Monday, March 22, 2010

Its A Wrap

I'm done with Chemo. It feels good to have reached another milestone in my treatment plan. Although, I've still got a couple of weeks left to experience all of the side effects while the taxol does its business in my body. With what now seems to be the norm, I felt great on Friday. Saturday a little worse and yesterday, not very good at all. No nausea or anything, but extreme aches in my knees and legs and then just overall soreness. Luckily I had the Sunday papers to keep me occupied. And Amelia and Miles made me chocolate cake. I'm really starting to worry about my tendency to self medicate with desserts! But hey, whatever works right now!

And the snow - I'm really hoping this weekend was its last hurrah. We got a lot - maybe 6 inches or more. It is really hard to tell because it was blowing around so much. Saturday it was actually kind of pretty, but by Sunday I was sick of it. Luckily with highs in the 40's and sunshine today, it shouldn't be around much longer. I'll be looking for green!

And my new tennis shoes have arrived. They actually arrived Thursday morning, before I left for my treatment. I took this as some kind of good sign, because UPS never delivers to us in the morning. They are a great fit, and I can't wait to try them out on the court.

Off for more coffee!

Have a spectacular day!


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hi Ho Hi Ho

Its off to my last chemo I go! I've got my ipod, today's NYT and my book already packed in my Bruce bag. My nephew gave me a Bruce Springsteen tote bag. I love it! I just started The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. I can already tell you it is very good.

But I'm not feeling quite excited yet that this is the last one. Part of me worries that it won't be the last one. That something will happen down the road which will require me to have chemo again. That I'll never be positive that the cancer is completely gone. Also, not knowing whether I'll have radiation kind of dampens the moment. I really don't mind if I have to have the radiation, but not knowing what the next step is - thats what bothers me. I've I always been like that. I like to know what the big picture is and have a plan.

On the other hand, I will be excited to have my hair back again. I took the boys in for a hair cut and got to visit a little with our stylist. I miss her, I miss getting my hair cut. I told her that hopefully by June I'll need her services again. I am also excited that all of the little annoying things that keep me from feeling really great will go away. People always ask how I'm doing. I generally feel good but with a long list of exceptions. The tingling in my hands and now my feet. The total exhaustion I feel by 8:00 pm. Not being able to carry on a normal conversation because I have to struggle to remember the names of good friends or everyday objects. The feeling absolutely fantastic one minute and then having to go lie down the next minute. The dry eyes and aching knees and back. Yes, I'll be very happy to get rid of this list!

And I've got new tennis shoes on the way and my partner is back from luxuriating in Mexico. The weather is getting warmer and there are hints of sunshine. I actually want to cook. Summer swim season will be here soon, and Michael and Amelia are already practicing soccer. I saw a flock of robins yesterday. Good times will be here shortly.

I just need to get through my last round of chemo and the SNOW on Saturday. Yes, I think we've just about made it through this.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Love This!

I loved this card a friend sent me, so I wanted to share. She also sent tons of food including chocolate chocolate chip cookies. I couldn't stop eating them. Luckily they were very small, so I'm sure they were low calorie. And I would just eat one at a time. I've found this technique works very well with all of the desserts we get. I did this with the chocolate bundt cake that had chocolate chips and some kind of chocolate filling in it. I would never have a whole slice, but would just cut off a bite here and there. I'm a firm believer in eating small amounts frequently!

Things are going pretty well this week. Although I've still have quite a bit of discomfort from both the joint pain and tingly hands, luckily it is very manageable. Lulu and I have even been walking a few days. The walks are way slower than we are used to, but I figure at this point it is just good to get back in the habit of going. And even just this little exercise feels so good!

Speaking of good, I noticed there is now green grass mixed in with the brown this morning. We have had such a yucky winter which is why spring is going to be marvelous. And then summer! We finally have our summer vacation planned and booked. We're going to Madeline Island, WI which is in the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. We've rented a house on the island for a week. Although it won't be quite the same as camping, we're in the woods and no TV. Our deck looks out over the lake. Jim and the kids will try kayaking around the islands and there will be lots of biking and hiking. I can't wait!


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Check'n Off the List

Well another treatment down and one more to go. It really is amazing now when you look at my action plan for treatment that the things checked off list is longer than the things left to do. Plus, I reallly believe the worst is behind me. And that first chemo round really takes the cake on being the worst.

Thursday's infusion went ok. The only downside was the wait, over an hour before they got anything started. They were so busy! The drill is you have to first have your blood drawn to make sure you're good to go for treatment. They want to make sure your white blood count is high enough among other things. Gotta make sure you are not going to get bogged down by infection. Mine has always been fine. It takes about 20 minutes for them to run this test. Once you pass the blood hurdle, then they'll request the drugs you'll be getting for the treatment. Depending on how busy they are, this takes about 10 or 15 minutes. Once everything is a go, I get what I call my warm up feed. These are the drugs that include Benadryl and steriods to help me tolerate the actual chemo treatment. This "drip" takes about 30 minutes. Then I'm finally good to get the taxol. This is the long one and takes about 3 hours.

These drugs are all fed intravenously. I think I've mentioned before I have a port which is a little gadget in my chest directly hooked to a vein. All of my IV's are done through the port. This makes my treatments so much easier, because they aren't having to search for a vein every time. And I discovered the other day, after being poked so much your veins can develop a sensitivity which makes it hurt that much more when they stick the needles in. I had to have surgery to put the port in, and I guess I'll eventually have one to take it out. But totally worth it.

I also met with my oncologist on Thursday. Even he has started talking about me wrapping up treatment. It really is exciting to think I might be winding this thing up. Basically he still says that although he can't predict my future, my outlook is good. I've responded to treatment well and they were able to remove the tumor with clean margins. And although I did have cancer in one of my lymph nodes, he said he would have been more surprised if I had not had any. So for now the last hurdle to cross will be radiation. I'll meet with my radiologist on April 2, and he will determine whether I need radiation or not. While I'm anxious for this to be over, I want to make sure we have done EVERYTHING to kill ALL of the cancer cells in my body. So if 6 weeks or so of radiation is what it takes, so be it.

I'm lov'n this Spring weather, and I hope you are too. I'd even rather have 50 degrees and spring rain than 20 degrees and snow.

Have a spectacular day!


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ok, I'm going high tech and adding pictures to the blog. Well, a picture at least. My hair had been starting to grow back and we had ONE 50 degree day, so Amelia and I dashed outside to snap a few pics. She took this one of me with all of my new hair. I was really so proud! :) But, alas it is now back to prison camp chic. The hair has been falling out now for over a week and has gotten spotty patches. Although its not quite as uncomfortable as last time, it bothers me to have a hat or wig on. So I spend the day putting my hat on because my head is cold and then taking it off because my head is itchy. And again, it feels like some invisible munchkin is continuely pressing a whisk broom to me head.

And while the hair loss is familiar, I've developed a new side effect. The tingly hands, otherwise known as peripheral neuropathy. Carrie had warned me about this. At times it just feels like my hands are severely chapped. Then it progresses to a tingling sensation very similar to when your arm has gone to sleep, and then it feels like pin pricks as you move it to get the blood flowing. It is not agonizing pain, but very uncomfortable. Sitting down and remaining very calm seems to be the only thing that helps. I am taking a supplement (can't remember the name) that is also supposed to help with this and the joint pain.

I'm off this morning for my 3rd chemo treatment. After this I'll only have 1 more. I'll also meet with my oncologist, so we'll see what he has to say.

Hope everyone is enjoying the beautiful weather we are finally having. And if good weather hasn't reached you yet - it will be there soon!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Book List

I had a request to post a list of the books I've been reading and to rate them. I do want to mention, that my taste has been for books that are purely entertaining and aren't depressing. So here is my oh so sophisticated ratings and a few comments. Two good sites I use to check out books are Books at the New York Times and Amazon.

Here you go!

Janet Evanovich - Stephanie Plum series - There are 15 in the series and I read them all from 1 thru 15. These books will never make any literary great list, but I loved them. They are perfect to read when battling cancer, on an airplane or at the beach. Stephanie and her friends are so funny, I literally laughed out loud when reading. And if you've got any Jersey friends, you will remember them fondly - all of their accents, phrases etc are perfectly captured here. Now don't get your panties in a bunch!

New York - Edward Rutherfurd - I liked this book, but if you aren't a big detailed history fan, it will get tedious. Obviously the main character is New York City and starts with the early Dutch settlers and goes all the way thru 9/11. The focus is definitely more on the history of NYC than on the family it follows.

A Gate at the Stairs - Lorrie Moore - I wound up just liking this book when I thought I was going to love it. It is beautifully written, but I felt it just never came through with a coherent story line. It just seemed to kind of jump around without pulling it all together. It didn't leave me wowed at the end.

The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith - I had heard of the movie, but never the author until I read an article about a recent biography in the NYTimes. This book was written in the 50's and is about a guy who murders a wealthy "boy" in Europe and assumes his identity. But it is really so much more. I would highly recommend.

The Help - Kathryn Stockett - I know this is on all the book club lists right now, but I really enjoyed it. A fast read and makes you feel good at the end. It kind of reminds me of Shawshank Redemption in that the characters perservere in a deplorable situation.

Sara Petresky - VI Warshawski series - I read the first 2 in the series and tried to start on the 3rd, but just couldn't get into it. Part of it is the old books just seem so dated that they are boring. Some day, I might try a more recent one and see if it improved at all.

Sue Grafton - This is the ABC author (A is for Alibi), again these are just ok - didn't thrill me.

The Magnificent Ambersons - Booth Tarkington - I found this book on a 100 Best Novels of all time list and I loved it. It was written around 1912 or so and was still so timely today. One of the themes was the build up of the suburbs at the expense the original city - if only we'd learn our lesson!

A Friend of the Family - Lauren Grodstein - very good.

That Old Cape Magic - Richard Russo. I think I liked Empire Falls better, but this was good

Prep - Curtis Sittenfeld - I liked this.

American Wife - Curtis Sittenfeld - on the NYT 2008 Notable Novels list. Loved this book. Liberal wife is married to conservative US president. You can't help but think of Laura Bush.

Ten Days in the Hills - Jane Smiley - good. I love Jane Smiley, but this isn't my favorite book of hers.

Commencement - J Courtney Sullivan - good. I got this off of a summer beach list in the NYT. And basically it lived up to my expectations as an entertaining read.

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet - Reif Larsen - I think I'll say very good. The only reason I hesitate is the ending is lame. The rest of the book is marvelous.

Let me know if you have any recommendations!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

IT Took Over

I had mentioned last post that Jim had gotten the stomach flu. By Friday afternoon at 5:00, Miles, Michael and I all had it. And IT was awful. The kind of flu that totally wipes you out and makes you hate your whole body. The kind where you are soooo miserable you can't even sleep, so you lie in bed and wait for daylight. The kind that lays flat 8 and 11 year olds to the point where they can't even drag themselves to the computer or video game controller. Amelia gave it a valiant fight by quarantining herself, but finally succumbed Sunday afternoon. After the initial 12 hours of intense agony, you feel better but still don't have much energy or appetite for 3 or 4 days. Thats the kind of flu we had. Unless of course you are Jim and had to care for the rest of us. Then you were only sick for 2 days.

But we are all on the mend now. The boys went back to school yesterday, and Amelia went back today. The boys, however, are back home today and out the rest of the week because of parent teacher conferences. They are glad they are not having to waste good days off from school being sick. And I'm happy we are all feeling better.

Feeling better, so we can think of green grass and blue skies and yellow sunshine. And picture the redbuds and dogwoods in bloom. And figure out how I'm going to get my lilac bouquet this year.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

2 Down, 2 To Go

I just got back from chemo treatment and so far, so good. Jim had the stomach flu today, so I was on my own. Seems we are developing a habit of someone being sick on chemo days, so I hope we can break this cycle. After today, I should only have 2 left. All of my "counts" were good, so I must be doing ok at staying well. It is hard because I've been feeling very good, so it is hard to avoid going out. I missed a school event this week, but as that is probably where Jim picked his bug up, I'm glad I didn't go. A friend from the Lake dropped me off at the cancer center this morning and then my sister came by this afternoon to take me home. Thank goodness for friends and sisters! I can always call Megan at the last minute in an emergency, and she is there. She even sent chicken noodle soup home for Jim. As usual we have someone bring a meal in tonight, so I don't need to worry about what to feed the rest of the group.

As part of my chemo drugs, I get a steroid and benadryl to combat the nausea. It is VERY interesting to be sleepy from the benadryl and wound up from the steroids at the same time. And it will make it very hard to sleep tonight.

Well, just as my hair has come in, it is falling out again. I think it just started today. No one can seem to agree on what color it is, but there is lots of blond. Thankfully, my head isn't hurting yet. I hope my scalp has adjusted to the hair coming and going and won't give me any trouble.

Kuddos to the kids for really pitching in today while Jim is sick. Miles even got the dogs walked before school.

It is 50 degrees here, so I hope everyone is having a spectacular day!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Hey Its My Birthday!

Remember when you were a kid and birthdays were a celebration that you were FINALLY another year older? Another year closer to something. From about 3 to 12, I looked forward to birthdays for the cake and presents. Big milestones were 16 so I could drive, 18 so I could vote for Jimmy Carter for Pres and of course, 21 so I could finally quit panicking that the bouncer would reject my fake id. For a while in my late 20's they were fun because a friend and I would hit the bars and tell the bartender it was our 21st birthday so we could get free beer. Then we'd laugh until we were in tears because at the ripe old age of 27 or 28, we could still pass for 21. Once I had kids, I decided my birthday wasn't that special anymore because each of theirs was a celebration of the 3 happiest days of my life. My birthday just wasn't as much fun, not because I dreaded the marking of time, but the day didn't really mean much anymore.

I'm pretty sure my dad had a different philosophy. He was the only male in his family who lived past the age of 40. So rather than think that each birthday was just a tick marking another year, it was the reminder that he'd gotten another year he really hadn't expected to have. Dad had a wonderful sense of humor, but I think he was really serious about this. When he turned 70, he started scaring the sh*#t out of us with his driving. When I said maybe he should slow down, he replied "I'm not going to become one of those old men who go 45 mph on the highway" - and believe me he didn't! And not that he was perfect, but he exercised regularly and most importantly he stayed engaged and interested. I never heard Dad complain about growing old.

So given my pretty scary bout with cancer, I'm starting to feel a little differently about birthdays. I'll look forward to my birthday and celebrate good another year. I'll use it as a day to reflect on what I'm doing to enjoy my life. Its not so much that each year, I'll try something new (or daring), but I'll just check in to make sure I'm still doing some things that I truly look forward to. Your birthday should be about what you can do and not about what you can't do just because you turned another year older.

Hmmm, wonder if I can get a free beer today?


Monday, February 8, 2010

Shout Out to the Who Dat Nation

Ok, I'm glad I don't live in Washington, DC ( I think thats a little too much snow!), and at least for today, I wish I lived in New Orleans. As a Chiefs fan, I can only imagine what it must be like to have your home team win the Superbowl. I love to watch football and the game last night was so good. I can't remember ever seeing an onside kick that actually worked.

And after starting my chemo treatments again last week, I realized I've got a couple of other things to be thankful for. I think I mentioned in my last post that this time around the treatments would take approximately 5 hours, which I was really dreading. Then I overheard the man in the infusion room whose chemo round was all day, every day for a week and then he got a week off and then started all over again. I also ran into my friend who is a lung cancer survivor whose chemo treatment was 8 hours each time. So, ok, I can handle 5 hours every 2 weeks with no problem!

This go round is so far MUCH better than last time. My brain isn't all fuzzy and I'm not sick at all. The catch with this one is the joint pain. I've been trying to think about how to describe this. Its kind of like when you get the flu and your body just aches really bad. The pain is mostly in my hips, knees and upper thighs. I realize I don't have joints in my thighs, so I'm not sure why they hurt so much. Maybe its just sympathy pains! And then sometimes the pain is also in my back. Definitely it hurts worse when I stand or walk around for more than 10 minutes or so. Ibuprofen and a heating pad, however, are helping to make this bearable. And reading, if I can get going in my book, I forget about how bad my legs are hurting. But all in all, this too is bearable, and I'd much rather deal with the aches than being nauseous like I was last time.

Regarding my recovery from surgery, it contines to get better each day. All of the incisions are pretty much healed. I think I pretty much have full range of motion back, although it still hurts to do things where my arm has to be fully extended. And I'm still being careful on lifting anything too heavy with that arm. My tennis partner leaves this week to spend a month at her house in Mexico (won't even think about her basking in the sun and warm weather!). I'm thinking by the time she gets back, I should be about through with chemo and we might have a few spring like days and we can get on the court for just a little while. Some days I worry I won't even have the strength to get the ball over the net, but I'll just need to start somewhere. And it will feel so good!

But for now I'm just looking forward to the Olympics - starts Friday!

I hope everyone has a spectacular day!


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ok, Here's the Plan

I'm glad (I think) to get the treatment plan moving again. We saw the oncologist on Thursday and he's ready to start chemo. This time I'll be taking Taxol. Dr. Neubauer said this go round should be much easier than last time. Some possible side affects he mentioned are joint pain, tingling in your finger tips and of course, hair loss. It is also not as likely to make me as nauseous as what I took last time. The treatments will be every 2 weeks for a total of 4, and I'll take the Neulasta (keeps your white blood cell count up) shot the day after treatment. He had mentioned before that I might be on a 3 week schedule and wouldn't have to take the Neulasta shot , but evidently changed his mind. He said there has been some indication that it is more effective taking it more frequently. The Taxol also has to be administered more slowly, so each treatment will take 3 to 4 hours - ugh! And now for an interesting Taxol fact - it is made from the Yew plant. Going natural!

Dr. Neubauer did say that everything is going well and these last chemo and radition treatments are like "throwing the kitchen sink" at me to try to insure that they kill any cancer that might be lurking about and keep it from coming back. And that is what I want. I can handle all of the side affects, so I certainly want to do everything necessary to get rid of the C once and for all.

As anxious as I'm to get started, so I can get this over with, I am also kind of dreading getting back on the chemo wagon. I just keep telling myself, its not going to be as bad and it will soon be over. We've started thinking about our annual summer vacation to give me something to look forward to. I think I mentioned Michael broke his arm a week after we got home last summer and then with my mom and the cancer, it was just downhill from there. We went to the Blackhills and Yellowstone and just had a wonderful time, so I can't wait until we can get away from the doctors and all the other day to day stuff and just enjoy being together.

I know everyone is just dieing to know what the latest hair update is. It is still quite short, maybe a 1/4 of an inch. I had a woman tell me today what a beautiful color it is, and I was like are you crazy? Mainly because it is just hard for me to see it very well. She claims it is strawberry blonde. I got worried a couple of days ago when I noticed dark brown in my eyebrows. They have always been either a very light red or blond. Jim said he does see some darker hair coming in on my head. Who knows maybe I'll just be a calico! Of course, Miles tells me it is just gray and to quit worrying about it. Yeah, right!

And I continue to get better from the surgery. While I still don't quite have all of my range of motion back, I can pretty much reach everything if I take it slowly. And we are down to a very small spot left for the skin graft to heal. I'll go for my weekly checkup with Dr. Sclar this afternoon and I'm hoping we can get rid of the last bandage. Of course, I'm almost back to the point where I need to start exercising again and that brings me back to Yoga! Oh well, I really will get started this time! :)

Gotta run to the library and pick up my lastest book supply. I finished Gate to the Stairs and though I liked it, it won't make my top 20 list. The writing though was wonderful. I also just knocked off The Help. This was very good and if you haven't read it, I would suggest it.

Take care!


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Life in the Slow Lane

Ok, I admit I don't have a lot of patience when it comes to being sick, so its been a little frustrating recovering from my mastectomy. The first 4 weeks were oh so painful, but over the last week it is finally getting better. And even though it has seemed very slow to me, the recovery has gone remarkably well, so I have been very fortunate. My range of motion is much better, and although I am still sore, it gets easier to do things everyday. And most importantly, I can now make my own coffee!

Dr. Sclar has said I'm ready for chemo and so I'm meeting with Dr. Neubauer (my oncologist) Thursday morning to see what he says. I'm really ready to get moving again on this treatment regime. I'm optimistic that this time around it won't be so bad. I figure my euphoric outlook will keep me going through at least 2 rounds and by the time I might start feeling bad I'll be almost through. I guess some might say I have my head in the sand (who in their right might would look forward to starting chemo!), but I've found this approach has worked pretty well for me. I try to keep my eye on getting back to a somewhat normal life this summer. I keep thinking about all of the things I love about summer - playing tennis, summer swim team, the LF 4th of July and our family vacation. Plus Jim and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in July. So I've just got to get through the next couple months!

Since I haven't been able to do much else, I've been reading about a book a day. Mostly I've been reading several crime series. Maybe not the best writing, but easy to get through! I did read A Friend of the Family which was very good. I started Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs last night and was immediately taken in by her prose. Kind of like living on junk food for several weeks and then getting a carefully crafted gourmet meal. You realize what you've been missing when you finally get back to the good stuff!

And best of all, I made it to the boys' swim meet last weekend. I hadn't seen them swim since October when I last went to one of their practices. I think the hot temps and chlorine smell at the pool just didn't mix well with chemo. Anyway, my friend and tennis partner took me down so I could watch a couple of their events. Both did very well and improved their times in each of their events, and it was so fun to watch them.

So all in all, I'm getting better and life is going well - and maybe slow isn't so bad after all!

Take care!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Brrrr. . . . .

Is everyone else thawing out? On the one hand I hate having cancer and recovering from a mastectomy, but on the other, at least I didn't have to get out much last week.

Everything is continuing to mend, thank goodness. We did have to go to the doctor every other day last week, just so Dr. Sclar could monitor the skin graft. I am still on no activity, but he did finally add 1 exercise on Friday. I feel like this is my first step toward preparing for tennis this spring. I can start moving my arm upwards, but only in front. I'm still can't move it out to the side. He said he would probably add more exercises this week. I go back tomorrow.

I am still not sure when I'll start chemo again. Right now this is totally up to Dr. Sclar and when he thinks I'm sufficiently recovered. At the beginning, Dr. Neubauer and Dr. Sclar said it would be a minimum of 4 weeks, but as we are 3 weeks out from my surgery, I bet it will be more like 5 or 6 weeks. There were 2 very small patches where the skin graft didn't take and I think he wants these to heal over before releasing me. According to Jim, these spots are healing quickly.

Speaking of Jim, he has just been phenomenal through this whole thing. He has taken such good care of me, including having to change my bandages 2 and 3 times a day. He is always "up" for me and never ever complains or evens acts like taking care of me is a bother. When I'm feeling down at not being able to do much, he always reminds me my only job right now is to get well. Mom always used to tell me how lucky I was to have him, and she was oh so right.

One of the bright spots in the last week or so has been my hair is coming back in. My head is now covered with new fuzz and for some reason that really makes me feel good. Although, everyone said it would grow back, I would always panic that I would be the first where it didn't. Silly, I know.

The other good piece is Dr. Sclar said as part of my reconstruction surgery, I would get a free tummy tuck. I can't even imagine what it would be like to have a flat stomach again. Although right now, I sometimes wonder if I really want to go through another surgery. I just don't have much patience for the recovery process. But I'm sure by the time that rolls around, I'll be ready.

Have a Wonderful Day!