Oct 1, 2007

Sandy Update

It has been a while since I've updated you all on Sandy's battle with breast cancer. She had been fighting hard and still seemed to be fighting hard even a few weeks ago as her husband Mike writes in this email:

From: Mike
Subject: update 9/16/07
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2007 19:16:30 -0500

Hello to all. It’s been a couple of weeks since I have written an update. This one was hard to write so it took me some extra time.

The last few updates have focused on Sandy’s radiation burns and her fight to recover from those burns and the nausea and fatigue she was experiencing. Well, the burns are still with her, but are getting better ever so slowly. She has more area that is less tender although she still has some setbacks occasionally in areas that I thought were healing. And I think we figured out the biggest culprit in the nausea too. Sandy is on so many medications that she and I figured that something must be causing the nausea. I read through all the possible side effects from all the medications and kept coming back to the antibiotic as the most probable cause. So two Wednesdays ago (on 9/5) we talked to the radiation oncologist and told her we wanted to stop the antibiotic. She agreed that Sandy should stop and see if the nausea got better and if the skin continued to not show signs of infection. Sandy’s nausea has been better and her skin does not show any signs of infection at this point. In fact, on Wednesday 9/12 the doctor told us we could come back in two weeks instead of one week. So we have all good news on the burn healing and nausea fronts. Slow and steady but moving forward.

The fatigue improved after the transfusion which took place on August 29th. Sandy still has more energy than she had before the transfusion, but her energy level has been dropping. The downside to the transfusion was that Sandy did not get her weekly chemo that day and by the next week (9/5) it was obvious that the cancer was spreading. Sandy has been through so many chemos and each one worked for a while and then quit working. We had hoped that this last one she was on would be the answer, but it now seems that it is becoming ineffective.

Last Wednesday Sandy received another dose of the weekly chemo along with a dose of the every third week chemo. The thought is that the combination may still have some effect. At the same time, her blood counts have been dropping since the transfusion so the oncologist is giving her next week off. That gives Sandy’s body a chance to recover a little more and allows the doctor to use a more powerful shot to increase her blood counts. Since Sandy got the shot on Thursday 9/13, she can’t have more chemo until Friday 9/28 so that is the next appointment with the oncologist. We tied the radiation oncologist in to the same day for the next skin check so we only have to go into the cancer center once that week.

The biggest prayer request I have tonight is that Sandy is running out of options and we need a miracle to find a treatment that will work and we need to find it now. I know everyone is doing all you can, but I ask that you don’t give up and continue the effort with Sandy. She is such a fighter it amazes me. Thank you for being a part of Sandy’s prayer warrior team.

Love, Mike

We didn't get any more news until Saturday, and it was not good:

From: Mike
Subject: update 9/29/07
Date: Sat, 29 Sep 2007 14:36:34 -0500

Prayer team,

I am sorry to tell you all that the news isn’t getting any better. We consulted with the doctors last week and determined that there are no other options available for Sandy. We contacted Hospice on Monday (9/24) and the nurse made her first visit on Tuesday. We did not go see the doctor this week – there is no reason to put Sandy through that if there is no treatment that can be given. We expected this to be a slow process over several months but we don’t call the shots.

Sandy was doing pretty well on Monday and Tuesday of this week. Nancee and Wanda visited her on Monday and Jessica visited her on Tuesday. They all would have given good reports if asked. Wednesday morning, things started to go down hill - Sandy got considerable weaker and just plain sicker. By Friday morning, it was obvious that she was not getting better. The nurse came over around noon and verified what I thought. She noted that everyone is different and each case is different, but she suggested that I call the kids and tell them to come over as soon as they could. I called Matt and he got a flight in last night. I told Sandy that all the kids were coming home to see her and it seemed to make her happy. She had been fighting so hard all day on Friday that I feared she would miss them.

Kimberly got home from school around 4:30, Jessica came over around 7:00 and Matt got home around 9:00. Sandy perked up each time she saw one of the kids and seemed happiest when all three of them were around her bed last night. She drifted in and out of sleep while we talked to her.

She actually seemed a little better this morning for a while, but is just worn out and tired of fighting. Although we have no way of knowing, I don’t think it will be long now.

Please continue to pray for her that she can make this last transition of her life at complete peace. Thank you for your support and prayers,

Love, Mike

Finally, yesterday, we got an email that was very hard to read:

From: Mike
Subject: update 9/30/07
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2007 21:36:40 -0500

Prayer team,

As many of you know, Sandy died this afternoon at 4:05 pm.

She spent all night last night talking about all kinds of things, most of which I couldn’t understand. I went to bed around 10:00 and she was resting peacefully. She started talking around 11:00 and kept talking until around 8:00 this morning. She would talk for a while saying stuff I couldn’t understand and then say a few words or names as clear as could be. I spent all night hopping up out of bed to figure out what she was telling me. I am not sure I gained much wisdom, but I think she cleared her thoughts.

This morning I called Wanda, Nancee, and Ray to see if they wanted to see Sandy. I told them that the time was short and she was restless. The Hospice nurse told me that she may have someone she still needs to see. Wanda, Nancee and Ray came over around noon and after they left Sandy’s breathing seemed to become more labored.

She stayed true to being a mother first even as she died. Matt, Jessica, Kimberly and I were with her all afternoon – at least one of us all the time. We hooked up a DVD player and started showing some home movies of when the kids were little. Sandy always said that was her favorite time in her life. She labored to breath while we ate lunch up in the bedroom with her and watched home movies. Every once in a while she would smile at what she heard or saw on the movie. Jessica was alone with her for a while before 4:00. Just after 4:00, Jessica went downstairs as Kimberly went into the bedroom. Sandy quit breathing during that time. I believe she was protecting her kids from seeing her die and I believe she died at peace.

We are going to miss her terribly, but we know that she is in a better place. She was in so much pain and fought so hard for so long, that it is comforting to know that she is at peace.

Once again I thank you for your prayers and support during these last 16 months and ask that you continue to pray for us as we struggle with this loss. We will be making final arrangements tomorrow but tentatively we will have a visitation on Wednesday at Baue funeral home in St. Peters and the funeral will be on Thursday at St. Paul’s in Creve Coeur. I’ll try to update you if that changes.

Love to all, Mike

I don't know why, but today I picked up the phone and gave Matt, my good friend, a call. But there just wasn't anything to say. All I could manage was to tell him that I loved him and to let me know if there was anything I could do. And to let me know if there is anything I can do for him when we both get back to DC. I don't want to draw this post out any longer, but please pray for the whole family. Pray for peace and understanding. I'll have more details regarding final arrangements and will post them.

Posted by PicasaKimberly,Matt, Jessica and Sandy in late 2003

Sandy encouraged me during my own battle with her strength and courage. At Matt's wedding, I was an usher and we all wore pink ribbons on our lapels to support her. She was a fighter to the end.

We'll miss you Sandy.


Josh Pascua said...

hey rog.

man, right before i read this, i read my friend's e-mail stating he was running the Susan Komen 5k in a few weeks.

anyhow, my prayers are with matt and his family. i know what a toll breast cancer is on a family, as my own aunt battled it. may God bring peace to the family.

Anonymous said...

God bless your family,
Helen Wise
I am Roger's mother-in-law

Unknown said...

Roger, thanks for posting...I will keep Matt and the O'Rourke family in prayers...