If you’ve ever tried sweeping all the dog hair into the dust pan, then you have an idea of what it’s like to attempt a blog post after over a month of silence. Try as you might, the elusive hair puffs and floats away, resettling where you just swept moments ago. It’s impossible to capture it all without spending an inordinate amount of time trying. Similarly, every time I think about sitting down to write an update, my thoughts scatter in all directions–from the medical to the personal to the spiritual to the mundane. I’ve resigned myself to the impossibility of communicating it all in one update, and am resolved (October 15 is the new January 1) to just update more often. But for today, I’ll pass on some snapshot updates.
Medical: This past Thursday was Chris’s 19th infusion of chemotherapy and 6th of immunotherapy. Currently we’re on a two weeks on, one week off schedule. We’ll continue this plan for three more infusions and likely have another scan sometime mid-November. Chris is enduring and persevering well. Each week it’s felt harder for him to bounce back, and he’s developed a greater underlying fatigue and sensitive stomach. And yet we both continue to remember the many reasons we have to be grateful:
- He’s still never developed many “inevitable” side effects. While the chemo has taken a toll on Chris’s overall strength, I am continually amazed by the strength God gave Chris, both physically and internally. He has endured a lot with both grace and grit. He is strong.
- Chris has never had to miss an infusion because he wasn’t able to do it (i.e. white blood counts too low, too nauseated, etc.). We’ve had a few breaks because we’ve chosen to take them and had the assurance of both doctors that the breaks wouldn’t impact the effectiveness of the treatment. This fact is great for morale.
- Aside from some initial weight we both lost because we started eating healthier, Chris hasn’t lost any weight. I think I still prefer the white flour and sugar version of us both (haha!) but I’m thankful every week for a steady, healthy weight.
- Aside from on and off muscle aches in his back (which the doctor believes could be related to continued healing from before and low magnesium due to chemo), Chris has had no pain. Pain is an indicator the cancer could be growing or spreading, so no pain–especially no new pain–is encouraging.
- Chris’s labs continue to show normal, healthy liver function. The blood test and scan in November will give a better indication of what’s happening, but these little signs are also encouraging…better than the alternative!
What we’re praying for, medically:
- That Chris will be able to go through with the next three infusions before the scan. In other words, we’re praying his white blood cells, platelets, and magnesium levels will all be high enough (the chemo knocks them all way down and the only way to really get them up is to stop chemo).
- For the treatment to be effective. Our hope is that the November scan results will allow Chris to switch to a maintenance treatment plan, which would mean he’d continue immunotherapy every three weeks and the daily Cabozantinib pill but could stop the chemotherapy. The chemo is what really knocks him down every week and has cumulatively hit him pretty hard. We’d love for his body to have a chance to rebuild.
- That his back will improve. Right now it’s usually worst around treatment days and then sometimes wakes him up early in the morning (i.e. five or six a.m.). We’re still trying to troubleshoot with our bed…memory foam, different mattresses, etc.
A Week in the Life of the Lawrences:
Occasionally people have asked what exactly we’re doing…what is a typical week like. We’ve gotten into a sort of rhythm, so here it is:
Thursday: Infusion day. Chris’s mom, Marcia, or one of Pippa’s aunts, Anne or Diana, come over to hang out with Pippa so Chris and I can head to the Avera Cancer Institute for anywhere between 4-7 hours. Some weeks we tack on a check-in appointment with the doctor or have to wait for the labs to come in or some other delay keeps us there longer than other weeks. The actual infusion takes 3-4 hours. Then we come home, Chris settles in on the couch and we eat Chinese take-out for dinner. We’ve learned that chemo has a way of permanently ruining Chris’s taste for any foods eaten close to infusion, and since neither of us are especially attached to Chinese (Thai is our favorite!), we’re okay with it being on the forever-hate list on non-chemo days.
Friday: Recovery day. Chris usually goes for a walk in the morning while he still feels okayish, and then the rest of the day he sleeps or fights the queasiness on the couch with either t.v. or an audible book. The nausea meds are especially helpful and have kept him from having to skip any meals still.
Saturday: Another recovery day. Some weeks Chris begins to feel better by Saturday, other weeks it’s another nap/fight the nausea day.
Sunday: Hump day. Generally by Sunday Chris begins to feel better, though he may still take an afternoon nap. In our efforts to keep Chris healthy we haven’t been attending church and risking the collective germs and nursery funk Pippa (and we) would be exposed to. So far it’s worked; Chris has stayed healthy and cold-free. Instead, we usually get Pippa settled for a nap and listen to a sermon online and then spend some time praying together. In the afternoon we often spend time with family, go to a park or watch football.
Monday-Wednesday: Usually Chris feels more normal these days and heads into the office building his dad and brother share. They have an extra office he can use, so he uses these days to cram in a week’s worth of Lifelines work and general life stuff (i.e. bills, insurance claims, car maintenance, etc.)
Other than Thursdays when I’m with Chris for the infusion, my days are mostly spent taking care of Christopher and Pippa. Since we’ve been trying to avoid most refined flours, sugar, and eating less dairy, I’ve spent a fair amount of time researching and learning new recipes. We’re also all three at home for meals most days, so there’s prep and clean up three times a day. Of course the Littlest Bird in the Nest (see Instagram #littlestbirdinthenest) gets a lot of my attention–frequent trips to the park that’s just a few houses down from us, library visits (we’re at 600 of the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program here in Sioux Falls : ) ), and lots of time climbing on, over and around the furniture. At first I struggled with the volume of mundane tasks that fill the day–feeling guilty I wasn’t “doing more.” But then I finally recognized the obvious that my primary job is my family right now, so these tasks weren’t keeping me from more important things, they are the most important things. I’m thankful to have the freedom to be with these two so much.
Speaking of the Littlest Bird in the Nest, I have to give a little update on her, our constant source of sunshine. She continues to infuse pure, deeply felt joy into our lives. Here are a few of the things we enjoy most about her:
- She’s curious and tough: this summer, the first time she encountered a sprinkler, it sprayed right in her face when she approached it. She neither cried nor giggled, just paused, and then relentlessly marched towards the center, getting soaked and no doubt cold as there was a breeze and an overcast sky. Wearing a typically serious expression, she stuck it out with that sprinkler a good 10-15 minutes, going in and out, sprayed in the face, before I finally couldn’t take it anymore and took her out and put her in dry clothes.
- It’s obvious she has “old” parents as she now grunts every time she climbs up on something, picks up something “heavy,” or gets lifted out of her crib. Wonder where she learned that, haha!
- She loves books. She warms my soul every time she settles into the nest of blankets and pillows I lay out next to her bag of library books, and she spends anywhere from 5-45 minutes pulling books out, looking at the pictures and “reading.” The fact that the books are upside down half the time just makes me smile. This is often our morning ritual, and it gives me time to read then too.
- She’s like a puppy only way better. I often remark that having a 15-month-old is a lot like having a puppy because we find ourselves saying things like “no,” “come,” or “give it to Mama/Dada” all day long. I’ve also spent a fair amount of time teaching her how to go on walks with me to the park: to stay with me on the sidewalk, hold my hand crossing the street, and not chase after other kids or dogs. The first few times we went, she wanted to go zinging off in every direction and cried and cried in the middle of the street because she had to hold my hand. Now she’s practically a pro and trots all the way to playground without protest. Most of the time : ).
- She’s fearless (sometimes). A few weeks ago, when two neighbor dogs we didn’t realize were out started barking loudly and jumping up on the chain link fence about 15 feet away from us, Pippa was of course startled. I saw fear sweep across her face. But again, rather than crying, I saw her curl her hands into fists at her side and she started “Woo-woo-ing” back at them. I admit, I was proud of the fierceness I saw in her. Not too many days later, a train passing by the park and blasting its horn did make her cry, so she’s not always a super-hero : ).