An update on Chelle
A family member e-mailed me a request for an update on Chelle. After typing it all out, I thought I'd let ya'll know what's going on with her, too.
*To those who may not know (or have forgotten), my little sister, Chelle (she's 37) was diagnosed with ductal breast cancer in October, 2006. Her chemo treatments were delayed a little because of a heart blockage and she finally got started on chemo in late December.
The following is a edited portion of that e-mail:
Chelle is doing "so-so". Physically, it's all taking a toll on her, but emotionally she's doing pretty good.
She just finished one chemo drug and began another, more toxic one. After spending all that time in the hospital taking the adriamycin, she had to go into the hospital for the first dose of the new drug, Taxotere. Because it's plant based, they had to make sure she didn't have an allergy to it. She didn't, but they kept her longer than planned because her white count was all over the map (the chemo drugs mess with the bone marrow's duties).
She went in on Mon. the 19th to begin the new drug and because her white count was so messed up, she didn't get the chemo until Thurs. the 22nd. Her doctor also has been giving her injections of a drug to Nupegen (?) to rev up her bone marrow production. They've discussed testing her bone marrow (yee-ouch!), but they are holding off for now.
Her breast cancer is different than an older (over 50) woman's breast cancer. It's more aggressive and estrogen fed.
So, to put it in understandable terms, she got thrown into instant menopause in order to stop any estrogen production, she's getting massive amounts of toxic drugs that kill the fastest growing cells her body produces and she's getting huge doses of steroids in order to lessen the side-effects of the chemo drugs. Not to mention the various blood tests (at least once a week) and cardio visits, scans or trying to track down a certain medication. Plus, she knows that this is not the last round of chemo that she'll do. We're not sure what's next but at some point she'll have to get some injections in the stomach. Then she'll get some radiation. And after that, maybe he'll do the mastectomy. The doctor hasn't given us a clue as to when that will be. He wants to make sure that her tumor is as small as possible before he cuts into it. AND it IS getting smaller!
She's already told him she's going to have a double mastectomy. That requires yet another doctor.
Most days she feels crummy, but she still gets up, puts on her ball cap and does what has to be done. So far, everything is in Ft. Worth; her doctor, the hospital and the clinic. Her husband can't take off everytime that she has to go to for tests, injections, etc. and on some days I can't go; so she goes by herself. Sometimes she has to pull over and just wait a couple of minutes to feel better, but she goes.
Up until her immune system got so compromised, she actually went to work a couple of days a week. (She's a detention officer, a.k.a. a jailer) Since some of the inmates are walking medical nightmares, her doctor asked her to not subject herself to those various diseases. Not to mention she's been attacked and injured by inmates before, so that was also a factor.
I get her out and about when she feels like going. Yesterday, she had to get an injection and I had a dr.'s appt. in a town not too far from here. So we left at 9:30, went to my appt. first, had lunch in Cleburne, then headed off to Ft. Worth for her injection. We got back in time to pick up Grace from school at 3:00 and then I took her home.
She gets a few "Surprise! Time to find a restroom! NOW! " moments, so we stopped at a little market/bistro type place. She went in and I waited in the car. She came back out to the car just really excited about how cute that place was and that we needed to go back someday and have lunch there.
She's very tough. Most of the time, she's pretty upbeat and I've only see her cry a few times. She used to have a phobia about I.V.'s and shots, but now what she's really dreading is the reconstruction after the mastectomy. Everybody says that part really hurts.
I guess you didn't ask for a novel, but I'm really proud of how she's handling all this. I can't even imagine walking around bald, all the drugs, needles, and what-not...plus all that windshield time! Having cancer is a scheduling nightmare.
Quite a few of the people from my church send her 'thinking of you' cards every week, her co-workers call her often and she knows that they have all given their sick time to her. That helps her a lot.
Her husband is holding up really well, considering. He works quite a lot because this costs quite a lot, but he's been very supportive and goes with her as often has he can. He stayed a lot of nights at the hospital when she was having the adriamycin infusions and then he would drive back to go to work the next morning. When she's home, he will go out and get whatever she wants to eat that she's craving. Kinda like being pregnant, huh?
He's got to be exhausted and stressed, because his dad has also been in and out of the VA hospital during all this.
Don't they say that cancer affects not just the patient, but the whole family? Well, that's the truth if I ever heard it!
Some of the names were been changed to protect the paranoid.
All in all, if I didn't get it across in the e-mail, I'm very proud of her. Knowing where she came from - what her home life was like, I can see that she's turned into a remarkable person. She has overcome a lot of challenges in her life. Dear old mom really short-changed Chelle while she was growing up and Chelle's stepfather was a tyrant. I interceded when I could, but I wasn't always around.
At the time Chelle was born I was a barely teenager and Mom was single, so for a few years it was just the 3 of us: Mom, me and Chelle. Mom worked and really wasn't into mothering much, so I took care of Chelle most of the time. I guess I still feel as if I'm her mom, so I'm going to brag on her a little~
Chelle got married when she was 19. Not too long after, Mom passed away. Just a few days after Mom's funeral, he and Chelle moved away to his hometown. Long story short - he was a abusive jerk, so she called me.
In February 1990, I drove up to Michigan, we packed her stuff and she moved in with me. Since then she has really blossomed into a wonderful woman. She met and married a 'local boy' and they have a great 15 year old son. Her husband is well respected at work and is a volunteer fireman (and has been for as long as I've known him), and their son is looking forward to doing the same. When she got here, I made her go to work. She'd never had a job, so she started as a sacker at a grocery store and worked her way through various careers: a cake decorator, a dept manager at Wal-Mart, a Frito Lay vendor, a vet tech and finally she found her calling as a jailer.
Last year she was named "Officer of the Year" by the sheriff's office.
Chelle has had to let some things go by the way side during all this (even with insurance, cancer is expensive), and her internet connection was one of the items they let go. So if you go to her site, Chelle's Journey, you can see she hasn't updated it. I've got some photos of the Head Shaving Party in my photo album, and if you're curious, we look absolutely nothing alike.
We have different dads and she must look like his side of the family.
It's a running joke. Guess you have to be here.