Saturday, January 24, 2009

Back on Track

Last Friday, I was at the end of week3 of chemo-radiotherapy treatment with 2 weeks keft. Soon after Sol left to work, I started having pain in my abdomen, real severe pain. Not to mention the nausea and dry heaves have goton wors that week. Sol came back and took me to the emergency of the closest hospital. They drugged me up, treated the symtoms and sent me home after 5.

It was a terrible night--I couldn't sleep from the nausea and dry heaves. 6 am, we woke the kids and took to OSU's emergency. I had an intestinal obstruction and one of the options was surgery if it does not resolve in couple of days. Thankfully, more tests showed that it's resolving. I remained hospitalized till Thursday to make sure I stabilize.

My therapy was interrupted that week and I though og it a lost week. But now I think it was a break I needed from the side effects. I will start back on Monday for another 3 weeks.

I need to catch up on work next week as I embarked a couple of things and left them in the middle.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Message 3: Update

From: Suliman Dregia
Sent: Sunday, November 9, 2008 2:58:53 PM
Subject: Update

Dear family and friends:

It has been while, and an update is past due.

Hana came home on 10/25, and she has been recovering very well and adjusting her eating habits and choices. Couscous does not work very well! But she is able to eat a lot other things. She still needs to tune her response to the hunger stimulus, keeping to small portions even though the stimulus can be intense.

As many of you know, the cell pathology tests found cancer cells in a few lymph nodes (4 out of 27 tested). Of course that means Hana will be going on a regiment of chemo- and radiation therapy. I believe the doctors would have recommended the same even if the pathology results were negative because it could have been a false negative. The lymph nodes were around/close to the tumor. Also, the report said the cells were very well differentiated. Apparently cancer cells "devolve" or regress toward their origin, and become more like stem cells over time. Their being well differentiated is an indication that they are young, and they have not had long to de-differentiate. The doctors' position is they have taken out all the known cancer, and now they must throw everything at it, with the aim of preventing it from coming back.

The treatment is scheduled to begin on November 17th. There will be periods of treatment and periods of recovery, and the whole process will take about 20 weeks (5 months). We know it will be tough, and we will find out how tough in due course. But the fight will continue, and our hopes will remain high.

Thanks for your support. It is still and will continue to be effective and needed.



Message 2: Update on Hana's Surgery

From: Suliman Dregia
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2008 9:53:31 PM
Subject: Update on Hana's Surgery

Dear family & friends:

Thank you for the strong support that you have given to Hana and me, it makes a big difference. I also want to apologize for missing some phone calls and not replying to e-mail and phone messages. The last couple of days have been stressful but there is also a lot of good to tell you about.

The surgery was yesterday afternoon, as scheduled, and it went very well. There were no surprises and no complications. The doctor found the tumor and took out the stomach, but he was quite positive about visual examination of other organs and tissue. He did not see any signs of spreading or abnormalities in other nearby organs. Of course they took some lymph nodes and other tissue and those are under testing now. She did not need to go to the ICU, did not need a feeding tube, did not bleed much, and did not need drainage tubes out of her belly. Hearing the doctor's report was very uplifting to all of us.

Hana has been recovering very well. She is actually doing better than she did in previous surgeries. She walked around the 9th floor today, three times, doing several laps each time. Her dad was joking that she might be jogging tomorrow!

It is almost 10 pm now, and I am spending the night with Hannu. She is relaxed, the pain is under control. She is positive and mentally sharp, smiles at my jokes and giggles with her eyelashes. Our next goal is feeding, hopefully within a couple days, then maybe dinner and a movie.

Some of you asked for Hana's room number, etc. Here is the info:

Room 934
James Cancer Hospital
300 W. 10th Ave.
Columbus, OH 43210

Please note that the hospital does not allow live plants or open food products.

We are fortunate to be in your thoughts. Many thanks.

I will keep you posted.



Message 1: Hana's Health

This is the first email message Sol sent out to family and friends after my diagnosis.

From: Suliman Dregia
Sent: Friday, October 10, 2008 11:40:00 AM
Subject: Hana's Health

Dear family & friends:

We have recently received some very painful news. Hana was diagnosed with cancer of the stomach, late last month, and she is scheduled to have a gastrectomy operation on Wednesday, October 15, at the OSU James Cancer Center . The operation is expected to take 2-3 hours, starting at 12:30 pm, and Hana will stay in the hospital for one week.

The tests conducted so far show only one tumor in the upper part of the stomach. Endoscopy and CT scans do not show any other abnormalities in other organs or lymph nodes. We hope that it is in an early stage, but we will not know with confidence until cell pathology tests are done on lymph nodes and tissue to be taken out in the operation. The doctors say those post-operative tests will take about one week.

On Tuesday Hana's parents are scheduled to arrive from Benghazi, and our friend Magda Fhema from Chicago will also be here to help us through the pain and fear. Hana's older children have been with us since this summer.

I am sorry to bring you this sad news, and in this way. I wish it could be different. But I know we all share in Hana's love and support, and all care deeply about her. Our contact information is as follows:

Hana's e-mail address:
Hana's cell phone:
My cell phone:
Home phone:

I will do what I can to keep you informed of new developments. Please keep Hana in your hopes and your prayers.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

How am I Feeling?

A question no one asks me. It feels like I'm staring death in the face and it is not flinching one tiny bit. Things are out of my control in MY OWN life. I don't know where I'm heading or what's going to happen to me in few months or years. I'm just going along with the treatment hoping the outcome is good. But I keep thinking, what if it is not; why should I endure the suffering of chemotherapy and radiation for months to come? What's the point if there could be no gains? So many thoughts and so many questions all gloomy, none bright.

I have the chemo pump installed, connected to me 24 hours a day and goes with me every where, even in bed. It's my buddy for 4 more weeks. I also have been going to radiotherapy every day at 2:30. That will continue for 5 weeks, one down. Every Monday morning, a nurse will come in to draw blood. If the blood count is good, I go in for a refill of the pump before the radiotherapy session. If all goes well, I will be done around February 3rd. I will then have a break for 4 to 5 weeks before the next terrible chemo cycle.

I was told that the side effects will kick in after the 2nd or 3rd week. Guess what? They kicked in after the 3rd freaking DAY! Nausea and slight fatigue. The bad thing is that I have a reaction to most nausea medicines, they make me agitated. So it's been very hard to control it. Worse still is I do not vomit, since I don't have a stomach, but I have what they call dry heaves. My rib cage muscles hurt from the spasms they go through.

I went to work on Tuesday and Friday (Wed. and Thur. were holidays). Needed it to change the scenery and feel like I'm in control again--a joke! It went OK with me leaving around 1 to go to the hospital everyday. I'm trying to work things out with my manager to see if I could work from home on certain days of the week. I think it will work out.

Yesterday, we had friends over. They brought dinner and their kids. The kids enjoyed the company, had lots of fun and sent a tornado through the basement. We adults had a good time too, chatting and laughing. Reminds me of the saying: "Take time to laugh for it is the music of the soul". It was very nice and thoughtful of our friends.

Today, we're visiting other friends. To me, those visits are a blessing. They make me forget and enjoy myself and the company for a while.