Monday, July 27, 2009

Treatment Day: T-8 and counting.

Slammed another chemo cocktail down today. Here is me, demonstrating the number 8 in my chemo blue recliner. I chose to use the double 4's because 1) I like symmetry, 2) it's almost Dave's and my age, 3) it's a good roll in craps, and 4) I didn't want to have to deal with the whole competition issue over which hand would be 5 and which one would be 3. I really had other things to deal with today than such "hand to hand" combat. For instance, a few minutes after Dave snapped this picture, I decided to recline my chemo blue recliner back, and pulled the handle right off. I didn't know I still had some latent superpowers left from being radioactive, and you can imagine how I felt almost blowing my cover like that. I shudder to think what could've happened if I hadn't had the foresight to choose the double 4's, and say the reclining hand was feeling all prideful, or worse, jealous.

Anyway, they got a new flatscreen TV in the chemo room. This presented another issue I had to deal with. And by issue, I mean Dave. See, the old TV was just a box, not really any controls to adjust other than the channel and the volume. The new flatscreen, however, is widescreen, which means there is a remote with all kinds of settings to adjust and buttons to push. Besides counting the drips in my IV, Dave likes push buttons and adjust the proper screen ratio and what-not on a widescreen.
It's like I knew what he was going to say even before he said, "Doesn't it bother you the way its all stretched out on the screen?"

"We don't have the remote," I countered, knowing I had totally check-mated him. 1) I was hooked up and couldn't go ask for the remote. 2) It didn't really bother me if the french fries Rachel Ray was making looked bloated. 3) Dave was also sitting in a recliner, which meant he was not going to be getting up soon to go find a remote.

Luckily, there was a newspaper somebody kindly left in the chemo room, and I thought quick, and turned to the crossword puzzle section and distracted him. There were two crosswords, one easy and one advanced. I am still trying to process what it means that we finished the advanced one twice as quick as the easy one.

You'll notice that on the newspaper right next to the YEA, there is an apple jolly rancher. I just took this bonus shot because I always grab two green jolly ranchers from the candy jar at the nurses' desk before I go sit in my blue chemo recliner. I always pop an apple jolly rancher when they flush my port right after they access it, and another before they flush it again and unhook me. I hope this doesn't ruin apple jolly ranchers for me after I'm done with chemo. Because I really like them. They are my chemo chasers and give it that appletini feel to it.

The lady across from me asked for a single malt hooked up into her cocktail. Her nurse didn't catch the reference, so I said, "She wants some Scotch." And Dave decided he could probably do a pretty good business, opening up a bar in the chemo room. Everybody is a comedian.

While I was there, one lady and her hub were getting the tour from my oncologist's nurse; it was her first chemo. I remember that tour last September 29th, on my first chemo day. And there was another lady there getting her last chemo. I totally hi-fived her as I left. Only 7 more for me. God willing I will be slamming down my last one on December 21. I just found it interesting to think about as I sat not literally between them, but metaphorically so.

Also, there was another lady named Julie, in with me today. We have seen each other before, but chatted quite a bit today. She had breast cancer 6 years ago. Then was cancer free for 6 years. Then it came back, in her sternum, I think. She is also on Herceptin this time, so we were doing the same shot. But she is also on a couple others as well. And she told me she will be for the rest of her life. Sobering as I sat there feeling so happy about counting down my treatments and getting this port removed. If you think about praying for her when you pray for me, since her name is Julie, too, and you could just add an s to make it easy, and that would be cool with me.

I didn't have to do the steroid drip today, so once I was hooked up, it was just the 90 minute Herceptin drip. I am so used to it meandering through my whole Monday, that it did startle me when she said I was done and we'd barely begun the Sodoku puzzle. (Yes, we do Sodoku, too.) Not that I'm complaining! I think we were home by 3. Just in time to go watch Mikey's tennis match. (His team won.) First time I did not come home and immediately crash after chemo.

My counts were all in range this time. No red flags at all. Usually I have a white blood cell count flag and maybe a couple others. None have them have been bad out of range, just little flags waving out a hello, just to make sure all keeps going well. And, so far, thank God, it has.

My oncologist checked out a couple of knots that have been under my arms and making us eager to see her to have them checked out. She said they were probably folliculitis, which as far as I understand it, is an infected hair follicle or something like that. Nothing to worry about. It will probably go down and away. And we'll just keep an eye on it, and if it happens to get bigger, she'll biopsy.

I appreciate all the prayers that continue to lift me up, and all the encouragement that continues to rain down on me. It's means more than I can say. I am humbled, and grateful beyond words.

P.S. I don't know if you noticed in the top photo, but I got a haircut last week. Not too much different, but it was getting a wee bit tufty at the top (as in, I was beginning to look like a rooster when I woke up in the morning, and this, quite frankly, scared me. 1) Who wants to get up when a rooster gets up? and 2) I didn't feel like looking like a rooster, let alone getting up like one). So I got a shave (my neck) and a haircut (the tuft). Here's the thing: Up until I saw my hair sitting on the floor in a little clump, I had been in a state of indecision as to what color my hair was coming back in as. Gray. So much for my dirty dishwater blonde. So much for the white I thought I was inheriting from my Gigi, which looked like I highlighted my dirty dishwater blonde hair. It's gray now. Salt and Pepper is what I'd call it if it were a crayon in my crayon box. Anyway, at least I don't look like an old gray rooster anymore. That's something.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wanna Take a Walk?

Yesterday I had my Muga Scan (which, btw, already came back normal) and today I am still a bit radioactive with a chance of superpowers. I don't usually like to boast about my superpowers, but there has been so much curiosity out there as to how precisely they manifest themselves in me, and, frankly, how I deal with it all, that I thought I'd share JUST ONE superpower moment from yesterday.

After getting up practically at the crack of dawn* to go to the hospital and get my radioactive shot out of the top secret vial it comes in, I took Matt to meet a friend at a coffee shop**, went to the bank for Amanda, stopped off for a carrot juice at a little Mediterannean Cafe on my way home (where I ran into Dave and one of his partners having lunch... so I put my carrot juice on their tab ;)), then I went home and took a SUPERPOWER NAP, before waking up just in time to go pick up Mikey at a Film Camp he is attending this week.***

Now normally I'm a decent napper. Nothing special about my napping abilities. My naps don't even pretend to come close to a power nap, but they are not exactly cat naps either. But my amped up one of yesterday blew the lid off the definition of napping. I could just see it in Amanda's face when she came to wake me to go pick up Mikey. But I think that's enough boasting.

What I want to blog about, is Cincy's Race for the Cure 2009, which is coming up on September 12. Last year I walked my first race for the cure, cancer free, 2 weeks after my double mastectomy on August 29th. I don't really remember much of that day except for being so pumped up on good vibes from my family and friends who walked with me, that I made the whole walk. At least I have pictures documenting me standing on the finish line.This year I am looking forward to doing it again, even coherently. This year's finish line will also be a landmark for me: a year, cancer-free. Just wanted to thank all of you for all the ways you have carried me through this year, and invite any of you to take a walk with me on September 12. Click HERE if you'd like to check out our Team Evanshire, and come walk with us.

I totally should not be radioactive with a chance of superpowers by then, so it won't be hard to keep up.

*I'd just like to say, that originally I thought it would be a good idea to go radioactive the earlier the better, since I wasn't supposed to have anything to eat or drink until after. But I hadn't thought through it, because I don't know what they were thinking, giving superpowers to someone who has not had their caffeine yet. It really could've been a dangerous situation if I had not used my powers for good. Plus it was good that we were heading straight to a coffee shop after. For Matt.

**A friend and I are doing a class for our boys on coffee shops, since we are all interested in one day starting one. The boys are going to be blogging the whole experience as they sip their way around Cincy, coffee cup by coffee cup, and review coffee shop by coffee shop. I will give a plug to it here when it's up and running.

***I just noticed that on the day I had my superpowers, I got to do one thing for each of my kiddos, which isn't really a superpower thing, but always makes a day seem like a good mommy day from my view. Which is way better than having superpowers any day.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Herceptin Day: T Minus 9 and Counting

So today we continued the happy trend of counting down treatment days, which is way much more fun than counting up to some big number staring you down. There is a wake of chemo cocktails behind, anticipation of being done with cancer ahead, and the momentum is finally on my side. I could say it's like a snowball effect, but I don't really enjoy the cold, so I won't. And I feel too lazy to come up with a better metaphor.

Speaking of cold, my oncologist did a blood test to check on my thyroid because my thermostat is having some issues. It's probably just a side effect of the chemo, but previously my dial only read cold, goosebumps, teeth chattering, and somewhere in between defrost and thaw. Chemo has added melt to the mix. An especially weird sensation when the signals are mixed and my face is hot, I have goosebumps on my arms and can't get warm, and my hands are hot and sweaty while my feet are cold and clammy.

I have a Muga scan scheduled for Monday, just to keep tabs on my heart and make sure it is taking the Herceptin ok. It's just normal procedure to get one every three months while on Herceptin. If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you also know that I will be radioactive with a chance of superpowers for a few days next week. That means I will have to struggle with the temptation of purposefully setting off metal detectors in airports and courtrooms, just so I can whip out my card that says I am radioactive. With a chance of superpowers. Just one of the perks.

In case you were wondering what we do the whole time I am hooked up to my cocktail. Well, it's pretty exciting, really. Today Dave calculated how many drops of the Herceptin I get in the 90-minute drip. If I can read his math right in my little notebook, it says 4,320 drops. I generally watch the Food Network if nobody minds me changing the channel off of the soaps or news. Generally nobody minds.

It's a big room with a bunch of recliners, each with their own personal IV rack. Sometimes there are other patients who are talkative, which is fun. Like today, there were these two elder sisters (one is a patient and one is not) who are sometimes on my schedule, there again today. They are quite talkative and they totally crack me up. They don't mind watching the Food Network with me and they even provide hilarious commentary. Today they were having a little sidebar about me liking to cook, and the one sister (with the IV) said that you really can't trust a skinny cook. I almost broke my face again trying to keep a straight face, telling her that, in my defense, I totally use butter and whole milk; and she did give me props, but still seemed suspicious. Then she was ranting about her tv reception at home. The other sister (sans IV) told me that her sister recently got two new digital tvs, but is so mad because she can only get two or three channels but too stubborn to ante up for cable to get what she paid for. She said her sister got super frustrated trying to set them up when she got a message that said something about place the cursor here, and she called her sister and said, "What the hell is the cursor? Oh, I guess I am!" I like it when they are there.

A lot of the time the other patients are reading (I can't really read with a bunch of people and a tv around) or sleeping. A few times there have been very sick patients, and it sort of breaks my heart. I know, we are sitting there hooked up to chemo cocktails, but part of me sometimes forgets or something, until the quiet man next to me asks for some ice chips because he can't eat because he has a feeding tube. Or last time one woman's port wouldn't work. Or during the winter the woman next to me had to be taken straight to the hospital for pneumonia. It's always a reality check. And something that reminds me not to let myself go home and waste the next three weeks because they are a gift. Just like the health and fitness that I am building up as I count down these cocktails.

Eighteen down. Thank you, God. Keep me steady as we go. Amen.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

No Peas in This Pod

I had a check up with my breast surgeon this morning. I was supposed to have one right after we got back from Rome, but very reluctantly had to miss the appointment amidst the mix of emergency appointments due to the Vespa incident. It was not an appointment I wanted to reschedule. I can't even count how many times I called her office after I got the port with countless questions about whether it was really and truly ok to play competitive tennis without damaging or dislodging it...and how she told me it would take a a really hard line drive with a baseball or something harder than that. Well, I just knew she wasn't expecting me to take a line drive, at a wall, nor, not to mention, the good news that I totally proved her theory, and then some. Plus, it has been 10 months since she removed the damn spots and etc., so it's always nice to see people who saved your life again. Even better when they give you a good report. Basically, she broke the exam down like this for me: she was looking for peas, but didn't find any, thank God. In other words, I passed the exam. In tennis terms, you might say I aced it.

I also felt quite vindicated in another area of my life as well. See, I have never, ever, liked peas. I used to have a t-shirt that said, "If your mom tries to give you peas, just say no." Well, my mom did used to try to give me peas, sneaking them in tuna noodle casserole and her otherwise delish 7- layer salad and such. And I have been saying no to them as long as I can remember. Way long before I had the t-shirt. Come to think of it, I wonder if I should've collected royalties or something off the t-shirt maker? But I digress.

Now, I understand the aesthetic idea behind green in tuna noodle casserole. I am a fan of the color green. I have nothing against the greenness of peas; it's one of the few things I think peas have going for them. That, and they sort of look like little tennis balls, which is all well and fine...until you use your spoon as a little tennis racket and whack a few across the dining room table. Mushy green pea splats all over the wall are not aesthetically pleasing. And I think that just further illustrates my point. Sometimes aestheticism can go too far. And definitely, when peas are involved.

As for the 7-layer salad...I say why not just stop at 6?...Or double the bacon and call it good? There really is no logical reason to add peas. The salad is already green. Not to mention the broccoli. Peas are not only redundant in this scenario, but are also, as they are in all cases where they are mistakenly tossed in a dish, missing their calling as ice-packs.

Speaking of ice-packs, Amanda and Mikey have sure needed them this week, as they both had their wisdom teeth taken out on Tuesday. Both are fairing well, and have enjoyed a steady diet of ice cream, movies and good friends stopping by.

Amanda has had a bit of a tougher time recovering than Mikey. I am praying she wakes up feeling significantly better tomorrow, because it is her first day at her new job as a nail technician. After she finished her last quarter of her first year of college, I took her to a new spa nearby, The Mandarine Spa, to get a Mani/Pedi to celebrate. We found out they were hiring nail techs, so she took a resume in the next day and got an interview right on the spot. On Monday she did a technical interview and got offered the job Monday night. The night before she was to get her wisdom teeth out. They wanted her to start tomorrow because they have a bridal party coming in. She was so excited, she said yes without a second thought, but added that she might not be feeling that chatty.

She's kinda cute like that.