Archive for January, 2009

25
Jan
09

January 24, 2008

Chemo went well but slow yesterday – I ended up being in the chemo suite for 4-1/2 hours. It was extremely busy when I got there, and one of the nurses was filling in for the phone triage nurse, so they only had two nurses.

My white blood count was quite low, 1.2, when the minimum is 3 (not sure of the units on that); so I am officially immune-compromised. Basically, I’m supposed to avoid any sick people for at least the next week. I had to get a Neulasta shot this morning to help get my bone marrow producing more white blood cells. I had to do that after every chemo session last time, but this time it is on an as-needed basis. Since I don’t have another chemo for two weeks now, hopefully I should not need one next time.

The Taxol and Avastin both can cause bone and muscle/joint pain, and I’ve definitely been having problems with that – typically fairly low level (maybe a 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 on the pain scale) but sometimes escalating up to as high as a 6. Usually it *seems* worse at night – mostly because during the day I’m focused on work or whatever, and moving around, but at night I’m just trying to sleep. I had some Vicodan and some OxyContin left over from one or two of my many surgeries, but for some reason, although they knock back the pain for the most part, they’ve been wiring me, so I can’t take them at night; and even extra-strength tylenol isn’t enough to kill the pain at night. I can’t take any ibuprofen or nsaids because of the Avastin, which can cause bleeding problems, so the doctor gave me something stronger. I tried it last night, and it worked fine for the pain, and I slept pretty well for a couple hours, but then I was hit with some nausea – don’t know if it was chemo-related or due to the pain meds, but I basically didn’t get more than two hours sleep last night. Which so far has been OK, although I’m fading fast now.

My hair doesn’t seem to have reached the falling-out stage yet – I may go ahead and shave it to avoid having clumps falling out at inopportune moments; besides, I’ve decided that, since I can’t figure out how to have people sign my bald head like one would a cast, I’ll have them sign a hat, and then I get to keep it forever.

I’m taking it pretty easy this weekend, trying to conserve my energy so that I make it through the next week at work. Tomorrow some friends are coming to visit, the ones with the Dorkie – Robin is going to be ecstatic when Augie gets here. That should take some of the edge off *his* energy, thank goodness!

Not much else going on, and I’m pretty much ready to sack out. So goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow ;-}

20
Jan
09

January 20, 2009

Today, my pride in being an American has been restored.

18
Jan
09

January 18, 2009

This was an easier chemo cycle – I don’t know if it’s because of only having the Taxol instead of Taxol and Avastin or some other cause.

I was, however, completely unable to sleep Friday night – at a guess, the vaunted “steroid high” finally hit me – I never had one last year, and definitely did not have one with the first session. I’m really hoping that this was an aberration, or that it is also due to having the Taxol alone, since only one session per month is Taxol only. On the other hand, since all my chemo sessions are on Fridays, I could do that Lord of the Rings movie marathon I’ve been wanting to do . . .

Anyway, other than that, some mild chemo brain, some fatigue that hit with some urgency, and a little bit of nausea (coincidentally, I was riding in the car when it occurred – car sickness, not chemo? I don’t usually have a problem with that, but who knows…), I’m doing pretty well. I’m planning on driving myself to the train station tomorrow, so we’ll see if that really happens.

Had a lovely visit with my Aunt Julia in Tacoma, she’s 93, and just an amazing woman! I hope I’m in as good mental and physical health, and have such a positive attitude when I’m her age.

14
Jan
09

Overwhelmed. . .

Oh, Kevin – thank you!

13
Jan
09

January 13, 2009

Today is a much better day, but no, I haven’t allowed myself to go mess around with the sewing machine again. I did stop at the Sewing Room, and have decided what machine I want, if I actually decide to buy one.

I went shopping, so I don’t have to worry about that for a while – Costco and Safeway were happy to see me.

After the last couple days, I’ve realized that my “natural” organizational talents are coming hard right now – last time I went through chemo, I had come off a major surgery and was only working part-time at home, so if I wasn’t my usual self it wasn’t such a big deal. But working full-time and being able to accomplish anything is going to be a challenge; so I’m spending a little time up front to focus on getting myself a system that keeps me on the right track even on days when there *is* no right track.

One thing that has me thrilled to the depths of my geeky little soul is a new project – my boss (who is the most awesome!) has focused on giving me long-term projects for the duration – as long as I can meet any incidental deadlines on my regular duties, most of what I’m working on right now is stuff that is either data collection or will be implemented down the road. Under the second category, I’m starting to investigate how to convert our style-based FrameMaker documentation to structure-based documentation; which involves learning XML, and will also require determining a “tree” structure for the documentation. Is it sad how pumped I am about this? The last thing (work/techie-wise) I was so excited about was learning how to design databases.

Because of the economy, we’re not doing a lot of events this year, so most of my time that would normally be spent on event-planning/preparation will be spent working on this project, plus a couple others.

So I’m hoping that this tendency towards rapid disappearance of chemo-brain holds true for the rest of the treatment – I really hate the thought of spending most of the next four months in the whacked-out state I was in the last three days. If I’m able to drive myself to the train station, I’ll be happy. Getting on a train going in the correct direction will be a bonus.

12
Jan
09

Don’t Let This Happen to You (for the chemo-impaired)

1. I did *not* try to fix my sewing machine in order to have to buy a new one.

2. What? Quit looking at me like that!

I really was just trying to rethread it, make sure that it was properly threaded, ’cause I was sure that was the problem.

Then all I did was review the stitch and tension settings.

And I figured that cleaning out the bobbin case couldn’t hurt.

Do you think it was taking out the first screw that was the mistake?

And where was Brian as I was merrily tripping down the “I’ve done this before so there’s no way I can screw it up this time, in spite of the chemo brain” trail?

He saw what I was doing and slunk around the corner, to come back only when I called him to help me get the last screw out. To be fair, he did ask me if I thought I should be doing this – and to be fair, I answered “No,” and handed him the screwdriver.

I don’t blame him, though – he knows that I would never stand for being locked in the garage to keep me away from the sewing machine (and besides, just think what I could have done with two cars and a shop-full of tools. . .).

So I’m blogging right now in an attempt to keep myself from going downstairs and trying just one more adjustment – because surely I have it *nearly* right, and it just needs a little tweaking. . .

11
Jan
09

January 11, 2009

All’s quiet on the chemo front – it’s gone both easier and harder than what I was expecting, but nothing dramatic.

My blood pressure was high when they took me back for my visit with the doctor, as I’ve been stressing about if I was going to have an allergic reaction to the Taxol solution – somewhere between 25 – 33% of people do. If so, typically slowing down the drip and increasing the steroids and antihistamines will take care of it. Sometimes, though, it is such an intense reaction that Taxol cannot be used in the patient.

The Avastin can also cause a reaction, although it doesn’t sound as if it is nearly so serious.

At any rate, when the nurse tried to pull my blood for labwork it wouldn’t come out of the port, so she had to stick my arm. No problem with flow into the port, but either there are some clots or perhaps the tube into the vena cava is creating a suction against the other side of the vein, causing it to allow fluid into the vein, but not pull any out. Next week, the nurse will put an enzyme in the port that will clear up any clotting and we’ll try again – however the important part is working, that fluid goes in.

I was there for 4-1/2 hours, got to visit a little with my two favorite chemo nurses and see the surgeon who did my ovary removal (all three are sweethearts!), and had some Reiki (a Japanese spiritual healing technique which involves a laying-on of hands to circulate energy through the body).  I cannot vouch for the effectiveness of what the Reiki woman (as opposed to Stevie Wonder’s Reggae Woman) intended to do, but I can certainly say that it allowed me to focus on my breathing and relax significantly, and that was a major bonus.

No major reactions of any kind; indeed, perhaps because of the steroids beforehand and during, I felt pretty good afterward, and we stopped by a friend’s birthday celebration for a little while that evening. No significant nausea Friday, just hints, but I took pills that night before bed as a precaution.

Saturday morning I woke up after sleeping solidly for eight hours, and was surprisingly awake. That lasted for about 5 hours, then I really felt myself run down hard, although I kept struggling with trying to focus on what I was doing. Finally I gave it up, and lay down in my recliner and slept hard for over an hour. Woke up, had something to eat, and was “on” for another four or five hours. But by the time bedtime rolled around, I was right there.

Today was more of the same – not really much in the way of side effects except for the “puppy face-plant” kind of tiredness that hits hard and fast; and the worst thing for me – the onset of chemo brain. I don’t remember it hitting this quickly last time; and I actually thought that since this was a low dose, maybe it would not happen at all until later in the process. But as I sat at my sewing machine trying to figure out why my top thread keeps breaking even though it appears to all be threaded correctly and that I’ve set the various tensions/pressures/etc. as appropriate for free-motion machine quilting, I realized that I must be missing something completely obvious, but that I can’t figure out *what*! I’m frustrated, and it doesn’t bode well for being able to drive myself to and from the train station on work mornings. Bah!

I’ve also come to recognize, well, I was going to call it a fallacy, but I’m not sure that’s quite the right word – maybe it’s just a poor strategy, in how I have chosen to deal with this second bout of cancer (bout – doesn’t that make it sound like I’m duking it out with cancer using the Marquess of Queensberry Rules?).

I haven’t purposely avoided telling people about it, but I haven’t gone out of my way to tell more than a few people about it, either. I made clear that it was not a secret, and that it was fine to pass on the information. I have sort of been relying on word-of-mouth and the blog to get the news out there, because I haven’t really wanted to talk about it and tell the whole sordid story to every person. I think there are several things behind this – partly because I’ve been wanting to pretend that everything is all normal and not have my life be all about having cancer again; because I’m starting to feel like a drama queen – “Ooh, look at *me*, I’ve got cancer, *again* – I’m so special!”; because I have been angry at my surgeon, my oncologist, my self, my body, that I have cancer again; and because everyone is so nice, most of them either are upset because they’re worried about me, or they’re upset because they’re angry for me (there have been a couple people who have offered to deck my surgeon for me ;-}  ).

But by pretending that it is just normal life, I can see myself falling into the trap of allowing the way I feel both emotionally and physically to become the new “normal” – leading me to forget that the outcome this time is supposed to be what was intended last time – no cancer, and an end in sight. This has stretched on so long since I found the recurrence last June, and sometimes it just seems easier to think of it as normal life rather than as “The Year of Living Cancerously”, because then I just look at each day, rather than focusing on “it isn’t over yet, and it’s going to be months before it is”.

I think I need to find a balance where my eyes are on the end of the road, but that I appreciate each day for what it gives me – so today I’m going to appreciate that my friend Cathy called, that Brian is cooking dinner, and that I’ve taken the first step on the chemo road, making the end that much closer.




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