Monday, April 24, 2006

April 24, 2006

This is a tough blog to write. It's been a difficult day for Erica and by default, it makes it a little harder for me... This morning was our scheduled appointment at the hospital for week 2. She only received one chemotherapy shot today and again takes the rest at home during the week. After her appointment, we came home to recooperate, rest, and watch some ALIAS. (we're totally addicted!) Since Jamie offered to cook us a fabulous feast for dinner, we all took a trip to Whole Foods for some groceries. On our way to checkout, Erica's legs buckled and she couldn't stand. I held her up while Jamie grabbed a chair. I ran out to bring the car to the front of the store, only to see THREE people carrying my unconscious sister to my car. Needless to say, I was panicking at this time---she had fainted. One of the gentlemen carrying her just happened to be a doctor at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and knows Erica's Attending Physician! He advised us to head directly to the ER at Brigham and Women's Hospital and he called ahead to let our doc know we were coming. Upon arriving, I reached via telephone our doctor's PA who calmed me down, gave me background that this is common for patients coming off the steroids she took the past week, and gave us the green light to take her home to rest.
So now, we are sitting on the couch, completing a crossword puzzle, and realizing that things are coming at us that we hadn't ever thought of... the real fear is the unknown. It was shocking and scary... My fear is that just moments before I had left her to pick up something in another aisle because she told me she could stand---what if I wasn't there? What would I have done without Jamie being here?? ... physically and emotionally, we are hitting some lows. But we are determined and looking forward to a better week ahead. It helps to realize that we are conquering each obstacle and makes us a little bit stronger.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

!!!ERICA COURAGE Bracelets are here!!!

!!!ERICA COURAGE Bracelets are here!!!

Show your continous solidarity with our friend, Erica, in her fight against leukemia, by wearing an ERICA COURAGE bracelet!

Please feel free to contact Jamie at or for more information. The proceeds will be given to Erica and her family.

Many thanks to the Fletcher Community for your ongoing support!

Monday, April 17, 2006

April 14, 2006

Today is the first day of the third phase of Erica's treatment. Leslie came to visit yesterday and is already following in Bess' footsteps having prepared a yummy dinner tonight, a nice end to a looooong day... our photo is to demostrate reality here: lots of Alias and lots of sleep!
We woke up early to get Erica to the hospital by 9am. Before each treatment, phlebotomy takes her blood to test all her counts and make sure she is healthy enough to receive the chemotherapy. After this was completed around 11am, our FABULOUS nurse, Kecia, brought in four different chemo meds--two were pushed through her IV, one was a shot directly into the muscle, and the fourth was in pill form. We waited for at least an hour to make sure she did not have any adverse reactions to the meds and were on our way back home...
However, today was the Boston Marathon! Coincidentally, the path to our house was blocked due to the runners... hmm, problem. So, after pulling out the map, we managed to find an alternate route through the city, over the Charles River, through Cambridge, and back down to Brighton. Originally, we had made signs and planned to go cheer for the amazing athletes at mile 22.8, but Erica was exhausted from the day. We did watch on TV as the first Kenyans passed the finish line though! Not to mention, our friend Adam Schoene who finished with an amazing time of 3 hours and 47 mins!! WOOHOO!
This next phase of treatment is comprised of ten 3 week sessions. Each three weeks repeats the same cycle: the first day of each week is in the hospital for "intensification", meaning chemotherapy that is not able to be given at home, fluids, blood work, etc. The rest of the week is spent at home with many oral meds. Week two is said to be more mentally exhausting because she will be coming off the high associated with the steroids given in week one. Finally, although week three still has medications, it should be easier allowing her to recooperate to start again for another week one.
It looks like Erica and I will be on our own for real now since Mom is leaving tomorrow. After not having left Erica's side since February 10th, she is returning back to the Bay Area. She promised to be 'on-call' if we need anything, otherwise we hope she will come back frequently! How can we ever thank our mom for being amazing, patient, generous, and supportive? We realize that words will never suffice... truly Mom-of-the-Year! WE LOVE YOU!!!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

From the friends

Click here to visit, a blog created by friends of Erica.

Monday, April 10, 2006

April 10, 2006

Sorry it's been a while since anyone's posted, but it's been a sort-of rough week. I've been home a month now and looking back, this month has posed different but equally difficult challenges as that first intense month in the hospital. A lot of it has probably been mental. It felt like such a victory to be out of the hospital, like it was supposed to be all downhill from there. So, it was jarring to find the CNS phase of treatment (central nervous system) so difficult to bear. Also, in the hospital, it's clear that I'm there to get better and sitting in that bed all day every day hardly phased me a bit. At home, I expect my body to be more "normal" and I'm impatient and frustrated by my inability to do simple things. Really, I suppose I'm just as sick as I was in the hospital, but now my nurses are my family and my bed doesn't adjust electronically. Anyway, I'm hesitant to state this but... they say the NEXT phase is better and I do have this week "off" to recuperate and rest, so I'm trying to find and celebrate whatever improvements I can find each day and look forward to things easing up, even if it's just a bit.

Poor Jaci has been suffering from the flu all week (even throughout her trip to Oregon!) and her parting gift to me was a cold. Now my angel is back and our house is filled with the symphony of our identical hacking coughs and trumpet nose-blows. I don't really mind my cold symptoms because they ironically make me feel "normal". I take DayQuil and NyQuil, not voriconizolidaniflocin or some such thing. Thank goodness Mom didn't get sick too otherwise we'd all be in big trouble!

Well, perhaps not in such trouble since Bess was here helping out since Thursday. Her mission was to help me get fat. Bess has turned into quite the Martha Stewart as she gave my Mom a well-deserved break in the kitchen and both of us many culinary treats. She took her mission seriously and instructed sternly me to "sit and eat cheese" with a cheese board in front of me and she always had some tantalizing dessert that i couldn't refuse after dinner. I'm sure she must have succeeded in adding a few pounds back to my somewhat bony frame.

I want to give a huge shout out to my A100 class from the Foreign Service who have sent me so much support and solidarity. I miss you guys so much and wish I was still in your ranks. Please keep in touch and fill me in on how your first posts are or how language training is.

Also, I have all the pictures from the hospital up in a Kodak photo gallery. If you would like to see them (perhaps to have a copy of yourself in a wig if you visited), just lemme know and i'll send the album your way!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mom's Turn

(This picture was taken mid-March. It seemed fitting though a bit anachronistic. And the glass in my hand is non-alcoholic wine. Did you know they make that? Ok, Mom's turn..)

Well, finally it’s time for me to add my voice to the blog. Jaci, despite feeling sick, took off this morning at 5am to a much deserved R&R visit to see Jon in Oregon; Jaime is back in California and Bess hasn’t yet arrived … so I have free reign for now. =)

It has been a difficult last two months, often heartbreaking and tearful to watch Erica go through with her many, many painful procedures and all the side effects she has had to encounter and endure, and continues to do so. She is truly a young woman of strength, courage, endurance, with the determination to fight this frightening disease that has crept upon her so swiftly and so suddenly with no forewarning. She hardly ever complains and is so stoic in her pain and constant nausea. And Jaci, her staunch supporter, her best friend, her primary caregiver, her loving sister who makes her laugh and see the humor in so many ways that only a person who is so in tune with each other can do. During all those difficult LPs Erica had to endure, Jaci never left her side, holding onto Erica’s tightly clenched hands to ease her sister’s pain. I am proud to call them my daughters.

Yesterday, Erica finally finished the last of her four LPs and the tenth radiation treatment in this second phase of her protocol. This week, she sleeps a great deal every day- maybe 18-20 hours are spent with her eyes closed, although she often tells me she’s not sleeping. The fatigue and discomforts she’s currently experiencing is expected after the radiation treatments, etc, and we’re hoping she regains strength during this week of no hospital visits. She now has the rest of this week to recuperate and rest up for the next phase which could begin as early as next Monday. This third phase would entail chemotherapy repeated every three weeks along with a special drug administered weekly. These treatments repeat itself in cycles of three week for IVs, oral medications and the one injection and only every 18 weeks would she need another LP. I have no qualms that she will weather this phase with as much courage and strength as she has shown so far.

How to thank all the people that has shown their caring and love in so many ways? All the prayers and cards and gifts that were showered upon Erica have just been overwhelming… her high school friends from St Joe’s in Santa Maria, her Oxy buddies in Pasadena, her multi-national Fletcher intellectuals, not to mention friends from jobs, Japan, who knows where she meets all these friends… my mother, my sister and brothers and family members, those close circle of friends who call me constantly to inquire as to our wellbeing, my co-workers at SF superior court who have all been so supportive, members of my church group… just too many to name…but THANK YOU all…knowing you are all there has been a tremendous help.

And how can I leave out the fabulous care that was generated at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and at Dana Farber Cancer Institute here in Boston? Their nursing staff and teams of physicians’ care have just been phenomenal. Not only are they attentive and caring but they all do it with a smile; are always so gracious and uncomplaining no matter what the request may be…even to taking care of Lola for a week. Where can you get that kind of attention and love? Last but not least, our own Dr. Sirulnik. Somehow you know that he cares for Erica and will do whatever he can to ease her pain and suffering and to carry out his Hippocratic oath to the letter. We were just so lucky to have had him as Erica’s attending physician.

Within the next month or so, Erica will discuss with Dr Sirulnik and the Transplant physicians the feasibility and/or viability of a possible bone marrow transplant. Meantime, please keep those prayers coming… Peace.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April 1, 2006

Erica and I are sitting here trying to think of something funny to joke about her Leukemia for April Fool's Day, but nothing seems appropriate or really all that funny... and our humor is pretty embrasive! Feel free to try on your own...
As for an update after her last LPs, she is doing FABULOUS!!! Not only did her amazing doc make it quick and as painless as possible, but she did not have any neck or back pain afterward. Her nurse took great care to prevent any unnecessary dehydriation by giving her two liters of fluids after her spinal tap. She is up and moving and even came to the dog park with me and Lola this morning!
Today, since the weather does not appear to be as nice as it has been the last few days, we are planning on going to a museum. Naturally, Erica will be in a wheelchair, but to be out of the house at all is special.
As always, we have a train of visitors coming this week: Luke arrived yesterday, Anita arrives tomorrow, and Bess is coming on Wednesday! I will be visiting Jon this week in Oregon which has left me feeling a strange twinge of seperation anxiety! Just trying to teach my mom the routine has reminded me of how many details there are to remember... flushing her PICC line (IV), explaining which pills to take at which time, describing which med helps alleviate which symptom, covering her PICC before a shower, etc. etc... yes, I know, my mom is beyond competent and I'm simply panicking on my own!