Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Back at Last

After another long delay I'm back, and this time the port surgery went very well. The pain level is about 1/5 that of the last one, and even the nurses at chemo on Monday (when we used the port for the first time and it worked perfectly) said it looks "more normal" than the last one as far as installation goes. It will get another chance to shine tomorrow, as I go back for another blood transfusion Thursday afternoon. I have been weaker than ever, the fatigue seems to build upon itself with each cycle of chemo for me. I did feel better after the last transfusion, so hopefully this one will do as much good.

We wanted to try and use Scott's blood, but timing-wise it's not going to work out this time. We have a new plan, though, where he sets blood aside in advance (in the next couple of weeks) and its ready when I need it. It takes the blood bank about a week to process, and by the time the doctor orders it and he gets an appointment to donate it was going to be almost two weeks, too long for me to wait. We want to make it work, though, so we'll do what we need to for future transfusions, since I can assume I will most likely need some. Tee Aranesp shot that is supposed to do the same thing as a transfusion is somewhat effective on me, but my dr. thinks the transfusions work better, so I'm okay with that.

I did get my Neulasta shot yesterday, and its hard to tell if thats why my legs are weak today or if its just standard chemo reaction, since they were weak yesterday too before the shot. I'm going to monitor things carefully before I walk down 48 steps at work on my way home, though, just in case my legs are unhappy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Port, Redux

I am leaving soon this morning to get a new port-a-cath, this time on the left side. I had a couple of issues over the last week, leaving me less than the picture of health, and my gyn/onc is adamant that I get the new port prior to my next chemo. I did have chemo yesterday, but she was tempted to postpone. Here's whats been happening:

1) I caught Scott's cold, which was mostly a chest cold, but took what little energy I was left with after my regular "chemo drain", causing me to miss almost the entire week of work last week. I hate missing work, especially just to sit around the house sleeping and not getting anything done to speak of.

2) During my last chemo (two weeks ago) I experienced an "infiltration" which, by days 8-12 after chemo caused basically a big chemical burn from the inside covering about 2/3 of my inner forearm. Apparently the IV hole was too big or something, allowing the chemo drugs to seep back into my arm and up along some other veins (very weird shaped markings, look like a strawberry birthmark). This no longer burns, but my doc was NOT happy, saying it could be very dangerous, and almost held chemo yesterday. As it was I asked her to allow it in the other arm since it was a Gemzar only day, although now I'm nervous about the bruise in my left hand from that treatment! I'm sure the right arm will be fine, but the skin on top is peeling now and it is less than attractive.

3) The old port site infection area on the right side was basically flat and almost gone last Tuesday, but Wednesday it came back with a vengence and is now swollen but not infected. I find that the moist heat helps and basically it needs to drain off the last of the necrotic fatty tissue, according to my doc. lovely, eh?

So, all that said the new port will go in today, and I am not excited at all. I'm trying to keep my chin up, but out of all I've had done so far the last port hurt worse than anything, even recovery from the hysterectomy, so I am just basically scared this morning. Fortunately for me Scott already had today scheduled to be off, so I have a ride and moral support, but I hate that every time he has time off he has to take care of me. I think he deserves a vacay all to himself soon.

In re: DWTS - I am really starting to root for Lil Kim, and I like that Gilles guy, mostly because I like Cheryl. We of course still root for Ty Murray because he's fun and we liked his bull riding show a couple years ago, plus he's cute as a button, and of course Woz gets some cheers as does David Allen Greer, but we haven't started dialing in yet. I'm disappointed in Belinda Carlisle, as I expected more personality out of her and much more confidence! I had really planned on liking her. Oh well, plenty of entertainment at any rate!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Confession of a Guilty Pleasure

Mock if you will, but I hereby announce that I love Dancing With the Stars. Some of you know I watch the show, but I have decided to come clean and say just how much I love it, and that I've watched every single episode with the exception of a few the first season I forgot about and missed. Ever since they announced that it was starting again tonight, I've been waiting not-so-patiently , and I have even surprised myself at how excited I am. We are a few short hours away, and I can't wait!

I wish I could be a contestant, and if they started Dancing with the Average Joes I would sign up in a minute. of course this shouldn't surprise anyone who knew me in my twenties. I'm sure none of you have any trouble imagining me in high heels, fishnets, a low-cut dress and too much make-up hamming it up on the dance floor! That's whats so wonderful about feeds the inner-showgirl and the need for tacky costumes, too much tan, too much hair, too much make-up and too much fun. All that and it's great exercise too! Of course I'm more into it than Scott, but I do have some dancing DVDs I'm trying to convince him to try with me.

Of course I don't love every celebrity on the show, but every season there is someone you never heard of who you start rooting for (go Drew Lachey), and sometimes there are people you really thought you would enjoy who disappoint (sorry, Susan Lucci), but overall the show never does. I love Tom Bergeron, and can even stand Samantha, since you know she's going to do something stupid...LIVE! So thanks for letting me yap about the cheese-tastic show I love, and know I will be glued to my set tonight and every time its on until they cancel the thing!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hair Trends

It has occurred to me that wigs are going to get awfully hot around here in mid-summer, since they are already a bit hot in March. I would love to have a bit of re-growth by then, but since I'm in chemo at least through mid-April as of now I am going to have to find some alternative methods, one of which is just going bald around town. I don't think it would bother me so much, as long as I remember sunscreen, but I don't want a sweaty head either. I don't love the bandanna look, but may have to try it out, and of course natural fibers are key to wicking moisture away from the head.

All this comes about due to a warm spell here, during which I went bald for a bit at work, prompting some head-petting. It feels pretty velvety right now, with a bit of growth that is soft and light (in color too, very surprising) but still the hormone therapy does still bring on the hot flashes, which is not all that attractive on a bald woman! I'll keep working on it, but I don't want to end up with a stiffled head all summer.

I had a slow day today, not as bad as my really down days, as I was able to get some small chores done, but I am still tired of spending a good portion of beautiful weekend days indoors sleeping due to exhaustion. I suppose I shouldn't complain, every cycle of chemo I learn a bit more and it gets a bit easier.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Energy Plus

Wow, I'm feeling uper energetic today, and when I stopped by to get my Neulasta shot (yes, $3,700 worth in one syringe) I grabbed a copy of my labs, which I forgot to do yesterday. The great news is that my Hemoglobin is at 10.8. Normal range is 11 - 15, however by this time in my chemo cycle (Day 8) I am usually down to an 8.7, so the 10.8 proves the transfusion really helped and that I now have another week off to get that level up even further. Guess its time to start cooking in the cast-iron skillet and pounding down kale. I realize I'm probably hopped up on stearoids today. Since I'm now 100% off the Prednisone the only stearoids I get are during the three days after each chemo treatment, so I tried to take advantage by running a bunch of errands after work today.

Tonight I attend a free energy workshop that is being held at the cancer center. A bunch of local Energy workers (Reiki, TTouch, Healing Touch, etc.) get together and offer free sessions to cancer patients, and so I am taking advantage by attending this evening. I have Reiki II certification myself, but for some reason have not been giving myself very many treatments. I hope this helps me feel better and gets me back on track with helping myself in an easy way that I already have available to me.

I have found that I am doing a few things at a time but have not worked out a good schedule to get all the positive things (motivational tapes, visualizations, diet, exercise, affirmations, etc.) working together. My goal for the upcoming week is to get a schedule going that incorporates all the good things I can do for myself and work toward healing on all levels at once. The thing to remember is that I have done them all successfully before, I just need to do them all at the same time moving forward, and that the healing is the most important thing in my life right now. (That and getting the bathroom redone next week, anyway, I can't wait until that is done).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Make Up Day

So I was able to get in for chemo today, putting me back on schedule for my next appointment with the gyn/onc on 2/16. I waited until the clinic opened this morning and started calling right away, but didn't get an answer for a while. I finally called the overnight number and found that their phones were out of service at the cancer center, so I just decided to drive over to see if there were any cancellations. Since it was 16 degrees and icy and snowy out, I figured if I got there early enough I would have a pretty good shot of getting a spot, and it worked just like I planned. It was, in fact, very quiet over there, and I got right in to the lab and to a little private room for treatment.

Since the port is gone the standard procedure now involves getting labs drawn separately and then having an IV installed each time. This is by far my least favorite thing, especially on days like today when finding a vein is challenging and painful. I don't know if it's more me or if it hurts badly, but I seem to handle big pain better than little pain like IV insertion. I remember coming home from the hospital on day four after the hysterectomy and walking up the stairs fairly upright, but an IV throws me into a tizzy. Oh well, just a personal foible I guess. I do think the port is a great idea when its working, and I certainly would not be against getting one again, once the old site finally heals properly, but until then we are on the old school method of getting chemo.

I was quite surprised to find that the Taxotere was no issue at all through the vein, it's the Gemzar that burns a bit and required some massaging of the arm for comfort. The Taxotere has never been as bad as expected, so that was a pleasant surprise today, since it was my first Tax-by-vein experience.Of course the benadryl they give on Tax-day knocks me out when I get home, virtually guaranteeing a four-hour nap with the pooches. I woke up in time to feed them their dinner (not that I had a choice, mind you) but still feel a bit muzzy-headed this evening. I know what to take if I ever have trouble sleeping, I guess!

One quick laste note: guess who seems to have developed a bit of anticipatory nausea, after just blogging that she doesn't get it? Yes, me, and it's driving me nuts, since its so clearly in my head. I had a stomache-ache yesterday that went away when I realized I would not be getting teatment, and another one today until I got settled into the chemo suite. A bit frustrating, but at least I can work on my head myself and don't need to rely on the docs for that.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Getting Lax

It has come to my attention that I seem to be getting a bit lax about my blog, and I realize it's because I am trying to avoid whining or boring everyone about some of the same old things. I have been tired lately I admit, and that is truly part of my cancer experience, but writing about it gets tedious, as does reading about it, I'm sure. I will therefore try to talk about other things moving forward, things that might not directly pertain to cancer but are about life in general.

Today in Richmond we are essentially snowed in, with a good 6 inches plus of snow that the city is in no way equipped to handle. I was scheduled for chemo at 1 PM today, however when I arrived (my Minnesota driving experience comes in handy sometimes) I found that the cancer center was closed. I think, based on the appearance of the building, that it was due to a lack of power, since I read on the web that 114,000 people in Richmond are without power (fortunately not affecting us). I panicked for a few moments, worrying about how i was to get my treatment and concerned that I wouldn't keep getting better if I couldn't get treatment today, but settled down and realized it will be fine in the long run and I can just reschedule once they open back up tommorrow. After all I have already worked extra days and weeks into the chemo schedule with no harmful results.

I must confess it's nice to have a quiet day. Scott went to work and will be coming home early due to the weather, and I was already scheduled to be off work today for chemo so no one will miss me there (if they could make it in themselves, that is). I'm getting some additional reading done and will soon set about clearing off my desk, which is currently buried deep beneath who-knows-what. I actually have been feeling poorly the last couple of days, mostly in bed, but today I woke up feeling quite good and got lots of little chores done first thing. Gambit is still acting pup-like, and all the dogs are enjoying romping around in the snow. I am also stewing on some interesting philosophical thoughts but will wait to unveil those until later in the week when they are fully crystallized.