So Beth had her fourth chemotherapy treatment this past Tuesday (Nov. 12) and before they give her the drugs she always needs to have blood work. Some of her levels that have been high, particularly her calcium level and liver enzyme levels were even higher. So they ended up giving her 25% less of one of the drugs to see if it would have any effect on the liver enzymes.
On Thursday she had an appointment with the GI doctor about her liver and it was over the recess time at school so I was able to come along. From the results of the blood work he is quite sure that she has Primary Biliary Cirrhosis of her liver. He said that this is a fairly rare condition (he has seen 4 cases in 10 years) and that the progression of this chronic disease is quite variable. That is, some people can go for many years with very little effects from it, but on the other hand if it progresses more aggressively it could eventually require a liver transplant. So obviously this wasn't the news we were hoping to hear, but at the same time we are very relieved that no cancer has spread to the liver. The doctor prescribed a drug that he says has been found to be quite effective in treatment of this condition and that once she starts on it her enzyme levels should come down. As well, he is referring her to a liver specialist in Toronto who deals specifically with this condition.
Thursday afternoon Beth also received a call from her chemo doctor at Grand River Cancer Centre, as she is quite concerned about the high calcium levels that are showing up. Even though Beth has none of the symptoms that can be associated with this, the levels have gotten so high that the doctor feels Beth could be at risk for renal or neurological problems. So she has booked an intravenous infusion of a drug that will bring her calcium level down. In fact that will be done tomorrow, on Monday morning and it sounds like it will take about 3 hours, as they need to give the drug slowly. We pray that it will be effective and that she will not need many of these treatments. As well, there can be some side effects of this infusion (although rare), especially with people who have had radiation in their jaw area, which Beth has had in the past.
So for those keeping score, this is 2 other complications that need to be treated on top of the breast cancer Beth is dealing with. I think it's been mentioned before that the calcium problem will be eventually dealt with by surgery to remove her parathyroid gland(s). It's been a bit tougher week as a result, but it has been helpful to at least know exactly the things we're dealing with, instead of wondering and worrying. On the positive side, several people have told Beth that they have been specifically praying for her to have less side effects from this last chemo treatment and it would appear that so far things have been better. Fatigue has not been much of an issue and her mouth has been less of a problem as well, so we're very thankful.
And there have been lots of good things about our week too. Three delicious meals that continue to be provided by our church family on chemo weeks, encouraging cards we keep getting in the mail, time with our family (and Joel was able to come home from London 3 times this week), a nice visit over breakfast Saturday with my cousin Jim and his wife Carol, dinner at my mom & dad's with my aunts and uncles from up north, along with other supportive conversations with family and friends. On Saturday afternoon David, Josh and Alison helped Beth to do some initial Christmas baking, so that was special as well (plus I got to take care of Lindsay during that time).