Lincoln County News
February 10, 2000

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes yet another trip to the hospital by ambulance and tests reveal some disturbing findings. Christy heads out for a week's vacation in Jamaica and my parents and brother come to visit.

Jan. 30, 2000: Despite the transfusion on Tuesday, I am feeling increasingly tired and weak. I have been taking naps, and am feeling somewhat disoriented and confused when people phone me. In fact, I talked to my sister Peggy today, and within 10 minutes of ending the call, my father called. Peggy was so alarmed at my disorientation that she had immediately called him. After talking to me for a few minutes, he asked to talk to Ben. He told Ben that I sounded over-medicated, and to stop giving me the MS Contin (the morphine) right away, and to get in touch with Dr. Tom as soon as possible.

This is Super Bowl Sunday and all I can think of was my traditional Super Bowl pig-out of chili! I know that I can not possibly eat chili, because I am back on clear liquids as a result of renewed intestinal troubles, so even though really groggy, I am pretty bummed out. Through my fog, I am only aware of one of the teams playing, the Rams. I only make it to half- time before I retire to bed, blissfully unaware of the thrilling end of the game.

Jan. 31, 2000: Today Mary Ann Canfield is to be my helper for the day, but Ben calls her to cancel. I am feeling so bad we have a call in to Dr. Tom. He says to come right to the hospital where he will have me admitted directly to a room. Again I add to my frequent flyer miles on the Wiscasset Ambulance, this time with some of the crew who have transported me before. This time the problem seems to be less getting my pain under control and more resolving what appears to be over-medication.

Dr. Tom has scheduled x-rays after I get settled in. When they show nothing new, he orders a CAT scan of my head for Tuesday, and an ultrasound of my abdomen for Wednesday.

Ben has been canceling all of my helpers for the coming week, including some new people who have come forward to offer their help. Some of them are even nurses who have graciously volunteered their time.

Feb. 1, 2000: Tuesday was a day for planning and conferring by my doctors to determine what tests would need to be done and to assess the current situation. I had the CAT scan of my head in the morning done by my friend, Linda the CAT lady, which went quickly and painlessly, taking only a half an hour. I spent the bulk of the day disoriented, waiting for what would come next, as the doctors continued to observe me and determine what mixture of drugs might be best to treat the situation.

Feb. 2, 2000: We are still anxiously awaiting the results of Tuesday's CAT scan of my head, but first I have the ultrasound of my abdomen. They are looking for the cause of the swelling and pain there. Several spots are found on my liver which have been evident there since 1994 and are showing some changes.

When Dr. Tom comes in, he doesn't have good news about the CAT scan. There is a small tumor in my brain, surrounded by fluid. It is low on the left side, next to the thalamus. The most important issue to address is the brain tumor and how to manage and treat it. It can be treated with either conventional radiation, radio surgery or by drug treatment alone. Dr. Tom will discuss this with Dr. Jeff Young, my radiation oncologist, to decide on the best course to take. They will both confer with a neurologist before making a decision. It looks like the decision will be on hold for several days.

The news about the brain tumor comes as a surprise as I had assumed that my grogginess was the result of an increasing response to the drugs I am taking. I feel very much like I did when on the heavy-duty IV morphine on my first trip here back in December.

Christy arrives this evening for a quick overnight visit. She and Nils will be going to Jamaica for their annual 7-day vacation in Negril. I am glad to see them taking this break because they need and deserve it. They stay at a small resort, a harrowing 3-hour ride in a decrepit Dodge van from the airport. But when they get there, they will enjoy themselves snorkeling, sunbathing and dining in this idyllic setting.

Feb. 3, 2000: Christy spends the day working with me on my book. I am determined to complete a foreword and summary to this book, which will be a compilation of my columns. This has not been easy for me because all I have ever written was my weekly journal entry, which I have shared with my readers. So if my readers don't like my book, they don't have to buy it! You can be sure that my book will always be available at Canfield's, and book signings will be held there regularly.

Christy leaves mid-afternoon to make a quick appearance at work to tie up some loose ends before leaving for Negril in the morning. I am looking forward to my next big highlight of excitement which will be the arrival of my parents and brother on Saturday afternoon. Ray and my dad will be staying until Monday, and my mother will stay on longer to spend more time with me.

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