First off we want to start by thanking everyone who has reached out expressing so much concern for Gail Chmielewski, our mom, a wife, sister and daughter and as anyone who knows her a devoted Grandma! On Saturday, October 1 Gail was admitted to the hospital for some numbness in her right side and declining speech. A CT scan revealed she had suffered a severe stroke approximately 3-4 weeks prior. I think the first question to everyone is how someone goes about their daily activity for nearly a month after a stroke but if you know my mom it doesn't surprise you. Looking back we can all piece together that things were not right with her but we all put it off on her taking on a lot as she always does. She has admitted that she noticed some weakness during her Insanity classes last week! Yes, she was doing insanity and playing tennis! She is doing very well considering the severity of the stroke. She has some weakness in her right hand but the biggest obstacle she is facing is her speech. She's able to understand and talk to some extent, but has trouble getting her thoughts together and speaking in full sentences. To look at her and have a general converstation you would not notice anything but she has a long road of recovery ahead. We are currently awaiting results of a contrast MRI she had yesterday (Oct. 2) to determine what's next. The Doctor's have said they can't tell us anything more until those results. Regardless of what those results are it's going to be a long recovery process on her brain, which obviously means she will not be able to continue her much loved work in addiction treatment for the time being. We thank you again for all the prayers and messages we have received. We pass them all to her and she just lights up. We will keep everyone updated as soon as we hear. Hopefully that means she will accept visits soon as I know she wants to see everyone as much as they want to see her.
*October 4* After further inspection of Gail's MRI on Oct. 2 it was discovered that she did not have a stroke. There appears to be about a dozen lesions on her brain. The most common reason would be cancer that has metastasis from somewhere else in her body. To determine where this cancer could be a contrast CT scan on her body was done yesterday. While those results didn't provide the definitive answers we wanted it did show incidental mass in adrenal glad and a few spots on the lungs. But again, no real diagnosis. Tomorrow morning they will do PET scan on her whole body to get a better look at not only the adrenal glands and lungs, but also other areas of the body. We should have those results tomorrow, sooner rather than later. Her Neurosurgeon also came in today and said that out of those dozen lesions on brain one is quite a bit larger than the others, so regardless of PET scan tomorrow he plans to do a biopsy on Thursday. We can't rule out something as minimal as an infection in the brain, but unfortunately we have more questions than we have answers right now. I read her all your messags and she appreciates then all so much! They have her on a steroid that is releasing the pressure on her brain which is what caused her thoughts/speech to be effected, so she's a lot better with her thoughts/sentences but it's still not 100%. She will probably be in hospital a few more days at least but she would like to hold off on visitors until things calm down. If you would like to send anything please message me (Courteney) and I will give you my address and make sure she receives it.
*October 5* I can't believe that this is the update I have to post...We received the PET scan results today, simply put it shows cancer in the lungs that has metastases to the brain. This is what mom thought it was, but that doesn't make any of this any easier. She will be discharged from the hospital tomorrow and will have a biopsy performed on her lung Monday, with results expected 3-4 days after. We know that chemotherapy and radiation will be done but any more than that will be determined on biopsy results. I have read her all of your messages and texts and her reply is always "awwww, that's so sweet" She loves all of you just as much as you love her. I honestly don't know what else to say right now. We are all processing this news and optimistic that she can fight this. Her doctor said that it's a very good sign that she's in good health and physical condition.
**October 10** As much as October 5's "cancer" diagnosis sucked today we have definitive answers. Mom went in for biopsy of lung, Doctor's obtained cells from her lymph nodes that confirmed Stage 4 non-small cell adenocarcinoma lung cancer that has metastasis to brain. We are beyond words at this time. We are praying constantly and trusting her doctor's. No prognosis has been given but the fact that she has no symptoms in her lungs is a good sign and they feel she is going to respond well to treatment. As of today they are going to start with 10 consecutive treatments of radiation on her brain only. The radiation will be on all dozen or so tumors on her brain so it's going to be intense. As of now she will have two weeks "off" after she completes radiation then being two weeks of Chemotherapy. This is all subject to change based on how her radiation goes so we are still playing waiting game, day by day. She is doing pretty good under the circumstances, her thoughts and mobility are much better from the steroids that have taken the swelling down on her brain. However, the combination of the steroids and not being able to drive have her extremely grumpy! She has cabin fever already but does get tired easy. We again thank you so much for your prayers and donations, they mean so much, this is a long road that will inpact her ability to work.
**October 11** First radiation appointment today! We couldn't believe how fast the treatment was. Approximatley 10 minutes and it was over. There was a little meltdown before the treatment began as her mask is very tight on her face and then snaps to the table. She had a small panic attack but we put some Bruno Mars music on and she was able to get throught it like a warrior! So proud of how she's doing because I would have been off that table. Clearly I didn't get my claustrophobia from her. Love, Bill, Deanie and Courteney Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, messages and donations. We appreciate everyone more than you know.
**October 25** As of yesterday Mom completed her 10 sessions of Radiation! She has not had any significant side effects as of yet, but that's normal as radiation continues to work for months after it's over so those effects can still happen. Hair loss is one that she noticed significantly today, but she has her wig and hats ready! Today we met with her Oncologist, Dr. Vannorsdall "The Cancer Doctor". Two weeks from today chemotherapy will begin. She will have a cocktail of three different drugs administered once every three weeks for a total of 4-6 times. She will be evaluated after her third session, roughly end of December, to see how her progress is going. So, the longest she would be receiving chemo would be through mid-March. After that they could do some mild maintenance treatments. During the time of chemo in the next month or so she will meet with her Neurosurgeon to do another MRI of her brain to see how it responded to the radiation. Obviously the brain is the biggest concern so there is the possibility of GammaKnife on the largest tumor. But we don't have any idea on her brain status for at least another month. Still more of the waiting game and life on hold. I asked the doctor about a prognosis and she didn't really have an answer. We know that once it's metastases into the brain it's considered "terminal" and remission is not likely. But her prognosis is still undetermined. We are confident that the Doctors are doing everything they can to extend her life and the quality of it is her biggest concern. That being said her attitude and outlook is amazing. She is going to enjoy everyday that she has and we all know that she won't let anything hold her back from enjoying life. Please mark your calendars for December 4, a fundraiser will be held for her at J.D Legends from noon-4. I will be posting a flyer soon!
**November 21** I can't believe it's been almost a month since my last uppdate! Mom has been feeling great. I can say that if you didn't know she had cancer, you wouldn't know she had cancer. (Except the hair loss) There were a few hiccups with her insurance company regarding her chemo drugs so she got started on those treatment a couple days later than planned. November 10 was her first treatment, she will have blood work every week and chemo every three weeks. She has felt great and blood work has been great since her first treatment. She was a little nauseous 3 days after but was able to continue her daily routine. Mom woke up several mornings with a severe headache, these started after completing radiation. She would be able to take Tylenol, her steroid and after laying back down it would go away. We assumed it was a tumor as the pain would subside after taking her steroid, which has been relieving some pressure. She took the steroid a couple times before going to bed and didn't have a headache. After calling the doctor they recommended another MRI, which she had on November 15. The MRI did show that the largest tumor has shrank (yeah) however, mom said that when she was reviewing her MRI details online there were at least 24 tumor sizes listed, we have been under the impression that she had roughly a dozen tumors. But, again she is feeling great, still doing her weekly Insanity class and also playing some tennis. She is very excited to see so many of you at her benefit on December 4!
***On another note, we received the shocking news that mom's husband, Bill, was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. When you say "can things get any worse" you don't realize it absolutely can. Bill had tests last week to see if his cancer has spread and THANKFULLY it has not! We don't know anything more about his diagnosis or treatment plan other than we know radiation will happen.*** Please add Bill to your prayers as what you are doing for Mom is working!
**December 31** Last update of 2016! I want to say thank God this year is over, but I am not looking forward to 2017. We want to thank everyone again for the overwhelming response at Moms benefit. We had so many raffle basket donations that we almost ran out of room to put them out! Mom was just baffled at how many people came, people she didn't even know personally and some childhood friends she hadn't seen in years. It was just incredible. So, to fill you in on how things are going....essentially moms treatment plan included 4-6 rounds of chemo. She completed her third, and by far the 'hardest' of them all last week. She is finally saying she's tired and was a little bit nauseous. I'm sure the hustle and bustle of the holiday's didn't help her energy level either. She has also dealt with some pretty bad migraines and if she doesn't have a migraine she seems to always have a dull headache. Also, they are going to do a CT scan to check how she's responding before continuing with more chemo, this should hopefully be scheduled this week.
Next order of business, my stepdad has been given his treatment plan for his prostate cancer. While his diagnosis isn't as severe as moms it's still something that is weighing on all of us. He will be following the typical protocol for prostate cancer. He has started on hormones that will reduce his testosterone in preparation for 9 weeks (Monday-Friday) of radiation. Mom and Bill are both staying very positive about everything (I don't know how). I think they are both worried more about the other than they are themselves, which is very sweet.
Lastly, my Grandpa, Ray Lansaw, has suffered some pretty serious health issues this month as well. On December 19, he went in for outpatient shoulder surgery. We were under impression it was very routine and he would go home the same day. After the surgery Grandpa was feeling pretty good, however he was having trouble walking. After a couple of days in the hospital his walking did not improve and he started to become a little disoriented, mentally. He was sent to Sycamore Glen to get rehab for his walking. Immediately upon being admitted he began having hallucinations, sleeping a lot and still not able to walk independently. His condition was differently hour by hour, one meal he was eating fine, then the next he was so out of it he couldn't get food onto his fork. Also during this time he has had zero pain in his shoulder (we think it's a bit odd) and he was taken off pain pills before he left the hospital. A few days ago we moved him to Kingston so he could get more care for his memory. We are all very frustrated because we feel the nursing homes see an 89-year old man with mild dementia, not Ray Lansaw that was playing tennis only a couple weels ago! We are all doing our best to keep him engaged, he seems to be much better as of this afternoon, he still has hallucinations, but when we engage him and talk to him he holds a conversation well, but falls asleep mid-sentence then wakes up seeing things on the walls. So, to say the Lansaw crew has had a rough year is an understatement. We thank you all for your prayers, donations, texts and love! We cannot express how much everything means to us
***February 18, 2017***
Hard to believe it's only been 4 months since Mom's diagnosis. We are coming up on her last chemo appointment this week, and things are quite different from previous chemo's. After the last chemo three weeks ago mom has had some pretty terrible headaches, nausea and started losing her appetitite. I think anyone who knows my mom knows that she always has a coffee in her hand, when she says that coffee makes her stomach turn you know it's the real deal. Thankfully her energy level during the day is still good and she's able to do everything she has been doing including her insanity workouts and occassional tennis, but she's getting more tired than normal in the evenings. White blood cell count is also down for the first time. She is more than ready for chemo to be over, but she's also dreading it because she knows that she will be feeling pretty bad. In addition to her final chemo the Dr has scheduled an MRI and appointment with ENT this week. For the past two weeks or so mom has had many of the symptoms that led her to be admitted to the hospital in October. She has had increased memory loss and the disconnect from her thinking or hearing something and being able to write it down has returned. Several times she has been mid-sentence and forgotten what she wants to say. So, an MRI should let us know what is going on with the tumors on her brain. We know it will be impossible for her to work again, she has been going back and forth with social security disability waiting to get those funds coming in. She has been approved and we were told that with a terminal diagnosis they "fast track" claims, but still nothing. Mom's chemo ends just in time for Bill to start his radiation this week! He will have 45 consecutive Monday-Friday treatments. We are all staying positive and going day by day but man this is rough. I know mom feels really bad about not feeling like she responds to all the messages and cards she receives. She reads all of them and is so humbled, but sometimes it's just a little hard for her to remember who she gets back with and who she doesn't. Thank you all for your continued prayers, donations, texts and calls. We are so thankful for every single one.
**March 29, 2017** It has been 4 weeks since Mom completed her last chemotherapy. She has still been feeling a little nauseous and a low-grade headache everyday. The past week or so she has had a nagging, dry cough. But as many of you know she's not letting this keep her down, she's keeping herself busier than ever. So, PET scan results.....unfortunately the chemo really did nothing for lung cancer, in fact the cancer in her right lung has spread. Dr. Calvo recommended she do immunotherapy with Tecentriq. With her level of PDL he thinks this is a great option. This would be similar to what she did for chemo, she would go in every three weeks and have this administered via IV. She can do this for up to 2 years. We asked the Doctor about the alternative, stopping treatment all together, while I don't want to announce her 'time frame', he doesn't suggest stopping treatment. He said the immunotherapy is 100% the best option right now ! So, she's going to take a couple of weeks off and start the Tecentriq, she will have a recheck 4 months after starting that to see how she's responded and go from there. While Dr. Calvo is always very positive we appreciate his transparency and honesty. This immunotherapy drug is fairly new as he said it wasn't an option when she was diagnosed, so we are happy this is an option now! We absolutely believe in power of prayer and how much fight mom has. Doctor said that her expectancy at diagnosis in October was 4-6 months and she has surpassed that due to how well her brain responded to radiation so we can only hope this drug can do the same for her lungs!
June 7, 2017 Almost three months without an update! Things have been pretty uneventful until this past weekend. I was with mom on Saturday afternoon, we had fun at the Gay Pride Parade, and she seemed to be the same as she has been, aside from walking at a snails pace ;o) According to Bill Saturday evening she started to talk a little slow and slur her words but still seemed to feel fine. Sunday, however was a different story. She began to loose some muscle control in basically all of her right side. She was having a hard time talking, putting together sentences and when she walked she was leaning to the right and losing her balance. Earlier in the week she began to notice that she was having some double vision so she had called the doctor and had an MRI already scheduled. Monday morning she was having a pretty bad day with all the above symptoms, when I talked to her she said there was no other way to explain how she felt other than it felt like she had a stroke. She went in for the MRI (of the brain) Monday afternoon. Symptoms still continued through Tuesday but a little bit better with her speech, still unable to write or keep her balance. Tuesday evening the nurse called and said that the MRI showed nothing on her brain, we were thinking possibly the tumors had returned or it would show a stroke, but nothing. Her doctor wanted her to go the ER, which she did. At the ER they did a CT scan with contrast on her brain to see if there was any answer to her symptoms. She was discharged from the ER, around midnight becuase she was to see her cancer doctor the following day (today). Dr. Calvo basically said they see nothing in the brain that would explain why this happened. He would have hoped that a stroke would show up, but he's treating this like it was a stroke. Dr. is very concerned that she had such a dramatic change in a matter of 24 hours that he wants to rule out every possibility. He ordered a spinal tap to be done next week and a CT scan of her lungs in two weeks. The reason for the spinal tap is to see if her cancer has spread to the fluids in her body, and those fluids may be putting pressure on her brain. After the appointment she had her 4th round of maintenance chemo. In the meantime he has ordered home health to come in and do physical and speech therapy, a request I made that she wasn't too happy about :o) But, I know her not being able to talk well and write is going to drive her nuts, so hopefully they will get her on the road to recovery quickly. She's also devastated because she was able to secure a part time job back in the treatment industry she loves but she's now unable to do that. Medicare is a ridiculous system for someone who has worked two jobs their entire life, to now be paid peanuts when they are deemed disabled. She appreciates your calls and texts and will do her best to respond asap. She's able to talk on the phone but I would explain it best by saying it sounds like her jaw is wired shut and she's talking through her teeth.
Will continue to update in the next couple of weeks after the spinal tap and CT scan to show the progress of her maintence chemo thus far.
9/14 - Well, today sucked. My mom had an MRI on her brain on Monday. She had been having some symptoms that were raising red flags, her memory is toast, she has had some issues finding the right words, all things we thought were just from the stroke a few months ago but have gotten progressively worse. Today we met with radiologist and the brain tumors have returned. I counted about 11 small ones as well as an area of swelling in the middle of her left side that was troubling, but also could be the reason for the symptoms. . At this time, he's putting her back on steroids for about a month, she will have another MRI then we go from there. Right now the options are to do whole brain radiation again or, if only a few of those grow, he can do GammaKnife on those. All the prayers worked tremendously last time so let's do it again! Best case is that we go in a month and the tumors have not grown but stayed the same and Dr just continues to monitor. Thank you all