Posts Tagged ‘dog

24
May
10

Robin – In Search Of: The Cube

Here, for you to watch while I’m off at the chemo “spa day”, is a video starring Robin and Brian demonstrating how Robin searches for his treat-filled cube. Because it was shot in one take, it ends up being a fairly simple search. We really need about 5 cameras, clip-on mics, and some editing software to turn this into a professional-looking video, so please forgive the faults.

Robin searching for his cube

23
May
10

A Granola Bar, a Little Whine, and Now . . .

It’s not fair!

I want to see Emily Rose dance the Sugar Plum Fairy. I want to see her graduate. I want to see her become a professional ballerina.

I *might* see the first; the last is probably right out, especially if she goes to college first.

Why do I have to have cancer? There’s so many things that I want to do. I want to go back to school for a Masters at least in literature, and maybe history. I want to fill my house with quilts I’ve made as well as give away a whole bunch. I want to knit my own wardrobe. I want to bead beautiful jewelry and have plenty of occasions to wear it. I want to keep learning to play the mandolin. I want to do some voice training, so I can at least hear the ghost of the voice I might have had if I’d had training when I was younger. I want to get back into shape (if not the shape I was in at 17, at least the shape I was in when Brian and I got married). I want to read so many more books. I want to play with the friends I’ve already got, and make new ones to play with. I want to travel. I want to get to know my nieces and nephews on both sides of the family, and get to know *their* kids. I want to continue my job where I left off, taking more responsibility for the event planning, and getting to know more about designing websites. I want to touch people’s lives, and be there for them the way so many people are being there for me in my time of need. I want to play with my cats and dog. I want to love my husband and spend a longer rest-of-my-life with him than it looks as if I’ll get.

And this is how I’m feeling 6 days after getting such excellent news on Monday. Guess it’s a good thing it wasn’t bad news!

OK, now that I’ve gotten that whine out (and had a granola bar), I feel much better. Don’t worry, Ma, I’m doing fine now.

23
May
10

Brian’s Knee Update, More Photos

Brian’s surgery on Friday went fine, and although there was a significant enough amount of pain for Brian to actually resort to the prescription pain pills on Friday evening/Saturday morning, by Saturday evening he was down to just ibuprofen.

It just amazes me that they can fix knees with three little holes in an in-office procedure these days – when my first husband had knee surgery, he was in the hospital overnight (at least), and has a big scar running down from the top to the bottom of his knee – I think it’s around 6″ long or so.

Thanks again to cousin Jeanette for taking Brian over and waiting with him while he had surgery. I’d planned on going with them, but as the week wore on, it became obvious that the chemo was still hitting me pretty hard. So I waited at home for them.

And because I don’t really have the brains this morning to blog about anything else, here are some pictures for your delectation.

Robin's definition of foot rest

And April the cat gets in on some of the action:

April's definition of back rest

We’re going to the ballet today, and I have to remember to wear a mask, since I’m probably immune-compromised at this point. I’ll know for sure tomorrow, but around all the kids, probably best not to take any chances.

21
May
10

Another Robin Video

This is one of his favorite pastimes, given the opportunity.

Robin licking Julie’s toes

20
May
10

My First Video – Take Two

So I’ve posted it to YouTube here:

Robin Doing Tricks

There’s some problems with resolution – it was recorded on HD, and played fine on QuickTime; but on YouTube it looks grainy. If anyone has any ideas about how to fix it, I’d appreciate it, novice videographer that I am.

If I can get my technique down, there may be more videos in the future. . .

20
May
10

My First Video (or not)

In lieu of anything illuminating or deep today (because believe me, it would take a major drilling effort to find anything deep under the load of fatigue and chemobrain riding me today, and yesterday), I’m including my very first video that I’ve ever taken.

The actor does a great job, the videographer needs some training.

**************************

Well that’s revolting – I need to pay an upgrade fee to load videos onto my blog. Forget that!

Instead, here are a couple pictures of the dog, the cat and the quilt:

Ahhh . . . the cool hardwood floor!

Robin is definitely a hot dog, and he prefers to lie on the linoleum or the hardwood floor to stay cool, even during non-warm weather.

Jeremy snuggling with my new quilt

This is the quilt that Evelyn made for me – I still haven’t gotten any of the original pictures off Brian’s camera that show the whole thing, so that post is still coming up.

That’s it for today, kids!

11
May
10

Chemo #6 – The Non-Event

Due to unforeseen technical difficulties*, the show that normally appears at this time** is pre-empted by this unscheduled story. Your regularly scheduled show will appear next week***:

We routinely try to challenge Robin with new ways of making his brain think, and one of those ways is by hiding a treat or his cube, and then having him search for it. Another way we have challenged him is to put a Teeny Greenie (dental chew treat about 1-1/2″ long x 1/4″ wide) into a square kleenex box. He figured that out too easily, so we’ve tried stuffing toys and other things in on top of the treat so that he has to figure out how to get to the treat. He’s variously managed to pull stuff out, shake the box violently so that the toys fall out, and tearing the box apart completely.

So last night, I put one of his Super Greenies (5″ x 1-1/2″) into a kleenex box without anything else and hid the box. Not very well, as it turns out. However, the increased size of the Greenie made it difficult to get the treat out of the box, and his attempts to tip it out weren’t working. Usually with the smaller treat, he can shove his long nose in and pull the treat right out. With this bigger treat, it caused his jaws to be open too wide to be able to get the treat back out – kind of like the story of the monkey with the pitcher of nuts. If the monkey grabs just a few nuts, he can still pull his hand out through the narrow neck of the pitcher; but if the monkey grabs a fistful of nuts, he can’t get his fist out through the narrow neck. In theory sometimes monkeys are too greedy to go for the assured treat of a few nuts, so they’ll sit there with their fist clenched around a handful of nuts for hours, unable to get their hand out, but not able to eat any nuts, either.

Robin *wanted* that treat, and apparently badly enough that he didn’t want to take the time involved in tipping it out of the box or tearing the box apart. Unlike the monkey, however, Robin had a third option: since it was his mouth stuck in the box, he could eat the treat without taking it out. So he spent a good 10 minutes walking around with the kleenex box on his nose, trying to chew the treat. After Brian and I were done laughing hysterically about it, I took the treat out of the box so he could actually eat it instead of just trying and not getting much. I really wish I had a picture of it!

_____________________________________________

*Neutrophils, part of the bacterial-fighting white blood cell system, were too low to progress with the chemo, since the chemo would cause them to drop even further.

**Chemo #6

***I’m scheduled for chemo on Monday morning, 5/17/10.

07
May
10

chemo and breaking stuff

The last time I had cancer (eww, that makes it sound sort of routine, like “The last time I went to a movie” or “The last time I blew my nose” – how sucky is that!?!?) I decided I was going to work on one of my quilting projects.

I ended up breaking my sewing machine.

Today, I decided that I needed to clip Robin’s toenails.

I guess you could say I broke the dog – poor little guy, I was on the second-to-last nail, and I got the quick. Blood everywhere. I had the QikStop out already, but this nail just wasn’t having any of it – we spent over 1/2 hour in the kitchen getting the nail to stop bleeding. And the sad part is that I really didn’t cut that much off – no more than any of the other nails that didn’t bleed.

It’s very tempting to blame it on the chemo, but this seems to be an ongoing trend, and Brian has had the same thing happen to him, as has the vet. I haven’t been keeping track of whether it is the same nail every time, but I’m going to start now. Right rear paw, middle toenail (including dew claw in count).

And Robin is just the sweetest dog – he doesn’t get upset or angry when someone does something that hurts – he not only continued to let me clip his nails, but he lets me brush and scrape his teeth. This is the same dog, who, when he had to wear an Elizabethan collar for some reason, let me remove it so he could eat dinner, then came to me when I called him after dinner with the collar in my hand – it was obvious that the collar was going back on, but he trusted me so whole-heartedly that he accepted that if I said it must go back on he wouldn’t argue with me.

It is pretty humbling to be trusted and loved so much.

12
Jul
09

Long time, no post

About three weeks ago I was talking to one of my friends at work, who said “You know, you *sound* like you feel better.” I realized at that point that I *did* feel better – and had for at least a week or so. I’m working full-time, and actually have energy when I get home to do stuff besides sit and read – and except for a migraine¬† this past Friday, have been feeling pretty darn close to normal.

We had friends visiting for the Fourth of July weekend, and we had fun, although I wasn’t able to do as much as I wanted to. We had the hottest weather of the year so far that weekend, and I don’t do well with heat. I used to live in Livermore, CA, where it would stay in the 90s to low100s for weeks at a time; and I worked outdoors at a dog kennel to boot. Never had a problem with the heat. A few years after I moved to Portland, I started getting sick if I spent much time in heat over about 85 degrees. I get a headache that feels like a migraine, nausea, and lightheadedness. If I don’t get somewhere cool fairly quickly, I actually get worse than nausea, and start vomiting.

Of course, our main plan for the weekend of the fourth involved going to the Waterfront Blues Festival. We got to the festival on the afternoon of the 3rd, and I was only able to stay for a bit longer than an hour. Brian ended up taking me home and driving back down while Matt and Nancy stayed and danced Zydeco. Saturday I didn’t even try going – there was just no way I was going to be able to enjoy it, and we’d bought tickets for one of the Blues Cruises on the Portland Spirit – I just pictured being stuck on the boat, sick, for 2 or 3 hours, and decided that I didn’t want to subject them or myself to that. So I spent the day and evening at home, and tried to get Robin to woofle whenever he heard fireworks – that worked for the first hour or so, and then he spent the rest of the time under my feet.

Sunday was considerably cooler, just mid-80s, so we went down to the Saturday Market and wandered around. After a couple hours of that, it started getting too warm again, so I cruised on up to Powell’s City of Books, where Brian, Matt, and Nancy were going to meet me when they were done at the Market. On my way up, I noticed that my back was starting to hurt – I haven’t had problems with it for quite a while, but I couldn’t come up with anything I’d done specifically to set it off. Once I got to Powell’s, I broke my book-stash-diet – there were several sequels to books I had read that I just *had* to have. Matt and Brian sat in the cafe while Nancy spent her time in the Drama section, and I was in there looking at graphic novels. We all met an hour later to check out, and drove on up to NW 23rd to wander around. We walked on down to Marrakesh, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner, although I learned that my body hasn’t completely recovered, because I was stiff and sore. I’m pretty sure that didn’t help my back any.

This past week, my back has been bothering me, mostly both sides of my lower back. It would stiffen up and be painful after sitting at my desk or in my recliner in the evening, but it seemed to be clearing up slowly. Thursday morning, I got up at 6 a.m. to go pee, and it seemed to be completely fine. When I got up at 8 a.m., my right-side lower back screamed at me, spasming so badly I could hardly walk. As of today, it’s down to about a 3 on the pain scale, from around a 7, and I’m trying to move around a lot, so that I don’t spend too much time sitting in any one position.

In some ways, I’m pleased to have this kind of problem, instead of being inundated with poisons, or recovering from surgery or chemo. It seems pretty normal.

25
May
09

Crawling out from under

In this case, out from under the weight of chemo and its side effects.

Because of the pneumonia on top of the chemo, and how wiped out I was, I ended up taking 5 weeks off work, basically all of April plus a little bit of March and May. I spent a good portion of that time sleeping, and pretty much didn’t leave the house at all. Brian ran any errands that needed to be run, and I read when I wasn’t sleeping. Hooray for online grocery shopping with home delivery, and for Dinners Ready!

Back before I got pneumonia for the second time, Brian and I had planned a celebratory trip to the coast for the beginning of May – we hadn’t been able to properly celebrate Valentine’s Day, our 12th anniversary in March, or my birthday in April; and we wanted to celebrate the end of my cancer treatment. So we made reservations for three nights in Cannon Beach, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of May, at the Tolovana Inn, just two weeks after I had my last chemo treatment.

On the 1st, we packed up ourselves and Robin and headed to the coast. We had lunch at Camp 18, and checked into the Inn around 2:30. Our room was on the third floor, and so Robin had his first experience with an elevator. He was fascinated by the opening door, cocking his head, and stretching his neck to get a look at the inside. He walked in with no hesitation and sat down on command, but when the door started to close, it rattled and clanked and freaked him out so that he tried to back away from it as far as possible. The movement of the elevator itself didn’t seem to bother him, and by the end of the weekend, after we started rewarding him with treats for sitting and staying sat while the door was closing, he got over his worry and was perfectly fine with it. The noises of the elevator moving and the pings at each floor made him tilt his head in interest, so all in all, his first experience riding an elevator turned out to be a positive one.

Our room didn’t have a bedroom, it had a murphy bed in between the kitchenette and the living room. It was pretty comfortable, but I kept stubbing my toes on it when it was down.

We didn’t do huge amounts of stuff, because even though I was starting to feel better and the chemo side effects were diminishing, I was still pretty much a lump of pain and exhaustion, only with brief spurts of energy. Happily, my sense of taste and smell were well on the way to getting back to normal, so our meals were enjoyable even though I didn’t have much appetite. Each day we took Robin down to the beach to let him run around – he loves to run on the beach, so Brian would throw a stick for him or chase him around, or we’d get him to run back and forth between us. On Saturday there was a major wind/rain storm (same as in Portland), and the wind was blowing so hard that it was parting his hair on his side – fortunately, since I had so little energy, we were only spending 15 or 20 minutes on the beach at a time, so we were on the way back to our room when the rainstorm started. It was nice and cozy in our room watching the heavy rain blow sideways; but kind of creepy listening to the wind screech and howl through the front door, and clang something on the roof.

Other than that, we took a brief turn around the downtown area, windowshopping and stopping for lunch – Robin got lots of attention and several people wanted to take pictures of him; Saturday night we went to a musical put on by the local community theatrical company (quite fun!); had a nice romantic dinner at Newman’s at 988; played cards and word games in the room; read; napped; and just generally relaxed. We drove home on Monday the 4th.

Tuesday the 5th I started back to work half-time – that first week, I came home and took a couple-hour nap each day, and still slept through the night.

As I was going through my e-mail inbox that first day, I came across an e-mail from my friend and co-worker Jenny – she’d once again set up a team from work called “Supporting Julie” for the annual Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk on the 9th of May. Brian signed up to walk, and I went with him, although I wasn’t up for actually walking. Many of my friends from work came – Leah, Carrie and James, Kristen and her husband Bill, Jenny and her family (including her in-laws, who were nice enough to go walking on their vacation!), and Becky, who started at Schrodinger just before I started medical leave, so I haven’t gotten to know her yet – wasn’t that sweet of her to walk for me? The company I work for is called Schrodinger, and the team t-shirts always feature the name of the team and the company name if there is one. This year, the way they printed the shirts, the team name came out looking like this: Supporting Julie Schrodinger – all on one line, so it looks like the team was supporting Julie Schrodinger ;-} Thank you, Jenny, for taking the time to organize the team and to walk for me! I waited at the plaza that was both the beginning and end of the walk, and had a nice little nap while I waited. It was a beautiful day, and Brian took Robin on the walk – Robin had the usual freakiness about walking on the Broadway Bridge (it’s very noisy, and shakes and rattles from the traffic – heaven forbid that a big truck or bus should pass over while he’s on it!), but other than that he enjoyed the walk, and all the attention he got – one lady came over to pet him at least 4 times over the course of the morning!

I worked half-time again the next week, and it was better – I didn’t end up having to nap each afternoon once I got home, although it was tempting.

The weekend of the 16th/17th we spent in Tacoma – way back months before, we had purchased tickets to the Fleetwood Mac show at the Tacoma Dome (I actually bought insurance on them in case I wasn’t well enough to go, knowing it would be just a month after my last chemo). We had planned to leave Robin with our friends Sharon and Gary, but when I called my 93-year-old aunt to see if she was going to be in town for a visit, she not only insisted that we spend the night with her instead of at a hotel, but that we bring Robin, and she would dog-sit while we were at the concert. We got there around 2:30, and Robin just went nuts when he saw Aunt Julia – he remembered her from previous visits, and really thinks of her as part of his extended herd. We had an early dinner, then Brian and I headed off to the show – she only lives about 15 – 20 minutes from the Tacoma Dome, so it was no problem to get there, and traffic wasn’t too bad. The show was awesome – Lindsey Buckingham’s voice and playing was as good as we expected (we saw him solo in Portland a couple years ago, so had a pretty good idea what to expect); John McVie was the quiet stalwart he always is; Stevie Nicks was her usual lacy, floaty self, but I don’t think her voice has held up as well as Buckingham’s – she no longer was hitting the high notes on her songs, opting instead to harmonize with a lower note, which was kind of disappointing; but for me Mick Fleetwood made the show. I’d seen him in 1993 or ’94 with Fleetwood Mac, although neither Buckingham nor Nicks were touring with them – he was incredible then, and he was incredible this time, also. He is so into what he’s doing, you can just see it on his face, and he’s obviously having a blast. Our seats were good, but low enough that we couldn’t see him over the drums, so I found myself watching the screens a lot in order to watch him play. Wow – he’s intense!

When we got back to Aunt Julia’s, she said that Robin spent the first hour sitting and watching the front door, and both times he asked her to go out, he wasn’t interested in going potty, but wanted to go in front to see if we were out in the car. He spent some time lying in the guest room where our suitcase was, but then came out and lay down against her feet and they spent the evening watching TV. We chatted for another hour and watched part of Saturday Night Live before heading to bed. Sunday, we slept in, had a lovely breakfast and visit, then headed home. I napped a good portion of the way.

Last week I bumped my hours up to 3/4-time, and the first day I worked from home, which was good, because I was so wiped out I needed a couple hour nap once I logged out. The rest of the week went pretty well, and although I was tired, I wasn’t exhausted, so my stamina is slowly coming back.

Friday we had my one-month follow-up with the oncologist. He started me back up on the Femara, the anti-hormone treatment – I’ll be taking it for about 5 years (he said by then they’ll probably have a study that shows that 10 years is even more effective, so don’t plan on stopping then. . .). His only real concern was that since I’m still having muscle and joint pains that I might get worse because that is also one of the common side effects of the Femara. I don’t remember having a lot of problem with that – maybe some when I first started, but I don’t think it was too bad. I started taking it again on Sunday, and so far it isn’t getting worse, so hopefully that won’t be an issue.

He also said that I could get my port taken out any time – I had to wait at least one month post-treatment because the Avastin can cause bleeding problems and wound-healing complications. It’s an in-office procedure for the surgeon, so even though I’ll probably have to take a mild sedative, it’ll only be a local anaesthesia, and I can just take an afternoon off work to get it done.

Other than that, I asked him about my vision – I’d noticed that I was having some vision change during the treatment, and was having trouble reading the computer screen – he said that any chemo-related vision change should be gone for sure in 3 months. It’s definitely been getting better, but my lenses are getting old and the coatings are coming off, so I need to get new glasses, and wanted to make sure that I didn’t get my vision tested while there was still some chemo-related effect.

My peripheral neuropathy has been diminishing significantly, to the point where I haven’t been noticing any numbness or tingling, although the motor control is still not back to normal. I decided to stop taking the Glutamine, and took my last dose Saturday – as of this morning (Monday), I’m starting to feel some numbness and tingling in my fingertips again. Guess I’ll keep taking it for a while, although I think I’ll start with a lower dose and increase it if that doesn’t take care of it.

This weekend we have just been lazing around the house, relaxing, playing with the dog, and enjoying the weather outside.

So there’s the update – I’m caught up, and believe that with my stamina starting to increase, that I’ll probably be better about posting. No promises, but I’ll try!

27
Dec
08

December 27, 2008

We had a nice, laid-back Christmas – slept in, had a morning beverage of choice (coffee for me, hot chocolate for Brian), sat and enjoyed each others’ company. We started cooking dinner around 1:15 (ham, yams, green bean casserole). The only disappointment for the day was that we’d invited a friend over, but due to the snow and ice she wasn’t able to make it. We offered to go pick her up, but her neighborhood was completely unplowed, and she said we’d never get there in the MINI (I was game to try, but she was convinced, and so we have made plans to get together this weekend).

Since I got through the first round of cancer, and especially since the recurrence, I have started to feel oppressed by all the “stuff” we have. Back in July we did a major clean-out, culling things we haven’t used in a long time; we took a couple loads of stuff to Goodwill and sent a couple bags to the dump. There’s still plenty of “stuff” around (especially in my office), although lots of that is books and craft/art supplies (even after clearing out my yarn stash, I still have tons of yarn, ditto beads and quilting fabrics). At any rate, I suggested to Brian that maybe this year, instead of buying each other presents, we should spend the money on clothes (both of us are wearing clothes that are so old they’re starting to develop holes and frayed spots; although I think Brian is the winner – he’s got a couple items that he’s had for more than 25 years; my oldest piece, that I only wear once in a while, is a winter sweater from the early ’90s).

We agreed, and so this was a “presentless” year. In retrospect, I find that a lot of my joy in Christmas is in *giving* gifts, and I missed watching Brian open his presents. We did buy some toys for Robin and the cats, so we got to enjoy watching them open and play with the various catnip mice and the stuffed monkey. Robin was a little weirded out by the monkey in its tissue paper. He didn’t really like it at first, so he stayed away from it. After a while, though, he happened upon it when he was doing something else, and all of a sudden it was a cool toy – go figure!

For next year, we’ve decided that we will probably give each other a little present apiece, because it just doesn’t seem right to totally skip giving someone you love so much a gift on Christmas. In the meantime, I’m feeling another purge coming on – if only so that I can find the top of my desk again.

We had more snow on Christmas day – huge flakes that actually started to accumulate a little. Friday afternoon Brian shoveled the front walk again, although the temperature had started moving up and thaw was starting to set in. When we got up this morning most of the snow was gone, except where there were drifts deeper than six inches. Now we’re getting into normal winter weather for the area – rain and mid-40s.

I’m really enjoying being on vacation – I’m taking off all next week, to emotionally prepare for starting chemo again on the 9th of January. Right now, I’m working on some quilting projects and a knitting project. My goal is to get a lot of UFOs (UnFinished Objects) finished. Then I can start some more projects ;-}

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and are ready for the upcoming new year!

21
Dec
08

December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice!

We’re snowed in, with the most snow that we remember having since we moved out here.

Last weekend, we flew down to Northern California to visit family on our usual quickie Christmas visit (I didn’t get to go last year because of the chemo). The weather forecast had indicated that snow and ice were going to arrive soon after we left Portland, so we made sure we had the chains in the car and headed off to the airport.

We had a lovely visit, and got to see parents and siblings on both sides, and meet the newest member of the family, our grandniece – what an adorable little girl! And we’ve got a grandnephew due the last week in December, so we’re excited about that, too ;-}

We flew home Sunday afternoon, arriving into PDX around 3:30, with the promised ice and snow awaiting us. By the time I had stopped at the Columbia Sportswear outlet and bought myself a new jacket, Brian picked up the checked bag, and we rode the shuttle out to the parking lot, it was nearly dark. We decided to start out without chains, and made it nearly home before we ran into any difficulties. After discussing the best route through the back streets, we decided to take the exit prior to our normal exit, because it has a slight downward slope at the top (whereas our usual exit has a bit of an upward slope at the top); our goal was to keep moving as much as possible, and only stop when absolutely necessary. After having to u-turn to get away from a line of stuck cars and go another way, we ran into the same problem on our second-choice route; and as we started out on our third-choice route (the one with the worst hills), we saw the line of cars that had been moving just 30 seconds prior come to a dead stop as the lead car slid sideways and stopped. Argh! Brian almost pulled over to put on the chains, but we were only about a mile from home, and I said “Just go around them, there’s nobody coming the other way”, so we made it around and home without the dreaded chain installation – yay!

But more snow fell that night, so I ended up working from home for three days – Thursday morning I was able to get the car out due to a thaw, and took the MINI over to get studded snow tires. Worked in the office Thursday and Friday. I had a grocery delivery scheduled for Friday evening, but Safeway called and cancelled. Did they try to reschedule? No – just cancel. You can bet they’re on *my* shit-list! So yesterday I had to drive over to Freddie’s and pick up groceries, and picked up some snow boots and some new flannel sheets as well. By the time I came out, the car had more than 1/4-inch of snow on it. It snowed heavily all afternoon and evening, and we now have around 3″ – 4″.

Robin loves snow, at least the powdery kind – he lays right down and starts poking his nose into it, romps through it, and makes snow dog-angels – unfortunately, I couldn’t get to the camera while he was playing, or I’d post a picture. Here’s a picture of him in our *last* batch of snow:

Snow gives me the runs!

Snow gives me the runs!

Jumping for joy ;-}

Jumping for joy ;-}

This is so cool!

This is so cool!

What he doesn’t like is when the top of the snow gets crunchy. There’s about a 1/2-inch layer on top now that has solidified, and he mostly breaks through, but sometimes slides. And we’re going to have to shovel out his little yard – there’s a drift that comes up to his chest that he has to jump over to get in and out. At least with the fenced-off area we don’t have to “watch out where the Shelties go” – and Robin is the only one who eats snow, so I think we’re safe on that count ;-}

My port-a-cath (chemo port) incisions are healing well, although they’re kind of itchy, even nearly two weeks later. The surgeon did manage to implant it on the right side, so at least I don’t have to worry about the increased risk of lymphedema in my left arm. I will find out how the port works when I go in for my first chemo in January – sometimes they will allow inflow but draws don’t work. Last time I was fortunate enough that it worked both in and out, but really, as long as it lets the chemo in, I can deal with arm-sticks for the blood draws.

For the most part I’m feeling pretty well, although I do seem to have some residual fatigue, presumably the dregs of the radiation fatigue. There’s some tightness in the radiation-treated area, but I try to do my stretches and massage regularly to keep it from building up scar tissue. I saw the radiation oncologist for my first post-treatment follow-up, and she was pleased at how well the burns have faded. There’s still a bit of darker color and a little bit of peeling, but other than that, you can’t tell what it has been through.

Like the rest of the Northwest, we’re in for more nasty weather – today is supposed to be freezing rain, and it isn’t supposed to warm up until Christmas Eve. Hope you all are keeping warm and safe, as well!

09
Dec
08

December 9, 2008

All went well with the chemo port implantation – the surgeon was a little late because her 5-year-old had mislaid his library book and they had to search for it, but I was back in recovery by 9:00 a.m., and home by 10:30 a.m.

St. V’s has a new piece of equipment in the pre-op ward that is pretty cool (well, so to speak). They now have warming gowns. What are warming gowns, you might ask? Well, they are paper gowns, lined with paper air channels, and with hose ports. There is a separate blower unit that produces air, and has a hose that connects to the gown. The hose has an adjustable temperature control, so if the air blowing through the gown is too hot or too cool, you can adjust it to fit. I was able to finish blow-drying my hair, too ;-}

My feet got cold, though.

After I got home, I had a little bit to eat, then took another pain pill and lay down. Robin and the cats took shifts on keeping an eye on me – although at one point, all three were required to make sure that I was napping properly.

Normally I sleep on my left side, occasionally flipping over to the right; it will be interesting to see if I can sleep without rolling over. I’m heading to bed shortly, so will find out soon.

13
Nov
08

November 13, 2008

Well, the Games Party was loads of fun – we had 33 attendees – the one who traveled furthest came from Georgia! We polished off 5-1/2 half-gallons of ice cream, two cans of whipping cream, a giant bag of Doritos, one of Ruffles, one of Fritos, two types of dip, a meat/cheese platter, most of a veggie platter, two bottles of champagne, two punch-bowls-full of Nuclear Punch, a case of beer, a bottle of wine, half a case of sparkling water, and 2 cases of soda.

And we played some games.

A new one that had never hit the party before was “Man Bites Dog”. Neither Brian nor I had the chance to play it that night, but we played it the next day, and it was a blast. Cards with words or short phrases are dealt to each player, and each person tries to make a headline using up to 5 cards. So we came up with some hilarious ones like “Blind Teen Angel Shoots Cop”, and “Angry Tourist Hits Naked Model”.

Another new one was “Pass the Popcorn”, which is a movie trivia game. It was fun, although I’m not really up on movies, so I was surprised at how well I did. Lots of other games were played – Quiddler, Taboo, Munchkin Fu, Boggle, and many others; and of course, we played Midnight Party (quite a while after midnight, however). We slept in on Sunday, went out to brunch with a friend, and lazed around the house for the rest of the afternoon – except for when the neighbor boy came by to ask if Robin could play – they went out and ran around the back yard. I think we have the only Shetland Sheepdog whose idea of a game is to *be* chased, rather than do the chasing. If we ever get him out to the farm again, he’s going to be sadly disappointed that the sheep don’t want to chase him. . .

I am down to only 10 more radiation treatments to go – yay!!! Even now, the worst thing I’ve got going is the radiation burns. Not only do I have them on my front and under my left arm, but because the beam that is treating the sub-clavicular lymph nodes is directly overhead, I have radiation burns on the back of my left shoulder from the radiation exiting my body. How scary is that?

Yesterday I met with the radiation oncologist, and when she saw my burns, she decided it was time to switch to the electron boost on the lumpectomy scar and give the rest of the tissue a little break. This morning was my first boost, and it is pretty much the same as the radiation treatment, just at a different angle. Because they can regulate how deep the electron beam goes, they can position the beam directly above the breast without fear that it will go deep enough to enter your chest cavity and damage your lungs or heart. I’ll have 5 boost treatments, and then finish up with another 6 regular radiation treatments. My last treatment will be the day after Thanksgiving.

Also yesterday, I had a chest x-ray and a follow-up appointment with the pulmonary specialist to find out the status of my sarcoidosis. Guess what? It was all gone, just as if it had never been there. I’m still convinced that the Ambien CR was the cause, but the doctors don’t believe it. They rightly point out that Ambien has exactly the same set of adverse reactions listed, and I’ve never had a problem with plain Ambien. My opinion is that the reason the CR is a problem is because I’m also on Nexium to control my GERD, which reduces my stomach acid to nearly nothing. With Ambien CR, I suspect that the lack of stomach acid means that I didn’t metabolize the Ambien at the “proper” rate that someone with a normal complement of stomach acid would, and that it was essentially causing an overdose. Three days after I stopped taking the Ambien CR, my symptoms were much better; and a week after that, I had basically no symptoms. However, since I’m not going to try taking Ambien CR to recreate the problem just to prove my theory, we’ll probably never know.

When the doctor told me the sarcoidosis was gone, I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. In spite of having two biopsies that were negative for cancer, I was apparently still worried about it.

And next week, I meet with the oncologist to determine the chemo treatment plan – when, and how many. I basically know the what, unless he’s come up with an alternative: Taxol. I’ll be glad to have the plan – having a goal date to look forward to is very helpful. I’ve been crossing off each date on my calendar after I finish another radiation treatment, and it helps my attitude when I see that I’ve finished more than two-thirds of the treatments.

Next up on the calendar is Thanksgiving – we’re spending it with our good friends Sharon and Gary and their family – they’re awfully good to us!

31
May
08

May 31, 2008

Reverse Pavlovian Response: When his dog starts to drool, Pavlov rings a bell?




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