Monday, January 21, 2013

Interferon and Avastin-and my Resolution.

Interferon and Avastin.
This post is long,
not well thought out.
And a jumbled mess.
Deal with it.

In my last post I wrote about our hesitation
about our new drug.
I've read about the side effects,
and went in with a lot of questions for the Dr.
Sometimes I must look like such a bossy wife when we
meet with the Dr. and nurses.
Seriously, Trav is so laid back and mellow,
and then I come in all high strung and worried,
and full of questions...because "I read this...and I read that..."
They really must be thinking these two things.

1-How did these 2 end up together.
2-We are the medical professionals.
Stop reading so much.

To answer these questions I would say this.

1-We balance each other out nicely.
2-I'm trying to stop reading so much.
Sort of.
(And in my defense the people who write the stuff I'm reading
know a whole lot about RCC.  Sometimes... (most of the time),
it all goes right over my head.

They make me wonder if we should be seeing a RCC expert.
But then I'm reminded of how much we dislike our RCC expert,
and how little he listened to us.
And how much we really love our general ONC.
Who still calls T "professor".
And who called me "Marianne" the other day.
I feel so much that he is fully invested in us,
while our specialist makes us feel like a number.
 So we are trusting our lovely Dr. and remembering
that our specialist and him do confer.

And this post is not going at all where I intended it too..
So I'll now stop rambling about the Dr.'s and all of my hesitations
and I'll start rambling about our past week.

Monday Trav got his first injection at about 4:30 at the Dr.'s office.
And around 7:00 that night after we'd eaten dinner, I was cleaning up and I 
heard Sienna say "Dad, you are really shivering!"

Sure enough,
Trav was on the couch,
and was rigoring.
And I knew we were in for a treat.
We got out an electric blanket,
and 6! huge blankets and bundled him up,
and about an hour and a half later,
he finally started settling down.
And had a pretty restless night of sleep.
 And quite honestly,
I just sat there and cried.
This was not something I wanted my poor kids
to see, and not something I wanted to experience again, 
(IL-2 was enough!),
and more importantly,
not something I wanted Trav to have to deal with.
Wednesday he went into get his first Avastin infusion.
And they gave him another shot about the same time.
He didn't rigor Wednesday,
but got VERY fevered,
and honestly was really out of it for a few hours.
 And after he finally dozed,
and woke to a bucket of sweat,
and then dozed a little more,
I cried again.
You'd think I was the one having all this crap put in me!
By Friday,
I was feeling ready to throw in the towel.
I was miserable.
Trav hadn't had a good night sleep in a solid 3 weeks.
(Really, he has been missing his sleep!)
 He gave himself the shot around 8,
(After a little pep talk from Trav, to Trav)
And we watched the clock wondering when the fun would begin.

I was expecting the worst,
and we sat around waiting.
And T watched TV while I watched T.
And then we both fell asleep,
and stayed asleep for most of the night.
FINALLY Trav got a decent night of sleep.
Was it wonderful?
But there weren't rigors, 
and he was able to sleep through the fevers and aches and chills.
And I didn't cry.
 A miracle itself this week.
This was the first night Trav hasn't woke up probably 15 times.
Only a few.
Now I don't want to belittle his meds 
and make it sound easy,
because his body is constantly aching
and he still has so much fatigue.
He's constantly exhausted.
He sits on the couch to watch TV,
and within seconds he is asleep.
But we are both hoping that he will be able
to start sleeping good all night, every night,
and will be able to gain some strength again.
We are hopeful that the side effects will be manageable
and he will be able to sleep through the toughest of it all.
We are hopeful that his stomach will be able to get back to normal.
And obviously,
we are hopeful that it will work!
We want a semi normal life back!
Since my last post,
I have spoken to a few people who this drug has done wonders for.
Their dosing is different,
one of them only has interferon once a week, 
rather then 3 times a week...
And we are definitely going to remember 
this if 3x is too much to handle.

But we will just go with the flow for now.
Trav just gave himself a shot,
the kids are in bed,
and we are waiting for it all to kick in.
And praying it is a sleep filled night and things go ok!
things have been beyond hard the past few weeks.
Really, the past year,
but the past few weeks have put a strain on us.
We had no idea how blessed and lucky we were 
when he was just getting weekly infusions,
with very minimal side effects.
2012 was just plain HARD.
We've spent weeks in the hospital,
and Trav's body has been through so much.
He's lost weight...(I've gained it!),
and it's been a test to our entire family.
 We've had to answer some tough questions from our sweet 
little ladies,
and have had to rely on each other an awful lot.
We've missed 2011.
That being said,
we've also learned a lot about how amazing our friends and families are this past year.
They are giving, thoughtful,
relentlessly caring people.
They pretend to not notice that I have bags under my eyes and say
"you look fabulous!" so excitedly that I almost believe them.
They let me cry if I need to,
but almost always ask if they can hug me..
just in case I'm not in a crying mood.
I mentioned once that Trav's new craving was caramel apples,
and the next day we have 10.
Really, people just kept bringing them.
(Next time I'm gonna say he really wants me to have new shoes...
and we will see what happens?)
And we still think about the fundraiser held for our family daily.
And we are in awe of that night and how loved we still feel from it.
And just now, as I was writing this post, 
someone rang the doorbell and ran,
and left us all our favorite drinks and a beautiful card giving us encouragement.
The little ladies friends' parents have been so nice to understand
when we send the kids to their house,
and when people stop by and Trav isn't feeling up to snuff,
they understand when I plainly say,
"You can't come in right now."
They just smile and understand.
And I appreciate that!
We are surrounded by goodness.
And truthfully,
we've needed it, and are beyond grateful for it.
 And we both wish we could stop being on the receiving end,
and start being more giving.
But I guess this is where we are in our season of life...
and we hope you all know that we couldn't get through without you.

I've made it a goal to find a way for Trav to get back
some of the oomph he's lost this last year.
That's my resolution!
Join me?
You don't need to lose those pesky lbs anyways....
Gold star to anyone who made it to the end of this post.
For real.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


For the past million years that Trav's been fighting,
(OK, only 7. Whatever. Feels like MORE.)
I've been scouring the Internet for resources,
information, and actual people who are facing our same battles.

I've found a few message boards where people
discuss how they combat side effects,
clinical trials, and what they might do in your situation.

Some of these people know more then a lot 
of ONCs out there.  They are a smart, knowledgeable group,
 these RCC patients.

At first, I became obsessed with these boards,
and with each new update, or email,
I would read with a thirst. 

It wasn't good for me, or us.
There were too many deaths.
Too many really bad side effects.
Too many abnormal situations.
And I found myself thinking 'what if' way too much.

So I have stayed away.
Maybe that makes others in our situation find me a little naive
and not the best advocate for Travis, 
but to be a good mom, and wife, I have had to learn to trust
in our doctors, and our feelings about the drugs we were gonna use.

Last night,
for the first time in a few years,
I found myself searching these boards and sights again.
I just needed to know more about what we are facing when tomorrow comes.

I've learned not a lot of people are on this group of drugs
together.  And I've learned that interferon is gonna
be even tougher then we thought.
One person has compared her side effects to IL-2.
And another has said it will feel like the worst flu he's ever had.
He will be in pain.
And just as soon as he gets over it,
he'll get another shot.

It's time to start another treatment.
He's had too much time 'off' while figuring out our game plan,
and the insurance has approved it all.
So tomorrow he will start.
 As one of our cancer friends said yesterday,
"sometimes you just have to make a call and go with it."

We've made our call.
And I keep reminding myself that if it is too hard,
we have other options.

And we have a Dr. who will listen to us and help us make hard choices.

I am feeling very unsure that this is the route that we should have gone,
and very worried about  Travis.
And the girls.

Every person handles side effects differently,
so I am crossing everything I can cross that this is 
tolerable for him.  And praying that we can find a semi normal
lifestyle again.

I'd like 2013 to be better then 2012.
Is that too much to ask??

And while I'm here-
A big giant thank you to our lovely neighbors and friends who take such
good care of us.
We are being fed delicious dinners once a week,
(my kids are getting used to all this home cookin!)
We have yet to have to shovel our driveway.
We've been showered with love the past few years,
and we are still so grateful to everyone for understanding
just what we need, and for always caring.

Thank you.
Wish us luck!

Friday, January 4, 2013

{New Plan}

Travis and I were able to meet with the Dr. today to discuss our next 
step in our treatment plan.

He has been on his 2 week break from Sutent,
and honestly is still feeling the side effects.
He does feel a little better then when he is on the drug,
but is still swollen, tired, and his poor stomach still has
many aches and pains.

We discussed all of our options today with the Dr.
When Travis was diagnosed the first time,
there wasn't many options in the field for RCC patients.
Today, the Dr. gave us a list, 
and while there aren't dozens,
there are options.

I just couldn't help but be grateful that we do have the options 
we have.  I can't imagine how terrifying it would be to not even
have the chance to choose your treatment plan.
 10 years ago we wouldn't have been so lucky.

After discussing all of our choices,
we opted to go with a mixture of drugs.

The first is called interferon, which is the oldest drug in the book.
And another called Avastin.

Avastin is infused, so that old port will come in handy again.
He will go every other week and the infusion takes about an hour.

Interferon is a shot that he will get 3 times each week.
And it sounds like either he, or I will get to administer it.
In his belly.


The side effects for Avastin seem tolerable enough.
And really, taking that pill each night has been so hard for 
Trav's stomach that I think he will welcome going in for infusions again.

But the side effects for interferon will be harder.
It sounds like the stomach problems wont be as bad,
which is really fabulous, but there are lots of side effects.
Mostly flu like symptoms.
Which sounds awful and hard...
Poor Travis.
He's honestly felt like  he's had the flu for months now.
I am so grateful for how hard he fights for us.
 I watch him pull himself out of bed each morning and head to 
work when I know he feels incredibly sick,
and it reaffirms that I married a pretty amazing man.

Our lives have changed drastically in the past year.
And it's been very hard.
Harder then I really ever imagined.
 It's incredibly hard to watch the person you love feel so sick
with no relief or end in sight.
It's been hard on our kids.
The cold is affecting him worse then ever...
(in fact, he wears special thermals that are supposed to trap in heat every day,
and is still freeeeezing.)
So he isn't able to go outside and build a snowman,
or go sledding.
 Dad can't wrestle with them anymore.
On NYE we went to dinner and Adyson watched a
Grandpa wrestle with his grand kids.
Adyson looked at me and said it makes her sad that her
dad can't do that.
And it broke my heart.

 But then I see the ladies snuggle up next to him on the couch to warm him up.
And they make him watch videos on their ipod,
and he is always willing to read to them and will
spend every second he has catering to them.
And on every single good day,
he is thinking of something fun and special for them.
I hope they realize that he is stronger then most dads out there,
just in a different way.

This ended up being a pretty long rant for a little update.
Sorry about that!

Anyhow, they will get this all approved by the insurance and we will
begin soon.

Feeling nervous and optimistic.
Even though I stated there are options,
there's still  not enough.
We'd really like it to work,
and we'd really like it to give him,
and all of us,
a better quality of life!

Thanks for checking in.
If you made it all the way to the end of this
huge post,
I applaud you.

A little PS-
I love the Cancer Center her in Logan.
They treat my Trav like the rockstar that he is.
So grateful to them.