Saturday, July 28, 2012

Nurse Rita

Watching the opening ceremony of the London Olympics last night (the segment featuring the amazing nurses and doctors), I couldn't help but think about my mom and her adventures in London in her youth.  I spoke with her for several hours today about her time in London since she was feeling somewhat "normal".

A lot of people don't know this, but mom use to be a nurse at Kingston Hospital in Middlesex, London. She resided there from age 18 to 21. She did rounds in the children's ward with very sick kids. She said how it broke her heart to come in on any given morning and see an empty hospital bed. She said that was one of the main reasons, she stopped being a nurse. It weighed heavy on her heart seeing the innocent dying.

I remember when I was sick as a kid with chronic bronchitis and how miserable it was.  But it was always so comforting knowing that my mom was taking care of me.  She made everything better. There's nothing that can compare to a mother's love. I hope these past few months I can do a fraction of comfort, she's done to me. I love my mom...

Nurse Rita

Thursday, July 26, 2012

No Stomach for Cancer

I am excited to announce that in a few weeks, my mom (Rita) will have her very own jewelry line called the Rita Collection. I recently teamed up with the very talented, Jana Litecky who is the owner of Jana Litecky's Jewelry, to design some pieces of jewelry that honors my mom. I met Jana earlier this year at a Zumbathon charity event that we donated our photography services at. I remember immediately liking Jana's business model because it was quite similar to our Zumba charity program in our photography business. 

With any purchase on her website (, she donates 20% of the proceeds to a charity of your choice. I was thrilled beyond belief that she agreed to go along with my idea of having No Stomach for Cancer be a charity choice when you purchase. Not only will she donate 20% of proceeds from The Rita Collection, but she will donate 20% of any other purchases on her site too.

The strong hearted people at No Stomach for Cancer are great! Not only have they helped me personally these past few years, but they've done so much with regards to awareness and funding research of stomach cancer. They are a small organization but offer a lot of support in the stomach cancer community. This is why I support them and I am hoping that the Rita Collection is successful.

I surprised my mom with the news yesterday. She was amazed that people she didn't even know, loved and supported her. She is very touched.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Hail Mary

Today I pick up the pieces, take a deep breath and push onward. I am digging deeper each and every day that goes by for the strength to do this. Why? Because, there is no alternative.

I had a lengthy phone conversation with Dr. A this morning and we went over several new treatment regimes to explore. As with any chemo treatment, we are not sure if it will be responsive but we are giving it a shot. We both agreed that we had to try a completely different new drug combo and not a modification of EOX. He consulted with the team at Mayo and they suggested a regime of two new drugs (docetaxel and ironotecan). According to Dr. A, this combo has a 40% of tumor/cancer shrinkage but it really depends on how an individual body will respond to it.

At this point, it's sort of a Hail Mary...a move out of desperation towards the 'end' with only a small chance of success. Mom has until Tuesday to decide if we go this route or stop chemo completely and ride it out.

The three of us on mom's 60th birthday - Love you MOM!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Heart Aches

Tonight, I write this post in tears. We got some bad news today when we met with Dr. A. The results from my mom's CT scan came back and shows that the chemo treatment isn't working. In fact, the tumors increased in size and the cancer seems to be spreading in the chest. The EOX treatment was the first line treatment to battle this. Dr. A will call me tomorrow to go over possible second line treatments and change things up. He wanted to make some calls and do more research.  As it stands now, if this new regime doesn't work or she chooses to stop treatment, she's got a few months left. My heart ached as I saw my mom break down when she heard today's news. I am so frustrated and tired of beating kicked repeatedly when I am already down. It was hoping for a bit of good news for once. Why is this happening? Why must my mom suffer?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chemo: Round 2

Chemo - Round 2 (not a bad self pic)
Last Thursday, mom started her second round of chemo treatment. Since she had a set-back in round one, Dr. A  reduced her chemo infusions by 15% for the second round. Her chemo pill (Xeloda) was also cut in half since it was just easier to do that in pill form.  The first 2-3 days following chemo wasn't too bad. She was able to take food in and was not feeling too run down. This was primarily due to the Emend naseau iv that they gave her -- that drug does wonders! I wish she can be hooked up to that 24/7.

Over the weekend, she slipped again though -- lots and lots of naseau and fatigue. It's heart wrenching how your spirits can be deflated in such a short amount of time.  Today (Monday, June 16th), we ended up going in for a follow-up and they got her some hydration, more Emend and an energy boost. So, she was feeling pretty good tonight. She even said to me, "Baby...I feel so good now. I feel normal. I know it won't last but I just wanted you to know that I am ok for now and you do what you need to do to take care of yourself the next couple of days". She insisted that I get my hair done and for me to see my chiropractor since all the hustle and bussle has caused me some back pain.  It was somewhat comforting to have her in that role again...worried about me.

A friend of mine in the stomach cancer community suggested that I join some groups online for primary caregivers. I was skeptical at first but honestly, it's been so therapeutic. I've been talking with the most  strong hearted people who are experiencing exactly what I am going through. I know that my personal support network has been amazing but it's just different. As much as people care...they don't fully understand what it takes physically, mentally and emotionally each and every day to be a primary caregiver. The decisions you have to make...not knowing if it will result positively or be a set-back, the frustrations you endure, the feeling of hopelessness of those bad days etc. So many things at play.

One member told me something that really stuck with me, "Life can be difficult, and very short and fragile, so enjoy the good moments and endure the bad". Thank you DW.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

It's hard to believe that exactly six months ago, we lost Sandra. It was Friday, the 13th of January 2012. I must be crazy..but January seemed like it happened years ago. I feel like so much has happened and I've experience a lifetime of emotions since her death. Apart of me feels guilty because I really never got a chance to fully mourn her because it was only a few months after she passed that my mom's health deteriorated and all my energy was refocused. With Rajen, I had years to mourn him , come to grips with his death and eventually accept his death. It was the natural order of things.

But now, it's different. I feel like 'death' is just something that happened and will continue to happen. Just like some casual normal nonchalant thing. Crazy, I know! Perhaps it's just my way to cope with all of this so that I can get through each day.

I do miss her but I feel like she isn't gone because I haven't really processed that she's not with us anymore.

Sandra visits my house. Perfect day of pizza and Vikings football.
Sandra, mom and I at one of the many fun parties back home in Guyana. Those were the days!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Recovering from the First Round

After a 5-day stay at the hospital, mom was discharged. Her blood counts were back up and so was her spirits. They loaded her up with high nutrition ivs, supplements, pain meds etc. to get her feeling "normal" again.

The doctors decided to give her a week break before starting the second round of chemo (initially she was going to do them back to back). The past week was very nice - no crappy chemo symptoms to battle with! Mom seemed like her old self. She was still very tired and not 100% but it was a whole lot better than the official chemo weeks. During this time, I also have been making a strong effort to also fatten her up. The first round hit her very hard and she lost a lot of weight. So, I'v been trying to maintain or gain as much as possible with high calories protein shakes and other things that she can manage to keep down.

Tomorrow, we start round two chemo. They are going to be lowering the dosage a bit to make it less harsh on her body. Even though it's chemo, I look forward to spending the 5-7 hours just talking with her during the infusion. It makes my heart feel good.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Rocky Few Days

I'm finally getting a chance to write after a very rocky few days. To make a long story short, mom is in the hospital.

On Thursday afternoon, we went in to get some IV fluids at the oncology clinic since she's been feeling really crappy. We told the nurse of all the issues she was having and they did some rush blood work. We got the results right away and the results were not good. Both her white and red blood counts were critically low. They scheduled her for an emergency appointment with Dr. A that Friday morning. In that appointment, mom was evaluated and Dr. A wanted her to get admitted into the hospital right away. With her bloods counts as they were,  she needed medical attention asap and they are putting a halt on chemo.  Her white blood count is especially low that if she were to get an infection, it would be very troublesome.

So,  that's where I've spent the last few days....many many hours in the hospital spending as much time with her as possible without burning out myself. Comforting her in a very scary situation and telling myself that it will be okay and not yet.... It's definitely not easy to watch your mom suffer and in pain but I am thankful that she's here now. I am right beside her as we go through this together and every time I leave her I give her a big kiss on her cheek and tell her I love her.

Celebrating mom's birthday in 2007