TREATMENT IN GERMANY

May 20, 2007

I called Farrah to tell her I’m going to leave for the Leonardis Clinic on Friday. I’ve had this trip planned for some time, so Sean can get his second round of treatments for ADD. I was hoping she would want to come with me. But there’s a new development: the doctors at UCLA want to scan the rest of her body to see if the cancer has spread anywhere else. My heart stopped when she told me, but she was calm. The possibility of the cancer spreading beyond the tumor had never even occurred to me. She’s having the scan on Thursday.

May 24, 2007

The scan showed up something in her liver, but they have to do a biopsy tomorrow to find out if it’s malignant. This is a nightmare. She’s still calm but she’s scared. So am I.

“I hate leaving on the day you’re doing this,” I said with a sigh.

“Don’t worry,” she assured me. “You go ahead. I’ll call you as soon as I get the results. Who knows, I may be joining you.”

May 26, 2007

I arrived at the clinic today. Sean left two days before me so he’s already here. I immediately told Dr. Jacob about Farrah’s scan and the biopsy. By now, I knew, Farrah should have the results. Dr. Jacob told me she was certain it was cancer, and this was what she’d been afraid of from the outset: without the proper preventive treatment after the chemo and radiation, it will return.

Sure enough, I spoke to Farrah that night and it was cancer; there were a number of malignant tumors in her liver.

“It’s a very aggressive, rare form,” she said. Then that old determination fired up again. “I made up my mind. I’m coming to Germany. That’s it.” Then she asked tentatively, “Will you stay with me if I come?” I told her I would stay as long as she needed me.

I was so thankful she was coming here; I just knew they could help her. I hung up, and the reality of what was happening sank in: Farrah has cancer, and now it’s metastasized to her liver. She could really die. I started crying. It was the first time I’d cried since she told me she had cancer. I let the tears run down my cheeks for several minutes. I let the pain and the fear wash over me. Enough, Alana. Be strong for her. Then that old familiar numb feeling came over me like a steel curtain drawn over my emotions. It’s the way I’ve always dealt with shock or sadness or loss since I was old enough to remember. It’s how I react when the pain is more than I can bear.

I pulled myself together and spoke to Dr. Jacob about what they could do. After we’d talked, I put her in touch with Farrah’s doctor at UCLA so she could explain to him her ideas for treatment. She confirmed that this was a very serious, aggressive form of cancer and that the prognosis with standard chemo treatment would not be good. They had to figure out another way. While the oncologists at UCLA were still trying to come up with some choices, Farrah got on the plane with Ryan and her friend Joan Dangerfield. She came to Germany hoping she would find her miracle here.

May 30, 2007

Farrah—along with Ryan and Joan—arrived today. I threw my arms around her and we both held on to each other for dear life, but we didn’t have much time for catching up. Dr. Jacob arrived to meet Farrah for the first time. Farrah liked her immediately. It’s hard not to like her, although she doesn’t look anything like what one would expect of the head doctor of a German clinic. She’s a large, buxom woman with short blondish-brown hair, and warm, compassionate eyes. She has a very outgoing, enthusiastic personality, and she was anxious to go over her ideas for Farrah’s treatment plan, so we jumped right into it.

Ryan, Farrah, Dr. Jacob, and I gathered in Farrah’s room, where Farrah handed me her little handheld camera and said, “Here. Will you film this so I can remember everything?”

“I don’t know how to use this thing,” I protested. “I’m lucky if I can use an Instamatic.”

“It’s so easy. You can do it. You’re artistic,” she joked. She showed me where the RECORD button was and basically how to point it in the right direction and I was off and running. She also took diligent notes and jotted down her questions. Neither one of us was going to miss a word.

Dr. Jacob had a lot to say, including that the prognosis for Farrah’s kind of cancer at this stage was normally not good. Quiet tears slid down Farrah’s cheeks, and Ryan asked the doctor, “Are we too late?”

“I’ll never lie to you, Farrah,” Dr. Jacob replied, “and I would be lying if I said I could guarantee you a cure…” We all held our breath. “But I have some ideas for a treatment plan and I think there is a very good possibility that it could work.” We breathed a sigh of relief; at least there was hope here in Germany.

June 1, 2007

Dr. Jacob didn’t waste a minute; it was all moving quickly. Today I went with Farrah (Ryan and Joan stayed behind because there was no room in the van) and one of Dr. Jacob’s team from the clinic to Frankfurt to meet Dr. Thomas Vogl, a much respected surgeon and radiologist and a professor at Goethe University. Farrah would be undergoing a procedure called chemo embolization, in which chemo is injected directly into the tumor to shrink it down to manageable size. It would later be removed by laser surgery. If there are multiple tumors in an organ, as there are in her liver, they use the same technique but “perfuse” the chemo throughout the organ—in essence, they bathe the liver in chemo. Although they’re starting to do it in the States in trials, Dr. Vogl has been doing these procedures for over fifteen years and is known to be the master of them.

The waiting room and hallway outside his office were filled with people waiting to see him, but fortunately we were taken right in through a side door to where he was waiting for us. Dr. Vogl is a very tall, angular man with a balding head and glasses, attractive in a professorial sort of way. He is very precise, very detailed, and gets right to the point. I asked him if he would mind me filming the meeting, and I assumed that he would have a problem with it, but he was fine. These Germans are so different from doctors in the States! He explained briefly to Farrah what the procedure would be. She’d go right away for an MRI, come back to his office to go over the film, and then head straight into the operating room. Like I said, it all moves so quickly here.

Once Farrah had the MRI, Dr. Vogl brought us back into the office and put the film on the screen so we could see exactly where the tumors in her liver were. There they were: the invaders making my friend so ill.

We were escorted to the operating room, where Farrah put on a gown in a small adjoining cubicle and was taken by the nurse to the operating table. Of course, she was nervous. Who wouldn’t be? But she still seemed fearless. I would have been freaking out. Here she is in a strange country with a doctor she’s just met, getting ready to go through a procedure that she knows very little about. Her courage astounds me.

Dr. Vogl gave me permission to film the entire procedure, which surprised me again. I put on a heavy lead apron that weighed a ton, because of the radiation that was emitted by the machines. Farrah had her rosary in her hand, clutching it to her heart, as they started the IV and pain medication. Dr. Vogl marched in and it began. They don’t put you completely out, for some reason we could never quite understand. “I like to talk to my patients—who else would I talk to?” Dr. Vogl explained with his dry wit. Farrah went along with it, trying to be strong; I would have demanded they knock me out.

He gave her an injection of a local anesthetic in a very long needle, which, by Farrah’s reaction, must have been painful. Then he took a scalpel and made an incision in the artery in her right groin. Blood actually spurted up into the air like a fountain. Ordinarily I would have fainted at the sight of that, but somehow being behind the camera buffered the effect. He inserted a small wire tube into her artery and manipulated it with a small machine all the way into the liver. There were four monitors above her, showing what was happening inside her body. I’d never seen anything like this before and it was fascinating. Then he took the syringes of chemo and injected them into the tube, which took them directly to the liver. He did the same thing with the primary tumor in the anal area, and before we knew it, he was done.

“That is it. It is over,” he said. Then he pulled off his gloves and mask, and went immediately to his next procedure. Apparently he does fifteen to eighteen of these a day.

Farrah was sleeping lightly, so she wasn’t in any pain, which I was thankful for, and we were taken to a recovery room nearby where she would sleep for a few hours. After four hours, if there was no bleeding, she could leave for the clinic. Unbelievable how quickly and efficiently it all was done. Dr. Vogl came in briefly just before her recovery time was up, checked her, said she was free to go, and told her he would see her again in three weeks.

We got into the van to drive us the five hours back to the clinic. We’d made a bed for Farrah in the backseat because she was still pretty groggy. A couple of hours later, I was starving so we stopped at a German roadside place to get something to eat. Farrah popped up immediately and noticed there was a Whataburger inside. Who would have thought they’d have them in Germany? They’re a southern staple, and I know how much Farrah likes them, so of course she insisted on coming in and getting a giant hamburger, which she wolfed down, followed by her favorite drink, a Coca-Cola. She likes her Cokes with lots of ice; she likes everything with lots of ice, and believe me, it’s not easy to get ice in Germany.

We got back to the clinic at about midnight. Farrah was walking without any problem, and not feeling bad at all. This wasn’t going to beat her. We Texas girls are tougher than that.

June 3, 2007

Farrah had her first antibody treatment today, which will fight the cancer and keep it from spreading during the procedure tomorrow. Ryan has been really sweet with her. Today, after the anti-allergy drip, she was so knocked out she just slept all day, and Ryan sat by her bedside, just watching her sleep. He wouldn’t budge an inch…just in case she opened her eyes. He wanted her to know he was there.

June 4, 2007

We’re here at the hospital in Bad Tölz, a little town about twenty-five minutes away from the clinic. Farrah’s gone into the operating room now with Dr. Jacob and the surgeon. They’re going to use this special ultrasound procedure to remove the primary tumor, unless it’s too deep in the muscle, in which case she will have to get a type of radiation that will go directly into the remains of the tumor and destroy it. She looked small and scared when she left the room on the gurney.

Later

Farrah’s finally back in the room, but it was way more complicated than they thought. The tumor was much larger than it appeared in the PET scan or the reports from UCLA. Also, it was embedded in the muscle, very close to the vaginal wall. The surgery took much longer than expected, but they managed to get it all, they believe. The biopsy results will come back in a day or so to show if there are any cancer cells in the surrounding tissue. It just seems that with every step there’s an unforeseen complication.

It’s hard to see her in this kind of pain. After all she went through at UCLA, she said she didn’t want to go through any more pain, but that just hasn’t been possible. It all sounded easier and less complicated than it proved to be—the liver perfusion in Frankfurt, the ultrasound surgery. I can’t bear to see her suffer. Please, God, let this be the worst of it. I hope I’ve done the right thing by getting her to come here. What if I’m not right about this place? What if she doesn’t get well? But they didn’t have anything to offer at home, and here they are doing things that are only in trials in the United States, if even that. At least there’s hope here.

June 5, 2007

We’re back at the clinic now. The biopsy came back and they got all the cancer in the surgery! Thank you, God! We were so excited when Dr. Jacob told us. We were all jumping up and down, and Dr. Jacob even started crying. This was such a huge victory. Farrah’s still in pain from the surgery, but we all went for a walk to the beautiful little church in the village. I think we all wanted to thank God in person! The church was first built in the 1200s, then obviously refurbished at different times. We were awestruck by its beauty and magnificence. The ceiling was painted with powerful images of saints and angels almost as impressive as the artwork in the Sistine Chapel. We never expected to find something like this in the middle of this tiny village of Bad Heilbrunn.

Farrah knelt in one of the pews and prayed. She said the words silently, although I could see her lips moving. I know she felt very grateful for the good news she’d just had and wanted to thank God. Raised a Catholic, she has a very strong faith and prays often; she even crosses herself or says grace before every meal. I was filming this lovely moment, but somehow I ended up erasing the film. I probably wasn’t supposed to be filming in the church anyway.

That night we celebrated. Ryan, Farrah, and I curled up on her bed, ate spaghetti Bolognese—one of the few dishes Farrah liked at the clinic—and watched movies. Ryan had wanted to see some strange French art film with subtitles, but I insisted on lighter fare: Meet the Fockers. We needed something to lift our spirits and take our minds off the seriousness of this trip.

June 14, 2007

I’m having such an anxiety attack. My son Sean just got back to L.A. and found out the cops are issuing a warrant for his arrest over an altercation he was involved in. They’ve charged him with assault and battery along with several other things. It was actually one of his friends who started the whole fight, not him. Sean was the one who got singled out because he was more high profile. And Sean won’t rat out his friend, so he’s taking the rap for it. I’m frantically trying to find an attorney for him. This was another thing that Farrah and I could spend hours talking about: our boys. We never dreamed that one day we’d have this in common.

I was with Farrah and Dr. Jacob when Farrah got her first chemo treatment. Dr. Jacob explained that she’ll have the chemo once a week, and they mix it with liposomes to get into the cancer cells easier. At the same time, they do a local hypothermia (freezing) of the liver to destroy the cancer. At the end of next week she goes to Frankfurt for another liver perfusion and maybe the laser surgery. Tomorrow she gets a special injection that we hope will genetically rearrange the RNA of the cancer cells and cause them to die.

June 16, 2007

This past week has been crazy: Sean’s arrest, my frantic attempts to find an attorney for him, all the drama around Farrah, and now this situation with George. He’s here at the clinic for his annual checkup; he goes to the clinic like other people go for a facial.

This doctor from Düsseldorf arrived who has been treating him for his knees and shoulder. Farrah and I jokingly refer to her as “the stripper doctor” because she’s blond, curvaceous, and not at all what you’d expect a doctor to look like. She arrived to treat different people at the clinic and moved right into George’s room (next door to me, by the way, which I think is a little indiscreet). Suddenly I realized that the doctor is sleeping with George, a fact that he neglected to tell me. I know that George and I don’t have a romantic relationship anymore—it’s been over thirty years since we divorced—but we are close and, in some way, still very connected. I would never do something so insensitive to him.

And my ex Rod Stewart’s getting married again. I suppose he’ll be having more children; he collects them like he does Galle lamps. I’d never want to be with him again, that’s for sure, but it’s just that everyone seems to be able to find new relationships and move on with their lives except me. I feel overwhelmed with my children’s problems (even though they’re grown), my best friend’s cancer, and my own fears of the future. I’m uncertain about how I’m going to survive physically, emotionally, and financially.

June 23, 2007

Yesterday, Farrah had to go to Frankfurt for her second chemo perfusion, and Ryan decided that he would take her. He knew she’d had a relatively easy time with the procedure the first time we’d gone, so he anticipated it being a piece of cake. Farrah was a little nervous about him accompanying her, since I was the one who knew the routine. But beyond that, I know Farrah didn’t want to have to worry about Ryan worrying about her.

“Don’t you want Alana to come, too?” she asked him tentatively.

“No, it’s okay. I can handle it,” Ryan replied in a very manly, take-charge kind of way. Famous last words.

I only found out what happened this morning when I woke up. Dr. Jacob said Farrah was up all night sick from the chemo they put in the liver perfusion in Frankfurt. The procedure with Dr. Vogl had gone well, and after she’d spent a few hours in the recovery room, they got into the van to head back to the clinic. She started throwing up shortly after they left Frankfurt and continued for the entire six hours that it took to get back to the clinic. They had to keep stopping by the roadside because all the containers kept filling up. Even the doctor from the clinic, who accompanied them, was at a loss for what to do. Nothing seemed to work. She threw up until the wee hours of the morning, when finally she fell into an exhausted sleep. The good news is that the tumors have shrunk considerably, though still not enough to do the laser surgery on this trip.

I went in to see Farrah around noon, when the nurse said she was finally awake. She was feeling weak and shaky, which was to be expected. Then Ryan came into the room with a bacon sandwich he’d brought her from the dining room. He was so proud of himself. A bacon sandwich! We laughed the rest of the trip about Ryan’s choice of food for her still delicate stomach. Such a typical man!

There are so many different energies going on here: Redmond, Farrah and Ryan’s son, arrived a few days ago with Mel and Bren Simon on their plane; my daughter, Kimberly, flew in from London; Ryan; Joan; George and his girlfriend, Barbara—I can’t call her “the stripper doctor” anymore because she’s actually very nice. And she did a little Botox and filler on me yesterday. It’s kind of made up for her sleeping with my ex-husband. I’m not sleeping with him, so I guess he has to sleep with someone eventually or be a monk. It might as well be someone who’s nice (and who does wonders with Botox). She didn’t even charge me. Yes, I can be bought.

As for my lips, I can’t quite decide if they’re great or not. I asked Farrah if they’re too big. “No, Mick, they’re not too big,” she quipped.

July 1, 2007

Home again! I can’t believe June is over and I have spent the entire month at the clinic. Now it’s back to reality and what comes with it—uncertainty. I’m nervous about Sean’s hearing on Tuesday—the arraignment. And Farrah. I know I just got unpacked, but I have this sudden impulse to run away back to Germany and that lovely, peaceful little village.

image

On our first trip to the Leonardis Clinic, it was just about summer when we arrived in late May. In the morning you’d open your windows and you could hear the cows softly mooing and smell the sweet scent of newly mowed hay. The scenery was almost too perfect, like something from The Sound of Music.

On one of the days when Farrah was feeling pretty good, we took a long walk through the picturesque countryside. Everything was lush and in bloom, and the ground was covered in a layer of fresh green. I thought that if ever there was a place and a time to get well, surely it was here.

We found some horses, and Farrah kept talking about “what a big ass” one horse had, which made us both laugh no end. The funniest thing was that she was right: it truly was the biggest ass you’ve ever seen! We decided we’d take a picture and make a card of it, and send it to anyone we knew who was a horse’s ass (the list was endless!).

Then Farrah spotted this sweet baby horse lounging with his parents by an old farmhouse. She petted his mane and fed him; she whispered a few gentle words in his ear. After a few minutes she turned around and walked toward me, and together we headed back in the direction of the clinic.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at admin@erenow.org. Thank you!