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Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Journey Continues....

Having just read through my last blog entry I can't believe how things have developed in the last few weeks. Suzie's anxiety issues that were so acute a couple of weeks ago have settled down considerably, and the increased dose of her sleeping pills seems to be having a beneficial effect some nights. We have had a couple of nights during the last week or so when we've managed a good four or five consecutive hours of peaceful sleep. It's amazing what a difference that makes to Suzie's strength and capabilities the following day.
On the physical side of things, there have also been some significant developments. Suzie's breathing has been deteriorating for a number of weeks, but has been giving more rapidly increasing cause for concern in recent days. She has also developed some worrying and unpleasant digestive problems which are causing severe abdominal pain and bloating, along with decreased appetite and 'other problems'. The degree to which her abdomen is distended is having a significantly detrimental effect on her ability to sit comfortably, as well as decreasing her ability to move, and also making it infinitely harder for me to lift her (eg. from her chair to her bed, or whilst dressing her etc.)
As is so typical of God's perfect timing, we already had a follow-up appointment with the Oncologist scheduled in for yesterday, and so she was able to assess the situation. I was encouraged to find that she wasn't surprised to see the swelling of Sue's abdomen and seemed confident that it was being caused by the cancer and could be treated. (Our fear had been that it was a symptom of the MSA getting worse, and would therefore have been progressive and untreatable.) The Oncologist confirmed our suspicion that the cancer activity was continuing to increase but she was very reassuring and immediately set about a plan of action to address all of the presenting issues.
It's likely that Suzie will be admitted to Torbay Hospital for a night or two, probably later this week, to have an ultra-sound scan of her chest and abdomen, for the fluid to be drained, and to see if there's anything else that might be adding to the problems.  Another course of chemotherapy, which will be more prolonged and intensive than the last one, will be started as soon as possible and the Oncologist is hoping that she will be able to use an oral chemotherapy drug. The main advantage of this for Suzie is that it could be administered at home over a period of 10 consecutive days in every 3 week cycle and would necessitate only one trip to Torbay in each cycle. As long as Suzie can tolerate it, this will continue indefinitely as required in order to keep the cancer under control. The problem with the last treatment was that the cancer came back as soon as the chemo stopped. This regime should be more effective, but it might also cause different problems. We can only hope and pray that its benefits will outweigh its side effects. At some point Suzie will also have to have another CT scan to check if there is anything else going on.
Obviously, we would dearly long for none of this to be necessary. Suzie is particularly dreading the fluid draining procedure and the stay in hospital because it's likely that the staff may not understand her particular difficulties with speech and movement etc. caused by the MSA. But it is necessary, it was inevitable that it would become necessary at some point, and we're actually feeling relieved and thankful that they're going to get on with it sooner rather than later. We were dreading the thought that things might drag on, with Suzie feeling more and more unwell, and then, just when the weather gets better, her having to start on a course of treatment and procedures that would wipe her out, only to have her feeling better again just in time for next winter! At least this way there is every chance that things will be stabilised and she will be feeling a lot better and more comfortable by the time summer comes, and then we can get out and enjoy some quality of life. That is our hope, our goal and our prayer. 
The Good Lord knows what He's doing and we put our hope in Him. He has never promised that we won't have troubles in this world, but He HAS promised that He will be our strength, and that His love and grace will be sufficient to sustain us through it all. 
We have every confidence in that promise.... And that is what will enable us to face what the coming weeks hold. God bless you all.