This is Me!

This is Me! The good, the bad, and the bald. You get it all! But I have hair now. This spring I'll be rockin the pixie.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Just Another Day at the Spa

Many of you have asked me what an actual chemo treatment is like.  I had my friend take a few pics on Monday so you can see.  It starts for me about an hour before I leave.  I didn't get a picture of this part so you'll have to imagine it.  I put a big blop (medical term meaning an amount equal to a dollop of sour cream) of Lidocaine, which is a numbing cream on my port site.  Then I use Press n Seal to cover  the area.  This keeps things clean and in place for the next hour.

On the way into town, we stop for some "treatment" treatment. Drinking iced beverages while receiving chemo is supposed to help prevent mouth sores.  I certainly don't want mouth sores, so iced Americano it is!  Then, it's off to the "Spa" aka - the Cancer Center.

All of the people that I have met here so far are quite amazing. Today I would have about three helping to give my treatment.  One of my nurses cleans off the Lidocaine and preps me for inserting a rather large needle into the port.  If the Lidocaine has done its' job, I won't feel a thing!  Here's hoping!!!   She leans in for the injection and......... Nothing!!!   Perfect!

Before they begin any injections, they run blood tests to make sure that my body has responded well to the last treatment and that blood counts have come back up.  We have to wait for the results.

Good news today!  Everything looks as it should. Treatments begin with a saline drip and all the anti nausea drugs.  After the last treatment, I learned a few things about how my body responded to the anti nausea pills I was taking at home.  I am going to try to skip one that we think gave me bad headaches.  If that doesn't work, we'll try something else.

The tank top isn't because it's so warm and tropical feeling in the room.  It simply makes it easier to access the port.  Actually, once they start the drips, I tend to feel a bit chilly.  This is when my new blanket comes in handy. 

After the anti nausea drugs and steroid, it's time to start with the chemo drugs.  The first one they give me is Adriamiacin and its' pretty nasty stuff. So much so, that a nurse hands pushes it, in case it leaks out of the port or connection and gets onto any surrounding tissue.  It can apparently cause a lot of damage and they want to be able to stop it immediately. This one makes me a bit nervous.  I am not sure that it helps that it is bright red so I can actually see it traveling along the tubing and then going in!  

The other chemo drug, Cytoxan, is just dripped in, but has its' own weird side effect.  About 15 minutes into the drip, my sinus area starts feeling like it is burning.  I didn't realize that they could simply slow the drip down and it would alleviate this problem.  See, I learned something new for next time.  After everything is finished, they do a Heprin block to prevent the port from clotting.  

The whole process for me is between 2-3 hours depending on which nurse or nurses I have and how quick they set things to drip in.  Each person has their own little area with a huge comfy chair, a few chairs for people who come with you, a nice flat screen tv, and for your snacking enjoyment, they have this kitchen area which is stocked with all kinds of great treats.  They have everything from juices, pops, and broth to jello, peanuts, and chips.  It is quite extensive and makes the waiting a bit yummier and so far I have been fortunate and haven't had the metallic tastes in my mouth that often  accompany chemo.

This weeks recovery has been a blessing.  I was quite out of it Monday night, but Tuesday I was feeling pretty good even after the Nulastin shot.  This shot to assist my body in white blood cell reproduction after being zapped.  I knew this was the week that I would likely start to notice the hair falling out and by Tuesday it was happening.  I made a decision to call in the troops and have a hair shaving party since I was feeling ok and may not be the rest of the week.  Most of you have probably seen the evidence of this on Facebook already, but just in case here are some of my supporters who went hard core with me. 

Some opted to show their support with color rather than with the razor.  Hey, to each his own.

The kids brought me dark chocolate for a chance to whack some of the hair off.  If it was really good dark chocolate, they got to take a pass or too with the clippers.  I didn't go straight to bald.  They buzzed me to a number 2 with a little spiky hawk down the middle.

My brother in Spokane is showing the love with his new buzz cut too.  He sent me this pic in a text.  I'm guessing his fiancĂ© had a hand in it as well.  thanks!

The rest of the week was not too bad.  I had a couple of sick days and then by Saturday I was feeling good.  So good, that I was able to use the tickets given to me by a friend to drive to Seattle and see Christ Tomlin in concert.  It was also an opportunity to take my bald head on its' maiden wig voyage out in public.  With a little help from the teens in my house, I managed to head out on the town and leave the cancer behind for an evening.  I was even told by the gentleman who was managing the 5 Guys down south, that I could land an airplane with the rock in my necklace.  Hmmmmm, now we know why he is managing the 5 Guys and not working for Tiffany's or Jared's, just sayin.  He obviously doesn't recognize his vegetables, cause I assure you, there were no veggies on my neck that night.

All in all, I am so grateful to report to you that God has been ever present in this experience and this week was no exception.  Even through treatment number two, feeling sick and tired, and loosing my hair... I feel confident of this very thing, that he who began his good work in me will carry it on unto completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

Monday, April 15, 2013

Want to Play a Game?

What do you think of when you hear these words;  "Don't Spill the Beans", "Kerplunk", "Teeter-Totter", "Labyrinth", tight-rope walking, a gimble, a weighted scale, and "Jenga"?  They are all games or things which involve extreme balance right?  Well I have arrived at the newcomers conclusion that Cancer should be added to this list of balancing games, as it truly involves a balancing act like I had not ever realized.  It is a Labyrinth of obstacles to weave around and through to get the prize of being cancer free.

In one corner you have the heavy weight giant, "CANCER".  Just the word alone causes this side of the scale to plummet to the floor.  It carries with it words like "life threatening illness" and "terminal disease".  Often this corner will tip that direction when another organ unknowingly gets attacked and then by default the weight of this corner increases.  It's heaviness is amplified when you toss in words like fear, pain, testing, loss, treatments, and hair loss. It is a corner we all dread and hope we never have to deal with.

In another corner, we have the cancer treatments including biopsy, surgery, chemo, radiation, and diet.  These are all designed to fight and eliminate the cancer.  The problem is that there are many side affects with each of these.  Now I can't speak yet on the side effects of radiation, but the side effects of surgery, chemo and diet are enough to occupy a whole new corner of there own. Infections, nerve damage, sickness, headaches, bone pain, sleeplessness, insomnia, weight loss, diet changes, and not to mention the scars.  I'm thinking of just referring to my scars as body art.  Then it will feel like I chose it.  This is my optimistic side singing its' way through.  And do you know how hard it is to "practice" being a germ a phobe when this is not who I am by nature?  I am the person you might catch on a camping trip not pulling out the hand sanitizer after using the outhouse and plowing right on into lunch.  Don't judge me!  You know you've done that too.

Now it's time to treat all the side effects tugging down their own corner of the giant gimble.  Que the anti-biotics for infections, Tylenol or Vicodin for the splitting headaches, and Loratidine for my bone pain radiating from my sternum.  And don't you just cherish the days where you juggle the fiber and laxatives as you realize you are on a separate teeter totter between the green apple two step and the I can't poo a pebble to save my life problem. Really?  Another strange effect that I'm really looking forward to, but not quite sure how to explain is the feeling like I can hear my brain humming.  Yes, I know.  Now you all think I need to add a special white coat to my list of remedies and maybe I do.  It really is a curious juggling act.

The fourth corner holds my faith.  Most days it allows me to look at the other three and tackle them with hope and my big pink gloves. I feel the peace I need when my mind is racing because my body is full of chemicals.  It fills me with grace to endure when I feel like I don't have much left.  It allows me energy to move forward on my snails pace walk because I know I need the exercise.  It gives me the will power to eat a little when nothing sounds good.  And when all else fails, I know I can drop to my knees in exhaustion and find rest in the one who holds me in his hands.

So while I do have to deal with each of the corners in this crazy balancing act, I am able to do so because I have been held up in prayer by so many of you and encouraged by texts, cards, and meals. My amazing kids hover over me to make sure I am not being hugged to hard, that I am getting plenty of rest and not walking to far, and that I am drinking plenty of water and juice and eating whenever I can. I have a sweet sister that I am so thankful for, who sends me cards to keep me laughing every week.  I have other sisters and brothers who text or email to see how I am doing frequently.  My brother has been a great texting buddy who keeps me in good spirits.  My kids can identify when I get a text from him by the deep belly laugh that comes out in tears of pain when I am laughing so hard even though it hurts so bad.  On a side note, he seems to think I am crazy because his daughter told me that the Easter Bunny killed their dog.  I ask you.... who is the crazy one here?  Clearly not I.  I'm just sayin.... I really don't need that white jacket.  I have dear friends that have brought me crackers, Popsicles, special teas, juice, bangs, hats with hair and eyebrows (remember these for the next time you are out of gift ideas).  I have been given home made gifts of knitted hats and beautiful hand drawn cards.  I have been showered with kindness and am so grateful.

Last Sunday was my birthday and my kids came up with a great idea of something fun to do that didn't involve a lot of moving.  We went to Creativitea and made pottery and fused glass.  It was the perfect activity.  We just sat and created.  I did opt for the gloves as I am supposed to be super careful of cuts which can lead to secondary infections, blah, blah, blah....   Whatever.   Anyway, we had a great time.  The finished products come back tomorrow.  And though we didn't stick with tradition and have a Blizzard, we did enjoy Frosty's and Fries at Wendy's and they were equally as yummy!  I snuck in a short nap in the later afternoon and then I was treated to homemade beef n broccoli stir fry and a movie.  It was a perfect birthday.

All the blood work looked good last week and my echo results came in showing a strong healthy heart. I had a Dr. appt. Friday that went really well.  She said my body responded well to the treatment and she was very pleased.  She gave me some suggestions to help with a few of the side effects, in other words, throw a rock in one of the other corners.

Tomorrow, I do it all again.  I am not nervous like I was last time because I know what is coming.  I am not looking forward to how I will feel, but I also know that I can do this.  By Tuesday this last week, I started to recognize myself again.  Certainly the stamina was a lot lower than normal, but I felt like me again. I even snuck in a couple short, slow jogs.  This allowed both my kids and me to see that I can fight this and I can recover.  It felt good.  It gives me the courage to start the process over again tomorrow.  I know this week has its' own adventures in store.  As long as I have a case of Gatorade, a box or two of mini saltines, and a roll of cookie dough, it shouldn't be a problem.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Recovery Round One

Well it's Friday, and I am still kicking.  Slower for sure and it exhausts me in a way I can't even describe to you. This week has been a learning experience without a doubt.  Tuesday I had very little energy, but not a lot of pain.  My head felt fuzzy and I had no appetite.  All in all, it wasn't too bad.  I slept well that night. When Wednesday morning came, the thing I noticed was how completely I ached from the inside out.  My head hurt constantly and food was not anywhere on the menu.  My sweet friend brought me some mini saltines that tasted good and sufficed as lunch and part of dinner.  In addition to the chemo drugs they pump into your system, they load you up with two anti nausea meds and a steroid that is to help with the other two that  are working for 48 hours.  Then they send you home with three more prescriptions for anti nausea.  So the problem isn't really getting sick.  They do everything they can to avoid that and to keep what ever food your able to eat, in.  It's the constant feeling like your right on the verge or that you don't want to eat cause it might make you sick.  Then my brain was conflicted because I knew I needed the food  and especially the protein, to help keep me strong and to give my body the strength it needs to keep fighting.  I woke up from a good nights sleep and could only last a few hours before needing another nap.  My energy level is completely non existent and for me this is a struggle of both the body and the mind.  I am used to being able to suck it up and just plow through.  This is going to be a humbling experience, giving me empathy and insight into others who struggle with constant pain and chronic fatigue.  It makes me feel weak and fragile, a place that I don't like to be, but a place where God has asked me to be for this season so that his strength can be made whole in me.

Yesterday was post op and they took the sutures out of the port surgery site.  Kinda funny to have them take the bandages off when it has already been used for treatment.  That was uneventful in itself and was followed up by a Blizzard.  I was hesitant cause it didn't sound like a great idea, but I hadn't eaten most of the day so I figured that if anything would taste good, a Blizzard might.  I am happy to report, it did!  Apparently there are some magical healing properties in Blizzards.  Who knew?

Today I woke up hungry, so this was an improvement.  My head still aches, but I have Tylenol.  I went for two short walks cause the rain let up and I had protein for lunch because it sounded good.  I took a nap and woke up to visit with my guys and their friends who came to see me after school.  It's been a better day.  I know the days after future treatments will be harder, but I am only asked to deal with today.  I find that in dealing with only today, it allows me to keep my mind steadfast and to continue to enjoy the perfect peace.

Matthew 6:34

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Treatment Day

Good morning God,

So this is it.  Today is the first day of treatment.  When I went to bed last night, I wasn't sure if I would sleep well.  I thought I might be anxious about today.  I know I went to sleep last night chatting with you and I felt a tear drip down my face but that's all I remember.  No anxiety or panic.  Just peaceful sleep.  I think I have a healthy amount of nervousness for something so unknown but I am trusting that you have this as you have for the last two plus months.

Everything that I can to do prepare I have done.  I have my anti nausea drugs ready.  The stool softeners and the anti diarrhea meds, are both at the ready.  I have the tea tree oil for my nails, the vitamin E for the scars,  the hats for my head and the Tylenol for everything else. And I have your Word to bring peace to my mind and heart and your promise that you will never leave me.   I am surrounded by good books, pillows, and great friends and family so I guess I am ready.   Please go with me and sustain me today.  Help me to continue to find the joy in this cancer journey and to laugh and help others to laugh.  I think of and love the verse that says a joyful heart is good medicine.  Help me be good medicine for those around me, but when the times come to cry and be quiet, enable me to embrace those moments and be still.

Thank you for all the friends that have been here helping, providing meals and gas cards, sending notes, texting to keep me laughing, and just being here for us. We are truly blessed.  Protect the hearts of my children from worry and doubt and replace those with strength and confidence.  I pray that they would look at me and not see weak and suffering but strong and fighting.  I also pray this would give them compassion for others around them to see the needs and act.

It is a beautiful and glorious day.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.