped being administered.  But I do know that regardless of what Xtandi does or does not do, Dad will continue to chat and joke until he simply can’t.  I’ll keep driving, as long as my car holds up.  Blast the tunes, be they Christmas-themed or tropical pop; Dad’s still holding court.  I’m ready for another road trip, on this concrete and ethereal pathway taking my father home.

No more chemo…

That was the title of my mom’s most recent email to my siblings and me.  After nine rounds of Taxotere, Dad has said no mas…

I don’t think it was a difficult decision, although Dad wasn’t quite sure when we last talked about this, over a week ago.  Yet, I could see this coming at the party; he was as weary as I’ve ever seen him, gripping his cane, along with the arm of whoever was near.  But his smile still shone, his words upbeat, albeit spoken in a voice thin and tired.  That was what ended the chemo; Dad is tired of being so dog-gone tired.  His PSA only dropped .2 last month, down to 6.2, which is wonderful compared to his numbers at the beginning of this year, in the low 80s.  Now we wait, which is all anyone can do, to see how the PSA responds, and how Dad heals.  Chemo was to aid in this battle, but what a brutal tool it has been.

Still, none of us bemoan these past months; life is a cycle of ebbs and flows, and my father isn’t the only one with health issues.  The Brother-In-Law Quilt is (finally) coming together, and while it’s still plenty hot in California, I want it to be finished before that BIL has his own medical procedures.  Not that my BIL is going to need a quilt to stave off the chills, but I hope this blanket will warm his heart, as surgery looms.  This quilt is sort of saying, “Yes, serious treatments sit on the horizon, but soon enough they will be over, and cooler days will have come, and you can stay toasty under this rather busy comforter.”

Ten rows done, with # eleven pinned and waiting to be attached...

Ten rows done, with # eleven pinned and waiting to be attached…

And be thinking of hunting trips for 2015 too.

Camo binding waits patiently...

Camo binding waits patiently.

However, not all quilts are camo-themed; I’m back to florals and bright prints, for a family who needs some quilty love.  The fabrics below will form some mum-daughter quilts to go along with the toddler patchwork which has already been removed from the quilt wall, to make room for another expression of affection.  It’s like instead of a get well or miss you card, I throw together a quilt.  Dad started the mission, and on it goes.

The fabric on the right was what I used for curtains, and I was so pleased to find more of it!

The fabric on the right was what I used for curtains, and I was so pleased to find more of it!

Maybe my youngest daughter was right, when coining my quest, that everyone needs a quilt.  In between revisions, baseball, and the annual housecleaning extravaganza (yesterday it was the interior of my fridge and hallway baseboards, today is the living room dusting and baseboards), quilts are pieced together with the utmost of love and care.

And tomorrow will take care of itself, PSA-wise and whatever else comes along.

The Days Are Just Packed

I’m stealing a Calvin and Hobbes book title, but it’s the plain truth.  Except for my daughter’s wedding two years ago, I’ve not been this busy in ages.  It feels good, because while I’m only getting older, I’m still able to do what I like, which lately has been quilting.  And driving.  Not much writing, none really, but that’s all right.  There is a time and season for all things.

Scrappy's Big Sis waiting on the quilt wall...

Scrappy’s Big Sis waiting on the quilt wall…

2014 has been a year of fabric.  And chemotherapy.  I *hope* 2014 stands as an anomaly for the latter, a beginning for the former.  It hasn’t been much of a year for words, other than those exchanged with my dad in batches while he has Taxotere pumped into his veins, then more chats as that medicine alters his body.  Chemo #10 is eleven days away, the last round.  Dad just turned seventy, which is itself quite a feat, but mixed with his recent battles stands out to me even more.  We’re throwing him a big party this upcoming weekend, another event squeezed into a summer that has raced past, ticked off by quilts and road trips and sports.  Truly the days are teeming with adventures.

Nearly two months later, I started to put together this quilt, which initially was going to be for me, until the Birthday Quilt came along.

Nearly two months later, I started to put together this quilt, which initially was going to be for me, until the Birthday Quilt came along.

Recently I finished the Former Roomie quilt; unbeknownst to my eldest, I also sandwiched into that endeavor Scrappy’s Big Sister, which I gave to my daughter yesterday, a surprise for which she was very pleased.  Yesterday Germany beat Argentina for the World Cup, while the Giants managed to blow Arizona out of the proverbial water with two grand slams, one from their power-swinging pitcher Madison Bumgarner.  I don’t begrudge missing those games, for we visited with our eldest and her other half all afternoon, Buttercup too.  I hadn’t expected to see them until this weekend’s big bash, hence the green scrappy quilt staying on the QT.  However, now I can note that quilt’s completion, amid the scattered remnants of this post.  I made the rows in mid-May, and there they sat on the quilt wall until last week, when strips of green were sewn between them, the whole thing a scrap-lover’s heaven, from the pieced-together batting, backing, and binding.   That quilt is indicative of my summer, what with revisions here and there, me as well, up and down freeways trying to piece together all that matters most.

For some strange reason as I sewed the rows together, the quilt began to shift, like it wanted to be an Aztec temple.  I didn't understand this at all...

For some strange reason as I sewed the rows together, the quilt began to shift, like it wanted to be an Aztec temple. I didn’t understand this at all…

My dad, my kids, quilts and plots.  And my husband, when I get a chance to see him.

But sometimes that is how life is; more irons in the fire than one has irons!  And surprisingly the only side effect seems to be driver’s elbow; my left arm, just under my elbow, aches after about ninety minutes of driving.  I dug out a strap I used when stitcher’s elbow was a problem, which seems to alleviate the pain.  That denotes my age, which I cannot change.  Otherwise, I feel good, what with piles of shirts to cut into 4.5″ squares for my brother-in-law’s quilt.  That’s the next project on the sewing table.

Shirts my BIL donated to the cause, plus some camo, as he's an avid hunter.

Shirts my BIL donated to the cause, plus some camo, as he’s an avid hunter.

Maybe this seems like a lot, maybe summertime is when the body, and mind, are supposed to take it easy.  I wanted to start writing the sequel for Heaven…Mississippi this month, don’t think that’s gonna happen.  I wanted my SF Giants to maintain that massive lead over the LA Dodgers, and well…  Well, at least San Francisco took the series from the Diamondbacks.  The All-Star break starts today, even ballplayers need a day off.  But as for this quilt-crazy author…

Snapped by my youngest last week as I hand-sewed Scrappy's binding while we watched footie semi-finals...

Snapped by my youngest last week as I hand-sewed Scrappy’s binding while we watched footie semi-finals…

Not so much in the way of rest and relaxation until the weekend, once deviled eggs and fruit salad are made, corn husked and placed into pots of boiling water.  Those are our contributions to the birthday party, and after I’m sure they have been sorted, I’m going to find my dad, who will probably be inundated with kids and grandkids and friends.  I may not do more than shoot him a friendly smile, to which I may not receive much beyond an understanding grin.  And if we get a few minutes to chat, perfect.  His voice is pretty raspy, but that doesn’t seem to hinder all he has to say, about the present, the past, even the future.  He has plans, in case the Taxotere doesn’t quite keep his PSA in check, radium treatments one possibility.

The finished second scrappy quilt!

The finished second scrappy quilt!

But that’s months down the road, hopefully further even.  Maybe this time next year, God willing.  And God willing, I’ll still be quilting, and hopefully writing, and maybe those Giants will be winning.  In the meantime, there is this day, which has a list of to-do’s already waiting.

Scrappy backing too...

Scrappy backing too…

Writing this post isn’t on the list, more of a way to get my morning started properly, as jasmine tea is sipped, windows open to catch some early cool breezes.  The day is packed indeed, but there is always room for a little more love.