Thursday, December 30, 2010

The End!

Today, I am no longer a patient. Today, I became a survivor!! As quietly as it all began, it ended that way too. I arrived for my 10:45 appointment just after 10:15 a.m. I chatted ever so briefly with Momma Liz before the nursing staff came and got me around 10:30. By 10:40, I was walking out of the Oncology Radiology Department at Liberty Hospital with my mask in hand.

I have not exactly decided what to do with the mask. I am still taking suggestions. So far I have heard the following:
1. Turn it into art and put it on the wall.
2. Turn it into a bird feeder
3. Some sort of Halloween decoration.
4. A plant container.
5. Strain Spaghetti with it. (although we had to reconsider this one, because hot water will melt the plastic)
6. Hang it from the ceiling so it looks like a face is coming down at ya!

If you have other suggestions, by all means, send them to me. I would love to hear what you think!

I elected to spend my afternoon after treatment doing something I love to do. I went to see a movie. I fully expect The Black Swan to be nominated for some Academy Award, so I hit a morning movie. I always feel like a woman of leisure when I can watch a movie in the middle of the day in the middle of the work week.  One hour and fifty minutes of pure guilty pleasure!

Many of you know that I begged and begged the Doctor to get my treatments finished in 2010 due to outrageous changes in health insurance that take effect January 1, 2011. I am elated that we were able to do this. I male have to financially worry about the follow up care (doctor appointments every 3 months for the next two years) but I was able get the cancer treatments covered at 100%.

I have some peace of mind tonight. I was diagnosed with a treatable form of Cancer. It has a high success rate. It also has a low return rate.  I am going to bed tonight feeling like I kicked this one in the ass and won. I will pray later that I am not in some minuet percentage of recurrence. Tonight I am a survivor!

And....I feel like I should properly warn all of you....tomorrow I shall gather with some friends and raise a glass (or two) to celebrate The End. I will also celebrate that 2010 and has come and gone and that from here I shall be counting the years as they pass from the time I was diagnosed with Cancer.  For I never want to be defined as a person who has Cancer but rather as the person who survived Cancer.

Happy New Years dear Friends!! May it be a joyous one for all of us!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The End is Near

I resumed treatments the Monday after Christmas. Let me update you:

1.) I was able to eat some solid foods over the holiday. No ham or turkey. Mostly soft side dishes but it was still solid food that was not a shake.
2.) I am still eating a lot of soup, it is just easier.
3.) On Monday, my throat stopped hurting. Since then it has gotten stronger every day.

As I have said before, I have to see the doctor every Monday. This week we had a visiting doctor and boy did she examine me! She poked really hard on my lymph-nodes and concluded that she did not feel a single one of them. YEAH ME!! She also told me that anything higher than 2000 units of radiation is known to do permanent damage to the saliva glands. I am receiving over 3000 units.

The right side of my mouth continues to be super sore. But, I will say, it has also improved every day this week. I can only guess that the boost is not hitting it and it has started to heal.

I am sunburned. The first sign always that I have had too much sun is when I start to itch.  I can see the sunburn on the front of my body but I could not figure out why the back was itching so much.  Silly me, forgot they radiate the front and back of my neck! So I am sunburned on the front of my body as well as the back.

I had a super great Christmas, as I hope all of you did! My husband might have wrapped it up, but my hair dresser, Julie, gave Wayne a new hair treatment for people who have lost their hair to chemo and are trying to grow it back. It is called BioJen. I started using it Christmas night. We shall see. I can say my hair is growing back but it is still way too thin. I still cover my head when I go out in public.  Through the holidays I was able to see both of my nieces and I think both of them, 9 month old Alaska and 3 month old Zoe, have more hair than I do!! OK, I just checked out photos of Zoe, I think we might be even!

I am including one photo from the holidays. Wayne got me this wonderful necklace and I wanted to share it all with you. It is from Silver Maple, you can find them online.  My necklace says Wife, Mother, Survivor.

If you would like your very own necklace...you can find them online. www.thesilvermaple.com . You can totally personalize a necklace of your fancy. This one was found in my stocking on Christmas Day. When I unwrapped it, I could not even talk, I was so chocked up. Let it to Wayne to leave me speechless.

Friday, December 24, 2010

I AM Blessed

An old high school classmate of mine posted on my Facebook this morning, "we are blessed." Since she posted that I have been sitting here thinking how truly blessed I am. A very good friend of mine would scoff at the idea that a person with Cancer is blessed or lucky, but I am going to have to disagree with her on this one.

I have spent more than half of this year being sick. I have done things to my body that under normal circumstances I would never do. I have had more reactions to the treatments than I ever would have guessed. I have increased the scars on my body 400%. And yet, I can still sit here and type to you all that I am Blessed.

I am blessed to have a job. I am blessed that the job provides me with health insurance. I am blessed that the health insurance allowed me access to reputable Doctors and Nurses who cared for me. I am blessed that I got all of my doses of chemotherapy when this country is in a prescription drug shortage. I am blessed that I have a home that I could rest in while I was recovering from all of the procedures. I am blessed that I own a car and could drive myself to my treatments and not have to rely upon public transportation.

I am so blessed that I have a wonderful family who cared for me and held my hand this year. I have not only had my immediate family here with me (my husband and two children) but I have also had my Mother, my Brother. I am also blessed to have this amazing In-Law family that I am so happy have become my family. I have even had the love and support of my extended family (Aunts, Uncles, Cousins).

I am also blessed to have amazing friends. They have checked on me, some weeks on a daily basis. They have showered me and the family with food for nourishment, concern, love, and hope. I have had friends who validate my fears. Others that feed my soul.

I sad before, and it is worthy of repeating, when fighting this fight, it is so important to have a network. I wish every patient had the network I have had.

So tonight, as we honor the birth of our Savior, I am saying an extra prayer of thanks. Thanks for all of you and for the number of blessings I have in my life.

I will end with one small story. My daughter was recently sitting on Santa's lap. That in and of itself was a blessing because she was adamant a month ago, she would not go see Santa as she was so deathly afraid of him a year ago. BUT, she did agree to "see" him. So off to the mall we went. When we got to the mall, she agreed to "talk" to him but she was NOT going to sit on his lap. When it was our turn, Santa reached down and grabbed her and put her on his lap, just as I was trying to say, she only wants to "talk."

She did not scream. She did not cry. She did sit there frozen, deer in headlights, for a few moments. Then she just started chatting with Santa.  She told Santa she wanted the Ocean for Christmas. The Ocean! It took my Momma Liz to explain to me that Olivia might not literally want the Ocean and maybe in her two year old way, she just verbalized the biggest thing she knew.

So, for Christmas, I want the Ocean too.  My Ocean is a Cure. And if a cure is not possible, then I want the best damn screening we can get for every Cancer so that every patient has a fighting chance. A fighting chance to win their battle, a fighting chance to stay with their family and a fighting chance to enjoy their blessings.

God Bless You and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Another Milestone: DONE

I finished the 12 radiation session on the entire neck yesterday. It could not have come at a better time. I am tired of drinking my meals. Did Oprah really lose all that weight drinking shakes? Of course she did. I am just not sure how she could do it day in/day out for months!  My mouth has so many sores inside it that I could scream (well if my throat did not hurt so badly)! The Doctor says the boost sessions, those to just my right side, will provide relief to my throat. He also explained that he is coming up higher on the right side of my throat than the left, hence the sores on my right jaw line. He has given me two days off treatment this week. The office is closed Friday for Christmas Eve and he has suspended my treatment on Thursday also. This will allow my throat and mouth a four day weekend to heal.

For those keeping track, I will finish radiation next Thursday, December 30, 2010.

The Doctor has prescribed me a mouthwash commonly called Magic Mouthwash. The theory...it is stronger than Chloraseptic but it numbs the mouth and throat like Chloraeseptic. My problem with the Magic Mouthwash is it is a thick pink drink. It gags me something fierce  to swish and swallow! BLEECK! So my new strategy is to eat a small meal of soft foods and take very tiny bites. 

My prayer, please let my throat be better by Christmas. I would really enjoy eating.

So, I will close with a Wayne story. I am sure he hates these! But, he gives me good stuff to write about. Since I have been drinking my meals, I have not been too concerned with fixing dinner. Wayne came home last night belly growling hungry. I am sure he was upset I had given absolutely NO thought to dinner. So, he suggest going out to eat. I agree. We pack up and head out. On the way out he suggest Chinese food. Well, already a bad idea in my book because I am limited to soup there.  But, soup is better than another shake so I agree. He passes up my first favorite Chinese restaurant. Then he turns to quickly for the second favorite Chinese restaurant. So I ask him, "Where are we going?" and he tells me to a buffet! Really??? I can only eat soup at the entire place and he chooses to take us to a buffet because he is so hungry he does not want to wait for food to be prepared. Well, I will tell you all, I ate 3 bowls of soup and the nice people at the restaurant only charged me a kids meal price. Wayne got lucky on that one.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 11 of Radiation

It is so hard to believe Christmas is only five days away!  I will have both of my kids at home with me on Christmas morning and I am so excited! I also have family coming in from out of town to celebrate the holiday. My only hope right now, is that I will be able to eat this Christmas.

I am down to only being able to drink. I have sustained myself on shakes. Sometimes those are protein shakes but other times, I will confess, to living off of Eggnog milkshakes from McDonald's.

I meet with the doctor today after my treatment. I was down two pounds from last week. My throat is sore! My jaw and gums are also sore! These are side effects the Doctor expected and warned me about. My only concern is that the side effects are permanent and he assured me today that they are not. He believes within two weeks of ending treatment I will feel better.

The Doctor gave me some "magic mouthwash" that will numb my throat so hopefully I can eat. He told me to take it within a half-hour of eating. Funny, the pharmacist told me not to eat within an hour of taking the medication for risk of choking.

My other big news; I do believe my hair is starting to grow back. It feels very fuzzy up there. By NO MEANS am I ready to show anyone my head. But, maybe by my birthday....

Friday, December 17, 2010

Soft Foods Only...Please

The throat is super sore now. It is a different pain than when I have a sore throat due to strep. The sides of my throat are not sore, instead I have a "lump" in the middle of my throat, where if I were a man, would be an Adams apple.

When I swallow solid food, it feels like the food gets stuck against the sore spot. I have experimented with different foods. Meats are out right now. Soft foods are somewhat doable. Protein shakes work. I do not believe I have come close to consuming 1000 calories today.

I am hungry. More than just being hungry...I am craving food.

The doctor said my throat would heal when they stop radiating the entire throat and move to just treating my right side. I am off for the weekend, so I am hoping it heals a bit over the weekend. Then I honestly have 2 days left on the entire neck.

While I will appreciate this all being over before 2011, it kinda sticks to be going through this at Christmas time. The Taylor family is having a Christmas gathering tomorrow with all kinds of yummy Mexican food. I really hope I am not limited to a protein shake!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Radiation and Macrobiotics

Today is Day 8 of radiation. So far, I have had few side effects. Food still taste like food and I am enjoying eating. The Doctor said since my taste has lasted this long, I might not lose it. That was the second best news he has given me.

I have noticed my neck becoming more red. It does not hurt like a sunburn but I would say the radiation burn has started. I am tired, still. I nap almost everyday.  And, today, like a light switch, my throat started hurting. I noticed it as I ate lunch. It felt like I had swallowed too large of a bite of food without chewing. But then I noticed every swallow was like that.

I realize this road is nearing stage 2 completion but I keep having this nagging thought; how in the world can I prevent this from happening to me again? This question has lead me to studying macrobiotics. One of the books I have started reading poses this question to the readers, "how free are you within your own body?".

This one question has summed up how I have been feeling. Cancer takes away your freedom. It forces you to play by a different set of rules. It can ultimately end your life. Change may be necessary. I have known that for a while. Sure giving up Diet Coke was easy when it tasted badly, but every day I make a decision not to drink it. I am not sure what road  this macrobiotics will lead me on, but other changes are coming. I can feel it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Early Menopause

I will say in advance....sorry male readers. Probably not a topic you appreciate or want to read about. But if I am going to document this Cancer experience I would be amiss in talking about the early menopause the chemo has created.

Now, I have not been to a doctor and I am at this point diagnosing myself. But, I truly believe the chemo has kicked me into early menopause. Among other symptoms, I am having hot flashes like nobodies business these days. I will wake up in the middle of the night sweating I am so hot. The other day, Wayne came home and found me cooking in next to nothing because I got so hot I thought I was going to self combust! Off came the clothing.

Whether this is a temporary condition and my pre-Cancer self will resurface again, I have no idea. The websites I have read say a lot depends on the age of the person with Cancer. I guess it is a good thing Wayne and I had previously decided our family was complete. I have also decided if I go though these hot flashes and then return to my "normal" self and then have to go back through this again in a few years when it is "age-appropriate" I am gonna be a bit angry!

So, if you see me and I am fanny myself like mad, please bear with me.

Sadness and Joy

Friday was  a tough day. I am not the only person at my work who has been battling Cancer. Two of the others touched my heart and soul on Friday. 

One of the coworkers and I happened to bump into each other on Friday. She was handed a horrible diagnosis and originally told there was nothing anyone could do for her. But, being the fighter and believer she is, she did not take no for an answer and kept hunting till someone could and did help her. I am happy to say she had her first check up and is now in remission as well.

My other coworker sadly passed away on Friday. In her honor, I ask each of you, please talk to your doctors and follow up on any and all early screening test your doctors might recommend. I believe so many advances have been made in the cancer world, but most of them involve early detection. My prayers are going out to my lost coworker and to her family.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

3 down...14 more to go

So far, as predicted by the Doctor, I have not had many side effects from the radiation. The right side of my throat, up high by my right ear, has been swollen and sore to the touch. However, that has subsided and offers me no discomfort. I am tired.

I tend to not sleep when I am stressed, so maybe that is part of the sleepiness during the day. Or, the radiation is making me sleepy. I have probably napped every day this week.

I also continue to lose weight. I am down 19 pounds from when I was diagnosed. I ate a banana for breakfast on my way to treatment today...I normally would have been starving by 11:30 but I never felt hungry. I went ahead and forced myself to eat.

The radiation machine appears to be temperamental. Today it took an extra five minutes just for it to decide to work. That is an extra five minutes in that darned mask. I have to tell you, all I need is some green paint and a forked tongue and I would just like a scaly lizard after my treatment.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sadness....

Obviously, I did not personally know Elizabeth Edwards. I have however, gotten to know her through the media. I said extra prayers for her yesterday when news hit that she was back in the hospital. Today, I have cried at her passing.

As I watch interviews with her tonight...I admire her strength and her wisdom.

As I waited for my radiation appointment today, I chatted with woman who was sitting alone in the waiting room. She appeared to be inpatient and was waiting for someone to take her back to her room. I attempted to make small talk with her but this dear woman had just found out her Cancer has returned. All she could say, over and over, was that she thought things were going so much better, she thought she had made it through the storm.

My heart went out to her. I do not even know her name.

It is my biggest fear. Elizabeth Edwards' Cancer returned. The lady in the waiting room's Cancer returned.  Tonight, I am going to say extra prayers. Provide peace. Miracles do happen. And it is time to find a cure.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Zap Zap Zap

Radiation started today. I arrived there just before my scheduled time, 8:15 a.m.. The first thought I had was not about the mask I have to wear but to the size of that machine! It is incredibly huge!! Then before I can even get over that, it is off with the glasses and the head scarf and right into the mask. I am not sure if it possible, but is it tighter than it was last week? 

I think I actually expected to feel the radiation. But it is painless. I could hear the clicks of the machine. Other than that, you just focus on how much longer will that mask be on my face. It was over quickly, I would say less than 15 minutes. The future dates will be faster, they won't have to x-ray me every day.

Every Monday we meet with Dr. Cozad after the treatment. He informed me that I will have 12 units of radiation on my entire neck. Then I will have 5 additional units on just the right side of my neck. So for you math guru's that is 17 units. (I was expecting to get 20 days of radiation but that has changed to 17!) Even with the unexpecting examination by the Doctor, I was home by 9:10.

Of course the Doctor also gives me his standard warning: 1/10 patients experience swelling of the saliva gland after treatment starts.  I say HELLLLOOOO! Did you not hear all the complications I had during chemo, you know that 1 is going to be me.

Olivia and I met Momma Liz and David for lunch afterwards. David also started radiation on his neck today.As  David and I were talking about the potential loss of our saliva glands, I realize my right gland is extremely sore to the touch. I knew it would be me!

After our lunch, which was leisurely and wonderful to catch up, I came straight home and sleep for 2 1/2 hours!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Scariest Moment!

Wayne and I met with Dr. Cozad today, who is my Radiologist. I start radiation on Monday, December 6, 2010. I got a little bit of bad news today, I was expecting to only do between 12-15 sessions but I found out I will have to do approximately 20. The side effects of radiation: I will have a sore throat. Mild to moderate sun burn on my chest. Food will taste badly again. Fatigue.

I then made my mask. I can hardly describe this experience.  Many of you might remember plastic canvas that was popular in the 80's as a arts and craft. The mask material was very similar to plastic canvas. It was a solid material that had tiny squares all over it. You could see/breathe through it. The edges where covered with trim and the trim had black knobs on it.

The nurse had me lay flat on a table and then she submerged this plastic canvas material in hot water. Once it was wet the canvas-like material was pliable. She immediately put it over my face, neck and chest and locked it down to the table with those black knobs. I could not even move my eyelids. As the plastic canvas-type thing cooled, it got hard creating a mold of my face. Wayne took lots of photos so I am posting them for you.



Photo 1: the before mask.
Photo 2: it has been locked down. You can literally see how tight that thing is across my face. (by the way: it left indents in my skin for hours after. On my forehead, nose, eyelids, and chin!!)
Photo 3: The after product.


The benefit of the mask; I do not have to have Cancer Markers (aka tattoo's). They will put me in the mask every time I go in and it will assure perfect positioning of my neck and make sure they are radiating the same spot each day.

Another important note: I have come down with a fever this evening. The last time I checked I was at 101.6. I called the oncall oncologist and he prescribed Levaquin for 7 days. I am 3 weeks out of chemo and still can not afford to get sick.

Thankful

I have attempted to write a post many times since last Wednesday. However, I found myself just too emotional all holiday weekend.

I have never had a more profound sense of gratitude as I do right now.

I am thankful for a wonderful family. Cancer does not effect the patient alone, it impacts the entire family. I am thankful to have my immediate family and extended family by my side.

I am thankful to have medical insurance and quality doctors.  This process has been stressful enough, I can not imagine adding the burden of figuring out how to pay for it. I am thankful for my medical staff. I have two great doctors and wonderful nurses who have cared for me.

I am so thankful for the multitude of friends who have supported me. So many people have emailed, or texted me or even called just to let me know they are thinking of me or reading the blog. Other friends have made us meals, offered to drive me to treatments. I have so many wonderful people watching out for me and I am so thankful for each of them.

Mostly right now I am thankful to be alive. I am thankful to being well on my way to becoming a Cancer Survivor!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Next Step

So as happy as I am about being in remission, I still have to make plans for the next step: Radiation.

I have decided to do radiation in Liberty with Dr. Cozad. I called his office today and made an appointment for next Tuesday, the 30th. I will meet with him briefly and then spend time in the simulation room. There I will make my mask.  I believe Wayne is going to go with me so he can take photos!

I will then start radiation on December 6, 2010. My insurance is changing drasticallyy on January 1, so I wanted to be finished with radiation before the end of the year. So, by starting on December 6, I should finish the week of Christmas.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Test Results are IN!

Okay, today of all days Wayne and I sat in the lobby of the Doctor's office for 55 minutes before being called back.

The Doctor started off telling us that previously my lymph nodes were about 3-4 cm large. The latest CT scan showed they were 1 1/2 cm large. He is very pleased with how much they have shrank. He said they will continue to shrink over the next several weeks because there is still chemo in my system. BUT, he believes if he PET scanned my lymph nodes right now, they would be PET negative, meaning swollen but not with Cancer. He believes right now the lymph nodes are full of "trash" (dead cancer cells) that my body will continue to "clean out" in the next several weeks/month.

He did say there is a strong likelihood that my lymph nodes may never return to their pre-Cancerous size due to scar tissue.

He also said the MUGA test showed my heart is just as strong after chemo as it was before. So, I am going to survive Cancer and have a strong heart!

I still have to do Radiation. There is no getting out of that. Radiation should start within the next few weeks and last 2-3 weeks. But the Doctor said to me, I have finished the hardest part!

Thank you all for your support, your thoughts, your prayers! Thank you so much!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Wait is ALMOST over...

Nothing too much new here. We are still waiting for test results. Doctor's appointment is at 9:00 tomorrow. I promise to post as soon as I get out of the doctors office and to a computer.

I will say....it has been a stressful week. You want to be positive and think positive thoughts but in the back of your head you are always thinking...there is a small possibility.

The other thought that has consumed my week is prevention. Self admitted I like to control aspects of my life. One of the most frustrating things to me this week is not knowing what caused me to have Cancer.  It is not like lung cancer that is directly tied to smoking.  And because I do not know what caused it, I honestly can't prevent it from ever coming back. Is it the soda I drank? Is it the food I ate? Is it the crop dusting I grew up with? or did some gene just go rouge and morphed into Cancer?

 I recognize that my obsession about prevention has to do with just how desperately I never want to go through chemotherapy ever again. It has been two weeks since I had my last chemo. I still find myself easily tired. My skin still itches a lot! And my bones still ache on a daily basis.

On a much lighter note, I do want you all to know that I enjoyed watching Bon Jovi sign on the American Music Awards. Along with two other rockin' songs, they also sang "It's My Life!"

Tomorrow, we have a few new answers....stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Test: Done

Well, the test are done. I have no results to share. The process went smoothly today. The IV went in on the first try, they took my blood, added the radioactive material and then put my blood back in my body. Then I did the MUGA test.

I am not sure why but I was awake all night last night. I just could not sleep. I finally fell asleep around 5:45 this morning but just to be woken by the short chic around 7:30. So, when I was in the hospital getting the MUGA, I took a little cat nap. I actually woke myself up snoring!

After the MUGA, I went to a different unit and completed two CT scans. One of my chest and the other of my neck. The most nerve wracking thing, the tech's who run the test. One of them came up to me afterwards and started asking questions, "Do you have a lump in your throat right now, Did you have a lump in your throat, Where were the lumps?" I found it frustrating because I just want to know, did you see something? did you not see something? But of course, they won't tell you anything and they have to be read by someone else. My doctor will not even get the results till Thursday at the earliest.

I left the hospital feeling frustrated. This is now my life. Follow up test and waiting for the results. Fearing the worse.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On the Mend

Happy Monday morning everyone! I am back at work. I have not thrown up since Friday at 11:15 a.m. The only real concern I am having is bone pain as a result of those darn Neupogen shots.

So, I made a decision. I am not going to get my shot today. I figure if the pain meds have stopped working on my body then I should be finished with the shot. I laid in bed for the past two full days with intense bone pain and I am just not going to do it any more.

Tomorrow is a big day for us. I repeat the MUGA  and CT with contrast scan. The MUGA will tell the doctors if my heart was damaged by the chemo. That is a very real possibility so please keep saying prayers.  The CT scan will look at my neck and see how the cancer looks today vs. how it looked the first of July.

I have spent some time with my calendar today and just really freaked out that next week is Thanksgiving! We have not made any plans for the holiday at all. Time sure does seem to get by me more easily now.

Have a great day and I will keep you posted on the details of my test tomorrow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Very Sick!

Let me start by saying that Purple Gatorade is easier to throw up than Orange Gatorade.

I have been sick for three days straight. I have thrown up so many times that I have lost count. Yesterday when I went to get my Neupogen shot, they doctors office kept me, gave me an IV and pumped fluids and anti-nausea medication into my body. It worked for maybe 3 hours. Then the vomiting returned.

I went back this morning and did another round of fluids and anti-nausea medication. This time they used a different drug and I am happy to say at the time of writing this post, I have not been sick since 11:15 this morning. I am hopeful that it is over.

I am thankful for my husband. He has taken very good care of me in the past three days. I am also thankful to my Mom, she packed up and drove here quickly to help out and is still here. I am also thankful for Meeghan, she has given me good advice and things to watch for.  I also know many of you have been saying prayers for me, and I am thankful for those.

So many of you have commented on my strength and outlook during this process. I want you to know that it is not always that strong. The past three days have tested me. I have a good friend whose sister has had Breast Cancer twice. I have thought about her a lot over the past three days. Right now, I honestly do not know if I was given a Cancer diagnosis again if I would ever consent to doing chemotherapy again. 

I know I am a low point emotionally as well as physically. And thankfully, I do not have to make that decision right now. I am hopeful that when my physical body stops hurting then my emotional state will improve.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Graduation Day

Today has been interesting. I went to work, facilitating a training. I managed to make it through the entire training before getting sick. I have forced myself to eat today just so I can have something in my stomach. The new Zofran is not working so well at keeping the nausea away. Can I tell you all a secret...just seeing the color red makes me sick.

Wayne met me at my doctors office today for the discharge from my pump. I said goodbye to my "ipod" with as much joy as I could muster today!

The cultures they took on Monday are still growing and the second preliminary report is that I have two bad germs growing right now. So, the doctor has decided to put me on a second antibiotic. So now I am on 1000 mg of Cipro as well as 2000 mg of Keflex a day. The other great news, they pulled my PICC line today. I no longer have two dangling lines from my arm! I can shower without regard to getting them wet!! I can finally scrap off all the tape marks that have been on my arms for months! And no more Heperin for me!!

I was under the impression that the PICC line was 39 inches long. I measured that out and almost freaked myself out by how long 39 inches was. I was pretty convinced I would feel the line being pulled out and it would hurt. I am pretty much a sissy-la-la when it comes to pain. So, you can imagine how surprised I was when the nurse announced the line was out and it was over. I was sure she was joking. But, no, right there on our pillow table was a PICC line and it was NOT 39 inches long. I am pretty sure it was suppose to be 39 centimeters and not inches.

The nurses in the doctors office are just amazing. After they pulled the PICC line, the nurse brought over a stuffed owl. The owl played music, the graduation pom and circumstance. In the middle of the treatment room with the other patients watching, I had a small, silly, and very moving graduation from chemotherapy party today. (I will post some photos when Wayne gets them sent to me).

My repeat test are next Tuesday. I have to report to the hospital at 11:00 for the MUGA and the CT scan.

So, while it seems like everything is going well, please pray that I get through this round of chemo. I am sick and the medication is not helping. I hope it goes away soon.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Suprising End....

Good Afternoon blog readers!  Who thought the end of chemo would go out quietly? Well, you were wrong!

Mom and I made it to the doctors office by 8:00 for lab work. Then we met with the Doctor at 8:15 a.m. He says this is my last session of chemo. He also confirmed the little sores I have on my fingers, hands, arms and back are a side effect of chemotherapy. He ordered two follow-up test. The first is the MUGA, which will see if my heart has been damaged by one of the chemotherapy drugs. The second test is at CT-Scan. He said we would redo the PET scan after radiation but we would do a CT right now. If those two things are clear...then he will discharge me to the radiology.

After the Doctor's visit, we headed into the treatment room.  The first thing the nurses do in the treatment room is flush my PICC line with saline to make sure it is working. Then they start me off on the mix of steroids and anti-naseau medications. Well somewhere after the flush and during the first medication, I got cold. Then I really got cold. I asked Mom for a blanket, then another, and another. Mom had the insight to get a nurses attention quickly and they told me that cold chills were the result of a germ/bacteria that was probably in my PICC line and had gotten flushed throughout my entire body when they flushed the lines.

The end result, I had massive cold chills for nearly 45 minutes (think convulsions! My entire body was uncontrollable shaking. I was shaking so bad that my body ached!) They had to give me a large dose of Benadryl to stop the shaking, which put me to sleep.  When I woke up 2 hours later, I was no longer cold and was warm. My temperature then spiked to 101 degrees. The nurses asked me if I even wanted to continue with the chemo. Knowing it was my last one, I said yes. I slept off/on the entire treatment.

Afterwards, I just felt weak. Walking was a chore. They took blood and urine samples and sent them off to the lab. They prescribed with an antibiotic to start fighting any infection I have.

Tomorrow, I have to report back to the doctors office to get disconnected from the pump. I imagine they will go ahead and remove the PICC line from my arm tomorrow. Keep in mind, that PICC line is 39 inches in length. Can you imagine that being pulled out of my arm. Do me a favor, get a measuring tape out and look to see how long 39 inches is! I did, I am a little freaked out about the entire process.

Unfortunately for me, the Doctor wants me to stay on the Neupogen shots for another 8 days. Got to keep those white blood counts up!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The end is here

Tomorrow is my last scheduled chemo session. We meet with the Doctor at 8:15 a.m. I would imagine we will get final instructions on the next steps.

Today is a day of preparation. Food needs to be purchased and prepared. Laundry needs to be done. House cleaned. My energy level is low. Not because I feel badly but because I know what awaits me and I am full of dread.

My random thought for today....you know how people who use meth get those sores all over them? Well, I have developed sores all over too. Several on my fingers, hands, even my back. I wonder if that is some weird side effect of chemo?

I just keep reminding myself that a year from now...this will be a distant memory.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wednesday November 3, 2010

Why is it my non-chemo weeks fly by?  Then the chemo week creeps by so slowly.  I should be happy that Monday is my last scheduled treatment but I am full of dread.

The new pain meds continue to work well. Today I took them as prescribed. I have been sleepy but not to the point where I was unproductive. I worked a full day today. I facilitated a Medical Aspects training. It was good to see work people and to be in a training. I really miss my job! Hear me say this: I am so looking forward to having my life back!

I want to give a thank you to my coworkers in my office as well as the Southern Training Unit. They provided me with a gift card for food. Very thoughtful and I so appreciate it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Exhausted!

I did not post yesterday. Mainly because I was asleep. When I went to the doctors yesterday to get my Neupogen shot, I told the staff about how much pain I had been in since Friday. They talked to the Doctor and he gave me a prescription for a new pain pill.

The new pain pill worked like it was suppose to. It took away all of my pain. But it left me feeling loopy! I was at work and literally had to ask my boss if I was making coherent sentences! As soon as I finished dinner last night, I went upstairs, got into bed, and fell asleep! I can not tell you when the last time I went to bed at 6:30 p.m. Maybe never!

I did  not take the medicine today and felt no pain until this evening.  Jacob had a vocal concert tonight and it took a lot for me to go out to the high school and sit through the concert.

Overall, the theme for me right now, is that I am tired.  Whether that is just little to no energy or medication induced. I am very tired right now.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

I had big plans for this festive weekend. None of those plans came about. I had wanted to make those cute little cake-pops for a Halloween party yesterday. I had wanted to drive The Short Chic over to her friend Miss Thing's home to say Happy Halloween. But instead, I am supporting the couch.

Tylenol is no longer helping ease the pain of the Neupogen shots. My knees have ached for two days straight. Other bones have ached this weekend; my arms, my fingers, and my chins. I have tried Tylenol, Advil, and even Vicodin.

Nothing is cutting the pain.

Tonight is my little girls second time to go trick-or-treating. I do not believe I will be able to walk door to door with her.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Indigestion and Other Thoughts

I have only had indigestion twice in my life. Once when I was pregnant with The Boy. And again when I was pregnant with The Short Chic. But boy do I have it now!! I am not sure if it is a side effect of the chemo or of the latest anti-nausea medication they have me on. But I just feel a burning in my throat at all times. I am miserable.

To make matters worse, food just taste terrible right now. I have given up drinking my life long friend, Diet Coke. It has been months and honestly I have no desire to even drink it. So, I drink a lot of water. Today, The Boy was out of school and we celebrated with a Mommy/Son lunch at our favorite Japanese Steakhouse. The food there tasted good. I ate a great meal but the water tasted like pure metal. It is a taste that has stuck with me all day long. Metal. Metal. Metal.

Wayne and I went out for dinner tonight and I was so excited to have my favorite puffy taco from Margaretta's. The taco tasted okay but the Margaretta I ordered with it tasted horrible. I wasted an entire glass of frozen Rita with salt. Wayne would not even drink it. He picked tonight of all nights to tell me he hates Margaretta's. (this is seriously strike 2 against him!! How could I have been married to him for 3 years and with him for more and not know he does not like Margaretta's??) (In case you were wondering, his strike one, is that he loves jelly/pudding filled donuts, which I think are the most disgusting thing in the world.)

Have I told you all how miserable I am?  The chemo diet is effective. I continue to drop pounds. But man, it is a horrible diet.

I remember when my Dad had Cancer. He knew long before any of us that he was not winning his fight. We watched him drop pound after pound, wasting away to nothing. I know I am winning my battle. I may have dropped 15 pounds but the Cancer is not winning here, I am not wasting away to nothing. I look in the mirror and I know I am winning.

I told Wayne tonight I am a plan for the worse kinda girl. My last treatment is suppose to be November 8 and then I will have the PET scan. If they PET scan is clean and shows no more Cancer then I am finished. But, if the PET scan shows more Cancer, then I have two more sessions. I am trying to psych myself up to do the extra sessions if needed.  Because if I am honest with you all right now, I barely have the strength to do the last session. God will have to carry me through the others if I need them.

As I close, The Short Chic just carried a freshly peeled orange downstairs to eat while "nuggling" with her Momma. It looked so good that I begged her to share. No such luck, still taste like Metal.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Highs and Lows of Wednesday and Thursday

As always, getting disconnected from that pump is a high. I can not even describe the feeling of watching the poison slowly entering your body for two entire days. The near sight of it makes me sick.

I slept a lot Wednesday. I guess that is a high.

My good girlfriends, Jen and Megs, brought dinner over Wednesday evening. They also gave me the most beautiful quilt made by Jen's mother-in-law, Amy Gronniger. As if the gift of a quilt alone was not enough to make me cry, they turned the quilt over and showed me all the hand prints on the backside of the quilt. Such a thoughtful and special treat!

For those readers who are faint at heart (or mention of bodily fluids) you may want to stop reading here!  But for the rest of you, as the title of this post says,there have been some low ones as well. Around 9:30 p.m. I started feeling a little nauseated. That feeling only continued to grow and I can say I have spent the last 15 hours vomiting nonstop.

When I went to get the Neupogen shot today, my blood pressure was 90/70. So they made a plan to give me anti-nausea medication with steroids as well as fluids to help with the dehydration. They also gave me stronger strength anti-nausea medications that hopefully will turn the course I have been on around.

The end of this journey is absolutely harder than the beginning. Each dose brings about different side effects that are just more severe than the ones before.  More than ever, I find myself praying that the PET scan shows no more Cancer because I just do not think I can stand another 2 doses of Chemotherapy.

The quilt that Amy Gronniger made for me and delivered by Jen and Meg!
  
The back side: complete with hand prints from Glen, Jen, Jacob, Gwen, Jayce, Jeremy, Meeghan, Josie, Tucker and Amy!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Update

I am posting this today for my Aunt Deloris. She likes it when I post daily. I was just very very tired today. I had a hard time waking up. I credit the Benadryl I took last night to counter the steroids. As I type this, at 10:00 p.m. I am still in my jammies! The entire day has been spent resting and napping and carrying around my chemo bag.

I get disconnected from the pump tomorrow around 1:00. Tomorrow is my normal transition day. I start the day off feeling very well and end it feeling very horrible.

This evening we have a visitor. Momma Liz is here while Daddy David is recovering from surgery.It is nice to talk and catch up and offer a haven to those who need it!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Update

We had a busy weekend. Friday night I got to help my friend Meeghan.  She is presenting at a national conference and we got to go shopping to find her the most perfect outfit.

Saturday we hosted a small but fun pre-Halloween party. We were blessed to have no rain so we had a wiener roast in our drive way. The little people in our world, sure looked cute all dressed up! Funny enough, I thought the little people would be scared of the creepy Halloween decorations but to our amusement, they grabbed those fake rats and ran around all night playing with them! I will post photos soon!

Of course we had to share the party with the MU/OU football game. We ended up with both fans, who played very well together! And I will say both were gracious with there win/loss. Not to offend Melissa Paige, but it is pretty cool that MU pulled a win out!

Sunday, my mother and I baked chicken. Literally, all day long! My in-laws had a church pot luck and they were suppose to bring the main dish. So my mother-in-law asked me to help her out by cooking the chicken. She said it would have stressed her out worrying about how good the chicken was if she did it, so she just turned it over to me. So with my Mom's help, we baked enough chicken to feed 40 people. I believe that was 7 fryers!  While we were at it, I made an extra fryer (that makes 8 fryers) for the family and Mom snuck in some stuffed chicken breast.  We literally spent six hours yesterday baking chicken.

The best news, after the pot luck Nana and Papa stopped by to tell us what a hit the chicken was at the church and how many compliments they received! The chicken was hot, juicy, and tasted very good! Success!!

Today, Mom and I are back in the doctors office. My Doctor is off this week so I had Lab work drawn this morning followed by treatment. The decrease from ten to eight Neupgen shots was successful, my blood work was good. My White Blood Count is 9600, my Hemoglobin is 11.8 and my platelet count was 173,000. They say these are good numbers for a chemo patient.

This is my 5th treatment. After this, I only have one session left. I believe soon I will have to repeat two test, the MUGA and the PET scan. The PET scan will hopefully tell us if I have any Cancer in my body. The MUGA will tell us whether my heart was damaged by the chemotherapy during this process.  So far, these test are not scheduled, so you will have to stay tuned.

My Unfinished Life

You know, you do not get handed a Cancer diagnosis and not spend time thinking about your mortality. I would imagine the amount of time you spend would depend upon the type of Cancer you have. Although my Cancer is considered treatable, I still have spent a great deal of sleepless nights thinking about mortality.

This is what I realized: I do not have a bucket list. I have always construed myself too young to have one. You all know what a bucket list is...the term was made popular from a recent movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. They were older men, with health concerns, who made a list of all the things they wanted to go before they died. I always thought there was time to figure out my bucket list after I had lived my life.

But, as this diagnosis has shown me, you never know what life has in store for you. So, it is time to develop my list. As I sit here and think about what I would put on my list, I can come up with a few things.

Wayne and I have joked with each other for the past few years, that we want to be campground hosts when we retire. How difficult can a campground host's life be?? Check-in campers, sell firewood, lock the gates at curfew time. Mix that with fishing whenever you want, campfires on a regular basis, fresh air, and starry nights....sounds good to us!  So becoming a campground host is on my list.

Sturgis is on my list. I am a girl who likes a party and the biggest biker party sounds pretty good to me! Of course if I am honest, it is not just Sturgis Bike Rally that appeals to me. It is the landscape. So visiting the north during the first week of August is on my list.

I thought I had this one checked off my list..but then I had another child. I believe taking your children to Disneyland or Disney World while they still believe in magic is just one of the joys of parenthood. I had that pleasure with Jacob but now it is time to plan for Olivia.

Visiting New York City is something I have never done and want to do. And, I almost forgot; Seeing Bon Jovi in concert in New Jersey has always been a dream.

There are so many other things that I want to do before I die, but most of them are just things that I would normally see if I get to live for many years to come. Olivia in kindergarten, Jacob and Olivia graduating, the college years for both of them, seeing what careers they select, Jackie's graduation, her become a successful doctor, boyfriends, girlfriends, weddings, grand kids.

So, as I type this, I feel like my list is incomplete. Help me. What is on your bucket list? Inspire me. Help me fill in my list.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Everyday Things

Yesterday was my third wedding anniversary. I am blessed to be married to wonderful man! I made dinner for the family, Alice Chicken. (Wayne's favorite meal at Outback Steakhouse is Alice Springs Chicken so I made a version of it!) Last night at bedtime, The Short Chic thanked me for making the best anniversary dinner she has ever had.

At times I have felt guilty that my loved ones where getting slighted by this journey. Wayne's birthday was right after a treatment, he had had to give up fishing trips, The Boy is not playing fall sports, Mom does not always have the energy to drive him to the many places he wants to go,not having the energy at times to love on The Short Chic, and being so sick on weekends that I spend it in bed. But, we are strong and we are getting through this. The family has been by my side through the good and the bad of this. And when we can, we make a memory and celebrate the little things.

So many things get overshadowed by illness. It is important to stop and enjoy the everyday things because they are what make up this life.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Random Thought?


Today, I am wondering this big question: " Why is it the hair on my head fell out but I still have to shave my legs on a regular basis?"
I can only think that God has a sense of humor.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Major Blessing

I am sad to say one of the real worries I have had during this process was that of my leave balance at work. I started this process at the end of summer, after we had taken a lot of time off work for play. So my leave balance was not where I would have wanted it to be in a medical emergency.

I have watched my balance dwindle down to zero over the past few weeks. Going into unpaid leave, not only means I do not get paid, but it also means I can lose my health insurance benefits (something else you really do not want to mess with in a medical emergency).

My work has a shared leave program, that employees can request help from if needed. I applied for shared leave last month. The meeting was last week to determine if I would be approved or not. I was really on edge, being at the end of my leave balance, and not hearing from the approval committee last week.

So, today, I called them and found out I was approved!!! They have granted me up to 530 hours of leave to use for the treatments. I was so happy I literally started crying as the lady in Personnel told me the news today. This really provides me with a cushion to get me through the next few months.

As I prepare for bed tonight, I am thankful for the blessing that God has given to me.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What a weekend!

When I woke up at 6:45 a.m. Friday morning I had no idea that I would find myself awake for the majority of the weekend.   When I woke early on Saturday (only having had 2 1/2 hours of sleep) to go to the doctor appointment, I figured I would get a good nap in when The Short Chic napped. However, my body was still too awake.

Saturday night, Wayne had to force me to go to sleep at 10:30 p.m. and I will say....I was still not tired. My confession to you all, prior to August 2010 I had never used Benadryl as a sleeping aid. But thanks to my little helper, I was able to fall asleep around 10:30 last night and sleep until 7:30 Sunday morning.

Today, I have napped a lot. And I am going to bed early. I feel like I have been robbed of something vital....SLEEP!!! As I sit here and type this post, I am yawning like mad.

But, just for the record, I was productive this weekend. This house has not been this clean in a really long time. I even got up enough energy today to decorate outside for Fall. I did not get the vacuuming done or the dusting. But those things I can delegate to The Boy this week.

Good Night All! I am heading to bed.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

All Nighter!

Just a quick update....I should have known....should have recognized it.....but NO  I did not. The IV drugs they gave me at the Doctors yesterday where the anti-nausea medication mixed with the steroids. Which is why I felt so darned good all night last night.  Problem was....come midnight I was still awake as everyone else in my house was asleep. I was still awake at 5 a.m. this morning!! I finally got 1 1/2 hours of sleep before the alarm went off telling me it was time to head to the hospital to get my Neupogen shot. So, as I type this at 6:00 p.m. my time, I have had about 2 hours of sleep.

The good news. I have ate well today. I have also cleaned and cleaned. Windows washed, floors swept, floors mopped, laundry, dishes, bathrooms, kitchen, and organizing. I do not think there is much I have not gotten done today. I told my brother today, I felt like a tweaked out meth addict minus the paranoia. I was kidding but only slightly. I keep waiting to crash but so far, I am the energizer bunny.

Thanks to my gal Jackie! Thank God she is up all night "studying." She totally kept me sane and entertained last night. I can also say I have now watched Mad Men and Glee for the first time.

Two-thirds

WOW! This week has blown me away. I hit the two-thirds finished mark when I got the chemo bag disconnected on Wednesday. I know to all of you, four under my belt and two left sounds like a walk in the park, but from where I am sitting, it still sounds like a lifetime.

The chemo effects are definitely stronger and more severe, probably why I say two sessions still sounds like a lifetime. I have been super nauseated and major digestive issues. I have lost six pounds since Monday. I credit that to the fact that I can't stand the smell of food, can't stand the taste of it, nor can I really stand to look at it.

Today I went to the doctors office to get the Neupogen shot. The nurse almost made me sick when she was flushing my lines with Heparin. So, she insisted I try some IV anti-nausea medication.  They gave me 4 oz. of some medication and it totally changed my world today. I came home, took a nap, and woke up feeling as normal as I have felt in weeks. Even now as I type, I feel good. 

As I woke from nap today, a PSA was on the TV. It was one from the American Cancer Society. They have a new campaign, More Birthdays. So the commercial I caught has Usher singing "It's Your Birthday."  There are 11 million survivors of Cancer celebrating their birthday's this year. I found the PSA's touching and tear provoking. Maybe because the message is so close to my heart right now. I hope you get a chance to check out the PSA's. If you do not like Usher, according the AMC's website, many other artist have volunteered their talent for the campaign as well.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=eQeobyVYGr0

Contrary to last night, when I laid on the couch all day and night praying that the smell of lasagna would not find its way to me, we got out of the house tonight and went to dinner. Thanks to those IV medicines, I actually ate a meal tonight! And my, oh my it was yummy!

So, please say some prayers that I continue to feel this okay tomorrow. Our house is a mess and I am hopeful to get some of it cleaned.

Thank you all for your continued support, love, and prayers. We are getting there.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Day After

Today is the day after chemo. I took some Benadryl last night around 9:15 p.m. and never saw 10:00 p.m. This is so much better than the first two doses of chemotherapy when I was up all night. The unfortunate news is that I never even made it to halftime of the Monday Night Football game. The good news, I felt well enough to be at work today.

Today at work was one of the most productive days I have had in a long time.  Maybe it was because over half of the office was out of the office or maybe today was just one of those days that I could turn the brain off from thinking about Cancer and just focused on my to-do list.  Oh how I wish I could have more days like today.

Food still taste awful. The family ordered pizza for dinner last night and I could hardly eat. I can not even describe what it taste like in words. But it is a huge deterrent to eating. When I started this journey back in August my Doctor told me he did not want me to eat fresh fruits or veggies. And you know that is the one thing I have craved since then. So, I made a decision to ignore Doctor advice on this one and eat what I needed/wanted. And  that means, fresh fruits and veggies for me.  I have made other choices that are good. I have stopped drinking Diet Coke. I have been drinking Diet Coke since I was in high school., giving it up has been unbelievably easy.  I have almost detoxed myself from caffeine. The only liquid that really taste good right now is water.

Each chemo week my weight drops a good 10 pounds without even trying. Yesterday when I weighed in at the Doctor, I was down about five pounds from the last doctor appointment. Now the God Lords knows I have a few extra pounds to lose but this is not the way anyone should have to do it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Third Quarter

How fitting that the Doctor used a football analogy today during our appointment.  He basically said that during the first half of a game, the players are fresh and enthusiastic. Every bit of forward progress feeds that enthusiasm and motivates them to keep going. But by second half, the hits hurt, the players are tired, and fatigue sets in.

Well folks, I am in the third quarter. The chemo has successfully shrunk my lymph nodes (the doctor could not feel any of them today).  But the chemo is building up in my body and the side effects of chemo will be staying with me longer. I am fatigued. I am nauseated. Food no longer taste like food. (I tried to eat a Twizzler today and had to have Jacob come taste it because it had no taste to me. He declared it just fine.)
The scoreboard is in my favor but the next two quarters are going to be the hardest to get through.

Other good news from today's appointment, my blood counts are really high. Of course my white count is high, but my hemoglobin was high as well. So, I asked if we could do less Neupogen. The Doctor was not willing to decrease it by much but he did change it from 10 days straight to 8 days. Is it sad that I was excited about the two days??

To change gears just a bit... We all traveled north yesterday to attend the Herring Family Bon Fire/Weiner Roast at Aunt Fern's farm.  It was nice to see 60 some members of the extended family come out for some family bonding time. Unfortunately for me, because of the side effects listed below, I did not get to fully enjoy the wonderful food that was brought.  However, side effects aside, I still made the stroll to the rock and carved Olivia's name next to Jacob's and Mine.

Just a fun story to share for all those Herrings who read the blog and could not make it. The pinatas are a yearly tradition at the Bon Fire. One is for the kids and one is for the adults. Olivia was the first person to take a whack at the kid pinata, of course Grandma helped her. I think on her third attempt the entire pinata fell to the ground prematurely spilling candy everywhere (it actually came apart at the hook). Aunt Deloris was sitting next to me asking Braydon to pick her up a few pieces of candy cause she had no desire to run down and pilfer for herself.

The adults want the adult pinata, but no one wants the embarrassment of whacking at it. So the older younger kids get the pleasure. And since the first one was a bit of a dud, the adults made this one hard!  After many whacks on the pinata, chocolate candies came pouring down. And who should be one of the first adults running out of her seat to get candy.....my dear Aunt Deloris! What fun! Oh and if I am honest with you, I totally benefited too because Aunt Deloris and Cheryl both made sure I had a few pieces of chocolate!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Busy Saturday

Wow! Yesterday was a busy day that I am sure I will pay for today.

I was at the hospital by 9:00 a.m. to get my Neupogen shot. I had a new nurse (I really liked her) who convinced me to try the shot in my belly and not my arm. She said there are way less nerve endings in the belly than the arm and she promised it would be better. I agreed as long as I did not have to see the needle going into my belly. While I was getting the shot and not looking, I was chatting with a young man who was also waiting to get a shot at the outpatient clinic.

Apparently, this young man needed a rabies shot because he and his other 20 something friends caught a possum. They played with it for about five hours before one of this young man's friends decided the possum wanted some tequila. What happened next; the young man felt sorry for the possum and tried to clean his face off and the possum was angry enough to bite him. Now, daily rabies shot for him.

Needless to say, his story was entertaining enough that I never noticed the Neupogen shot! I asked if he could come back next weekend at the same time and entertain me some more, I have a feeling he has more stories similar in nature. And can you just imagine for a moment, how many wonderful stories people in the medical field must hear everyday!

After my shot, I zoomed north to hit up the Creating Keepsakes Convention at the KCI Expo center. Last year I took maybe 4 classes and did the crop. I knew I could not do that again but at the same time just really wanted to go. So, I only attended 2 classes; one scrapbooking class and one photography class. Cannon was there and offered tips and suggestions to us non-photographers on camera settings. My head is spinning with talk about light meters, apertures, white balance, shutter speeds, and ISO!!

The one super nice thing about the CKC was seeing a few of my friends. LeAnn and Jana both took classes and hung out with me in between. And Patty was in my photography class. Of course, many of my friends could not make it this year for health reasons and I missed those friends every minute I was there!

So after a much needed nap when I got home, we headed out to Julie and Charlie's house last night for a fish fry. Wayne said the fish was Spoonbill, which I am positive I have never had before. The food was yummy and sitting and talking with friends was good for the soul.  By the time we made it home, I was so exhausted that I was asleep in record time.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Not quite right

This week has been a tough one. Up to this point, in between treatments I have been able to bounce back to 100% and feel as good and strong as I have ever felt. Feeling strong and "normal" in  between treatments gives me motivation to head right back in there on treatment day and do it all over again.

But this past week, I never reached that 100%. At my best I peaked between 75-80%.  Maybe it is because of the cumulative effect of chemotherapy. The more doses I have done, the more poison that is in my system. Or maybe it is the effect of daily Neupogen. I have had 27 shots of Neupogen since my first dose of chemotherapy.  Or maybe it is a fall cold that is plaguing my body. I developed a cough a week ago and it persist. In fact the doctor just prescribed a Z-pac just in case the cough was turning into bronchitis. Most likely it is a combination of all three things with the end result...I am dreading Monday morning.  


Monday is dose number 4, the official end of round 2. (I know I posted earlier that I was done with round 2 but I misposted. I had just started round 2.)  The optimistic person inside of me says YEAH, that means I will be 2/3 finished with this process. But right now, I just want to scream, NO, please do not make me feel any worse than this!

Before I got sick I had planned to attend Creating Keepsakes Convention that comes to Kansas City every second weekend in October. Then I got sick and did not feel like I could commit time and money to attending something when I did not know how I would feel. So even at 75-80% I drove out the KCI Expo Center yesterday and purchased only 2 tickets. Today I will be sitting through 2 classes (the two I wanted to attend more than anything!!). I might not have been able to do two days worth of classes, or both crops but I will make it to CKC and I will be attending the Latest and Greatest with Basic Grey!! That brings a small bit of cheer into my world.

Of course all of that, after I get my daily Neupogen shot!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Life Lessons

I would like to start this post by saying I believe in a higher power. I call my higher power God, but I recognize and honor that you may have a different name for your higher power. I am probably less religious than many would like but I think I am more spiritual.

So with that said, I believe there is a purpose to our experiences.  I strongly believe God puts us through experiences to learn life lessons we are suppose to know or will need later in our lives. Faith is needed to believe this because it isn't always obvious what that lesson is or when it will be needed. We actually may never even know that we served the purpose because we never know how we will touch another persons life. Beyond faith, the only other thing needed to learn your life experiences is openness. Openness to learn something about yourself.  Obviously, some of us are a little more stubborn and refuse to be open to learning life lessons. These stubborn friends of ours end up repeating life experiences over and over.

In 1998, I separated from my first husband. Experiencing an unsuccessful marriage is a painful and overwhelming experience. It would have been so easy to focus on that hurt or to spend my time blaming my ex-husband for a variety of things. But blame and hurt can side rail a person from learning life lessons. I had to spend time focused on myself and asking the hard questions:  "what was my role in this?",  "what can I do differently?", "what are my shortcomings?"  Through it all, I learned a lot and I get to carry that knowledge with me. One of my biggest lessons learned is to not give away my power. I may not be able to control other people but I can control myself. And when I am in control of me, I have more control over the situation.

I do not not know why God has me on this journey. I have refused to spend any time being angry at God because I have Cancer.  At this point, I can not control the fact that I have Cancer. Instead, I am focusing on what I can control. I can control my attitude. I can control my diet.  I will not spend any time fretting about what I can not control. After all, I learned that life lesson several years ago when getting divorced.  And maybe one day soon, the purpose of this journey will be revealed to me. 

So I say, it is time to stop blaming. It is time to stop walking around angry. It is time to stop denying that there is something wrong. It is time for self reflection. It is time for action.Learn your life lessons.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Not a Great Day

I am back on ten straight days of Neupogen. I have to go to back to North Kansas City Hospital on the weekends for the shot. Wayne, Olivia and I went to breakfast after the shot hopeful to start a great Saturday off. I love fall and all the fall festivals around town. Today was the Gladstone Gladfest and I had hoped to attend it with my daughter and her Nana. However, I barely made it home before I started getting ill. Some of the digestive health side effects of chemo are so sudden and sharp it can make your head swim. I was able to get a good nap in but when I woke up, the Tylenol had wore off and every joint in my body ached. And here is a new one, I had the chills. Massive chills that I could not recover from. My entire day has been spent in bed, sleeping, recovering, and praying.

I am not sure if all of this is chemo related, I know the pain in my joints is from the Neupogen. My throat is also swollen, so maybe I am coming down with a cold?? The other super crappy thing, every one of my thermometers is broken and can't give me a decent read on my temperature.

Today, I am most thankful for my mother-in-law. She called wanting to know what time we were going to go have fun. What she did was immediately changed her plans, problem solved with me and came and took the short chic so I would have one less thing to worry about.

Here is hoping Sunday is a better day. Of course the Weston Apple Festival is Sunday and I will be missing that one too.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Looking Good, Feeling Better, and Half Way There

I have now started and finished Round 2 of chemotherapy. With the start of this Round, I am now 3 doses into it and officially halfway done. This dose seems to going better than the other rounds. Maybe it was the sleep I got Monday night. It kinda makes sense, when you are fatigued you just do not feel well. I even felt well enough to be at the office yesterday.

The other thing I keep doing better is eating. I still do not feel like eating but I am forcing myself to eat three meals on these days after chemotherapy. Maybe this is having a positive impact because as I went to the doctor today to be disconnected from the chemo pump, I actually felt okay.

But as fast as the weather can change here in the Midwest, that is how fast I went from feeling okay to feeling horrible. By the time I made it home from the doctors office, I felt nauseated, tired, queasy, stiff, and sore. Luckily, Jacob and his friends entertained The Short Chic until Wayne could get home. Once my head hit the pillow, I was out for two and a half hours!

The other thing that I did today was attend a class sponsored by the American Cancer Society, National Cosmetology Association, and the Personal Care Products Council Foundation called Look Good...Feel Better. The class provided Cancer patients with a wonderful bag of cosmetics and taught us how to hide many of physical signs of being sick. Besides the awesome bag filled with top brand products (Yves Saint Laurent Make-Up Palette, Mary Kay Gentle Cleansing Cream, Avon Solutions Botanisource, Bobbi Brown Lip Shimmer, Revlon Pressed Powder, Chanel Lip Glosses, Elizabeth Ardin Foundation, Chanel Mascara, Chanel Lipstick, American Beauty Lipliner, Physician Formula Concealer, Two NYC eyeliner/brow pencils, Curel Moisture Lotion, and 14 ounces of Aquaphor) it was nice to sit in a room with other women experiencing the same ailments that you are experiencing. 


My goodies!

We talked about diagnosis, symptoms of the cancer, how we found out we were sick, when our hair fell out, port sites, doctors, support systems, wigs, scarves, and most of all hope. It is amazing how good a battered soul can feel in a short two hour time period.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A small success

I have blogged before about how difficult the start of treatment is because of the giant dose of steroids they give me.  The steroids are one of the supportive drugs that come with chemo to help fight off some of the side effects. While they do not make me eat everything in site, they have kept me awake...ALL NIGHT!

The past two rounds I have been up all night and Wayne puts me to bed as he is walking out the door with Jacob and Olivia to go to work in the morning. Last dose I attempted to counter the steroids with Benadryl.  It made me sleepy but I still did not fall asleep. I did get a short power nap from it.

I asked the doctor today what would be an appropriate dose to counter the steroids and he said 50 mg. I was so excited with my new plan until I got home and realized that was the NORMAL dose. So after a little consultation with my special girl, I found out how much was considered to be an overdose and decided I would try 75 mg.

Maybe it helped that I was sleepy anyway, but I took the medicine and went to bed. I woke up around 2:00 a.m. for a small bit and still felt woozy. So woozy, I almost woke Wayne up because I was a little unsteady on my feet. However, I decided to let him sleep and I managed to get up, to the bathroom and back, and right back to sleep. 

A full nights sleep on my 3rd dose of chemo! I am going to take it as a success!

Monday, September 27, 2010

September Photos



Me, rockin' it out, at Chemo! Another look for me these days; hats. The Husband gave me this hat this past week. Also check out my new jewels! No, not medical jewels this time. I have a new necklace from Heidi Lou Designs! It is a photo of me and the kids back when I had hair.



Me, with my "new Mommy hair." {That is what The Short Chic calls it!} Is it sad that my fake hair is cuter than my real hair? Unfortunately, it is scratchy and hot to wear. Every time I venture out in public wearing it I look forward to getting in my car and pulling it off.

Oh how I miss my hair.



Support Systems

One of the things I have been most grateful for on this journey is my support system. I can not imagine how difficult this would be without them. 

Support has come from the most obvious places and some of the least obvious places. My family is my rock. Less than 3 years ago, I was a single mom. I shudder when I think of how difficult this would be without my husband by my side.   The Boy and The Short Chic are right there too. I can count on The Short Chic to ask about my band-aides everyday and gives me hugs and kisses. The Boy truly does try so hard, it is easy to forget that he is only 13 and far from a grown adult.

While my family tries so hard to walk around like all is okay around me, I know this is taking its toll on them. I am so thankful to all those that have reached out to them. The Boy's teachers this year have just been wonderful.

My Mother is another one of my rocks. She comes up and goes to every treatment with me. I am sure it can not be easy for her; she has gone through this with two of her kids and her husband. I think she has seen more Cancer than one person should be allowed to.

When I divorced many years ago, I made a mental note that my next relationship had to come with a great set of in-laws. MAN, did I ever get lucky on this front! Wayne's parents are probably the nicest most caring people any of you will ever encounter. I am so thankful they are there, helping us keep life as normal as possible for the shortest member of our family.

I so appreciate all the phone calls, instant messages, letters, and cards from friends. I am thankful for all the wonderful meals that have been prepared and brought over (my family is thankful for them too). I am also thankful for all the prayers.  Again, I just can not imagine this journey without the support from you all.

Another social support I have thankful for: annual/sick leave benefits at my work. Of course I would rather use those benefits for fun things like vacations and time away from the rat race. But, when you need them, you need them and I am thankful to have it!  The same goes for medical insurance. Our work is switching medical plans at the beginning of the year and I am thankful I do not have to deal with all that extra stress right now. I am thankful everyday I am insured! You all would not believe how much it cost to be sick! (but don't worry, I am working on a post that details the cost of Cancer!) My insurance has allowed me to have great medical care.

If you are reading this, you are probably somehow in my support system. I am thankful you are there!

Monday, September 20, 2010

PICC Line

I almost lost the PICC line today.

Friday I had a dressing change and immediately I felt discomfort. However, the nurse and I agreed it might be because when they pulled the previous dressing off it took a little bit of my skin. So, I wore the new dressing all day Friday. By bedtime Friday, my arm was burning. I ripped off the dressing and I had serious skin irritation, (I would even say skin burns). I put a simple dressing over it and called it good for the remainder of the weekend.

Friday night I also seem to have developed a small sore throat. I am sure it is caused by shutting down the air conditioning and opening the windows. I felt stuffy and sore, so we decided it was too big of a risk, so we closed the windows and turned the air back on. I am sure Wayne and I are the only people in Kansas City not enjoying this amazing weather, but it sis just too dangerous to catch a fall cold right now.

I went in for my daily injection and showed my arm to the Nurse. She thought my arm looked swollen and red (signs of infection). Her recommendation to the doctor; remove the PICC line! Lucky for me, the doctor decided to rewrap it and watch it for the week. Please say prayers that this PICC line continues to work and that my skin around the site can continue to tolerate the new dressing.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Customer Care

As you know by now, I am on a daily shot of Neupogen to help raise my white blood count. I have to take the shot even when my doctor's office is closed. They made arrangements for me to go to North Kansas City Hospital to receive my shot.

When they first started giving me this shot, I did what anyone else would do...I googled it. There were many post out there talking about how painful this shot is to get, it burns significantly. I have never experienced this because my doctors office give the shot SLOWLY! I am not kidding that it takes them approximately 10 minutes to give me the shot.

So, going some other place to get the shot has been a little anxiety raising. Will they give it the same? Will it burn? Will it be painful?

My good friend Jackie has taught me it is okay to speak up about my medical expectations, so I really thought I was doing good to have a pre-conversation with the nurse today (who was different than yesterday). Before she even started, I say to her, I understand this shot is painful if not given slowly, do you plan to push it in slowly. She responds back to me with a Well Yes (almost as if how dare I think she would do anything else)!

I am not kidding you, the shot took less than 1 minute to get and it burned like hell! In the middle of the experience she actually said to me, "I am sorry, there is not much else I can do."  Having this new assertive voice, I said back to her, "well, actually there is, because I can assure you it never hurts like this at my doctors office." She proceeds to finish up, my arm burning the entire time, and I tell her on my way out one last time, that if she has never heard from another patient, but slowing down with this injection makes ALL the difference to the patient.

All the way home I kept thinking, SERIOUSLY! I am a paying customer and did not deserve to be treated that way. There was no other person waiting for her time/attention. My doctor's office juggles 10+ patients with 2 nurses and 1 medical assistant and they take the time to provide quality care to their patients and this lady who had 1 patient to care for, could not take 15 minutes of her time to slow down and provide that?!?!?!

It is easy for me, and it will be easy for you, to criticize the care this one nurse gave. But I want us to think bigger than her. Those of us who work with the public have a lesson to learn here. Why did you go into the career you are in? I went into social work to help people. I knew going into it that I would encounter people in their worst moments and offer to help them. I did not become a social worker to judge, criticize, or to make fun of them. I know after 19 years of working in the field, I have my jaded moments. But, is it not my duty to put that aside and approach each new client as dreamy-eyed as I did when I started?

Why did this woman become a nurse? I can only assume it was to help patients who needed medical attention. When did she become so interested in pushing clients along so she could catch up on paperwork that she compromised their care? When was the last time you compromised someone else to serve yourself?

I know by now it sounds like I am harping on this issue. I will stop. But in the end, this is what I have learned. It is more than okay to put your medical needs out there. It is okay to voice your frustration when those needs are not being met. And please, remember why you started your career and remember to put those clients before your own needs, whatever those maybe.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday

I have not posted in the past few days. I have not really had a lot to say. I am in recovery mode, trying to get over the latest round of chemotherapy. My energy is zapped. I did manage to go to work on Friday but even that just wiped me out. I napped as soon as I got home and rested for the remainder of the evening.

It is the weekend and my doctor's office is closed. But the Neupogen must go on. Wayne and The Short Chic had me at the North Kansas City Hospital by 8:30 this morning (did I tell you that every appointment is early in the morning!!) I disliked getting my shot at the hospital, it made me miss the lady at my doctor's office who normally gives it to me.

I have figured out the secret to wearing a wig is the skull cap. I did not wear the skull cap the first day and it was so hot and ITCHY!  I swore it off for the remainder of my treatment. But I tried again, with the skull cap and it is so much better! I actually wore it out in public today and guess what...not a single person pointed at my head and said "THAT'S NOT YOUR HAIR!"

The Short Chic has also gotten use to my hair changes. The day we went to try on wigs at the store, she was so shocked she could not say a word. In fact, she left the store as fast as she could with her Papa. Then when I got it all cut off, she said, "I like your hair Mommy."  My favorite reaction was after she saw me in the wig the first time, she asked me, "Are you my new Mommy?" Now every time I wear the wig, she says "My new Mommy." I am sure the physical changes have to be hard for a two year old to understand. Shoot most days it is too much for me to understand too.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Third!

I had a lovely visit from my friend Shannon today. She forfeited one of her days off to spend it with me and driving me to my doctor appointment. Thank you, Shannon!! 

I was disconnected from the pump this afternoon. This marks my 1/3 of the way through the chemotherapy. The nausea started this morning. I was sitting with Jacob while he was having breakfast and one whiff of his food about made the stomach flip. So I started the anti-nausea medication today.

I feel weak. I am trying to implement a new strategy this time around. Last time I avoided eating when I did not feel good. This time I am trying to make sure I eat small amounts of food that are protein packed.  Tomorrow should be the worse day yet. I also start a 10 day injection of more Neuprogen.

How am I doing? I am hanging in there. Trying to be as tough as I can be. While at the same time, recognizing that my body is in turmoil right now and can not be pushed. As much as I hate it, I have not been at work this week. My goal is to recover from this dose so I can be productive next week, on my off week.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chemo Round 1: Dose 2 Day 2

Today, I was home. Once again the steroids have caused another sleepless night. I think I cat napped from 1:30 to 3:00 and was then awake till about 7:00 a.m. The Husband put me to bed at 7:30 when the rest of the family headed out to go about their day. I have managed to sleep off and on all day. Thankfully!  I find the steroids frustrating. I felt good enough to be working today but I was so exhausted from the lack of sleep.

I am still attached to the pump, getting my two day dose of the A drug. I will say the new PICC line is much easier to maneuver than the old Groshong. This pump should finish about 12:30 tomorrow and then I will get a dressing change and be finished with it for another week and half.

My good friend Jen just called. She has been a saint! She stopped by last week with dinner for the family and her little boy got out of the truck to say hi. He saw the new PICC line and apparently told his Momma when they left my house that he no longer wanted to eat peas. He told his mom he was worried that if he ate peas they would grow tubes out of his arms like mine! How sweet are little kids!

While I was home today, I received an email from another Cancer Fighter. I know I am not the only person out there fighting this fight, Lord knows there are too many of us. I feel honored that this Fighter reached out to me to tell me here story. I know there are a million more of these out there. I wanted to share her email and her struggle.  I am going to include her in my prayers and would ask that you all do the same.

hi pam .. i love your blog.. i cant post though it wont let me.. but im also going through a fight with leukemia.. and i hate it..you hit the nail on the head when you talk about emotions and the chemo rooms and the dr. visits. they did a dna study on me and they said they have never even seen this type of leukemia but they said i have only a 5-10% chance of it recurring. i was diagnosed nov 7 and have had so much chemo.. i to have no hair.. but it grows back mine came in kinky curly and then after more chemo fell out. but your words are so true. i feel and know that god has healed me but every dr. visit scares me.. its like a ghost behind my back.. but i have vowed to live life to the fullest.. and my worst fear is leaving my children.. i have a 23 yr. old and a 20 yr old and they are self sufficient but i have a 15 yr old who needs. me. and it scares me.. i sometimes sit and cry and im like you talking about it and writing makes me feel better.. i will pray for you everyday.. your a strong lady and you will beat this.. it is sad because every time i turn around some one new has cancer.. it is scary.. when were you diagnosed.. and where did you get your cute do rags.. i have a port in my chest with 3 lovely little tubes that hang out.. and i flush them 2 times a day and i see you have a picc line.. they are much nicer.. 

Posting Comments

Several people have contacted me and said they are having a difficult time posting comments. I have changed the settings to allow anyone to post comments, even Anonymously.
The most important thing to remember, after you type out your comment, you will notice a drop down box that says COMMENT AS: if you hit the drop down box you have options. For those with a gmail account, it is easy; sign in with your gmail user name/password. If you do not have a gmail account select the Anonymous choice. What you need to know about this option, I will not know who is commenting unless you sign your name to the post.

I have a filter on the comments, you will not see your comment immediately post to the blog. Because I am accepting Anonymous comments, I screen all the comments before they post. If this is not working, someone please let me know.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hair Loss


My Hair Loss started this past week, maybe six days after I started chemo. I thought it would take longer.


 While I hate this before photo, I went ahead and posted it. You can see how thin my hair was becoming by looking at my part. 

Each day more and more hair fell out. A handful here and there really adds up. I can also say I had not anticipated that losing my hair would hurt. But it did. A lot. The best way I can describe it is to remember when you were a kid and your mom did your hair. And it was the tightest ponytail ever. Remember how you wore that ponytail all day long and when you got home and took it out, your head tingled at the release of the pressure? Well, that is how the scalp feels all the time when your hair is dying. 

I would just rub and rub my scalp. And while I was rubbing it would feel better. But the moment I stopped it hurt again. 

It is a very powerless feeling to lose your hair. To know that it is dying and falling out faster than you imagined. I decided to take my fate into my own hands and cut it off short. The Husband does not own clippers so I had to call my hair stylist and she had me come to her home. 


 Thank you, Julie for taking care of me! I so appreciate it. And I am sorry to The Boy. I had no idea being there when I cut it off was so important to him, or I would not have done it without him.


My new "I have Cancer" hair. At least for now. It is still falling as I type. At least the hair is much smaller now.