|FRIDAY, AUGUST 8, 1997|
TUMMY TROUBLESA few weeks back, Ashley's tummy started hurting her, off and on. It started getting worse during the week of July 21, after her last round of chemo. In my last update, dated July 25 (Friday), I mentioned that Ashley's nausea from that particular round of chemo had subsided. Well, she threw up again later that night, then twice on Saturday, and once or twice again on Sunday. She was complaining more and more of her tummy hurting her as well.
We had a clinic visit on Monday, July 28, for Ashley to have bloodwork done and to get a Vincristine (chemo) injection. We mentioned to the oncology team that Ashley's tummy had been hurting her quite a bit, and that she had started throwing up again. They decided to send us down to the Pediatric Gastroenterology Clinic to let a GI doctor look at Ashley and try to figure out what was going on with her tummy.
We saw a wonderful doctor, a lady named Dr. Redel, who examined Ashley and decided that she probably had an ulcer. Dr. Redel ordered a culture to be done from Ashley's bloodwork, to test for the presence of Helicobacter pylori bacteria, a bacteria that is typically associated with ulcers. The results would take about two or three days.
Between the scheduled Hematology/Oncology Clinic visit, and the unscheduled Gastroenterology Clinic visit, we ended up being at the hospital all day long, arriving back home at about 5:30 PM. Throughout the evening, Ashley's tummy pains got worse and worse. She was in tears and literally writhing in pain by about 9:00 PM. I called and talked to the GI doctor on call, Dr. Squires, and we ended up leaving home at about 9:30 PM to head back to Dallas to the emergency room at Children's. Dr. Squires had called ahead to let them know we were coming, so they were ready for us when we arrived. We were put in one of the emergency treatment rooms. An abdominal x-ray was ordered, which showed no abnormalities.
At one point while we were in the emergency room, Ashley started having a pain attack in her stomach. The nurse gave her some liquid Maalox, which calmed her tummy almost immediately. After spending a few hours in the ER, we headed back for Waxahachie. We arrived home at about 1:30 in the morning, and I went to the 24-hour supermarket and bought the biggest bottle of Maalox I could find!
The H. pylori bacteria test came back positive, and we began giving Ashley four different medicines to kill the bacteria and soothe her tummy. Plus we were still giving Maalox as needed.
BACK IN THE HOSPITALThis past Monday, August 4, Ashley was admitted to Children's Medical Center to begin a week of chemotherapy treatments. This was the beginning of the second of eight six-week cycles of chemotherapy. This week she is getting VP-16 and Cytoxan, two of the four chemotherapy drugs in her treatment protocol.
Because her tummy was still hurting almost constantly, Dr. Sandler (one of the oncologists who we really like) ordered an ultrasound to be done on Ashley's abdomen. The ultrasound showed that Ashley's pancreas and gall bladder were both slightly enlarged.
Dr. Squires came by Ashley's room a couple of times to check on her and to visit with us. He said that in his experience, and from his studies, even though the presence of H. pylori bacteria almost always correlates to ulcers in adults, the evidence does not show that kind of correlation in children. So even though the bacteria is definitely present in Ashley's system, that does not necessarily mean that she has an ulcer.
Dr. Squires conferred with Dr. Sandler concerning Ashley's tummy problems, and they decided to do a CT scan of Ashley's abdominal area, in order to get a much more detailed look at the pancreas and gall bladder, as well as the rest of her internal organs that might be associated with abdominal pain. The CT scan showed no real problems, which brought us back to square one. We still don't know the cause of Ashley's tummy pains.
STILL NO APPETITEOne of the contributing (or at least aggravating) factors to all of Ashley's current troubles, is the fact that she has not been eating very well for the past several weeks. It started off as just a lack of appetite, probably caused by the chemo. What little she did eat, she usually threw up. Then when the stomach pains began, even when she was hungry it would hurt her stomach to eat. So we have been trying every trick we can think of to get some kind of nourishment into her body -- usually to no avail.
To aid in enhancing Ashley's appetite, the doctors started her on Marinol this week. Marinol (generic name dronabinol) is a derivative of marijuana. It was originally developed to treat anorexia in AIDS patients, and is also useful in helping to control nausea and vomiting. It hasn't done much good for Ashley so far. She hasn't eaten anything since Tuesday, and continues to throw up. PLEASE PRAY THAT THESE PROBLEMS WILL BE REVERSED. God obviously did not design the body to go for long periods of time without nourishment. We've GOT to figure out some way to get her to eat, so that we don't end up with serious malnourishment problems on top of everything else.
COMING HOMEAshley is scheduled to be released from the hospital this evening. If I can get out of my driveway, I am going to Dallas to pick her and Susan up and bring them back home.
The City of Waxahachie has been working on our street for over a month now. They are in the process of completely replacing the street since it was in such bad shape. The contractors got all the asphalt ripped up and graded the dirt to prepare for laying down the new street. Then they just let it sit. So for about the last week and a half, we have had a dirt road.
A couple of nights ago it started raining, and rained for about a day and a half. The street is now a huge mud pit. Yesterday I was stranded at home all day. Several cars did venture out into the mud . . . and got stuck. I called the city and explained my situation to them, and let them know that I expected something to be done by this evening, so that I can get out of my driveway to go pick up my wife and daughter from the hospital, and then get back in my driveway so that I can bring them home. They are working on it.
MY BROTHER WESSeveral people have been asking about my brother Wes. As I have mentioned in previous updates, he was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia a couple of months ago. The doctors are still just monitoring his condition, as it has not yet progressed to the point of needing any kind of treatment. From talking to some other people who either have the same type of leukemia themselves, or who know someone who does, this "monitoring" stage could go on for many years before any actual treatments are required. That is encouraging.
Wes and Pam have very upbeat and positive attitudes in general, and they are facing Wes' leukemia with much optimism. They are not quitters, and are determined to go on with their lives and put things in God's hands. Many people have been lifting up Wes' name to the Father in prayer along with Ashley's, and for that we are thankful.
THE HOUSEIt looks as though we are going to be approved for the mortgage loan to buy the house I mentioned in my last couple of updates! I am expecting to hear from the mortgage company vice president today with the final word, and her preliminary indications have all been encouraging. If this works out, it will be such a tremendous blessing for us!
THE NEW YORK TIMESIn my last update, I mentioned the article that appeared in the New York Times On-Line Edition concerning Ashley. YOU are a big part of the reason that the article was written. The author's purpose in writing the piece was to portray the incredible role that e-mail and the Internet have played in providing such a tremendous support network for our family throughout this ordeal.
I have been granted special permission to reprint the article on my web site. You can read the article here.
KEEP THOSE CARDS AND LETTERS COMINGSusan asked me to put out a special request with this update. Ashley REALLY enjoys receiving cards and letters in the mail. It really brightens her day. She has made the comment a couple of times this week that she is afraid she is just always going to be sick. The most recent turn of events with all the tummy problems really seems to have gotten her down.
If you have an extra minute or two to drop Ashley a note, I think it would really help to cheer her up. Justin also really enjoys getting stuff in the mail, and it helps him to not feel so left out. I hate asking people for things, but this is for my kids. Thank you for allowing me to be so bold as to make this request.
If you can respond with a card or note, that would be wonderful! If not, that is fine, too. Our home address is:
O'Rear*** NOTE: This is no longer a valid address. -Paul O'Rear (01/03/2000) ***
Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support for Ashley and our family. Your prayers provide us with much strength. God bless you all.