Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Home from the east and radiation starting 10-31-06

Dear friends,
Jenni and I got back on Sunday evening from going to look at 4 schools on the east coast in PA and NY. Yesterday was busy with laundry (Greg and Jesse had saved their mountain laundry for me!)and very basic catch up. I want to let you know how the week went as many have let me know they were praying for your trip. Here is a brief run down:
We arrived and were picked up Sunday afternoon by Uncle Fred who informed us that he was going to let us drive his Lexus for the week. Any of you who are savvy, know that that means a very pleasant and smooth ride. We had a nice time with him, Aunt Beth and the rest of the family that day, including a terrific dinner, and left early Monday morning for Philly- a 5-6 hour drive. We couldn't figure out the car's navigation system until Wednesday morning, so we depended on our map quest directions. They were wrong for one of our appointments in Philly, and we ended up 15 city miles from where we needed to be to meet friends for lunch. We got there late, ate a quick lunch and them headed to Penn.
Jenni and I met with the admissions director of their engineering school and had a tour of the engineering buildings. That was definitely a city school situation and at this point Jenni doesn't think she'll apply there.
We had dinner with a H.S. friend of mine. She had gone to Bucknell and her daughter spent a year at Cornell, so she had some good information for us. (Thanks Cindy!) We drove that night to Greg's parents' house and spent Monday and Tuesday nights there. We got to meet my nephew Caleb's fiancé, Elizabeth, and had a nice visit the next night with his twin brother, Josh's girl friend, Sandy also. Greg's mom was gone, but we got to see his dad, my brother and sister-in-law, and another aunt.
Bucknell was beautiful and a smaller school in a small PA town. Their engineering program looks very good and Jenni had an interview there. The tour of the engineering labs was impressive.
The next morning we went to Cornell (navigation working great!). We toured the campus with several other CO students and their families, which seemed odd that far from home. We also visited with my mother's cousin who is on the faculty there. I hadn't seen Bruce for decades and that was very nice. Jenni will apply there most likely and see what happens.
We stayed overnight with my mother and brother and got to see my Aunt Clara and Uncle Don too. That was a nice visit, but too short.
On Thursday we went to Grove City College and met up with Laura who only has a few weeks left there. Jenni interviewed and that went well. She got to go to an engineering class with last year's "Mr. Engineer" and learn about thermal dynamics. (The women engineers do the "Mr. Engineer Pagent" every year as a fund raiser.) Jenni got to attend a student lead worship time that night and spend the night with Laura in the dorm and meet lots of people. I think that was her favorite of the schools we visited. A Christian college with a great engineering program on a smaller campus, seemed to appeal to her.
We stayed overnight in the home of one of Laura's professors (the one she is going to Turkey with over Thanksgiving week) while Linda was away at a conference. Very relaxing. Jenni retook the ACT's on Saturday to try to bring her score up some. Laura, Jenni and I made our way back to Uncle Fred and Aunt Beth's again on Saturday afternoon and went to church and lunch with them and Linda Christie (Laura's prof) on Sunday before we flew back.
We had safe driving all week, stayed awake, kept our schedule, had no really bad weather, and had a nice time together. I am really glad we went.
I went yester day for my last pre-radiation appointment. I received some radiation and they checked to make sure the 4 fields the doctor specified are set correctly. When I lay on my back, one shoots across me from the right side at about 2:00, one at about 1:00, then the machine rotates around me to 7 or 8:00 to hit the back of my arm pit, them up to 12:00 to give me a dose on the left side at the base of my neck where there are a bunch of nodes. It took about 30 minutes yesterday, but starting tomorrow when I go 30 times, 5 days a week, it will only take 15 minutes. The main side effects are fatigue, which could be extreme or not, and the effect on my skin and the exposed tissues. I described all of that back at the end of Sept. so I won't do that again here. I could feel the radiation going in, but it was subtle and didn't hurt at all. I have to keep my arms up and head turned the whole time without moving at all.
I asked you to pray that I would be assigned a convenient time for these 30 treatments and for the 1st week I go at 9:15 a.m. Then starting next Wednesday, I go at 1:00 for the rest of the 5 weeks. Since I have a 28 mile round trip into the city, early afternoon is the best time to avoid traffic. So that is an answer to prayer. I see my radiation oncologist on Thursdays during this time, so I am trying to get all my questions organized for when I see him.
I am tired from last week and am fighting, but winning so far, a sore throat. I had blood drawn yesterday to make sure my levels really are OK now. My radiation oncologist thinks I will get very tired, but several there told me many don't experience that to the extreme. So we can pray. I feel an infection brewing under a tooth that has been bothering me for a while. I couldn’t do anything about it during chemo, but will check into that ASAP, now that I have my resistance to infection back up to normal.
Someone asked me why I can’t do any antioxidants during radiation, and the reason is that the radiation is designed to hit and destroy free radicals (cancer cells looking for a place to settle and grow) in my body in that area. If I take antioxidants, that will plug the free radicals (normally a good thing) and radiation will have no effect. They told me not to, because the radiation will be totally useless if there are no free radicals for it to hit. After I am done I can go to town with my special diet and supplements, etc. I am allowed to eat whatever I want, but am not to take most vitamins and supplements I have been taking.
I will sign off and want to thank you again for praying for our trip. By the way, our extra freezer is almost full now as Greg added another 125+ lbs of organic hormone free elk meat last week (a 5x5 bull) to his mountain souvenirs. He got a cow elk the week before. He actually got home Wednesday with Jesse instead of being gone until Sunday and was pretty lonely for Jenni and me once he got home. He was journaling Tuesday morning in his spot when he looked up and spotted the bull. So Jesse and Greg had an exciting time together. I'll be in touch soon. My goal is to write 2 times a week. God bless you! Nancy

Sunday, October 22, 2006


At the beginning of the summer we had some visitors to our yard- two parent raccoons and their little babies, either digging in our grass or going through our trash. They visited several times, but finally a few weeks ago, Jesse was able to capture them with a picture from his bedroom window. See how many you can count! The babies aren't so little any more, but my guess is that the parents are still doing all the work!

We're off to the east coast! 10-22-06

Hello all, Jenni and I leave soon for the airport to head to PA and NY to visit colleges. Jesse left Saturday morning to go meet up with Greg in the mountains rather than Friday because of white out snow closing the pass that goes there. I am pooped but packed and ask you to pray for traveling mercies this week as we cover a lot of miles. We plan to visit Penn in Philly, Bucknell, Cornell, Grove City and possibly Carnegie Mellon, although I get tired just looking at this list and we may forgo C.M. Jenni is registered to take the ACT again next Sat. on, I mean in, Mars (PA) to try to improve her score. Then we will fly home next Sunday when our men folk will also come home. My incision is healing well and is very itchy- a good sign. It is intermitantly reminding me it is there, but it isn't too bad. The morning of the 30th, I go in for my last pre-radiation appointment and then radiation begins on Nov. 1st. It will be nice to not think about it for a week. We aren't taking my heavy lap top computer, so you won't hear from me until the 30th most likely. Laura should be posting the picture for me I mentioned earlier, sometime this week though. I hope you have a wonderful week. God bless you! Nancy

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Officially done with chemo! 10-18-06

Chemo is officially over! 10-18-06
Dear friends,
It is Wednesday and it has been 3 weeks since my last chemo. Since that was the length of my chemo cycles, I am declaring my chemo complete. I went through 15 weeks and didn't catch any sicknesses the entire time. That is amazing and I am giving credit to God and want to thank you for your prayers. From my observation, that is pretty rare. Jesse was sick last night and this morning with a fever and bad throat. He missed school and I took him to the doctor since it looked a lot like strep and he is supposed to go hunting for a week on Friday. He is already feeling better and his fever is gone. Jenni and I are doing defensive things to avoid getting it.
Yesterday I went with my friend Deb (sisterluke) to have my port removed. It turned out to be quite a procedure. It went well and took only 20-25 minutes. Deb drove both ways and I am glad she was there. She actually held my feet and got to watch the whole little surgery. We decided that my feet have their own language. They wiggled until the numbing meds went in with a needle and then went totally stiff as I forgot to breath! So Deb held them to let me know she was there and praying- very comforting! We got to see the port and it was fascinating and not messy at all.
Afterward I was a little shaky and it was good that I didn't have to drive myself the 15 miles home. I was hurting a lot last night when the meds wore off, but with pain meds was able to go to Jesse's band concert with Deb. Today I have only used Tylenol.
Want some more good news? My white count is almost in normal range and my neutrophils are now in normal range too. So I didn't have to do extra Neupogen shots. Since I am officially done with chemo, I am allowed to do antioxidents for these 2 weeks until I begin radiation November 1st. That should boost my energy. I am feeling my strength return more all the time. I have a ways to go, but am encouraged.
Here is something else encouraging. My fingernails aren't hurting anymore. There is some very faint orange discoloration, but no blackness which is listed as a possible side effect of the Taxitere. The nerve twinges in my hands and feet (nerve damage from the Taxitere chemo) are minor and my feet are less sore. I hope that those side effects have peeked and are subsiding. I will have to wait and see, but so far it isn't too bad.
Greg is still in the mountains, but has already provided about 125 pounds of organic hormone free elk meat for our family. Our brother-in-law brought it down the mountain and put it in our freezer in less than a day. We have to wait for the chronic wasting disease test to come back clear before using it. We could end up with more by the end of the month as Jesse and Greg are both planning to "be in the mountains" for 10 days together. We'll see!
Jenni and I are still planning to leave on Sunday morning and are pulling together the details of our trip. Pittsburgh to Philly (U. of Penn), then Bucknell, Cornell, and then Grove City. We might try Carnegie Mellon at the end, but we'll see. Jenni plans to take the ACT again in Mars, PA on the 28th, then we visit with Laura and Greg's aunt and uncle before flying home on the 29th. She is trying to get 4 college applications done before we leave and is making good progress. Please pray I get everything done I need to before we leave without getting worn out. Thanks.
I am going to get Laura help me post a picture on the blog, but she is gone for a few days for fall break. Check in a few days- you'll enjoy it! God bless you! God is good and has answered so many of our prayers. Thank you for praying! Nancy

Friday, October 13, 2006

Good news- no shots for now! 10-13-06

Hello all- I talked to the nurse at the oncology office today since my doctor was out today, and got the scoop. My white count is 1.7 and 1.5 would be the point at which I would need to repeat the Neupogen. So I don't need to do the shots. She said my levels would fluctuate but since we aren't doing anything to bring them down again, they should gradually increase. I will repeat my bloodwork on Tuesday just to be sure I don't go below 1.5. Thank you for praying. I see this as a real answer to prayer. I strongly dislike needles, so it is especially good news. I am hoping for more energy, but that should gradually increase along with my counts.Have a nice weekend and God bless you- Nancy

Thursday, October 12, 2006

White counts and Neupogen 10-12-06

Thursday 10-12-06
Dear friends,
I asked you on Tuesday to pray about the possibility of me doing another 5 Neupogen shots to boost my white count. The first time I did the shots at the second week mark, my white count went up to over 14. That is even higher than the normal range. This time at 2 weeks, it was 3.3. Normal is over 4. And typically is goes down again during the third week. So my doctor had me get blood drawn again today and will let me know tomorrow about the shots. He indicated that I will probably need to do them. What is good is that I can start them tomorrow if I do them and get over the achy side effects in time to get ready for my trip on the 22nd. I am feeling very fatigued, so I won't be surprised if my counts are even lower than Monday. I will let you know when I know.
Next Tuesday I am scheduled to get my port removed and I am looking forward to that. I don't need it anymore and it needs to be used or cleaned every month that it is in my upper right chest. It gets sore sometimes and it seems like a good time to get that over with before radiation. I am so thankful that I had it as it made my chemo treatments so much easier and less painful. I didn't have to have infusion needles put into my hand this time, which was really painful when I had chemo 7 years ago.
Tomorrow I am going to attempt to make a wrist corsage for Jesse's date to the homecoming dance. I know how to make boutonnières, so I hope I am up to the challenge. I downloaded directions and am feeling brave.
Greg leaves tomorrow, so I need to help him finish packing his food. He is excited about this trip and is eager to get there. It is about 5 hours away. Jesse will go there next week with his uncle and cousin who will join them for a few days here and there.
Jenni and I are setting up our itinerary for our PA/NY college visit trip. I sent the newsletters out yesterday, so if you are on our mailing list you should look for them sometime soon. Let me know if you would like to be added to our mailing list. You can email me at nancyfritz@aol.com if you want to communicate with me. I have been told that the blog isn't letting some of you make comments. God bless you, and thanks again for your interest and prayers. Nancy Fritz

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

2 weeks after last chemo 10-10-06

October 10, 2006
Dear friends,
I apologize for taking so long to write an update. I spent a chunk of yesterday at St. Joe’s Hospital Radiation Oncology department getting prep-ed for my radiation treatments that are scheduled to begin November 1st. I was going to start Oct. 30th, but they are giving me a few extra days so my new insurance co-pay year kicks in to pay for it. That means less out of pocket medical expenses for us.
Yesterday I was oriented to the process and briefed on what to expect. The main concern they have is what the radiation will do to my skin and how to handle that. They told me yesterday that it is very individual as to how tired people get doing the treatment. Some do fine the entire time and some get tired the last few weeks, some get pretty tired sooner. My own radiation oncologist thought I could expect a lot of fatigue because of just coming off of chemo, but the folks I met yesterday who do the treatments said it really varies. That was good news. We can pray that I don’t experience the extreme fatigue.
Yesterday’s appointment also included lining me up on the machine to determine with a CAT scan exactly how I will be placed for radiation. It needs to be very exact so that the radiation beams or fields go where they need to go, and miss my heart and most of my left lung. To make sure it is the same each time, they gave me 3 tiny black dot tattoos- one on my middle, one on my left and one on my right side. Since it involved what felt like a big needle, it was my least favorite part of the day. They have decided to do 4 fields of radiation which will take about 15 minutes each of the 30 times I go.
The doctor told me the 4th field would likely cause lymphodema in my left arm due to the scar tissue that will form as a result of the radiation. I would love to not have to deal with that, but would like us to pray for the Lord’s perfect will to be done. Lymphodema is a swelling of the arm (or other extremity) due to lymphatic fluid going into, and getting stuck and built up there. After the arm swells, it is a complicated process of massage and wrapping the arm to keep the build up from getting severe or causing infection- for the rest of your life. It is an expensive and time consuming condition and I would not like to take the time the Lord gives me to deal with it if I don’t have to. The doctor told I have at least a 30% chance of developing it within the next 1-2 years.
My blood is still testing low and high on some things. For instance, my white count is low even though I did the Neupogen shots to boost it after my last chemo. My oncologist told me he would watch and maybe have me do another 5 days of the shots if it looked like I needed them. I have emailed him and am expecting an answer later today. Pray he would have wisdom about whether I should do them. They would make me hurt in my muscles, hips, bones and back for a few days, BUT I would have more energy and better white counts for the trip I plan to take with Jenni, my 17 year old, to see PA and NY colleges October 22-29. I would like to start the shots this Friday, if I do end up doing them, so I can be over the side effects in time for our trip.
How am I doing now? Many are asking. I am tired, but am getting through about half a day before I need to rest. My feet are hurting more now with the neuropathy my oncologist told me I might get during the 2 months after finishing the Taxitere chemo. Me feet feel like someone hit them with a stick and then also are tingling. They worsen during the day, so I am ready to get off my feet by the time evening rolls around. I am having so many hot flashes I can’t count them anymore. I just wear layers and peel on and off the outer ones all day and night. That is really a bother, but not painful in any way.
My breast cancer support group met last week and we had a fantastic speaker. He is a doctor who does acupuncture and explained that to us and why it helps to fight cancer. Also my friends shared their radiation experiences with me so I could know what to expect. Thanks to any and all of you who supported the Race for the Cure on Sunday here in Denver. They had 26,000 participate this year. I pray that the money raised will help find a cure for this disease. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?
I finally finished my prayer letter which I am preparing for mailing today. Greg is leaving Friday for a 2 week time in the mountains, and Jesse will join him while Jenni and I are on our trip east. Their goal is to have good quality time together and hopefully bring home some organic meat for us. (Did I say that politically correct?) So prayers for Greg’s safety and for the Lord to “recharge his batteries” would be appreciated. Thank you for reading all of this and for your prayers and expressions of love.I am posting this on the blog as well. nancyupdate.blogspot.com God bless you! Nancy Fritz

Sunday, October 01, 2006

5 days after final chemo 10-1-06

Dear friends,
I thought I would write a short update. It is Sunday evening and I would like to ask for specific prayer. I made it through church this morning and to dinner out with Greg and friends tonight, but spent the rest of the day in bed sleeping and resting. The deep aching of this chemo cycle has set in- mostly in leg and arm bones and joints, as well as in my neck which is swollen and very sore. I am having some more of the predicted longer term side effects from the Taxitere like nerve damage to feet and hands showing up in these last several days (-and my fingernails are very sore). How much of it is short-term and just related to last week's treatment, and how much of it is what I was told to expect that could last for up to 18 months? I have had 4 out of my 5 Neupogen shots this cycle, which are boosting my white count currently. My last one is tomorrow. They should give me more energy and resistance to infection, but also make me extra sore for several days in my hips, spine and neck bones as the extra white cells grow and try to find where to go in my bones.
Pray for me to know the balance of rest and knowing how much energy I have to do things day to day. I need to decide whether to take pain medication from time to time, and do need to be careful as that medicine can effect my liver. Pray that my need for pain meds would decrease as time goes on. In a few weeks I should be past having a lot of the achy pain. It is such a balance.
My doctor ordered blood work for me for the next several weeks to make sure my body is bouncing back correctly. He may prescribe another 5 Neupogen shots in a few weeks, but I hope he doesn't need to.
I have learned that my health insurance with my HMO at Kaiser is intact while I do radiation. That is a very HUGE answer to prayer. So I am moving ahead and have radiation scheduled to officially start November 1st, with 2 appointments this month to set that up. Also, my wonderful and helpful port will be coming out in a few weeks. That, I have learned, is just an office visit, and will only cost a regular co-pay amount. That is good news! So all of this is coming together. With a month until radiation starts I hope to have extra energy back. My daughter Jenni and I plan to visit colleges in PA and NY October 22-29, so our prayer is that my strength improves steadily between now and then. Thank you for all of your love and prayers. I can feel your prayers as I go through these hours of extra awareness that the chemo is working in my body. May it be doing its job of killing cancer cells and may God give me grace to handle the side effects. When up in the night, I was comforted knowing many people are praying for us. Thank you for your faithfulness! God Bless you! Nancy