Then the CAT Scan began and lasted no more than 10 minutes in the big donut. My total time on the table was about 25 minutes, which was okay.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Met with the Radiation Oncologist last Friday (Vic's birthday). Nothing extraordinary. However, my anxiety was high as I wasn't sure if it was the simulation or planning session.
For the planning session, I was told that I would have to lie on my back, for about an hour, with my hands holding onto a bar above my head - and not move. I'm such a ninny, but being told I have to hold still for a great length of time causes me alot of anxiety. . . the feeling I get with claustrophobia.
I will go for this lovely planning session this Wednesday at 10 am. Going to go slightly medicated. Not sure if Vic is going with me, but I figured I could take the meds on the way to the session and be "calm" by the time it starts. I won't take too much that will prevent me from driving back to work afterwards. We'll have to think about this some more.
I will be going for radiation Monday through Friday. They won't know if I qualify for the 3-week "Canadian study" until the planning is completed. Otherwise, it's 6-7 weeks, Monday-Friday. Oh my!
It feels like this journey will never be over. Next week I go see the oncology nurses to have my port flushed. I will see them once a month for this until the port comes out (another anxiety causing concern - it will be done in the doctor's office).
I know I just need to keep plugging along and doing all I can do to beat this #&%^$ cancer!
More later . . . .
Hugs to all!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
It's not about the presents, tho I did lament the normalcy that I so wanted in my life to just be able to go out and buy them. It is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is about family.
The excitement of Christmas is being with my children and grandchildren. While they may forget which present they received from me, I so want them to have the memories of good times that we spent together. I love them so much! The two little ones' eyes will light up and big smiles will appear on their face as they run to me to give me a big hug. Why can't we treat everyone in our lives this way? What a big difference our lives would make in others!
Today is no cancer talk, no health discussions, no "what is next", and no fear. It is a time for celebrating life -- Jesus Christ's, my family's and my friends'.
May you find the joy and love in your life today and every day! It may be hard for some to find the love and joy given their current circumstances, but it is there. Trust me . . .
Here is my favorite song by one of my favorite artists . . . Sandy Patti. Scroll down to the video.
No need to mourn
His hand is stretched out still
For unto us a child is born
His promise to fulfill
He cried for you
He did not come to us in vain
His loving arms are open wide for you
And he will come
He will come again
For the Child that was born there
Has come to set us free
I can see Him in your eyes
For the Child that was born there
His spirit never dies
His star will never, will never grow dim
And it's a brand-new dawn
A new Jerusalem
And we and we will reign
We will reign with him
Is more than just a memory
For the Child that was born there
Has come to set us free
I can see it in your eyes
For the Child that was born there
Is the King of kings
And the Lord of lords
And He will come again
Saturday, December 20, 2008
We brought him home Thursday night with his IV capped off to see if he would eat in his home environment. It didn't go well. You could tell he was traumatized from his ordeal and having the IV still in his leg. Vic was able to get him to eat a little Friday morning - his first food since Sunday. Seattle went back to the vet hospital Friday morning and they released him last night. He was given appetite stimulation drugs and he is eating just fine! He is weak - can you imagine being in a cage with no exercise or food for 5 days?
I was able to get out on a lunch hour this week to buy Vic a birthday gift. That small act lifted my spirits. Even though he saw the gift already (brat), it felt good to do something "normal". We went out last night after work to get the last items for Christmas.
Today we are preparing for the new round of snow and wind that is expected tonight. The Seattle area just can't handle this amount of snow. . . . there aren't enough snow plows and equipment to clear all the roads. It doesn't make sense to purchase alot of snow equipment given that the area gets hit with big storms every couple of years.
The post-chemo dry eyes and blurry vision continues. Vic just brought home a new humidifier so we'll see if that helps. I am using TheraTears 4 times a day, but it helps only for a little while. Then let's go into the dry skin . . .ugh. Winter always brings about dry skin for me . . .but add in chemo, it is so much worse.
The fingers and toes continue to hurt. Not sure how much is neuropathy and how much is from the nails. The nails hurt when buttoning shirts, typing and when I press on them. Each hand has two nails with red/pink marks starting at the top. The article I just linked talks about the line reflecting the timing of chemo. I've found that keeping the nails short helps, but darn if these things aren't growing an inch daily! Okay, I exaggerate . . . but I haven't seen this much nail growth in my life!
While I am so glad and elated that chemo is done, it is definitely a gift that keeps on giving and giving and giving.
Hair continues to grow and fill in. Anyone going through chemo, I highly recommend using the 3 product system of Nioxon! I started using it right after I buzzed my hair and have never gone completely bald . . smooth, shiny bald. I've had peach fuzz the entire time and now 3/4" growth. Losing the hair and finding what's right and comfortable to wear (scarves, wigs, hats) is the hardest part of this whole journey. I find that I still battle the "depression" when I see myself in the mirror.
Life continues and I'm thankful for that!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Vic and I visited him tonight at the vet hospital. He looked very depressed in his cage, hooked up to an IV. Vic took him out and Seattle enjoyed being petted and rubbed. He even purred!!! Last night, Vic said Seattle wouldn't/couldn't make a peep . . and he (not Vic) is a very loud and long-lasting purrer.
We spent about an hour petting and combing him as he loves this. We were waiting for Seattle to bite Vic, as is his usual play time with Vic, but no bites. The Vet spent quite a bit of time updating us on what improvements Seattle had made - no vomiting or diarrhea - and what he had to do next before being released - eat something. We mentioned that Seattle likes Friskies, which our other cat eats. Friskies is forbidden on Seattle's diabetic diet. Vet said that's "candy" and if Seattle would eat it, he could have. So off I go to the store, leaving Vic with Seattle.
No dice. He wouldn't eat it. Could it have been that I bought the wrong type of Friskies? Who knew that Friskies makes regular, grilled, flaked, chunky, sliced varieties? Not me! We tried three other types of cat food that the Vet had. Still no dice. One was an appetite stimulating food. Cats know when they shouldn't eat we were told.
I will be taking the "right" Friskies to the Vet's on my way to work tomorrow.
Seattle is on Compazine, which is one of the drugs I first had for nausea (and which caused me to have high anxiety and the willies). It was really weird to be able to relate with the Vet about Compazine, discuss other anti-nausea meds, appetite stimulation drugs and the need to get calories up even if it means eating candy/dessert. Look what I've learned from having cancer . . . $60,000 later! Makes me wonder how much this whole breast cancer crap will cost before I get to the goal - NED (No Evidence of Disease)?!
I haven't gone out into the crowds shopping for Christmas or Vic's birthday (Dec 26th) or Vic's Christmas present(s). Daughter Christy picked up two games for me on Black Friday to give to her daughters, which was much appreciated. Last Saturday my energy was up to watch Christy's church play - which she was in - and a quick run into a non-mall store to buy three presents. Vic is out now picking up a few remaining gifts.
I am feeling a bit guilty (and sad) that Vic continues to have to pick up the slack. This &$#! cancer has taken so much from both of our lives. Right now it's taking my energy. I barely have enough energy to survive at work 8 am to 5 pm and perform almost to my best.
Most Christmas' finds me running out on my lunch hour to do some quick, but specific shopping. I love doing my holiday shopping this way. Now I have to be concerned about saving that lunch hour energy to finish out the day. This sucks!
I am really hoping that my energy reservoir is full this Saturday or Sunday so I can at least get Vic a birthday gift. He always gets robbed on celebrating his birthday anyway - cancer shouldn't rob him of at least a present!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I'm having a lot of fatigue spells. Last night was especially tough as it was an effort to even talk. The fatigue was still around this morning; I had to take a 30 minute "nap" at work just to get through the rest of the day.
Chemo-brain type stuff is happening more often. Today at work, I forgot to do the deposit for the office (due by 10 am). Totally forgot! I've also been saying things and people are looking at me weird. Like, can't they read my mind and figure out what I meant to say? At least I can still laugh at it and myself.
One of our elderly cats, Seattle, is very sick and has been in the vet hospital since yesterday. The vet thinks it's pancreatitis. We've been dealing with Seattle's diabetes for a few months, giving him daily insulin. It is a sad night here at our home - lots of "what ifs" and tears. Please pray that the antibiotics and all the other things the vet is trying do work.
If Seattle doesn't improve tomorrow, he will more than likely go to kitty heaven. It will be a hard day for both of us as we love this little guy so much. I hate the idea that if he doesn't respond, we go to the vet's after work to say our good-byes. What a heavy thing to hang over us all day.
I wish my BC sisters a wonderful Wednesday tomorrow!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Can we say "yahoo!!!!!!"
Dr. Peter . . are you there? Dr. Pinder. . .are you there? Can I join you and bug the heck out of you with questions? Call me. . .let's do lunch. I'll pay.
MUC-1 Vaccine Trial
Sign me up! Requirements include surgery, chemo and radiation to be completed. Okay, that's it! I'm doing the radiation!
Remember I said that there were no markers for breast cancer - unless it gets to the metastatic stage (per Dr. P)? More good news!! Yes, there are "mights" and "maybes" in this article, but it could become a "fer sure".
Early in my journey, I was told that big pharmaceutical bucks were going to be thrown at researchers for triple negative breast cancer. TBNC has become the "hot" topic in breast cancer in the past few years. Researchers already came up with drugs for estrogen and progesterone fueled tumors, but nothing was there for TNBC besides surgery, chemo and radiation.
I truly love this analogy that my on-line sister survivor wrote the other day. It really got me to thinking. I assumed that once chemo and radiation were over, I might be tired or chemo-brained for a few months . . . then I'd be back to Renee and life would be normal.
It has been 8 months since Kathy finished chemo. She finds herself still having chemo fogs and the fatigue crashes (she has put the weird fatigue feeling into words much better than me). My co-worker told me that when she interviewed for her position with the City, it has been a year since she finished chemo. It was a struggle for her to do the interview - she still had side effects from chemo. In fact, she still has some neuropathy in her feet and it's been 11 years!!
I never bought into this "you will have a new normal" crap. Yeah, the new normal is that you are never free from the medical community and testing, poking and prodding . . . and worrying if that little ache is mets (metastasis).
In my mind, I have broken this cancer trip into three segments. Surgery, chemo, radiation. Period and I'm done. . stick a fork in me. My way of managing the scary, big, overwhelming, all consuming, cancer crap. Can I say crap a few more times? It's not what I really want to say!
The outcomes from this research may, might, gonna, will help us get back to our "real" normal.
Who knows, maybe I will live to mimic my idol, Maxine!?
Many, many blessings to you and your home!
Please visit this cancer sister's blog and leave her a note. We all need to step outside of our comfort zone and offer support to Judy. I don't know Judy personally, but came across her blog when looking for other TNBC peeps.
You will have to sign up to access Care Pages, but it's free and they don't add you to a spam list!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I can feel my fingernails trying to lift. They hurt, but I am babying them so they don’t. I’ve been using the sides of the fingers to pick up items. I’ve also cut the nails pretty short so they don’t extend beyond the finger tips. The finger pads hurt and they are very dry – I can see cracking lines forming. Again, I’m doing everything to keep the cracks from forming – using Bag Balm. Stinkiest stuff around, but this is what was recommended by the oncology nurses.
I also have to use the Bag Balm each evening on the toes . . .they hurt as well . . burning and tingling. I am so glad that chemo treatments have ended. Not sure what would have happened to these body parts with more chemo.
I can tell the difference in the level of "chemo brain" this time. It has increased. Words don't come easily when speaking, I am having challenges spelling, and I can't read my novel by Catherine Coulter . . . can't remember what I read the last time the book was open. Now we get to see what the long-term effects will be. . .how long will the tiredness or chemo fog last? This is scary.
We meet with the radiation oncologist, Dr. B, on Vic’s birthday, December 26. We had met him initially in July right after the diagnosis. But since that meeting was pre-surgery and before we knew about the cancer type and size, it was a short visit.
I had hoped to have the radiation at our local hospital – which happens to be across the street from my work! I wasn’t comfortable with the local radiation oncologists, so decided to go with Dr. B. What this means is driving to Federal Way (5 miles west of our town) on my lunch break for daily radiation, Monday through Friday. I’m hoping that I can get in and out and back to work within that one hour. We’ll find out how many radiations I need. I am hoping for the 3-week Canadian study. That would be a dream. But it has to be sufficient quantity to assure me that we have done all we can for TNBC.
Regarding hair. . . on the head it is still growing. I noticed today that the eyebrows are getting thinner . . .had to fill them in a bit with pencil.
I have heard of women who lost their eyebrows and eyelashes while on chemo, had them grow back after chemo only to fall out later. Keeping my fingers crossed that I get to be unique . . just let them grow!
Vic is doing well on the groin tumor. He says that the core needle biopsy actually hurts worse than the tumor! He spoke with a neuropathologist at his job today and worked into the conversation his (Vic’s) condition. The neuropatholgoist gave Vic a name of a surgeon who he would trust doing this surgery. So that’s Vic task tomorrow . . .get an appointment!
Looking forward to a quiet weekend, praying that we get the snow the weather forecasters are predicting.
For those of you who live in snow country, you probably think I'm crazy. I am. We lived in Eastern Washington (46" snow average each year) and I actually miss having snow. The only problem with Seattle receiving snow - no one knows how to drive in it! They will leave their cars on the side of the freeways because the cars are rear wheel drive or they don't have chains. We found it pretty funny the first time we saw this. . .I'm sure those who left their cars didn't.
A glad heart makes a healthy body, but a crushed spirit makes the bones dry. (Proverbs 17:22). Let's go see a comedy!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Then Mrs. Claus told Santa her Mother was coming to visit, which stressed Santa even more. When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two others had jumped the fence and were out, Heaven knows where.
Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the floorboards cracked, the toy bag fell to the ground and all the toys were scattered. So, frustrated, Santa went in the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot of rum.
When he went to the cupboard, he discovered the elves had drunk all the cider and hidden the liquor. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the cider jug, and it broke into hundreds of little glass pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found the mice had eaten all the straw off the end of the broom.
Just then the doorbell rang, and irritated Santa marched to the door, yanked it open, and there stood a little angel with a great big Christmas tree.
The angel said very cheerfully, "Merry Christmas, Santa. Isn't this a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Where would you like me to stick it?"
And so began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree...
Did you watch the Front of the Class, the Hallmark Story on CBS Sunday, Dec 7? If you didn't, I highly recommend finding it online, your library or purchasing it.
I usually don't watch these sappy type movies, but this one kept me engaged. I guess it's because of what I am going through right now - I needed a "think positive" movie. And what I am going through seems so inconsequential to what this young man went through in the story. He persevered; didn't waiver in his faith and never lost site of his goal - to become a teacher against all odds of Tourette's.
Today is a quiet day after a long night. Now that I am finished with chemo, I have the time table down. Shoot dang!
Don't read anymore if you don't like TMI.
The chemo and anti-nausea meds cause constipation for the first few days. When you just get to the point of rectifying the situation, i.e., laxatives, oatmeal, fruit, etc., the diarrhea hits. There is a fine balance between getting the two under control. Unfortunatley, I thought I had it figured out and was just so sure that I had passed (tee hee) with flying colors on not landing too much on one end of the spectrum.
Note to other BC survivors: Keep a list of which meds cause constipation and diarrhea. Keep laxatives and Immodium on hand. And pray that you find the balance PDK.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Tonight is a city council committee meeting and my backup for taking the minutes isn't available. I will see how I feel later this afternoon and if I can go in. Why do we let guilt talk loudly in our lives?
My brain and fingers aren't working too well so they ought to be interesting minutes if I do go in. Luckily the meeting is recorded so I can refer to this for questions. We'll see. I'll have to assess my driving skills as well :-).
At the last treatment, the Onc Nurses said I needed to do or buy something to celebrate completing chemo. I told them we purchased a new washer and dryer - the front loading style - and I was excited about that. They thought it should be something more personal. I had to chuckle - we'll I'm paying for the cancer treatment, isn't that enough?
There is something that I have wanted to do for the past 35 years and it looks like it might happen in 2009! I've always wanted to go to Nebraska in late Spring to revisit my grandparent's home and small town, as well as do some genealogy. Vic agreed! I am so excited about this . . . it is a goal that would keep me going for awhile.
Thank you for your continued support of emails, phone calls and comments on this blog. God bless you all!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
We have a pic of Vic in his "position", the hard chair next to the chemo recliner chair. He has been a wonderful support and my Rock during this. He would often rub my feet, which is a dream!
I received a graduation song - can't remember the words but something about side effects, including diarrhea. Dr. Pinder is in the green shirt. The nuns are Mary Ann and Jill who are actually Oncology nurses. They are a hoot. . ..just part of the craziness of saying goodbye. Sweet Cory is the other oncology nurse next to my chair.
It was a pretty emotional and high anxiety visit for me on this last chemo. All the fears of if we did enough to kill the cancer cells, getting the port out by the surgeon, etc. etc. where floating in the brain. It is hard to keep a positive mental 100% of the time. We do our best, but sometimes you just have to address those fears. Otherwise, they grow bigger than they really are. That's why it's good to NOT tell cancer patients to think positive all the time. We need to work it out.
Dr. P confirmed that I did no harm IF I had taken the supplements before and during Chemo #3. She said that since we had reviewed the list, she was okay. She had removed the ones that would cause trouble (high dose of Vitamin C is what I can remember). Whew! I did volunteer to come in for a few more treatments if necessary.
Did you know that there are no "markers" for breast cancer. Only if you get to metastasis do the markers come up. Please click on the link above. We need more research on these markers!
We did talk about my fears of metastasis since I've read about women who have had my same size and grade of tumor who are now with brain cancer. I do agree with her that quite a few of the metastatic women do participate more on the online support groups. We should create one for those that are Stage 1 to support each other with positives and decrease the negatives.
I asked Dr. P when I should call her if I have an ache or pain - a sign of metastasis. She said that if Tylenol and rest do not relieve the pain after a few days, then I should call. Even if it's to put my mind at rest.
I will also see her every 4-6 months, reviewing blood results. I'll have my first breast imaging 4-6 months after radiation is finished as radiation causes some changes in breast tissue and causes some inflammation so imaging is not very accurate.
Now is the time to schedule a meeting with a new Radiation Oncologist. I'm still not 100% sure I want to do this. But, I need to hit the Triple Negative Breast Cancer with everything there is. I did question why radiation is needed - wouldn't the chemo kill everything floating around? Dr. P said that the radiation targets the tumor site Chemo works best on microscopic deposits of tumor cells throughout the body. If there are any cancer cells remaining, one of the most likely would be in the tumor area of the breast. Radiation sterilizes this and can help to prevent second cancers.
I am so glad that this Segment 2 of 3 is done. I've come out of the chemo with my eyebrows and eyelashes intact - a little thin, but they remained. My fuzz is growing and I have about 1/2 inch in many places . . .white and curly! My hairdresser should be happy for some curl/body.
Having chemo is sort of like morning sickness, drinking too much and a touch of the flu all rolled into one! The actual "getting chemo" is really pretty easy. This morning I have a little nausea and need to go back to bed for a nap already.
Whoever and wherever you are, thank you for reading my thoughts and being part of this with me. I hope that if you are having to go through a breast cancer journey, that my words have validated your concerns and fears so that you feel "normal". And that I have given you some things to ask your doctors about, more importantly!
Let's see what we learn with Segment #3 - radiation!!
Hugs and peace to you and your home!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The nurses and Onc put on funny hats and two of them were dressed as nuns to sing me a graduation song. It was an original song - something about a specific side effct - diarrhea. It was pretty funny.
We went to Lowe's and Costco afterwards. Now I'm crashing . . . never had this immense need to sleep.
More tomorrow (hopefully) with pics.
Thank you all for your support and prayers!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
He hasn't talked to his doctor yet, but we believe it will need to be removed. We don't anticipate having the surgery until after January 1st. How does Vic know it's benign? It really helps to work in the pathology department where the biopsy was performed. He just found the resident who read the slides, who was willing to tell him the results.
This will give us time to replenish our Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). Luckily, my open enrollment for insurance and the FSA ends December 12th. Vic's been tasked to figure out how much money we will need to pay for this surgery. That's hard to do!
Thank goodness for my health insurance. We picked up the medications for this round of chemo. Cost would have been $640. . . .we paid $34.
Stress is high as I have a couple of projects to wrap up at work before the next chemo. Last week was a three day week due to the holiday and this week is 2.5 days due to the biopsy yesterday. I'll get it done, but I will be so happy not to have to plan my life around chemo and the "feel good" days. I'm sure my co-workers will be happy too!
Daughter Christy is joining me at chemo on Thursday - she wants to see what it's all about. Grandpa Vic will have Courtney Jean (age 5) while Christy is with me. I suggested that the two of them go clothes and shoe shopping. For some reason, he didn't think that was a good idea.
Talk to you in a couple of days!
It was a long day, in fact, Vic asked to leave early. He had enough. Doctors wanted him to have 4 hours bedrest after the procedure. Why? I'm not sure. But after Vic woke up from his Percocet induced nap, he said enough, buzzed for the nurse and got dressed.
What a sweet nurse, too! She asked me if I had breast cancer. Then she asked what kind, "The 2nd most aggressive". "Oh, not Inflammatory Breast Cancer"? No, thank God and it was found at Stage 1.
Nurse Challie went on to say that her girlfriend had IBC, but her doctor told her it wast nothing. A year later, the skin was still thick and tender, so the friend went back to the doctor. It was at Stage IV - a stage none of us want - and she died a short while later. Ladies! Listen to your bodies. Insist that your doctor do a test or procedure. If s/he won't, go to a second doctor. This isn't a time to be afraid of hurting your doctor's feelings by going to another doctor!
Nurse Challie looked at me square in the eyes and said, "Stage 1?! Oh, your time on earth is not finished. . .there are more great things for you to do. Why do people that are so sweet and those that would be great friends get cancer?" It was just the thing I needed to hear.
We talked about radiation a bit and my concern that it really isn't necessary - will do more harm in the long run. This was all while she is removing Vic's IV and checking his body parts. "What's one more month of a short doctor visit to ensure that a rogue cancer cell isn't still there to cause havoc? You've been through the worse - surgery and chemo."
Whew! That's all I can say . . . God putting a voice of reason in front of me?
We should know by Wednesday the results of Vic's biopsy.
Best of luck to my cyber cancer sisters, Sue, during her first chemo today and Sharon on her next chemo on Thursday! Many prayers and thoughts are being sent your way.