Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Last Dance for Red Devil

Right now, I am so excited that it was the very last time for the "red devil" and me to meet!  I know I won't be so excited in a few days since I will be feeling too miserable, but for today---I am feeling good about this!

Today was extremely crowded at the cancer center since many people had to reschedule their chemo due to the Thanksgiving holiday.  It was a big group and "Mr. Mixologist" (the one who concocts our cocktails) was very backed up and the wait was longer to get your IV chemo bag--or syringe (as the "red devil" comes).  People were anxious to get their meds, not because they really WANTED them, but it meant a longer time sitting in the chair before treatment even began.  But, as I have learned, in this room are remarkable people who kept telling the nurses "not to worry", "it was OK", and they realized "it was a holiday".  Cancer can make you really patient.  The bumps in life become as important and meaningful as the smooth roads...it's all good.

It was a funny group.  There were many jokes about Mr. Mixologist drinking our meds and how "someone should go check on him"; and a lot of laughs about all of us having a "pole dancing party" (IV poles....get it?) to get his attention.  The funniest lady was an older woman who kept saying she was dying for a bologna sandwich on white bread with mayo (I don't know how she could eat it during chemo, but that's what she wanted!).  She asked everyone who passed if they were going to the deli.  Finally, one kind soul left and got it for her.  You would have thought she was in heaven....all for some slices of bologna!  Others used the time to walk around and got so tangled in their IV lines that it looked like a wild spaghetti party.  

One woman across from me was stuck with the IV needle repeatedly since they couldn't find a "good vein".  Even after they found one,  the poor woman's arm blew up, and they had to remove it and wait for it the swelling to go down before they could stick her again.  (NOTE:  when you have breast cancer and nodes out...you can't put an IV in the arm on the side you were operated on).  Yet, she was very patient with it all since she knew there was a problem getting a good vein on her arm.  It made me very glad that I had the port and wouldn't have to go through that.  My veins on my right side were always good for drawing blood and such...but since all this, I can't use that arm and my left arm has veins that disappear or close up.  So, this definitely made me see the wisdom of that decision.  

While I was finishing up the chemo, a friend from church who was getting radiation downstairs (for her breast cancer) texted to see if she could come up and visit.  I'm always glad to see her, so I told her "Of course!".   It was good to talk to her and in the sharing of our stories, we knew exactly how each of us was truly feeling.  Sometimes there are things you can only share with someone who is going through just what you are experiencing.  Writing, reading and hearing about it are not the same as being right there "in the trenches".  Even in the chemo ballroom, there is a kind of camaraderie amongst all of us and people who are not "hooked up" (and I mean to IV's, not romantically!) cannot fully join "our club".

Tomorrow I go back to get the shot that boosts my white blood cell count.  My tests today still showed the anemia (which she was not too concerned about yet) and a low Vitamin D count.  So, I have to double the Vitamin D to 3,000 a day.  During this visit, she will also go over the new regimen with the Taxol.  My chemo nurse today said it might be a two week break in between the "red devil" and beginning the Taxol.

So, today I am feeling OK.  I know it will be a tough week and weekend, but hopefully, this will be the worst of it and the next chemo cocktail won't be such a "devil".  And speaking of the "devil"....I have just hung up my dancing shoes and I won't be doing the cha-cha with her again!  Halleluia and pass the Prilosec!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Don't You Just Love a Bargain?

In the spirit of Black Friday, I just had to put the Christmas Tree Shop slogan up there.  This was the first Black Friday that I didn't get up early and join the madness!  I know, I'm crazy to do so, but I do love the rush of a bargain and the early morning in a store.  But, this year, I just wasn't up to it. 

We had Thanksgiving at my nephew and "old-same's" house and really had a great time.  The pre-made meal was fabulous and I was glad to have saved them the preparation and work that they usually do for us.  I would have liked to have stayed longer (or overnight as they suggested), but still wasn't 100% and was "pooped" by 6 pm, so we left to go home.  I don't like feeling so tired (as I am used being the "Energizer Bunny"), but I need to listen to my body when it gets like that and go home to my my jammies, my comfy robe, and my couch.

Went to the oncologist on Friday to get my bloods done.  Told her about my week and my "crying jag" on Saturday.  To my shock, I started crying in her office!  "What's with this?", I thought, "I thought I was over this!".  But she was good and explained to me that some people like me have a similar reaction to the steroids and it makes them more emotional than usual.  Not to mention the stress of having the cancer and the treatments itself.  She further explained that they contribute to my not being able to sleep well, which also doesn't help.  And she let me know that my bloods show some anemia, which is contributing to my tiredness.

So, with that news, I can understand what is happening more.  I do keep forgetting that these drugs are really dealing with every part of my body and being.  I hate giving up the control to them, but there is no choice right now.

After the doctor visit, we decided to stop "spur of the moment" to a dear friend that has been cooking wonderful meals for us to thank her and say "hello".  She gave us a tour of her house, which is like an incredible museum of collections and antique furniture.  She is such a gracious host and just a good person who can make you laugh and feel at home.  This also was a good visit.

Then, we went home and got out some Christmas decorations and began the work of the holiday before us!  In some ways, not having the strength I normally do will be a good thing.  I can concentrate on the real celebration of this holiday and take myself out of a lot of the "hype".  That will be a real blessing.

So, Tuesday is the last dance with the "red devil" and boy, am I glad about that!  One more horrible weekend and then I move on to the Taxol.  The side effects should be less and the oncologist said the nausea and stomach problems I have had should not be as severe.  YEA!

Happy Shopping everyone!  Pick up a bargain in my name today!  Have fun, but don't push anyone! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rally Cap

I never thought a month ago, when writing a blog was suggested to me that it would become such an integral part of my journey.  I started out not wanting to "scare anyone away" with just how hard it is, but quickly realized that this was actually more for me than anyone else.  I make no apologies for the blogs that have been hard to read; instead I am glad you have been my company "for the ride". And as Margo Channing said in All About Eve, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"  (But it's smooth riding right now...don't fret!)

Boy...was Saturday tough!  A friend had called Saturday afternoon, and I am sure she didn't expect to get the weeping, depressed person she spoke to....but it absolutely meant so much that she didn't try to get right off the phone and instead listened and offered words of encouragement.  Today, from that same friend, I received on my doorknob a card with beautiful sentiment and a gift of some creams and body washes "to help me slow down and pamper myself".  Again, God coming in the form of a familiar friend lifting me up.  Sunday, my husband and I took a drive, and it really helped to get outside and smell the fresh air and it was a beautiful day.  But even before that, I was feeling much stronger emotionally that morning when I got up. 

By Monday, I felt still weak and a little dizzy, but tried to keep moving doing some simple housekeeping and talking a walk.  By noon, I knew I was getting back to myself and that I would be able to get in and see those beautiful kids in preschool the next day.  And today, that's exactly where I went.  It felt good to be there even though I was tired by noontime.  But, I made it there!

I keep forgetting just how powerful these two chemo drugs are and the toll they are taking on my body for now.  I really need to take advice given to step back and just allow them to do their work and stop racing to bounce back so quickly.  (Just who am I racing with, anyway?)  And you know, here I was so worried about myself bouncing back that I forgot how often it is that children become ill during holidays.  So, you guessed it...my granddaughter is sick right now and they won't be able to come for Thanksgiving anyway.  But, honestly, I also am still feeling a little tired and worn and glad we are still able to go to my nephew and my "old-same's" house for dinner and company.  My son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter are coming the weekend of December 10-12, and that will be something to look forward to next month.

So, I am OK.  I could be better indeed, but I am really OK.  The Rally Cap is on and I am ready to give my thanks this week for all God has given and done for me and I am also thankful for only one more "red devil" treatment.  Then I can kiss her "goodbye" and move on!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!   

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Big Girls DO Cry!

I've been sailing along pretty well...feeling OK even when not feeling OK...making the best of it all.  So, I was kinda surprised at myself this weekend when depression kinda took over and I was having a hard time shaking it.

Maybe I just needed this release; I do know I feel a little better having done all the crying I did.  And yes, like the title says...Big Girls DO cry....even brave ones....even ones trying their best to keep their spirits together.  

The crash this time came sooner than usual.  I started feeling pretty bad on Thursday afternoon.  That night, I had an important meeting with one of the families in preschool and it took every ounce of strength I had just to drive to the meeting and then get through it and drive home again.  Once home, I knew beyond a doubt that the crash was on its way and wouldn't wait until Saturday.

Indeed, Friday found me unable to lift myself from the couch for too long and that dreaded cloud was forming above my head.  And that was the beginning of my starting to feel sorry for myself.  Christmas music was playing on commercials and holiday shows were on t.v.  I kept thinking of how lousy I was feeling and how this Thanksgiving/Christmas season was going to be a hard one to get through.  I was even wondering if I could summon the strength to be "happy and jolly" during Thanksgiving for my granddaughter.  Of course, I am looking at it from the low point of the "red devil" week...I know in my head that it will get better and I WILL feel better next week.  But, that's how low I felt on Friday.

On Saturday, I was just feeling tired and very down.  My husband had volunteered to help feed the homeless a few towns over, and asked if I felt OK enough for him to go.  I didn't want him to feel like he had to stay here for me, so said "yes".  However, I felt so alone all day and just couldn't stop crying.  He called several times, but I didn't let him know how I was feeling since I didn't want him to worry.  However, once he came home, I couldn't stop myself.  Just one look at him and I dissolved into a puddle of water.  He said all the right things, and reminded me that things would be better and that it was to be expected that I would be feeling this way.  And he made me promise not to hide it from him again.  But that's hard for me because I am usually the "take charge" person....the one who "solves the problems"....who "leaps tall buildings in a single bound".  That person, though,  was not me Friday...or today.  That was not me at all.

We all have our walls; the time when we come up against it and just cannot get over.  And that's what I hit today.  In order to climb over the other side, we are planning a walk tomorrow and I'm gonna soak in some of the sun (if there is any) and fresh air and try to drive these blues away.  For now, though, my eyes just keep leaking...with a mind of their own.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wired To Tired

Yesterday was the third go-round with the "red devil".  Although red is one of my favorite colors, seeing it in drink or food form now instantly makes my stomach do a double turn around.  See, it isn't a drug that can just be in an IV bag high up above you where you don't look at it.  Instead, it is injected into your IV right in front of you.  My own dose comes in three syringes.  Seeing that red color in the syringe and then afterward each time I pee is a reminder of what is to come.  So seeing red now in food or drink just makes me feel sick right away.

The chemo ballroom this week we all nicknamed, "the Ladies Room" because this time it was all women.  So, needless to say, it was full of chatter, women sharing stories, laughter, pulling off wigs to compare bald heads, sharing food and just generally sharing ourselves.  I hardly read at all this time since it was just good talking and laughing.  My husband and a couple other husbands felt outnumbered and excused themselves to go out to the lobby and watch TV. I don't blame them, we were a noisy bunch!

I give so much credit to the nurses since all of them are so accommodating and informative and there whenever you need them.  The minute I come into the room, one of the aides will always come up and give me a pillow for my back, and a blanket (they keep the room on the colder side to keep the germs down).  The chairs are all recliners and you can get yourself really comfy.  Of course, when your butt starts getting numb, you can always get up, and talk a stroll with your "partner" IV pole.   This time I wore one of my hats, and everyone wanted to know where I got it.  So, I told them to head to K-Mart, where these hats are only $6.99.  I think I am starting a trend.

The night of the chemo treatments, I can never sleep.  I thought at first it was just the anxiety over getting the chemo, but my oncologist told me today it is a common side effect of the steroids that we get as "pre-meds" before the chemo.  It just "wires us up"!  And that is truly what it does!  I get to sleep, but wake up about 3 am feeling like I need to get up and build a house or something.  I am so wide awake, I have to walk around the house, sometimes put on the TV, and just try to wind down.  I don't usually succeed, and end up going to work the next day feeling like I am in a daze but with energy.  I do get a lot done, and hopefully it all makes sense...and usually, incredibly it is when I do my best work.  This day after chemo is also the day I need to go back to the cancer center to get the shot that helps my white blood cells come back (Come back, Little Sheba's).  My appointment was at 2:15, since you have to come back 24 hours after your chemo.  I stayed at work so I wouldn't fall asleep at home, and the minute I got home, wig and clothes came off and PJ's and a bald head are finally a part of me again.

I will sleep OK tonight since I am now exhausted and not as wired.  I am like a worn down toy whose batteries need replacement.  So, I bid you "adieu" as I really need to get some sleep.  Y..A...W...N...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz   

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's the Little Things

Today, the day before chemo three, I wanted to give you an inside picture to the "little side effects" of chemo to an individual.  Of course, chemo changes with the medications given and the person themselves, so this is just my experience.

The hair loss and the "dark weekends" that I experience after chemo are the biggest hurdles to the whole experience.  But the smaller things also play a part in maneuvering through the experience.

I've mentioned how the drugs make their way through your system and touch just about everything in it.  This involves a "general drying out" of your entire body.  You need to cream your skin daily since it gets very dry.  My eyes, which are always on the dry side, now need more drops to make them stop feeling scratchy.  My mouth is always dry, and my husband bought me a special toothpaste for "dry mouth" that is helpful.  But I also need to gargle a few times during the day with salt and water or water and baking soda to ensure I don't get mouth sores from the chemo.  I also chew a lot of gum since that produces saliva.  

My stomach was affected also and until the Prilosec, as I mentioned, was unbearably painful.  I need to take this every day to just ensure it does not come back.  Of course, connected to the stomach is....yes, the "unmentionable pathway out for food".  This also is affected by the chemo and you go from being constipated to having diarrhea and taking one medication or another to manage this balancing act.  (Yeah, TMI, I know...but it's a part of it).

Your mouth continually tastes different.  That's why foods taste different and sometimes the same thing you ate the day before, you cannot stomach the next day.  Strong tastes overcome this like peppermint, lemon, etc. and I usually look for that.  Right after chemo, even the look of foods can make you back away for a while.  During this time, my food "likes" are very limited and very plain.  It is usually by the Monday after the Tuesday chemo that I can eat kinda "regular" again.

Your brain is a little foggy....cause you are not sleeping all that well and let's face it, chemo does a job on your body and you are not yourself.  But, for those that know me....maybe this isn't as noticeable since my mind is always in three places at once (LOL).

My head, even though the hair is just about gone (there is just peach fuzz), "hurts".  It is kinda sensitive and that is why right now the wigs are not always comfortable.  I did find something to put underneath that does help somewhat, but it's an additional covering on the head, so it also makes it hotter.  

Speaking of head, headaches come and go related to the anti-nausea drugs, and just life itself.  And there are some minor body aches and sometimes a more pronounced backache.

So, this is my life on chemo.  And while all this is going on, life just continues.  And we all know how that can be!  There are still joys and concerns and things to pray about and things to be happy about and things to worry about in spite of what my body is saying.

But, I keep telling myself that I am lucky my cancer was found so early.  I am fortunate to be looking at a pretty good outcome from all this.  And I thank God that I had that ultrasound that picked up my small cancer and enabled all these preventative measures to take place.  

Tomorrow, Chemo Three for the "red devil" and then just one more dance with her before the new drug and new side effects.  I hope most of them are "little ones". 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is It Hot In Here?

So, first, the counts.  When she came back into the room with the results, she said, "Well, the counts are a little low..." and my heart sank.  But she continued with, "But a safe low.  They should pick right up by the weekend."  WHEW!  Who knew there was a SAFE low???  But, I'll take it!  Backache still here, but since I know that is good news, it's OK.  I can have my chemo on Tuesday, so thankfully I should be "good" for Thanksgiving.  

The hot flashes are back in my life again (at least menopause was good for something...years of hot flash experience) and I am sure they are aggravated by the wig when I wear it! I do now understand why most women who have this particular type of chemo and lose their hair don't wear their wigs all the time.  THEY ARE HOT AND ITCHY!  I have put a small fan on my desk so that it blows some cool air my way which helps during work.  I don't want to make the kids or parents uncomfortable during preschool, so I wear the wig for most of the day.  But by the time it is about 2 or 3 PM, I have to tear it off and wear something else.

I have become fond of those "newsboy hats" and went over to K-Mart (yes, I shop there but I have yet to find that "blue light special" man anywhere) and picked up about five for $6.99 each so I'm set.  I tried scarves, but I just feel like an old woman in them or like someone from Lucy and Ethel's time when women would wear them to clean the house.  But, the hats I like...it's me!

My husband is still getting used to me going out in just the hat.  I am slowly getting used to it since it is much cooler and easier.  Although I admit to actually taking brown eyeliner and "filling in" some short sideburns (not Elvis sideburns, just wispy ones) so it looks even more "normal".   Having the wig gives security and I will definitely use it for certain social occasions and during work, but I am glad to have an alternative as well.  Again, at home, it's just my bald head and me walking in the breeze.

So, Tuesday is chemo number 3 and then one more to go with the "red devil".  The crazy thing is...I am now used to the rhythm of this chemo and how I will feel.  I am already thinking (I know I said I wouldn't look ahead, but I peeked at it today) about how the next drug, Taxol, will affect me in terms of side effects.  Reading about it is difficult, but I have to remember the "red devil" information was equally as startling and I am doing OK.

Meanwhile, I keep opening windows when the flashes come and I am driving my husband crazy...or I think the correct term is "crazier".  But, as I said, he lived with it once before, so we'll get through it again.  Thank God it is fall/winter!  I can't imagine going through this in the summer.   I have a hard enough time with heat as it is.

So, in answer to the question up top....I guess it's not hot in here, just hot inside my own body!  But hey....this may be the only time I can effectively call myself "Hot!"  

Thanks for reading.  Comments are always welcome.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Moving On Up...

Since the beginning of the week, I was still dragging until today.  Today, just as suddenly as last time, I felt my energy level pick up and my head clear.  And once again, my back is beginning to ache...which, according to my oncologist last time, means my platelets are coming back.  I go for my blood tests tomorrow to check blood counts, so I am hoping this is a good omen.  I just need to have this next chemo cocktail on time so I will have good days during Thanksgiving.  Timing is everything now-a-days.  

I am so looking forward to my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter coming up for the holiday....but I didn't want them to come if I was just going to have the covers over my head.  Plus, we always go to my "old-same" niece (from Snow Flower and the Secret Fan) and that beloved nephew's house for Thanksgiving and I am missing seeing my "old-same" in person (although we talk on the phone all the time).

I have been to work two days this week with my new wig.  Everyone seems to think it looks pretty good (or else they are just being very kind...but I'll take it!) and just the style and color of my "real" hair.  The first day, I had it on too tight, and couldn't stand it more than a couple hours and had to switch to one of the hats I have recently purchased (thank God, hats are in now!).  But today, I loosened it and actually even forgot it was on my head!  When I come home, I just go "au naturale".  My husband has started to call me "Brittney" after Ms. Spears and the time she went mad and shaved her head.  And...he even said it's kinda cute!  Gotta love him too!  I am resigned now to the loss of hair and glad that hurdle is in the past.  I still say if anyone is going through this, shave your head right after the second treatment of the "red devil"...because your hair IS going to fall and it is very dramatic...in fact, just too much.  Shaving it before the "big hair fall" will give you some control over what is going on and not be so horrifying to watch.

Mindset is everything.  I refuse to think about the next few months but do think on the next treatment and the next day.  Looking too far ahead is just too overwhelming right now.  But every once in a while, I do think about the springtime and how it will be when everything is blooming and "coming alive" and I am finishing my chemo.  What a wonderful world that will be!

Wish me luck tomorrow!  And keep sending those prayers my way.  I will do the same for you.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow!

OK, admit it...you knew I was going to use this one!

This weekend, though not as bad as the first chemo crash, was still not a pleasant one.  Saturday another sister-in-law was going to be in town, and a third sister-in-law (and brother-in-law) decided to drive down from upstate to all say "hi" and go out to dinner.  I was hoping to go; but really knew in my heart that it was not looking good.  A fourth sister-by-the-law also joined them and since most of us live far away from each other, it was like a mini-family reunion.  They came to the house to give hugs and encouragement, and then left for dinner.  And I cried not to be able to share that time with them.  But I just needed my bed and to pull the covers over my head, which I did.

Saturday was the beginning of the "hair shower".  I couldn't even brush my hair without large clumps sticking to the brush.  I just left it alone and didn't touch it.  However, it was shedding everywhere.  I finally gave in and put on one of the scarves I had purchased.  I just couldn't stand looking at myself anymore--or--seeing the hair scatter in the air behind me.

Sunday morning, I woke up to a lot of hair on my pillow and even bigger clumps coming out.  It was truly scary.  My hand was shaking as I would touch a section and come away with big bunches of my soft hair.  I decided I couldn't go to church, I needed time to reconcile to this; and honestly, wasn't feeling all that great anyway.  My sister-in-law said maybe if I showered, and the loose hair came out, I would feel better.  I agreed.  My mistake was in doing this once she and my husband left the house.

I turned the shower on and the hot water poured over me.  I did put shampoo to my head, but just came away with more and more hair.  I stood watching as my hair ran in rivulets down my shoulders.  I had to keep pulling it out of the drain and it was piling up on the side of the bathtub.  I was shaking, but stayed in there watching this happen.  Finally, I got out and started to dry myself.  Suddenly, I felt so dizzy and lightheaded and saw spots in front of my eyes.  I was more scared of passing out than I ever was in my life.  I practically crawled to the bedroom phone to call my husband to "please come home, I'm not well".  Fortunately, he is an EMT, so he had an idea what might be happening.  He came in, opened the windows and made me breathe in the air while he took my pulse and blood pressure.  After a while, I began to feel better.  Not great, but better.  He made me something to eat.  I really had not been eating well.  He said that I probably stayed in the hot shower too long and since my counts are at their lowest point, I was compromising the oxygen in my blood even more.  That's the last time I will do that without anyone in the house!

That afternoon, my sister-in-law and I wanted to watch some movies to get our minds off of everything.  My DVD went crazy and I needed to disconnect it.  Of course, then I am crawling around trying to get just the TV working and not being able to figure it out (forget my husband who is technology impaired).  But, I am realizing that I have the energy to do this now thankfully.  Although I did finally have to call my much loved nephew to come and save the day, which he did and for which I an extremely thankful.

I was still bothered by my hair, though.  It was just hanging sporadically in places and I looked like a horror movie.  I put the scarf on and slept with it all night so no one had to look at me.  

This morning, I was feeling a little better and more resigned to this bald thing.  The wind was blowing wild outside, so I took my scarf and let the wind take away some more hair (I didn't even think I had this much hair!)  And then I just put my whole head out the window and shook some more into the wind.  It was some how exhilarating to do that!  I called a neighbor who has three boys thinking she might have one of those hair cutting things and she did!  She came over and trimmed my hair down to a very low crew cut and I am feeling so much better!  It doesn't look quite so horrifying and actually, not bad at all ( if you like that kind of thing).  And I loved that she didn't even bat an eye when she saw me (said she had seen this before, and not to worry) and even told me how cute I looked afterward.  Gotta love her!

So, Hair that was...is now no more.  And that's that.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Balancing Act

I'm finding that dealing with breast cancer and chemo is an enormous balancing act.  

My emotions run up and down depending on the day and on how I am feeling.  Last week I was so relieved to be feeling well; to be "normal" again.  Yet, that very feeling was balanced precariously by the fact that I knew a crash could be happening this weekend.  So far, this time is not quite as bad as last time.  I am feeling like I have the "flu", that my body is dragging 20 pound weights, I have a bad headache, and not feeling quite right in the stomach; but I don't have the severe stomach gas pains and heartburn that I had last time (thank you, Prilosec!).  But...this morning, I needed to wash my hair and afterward, brushing it I could see bunches of hair coming out of my scalp.  It's hard to see that happen, even though I knew this was coming.  I am ready with all the items needed to cover my head, but I am feeling more and more exposed by the loss of each strand.

When I feel very down, I just go to all the cards that I have received to be reminded of the goodness of family and friends.  I have kept every one of them and they are an enormous comfort.  They  remind me that I am not alone (and you do feel alone in your suffering even when others are sitting there with you); and that I can pick up a phone to talk to someone who will help me through the low point....who will balance my sadness with a reminder of their caring and allow me to climb just a little higher for a while.

Physically, for every symptom that is experienced, there is a counteracting medication...a balancing of wellness of various degrees.  When there is too much of one thing, a pill will help it but you have to watch that you take the meds in moderation...too much can also tip the balance so that the relief you want is not what you get.  And it is hard to find that balancing point when you are not comfortable during this "crash time".

I don't know how others do this without faith.  I know I would just be a puddle on the floor if I didn't know with all my heart that God didn't want this for me and that He also is trying to help me get some balance in my life right now.  I am so grateful for the children in preschool with their smiles and their innocent waves and delight when they see me.  I am relieved to have my sister-in-law with me for the weekend both to have someone to share this with and talk to...and so my husband has some relief himself.  And I actually do feel all the prayers that are being said for me in many different churches and places and sometimes I know for sure that it is these very prayers that are helping me to walk that one more step. 

This is not easy.  I knew it wouldn't be, and when it is called a "fight"...that is exactly what is experienced.  You fight everyday for the normalcy in your life, for a spot of "feeling good" in the day, for the ability to rise above the disease in your body so that you continue to see all that is good and wonderful in the world.  And every step is hard to take and needs all your concentration.  Whenever I thought of the worst things that could happen to me, this was one of them.  But I really never thought it would happen to me!  And now it has, and I must deal with it and there is still much more to go through in the future.  I can't look that far ahead, so I just look at today and I am thankful that this "crashing weekend" is somewhat better than last time.  And I balance this relief with the awfulness of last time and know I will get through this weekend and be able to see that I am strong and I can do this!  I will continue to "Fight Like a Girl" and not let this overtake me.     

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chemo Two and "Three's Company"

Today was my second chemo cocktail and the process turned out to be even easier than last time.  I was a little concerned about how they were going to access the port, since once they took the final pieces of tape off (yeah, some were still clinging), you can hardly see the port since it is under the skin.  This is supposed to be a better way of controlling any infection.  My husband kept thinking something fell off or a piece was missing!  But, that's not the case.  Instead, the chemo nurse just feels the port, sticks the needle (yes, that still has to happen) right in the mddle, and you are "good to go"!

When I saw the blood fill up those tubes so quickly (you need blood tests all the time to check on how you are doing), I was so thankful that the chemo nurses decided I needed to have the port surgery.  The veins on my left arm are my "good ones", but now that I have had a couple nodes taken and the recent breast surgery, all blood has to be taken from the other side, which is my "bad vein side".  There were always problems getting a vein lately and I have had blood taken from various places on my hand which didn't hurt too bad, but during the port surgery they put it in the middle of the inside of my forearm....and that one hurt and is still black and blue!  So, this was a welcome change.

After bloods were taken, I was directed to get a seat of my choice in the chemo rooms.  There are two smaller rooms, and one large room that a friend has nicknamed "the chemo ballroom".  It has chairs for quite a few people and lots of windows.  I prefer to be in this room.  (This friend is the one who was diagnosed at the same time as I was but is receiving radiation, and no chemo.  She has also nicknamed the radiation room, "the dungeon" since it is in the basement of the building... but we are still both smiling through tears and needed laughs).  The nurse started the preliminary meds of some saline, another anti-nausea drug, and a steroid.  Then, the "red devil" appeared within three syringes in all her glory and she was injected into my IV.  Once she was done, I was given an few minutes, and then the Cytoxan IV was added.  Then, a short flush by IV, a flush of the port, and some heperin in the port to ensure there is no blood clotting.  Then, all is done and we are free to leave all in about 3 1/2 hours!

The one part I love about the chemo ballroom....I love the people there whether they are the nurses or my oncologist or the individuals that sit next to me.  Today, I met an older lady who reminded me of my mom.  Her hair was in place and you could tell she applied her make up very carefully and she was wearing a beautiful mauve sweater set.  She was tired, and slept a lot, but also loved my husband's humor (and that's saying something!) and agreed to go for a drink with him afterward!  She was a pip!  Then, there was the gentleman on my other side who was a "talker", but interested in my story as well as telling his own.  We also discussed books and our love of writing, and he disclosed that while he is undergoing chemo, he is trying to write a screenplay and he showed me his notebook that he has been writing and making notes in during his chemo treatments.  You meet the most remarkable people in that ballroom.  The ones I don't have a chance to talk to, I just study and make up my own stories about them.  It's kinda an insane pastime of mine!

Once we left, we went to our voting place back in our village to make sure our voices are added to so many others (and I hope everyone has!) and went back home.  The dull headache has already started, but I did expect it this time.  I have been on the Prilosec, so I am hoping the heartburn and other stomach problems won't be as bad this time.  I am thinking I will be OK (not great, but OK) until about Friday night, when I think the tunnel might make a reappearance.  But, I am more ready and more hopeful that some things have been put in place to make it a little bit easier to climb out of it this time.

And tomorrow my sister in law comes to keep me company during this chemo week and also to give my husband a little bit of a break from worrying and feeling like he needs to be right by my side.  I do love having him with me....but also want him to have some freedom from worrying, watching, and checking on me.  So, I am looking forward to seeing her and having time to talk "girl-on-girl".  We have not been together in person for a while since she lives in the south and we live in the north.  And that is why you can call my abode "Three's Company" this week (remember that sitcom?) since my husband will be living with "two ladies"....and I hope he survives us!