Archive for April, 2009

23
Apr
09

One of these days . . .

. . . I will not only not feel yucky (that’s a technical oncology term, I’m sure), but I will actually start feeling good, instead of just feeling less bad.

This last chemo hit pretty hard – I’m still having some intense chemobrain moments, although they’re getting farther apart. The normal stomach/intestine action going on; the pains are pretty bad (I’ve had to use “the good stuff” to get any sleep since Monday); the insomnia when I’m not in pain is moderate; the fatigue seems excessive (presumably related to anemia); but the worst thing I’ve got going is the peripheral neuropathy.

It’s hard to type because my fingers don’t really want to do what I tell them to do, and I make a lot more mistakes than usual. The tingling and numbness is the obvious part, pretty much constantly there for now, but when I try to do anything that requires detail work or lots of movement, the clumsiness and lack of control is noticeable. I am even having a hard time knitting, even on big needles, and knitting is so second-nature (kind of like typing) to me I often don’t have to really watch what I’m doing.

The thing I’m most worried about is that it’s gotten so much worse so quickly. Typically by the week after a chemo it had faded to nearly unnoticeable levels – this time it’s even worse than it was early in the week. In some cases, it never goes away; or it can take as long as a year to go away. I’ve also read that the symptoms may not even peak for 3 – 5 months after the last chemotherapy.

But just today I was reading The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving, and came across this:

“Human beings are remarkable – at what we can learn to live with,” Father told me. “If we couldn’t get strong from what we lose, and what we miss, and what we want and can’t have,” Father said, “then we couldn’t ever get strong enough, could we? What else makes us strong?” Father asked.

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18
Apr
09

The Day After . . .

. . . my last chemotherapy.

This one has hit me pretty hard – I’m having a lot of pain and quite a bit of stomach/intestinal action, and my chemobrain seems to be pretty bad, too.

Today was one of the first trips out of the house that wasn’t for a doctor appointment in a long time. I had Brian take me to the grocery store today, because there were a few items I just had to have, but the places I usually order online don’t carry them. He would have come in with me, but I assured him it would only take a few minutes, and that I knew exactly what I needed and where to find it.

Of course, it was all being remodeled, and everything was moved around, so I ended up spending a lot longer pushing a cart than I expected. I finally found everything I needed, plus a couple impulse buys, but by the time I was heading for the checkout I banged my cart into several stationary objects. Guess it’s a good thing I didn’t drive the car.

Typing is not working very well right now because of the increased peripheral neuropathy symptoms in my fingers, so I’ll just say that I’m happy to have finished with chemo, and I’m looking forward to getting through the last few weeks of feeling awful, and finally get back to real life!

14
Apr
09

Finger-tapping (Impatience, not rhythm)

I’ve been patient for the last 8 months, and now that I’m down to single-digit days before my last chemo, I’m getting impatient. Will Friday ever get here? In spite of sleeping 14 – 16 hours a day for the last couple days, I’m still awake too much, if my impatience is any indication.

I keep picturing myself pacing around the chemo suite with my pole of bags in hand, occasionally squeezing them to try to make the drugs flow faster. None of this sitting around reading or knitting while the slow drip-drip-drip of poisonous, life-saving fluid seeps into my body – no! I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now!

3 more days . . .

08
Apr
09

Closing in on the endgame . . .

Yesterday Brian pointed out that there were only 10 more days before I’m done with chemotherapy.

Sadly, even though that was a happy thought, I then focused on how I’m going to feel crappy for at least 2 weeks afterwards.

Sigh. I thought I was getting out of that mental state. I really *want* to get out of that mental state. All the sun for the last few days made me *feel* like I was getting out of it, but apparently once the sun is back behind the clouds, so am I.

It really was much easier to have a positive attitude the first time I had cancer – although I do recall have some pretty grim days as I progressed through the chemotherapy back then too. Fortunately, back then I didn’t have to deal with all the illnesses I’ve been coping with this time. I’m not sure what to think about the pneumonia – I finally was feeling a little better earlier this week, but as of yesterday, I seem to be back to the same place I was the week before. Chest pain, still extremely fatigued (where even walking up the stairs exhausts me) – if it weren’t for the chest pain, I might think it was just (!) the chemotherapy. The doctor will probably want me to go in for another CT scan since I’m still having the pain. I just don’t want it to put any delays on finishing my chemo.

At any rate, here’s to 9 more days! Woot!

05
Apr
09

Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful Day

I spoke wistfully this morning of laying in the backyard in the sun, when it was still in the upper 50s. Around 1:00, Brian told me he’d set up one of our chaise lounges just for me, and since it was over 70 by then, I found some sunscreen, took a water bottle and the dog, and went out to enjoy the sunshine.

What a lovely day! it reached at least 75 degrees, with not a cloud in the sky.

About 2:30 or 3:00, Brian came and woke me up, and brought me indoors so I wouldn’t get burned.

Isn’t he wonderful? He takes such good care of me. Laying in the sun was so relaxing and warm, and even though I was still tired when I came in, I felt so much better emotionally than I have since I found out I had pneumonia again. It’s amazing what a little sunshine, and a lot of love, will do for one’s spirits.

04
Apr
09

pneumonia vs. chemo

I’ve been really wiped out the last couple weeks – even though I started the antibiotic over a week ago, things were worse at the beginning of the week than before. As of yesterday, I felt about the same as I did last Friday when I was diagnosed, so the antibiotic doesn’t seem to be helping, which could mean that this is viral pneumonia.

I don’t remember if I went into this before, but pneumonia isn’t a description of a single illness – basically it refers to any infection of the lungs, usually involving inflammation and collection of fluid. It can be bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitical. So even though I had a pneumonia vaccine in November 2007 that is good for 5 years, the vaccine doesn’t cover every possible source of infection – as a matter of fact, it only covers bacterial infection by the pneumococcal bacterium; and then only about a quarter of the varieties of pneumococcal bacteria out there. So even with its protection against the most common bacterial infections, there’s a ton of other stuff out there that could get me; and with the compromised immune system, even the ones that are covered under the vaccine could still be suspects.

At any rate, when we went in for chemo yesterday, the oncologist expressed concern that I wasn’t feeling better on the antibiotic, and that my white blood count was so low – however, he decided to proceed with the chemo, with strict instructions to report any increased chest symptoms immediately. And if I’m not feeling better by next week, he will probably send me in for another chest CT scan.

Even with the already low white blood count, but with a good neutrophil count (the bacteria-fighting white blood cells), he decided against having me get the daily Neupogen shots next week – they are one of the two ways of getting your bone marrow to start producing white blood cells. The other is only given when there’s at least two weeks between chemo sessions. However, the bet is that as of next Friday, when I go in for my !!SECOND-TO-LAST!! chemo, I will probably have to have them the next week. That’s kind of a pain, since I really don’t feel up for driving these days; fortunately Brian is usually working from home in the mornings, so it’s just a matter of struggling out of bed earlier than I usually can.

I’ve been sleeping a lot, although the last three or four days I’ve started waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to get back to sleep for 3 or 4 hours, but then sleeping hard until late in the morning. I’m not sure if that’s a good sign or not – I’ve been trying to avoid daytime naps since they’re probably one of the culprits (I was only up for 5 hours one day, usually around 8 hours most days for the last week and a half before that). But maybe it’s a sign that I’m finally going to start getting better?

But then there’s chemo. It really has sort of rocketed to my brain this time – I was talking to Brian last night and didn’t remember something that we’d talked about just 5 minutes ago. Hmmm. I’m having more stomach and intestine problems this time around, and the pains are already calling for the good stuff – the morphine. Fortunately I only seem to need it at night, since Tylenol is currently managing it during the day. But even sitting typing, I can feel the tingling in my fingers that means the peripheral neuropathy is escalating. Thank goodness I’ve only got two more sessions! Yay!

Thank you to everyone who is sending all the love, good wishes, positive energy, and prayers – I appreciate them all. It is both motivating and healing to know how many people care and are thinking of me. I think of you-all often, myself, even though I haven’t had the energy to make contact. Hopefully that will be on the mend soon ;-}




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