Tag Archives: Joyce’s Journey

Joyce’s Journey: Knee Replacement + Cancer Update

Joyce's Journey Update at pamelapetrus.comWe’ve had a few developments in Joyce’s Journey lately, so I thought I’d share a quick update. Over the summer, Mom had a full knee replacement on her left knee. The surgery was done in July and within no time she was doing way better than average. The physical therapists were very impressed with how quickly she was able to really use the knee and released her from therapy earlier than usual. We had a follow up with the doctor a week ago, and he insisted that her x-rays could be used in a text book, showing exactly how the process is intended to go. She is using the knee wonderfully!

We also switched her cancer care to Louisiana Oncology this month. (This is the clinic where Matthew works and it’s much more convenient for Mom.) She was very pleased with the new doctor, Dr. Gallagher, and is excited to feel at home in the new clinic. It’s been right at two years since her cancer diagnosis and one year and six months since the surgery. Her blood work came back wonderfully this week and the doctor said he sees nothing of concern right now in terms of recurrent cancer. Of course, we’ll always have to monitor things closely. However, her tumor marker was a glorious 2.5 this month. (It was 4.5 in May and anything under 5 is considered “normal.”) Seeing how far the tumor marker has dropped was a reason to celebrate in itself!

As of right now, Mom’s biggest obstacle to overcome is her back pain. We’ve recently discovered that the pain stems from scoliosis, arthritis in her back, and probably osteoporosis. There’s not really much that can be done about the condition of her back. However, we’re hoping to find some ways to manage the pain within the next few weeks.

All in all, things are looking wonderful! It’s quite amazing to think about everything that’s happened in just two short years, and I’m happy that we’re mainly fighting your average battles these days, not those hefty ones. If you’re new to Mom’s story, you can click the “Joyce’s Journey” tag below to follow a bit of the story. Thank you to everyone who has followed along and continually sent prayers and thoughts our way. It’s been most encouraging and my entire family appreciates your support!

This photo was taken as she zoomed through Wal-Mart shortly after the knee surgery. Hide your babies.

Joyce’s Journey: Six Month Checkup

Joyce's JourneyIt’s time for a #JoycesJourney update! This past week Mom went for her six month oncology checkup. It’s been almost nine months since her surgery and six months since she was cleared by the doctors. I’m happy to say that we have good news to report today!

Last week, we had an appointment with the surgeon, Dr. Werner, in Shreveport. He said that her incisions are healing very nicely and everything seems to be just fine…better than most actually. She’ll return to him in three months for another check.

On Monday, we visited her oncologist, Dr. Weinberger, for the biggest of the tests. He said that all of her blood work looked good. Her white and red blood cell and platelet counts are all good. Her kidneys and liver are both functioning properly. He didn’t hear any issues with her lungs and didn’t feel any trouble with her lymph nodes. All of the signs say that we are healing perfectly and cancer free!!

Of course, Mom was a little nervous about these appointments, but we’re thrilled to have gotten a good, clean report. We’ll see the oncologist again in February and have another colonoscopy then. If everything looks good in February, she won’t have to be checked again for another 3-5 years!

Both my mom and I appreciate everyone’s thoughtfulness through this process. This time last year, we were kicking off chemo and radiation treatments. It’s simply amazing how much can transpire in a year, and how much the encouragement of others can help during tough times like these. My family and I are so incredibly thankful that we can report good news just one year later. We can’t thank you enough for taking this journey with us. Feel free to leave a comment for Mom here. She loves to come and read them!

To read the full story, click here.

P.S. Mom still has a little trouble getting around sometimes because of her knees. (Surgery prep for knee replacements is actually how we found the cancer.) This photo was taken at Wal-Mart as she learned to drive the motorized scooter. This was her second attempt at driving a scooter, and let’s just say it went much better than the first! She’ll be a pro in no time!

Joyce’s Journey: Post Surgery Update

Willis Knighton PierremontIf you’ve been following along with my facebook updates, you know that Mom’s surgery was completed on Tuesday of last week. It was roughly a three hour procedure, and everything seemed to go smoothly. As with any major surgery, she’s had ups and downs along the way, but overall she’s doing well.

Here’s where we stand as of today…

The surgeon assured us that they removed the entire tumor. Pathology reports did show Stage 1 cancer cells around the area that was removed, so there’s a chance we’ll have to do more chemo. We will know more about that strategy once we meet with her oncologist back in Monroe. However, the report showed that her lymph nodes were clear, so that’s wonderful news.

The staff seems to think that she may get to go home tomorrow. We’ll meet with the post-op staff before leaving to discuss her new care routine. She should be able to care for herself once we leave, but they’re considering having home health come by periodically for a bit. We won’t know for sure until the doctor comes back by in the morning, but keep your fingers crossed that we get the green light!

All in all, she’s done really well. She seems to be in pretty high spirits, and her mood is conducive to a speedy recovery. The facility and staff at Willis Knighton Pierremont have been wonderful. The room is nice and spacious. We even have a couch for us to sleep on when we stay overnight with her! This was reason to celebrate in itself, especially if you saw what we had to sleep in during her last hospital stay. The staff is so very caring and helpful, and Mom has been very appreciative of the good care she’s received.

For now, we’re going to camp out and see what the doctor says in the morning. Thank you to everyone who’s messaged and/or called to check in or send well wishes. We’ve appreciated each and every word of encouragement, and my siblings and I feel so lucky to have such great friends and family. We love you all!

You can read more about our journey here. You can also follow along with the #JoycesJourney on facebook, instagram, and twitter.

Mom Update: Surgery & A New Apartment

Mom's New ApartmentThings are moving along nicely with Mom’s treatment plan, but I thought I’d give everyone a quick update of where we are.

As you know, she completed her chemo and radiation treatments right before Christmas. Our next plan of attack is surgery to remove the tumor, which is currently scheduled for February 25. In the meantime, she’s under strict instructions to take her medications regularly, eat well, and get lots of exercise. She needs to build lots of strength to be prepared for the surgery. We go back to Shreveport on February 12 for the pre-op appointments. As of right now, they’re expecting her to spend one week in the hospital there before returning home.

In other news, she got the keys to her new apartment this week! She’s pretty excited to get moved in and has really enjoyed preparing for and making plans to decorate the new place. We’ll spend most of the weekend getting her settled in, and I’m sure she’s looking forward to getting back into a routine.

As always, she thoroughly appreciates all of the sweet messages and comments. We still have a few hurdles to jump, but we’re making good progress. Feel free to leave her a note of encouragement here. She loves reading them!

Our Final Chemo/Radiation Treatment!

Mom's Last TreatmentYesterday marked Mom’s very last chemo and radiation treatment!! I’m going to let that sink in for a bit.. It’s a really big deal…

I haven’t been able to do a full update on Mom lately, but rest assured that we’ve been fighting hard over here in My Neck of the Woods.

Here’s the quick version:

  • We spent a week in the hospital – dehydration, low blood pressure, dropping potassium levels, mystery infection, and a host of other and much more harsh symptoms. She’s a trooper though. (She got out just in time for Matthew and I to leave for Thanksgiving in Nashville.)
  • She spent Thanksgiving week recovering from the long and tough hospital stay.
  • We had a really good week.
  • Insurance required her to try another version of her medicine, which made her treatment symptoms rush back in full force.
  • We had a really bad week.
  • We got the medicine switched back and are currently working on getting her leveled out again.

RadiationBasically, this whole experience has been a series of ups and downs – a roller coaster of feelings, symptoms, and emotions. Every single day was/is different. Some days she felt great…others were bad. The worst part for me has been watching. I suppose it’s sort of like having a sick child…you see that they’re hurting and there’s nothing you can do to fix it. This is particularly hard for me because I’m a “fix it” kind of gal.

As things got tougher and tougher on her, I’ve had to steadily remind myself that this is cancer. Cancer. It’s not a pretty thing. It’s not easy. As a matter of a fact, it’s hard. I can’t fix everything because this treatment plan is unavoidably hard.

RadiationNo matter how hard the last week has been, there is always a silver lining. Now, we can celebrate her being DONE with these treatments. This amazingly strong Mama of mine has knocked out 8 weeks of chemo and radiation! (It was six weeks of treatment, 1 week in the hospital, and 1 week of rest.) She’s still not feeling well, but they say she should start feeling more normal within the next 3 weeks or so. I’m optimistically hoping “normal” comes a lot more quickly than that. Honestly, I’m hoping that each passing day of not going to treatments brings with it a slight improvement for her.

What’s next? We will follow up with both her oncologist and radiation oncologist in 3 weeks. The current plan is to let her rest and recover for 6 weeks and then follow up with the surgery to remove the rest of the tumor after that. The surgery will take place in Shreveport and should have a week-long recovery in the hospital there. We will know more definite details once we follow up with the surgeon.

RadiationAll in all, we’re making good progress. In my opinion, the hardest part is over. We knocked those treatments out! She’s not completely out of the woods yet, and she’s certainly not feeling herself. However, progress is progress and we’ve made a huge leap towards the finish line. Please keep lifting her up and sending well wishes and happy thoughts our way. She appreciates every comment, prayer, and message that you send. Feel free to leave a comment here. She is my most loyal reader, after all!

The above pictures are from the radiation treatment room. You can keep up with the process with the #JoycesJourney on twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Also, read the most recent Mom updates here.

Mom on a Scooter

It’s been a little over one week since Mom began her chemo/radiation treatments. That means one whole week down and just five more to go!

The first few days were pretty uneventful, with Mom hardly feeling any different. As last week neared its end, we noticed she wasn’t feeling quite as good as before. We’re not sure whether it was just an average dip or if she was seeing some of the side effects of treatments. Both doctors said they didn’t expect her to realize many of the troublesome side effects like nausea and fatigue, especially so soon, so we’re really hoping those couple of days were just coincidental. Either way, Mom was very happy to have the weekend off from treatments.

Northeast Louisiana Cancer Institute

As of right now, her main complaint is having to set an alarm to get up and dressed every morning! She certainly isn’t a morning person (neither am I), so she doesn’t particularly like having to be somewhere at a certain time. However, I must commend the Northeast Louisiana Cancer Institute for being the most punctual doctor’s office that I’ve ever been to! Our appointments are at 10:15 every morning. (Yes, Mom doesn’t like having to leave the house by 10:00…that’s too early!) We arrive a little after 10:00. They call her name promptly at 10:15, and we’re headed out the door by 10:30! That is simply amazing!

In addition to being amazingly quick and on time, the staff is also the most outstanding group of healthcare professionals that I’ve ever come in contact with. Every single person that works in this office is genuinely sweet, caring, and uplifting. Each person you come in contact with offers a smile and friendly greeting. I’ve seriously never walked into an office that radiates so much positivity. There’s usually at least one bad egg in the bunch, but not here. We are so lucky to have such an awesome team taking care of Mom right now.

Mom in front of Bayou ChocolateWhile Mom had a few bad days last week, the past two have been pretty good. She’s felt much better and more energized, allowing her to be more active. On Tuesday, we ran a few errands that included a trip to Target. As many of you know, Mom is awaiting a knee replacement (which is actually how we found this tumor), so sometimes it’s a bit tough for her to get around. I finally convinced her to try one of the scooters to spare her some knee pain. If anything, the experience provided us both with enough laughs to cause pain in our sides, and everyone in Target knows to stand clear next time they see Joyce Bryant coming! On a semi-serious note, it’s a good thing that Targets clothing racks are on wheels…they scooted this way and that way as Mom tried to navigate those aisles! We may or may not have almost rolled one over a lady in the baby department. Needless to say, she wasn’t nearly as amused as we were.  I mean, a sense of humor must be hard to come by these days. In Mom’s defense, that scooter was rather bulky. However, I wish I had a video to share with you guys. After all, you deserve a good laugh too!

Mom on Scooter

All in all, we’re still trucking along quite nicely. I expect that we’ll have a mix of good days appreciate everyone continually checking in with us, and Mom enjoys the sweet comments. Please keep them coming!

Read the last two updates here and here.

Ready for Treatments

I posted an introduction to my Mom’s new journey on Wednesday. We nailed down a treatment plan this week, so I thought I’d give everyone an update.

Oncology AssociatesWe met with the oncologists who will be overseeing Mom’s chemo/radiation this week. We were very happy to find out that while she will have to do the chemo through the entire 6 weeks of radiation, she will get to take the pill form rather than IV. I can’t even explain how happy she was about this discovery. Life is all about the small victories, right? The oncologist (Dr. Weinberger) said that we may have to do some intravenous chemo after the surgery but that will depend entirely upon what the pathology report says after surgery. Fingers crossed that we won’t need any additional chemo!

In addition to our small win with the chemo pills, the radiation oncologist (Dr. Zollinger) said she shouldn’t have very many nasty side affects from the radiation. He thinks that a sore, blistered bottom will be the most difficult side effect she’ll face. This won’t be fun (imagine a bad sunburn on your bum), but it could certainly be worse. If anyone has any tips for managing this, we’re all ears. Both Dr. Weinberger and Dr. Zollinger say they don’t expect either forms of treatment to make her nauseous or fatigued, and she won’t lose her hair. Let’s count that as another win!

The appointment with Dr. Zollinger went relatively well. The doctor and nurses were amazing at explaining things, asking questions, and filling us in on all of the details. We weren’t expecting to, but we ended up doing the prep work for radiation while we were there, so we are ready to go as soon as our chemo pills are delivered. (Update: The chemo pills arrived today, so we will be ready to start treatments next week!)

Not Happy MommyThe prep process was a bit tough on mom. As you can see in that last picture, the patient was not very excited about having to have another physical. After determining that she was healthy enough for the treatments, they took her back to set up the radiation process. She had to lay on a weird table with her stomach in a hole (to shield her other organs), and they marked where the radiation will be done. She was rather drained after the process, but she’s happy to be one step closer.

All in all, the past few days have been productive, informative, and primarily positive. We are happy for our small “wins” and a plan. Right now the patient is traipsing around Monroe somewhere. I’ve instructed her to be home before midnight, but she doesn’t always follow the rules.

Happy MommyIf you’d like to keep up with the journey, you can follow along with the #JoycesJourney hashtag on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter…as well as checking back here regularly. She loved the comments on the last post, so keep them coming!

(This post was written on Thursday evening after the radiation oncologist appointment. See the first update here.)

Cancer.

Mom and MeThe past couple of weeks have been a little rocky. Unfortunately, we received some not-so-great news about my Mommy Dearest. While at a somewhat routine exam, we found a very large rectal tumor that turned out to be cancerous. The original prognosis was very bleak and had us all quite worried. However, the good news is, the cancer hasn’t spread and the surgeon thinks we’re going to be able to knock this out with surgery and a few weeks of treatments.

The current plan is to do six weeks of radiation treatment with a few rounds of chemo to kick it off. Then, we’ll let her body rest for six weeks and follow up with surgery to remove the tumor. Obviously, my mom isn’t thrilled, but we are pretty excited to have the chance to fight. We weren’t sure we would have that opportunity at first.

Anyone who knows my mom knows that it’ll take a heck of a lot more than a little (or not so little) tumor to set her back. While she might have a tough road ahead, we are a tough family, and this is just another bump in the road for us. We are encouraged. We are positive. And we will win. We will persevere and come out on the other side stronger, better, and ready for the next challenge. No doubt.

Why am I sharing this here? There are a few reasons actually.

  1. I use this space to document my life. This experience has been a big part of the last several weeks and will be an even bigger part of the next few months. Simply put, I don’t feel like I can write about fall wreaths and my favorite skinny jeans without also showing this side of my world.
  2. I truly believe in the power of being positive, even through the tough times. If I can share a positive outlook on such a dreary subject, maybe someone else will be empowered in their situation.
  3. Cancer is hard. Been there, done that. It’s a disease that affects many people at some point or another in their lives. By sharing our journey, I’m hoping to help someone find hope in theirs.
  4. Life is composed of the good, the bad, and the ugly. While I strive to make this space a positive one, I don’t believe in sugarcoating things or painting a false picture. My goal in sharing this journey is to show that everyone faces hard times. I don’t post on bad days, but believe me, they come. This part of my family’s journey is real, and I want to be real with my readers.

All of this being said, I still want to maintain a positive outlook here on My Neck of the Woods. However, we are beginning to fight cancer in My Woods, and I feel like it’s only fair to share. My sincere hope is that sharing this journey will inspire or provide hope to some of my readers. All prayers, well wishes, and happy thoughts are certainly appreciated. I share every message, text, call, and post with my mom, so feel free to leave some encouragement for her here.

(Photo from Mother’s Day 2013.)