Archive for December, 2007


December 18, 2007

“Chemo-brain, chemo-brain, chemo makes one say
Oh what fun it is to ride that brain-dead chemo sleigh!”

Poor Brian – he doesn’t really seem to understand that chemo makes me more funny. We were listening to a popular Christmas song, and I started singing the lyrics as they were meant to be written:

“You know Dasher, and Rambler, and Pacer, and Gremlin,
Comet, and Pinto, and Nissan, and Datsun,
But do you recall the most scary model of all?
Rudolph the Red-nosed Yugo, had a very shiny hood…”

OK, maybe in light of the fact that I also thought that it was funny that I heard “Prancer and Vixen” as “Nixon and Dixon” (a famous line down in the early southern USA?), maybe *I’m* the one who doesn’t really understand just how funny I am on chemo…

The fog slowly lifts, although not fast enough for me – and true to what others who have had chemo told me, it does seem to have a cumulative effect. Yesterday I had my first real bad nausea (OK, more than nausea, but you don’t need all the details!) day, after a night when I didn’t get much sleep. I woke up twice last night, and each time I got up to eat something, because I think that was part of the nausea problem yesterday – having an empty stomach when I woke up put the lovely medication behind the 8-ball, as it were. So far today I’m doing OK – we’ll see how it goes.

The worst part is not being able to focus – I’m back to not being able to read (and remember what I’ve read). I know this will pass, but it’s frustrating. Even focusing on a movie or TV show is difficult – anything that requires a sense of continuity pretty much passes me by. Mornings do seem to have a little more clarity to them, although it is deceptive, and doesn’t last too long.

There are some good things about chemo, though! The first is that I’ve done 3 out of 4 – one more to go – woo-hoo!

Also, my skin, which has always been oily, has now become (as one sweet person put it very kindly) “like porcelain”. Probably not quite so fragile, but it certainly has cleared up, and I don’t smudge my glasses as regularly as I used to, either.

The paleness can be attributed to anemia, which I’m starting to experience again – last night I was craving spinach. With my bald head, I do sort of resemble a 90-pound-weakling version of Popeye – I’m trying to do my stretches and core-strength exercises, but find, as the physical therapist suggested, that some days just being able to do them while I’m laying in bed is quite an accomplishment.

Let’s see – I have now officially had my henna tattoo for 10 days – I love i! I’m going to post pictures once either Brian helps me upload them (by far the quickest method) or my brain comes back enough that I can do it myself. Cathy excelled herself not only with the design, but with putting it on my head – when the transfer of the design didn’t work as expected, she did it free-hand. I, as well as everyone who has seen the tattoo, are in awe at how incredibly talented she is!

Robin developed a hot-spot on his belly last week, and has had to wear an Elizabethan collar to keep it dry – we feel as if we doomed him to wearing the collar by naming him after a character in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. . . Because Robin was having trouble figuring out how to avoid hitting the furniture, Brian solved the problem by putting some black electrical tape around the clear edge of the collar so that Robin could see where the edge was – that worked almost immediately. Robin is being his usual cheerful, happy self in spite of being confined to the collar – he even comes right over to us to have it put back on when he’s done with meals, instead of running away (I would run away!). We did have to come up with a new way for him to drink water, however, involving a cookie sheet and a mason jar, and regularly filling up the jar. Funny – the cats both prefer to drink out of the mason jar, too.

We are taking it very easy this Christmas – no tree, just some lights twined on the banister and a wreath out on the porch (where the smell won’t get to me), and we’re planning on spending Christmas Day with our good friends Sharon & Gary and their family. Robin should be back to normal by then, and will definitely be ready to play. Brian will be visiting his mother for a couple nights this week – just a quick fly down-and-back – because of my compromised immune system, I’m staying home. We hope to start visiting more distant family and friends this spring, once I’m officially declared “over” the chemo.

“Just hear that chemo jingle, and ring-ting-ting-a-ling too,
“Come on, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you”



December 8, 2007


What’s up with that?  I thought only pregnant women got cravings.  Well, OK, pregnant women and emotional eaters like myself.  But for the most part, my cravings aren’t based on emotional reactions, although a few times I’ve been craving comfort food (breakfast, tuna casserole, lasagna, Orange Milano cookies).  And I’m quite sure I’m not pregnant!

For the first two chemos, I have craved starchy foods, especially potatoes of any kind, but also bread.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the complex carbs I’ve been wanting – I even turned my nose up at whole grain bread (which is all we normally use).  I had to go out and buy some of those pre-made biscuit dough rolls that open with that satisfying *pop*.  How desperate is that?  And although they smell heavenly as they’re baking, they don’t taste quite right in my mouth – presumably part of the chemo.  But I still wolf them down, sometimes slathered with butter and/or jam, sometimes with melted cheese, but never just the biscuit.

Hash browns also are calling me – honestly, rather than ones that you fry up in the frying pan, the ones that really call to me are the deep-fried McDonalds kind.  Brian asked if maybe it was the deep-fried part that I was craving, but I think it is really both things together, because I haven’t yet wanted a deep-fried Milky Way, and I love Milky Way bars.

But for this last chemo, I find I’ve been craving fruit.  I love fruit, but I never think of having it as a snack – even when I’ve made a special effort to buy fruit to include in lunches and snacks.

Monday night, I made Brian drive me to the store so I could buy all sorts of things like toaster waffles, fruit, bread, etc.  What I really wanted was some fruit crepes, but I couldn’t find any pre-packaged kind, and I don’t know how to make crepes myself.  I bought a box of Satsumas, and have been eating my way steadily through them.  Low-sugar fruit spread on biscuits is up there high on the list, and the last few days I’ve been craving orange juice.  Typically, I don’t drink orange juice because it’s too sweet for me (I know, many of you are going “Yeah, right!  It’s not any sweeter than chocolate!”, but it’s true!); but the other night I just had to have it – it seemed like the tartness was what my body really wanted.  That was Wednesday.

Thursday, I felt as if I was having all sorts of symptoms of anemia – fatigue, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, weakness, shakiness, low appetite, but I was also having increased chest pain in the usual place I have it relating to my lung clot.  I hesitated to call the doctor, because I just knew they were going to send me to the Emergency room; but after driving into work and barely being able to pick up my purse out of the car because I felt so weak and exhausted, I called.  Sure enough, they said that my hematocrit was at 39% on the last ChemoFriday, so I’d better hie me on over to St. V’s to have another chest CT scan to look for new clots.  I said “but I think it’s just anemia”, but they insisted.  So on I hied, and spent around 4 hours being told that they couldn’t find any clots, but look, my hematocrit is only 33%.  Plus my white blood cell count was extremely low (1.1), which means that I am immune-compromised.  They made me wear a mask when they wheeled me through the hospital back and forth for the scan.  And yet another radioactive agent got injected.  Ah well.

Talked to the doctor’s triage nurse on Friday, and she said, yeah, it’s just anemia, but we can’t give you anything until you drop below 33%.  Not only that, I shouldn’t take more iron supplements than I already do, because it’s not my iron reserves that are low and causing the anemia, it is the chemo attacking the bone marrow and interrupting the creation of red blood cells.  So all I can do is wait it out, but this is fairly normal with chemo, and typically the marrow starts producing again in a week to ten days – so I should start feeling better around Monday or Tuesday (nearly in time for my next chemo on Friday ;-} ).  As well, she said that I shouldn’t go out in public until at least Monday, because of the low WBC count.  Sigh.

And last night, I started craving red meat.  I rarely eat meat anyway, but I just needed to have a big piece of prime rib.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t go out to a restaurant to have it.  In despair, I considered trying to eat while wearing a mask, but then I remembered that we had a gift card for Applebee’s.  They don’t have prime rib, but they do have a to-go service, so Brian went out to pick up dinner.  Mmm, that rib-eye was delicious, and so was the creamed spinach!  But for this particular craving, I don’t know if it was truly related to the anemia, since my iron levels aren’t the problem, or if it was just suggestability on my part.  Vitamin C helps you absorb iron, so it could be that any anemia triggers a reaction that causes cravings for iron-related food products, such as the orange juice and the red meat; even if the anemia is caused by something else, perhaps your body just reacts in a certain way because the most common cause of anemia is low iron levels, so it has a good chance of solving the problem if it creates that craving.

Anyway, I’m still feeling anemic, and think I’m going to go take a nap soon.  This morning, we tried to duct-tape out the stubble on my head, and while it pulled out plenty of hair, there was so much left that we decided we didn’t want to use that much duct tape.  So I’m still sticking to pillows unless I wear a hat to bed, and hoping that sooner or later, something will prompt the remaining hairs to fall out.  Scrubbing with a rough cloth doesn’t help – short of waxing it, I guess I’m stuck (literally!).  I did buy a very cool wig on Wednesday, thanks to Shi-Yi for helping me pick it out!  I’ll post a picture soon.  Several of the hospital staff complemented me on it, and at least a couple professed to being surprised that it’s a wig.

Plenty of other stuff going on, but the best news is that Brian’s mom, who was in the hospital last weekend for internal bleeding, is home and feeling great after getting 3 units of blood added.  Apparently she was bleeding in her stomach, but it had been going on for a while for her to be so low.  I guess anemia is running in the family these days!  The doctors think it is a one-off thing, but will be keeping an eye on her RBC in the future.

Guess that’s all for now,



December 2, 2007

(Dancing around, pumping my fists in the air, shouting “Woo-hoo!)

I only have to have 4 chemo sessions after all!  Obviously there was some confusion, but when I saw the oncologist on Friday before my chemo session, he said “And you’ll be done on December 28th.”  I said “Except for the Taxol sessions,” and he looked at me weird, and said “You’re not having Taxol – did we discuss having Taxol?”

“Well, no, both Brian and I came away from the first meeting thinking it was just 4 sessions of Adriamycin, but when I took the chemo class, the nurse said I was having 4 Taxol sessions as well – when I called your office to check, I definitely came away believing that I was having Taxol, also.”

(Looks at my chart, and his notes, shakes his head)  “No, you definitely don’t need the Taxol, at Stage I with no lymph node involvement, and the tumor size under 2cm.  Unless you really want it . . .”

You can pretty much guess my answer to that!

So I really will be starting the New Year free of the shadow of 2 more months of chemo – woo-hoo!

The other good news is that my warfarin level finally reached critical mass and became “therapeutic”, so I don’t have to keep giving myself injections of Lovanox – dang, and just when I was getting the hang of it.  Plus I nearly had my morse code SOS spelled out!  We’re still waiting on the final results of the blood clotting factors to see if I am prone to clots, but the results that have come back so far look good.  I’m still having pain, and the doctor says that it can take months for a clot to dissolve – the anticoagulant doesn’t dissolve it – your own body has to do it.  The warfarin just makes sure that you’re not developing more clots.

On Friday evening, after my chemo session, I actually had my first mini-steroid-high, and it was good timing.  My friend Monica, whom I used to work with, and her daughter Heather, who was the flower girl at our wedding, came by to visit.  Monica lent me a wig that she wore when she went through chemo – it’s very cute, so you may actually see me with hair one of these days- I’ll post a picture soon.  Heather was five at our wedding, and now she’s nearly sixteen, and driving.  Not to mention she’s an honor student planning on becoming a doctor, a cheerleader at her high school, she’s traveling to France this summer as an exchange student, and she’s grown into an absolutely gorgeous young woman!  Monica’s other daughter Megan couldn’t visit, as she was at a basketball (?) game, but based on her picture, she’s giving Heather a run for her money ;-}

Side effects so far this time are pretty much the same – reflux, fatigue, fog, and needing to eat constantly to avoid nausea.  Monday should be my lowest day, although I haven’t had the energy to do too much today – Brian and I played Boggle, and I actually did pretty well.  My stubble is starting to come out a little bit – if I grab it, it comes right out without any pain, but it’s not really falling out by itself so far.  Guess without the weight of the hair, gravity can’t do its job.

Stormy weather abounds – we’ve had quite a rain and wind storm going on here in Portland, but I guess it’s worse out on the coast.  I read that the nation’s tallest Sitka Spruce (off Highway 26 between here and the coast) snapped in half due to the high winds.  It was around 700 years old.  Hmmm.  Does anyone know where the second-tallest Sitka Spruce was during the storm?


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