by Bob Harrison, author of Because of Annie
Many of you know Bob from our Communities and Facebook page. He has generously agreed to share excerpts of his deeply moving book, Because of Annie, with the community. In this chapter, Bob recalls the experience of starting chemotherapy.
July 7, 2008
Today started off with me giving Annie her pain pills and her first dose of melphalan. We had a bite to eat, then departed for Founders Circle where her outpatient surgery would be preformed.
At 9:00 A.M. I checked Annie into the surgical department where she had surgery about an hour later. After surgery, while Annie was in the recovery room, Dr. Lucas came out and told me the surgery went very well and that it was in fact amyloid wrapped around her nerves causing all the pain. He asked me to bring her back on the 16th of July for a follow-up.
Later in the afternoon I took Annie over to the cancer center for her IV Velcade and Prednisone. The latter tablet was a steroid Dr. Moore Sr. added on the 3rd of July. He also gave me a prescription for nausea medication as Annie was feeling very nauseated.
It was becoming apparent that I would soon be a primary caregiver as well as manager of our chaotic lives. With the impending doom and gloom staring us in the face every day, it was becoming increasingly difficult trying to stay focused in order to meet her daily needs.
July 8, 2008
Annie had her second dose of melphalan today, and with that being such a nasty chemotherapy, I knew she would be feeling the effects soon. With the two chemotherapies she was on, her blood counts would soon be dropping. Chemotherapy drugs don’t have the ability to identify good from bad blood cells, which can cause many deficiencies in the patient’s blood over a short period of time.
Today our daughter Victoria flew in from Alabama for a week. Not realizing how ill her momma was created a very humbling experience for her. This early in the cancer there wasn’t much laughter, just an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty.
July 9, 2008
Annie had her third dose of melphalan today, and seemed to be tolerating it for the moment; but it was obvious that Annie’s condition was deteriorating as her bone disease was getting worse, and her pain level was intensifying.
I called Dr. Moore Sr. and spoke to him about her intensifying bone pain. He decided to add one to two 15 milligram immediate release morphine tablets every four to six hours. Annie was now essentially on over 200 milligrams of morphine a day, plus Percocet as needed.
Dr. Moore Sr. told me our objective at this point was to stay ahead of the pain. He indicated that if I let her pain get out of control and had to play catch up, that it could be very dangerous, potentially leading to drug induced problems.
He further stated that Annie was in trouble and, “Pain pills are the least of our worries.” He had to somehow stop the cancer.
Before he got off the phone he asked me how Annie’s hand was doing. I told him it no longer appeared to be painful, but that she was hurting in so many other places I wasn’t sure she would even notice.
July 10, 2008
Annie was starting to get very tired, anemic and was suffering from further nausea. The nausea medication helped but didn’t stop the burdensome feeling of nausea. Her blood counts were now in free fall and dropping rapidly. I gave her the fourth and last dose of melphalan this morning along with her steroid.
At 1:30 P.M. we drove over to the cancer center for her IV Velcade.
July 12, 2008
Today I had to take Annie to the infusion center for two units of blood, as her HGB had dropped below 8.
The infusion center was a room about 40 feet long, 18 feet wide in places, and facing South. The first thing you saw when you entered the room was the nurses’ station located on the East wall about halfway down. The West wall of the room was lined with large recliners for folks having treatment to sit in. Each little treatment area had a television mounted near it, and a privacy curtain. The South wall was full of large windows and treatment areas with recliners too. A small portion of the Southeast wall had a couple of larger private treatment areas with just a few recliners and a bed in each area. The room was staffed by three nurses who were kept busy by the volume of patients coming in for transfusion or other blood work.
We were now dealing with two major problems. The cancer was compromising her bone marrow in such an adverse way that it was stopping the bone marrow’s ability to produce an adequate amount of healthy blood cells. The cells that were produced were mostly malignant plasma cells, and of course the chemotherapy was killing the good and bad cells. She was extremely tired, but I knew the blood transfusion would soon start filtering more oxygen to her body, which would help her feel better in a few hours.
Annie’s nephew Andre flew in from England today as Victoria would be returning to her home in a couple of days. When Andre arrived in Wichita, I’m sure he had no idea of the trauma he would witness, or the short term role he would play in helping me care for Annie.
July 14, 2008
We went to the cancer center today for a CBC and her next dose of IV Velcade. It was obvious that the Velcade was having a very adverse effect on her platelets as they were now at the critical low stage. The low platelets took my caregiver duties to a whole new level. It was now very important that Annie didn’t fall and bang her head as that can often lead to a brain hemorrhage, which is usually fatal.
From this point on things would start going tragically wrong for Annie. It’s difficult to accurately describe on paper the emotional roller coaster we were on and just how extreme her caregiving would become. Her struggle for survival was going to be tough, tragic, and full of love and companionship. Even though we didn’t know it at the time, through the many tragedies, Annie and I were going to become one. Our love for each other would have no boundaries.
You can purchase Because of Annie at Amazon.