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Update on Charity - March 4, 2019

Last Friday afternoon we met with Charity's oncologist at Mayo Clinic to discuss the possibility of her participating in a clinical trial for pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, due to a heart condition associated with the ICD defibrillator, which she had implanted back in 2011 to prevent atrial fibrillation, she did qualify for any of the phase 1 trials they currently have. Phase 1 trials test the efficacy of a new drug. They require that candidates have a heart ejection fraction rate of 50% or greater and her rate is currently 34%.

Pancreatic Cancer research is far behind that of many other cancers. Nationwide the overwhelming clinical research being conducted is only in the early phase 1 stage of 4 stages to obtain FDA approval for standard treatment. Her Oncologist suggested that we contact a cancer center in Tampa where they have a Phase 2 trial to see if Charity would qualify to participate in that trial. I left them a message and I'm waiting to hear back from them. I am also looking for other clinical trials in other locations. Based on most of the stringent and complicated qualification requirements for clinical trials, it doesn't look very promising. They essentially want people who don't have medical issues that might prevent them from getting their drug approved.

To say the least, our appointment last Friday left us disappointed and very sad. We really felt that we were being told we've done all we can do, we will help with symptom management as the disease progresses but basically, you are now on your own. We will keep pushing forward, taking one day at a time and making the very most of it. 

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Update on Charity February 15, 2019

Today Charity met with her new Oncologist, Dr. Starr, to review the results of her latest CT Scan. Unfortunately, the results were not good. First, her lab results indicated that her tumor marker had increased from 1300 to 2300. Normal is 35 or less. That was an initial sign that the latest chemo drug treatments were ineffective. Her CT Scan this morning showed that her cancer has continued to spread. Cancer lesions on her pancreas and her liver have continued to grow and spread. Her doctor explained that traditional cancer treatments are no longer effective in trying to control her cancer. Dr. Starr was thorough in reviewing the results and very compassionate in discussing possible next steps. Since traditional cancer treatments have now been exhausted, Dr. Starr is exploring the possibility of finding a clinical trial that Charity could qualify for. Clinical trials are very few in number for pancreatic cancer. Most are in the very early testing stages and come with unknown side effects and risks. At this point, a clinical trial is really the only viable option left. I will provide an update in the future as we know more.


February 1, 2019

Charity's lab work yesterday indicated she was dangerously low on hemoglobin and she is anemic. She has been feeling more fatigued than usual following her last chemo treatment. Her very low hemoglobin level and the related anemia are one of the side effects of the current chemo drugs she is on as the drugs build up in her system with each treatment. Tomorrow morning she will receive a transfusion of 2 units of blood. Hopefully, that will help her feel better quickly.


January 29, 2019

Charity had her 4th of 5 chemotherapy treatments with the latest 3rd line chemo drugs last Thursday. With each treatment, the side effects become a little more severe especially nausea and fatigue. She has spent the last several days just resting due to lack of energy. Today she has hydration at Mayo Clinic and hopefully, that will give her more energy and improve her appetite. She has one more chemo treatment on 2/7 and then a CT Scan on 2/15 which will determine if the new drugs are having a positive effect on controlling her cancer or if the cancer is continuing to progress. Hopefully, this chemo drug regimen is helping as we running out of treatment options per her doctor.


Update on Charity 1/5/19

Charity had her 2nd chemo treatment with the new drug regimen on 12 /27 and if her lab work numbers are in an acceptable range she will have her 3rd treatment this Thursday 1/10/19. After slowly weaning her off the steroids we were gradually able to decrease the insulin shots so that her glucose levels have been staying within normal range for the last week. 

Last Thursday she went in for hydration and they did not like how her port looked so they scheduled her to see Interventional Radiology at Mayo on Friday which is where they install ports. They ended up doing outpatient surgery to remove the old port and reinstalled a new one in a lower location on the chest. To say the least she has been pretty sore from the procedure but seems better this morning.

We are really hoping and praying at the conclusion of the next 3 treatments in early February her next CT Scan will show some shrinkage with her cancer or at the very least show the cancer is remaining stable compared to her last scan. As her Doctor told us previously, this is a 3rd line treatment therapy and they are running out of treatment options.


Update on Charity 12/21

Charity spent 5 days in the hospital for a dangerously high level of blood glucose and was discharged Friday a week ago. At that same time, she experienced heart rhythm issues that set off a shock from her cardiac defibrillator.

The doctors at Mayo clinic believe her sudden spike in glucose level was caused by the combination of recently added steroid medication, her chemo drug therapy and her pancreatic cancer. They slowly weaned her off the steroids and her glucose level have begun to stabilize. She has insulin placed in her TPN formula during the evening and we add insulin via injection as needed. Her need for insulin has been gradually decreasing and hopefully, within a short period, we will be able to discontinue the insulin altogether. 

To address her heart arrhythmia issues they changed her to a new medication and also reprogrammed the pacing therapy programming in her ICD. So far she has adjusted to her new medication well but continues to be very fatigued from all the changes in medication and her new chemo regimen. As a result, she decided to delay her 2nd chemo treatment scheduled for yesterday with the new drugs a week to give herself more recovery time to regain her strength and endurance.


Update on Charity - 12/11

Several days ago Charity starting experiencing extreme fatigue. It progressively got worse. Yesterday she felt really weak and she got her first shock from her cardiac defibrillator since it was implanted in 2011. We went to Mayo oncology where they started her on hydration and did lab work. Her lab work came back showing dangerously high glucose levels over 800. Because she was susceptible to going into shock and cardiac arrest they immediately transported her via ambulance from the oncology building to the ER department at Mayo. They quickly put her on a insulin drip to slowly bring her glucose level down. They admitted her the hospital for testing and observation to ensure her glucose level is stabilized. Her level is down under 200 this morning. Still a little high but getting to the normal level. At this point they are trying to pinpoint the cause of the rapid rise in her glucose. It could be medications, cancer, congestive heart failure, the TPN formula or a combination of all the above. Hopefully by the end of the day we have a diagnosis and a plan for managing going forward.


Update on Charity 11/29

Today's we met with Charity’s Mayo Oncologist this afternoon for the latest update from her CT Scan yesterday. Not so good news.

The scan showed she has a blood clot in one of her lungs so they put her on a blood thinner to prevent further blood clots from developing. According to the doctor the clot she has will be absorbed by the body and blood clots are pretty common for people with pancreatic cancer. Sorry to say that was the good news.
The scan also showed there are more cancer lesions on her liver which means the cancer has started to spread. Even though her pancreatic tumor and the cancer lesions on the lung are relatively stable from the last scan the new cancer lesions on the her liver indicate the current chemotherapy drugs are becoming ineffective. Her oncologist is going to try another drug therapy but this will be a 3rd line therapy. In short, that means they are running out of treatment options. They are going to try these drugs for 4 treatments, one every 2 weeks. They will re-evaluate in late January with another CT Scan to determine if they are having a positive effect. If they are not producing a positive effect they will likely discontinue treating the cancer and move to managing symptoms for quality of life. Disheartening news to say the least and not what we hoped for but we will push forward and pray for the best.