Newton’s Third Law

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Although Sir Isaac was not into chemotherapy as far as I know, he seems to have nailed this one too. Dish out a hit? Look for a rebound.

The last couple of days have been about managing the cycle of damage and regeneration. Following our short excursion to the emergency room last week, we’ve pretty much been treading the predicted path. Action, reaction. Sherri is experiencing most of the usual side-effects from her recent cell destruction escapades, but for the most part she turns the corner in a few hours with application of the prescribed antidote. Since this is our first time out, it’s a bit unpredictable. We are trying to keep track so we can make some adjustments and maybe anticipate on the next round, if not to prevent side effects at least to deflect them. Sherri’s white blood cell counts are probably dipping low as we approach next weekend. The effect is waning energy, and having to lay off the raw sushi for a little longer while her immune system recovers from the smackaroo (don’t worry, she’s not that disappointed – she likes the veggie stuff anyway).  Also no visitors with colds, please… There are a few odd effects like extra sensitivity to cold in the finger-tips and strange feedback from the mouth and taste buds.

Zia and Anji started school this week, so there is new energy in the house!  Zia is a freshman in high school and Anji is in 7th grade, in case you were wondering. We are keeping the major balls in the air so far, with help from our friends.

[Thank you message on the Support page!]


Scientific Payback

Thursday we had a long day at Fox Chase, followed by a quick trip to the emergency room just to keep things interesting (more on that later – all is well now). We started the day with some preliminaries to make sure it was okay to proceed with Sherri’s first chemo session. This involved checking blood parameters and a review with the oncology team. We learned that a few small spots (< 1cm) showed up in her lungs on the CT scan results yesterday. This indicates possible spread, but does not change her course of treatment at all. So now it's time for science to give back for all that Sherri has given to science! This chemo infusion process is a highly choreographed sequence designed to get the bad cells, preserve the good cells, and repair the inevitable collateral damage. Guess that's why they call it a battle. Cancer cells want to be immortal, but even at the cellular level equality turns out to be a more successful system in the long run. Sherri received an initial "push" of two elixirs over about a 4-hour sitting period in the Infusion Room. A third elixir is being trickled in over the next 48 hours. There are some preemptive concoctions that are given to help with the side-effects. This first infusion is an educated guess on the levels that will work for her, then adjustments can be made to the doses of the basic regimen next time around. So far the side effects have been minimal, but some of the effects could be cumulative over time, and some take a little time to kick in. So about the emergency room. While administering the treatment at Fox Chase, Sherri started to notice some muscle twitching in her face. It wasn't alarming at that point, but after we got home it got worse and she started having trouble speaking. The oncologist said this was unusual, and wanted someone to look at her to rule out an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, Fox Chase does not take after hours emergencies, so they sent us to the local ER. A few hours, some additional blood work, and a head scan later, we were back home for a well-earned night's rest. So far on Friday Sherri is up and about and doing well.


Ports and scans

During the last couple of days Sherri has been prepping up for the initial kick. On Tues she got her “port” installed and then on Wed she got a baseline CT scan for comparison later. She’s been acting way too normal but I guess she wants to get that in while she can… Go girl!

Sherri is now a card carrying owner of a PORT-A-CATH POWER P.A.C. system (Deltec) made by Smiths Medical ASD, Inc. (no doubt a hidden subsidiary of Dracula Industries). This little titanium and polyurethane number resides camouflaged just under the skin, but provides direct access to the jugular (not kidding). Apparently a smaller port was installed than originally planned, confirming the petite nature of her circulatory system that has many Philadelphia area phlebotomists waking up in cold sweats at night. The port was installed surgically at Fox Chase with very little drama (thanks Dr. C!) and she recovered relatively quickly with the help of some crackers and warm blankets.

Sherri was back to Fox Chase today to celebrate her port with a bottle of barium (on the house). Actually this was to facilitate the CT scan, and they also put that port right to work by injecting some contrast dye to help illuminate the hidden details. No new surprises, please. This was the last trial run for tomorrow’s initial chemo session.

Check out Sue’s observations in the comments section below for another inside perspective on Sherri’s treatment.


Second Opinion

Today we met with an oncologist at Abington for a second opinion. They recommended the same chemo treatment regimen that we are already planning, so that was good to hear. They answered questions and gave us an example of a success story that helped confirm the promise of this initial treatment.

Some other preliminaries are being done to help set the baseline for evaluating progress, including a chest x-ray today and a CT Scan on Wed. Sherri’s sister Sue is here for a couple of days to help with getting through all these appointments! Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers that are helping us get through the week – we are feeling positive about this course of action.


Starting Chemo

We have a plan in place, and it will be starting this week.

Sherri is going to get a venous access “port” installed on Tues Aug 20 in the OR at Fox Chase; then they will be able to hook her up to her chemistry set. On Thu Aug 22, she is scheduled to start chemo. Given Sherri’s overall health her oncologist believes she can tolerate a relatively aggressive treatment consisting of a 3 or 4-chemical cocktail referred to as FOLFIRINOX. The chemo combo will be injected through the port, some right away and some using a portable pump in a fanny pack over a period of a couple of days. Then she’ll recover from that for two weeks (hopefully with some degree of normalcy), then do it again. After ~4 sessions (depending on tolerance), they’ll take a look at what’s happening with the tumors. Hopefully the cancer will “see a shrink.” We’re continuing to meet with oncologists, looking at possible clinical trials down the road, and evaluating her progress; but it’s important to get started now.


Staging the battle

Hello friends. Our goal with this site is that you’ll be able to get status reports on Sherri’s progress as she ramps up to battle Stage IV pancreatic cancer. You can read some BACKGROUND on Sherri’s condition, see a CALENDAR with a treatment timeline and other relevant events, and also find out about SUPPORT that is forming around the community. We are grateful to live in a community that responds without hesitation to situations like ours – thank you to everyone for your outpouring of love and activism.