Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mr. Magoo November 30, 2010

Happy After-Thanksgiving and Pre-Other Holidays to you all!

How are you all?  I am hoping all is well, but I do know that my sister-in-law, KC, is going to have a third try to fix her elbow in about 10 days.  An out-patient procedure, but none-the-less, not so fun.  I'm sending good karma your way, KC!  I really hope no one else is going through similar situations.

I have completed nine radiation treatments and have 16 to go.  So far, I've not really experienced any side effects...my skin is intact where the beams are aimed and my energy seems to be increasing every day, thank goodness!  The docs say that both skin changes/damage and energy loss - when radiation related - don't usually begin until a bit later in the process.  Right now, I have my fingers crossed that those side effects don't begin at all. 

My last treatment is scheduled for December 22 - and if everything continues on schedule, our plan is to be packed to leave for home immediately after my last treatment.  We haven't actually checked to see if we'll be required (medically) to stick around for anything, so we'll see what happens as the days progress.

It's hard to be so far away from home and Jim for so long.  I miss Jim everyday!  Joy has a wonderful home and has done everything possible to make me feel at home - including letting me bring Booker (African Gray parrot) and two cats (Mogwi and Sneakers) to live in her previously no-pet home.  That takes a pretty big heart and I appreciate it so much.  Booker is on my shoulder constantly when I'm in the house.  The cats have moved right in and seem to be pretty much at home - even Sneaks has come out from under Joy's bed to explore and lounge in front of the fire!

For turkey day, we were so happy that three of our four human kids could join Joy, Jim and I for a feast, much laughing and hanging out on Friday.  I did a little cooking on Thursday - desserts of course!  On the big prep day, Jim and Joy cooked all day while I played executive chef from the couch.  Not sure why, but it was a low energy day for me.  I made it through without any naps, but my idea of being able to help with the cooking went out the window.  I'm sure Joy and Jim think that I'm just a sloth.  They were kind, however and didn't call me names - at least not out loud or in front of the kids!

Sometimes it's surprising what you get if you ask for it.  Today I asked the radiation tecnologists if I could take a picture of the machinery that is doing its best to be sure I don't have any more local cancer cells.  I thought I'd get a "we'll have to check with higher ups," or "we can't for liability reasons."  But instead the  response from all three was "sure!"  "No problem!"    I'm waiting for a camera to arrive - when it does, I plan to take a picture of the machine I fondly call Mr. Magoo and post it for you to see.

Do you remember Mr. Magoo?  He's the cartoon character old man with terrible eyesight and coke bottle lenses.  He is so cute, slightly bent over to squint at things and mumbling all the time.  The radiation machine is one eyed (I couldn't get my head around calling him "cyclops." I wanted to greet it everyday with a little smile rather than fear).  The one eye is very thick and the machine makes buzzing, clicking and other mumbling sounds as it's doing its work. I imagine Mr. Magoo standing really close to me, squinting his eyes behind his thick, thick lenses to look closely to see just who is climbing on the table, then clucking a greeting at me.  This vision has made it much easier for me lay still for the treatments.

Follow-up to the Strange Smell in the Car story:  Thanks for all the suggestions you sent.  You were right (and we were too) - it was a dead thing in the engine area.  Specifically, it was a dead rat under the windshield wiper cowling.  The rat had been there long enough to make a nest and start to chew on the cabin air filter.  Long story short, we ended up taking the car to Toyota maintenance, spending a day and $600, but the odor and all of the reasons for it are gone.  I felt really sorry for the service techs - after their usual high tech forays hadn't found the cause of the smell, they had to resort to "sniff" testing along the hood of the car to find it!  Ugh!

That's it for now.  The weather in this valley has gotten colder since I arrived, but there have been many sunny days.  I've discovered that the route from Joy's to the Sutter Cancer Center is covered with beautiful birds - red-tailed hawks, harriers and red-shouldered hawks by the handfuls everyday, snowy white egrets, cattle egrets, blue herons, lots of blackbirds, Canadian geese, and even some American white swans on migration! 

I hope your days are filled with new bird species to add to your life lists!  I hope yours are easy sightings that make you smile as you go through your day.  Thanks so much for your support - you make me smile as I spy new birds and go through my days!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

One Down - 24 to Go! November 16, 2010

Hi Everyone!

Well, it's been a little while since I wrote last (am I supposed to say "blogged?") and I have the same excuse that most everyone else has...it's been a busy couple of weeks.  Oh, and I still have a few chemo effects charging around, too.

I have been lucky enough to be able to work between 2 - 6 hours most days, some days better than others.  My pattern has been to get up feeling pretty OK, to work in my office and be couch potato in the afternoon.  Weekend before last I slept a 13 hour night, napped twice during the day on Saturday and slept another 10 hours that night!  Didn't do that much better this last weekend.  Although I do love football, that much TV is just wasted time!  But, I think my body is sending clear messages...I'm not totally back on my feet yet.

Speaking of chemo changes:  I am much less dizzy than I was in the week that I managed to faint.  That fact likely means that my bone marrow is making more red and white cells, as it is supposed to do.  My low energy level tells me that I am probably still anemic, but not being dizzy is a start.  Yeah!

I still have peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling in my fingertips and toes), which is a side effect of the Taxol.  I'm told it may take months to go away - and, for some people, it doesn't.  I hope the latter isn't me: it's really weird to try to place your feet properly when walking or to hold on to something you really can't feel.  Folks who are diabetics and others who have heart disease or other issues, can have this problem.  Until now, I never knew what they were going through.  It doesn't hurt (at least for me), but it is so weird!

The title of this blog refers, of course, to the fact that I had my first radiation treatment today.  It was easy enough and weird enough, but I think it will quickly become routine.  Several minutes of positioning by the techs, recording of numbers (91.5, 87.5, etc.), techs leaving the room, the machine beeping and whirring, and presto-chango, all done.  Maybe 20 minutes total and this one was longer since it was the first.  No pain, no sensation whatsoever.  Just calm, steady position holding for a few minutes on my part - I asked if I could breathe while the radiation was being delivered and was told "we recommend it." Hah! 

I left you at last blog with the correct impression that I had some remaining questions about the radiation dosage prescribed for me at the Sacramento office.  I want to let you know that my medical oncologist coordinated a very nice second opinion for me with a radiation oncologist in San Mateo.  This doc reviewed my chart, read all my surgery notes, chemo details, looked at my pathology slides and talked to the pathologist.  Then, he called me and told me that what was prescribed was exactly what he would do in his shop.  He explained that the difference in dosage was due to the timing of the recommendation - the longer treatment period (and higher dosage) had been discussed before I had the mastectomy and all the tumor was removed (clean margins).

I feel comfortable now in my Sacramento radiation location - and am very grateful to the wonderful docs in San Mateo for helping me get my questions answered.  Sometimes the health system does work!

Jim and I loaded the car yesterday with two cats and one bird (Booker) and a bunch of my junk and moved me into Joy's house.  I've spent a little time today getting organized and settled here.  The cats are doing well, though they and Booker are still nervous.  Sneakers is under Joy's bed...apparently for the day today.  Isn't it amazing how cats learn about where their  litter box is and just go for it?

It was hard to leave Sal (our lovely Double Yellow-headed Amazon parrot) and the dogs at home. I'm not sure how they'll interpret it and I'm most worried about Sal since he's been so strange since I've been hairless and wearing hats/scarves the past several months.  

Jim is here until Friday morning and that's a real treat for me.  We get time together and I appreciate every second of it.  It will be hard and harder once he goes home and we start the long time apart!

BTW: we are thinking that something has crawled into the engine or vent system of my lovely Toyota and died.  I had a weird noise experience last week  when I started it - kind of a rattling, bumping sound from the front passenger side.  The noise went away without any obvious resulting problems... until the last couple of days.  Now we have a very foul odor, which seems to be getting worse and we both think we've got something really dead lurking somewhere.  Unfortunately, there is nothing obvious to be seen.  Do you have any ideas of what to do?

We will likely take the car to a dealer and have it disassembled to find what the issue may be.  In the mean time, don't ask for a ride with us unless you have a really bad cold or allergies!

With thanks for all your good thoughts and prayers and with hopes that you have a wonderful week!