Sep 16, 2019 Latest post:
Oct 14, 2019
Throughout February and March of 2019, Vicky complained of a sinus infection that wouldn't go away. She was foggy, couldn't see properly, exhausted all the time, and was having lots of headaches. As the symptoms got worse, doctors tried other medications and treatment, but the sinus infection persisted. On March 13th, Vicky had a set of strange incidents at her office, and they brought her to the ER, where a set of tests were done to determine that she had swelling in her brain due to a mass. It hadn't been a sinus infection, but instead something that was inside her head.
Vicky underwent surgery on March 15th to remove the mass and determine what had caused it. The surgeon was able to remove about 95% of the tumor, but further testing revealed that the tumor was brain cancer - glioblastoma, a stage 4 cancer. As we have since learned, this type of brain cancer has no cure, as the parts of the tumor that had not been removed through surgery are the most malignant and don't respond well to known treatments. Those areas also mimic brain tissue, so removal of them becomes more and more dangerous. This cancer is fast growing and has no "typical" path for re-occurrence - except that it will stay in the brain and not move to other parts of the body. Re-occurrance is definite....although the "when" is unknown.
We learned from multiple neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists, and doctors that there are 3 phases to treatment. Vicky had gotten through Phase 1: surgery. Due to the tumor/surgery, Vicky started to experience weakness on her left side, along with some hearing and vision loss.
Phase 2 was to start immediately, and entailed both radiation directly to the tumor site and chemotherapy (through a pill) every day for 6 weeks. The goal of this phase was to slow that remaining cancer down. Make it so that the tumors couldn't grow back as fast. Some people manage this phase very well - working, doing everyday life, low symptom impact. However, for Vicky, Phase 2 was hard...very tiring, lots of nausea, loss of hair, dry skin, change of tastes, dehydration. We began visiting the Sherman Cancer Care Center 3x a week for fluids and nausea medication. This took many hours each of those visits, and became a regular part of our morning schedule.
After Phase 2, there was 4-6 weeks of a break. No treatment! During this time, Vicky was able to regain some strength, rest, and even go into Chicago for a few days to see her daughter run a big conference for work. She was able to enjoy the conference, go out to dinner with John, and have a fancy few nights in a hotel downtown!
After the break from treatment, the doctors do a new MRI to set a new "baseline" for her brain....she how everything is doing. Vicky's MRI was relatively inconclusive...there was obvious areas of inflammation and post-radiation scarring. There were no new tumors, but everything was a little "cloudy." That same day, later in the evening, Vicky actually experienced her first 2 seizures. The inflammation on the MRI was indicative of swelling and pressure that increased rapidly. After a short stay in the hospital. It was decided that she would go on anti-seizure and anti-swelling medication to prevent further issue.
Phase 3 began after the MRI and the recovery from the seizures. This phase is called "cycle chemo." During this treatment, Vicky received 5 days of chemotherapy through pills - this time the pills were double the dosage from Phase 2. After those 5 days, she would get 23 days off of the chemotherapy, and another MRI occurs to see how her brain is reacting to the treatment. This could happen up to 6 times (across 6 months). Vicky completed 2 rounds of this phase, with less nausea, but increased fatigue and mobility issues coming from each round. The rest of Vicky's story, and updates, will continue in the journal below.