You may know her as Mama Barb, Mrs. Davis, Sue's Mom, or just Barb.....and you know that she's pretty darn amazing. The past 2 years have been quite a challenge for us. March 2019, Barb's husband, Ron (aka Big Ron) was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer, 3 weeks later on Apr. 11, he passed away. Five months later, mom wasn't feeling quite right, she had some discomfort in her abdomen & in the back of her mind she thought that maybe she had cancer & didn't know it just as Ron did. She met with her PCP who didn't follow up on her fears. Luckily she met with the PA at her gastroenterologist's office the next day & told her what she was feeling. Thank goodness the PA listened. She said, "I don't think it's anything, but to ease your fears, let's do an ultrasound" and that's when they found a mass in mom's abdomen.
After several tests & biopsies, mom was diagnosed with "Cancer of Unknown Primary", stage 4 because it has spread to her lymph nodes. It's a specific type of cancer that we never knew existed. They can't tell from where it originated, but it has a specific set of treatment protocols to battle against it. There is no cure. She started chemo in November of 2019 & the tumors responded well to the treatment & decreased significantly in size!
The start of 2020 provided a new bump in her journey. On New Year's Eve, she developed a very aggressive eye infection. She had to pause her chemo treatment & use antibiotic drops every half hour, around the clock. Soon it was determined that her best course of action was to have her eye removed & in January of 2020, she had surgery to remove her eye. In total, she met with 18 doctors at the Eye & Ear Institute in Pittsburgh & they were amazing. In March, at the start of the pandemic, she received a prosthetic eye which is a work of art! Currently her vision is very poor.
Mom was then able to resume her chemo treatments. On Apr. 6, after a full day of treatment, I took our dog Brody to pick her up after treatment. Mom, not seeing that Brody had taken over her seat in the front, opened the door & he jumped out of the car. She tried to guide him back into the car, but ended up falling & breaking her clavicle. Her clavicle never healed & she's hoping that the bone just doesn't pop out someday. She has complete range of motion & feels good.
Because of the pandemic & how well she was responding to treatment, it was decided to give mom a chemo break for a few months!!! YAAAY!
Then June 12 happened.....not health related, but significant in our lives. After a day on the lake, we were pulling the boat out of the water & the emergency break released & I sunk my dad's truck. Yes, I said sunk.....yes sunk....completely submerged. The truly scary part was that my niece & nephew (ages 4 & 6) were in the 3rd row of the truck. Luckily, the kids listened when I told them to "Get out of the car now!" and no one was hurt. Well, I have PTSD, but the kids are okay & we have a good story.
Things were going quite smoothly. Mom started up treatment again & determined to fight. January 2021, we found out that the chemo was no longer working & her tumors grew. The plan was to start her on Immunotherapy. The doctor was also concerned because of the increasing number of blasts in her blood. After additional tests, mom was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. We met with a leukemia specialist in Pittsburgh who said that although there is no cure, he thinks that he can get her to remission & give her more time......maybe 18 months. He said that treatment needed to start immediately & without treatment, she would only have 2-3 weeks to live. She has started IV chemo & a chemo pill. These next few months are critical to see if the treatment is going to work. He also warned that things will get worse before it gets better....her numbers will drop, she will need blood products, & we have to be extremely careful not to get her sick.
Mom is determined to fight and all of the comments, cards, encouragement, & love that she's receiving is helping her fight. She doesn't want to let any one down.
I have a Facebook group set up called "Barb's "Unknown" Cancer Journey. https://www.facebook.com/groups/419826045743474
Please join it, but for those without a Facebook, I'm trying this method out in hopes that it will keep everyone up to date & allow me more time concentrating on mom.