Sunday, August 29, 2010

Half Way August 29, 2010

Don't read any further if you are tired up to here with complaining and whining! You've been warned.

The good news is I'm done with the Adriamycin and Cytoxan cycles (4) prescribed for breast cancer at Stage 3. Everyone - doc's, nurses, others who've done it before me - said "it's hard." That is such a tremendous understatement! OMG!!

The good news is I'm half way done with the chemo phase of this treatment. If this is the first half, what - oh what - will the second half be like? Everyone - this time, doc's and nurses - say that the Taxol is " easier.". Easier than what? The AC? What does that mean, exactly? I'll be less exhausted? My appetite and taste buds will be somewhat better and I'll be able to get more than 1,000 - 1,200 calories down every day? Thank goodness I have so little calorie use is just enough that I am continuing to lose a pound or three every cycle, but hey I still have weight to lose, right?

As of today, I'm one week into the last AC round and had another lousy day. Had hoped to be enough on my feet by now to go to a friend's house for a little out of house time. That whole idea went up in flames...too tired, stomach upset. Just keep saying "maybe tomorrow.". I can hardly stand the thought that in one week I'll be starting another cycle, with three more after that one to finish! Quitting isn't an option, I get that...

Originally, I planned to write this blog about my history with chemo as a nurse and how I know that it was so much harder for those women - and the results much less good. Maybe next time. Today, it's hard to be very positive and/or optimistic. The next two months are stretching ahead and it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel - influenced, i know, by feeling like crap at the moment.

To my friend and colleague who's just starting treatment tomorrow - ignore all this crap. You're on another will be different for you and you won't whine like I do. To being "cancer free", you and me!

Here's to Mike, his family and everyone who's missing Toni at SCH...we were sorry to miss the "tea party" last weekend. Blessings to you all.

Here's to my love Jim! Continually, he amazes me. Today, he fixed bird perches, watered the garden, did laundry, went to the grocery store, made me food, supervised showering (so that our parrot Sal didn't go ballistic), AND canned sweet and sour cabbage as well as salsa (he promises it's take the skin- off-your-mouth hot, not counting a million other tiny, important and cool things he managed to squeeze in! I can't tell you how much he means to me.

I promise I'll be better tomorrow and with the next blog! Honest!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Roller Coaster -August 22, 2010

Sunday before my fourth chemo round. We're at Joy's, just relaxing. It's a gorgeous day...not too hot in the valley for us northern California coastal folks. We spent a little time with Damian and Sarah yesterday at the Davis Farmer's Market, followed by lunch. It's been really nice to be able to see everyone more frequently - even though the reason for it isn't great.

So this chemo cycle has been pretty lousy. I had a couple of good days initially, then pretty much slipped off the radar for last weekend. That much has been the usual for the first week. However, this second week has been very up and down, complicated by dizziness, exhaustion, some exertional shortness of breath, etc. While I've been able to do some work, it also took me 30 minutes to change the sheets and duvet cover on the bed and when Scout ran down the hill into the garden...well, it was quite an adventure to get her back to the house by myself.

Told all this to my oncologist who said it was unusual to be so fatigued. Got some blood drawn and my hemoglobin (the cells in the blood that carry oxygen around the body) was 9.5. This number is 2.5 grams below I'm anemic. Explains a lot, but having the explanation doesn't actually help me feel better. When we went to the Farmers' Market and lunch on Saturday, I was pretty much done energy-wise after a couple of hours. Laid down at Joy's and slept for five hours. Went to bed and slept through the night - another nine hours!

Another weird thing: I've been having very hot and sore soles of feet. A burning sensation combined with soreness in heels, balls of feet and toes. Turns out Adriamycin sometimes causes "hands and feet" syndrome...just what I described. Who knew? Prescription is lots of lotion on hands and feet. I can do that.

So tomorrow is the fourth and last cycle of the AC - thank goodness! The doses are going to be reduced a bit so that my bone marrow will recover better (hopefully). Next comes the Taxol, which is supposed to be easier. Fingers are crossed! I can now fly again, so we're going to try to figure out how to shorten these long treatment weekends. I love seeing kids and family, but I miss being at home and miss our pets too!

Sorry to be grumpy today, but I am pretty crabby about being tired all the time. My gardens haven't seen me once this summer. The weeds in the backyard areas that i usually maintain are out of control.I have interest in knitting for only a few days of the cycle - and I can hardly count the patterns some days. Cooking, cleaning the house? Ha! Thank God for Jim!

Oh well. Enough complaining. I hope you all are enjoying this wonderful weather. Send a little more sunshine to Crescent City, please...Jim's tomatoes need it. And, if you want to pick wild blackberries, schedule a trip to see us. They're just about ripe!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Couldn't Resist! August 16, 2010

Many of you have written and called requesting this had to bother your email boxes with this.  It actually took Jim several days longer than usual to get someone to take a pic he liked (or I think he likes it since he sent it to me), but here it is, hot off the presses.  Jim No Hair!

Actually, it's not fair.  He got shaved on Thursday last and his hair is already visibly growing back.  I got shaved a month or more ago and, while I still have little fuzzes that haven't fallen out (not sure why), there is definately no re-growth.  None!  To keep his bald look, Jim's going to have to go to the barber shop every other week.  And I thought we'd be saving on hair supplies.

So that's it from this end.  Thank goodness, I feel better today.  Went to movie yesterday - Eat, Pray, Love - highly recommend.  If you haven't read the book, it's better of course! 

And Jeff - stop falling and getting your head hurt!  Enough!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Another Cycle August 15, 2010

Three down and five to go.

The good news is that I have one more round of AC (Adriamycin/Cytoxan) and then I start on Taxol. Why good news? Finishing the AC means I'm halfway through the chemo - and my doc says that Taxol is "easier." I think this means less nausea/appetite issues, less exhaustion. It comes with its own set of wonderfulness, however, including, for some, peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is numbness and tingling of toes/fingers, etc. I'll be happy to pass on this side effect, thank you. Its other main side effect is hair loss...been there, done that.

Speaking of hair loss, there are two new events this week. First - and in spite of my pleas not to do it - Jim shaved his head in support of my baldness. He hasn't yet given me a picture, though we'll hopefully have one soon to show the world. You know's all about him! (This is actually a joke reference to his facebook page, where he says this cancer is all about me! Go figure!). Suffice it to say, we both look much better with feathers - and Jim has not only shaved his head, but his mustache too. I put in an immediate request for both no avail so far. This is the first time I've seen him bald and mustache-less...ever!

And, I've actually put my wig on. Am determined to wear it when I go out in public, as I'm told it looks better than scarves or hats. Around the house (where I've been most of this past week), it's too hard to wear it. Just try napping all day with a wig on! Light weight buffs/scarves are much easier to deal with. However, the wig is a new look and maybe the folks that do a big double take when I'm actually out in the world will not give me a second glance with it on.

Our huge thanks to Joy (one of my fabulous sisters (in-law)). She volunteered to drive me home from chemo last week - and if something could go wrong, it did. She had an accident in her newish car ($7,700 damage to car, none to Joy) on her way to San Mateo, had all flights cancelled out of Crescent City due to San Francisco fog when she was supposed to head home, couldn't rent a car here (everyone else wanted to drive away too after their flights were cancelled), had to coordinate all insurance/rental car/body work/etc. details remotely and more! Do I feel bad? Yes! Do I feel guilty? Oh yes! But, many thanks Joy! It was great to spend time with you...we do talk, don't we?

Next week, Jim's up for driving and we're going to take the birds for their semi annual feathers/nails trimming. They will like the ride, though not the boarding at the vets. I'll be happy to have them with, but not the extra driving to get them to the vet (another hour beyond San Mateo). We live a crazy life, I know.

Sending puppy thoughts to Jazmin.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It's Official! August 8, 2010

For us, 2010 sucks!

Last week was a bad one. Not for me, mind you - it was actually good for me. But, for us...not so good. We had to let our little girl dog Jazmin go. She was 15 1/2 years old and had been with us for 8 years. She started our Beagle craze and was always such a sweet girl. She took care of ears, noses and parts for the other dogs. A puppy at heart, Jaz pounced and played for as long as she could. At the end, she just had so many things in the way of the life she loved. We think she's still got her crazy "bucket" with her in heaven.

2010 sucks, part two last week: Someone we know became critically ill in recent weeks, and last week made the decision to go on hospice care. It's not been long since she was working -a vital, fun, smart woman. There is so much more to say about this lovely lady, but for now we just cannot believe how rotten this is for her and her family. We are thinking of you.

Not sure what else to say. We're trying to be positive, forward thinking about cancer and all this treatment stuff. But you know, a few days like those last week and it's hard not to write the entire year off and get discouraged all the way around. Generally, I've been putting my whole situation in a job box called "cancer treatment.". It's a job to do -not that pleasant, not a client I would have chosen given the chance, but necessary. This week, it's been hard to keep my cancer box separate from the rest of life - many tears last week and probably not all of them just for our friends lost.

A couple of notes: if you've been trying to comment directly on the blog, you should now be able to scroll down after reading this, click on the box and write away. I look forward to hearing from you!

I had a chance to talk with Susan E this week - thanks much, Susan! A bright spot in the week!

Monday is chemo round 3. Hopefully, it will go much like last time which was better than the first round.

Hoping we all have much better weeks than last week - even if you won the Lotto last week!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Posting Comments August 2, 2010

Hi Everyone!

Thanks for the emails and comments about the new "doo." I'm gonna send you a pic of my wig soon - just have to get up the nerve to actually wear it.

This quick post is to let you know that I think I've figured out what to do to allow everyone to post to the blog without long, elaborate steps. You should now be able to click on the link that says "Post Comments" and write away. Hope this helps - and thanks to all those who've been emailing me anyway!

Have a great day!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Round Two - No Hair! August 1, 2010

Hello Everyone!

Hope you're enjoying the beautiful "middle" of summer! In Crescent City (or just outside where we live), the day started with a marine layer that burned off around noon. it's brilliantly sunny right now, in the high 60's...yep, you should be jealous. I know it's at least 80+ in Sacramento and surrounds. Am sorry for you bakers!

I've made it through three weeks of chemo - the second dosing round, plus a week - and am doing better this time. When I met with my oncologist before this dosing, she made some changes to try to reduce the "crash" I had on the Friday after the first round. She thought (and I think she was right, not that it matters) that part of being totally out of commission on that first Friday was due to the steroid withdrawal that kicked in. So, she reduced the amount of steroid I took post-chemo and it seems to have helped. I have more energy (can you tell?), though did spend most of yesterday sleeping and resting.

Here's the big news: no more hair. It started to fall out exactly 14 days after the first chemo and came out in huge handfuls. I got my hair cut really short a couple of weeks before I started chemo to make it even easier to handle, but was still surprised at what a big mess all those hairs make. By Thursday, I looked like Brad Pitt in the movie where he ages backwards (not cute though; just old and wispy). Took to wearing scarves and suddenly EVERYONE who didn't already know what was up is looking at me funny and asking Jim questions behind my back. As Jim says, now I look sick.

Attached is a pic so you can see what the shaved look is like - not my best look, though I think I have a strong resemblance to my brother Mike. Scary for one of us, hey Mike? The good news is that shaved feels so much better than not. Really. When it started to fall out, my scalp felt like I had a second-degree sunburn and the hair actually seemed to hurt right at the scalp level. At least now there's no tugging and the sunburn feeling is receding.

About the picture: Jim insisted on putting a pillow behind me for "background." That makes me look like all I do is lounge in bed - and, really, I make it to the bathroom and the couch! And, the red spot over the left side of my's been there for a few years and my docs and I have treated it like the other brown, sun damaged spots on my face. With the chemo, however, this one spot has turned into a red, scabby thing. Jennifer says it may be a pre-cancerous something that's getting some treatment with the chemo. We're "watching" it at this point. Just what I need, right?

BTW: the dogs and cats don't notice any difference with or without hair. But, Booker and Salvadore (our parrots) are quite skittish. They seem to know that it's me at some level, but the combination of no head "feathers" and scarves/berets have them all confused. They never did like me in hats anyway. Who's smartest? I personally never use the phrase "bird brain" as a derogatory.

Am hoping to be able to work this next week until I leave for the Bay Area again for round three. This time, I'm going to drive myself down and Jim's going to take care of house, pets and his own work! If I had to do it today, driving down alone would be difficult - I'm still really wiped out. But, I think by Thursday I'll be back in the least I was the first round. Joy is going to drive me home after the chemo/Neulasta as I haven't mastered enough energy to do that one yet.

Continued thanks to all of you for the love, cards, good wishes, gifts, and help! I wish I could see you all and spend time with you - but just don't have enough energy. I'm 1/4 through the chemo part! Yeah! Am thinking about what great trip might be in store for Jim and me when all this is done...ideas welcome!