Leah Barrett

First post: Aug 13, 2020 Latest post: Dec 8, 2022
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Dear family and friends,

On April 2,2020 I noticed a significant change in my mood and disposition.  As the week progressed I noticed my eyes and skin turning jaundice. After a phone call with MdLive they recommended a visit to my family doctor.  They ordered some imaging where we discovered a blockage in my bile ducts.  Upon further investigation it was evident that I had something blocking my bile ducts.  I was diagnosed with extrahepatic bile duct cancer.

I was directed to Baylor Dallas and TX oncology. This was a blessing because my sister-in-law, Densie Pope, works for one of these doctors.  She has been a lifesaver on so many levels.  

On April 23,2020 they put in an internal plastic stent and biopsy of the cancer. That same evening I had to be hospitalized for 2 days for pancreatitis, a known side effect from this procedure.

On May 7th they removed the plastic stent, as it had become blocked, and dilated the duct so radiology could go in later to put in a metal stent. 

In the evening on May 8th developed chills and a fever.  We drove to Baylor’s ER with COVID 19 procedures in place so Bo had to drop me off and go home.  It was all so surreal. They hospitalized me for sepsis.  I, apparently, had strep at the time of my last procedure and it got in my blood when they put the stent in.  This led to a long hospital stay that included a COVID isolation unit as I awaited my result from the testing that took two days. While I was in there I had round the clock antibiotics and fluids. Mother’s Day came and went, but my gift was a negative on the Covid testing. I had more imaging done and a port put in to get ready for chemo.  Even though I couldn’t have visitors, the hospital had music therapists in the halls. Before they actually had to close my door and put notification for no visitors an harpist came in and ministered to me.  She was a retired opera singer!   The amazing thing was that she played a rendition of  Ps 46:10 Be Still and Know that I am God.  For those of you who know me, this is my Life Scripture!  When I was 15 years old God gave me a song, Be Still, on my guitar.  I had such peace during the entire stay.  Another music therapist came in with a guitar the next day.  He was very nice and practiced a classical piece for me. After that I was in quarintine.  But, the harpist would come back and park herself outside my door where I could hear her.  I felt very loved and cared for by all the doctors and nurses and radiologists who were working diligently to help me.

 On May 12th they put in the first metal stent. This procedure was very difficult and one of my doctors wasn’t even sure that it could be done. One doctor that observed the procedure said, “It was quite impressive”. It was very successful.

On May 13,2020 I had a port placement for antibiotics and upcoming chemo.

I got to go home on May 14, 2020 with a 6 day supply of antibiotics which was to be administered at home.  They trained me for this after one of my procedures in the Infectious Disease office in another part of the hospital. I was so out of it. I was by myself and kept thinking, “I’ll never remember how to do all of this even with all the directions.” It seemed so overwhelming at the time.  Thankfully I have two nurses in my neighborhood who were gracious enough to help me each day to put them in my port!  That was another way of God showing me his lovingkindness in this whole ordeal.

On May 20, 2020 I had to have another Covid test so they could put in an external biliary bag to help with the severe build up of bile in my liver.  The test came back negative and the bag and tube were placed the next day.  Since the first and second stents were successfully draining I was allowed to have the biliary bag removed!!  The next week they removed the tube!  That was a game changer for me and such a relief.  Denise said sometimes those bags have to stay in for about 4 months!  I got mine out in 4 weeks!  God is clearly on the move!

In the middle of all this, I retired from 18 year of service in  Lake Dallas ISD.  I also discovered I had 2 years at UTD, in Richardson, TX  which I was able to “buy back” for a total of 20 years with the TRS system.  I am so grateful for the tremendous support of the staff and teachers of LDISD during this difficult time in my life.

I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful team of doctors and nurses, friends, family and of course, my dear husband, Bo, who is taking such good care of me.

I got a little infection in my bile duct on Friday, July 17th, and had to spend the weekend in the Pickens Cancer Hospital at Baylor. While in the hospital they did an MRI to see if the tumor is shrinking.  It is -- significantly!  It went from a quarter size to a dime size. I am relieved that, based on this progress, the expectation is the tumor will be operable, which is the best option. I was able to go home with oral antibiotics on Monday, July 20th.   

I have currently completed four rounds of chemo with just the expected side effects, but nothing too severe. Chemo will continue every two weeks, starting tomorrow, Monday,  July 27, for four more rounds - so through the end of September - at which time more scans will be done and hopefully surgery soon after.

I feel carried by the hundreds of people who are praying for me and I have peace beyond understanding. The scripture the Lord gave me on April 27 was from Psalm 119: 165

“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”  

Thank you one and all for your concern and taking the time to read this.  It has been quite a roller coaster.  But by God’s grace I will live each day with a grateful heart for every breath He allows me to have.

Please pray for me to continue to manage through the chemo symptoms - especially the neuropathy, which causes numbness and sensitivity to touching anything cold for 4-5 days after the start of each round. We will keep you updated as things progress!

After my 5th chemo I got a little skin virus. The good news I didn't have any neuropathy this time!  PTL!   I have my 6th chemo on Monday.  Please pray that this go around there will be no infections of any kind.  Thanks for all the prayers!!

My 8th chemo which was a  10 hour desensitizing session to ease the neuropathy and swelling I had on the 7th chemo, seemed to go pretty well.  I am tired, but able to  recovery after about a week.  My last chemo will also be a 10 hour gig.  They infusion people are really great and I feel I am in the best hands at Baylor.

Please keep praying that the tumor is shrinking, as it's hard to tell in the latest MRI when I was hospitalized again ( for the 3rd time) on August 21-25 for sepsis.  The stents get clogged and infected.  My daughter, Audrey, is going to take me to get extra fluids twice a week until surgery which will help with dehydration and keep the stents from getting clogged up.  Surgery will hopefully be in mid October, if all goes to plan.  The oncologist is very hopeful and optimistic.  So am I.  I am in no pain and I continue to feel God's grace, mercy and peace which has been multiplied to me.

Thanks for all the well wishes and prayers that keep me going!!

Today is Sept 14, 2020 and I had my blood drawn for my 9th chemo tomorrow and I saw the doctor.  My liver enzymes are elevated and bilirubin count went up a little.  My stents are clogged so they are going to schedule another procedure ASAP,  to scrub the stents to help until I can get my surgery.  Please pray that I don't run a fever before they can get me into the hospital.  If I run a fever it would indicate the stents are infected again.  I am going in for extra fluids as well.

I really could use the prayers at this time.  Please pray that the chemo day goes well and that I can have the procedure very soon before I end up in the ER again.

I love you all.

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