Abby is grinding through the chemo-boosted radiation with her usual toughness and aplomb, and in good spirits with the end of this treatment (two weeks left) now in sight. The next step will likely be immunotherapy of some kind, and our Dad has been coordinating a huge research effort to identify the best clinical trials, with the help of some family friends who are cancer docs and epidemiologists. We are so grateful for the village of support that has gathered around in this time of need!
The end of THREE WEEKS of school vacation is also in sight, which will give Abby and Merlin – not to mention every other grown-up with a kid in LAUSD – some much-needed time to rest and recover. We were so happy to spend the holidays quietly together as a family, and see friends and playmates as well. We also took the kids ice skating:
Yes, it was 75 and sunny at the time. Friends in the frozen north (south, east…ok, everywhere but California), try not to hate us…
We celebrated Abby’s birthday this past weekend with cake and playtime.
The little girls dressed her up in paper chains:
The boys helped by getting out every single toy in the house just in case anyone wanted to play with them:
And Papa Jack and Unka Dan braved the wilds of Chuck E Cheese on a rainy Saturday so the boys could play the slots, the girls could nap, and the rest of us could sit on the couch and sip tea. Merlin had to work but Josh fixed him a dinner care package of Chinese beef ribs, tofu and veggies, and various other yumminess.
A few weeks of relative normalcy have been great – especially with the latest round of treatment starting this week. Abby will be having radiation five days a week for seven weeks. Her medical team has also recommended weekly chemotherapy that will boost the radiation’s effects. This is of course a total bummer and we are all keeping our fingers crossed that the side effects will not be as bad as they were with the systemic chemo.
Huge thanks and shout-outs to the local families who have been dropping off delicious meals and the out-of-town friends who are sponsoring grocery gift cards and weekly housecleaning. All of you have made this difficult journey so much better with your practical generosity, thoughtful words, and love beaming across time and space!
What’s more fun than a playground full of preschoolers? Family and friends gathered to celebrate Julia’s third birthday on Sunday, complete with treasure hunts, healthy snacks, and Papa Jack reprising his role as The Monster Who Chases Small Squealing Children. Abby has been recovering well from surgery and enjoyed hanging out with guests and kiddos of all ages while sporting what could now be called a “statement haircut.”
Abby is out of the OR and recovering quickly! After a four-hour surgery yesterday, she had a calm night and is up today and walking, eating regular (well, hospital) food, and reading the scores of wonderful text messages, Facebook posts, and blog comments you all sent. Thank you so much for the love and support!
She will come home tomorrow, and she and Merlin are having “dinner and a movie” at the hospital this evening – with two kids, you gotta take those date night opportunities whenever you can!
CHEMO IS OVER! Man, that last round sucked. But Abby is clawing her way back to health and we’re all digesting the news from the latest MRI, which is mixed. The bad: chemo didn’t do much to shrink the damn tumor. Another small cancerous spot appeared in her lymph nodes as well. The better: the chemo still probably had some systemic prophylactic effects, another PET scan showed no signs of metastasis to other parts of her body, and all her lymph nodes on that side were scheduled to be removed anyway as part of the surgery. Also, the breast tumor appears to be mobile, which is a good sign – it means they have a better chance of getting clean margins and the surgery will likely not include taking parts of the chest wall. And this is kind of cool: this kind of breast cancer doesn’t spread to the other breast, so she only has to have a mastectomy on one side. (Side note: we have been learning *a lot* about all the research and knowledge about breast cancer. Who knew?)
Surgery is the next major hurdle, most likely with radiation to follow. It is scheduled for November 7th, and neighbors and fellow parents from the elementary school have already signed up to bring over 10 days of meals. LOVE this community! Abby really feels so supported.
After surgery we will know a lot more about the pathology of the tumor and what the next steps are. Also, we can start the really important work of planning Julia’s 3rd birthday party (Nov. 21) and Owen’s 7th birthday party (December 10th). Bouncy house, anyone???
So when you’re Abby and Merlin, and a whole bunch of your friends are these supercool artsy peeps, and they totally love you, they come up with ridiculous lunacy, complete with pink ribbons, to send support from the east coast aka the Frozen North.
Merlin just sent me this photo of his hot wife. Oh yeah!
The best thing about being nearby while Abby is going through this is that I get to see her – and when you see her you remember that she’s incredibly healthy, and fit, and vital, and funny, and all that…even though there’s this really sucky cancer that’s come to visit uninvited. Begone you, malignancy!
Thanks for all the check-in emails, texts, and gentle reminders to update the d*mn blog already. Abby is finally seeing the end in sight for chemo: five rounds down, three to go, with the last infusion scheduled for October 10th. After that a few weeks of recovery and then it will be time for fun with surgery…but hey, no more barfing! Yes!
As you may recall, Abby started a new type of chemo last week, and while of course being bombarded with poisonous chemicals is never exactly a picnic, we are glad to report that at least the side effects of this new infusion were no worse than the previous one. Within a few days she was up and back at work, hanging with the kiddos and the rest of the family, and even held down the fort with a dear friend’s help so Merlin could make a quick trip to New York to do technical and aerial design for the new Julie Taymor Midsummer Night’s Dream show (woo hoo!).
Family snap from this past weekend at my folks’ above – Abby is rocking the fedora (although with 100 degree heat in LA these days, it’s a good time to be bald). Owen, meanwhile, was cleverly making a play for the iPad while the rest of us were distracted…and then Julia decided to do a little escape of her own:
A shot from last weekend’s trip to Sequoia, which Abby and her family took with Merlin’s sister Gwyn and her fiance Bill. Not pictured: the newest addition to the family, Hammy the Hamster, who came along in – wait for it – a luxury RV I mean travel cage. Owen and Merlin have been very busy creating habitats and other delights for the new guy…er, rodent.
In news of The Cancer, there’s some good stuff and some not-as-good stuff. The highlight: after months of delays at the labs due to the “Angelina Effect,” the genetic testing came back and Abby is negative for BRCA 1 and 2. Woo hoo! Also, the first three rounds of chemo did stop the tumors from growing any larger. Unfortunately, a recent ultrasound clarified that they have also not gotten any smaller (so much for the happy oncologist). This means a change in plan: after the fourth round of the current chemo drugs tomorrow, Abby will switch to a different concoction for the remainder of treatment. Good times! The new drug regimen will have four rounds, two weeks apart. It will suck more but be over more quickly, in other words. After that Abby is done with chemo and it’s on to fun stuff like surgery and radiation (but hey, no barfing! Grateful for small blessings).
Abs is ready. Josh is cranking up production at the matzoh ball soup sweatshop. My parents are getting serious quality time (not to mention occasional visits to waterslides) with Owen and Julia. And the many, many friends, neighbors and relatives who have been helping from near and from far just ROCK. We appreciate you so much!