Facing Mesothelioma One Journal Entry at a Time: Part Five

Tara DeAugustinis

Tara DeAugustinis has been battling pleural mesothelioma since diagnosed in early 2016 at the age of 45. She and her husband, Rich, have maintained a personal website documenting her journey with the disease via journal entries, and they have decided to share their story with the mesothelioma community. To read part four of this story, click here.

Home Sweet Home
Journal entry by Rich DeAugustinis — 9/2/2016

Quick belated update… I am glad to share that we are home. Tara was actually discharged from the hospital on Wednesday afternoon and we’ve been home since then — just didn’t get a chance to share it more broadly until now.

Tara continues to recover well, and the doctors gave her great feedback before she left the hospital. To put this in perspective, the average hospital recovery time is about 2 weeks for patients who have undergone an EPP. She was discharged less than a week after the completion of her EPP surgery. That’s just crazy. There is no doubt in our mind that God and his healing is at the heart of it, building her back up. We are so thankful that the Great Physician granted a miracle in the OR, and in the days since.

That said, I don’t want to give you the impression that she is comfy and healed up. She has a long way to go. The first days home have been tough as we adjust to not having nursing care and support just outside the door. Tara continues to be in a LOT of pain, and is on a heavy duty regimen of pain medications to manage it. Even with those, her pain is pretty consistently at a 5/6 level on a 10 point scale. We initially struggled to find ways and places for her to sit or lie down comfortably, but we are making progress. She has also struggled with dry coughing fits that, given her significant incision, cause significant pain. The dry cough is a normal issue after this surgery, and we now appear to have it under control with cough medicine and a humidifier. Finally, the nights have been tough for both of us as she struggles with the pain, and she is generally taking meds every hour until midnight and starting again at 4am.

That said, I can see progress and healing in Tara day by day. I am confident that by God’s grace and mercy, she will continue to heal quickly. On Thursday evening, 24 hours after leaving the hospital, she made a brief appearance at the Wesleyan JV Football game to see Aubrey cheer her first game this season. Nothing could have kept her away. She is already talking about making it to GT-Vandy football game on Saturday, Sept 17th…and I bet she will be there with us (to be clear, she was pushing the surgeon to do the surgery earlier in August so she would miss fewer GT home football games LOL).

The rest of September will be focused on healing and rehabilitation. As Tara heals up from the surgery, she will start walking each day to build up the strength and capacity of her remaining lung. She will also need to recover well enough to start radiation therapy, which I expect to start in early October, if not late September.

Thanks to loving family and friends generous with their time, we will have a caregiver with Tara nearly every day this month. And, serendipitously, I will be working from home office this month as well as Coke renovates our floor and my awesome Company and team give me the flexibility to work not far from my healing bride. We also have meals committed 3 nights a week from now through October, which is a relief.

While we are thankful for the amazing help from family and friends, we are most thankful for the prayer and intercession on Tara and our family’s behalf with God. Every day we both get cards, notes, emails and texts with words of inspiration, but even more importantly daily prayers for Tara’s continued healing and recovery. For the prayer warriors out there (you know who you are), please continue to pray for the following:

– Tara’s rapid healing from surgery, and for strengthening of her body and spirit as we gear up for radiation next month
– For abatement of pain from the surgery and related side effects
– For God to hold back the small amount of remaining cancer in her body, restricting any further growth and spread in the weeks before radiation can get to it
– For rest, patience and endurance for Tara, our family and her caregivers during the challenging weeks ahead

As always, thank you for your love, support and prayers for our family!  We will have more to share in a few weeks after she has her follow up visit with the surgeon, and initial consultation with the radiation oncologist.

Phase 3 of the Cancer Removal Project Plan
Journal entry by Tara DeAugustinis — 9/19/2016

This is Tara.

Most of you know that I am a consultant and have managed many projects. To a certain extent, I am treating my cancer journey like a project. We have finished Phase I (Chemo) and Phase II (EPP Surgery) and are now embarking on Phase III (Surgery Recovery & Radiation). It is just the next thing that we have to do.

I am recovering very well from my surgery. Based on Rich’s last update, you know that they let me leave the hospital one week after surgery. It was nice to be at home. Over the past 2 1/2 weeks, I have worked my way from sleeping upright in a lounge chair to getting back in the bed and lying flat again. It is nice to sleep normal again. I am walking a slow 2.3 mph on the treadmill. However, this is faster than the 1.5 mph that I started at when I first got home. Every day I see improvements. The healing process is painful, but my pain meds help!  I saw my pain management doctor two weeks ago. She “reset” my meds so that I am only getting up one time in the middle of the night. This allows me to get better sleep.

Last week, I saw my surgeon for a follow up visit. He is very pleased with how my left lung looks (had an x-ray) and how I am healing. He can’t believe how well I am doing. I also saw my radiation doctor (Dr. Kahn). I will likely start radiation the first week of October (in about two weeks). I will have radiation 5 times per week for 7 weeks. That is longer than usual, but they need to specifically target the cancer that could not be removed in the EPP surgery. The side effects and risks that she described did not sound great. However, I can get through radiation just like I have gotten through everything else. I know that God will be with me every step of the way.

In addition, my oncologist (Dr. Klafter) is already looking at 11 clinical trials for me to review/consider. Based on the results of the lab test being done on my cancer (taken out of me during EPP surgery), we will have more clarity on what is next soon.

I am overwhelmed by our support network. Meals prepared, cards, flowers, and emails that just continue to lift me up. Family and friends that visit with me and take care of me every day. Please know that your support and encouragement means so much. You are the hands and feet of Jesus. Through you I feel the presence of God surrounding me.

I need lots of prayers to get me through this next Phase.
– Pray that my body continues to heal. I need it to be in good shape when I start radiation.
– Pray that the cancer that remained post surgery in my body has not spread.
– Pray that the radiation does its job and “melts away” all cancer that remains in me.
– Pray that the side effects of radiation that were explained to me last week will not be as bad as expected.
– Pray for Rich and Aubrey as I continue to struggle with the challenge of fighting cancer. They are right there with me and I know it affects them greatly.
– Pray that the evidence of God in my story would continue to reach non-believers and deepen the faith of believers.
– Pray that the CT scans I am doing tomorrow will show Dr. Kahn exactly where the cancer is that we need to fight.

I appreciate you all so much. Thank you for taking this journey with me. I know that God is holding me in His righteous right hand. Rich will likely get you another update once I am well into radiation. We are just taking one day at a time and giving our fears and anxiety over to God. We know that He is in this with us.

Best,
Tara

Continue reading Tara’s story here: Facing Mesothelioma One Journal Entry at a Time: Part Six

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