Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Redheads: Taking Over

Feel the power? Through the brilliance of three combined, adorable Evans heads we've managed to hack mum's blog. This time the public is going to be blessed by hearing about mum's life through our mystical and very brown eyes. Yesterday, being the 29th of December, was a Monday. Everyone knows Mondays are the worst of all days, primarily because they signal the death of a weekend. But, in our house they are even more tragic than that. Mondays. are. chemo days. Our lives our systchematically ;) planned around these Mondays. Mom goes through an aggravating cycle of progressively getting healthier until the Chemonday comes and she is shot back down.
This Chemonday mom had a big send-off into her sick week. For the first time, oddly enough, the whole family came. For once, I (Amanda) was off of school and work and so were the brothers. My dad decided he wouldn't be sick, and so we all piled into the Turd Machine (AKA, our smelly brown van) and headed off. It felt like a roadtrip. We packed I-pods, pink monopoly and coke.
Okay, Mikey here now. It did indeed feel like a roadtrip, as we embarked on this deadly adventure through Chemotherapy, starring Julie Evans as herself, and Dr. Lower, as The Oncologist. Guest starring Herceptin and the villain, a mean dose of Taxol. Supporting actors being David, Amanda, Matt, and Mikey Evans, also helped by the wonderful input of the nurses.
As if the long drive wasn't tough enough, we then had to wait in the waiting room for about thirty minutes. Not the most exciting time, I must assure you. We did however learn of an excellent sandwich, mixing garlic bread and lasagna, from Paula Dean on the Food Network. Mmm :). Finally, we were called back to go to Dr. Lower's office. Hopes, mostly from us kids, of getting this rocking and rolling were dashed, when we were forced to wait in her office for over forty minutes! Finally she came, much to all our relief. She's an interesting one, Dr. Lower. Very cool and nice; she has a teachery type personality to her. And she rocks because she's saving our mum's life. Anyway, finally, we were off to the upstairs to start this chemo cocktail! We all secretly hoped to get a cocktail of our own, though obviously we're not talking the chemo kind.
I guess it's my (Matt's) turn now. I gotta say, i agree with that whole road trip feeling it had. We had the cooler and games and books and iPods and everything. The car ride just wasn't long enough to quite cut it, but I'm fine with that.
The worst part for me was probably the needles...I like needles just about as much as my mum does. Which is not at all. And the lady kept leaving that biohazard trash box open, which with all my OCDness and stuff wasn't all that great haha =p I had to move to the other side of the room. The waiting was alright. Long, but alright. And other than that we just kind of chilled, played some monopoly, ate some chipotle and watched psych and that 70's show. Doctors were pretty nice too. Doctor office type places always make me extremely exhausted for some reason or other, so by the time we left (around 6:30 I think...) I was about ready to go to bed. Even though I didn't. But yeah.
Mikey now, again! Basically, the day was very exhausting for all of us. The chemo place was a little eerie at six... All those dark rooms, we were the only people left. The day could've been alot scarier, especially if we were in the big room with everybody else. Luckily, we had a room to ourselves, so it was nice and peaceful. I must confess though. Mum's a snorer on chemo! ;). She's going to kill me now. Anyway, yeah. It was a rather tiring day, especially for mum, who first got pierced by needles, then pumped full of anti nausea meds, Herceptin, and Taxol all day. Quite tiring. We escaped all alive however, and will live to fight chemo, another day. Julie stands the conquerer, after six heavy hours battling with her shiny sword, Herceptin, and her trusty steed, Taxol. Equipped with other side weapons, she battles on to destroy the cancer. ETD(Estimated Time of Destruction), December '09. We'll see you there.

Monday, December 29, 2008

DIACD (Drat, it's a chemo day)

So we're about to head to the chemo pub and I will be slamming down cocktail 3 of 4 in this round! The kids are all going with, since they are on break from school, and I just wanted them to be there with me through one.

We had a happy Christmas, and then a bug hit our home, like we needed any segue into chemo. My sweet nephew Brody caught some violent bug in Indy at one of our family Christmases, and spent most of our time with him hurling, then happy, then hurling, then happy, then the other end got involved, making it a trio. It's amazing how resilient little guys are. And thank God for that.

The day after Christmas, our 21st Anniversary, my mum and bro-in-law both woke up with it. Unfortunately, once you grow up, not so much resilience. They both had very violent bouts. Eric, Jen and Brody, just got up, packed up, and headed out of dodge to be sick in his own home. We put my mum up in a nearby hotel, to give her privacy and rest, and to try and contain things around here before my chemo treatment today. Thankfully, they are all home safe and sound, and on the mend.

We spent our anniversary cleaning and sanitizing our home, which had to happen anyway before the tsunami of chemo hits as it is wont to do on chemo weeks. The nasty bug actually helped us get ahead of schedule, since it was so urgent to contain things on Friday. We normally struggle through Saturday and Sunday, trying to get everything done. And rarely do we really feel ready.

We took a couple of sanity breaks throughout the day. Massive Cleaning Spree. Dave, Mikey and I went to P.F. Changs for lunch. Matt and Amanda were both on dates. Came back and cleaned some more. Took Mikey, Amanda and her boyfriend, Daniel, to see Yes Man.

Then Dave and I did the anniversary part of our day: we went to a gas station to fill up his drought of a tank, and we bought 21 lottery tickets, which we quickly turned into 30 lottery tickets. Then it was slowly downhill from there. The 30 we turned into 7; the 7 turned 4; the 4 replicated itself; and then there were none.A little Agatha Christie of an ending, but it was fun. And we had a rooting section. The workers in the gas station, and the guy in line behind us, who said he saw someone buy 20 and turn it into 500. One of the girls in the station said good luck as we walked to our car to scratch off our first batch. I looked at Dave, took off my hat, and said, "Do I look like I'm having good luck?" We laughed and then went off and won the 30. God is funny.

And then, because we are anything but boring, Dave got the bug, and even Mikey a tiny bit. And we're not sure about me, since I've been messed up since I started chemo so it's honestly just hard to tell. But here we all are, apparently still standing. And now we are off to take me to my chemo cocktail. Only one more bad boy after this one! That sounds really good to say.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

Yesterday, was Monday, and normally would have been a chemo Monday; but on my new and improved chemo cocktail schedule, not only do I now have three weeks in between treatments, which meant it wasn't a chemo Monday, but it was my first time to get that longed-for third week since I began downing these cocktails on September 29th. It feels like an early Christmas present, or that I'm not only on Christmas break, from homeschool and co-op, but also chemo break. I was singing TGINACW all day long. And, I have to admit that I did get into the holiday spirit a little and remix-it-up with various holiday tunes, like The 12 Days of Christmas where every day my true love gives me an anything but chemo cocktail for Christmas; or I'm Gettin' Nuttin' For Christmas, where nuttin' ain't bad cuz it means no chemo; or Jingle Bells, Chemo Smells.

Anyway, so instead of slamming down a chemo cocktail, and getting slammed by said chemo cocktail, as per my usual, I went and had a massage (my body was not expecting that! Pleasure and not poison? whose body is this, anyway? what alternatvie universe have I happily found myself in? it seemed to keep wondering) from a therapeutic masseuse my breast surgeon hooked me up with. She is a breast cancer survivor, further on down the road from me, whose experience and compassion were as therapeutic to me as her skill. I don't think I had realized that I probably haven't relaxed a single muscle nor have taken a deep breathe since August 12th when I found the damn spots, until she told me I was in guard mode, and kept reminding me to breathe. Honestly, I was holding my breath to keep my eyes from leaking. It wasn't exactly crying, like in the movie At First Sight (not that there's anything wrong with crying) and I don't even really know what it was, except my eyes kept leaking everytime she told me to breathe. Today I am wound back up, because my sister is on her way here and I can't wait to see her, not to mention, she comes with my nephew Brody, who hasn't seen me bald yet, which makes me a bit nervous because I hope he won't be afraid of me. I totally chased my cup of coffee this morning with a chill pill that I am waiting to take effect.

In other medical news, Dave just had another sonogram today, and the gall stone(s?) is/are still there and still blocking the tube, with no way of escape, except extraction. The gall bladder has collapsed and is also packing up its belongings to hit the road, Jack, and sort of be a groupie to said non-rolling stones. The surgery is scheduled for January 28th, but we are trying to move it up in between my chemo treatments and not at the end of the tunnel of Taxol, so we can party, and not prep for more surgery/stress/recovery. And then move on, both of us, God willing, to rebuild our health and fitness. And maybe even playing a little tennis, dare I say?

In the health and beauty section, Amanda finishes up her last day of beauty school today, and therefore is no beauty school dropout like Rizzo, but a bonafide graduate, only lacking her state boards licensure. Way to go, dahling! Mum is way proud, not to mention, impressed. Now, I hope you will have time to practice on your dear ol' mum.

Speaking of licenses...police scanners all across Ohio are getting the dreaded news that Amanda is now officially back on the road without restrictions. Other than the normal STAY WITHIN THE SPEED LIMIT, SILLY GIRL ones.

Lastly, from the mail bag, The Dave and Julie Letter is in the mail. Some of you have probably already received them, and I hope you understand that they intentionally came cardless out of respect for my bald head. I thought it was a touching gesture. If you didn't get one, we blame it on the chemo, so just send us your address and we will remedy the silly oops.

I think that's a wrap, and now I must wrap up, because my sister is in my driveway, and I must wrap up my little Brody in my arms!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I'd Blog, but I'm Working on The Dave and Julie Christmas Letter

Really, that's all I wanted to say. For now. Here. Just a preview of coming attractions. In your mailbox. If we have your proper snail mail address. Feel free to email me with any changes so we can update before we send.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Merry Christmas Chemo Cocktail, Baby

So that's yours truly, hooked up to my chemo cocktail on Monday. My oncologist said I won the most festive patient of the day. Though I didn't get a prize or anthing, so I'm not sure what's up with that. ;) If you're wondering, that is a fabulous candy cane dipped in dark chocolate that I thought would be appropriate cocktail apps, 'tissing the season and all. That's Port Rapha under the steri strip, doing his thing, bringing on the chemo cocktail to whip this cancer's you-know-what.

The current chemo cocktail consists of: 1)Valium I take in the morning to get me to chemo. Yes, I teach my Brit Lit class on Valium. My scholars are pure delight, not to mention a great distraction from the chemo to come. Then a group of my co-op friends usually pray over me before I head off. This might be even more effective than the Valium, or it could just be the cherry on top. Whatever...this is my drill and it works for me. 2)Benedryl and Tylenol taken orally before they hook me up. 3)Ativan, which is my fave part because it takes the edge off which is a very sanctifying thing for both me and, I think, the chemo to come. 4) There are some (3?) other anti-nausea premeds lost somewhere in my chemo fog, but really, once the Ativan kicks in, it's all good. 5)Herceptin! I got my first dose of Herceptin today. I will be on it for a year, every three weeks. There are not supposed to be side effects with it. Yay. And it is more of a biological, building up weapon against cancer, rather than the traditional chemo which tears down good with the bad. From what I understand it targets the specific breast cancer cells that I tested positive for (Her 2, protein responsive) and more or less turns them off. So even if you had this cancer in your body, which I technically do not, it turns it off like you don't have it. It has been a miracle breakthrough in breast cancer. There is a fab movie out on Lifetime called Living Proof if you want to catch it. Harry Handsome Connick, Jr. stars in it as Dennis Slamon, the doctor who discoverd Herceptin. God bless, Dr. Slamon and the ladies who went through all the testing phases to get Herceptin approved so I can be on it. And of course, Harry Connick, who lost his own mum to breast cancer, and wanted to play Dr. Slamon in the movie to further breast cancer awareness. And 6)The dreaded Taxol, which I am now halfway through with, thank God. My next one is Dec. 29; and the final one will be Jan. 19. Then we will have another prayer meeting/party!

Today I had my white blood cell shot. I'm still on anti-nausea meds so just low-grade nausea and headache that I can totally deal with. Much better than the A/C chemo ones. I finish those meds tomorrow at noon and then am not looking forward to the achiness from the Taxol/white blood cell shot to creep in. I did get a bit chastised by my oncologist for trying to wait it out last time and had to promise that I would take pain RXs this time. I'm not sure if this is why I didn't get my prize for most festive patient or not?

One thing I've been thinking a lot about these days is how chemo and Jesus both bring me to my knees. I'll take the chemo. All I have to do is look at my three kids and there is no question in my mind about that. But give me Jesus. Fernando Ortega has a song by that title that I have on my chemo cocktail mix on my I-Pod that I like to listen to to help me keep perspective and give me fighting music.

In other news, I finally hit the triple digits, weight-wise, which has been the Doc's and Dave's mission, not to mention my mum's, (and a few tennis nazi friends of mine)...so there. The Taxol doesn't make me as nauseated, nor does it seem to tear up my mouth, nor take away my taste, so far so good, like the previous chemo cocktail. So it appears I'm going to have to take it easy not to beef up too much! ;) Kidding people. No nasty comments necessary.

As for Dave and his gall bladder issues, he met with two surgeons today, who both said the gall bladder needs to go. We are hoping to schedule it the week after my chemo on Dec. 29, to give me time to recoup a bit from cocktail 3, and give him two weeks to recoup before my cocktail 4. It's a tightrope, but doable, if he can keep his gall bladder in check and I can stay healthy and on chemo schedule.

Amanda finishes her first semester of college tomorrow! Yay Amanda; I am so, so proud of you. You have had a lot on your plate and a lot of plates to boot, but you have balanced them with grace and beauty. Good luck on your final final tomorrow! Looking forward to celebrating with you! Also looking forward to your promise that you will find the room under that mess and the car under that mess, not to mention EVERY SINGLE ONE OF OUR TRAVEL MUGS lurking out there! That was all said in love my sweet little tornado, whom I adore! She also gets her license back on Dec. 22, thank God, but no reason to stop praying for my sweet little speedster. And she winds down beauty school on the 23rd, state boards to come. Well done, baby girl!

Matt is dealing with a double ear infection, and Mikey an ear/throat infection. Both are on anitbiotics and doing fine. They are both finishing up their semester quite well, and continue to be the best caretakers/companions I could hope for. I am so glad Matt has his license, because that lets them get mini breaks here and there, which they need. They have such a great group of friends who they fill those breaks and every spare minute with and that makes this mum very happy to know they are thriving despite the burdens they bear so manly and graciously.

So, although we seem like a fine mess, really we are hanging in there. Not that it is easy, but we have probably been enabled to coast a bit, mainly from all the prayers being lifted up in mine and our behalf. It is almost as if they have carried us. And God seems to be delighted in answering them all, including healing me, to Whom I give all the credit, and myself, and my gratitude. I also want to extend my gratitude to all of you who carry me to Him, one way or another. Prayer, company, meals, phone calls, cards, emails, reading my blog and especially the comments, messaging me on Facebook, joining Blogintheshire on Facebook, rides to watch my friends play tennis and to the oncologist, Dr. Lower, my oncologist, and all the angels that work in her office, not only taking care of me, but with great kindness, Dr. Stahl, my breast surgeon who saved my life, her nurse Rita, Dr. Runke who put Port Rapha in and saved the veins in my arm, Dr. Allen, my holistic/medical doctor, who found the cancer and put me on this path toward healing and health, not to mention all the lovely gifts, nor the thoughts, which do totally count in my book. Thank you seems lame, but there it is. It's all I've got, but it goes deep and is quite mushy if you want to know the truth. And I do plan to pay it forward with the rest of my life.

And there is one more I have to mention, most recently, The Tiffany Foundation Breast Cancer Fundraiser that my tennis club, 5 Seasons and my tennis buds threw this past Saturday. Tiffany's family established the Foundation in her honor after she lost her battle with inflammatory breast cancer a few years ago. When I walked in the door, I did not know what I was walking into. I thought I was going to a breast cancer fundraiser, and the last thing I told Dave as we walked out our door, was that I hoped there were other "bald" people there so I wouldn't be the center of attention, and especially not draw attention away from the fundraising purpose of the evening. But I walked right into Tiffany's dad, who told me I reminded me of his Tiffany. I was amazed that I got to meet him right off the bat, also shocked that he already knew me. From there I was surrounded by tennis buds. And then I met a lovely warrior named Kristi, who has been traveling down an almost identical road as I am. She was diagnosed with a similar diagnosis as me, except she was 28, newly married, and pregnant. And it was in her lymph nodes, so she was stage 2, and had to have all the lymph nodes on the affected breast removed with it. She has had a similar regimen of treatment. She started out on A/C, while pregnant. Had a healthy baby last Thanksgiving, thank God! Then Taxol/Herceptin. And radiation, which I don't have to have. Her beautiful baby girl turned one this Thanksgiving! Kristi finishes up her Herceptin on December 23. Go Kristi! You have run the race and have won! God speed! Not to mention a very Merry, no more chemo, Christmas!

What I didn't know about the evening, was that I was to be the recipient of a lovely gift from the Tiffany Foundation, whose mission is to give breast cancer fighters, a "vacation" away from the cancer. Their lovely, courageous daughter did not have a vacation from her inflammatory breast cancer. She was on chemo for the last 4-5 years of her life. But she fought with honor, on her own terms, and lived and loved hard and to the last. This is how they honor her, love her and keep her life and love paying forward. Kristi was last year's recipient. How shocked was I when she stood up, to give me the award for this year?! Stunned and speechless. Very grateful and very blessed. My vacation away, is another year's membership at 5 Seasons and tennis lessons to help me pick up my racket and get back out on the court! How perfect is that! I have some physical therapy to get after to reverse my noodly arms back into weapons, not to mention the rest of my atrophied muscles, but I'm on it!

This is Kristi giving me the award; and this is me, stunned and speechless; and this is Dave, a bit too giddy over my speechless state if you ask me. Trust me, it didn't last. Look at this blog for instance. Then imagine having to live with the voice behind it? And now his gall stones seem to make a bit more sense, don't they?

And with that, I shall affect a mock offense and sign off. The fact that you're probably saying, "Whew" just adds insult to injury. That's all I'm saying. Really. For now.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stones in Dave's Gall Bladder and Kinks in My Chemo Schedule

Just a couple quick updates.

Dave is doing ok, keeping his gall stones in check nutritionally, until he has his gall bladder removed. He has an appointment with a gastroenterologist on Tuesday to set up the surgery.

My chemo schedule had a little kink in it last Monday. There was only time enough for the Taxol, and not the Herceptin, so they bumped up my next cocktail date to 2 weeks instead of 3 this time, which is Monday. That was one of the hardest pills I've had to swallow, since I was so looking forward to a little break. But Monday I will be halfway through the Taxol, and begin my year of Herceptin every three weeks, so that's the positive spin on it. The other Taxol dates are December 29th and January 19th. Then we'll see what kind of a du my hair decides to do.

So while I am getting my white blood cell shot in my belly on Tuesday, Dave will be setting up an appointment to fix his. He is such a copy cat.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Jack Sprat and Me

Let me just start out by saying that I don't ever plan on figuring out how to spell Taxol, the new chemo in my cocktail Monday last. In fact, I hope I spelled it wrong. I'd spell it wrong on purpose if I didn't have to do a spellcheck to make sure I spelled it wrong. So, if you know how to spell it, please don't spoil it for me by commenting me and besmirching my blog with a proper spelling of that darn word.

Here's how much I don't like Taxol: If I were to say to you, "Taxol is kicking my ass." Which I would hate to do, because I don't really feel like offending people on my blog, who might feel that the last word in that sentence is the dirty one, when, in fact, the first one is the one that I have been thinking of calling the T-word.

I wouldn't even lay down the T-word with the X falling on a triple letter square in Scrabble if you paid me. That's how much I don't like Taxol.

I had heard about the side effect of numbness/tingling in the digits. But mostly I was concentrating on the statistics I had heard, that 80% of patients find it to be an easier ride than the Adrymiacin/Cytoxin of my first flight of chemo cocktail. My fingertips are not shocked, just a little numb, to find out that I'm outside the box on the statistics.

What I hadn't heard about Taxol, until my oncologist mentioned it to me that day, was that it might make me achy, like the white blood cell shot makes some achy. I could've done the math and figured that meant achy on top of achy, if I didn't have chemo brain; but really it ended up feeling like achy squared.

We did have a quiet but lovely Thanksgiving. Amanda and I were able to make the best turkey ever for the third year in a row. Some of my tennis buds flanked it with side dishes. My mum was there.

Shortly after, I just started to feel myself go downhill and went up for a nap to try and sleep it off. But the achy was just setting in. By Friday I was having a hard time coping with it. Friday was the hardest day I've ever lived through. It is the first time I've wondered if I am strong enough to do this.

Saturday morning I awoke to find out that my friend, Linda, who I had asked y'all to pray for when you pray for me, had gone to be with God, finishing her fight with cancer by kicking it in its you-know-what once and for eternity. But I will miss you.

To compound things, Dave had been having stomach issues that had him doubled over in pain much of the weekend. He thought it was just indigestion or something that would just "pass", although I did see that he had been Googling appendicitis in the wee hours one night. I thought maybe he had developed a stomach ulcer; the guy has a bit of stress on his plate. By Sunday night, the kids and I decided that enough was enough and Matt took him to a doc in the box, which ended up sending him to the ER to run diagnostic tests on him all night long.

Gallstones. He came home at 6 a.m. with 3 RX's, an upcoming surgery that we need to schedule somewhere in the chemo mix, and a new diet in the meantime.

Yes, we've now reverted to nursery rhyme status and humor. Dave is Jack Sprat who can eat no fat. And I'm the one with the weight, the heart rate, and the temperature all the same number, who used to be a vegetarian, but now spends her days trying to beef up for the next chemo cocktail.