Saturday, December 29, 2012

Time With My Kids

This weekend is an exciting one for me.  Tomorrow morning, we'll get up early, load into the car, and head 30 minutes away to my son Brett's house.  He'll load his family into their car and we'll hit the road for the three-hour trip to Carthage.  Kevin's family and our other son Jonathan all live down there.

We've rented three rooms at the Econo Lodge.  Jon, Kristen, and their two kids will stay in one, Brett, Melissa and their three will stay in one, and Kevin and I will occupy the other with our girls.  All of our grandkids will be in one place for the fist time ever.

The last time all four of our kids were in the same room, Kristen was pregnant with Zoe, and Melissa had just had Daniel.  I'm more excited than you can imagine!  We'll gather with extended family at Bamboo Garden (Kevin's all-time favorite Chinese buffet) tomorrow afternoon.  There are babies down there that need loved on by me, too.  Babies everywhere!

I have to make sure the battery pack is charged for my camera.  That and making sure we pack the Christmas presents are the only two things I'm concerning myself with.  The rest will work itself out.  I am smiling SO big right now.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Teen Drama

I know I haven't posted for a while.  Busy season is kicking my butt.  On Friday morning, though, it will all be over.  And then I get two 4-day weekends in a row.  Woo Hoo!  No medical information to report because I haven't had any appointments lately.  I have both a radiation follow-up and a plastic surgeon consult in January.  Then, nothing until March.

Monica has an ex-friend who contacted me anonymously (from another friend's phone) to report that Monica has been smoking cigarettes and pot and sneaking out to be with a man that is 6 years or so older than her.  She finally confessed who she was when Kevin and I started calling that number to find out who it was.  I no longer smoke, so I would smell smoke on her if she had been smoking, and I know that this ex-friend does most of the things she accused Monica of.

I contacted her mom and suggested that they come over to hash things out and move on with their lives, and that Monica was willing to take a drug test so we should test them both.  She agreed to be here today at 2.  I brought the test home yesterday and Monica took it.  Nothing.  (I'm not the least bit surprised.)  Today, they called to ask if they could postpone.  Eh.  Whatever.  I like this lady and have no beef with her at all, so if they ever come over, that's fine.  If not though, it'll be no skin off my nose.

The allegations of Monica sneaking out prompted me to ask when this supposedly happened last.  Ex-friend said that it was on Monica's birthday.  Umm, if you are going to make things up, make up a random date.  Don't pick one so easy for us to remember.  Monica was with me all evening.  We were laughing about the stupidity of a guy who was sending stupid texts to her.  We stayed up late that night.

This other girl just thrives on drama.  I know that all teens have some drama, but this one is over the top.  She tried trash-talking about me to Monica, and that was the last straw.  This family has had enough drama in the past year without some immature little girl making up stories.  Also, being faced with my mortality has made my children pretty dang protective of me.  We're content to just be happy together.

So, with the afternoon free, we cleaned house and I made a big pot of chili.  Time for some football and a nap.  I love weekends.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

1826 Pills

I had a follow-up with my oncologist today.  I was glad to have an appointment with a doctor, as weird as that sounds.  I feel like I spent all summer fighting cancer.  As soon as radiation was done, I started doing...nothing.  I feel like I've just stopped fighting it, and that makes me very uneasy.  I told her that, and she said that it is a very common feeling, and that I had to trust that we've done it.  Easier said than done.

I asked if she would please do a blood draw to make sure my whites had gotten back to normal levels.  I'm pretty sure they are, since I've had two colds and gotten rid of them both within three days, but I want to be sure.  She was very nice about it and told me that they would be happy to.  That means that I got to see Marie!  She's my favorite chemo nurse!  It was awesome to see her while feeling good, instead of in a chemo-induced stupor.  I'll get the results of the blood tests tomorrow.  ::fingers crossed::

I was also given the prescription for Tamoxifen.  Because my cancer was the type that feeds on estrogen, this is a medication that decreases the estrogen in my body.  I will take one pill per day for 5 years.  1825 pills.  Wait.  There is a leap-year in there.  1826 pills.  I hope that the side effects are minimal.

There is a chance, if I was perimenopausal, that this drug will push me into menopause.  Because of the "chemopause," (fake menopause brought on by chemotherapy,) I won't know for a while if this is the case.  Oh goodie.  More unknowns.  I do know that I'm sick of hot flashes and the most common side effect of Tamoxifen is hot flashes.  *sigh*

She was happy with my progress, and I am to go back and see her in three months.  After that, I'll likely see her every six months for the next five years.  I wish someone would do blood work or a scan and say, "Yes! You are cancer free!" but that isn't going to happen.  I just have to trust that it's gone.  I have to trust the doctors.  I have to trust the medication.  I have to trust the treatments.  I have to trust God.

I'm working on it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Getting On With My Life

Wow.  I haven't posted for a long time.  You're welcome.  Busy season at work and changing back to my regular hours has found me pretty dang tired by the time I get home.  Too tired to type?  OK, that sounds pretty lame, but I honestly get home and do next to nothing.

Last weekend, I decided I wanted to go to St. Louis to see my aunt Charlene and her husband Pat.  The last time we were there, we said we'd do it more often because it didn't take long to get there.  That was 2 years ago.  I told Kevin that I wasn't going to do that anymore.  A year of facing  your own mortality will make a person stop planning and start doing.  It was a fun trip, although far too short.  We're already talking about what we'll do the next time we go.

I found the suspicious lump in January and had a biopsy in February.  I was diagnosed in March and had surgery in April.  I got back to work in June.  I finished chemo on September 19th and finished radiation on November 14th.  I have follow up appointments happening now, but that's about it until the exchange surgery, which will be late May or early June.  I should be super excited that I'm completing treatment, and I am happy, but I'm constantly unsettled.

I think that treatment kept me occupied.  I was doing something.  I was actively fighting cancer.  Somehow it isn't as easy as it should be to accept, "OK.  You're all better.  Go on with your regularly scheduled life now."  Your brain doesn't work like that.  I want to ask, "So that's it?" but then again, I don't want to ask that at all.

My hair is finally growing back.  It's not as long as a crew cut yet, but it's moved from "fuzz" to "hair."  LOL  The gray is a lot easier to see right now, but that's what hair color is for.  I'm just looking forward to the day that I have to "fix my hair" to go somewhere.  Silly but true.

I know some people see a therapist after cancer treatment.  I've never considered myself the type to see someone like that, but I see why some do.  I'm not even saying that I won't.  I just haven't decided yet.  I'm fine most of the time, but not all the time.  I know I'll never be the same as before, but I'd like to get past the anxiety issues that sneak up on me at inopportune times.

It makes me VERY thankful for my Facebook group of friends who have gone through this with me.  We are small enough to have gotten to know each other, but big enough that someone is on pretty much 24/7.  If I can't sleep and it's 2 am and I feel the need to chat, someone is there.  Someone to listen to me whine, or laugh at my jokes, or commiserate about the state of our skin after radiation.  So far, that's all the therapy I need.

Overall, I am fine.  I have been cancer-free since surgery in April.  The chemo and radiation were both "just in case."  That is a lot of ammo to go through just because there "might be a burglar out there somewhere," but it's what was advised, so that's what I did.  And I'm fine.  2012 is a year that I'll be glad to put behind me, but I got through it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I've Been Deported

What an eventful day!  I went to work for an hour and a half, and then headed to radiation.  This was the first of five boosts.  The boosts are going to be MUCH quicker than the regular radiation.  They just do one blast to a concentrated area, instead of 6 blasts to various parts of my skin, chest wall, etc.  Today was the lining-up day, and starting tomorrow, it will go quickly.

After that I drove around to the other side of the same hospital to get my port removed.  I was so excited!  I'm not sure why, but I think it's because it's just one more step toward being done.  I got parked, in to the office, and checked in a full 10 minutes early.  I was ready to get this show on the road!

The nurse took me in and took my vitals, and then told me to undress from the waist up and put on a gown.  I couldn't wait.  When she came back, the Dr. was following her, as was his medical student shadow.  He started talking to the student about the fact that I was in active radiation, and they usually don't get to see patients until six months after.  Then he asked if they could see the radiation site because he rarely gets to.  Umm, sure!  Why not?  They talked as they viewed my raw skin.  Come on, guys.  Let's yank this port!

Finally, they were ready.  The nurse placed a special pad on my lower abdomen.  It was to ground me so the equipment wouldn't shock me.  Very interesting.  After that, the surgeon (I really like this guy) started disinfecting and then numbing the skin.  It was time to start!  He warned me that I'd feel a bit of pressure, and I could tell that he was slicing into me.  This was getting interesting!

As he was cutting, I said, "So...are there any rules against you giving the port to me?  I mean, can I have it?" He thought for a minute and then said, "Well, you paid for it.  Sure you can have it."  I got 17 kinds of excited!  I have friends and workmates who thought I wouldn't ask, and now I'd asked.  Not only that, he said YES!

As I was reveling in the fact that I was going to leave with port in hand, I noticed smoke rising from my chest, and I could smell burned flesh.  Umm.  Weird.  "Is that normal?" I asked.  He assured me that it was.  I then lamented, "That makes me want bacon."  By now, the whole room was laughing with me.  I love it when an act comes together.

At one point during the procedure, the surgeon said, "Wow.  This one is in there deep.  I did a really good job with this."  LOL  That made me giggle.  He was admiring his work, even as he dug it out of the scar tissue that had formed around it.  Funny stuff.  If it was so deep, that might explain why it didn't bother me, and some people complain about theirs.

Finally, it was done.  He had stitched me up, leaving only a 1 1/2" scar:

I think his stitching job was amazing.  I can only see the knot at the left side of this picture.  It will soon dissolve.  He cut along the same scar that was created when he placed the port to begin with.  The nurse offered to clean up the port for me so I could take it with me.  Sweet!  She brought it back wrapped in a towel and placed in a bio-hazard bag.  Awesome!  It sat on my desk all day:


I went back to work, grinning all the way.  I had forgotten how nice it was to visit with a doctor that I like.  I like all but one, but the one bad apple is the one that I'm forced to see once a week right now.  Seeing the wonderful Dr. Shook was SO refreshing.  I couldn't wait to tell my coworkers that I had my port with me!  In fact, I called a couple of them on the way to work!

Why did I want it?  I have several reasons.  I am weird.  They said I wouldn't ask.  I am weird.  It made me feel brave to ask.  I'm weird.  I want to freak people out with it.  I'm weird.  The nurse asked if I wanted her to cut off the catheter part (that went into my vein) and I said, "NO! Why?  I paid for the whole thing!"  She laughed and left it in tact.

I think I'll make a Christmas ornament out of it.  After Christmas, I'll fashion it into something that can hang from my rear view mirror.  What an awesome conversation piece that will be!  Yup.  It was part of my body for seven months.  I'm not going to just toss it aside.  Maybe I'll make a necklace out of it.   Wanna see it?  Do you?  OK, here goes:


See?  That's not gross!  The circle in the middle of the purple part is where they stuck the needle for blood draws and for chemo. It can be pierced over and over and over.  Such a cool little invention.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I'm Being Deported

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to have my port removed.  I know that I've been done with chemo for a while, but having that removed kind of makes it official in my head.  I'm looking for all of the milestones I can find, and this is a biggie for me.

Also, as of today, I only have five more radiation treatments left, and they are boosts.  Boosts are higher doses, but to a smaller, more concentrated area.  The highest chance of my cancer coming back is for it to come back in the skin around the scar where the mastectomy was done.  These last five will concentrate on that area.  That means that the rest of the skin can heal.  I am SO ready to be done holding my left arm out away from my body and adjusting my bra, trying to find a few seconds of relief.

I'm also all done (emotionally) with that office/Dr.  That's all I'm going to say about that for now.  

Two months from now, I'll have a follow-up with the plastic surgeon to assess the damage to my skin and tissue.  I plan to have NO damage by then.  Yup.  That's my plan.  Four months after that, I'll have the exchange surgery.  No, not THAT kind of change surgery.  It's the one where they exchange the tissue expander for an implant, and do the surgery to the other side for symmetry.

Ahh, symmetry.  How I miss symmetry. 

Yup, the milestones are ticking by.  I wonder when I'll feel like this is over?  After radiation?  Nah.  Still daily reminders as I'm getting dressed. When my hair has grown enough to not require a head covering? After exchange surgery?  Maybe, but how long after?  When the scars have healed?  

I just can't wait to go an entire day without the C word entering my head.  I have a feeling it will be a long time before that happens, but I'm heading in that direction. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Online Relationships

I have a lot of support from my family, coworkers and friends.  Still, when I found some breast cancer message boards while doing research (right after diagnosis,) I started growing close to the members there.  I'd never met them, and will likely never get the chance to meet most of them, but there was something I needed there.  These people were going through the EXACT same thing that I was going through.

They would ask questions that I had in my mind but hadn't verbalized.  They would answer my questions with the hours and hours of research they had done before me.  They would lift me up when I was down and just listen when that was what I needed.  I got to "know" them.  I grew to love them.

Someone in that group decided to start a group on Facebook.  That group grew even closer.  They understand the parts of this that nobody else could understand, unless they'd been through it.  We share pictures of scars and of newly growing eyebrows.  We share stories of wigs and prosthetic breasts.  We laugh, we cry, and we make inappropriate jokes.

Yup.  This is a new group of friends that mean the world to me.  I love them all, and I'm thankful for the internet for bringing them into my life.  I've had a rough couple of days lately, and spending a lazy 3 hours online "visiting" with them this morning just makes me smile.  Thanks, girls!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tired

I was typing a facebook status and unexpectedly ended with "I'm growing tired of fighting."  That sounded so depressing, but that's not how I meant it.  Still, I'm tired of fighting.

I did the surgery.  I went back to work as soon as I was allowed.  I did chemo.  I lost my hair.  I dealt with side effects.  I kept working.  I got tired.  I tried to do all I could while wanting to sleep.  I started radiation.  Everyone told me how much easier it was than chemo.

It is easier than chemo.  But it's not easy.  I wake at 4 each morning.  I work for 2 hours, and then go to radiation.  After that, I return to work for 6 more hours.  My skin is raw.  I look sunburned, and I have areas that look like raw skin from a sunburn gone bad.  I'm so tired that I slept for 9 hours last night (thank you, Kevin) and it didn't help much.

People see that I'm done with chemo.  People see that I'm working full time again.  People see that I'm moving on.  All of this makes people say things like, "I'm glad it's over." and "I'm so glad that's behind you."

Let me tell you one thing:  It is NOT behind me.  I fight every day.  I fight every minute.  I put up this brave front while trying to work full time and hold my family together.

Say what you want, but this is NOT over.  It won't be over until I can live one full day without cancer smacking me in the face.  I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Seven Random Things

1. Radiation is going fine.  Although my skin is red and a bit tender, it's tolerable.  Very tolerable.  My biggest complaint is my shoulder hurting from the position they put me in.  I took a valium today before I went and it was much easier on me.

2. My radiologist spent 47 seconds in the room with me today.  I timed it.  Meh.  Whatever.  I have a breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, and medical oncologist that I love.  At this rate, with only 3 visits left, I'll only see him for 4 more minutes.  I can handle that.

3. Busy season is...well...busy.  It's crazy busy.  We're testing software, too, so I have no lack of things to keep me busy.

4. I'm going on a road trip this weekend to meet up with Brooke.  We'll only have a day and a half, but I hope it will make up for the fact that all of my vacation and sick time went toward the cancer fund.  I have been unable to take these trips because the Neon was getting iffy, but with my new car, I can go.  WooHoo!

5. It's getting ready to get cold.  I am happy about that.  Monica's allergies will let up, and I can walk outside for relief from the damn chemopause-induced hot flashes.

6. I've completed 18 radiation treatments, and I have 15 to go.  I'm over halfway through.  I get my port removed on November 8th, and finish radiation on November 14th.  I'm nearing the end of this nonsense.  Of course, I still have to wait until late May to get the reconstruction done.  Other than that, I should be able to resume life as usual.  I hope.

7. I was wondering how long it would be before my energy returned to normal.  I found a couple of sites that said sometimes months, sometimes a couple of years, and sometimes it doesn't return.  I refuse to let that happen.  I wonder if those are the cases of women much older than me.  I just want someone to say, "On this date, you'll feel normal."  I guess that's not going to happen.

Monday, October 15, 2012

What a Craptastic Day

Damn.  If there is truly something to the Monday curse, I found it today.  Everything I touched turned to crap.  Some of it was my fault, and some was just plain bad luck, wrong place-wrong time, or the mistake of someone else.

Natalie asked my dad if he'd take her to get her permit today.  He said he would, which took a load off us, and I made arrangements for the school to allow her to check out after first hour.  At that point, I waited to hear if she passed or not.  The next thing I know, she's trying to call me, but I was on my work phone.

The short version is that they got to the next town over for the test, and were told they needed her birth certificate.  DUH!  I knew that.  Well, I knew it two years ago, when Monica got hers.  I completely forgot to make sure she had the documents she needed.  I told her where she could find it, but she had NO idea what she was looking for, and wound up taking the hospital one, instead of the official one.

They found this out when they got to the next town over for the second time, and they still wouldn't let her take the test.  By this time, my dad is probably quite hacked off (and rightfully so) and Natalie is in tears.  Later, I found out that she also needs a bill or something to prove residency.  Remember, all of this is just a PART of the horrible Monday.

I got to radiation, and they got me back there right away.  Monday is Xray day, so I knew it would take a bit longer than other days.  No biggie.  When I lie down on that table, I am on my back, and I have to put my left arm behind my head, hanging onto this handle thing.  I must lie VERY still.  They reposition me the way they need me by pulling the sheet that I'm on, pushing me over, moving the table, etc.  I am NOT to "help" them move me in any way.  They even say, "Lay heavy" quite often.  It usually takes a couple of minutes to get me where they want me.  No biggie.

Today, it took them at LEAST 15 minutes to get me positioned properly, and they still didn't seem pleased with how things were going.  They kept moving me, moving the table, reading numbers to each other, moving me again, etc.  Finally, they took the Xrays, and then they moved me a bit more.  Finally, they did the radiation treatment.  I was lying perfectly still for 30 minutes instead of the typical 10.  When they announced I was done, my arm was dead weight.  Sound asleep.  So asleep that I had trouble getting dressed.

It woke up on the way back to work.  It woke up with an excruciating amount of pain.  My shoulder actually still hurts, but the rest of my arm is finally better.  They told me that they made a 5mm adjustment, and would take a couple more Xrays tomorrow, but that it is all normal and that is why they take them every week.  Umm, OK.  5mm seems like a LOT of adjustment for shooting radiation into my body, near my internal organs, but I'll trust the medical professionals.

Work didn't really go much better.  I know how to handle busy season, but I was filling in for someone else who was sick, plus trying to do my stuff, plus cleaning up several messes.  I got it done, but it sure made me crabby.  Those around me were having a similar day, so we all just did our best and powered through.  Tomorrow will be better.  I'm sure of it, and I plan to take that attitude in with me.

Now, if Natalie and my dad forgive me, I'm past the most bothersome part of my day.  The rest is just stuff.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Keepin' On

After tomorrow morning's treatment, I'll be 1/3 of the way through radiation.  I keep making little milestones like so it'll go faster.  It seems to be working.  I feel like this leg of my treatment is moving along more quickly.  It helps that I don't feel like crap for a week out of every two.  I often leave work, get half undressed, get radiated, get dressed, and get back to work, all within an hour.  The most it takes is an hour and 15 minutes.

I'm still not liking my radiology oncologist very well, but I'm hoping I'll change my mind about him.  I wait for 10 minutes for him to spend 30 seconds with me.  I had to find out online that I shouldn't wear deodorant, and when I asked his nurse about it, she confirmed that I should not.  Thanks.  That would have been good to know.  I can wear the organic stuff, though, so I bought some of that.

I have a little irritation on that side, but it feels more like the top of my rib cage than it does my skin.  I'll ask about that on Wednesday, but I don't expect him to have much to say about it.  He certainly doesn't spend the time and ask the questions like my medical oncologist does.  She even asks about my mental state and how I'm doing with working during treatment, etc.  Maybe she's spoiled me.

I get my port out on November 8.  I thought that was the day after my last treatment, but now that I'm checking the calendar, it's the Thursday before.  After I get it out, I have 4 more treatments.  They'll take it out during my office visit.  I find that odd.  I'll be glad to have rid of it, even though it really hasn't caused me any real problems.  It sometimes irritates me a bit, but from some horror stories I've heard, I've been quite fortunate.

I haven't gotten sick, even though I have no white cells fighting for me.  I've been pretty strict about avoiding sick people.  I noticed today that my eye was irritated, and by afternoon, it felt like I was getting a stye.  By the time we got home from mom's, the bump had developed.  Yup.  I have a stye.  I'm a bit concerned, since that's an infection, so I'll call my doctor's office tomorrow and ask them if I should just let it go (which I've always done in the past...styes take care of themselves in a few days) or if they want me to take antibiotic.

It was a good weekend, all in all.  I was happy to get to hang out at Dad's, see aunt Rena, and even visit a bit with a couple of uncles that I rarely see.  I've avoided Mom and Dad's place for two weeks, because Dad and aunt Rena had been sick.  They got better, so we got back to our weekend routine of going out there.

I feel pretty good, and from what I've heard and read, I'll keep getting better, bit by bit.  Although I'm really tired at the end of each day, and exhausted at the end of the week, it still beats the heck out of chemo.  There are times I feel almost normal.  My hair is slowly starting to grow, too.  it's just barely there right now, and it doesn't have any color yet, but I hope it will speed up soon.  I am also curious to see what color it is when the color returns.  I'm a walking science experiment.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Radiation

Wow.  I post that I got a new car, and then apparently drove off into the sunset in it, never to post to my blog again.  Or maybe I've been back to working full time, doing radiation treatments, and getting my social life back.  Boy, is it nice to accept dinner invitations again.

I started radiation on Monday.  I have a standing appointment at 8am every weekday.  On Monday, I left work too early because I didn't know how long it would take me to get there.  20 minutes is the most it takes, so I allow 30, in case there is traffic.  Yup, I'm driving straight into Kansas City during rush hour.  I haven't had any troubles, though.  Plus, I have an amazing new car to drive!

I got there Monday and they had to do some Xrays.  Because of this, I was there between 20 and 30 minutes.  I guess I'll get a couple Xrays every Monday, but not sure if it will take as long as the first time did. On Wednesdays, I will always have an appointment with my radiation oncologist.  I've found that I can leave work, go to the hospital, park the car, get to the radiation department, undress from the waist up, put on a gown, get radiation, change back into my clothes, and drive back to work....all in an hour.  40 minutes of that is driving!

Yes, it goes fast.  Those ladies know what they're doing, and they're super efficient.  It is a vulnerable feeling to be lying on that table in a big empty room while a machine shoots radiation into you, but there is no pain or discomfort of any kind involved.  They position me, leave the room, the machine does it's thing, and they reposition me again...three times total.

Most of the folks that I know who have had skin reactions do so around 4 weeks in or later.  I'm a week in right now.  I've done 5/33 treatments.  I have a ways to go.  A lot of them have been told to use a certain lotion or some such to the area from a week before starting to the end of radiation therapy.  I haven't been told to use anything.  Most people are told not to use antiperspirant, although some are allowed to use the organic kind.  I haven't been told either of these things.

My Wednesday appointment was a bit different because my Dr. was in a meeting that ran long.  He asked another doctor to see me so I didn't have to wait.  We were together about 90 seconds at most.  I have a couple of questions for this week (about the lotion and antiperspirant, etc.) but it still shouldn't take long.  I can't believe that the visits go that fast, but it makes it easier to keep up full time at work.

This Tuesday, I have an appointment with my medical oncologist as a follow-up to chemo.  I hope she tells me that I can stop being a germaphobe.  My father got sick at a MOST inopportune time, as I was just starting to feel like my old self!  I'm sure I'll be fine, but I want her to tell me so.  I do NOT want to wind up in the hospital again.

Wow, I get long winded when I wait a week to post.  That's all that is going on in the wonderful world of cancer.  I just keep moving forward.  What else can I do?  Move forward through treatment and move forward into our busy season at work.  I know I'm still supposed to rest when possible and not overdo it, so I'm being careful.  I'm just glad that, so far, I'm feeling a bit stronger each day.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I Got a New Car!

It's been a crazy day, so I'll do a quickie post about my car, and get back to cancer chat another day this week.  Lots to talk about, with it being awareness month and me starting radiation today, but I'm tired.  Not because of any health reasons, but because I got to work at 5:45 this morning, and between radiation, work, coming home to get the girls, taking them back to Lees Summit for a follow-up doctor's appointment for Monica, and then back home.  Crazy day!

Anyway, I got a new car!

It's a metallic bronze Kia Forte'.  I love it, dearly.  It has everything.  I'm enjoying all the bells and whistles, even though I wasn't planning on getting those when we started looking.  It's our first brand new car in our 18 years together.  Did I mention that I love it?


Friday, September 28, 2012

Feeling Good (and Confused)

On Monday, I had my radiology consult.  By midday on Tuesday, the bone pain was nearly gone, causing me to take nothing more than Advil.  By Wednesday, I was back to feeling myself...or at least 90% myself, which is the most I could hope for these days.  It felt pretty darn good, too.  I'm back to being myself, and annoying my coworkers.  :)

Yesterday, I got a phone call from radiology, saying that they had my schedule ready, and I would have 33 treatments, starting Monday.  I wrote down everything she said, and was thinking about how to get my full hours in at work while attending an 8:00 appointment every morning.  After hanging up, it hit me:  NEXT Monday???  That's not even 2 weeks after my last chemo, and the oncologist said I'd have a month between for my body to rest and get back to normal.  Also, my whites are at their lowest today through Monday.  *sigh*

I emailed the oncologist's nurse and got back to work while waiting for an answer, although to say I was distracted would be an understatement.  I didn't get an answer by the time I left a bit after 2:00.  The nurse always said that if I don't get an answer, I should call, so as soon as I got in the car, I called in.  (I was on a bluetooth headset, so don't lecture me.)

The receptionist said that my usual nurse wasn't in (thus, the non-answer) but she would transfer me to the other nurse.  I got her voice mail.  *sigh*  I left a detailed message about what I wanted.  This was around 2:15 and her message said she was in until 3:30.  I never got a call back.  Even if she wouldn't have an answer until today, I wish she would have called to tell me that.

I woke up at 2:00 and immediately started thinking about it.  If the oncologist thinks it's too soon to start, I'll have to call radiology and change the plan.  If the oncologist leaves it up to me, I don't know what to do.  Having another couple of weeks off would be nice, but if I start Monday, I'll be done by mid-November.  That would be nice, too.  I just hope it's not up to me.  I want her (the oncologist) to tell me what to do, and I'm sure she will.  These swirling thoughts kept me from going back to sleep, of course.  Sheesh.

If I haven't heard from them by the time I leave today, I'm driving ot her office and talking to someone in person, whether they like it or not.  This is my last business day before I am to start radiation treatments, and if I DON'T start Monday, they deserve a bit of notice that I'm not going to show up.  I sure am fed up with cancer and all that it entails.

Tonight, though, Kevin and I are meeting some friends in Brookside for some dinner and an after-work drink.  I can't believe I'm going to do something like normal people do.  I'm really looking forward to it, too. By the end of the day, I'll have an answer to my radiation confusion, and I'll be hanging out with friends that I haven't seen in too long.

Monday, September 24, 2012

That's a "Yes" on Radiation

As I figured, I'll be receiving radiation.  Kevin and I met with the radiology oncologist this afternoon to discuss things.  He's a likable guy who is good at explaining things in an easy-to-understand way.  The most common side effects are fatigue and a diminished appetite.  I can handle fatigue, and my back side can handle a diminished appetite.

Of course, he had to tell me of some more serious possible side effects.  They have to prepare you for anything, but I sure hate hearing those things.  The percentage of a chance of those were quite small, though.  I'll consider myself warned, but try not to think about them.
 
He actually had me go across the hall while we were there for a CT scan and tattoos.  The tattoos are slightly larger than the period at the end of this sentence, and there are two of them.  He'll now look over the scan, come up with a plan for me, and then the technician will call me to schedule it.

I've heard horror stories of people having to pay a co-pay with each daily visit (x38 visits...you do the math,) but that will not be the case with Saint Luke's.  That was nice to hear.  I will have to go to the plaza location for treatment, but that's not as big of a deal as those who live near me may think.  That location is less than 7 miles from work, so I'll just do morning appointments and then go straight to work.

If I understand what my medical oncologist told me at my last visit, I'll have a month between the end of chemo and the time that radiation starts.  That equals three glorious weeks of feeling normal.  I'm really looking forward to some happy weekends.  I miss going to mom and dad's to just sit and shoot the breeze.  I miss getting outside and enjoying this perfect weather.  I miss going to school functions.   Yeah.  I'm looking forward to a bit of normal, even if it's just a few weeks.

Today was excruciating, much like the weekend was, so I've taken some pain meds and plan to go to sleep early.  If history holds true, I'll feel a bit better tomorrow, and the pain will be mostly gone by Wednesday, needing only an occasional Tylenol or Advil.  After that, look out, world!  I'm already conniving to get Kevin to take me to meet up with some friends after work on Friday for a drink.  I am so excited to even be thinking about that!

Now, I have some nurses to email with questions.  *sigh*  I can't wait until cancer and treatment are not the only things I think of.  LOL  Oh, and staying awake until dark.  That'd be a nice change of pace, too.  :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Damn

The doctor was wrong.  I kinda figured this would be the case, but I had my hopes up to be the one who was wrong.  How often can you say that?  "Boy oh boy do I hope I'm wrong!"  The pain seemed to settle in a bit later, so by noon yesterday, I still had hope.  When I got home, though, I could tell it was getting worse and the football game was likely out of the question.

I took a pain pill and a nap, but when I woke up, it was even worse.  One more football game missed.  This morning, it's the worst it's ever been.  This time is different, though.  This time, I can chant "One more time.  One more time.  One more time."  I'm almost done.  This is the last time I have to feel this way.  By Tuesday or Wednesday, the pain will subside and then I get a month off.  A month of NO treatment of ANY kind.

After that month, radiation will likely start, but that'll be a cake-walk compared to this stupid Taxol.  It may make me tired.  Tired is something I can handle.  That's why they make coffee, I think.  Anyway, I'll know more about that plan on Monday.  Kevin will pick me up and we'll go for a consult with the radiology oncologist.  Then we'll know the plan.

For now, I'll sit right here.  I hurt, but I know it's going to end soon.  Somehow, that makes it better.  I've showered and moved to the recliner, so I am among the living.  This is likely the most activity I'll see today, though.  One more time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Done With Chemo and the Laptop Screen is Fixed

With that title, who needs to type anything down here?  LOL  That pretty much says it all.

I had my final chemo today.  Kevin took a half-day off to come sit with me.  When I was done, I got to ring the bell.  They have a bell that you ring loudly when you are done.  I did that, smiling all the while, and then I got a certificate that all the nurses signed with a personal message.  It was SO sweet.  They said such nice things.  I am happy that it's done.  Now to get through a week of side effects (if the Dr. was correct, they won't be bad this time, though,) and I can feel normal for a few weeks before radiation starts.

Also, Kevin ran into the UPS guy at the post office this afternoon.  I had been tracking my laptop screen and knew he had it, so Kevin offered to save him a trip to our house.  Yup.  Saved him 3 whole blocks!  LOL  I got the screen replaced and am SO happy to be typing on a real keyboard again.  And now, a shameless plug:

If you ever break your laptop screen or need to replace it for any reason, I'd suggest screensurgeons.com.  I ordered late on Friday evening and the screen arrived today.  (Keep in mind that we live in the boonies.)  They have videos on YouTube, showing step by step instructions for replacing it.  When it got here, it has a letter stating that it has a 2 year warranty against dead pixels, lines, brightness issues, etc.

OK, that's enough of that unpaid commercial.  I'm  happy to have my laptop back.  I'm going to keep it in a different place, so my clumsiness will spare this screen.  I hope.

The stupid side effects are kicking in.  These side effects are from the pre-meds.  Benadryl has my head feeling swimmy and loopy, but I must fight sleep, because it also has a steroid that often makes me wake up by 2:00, unable to go back to sleep.  *sigh*

It's OK, though.  This is the LAST TIME I have to deal with this crap.  For the small time I sleep tonight, I will sleep happy.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Feelin' Good Weekend

Friday, after work, I didn't even have enough energy in reserve to go to a football game and watch my girls in the marching band.  Busy season is amping up at work, and the cumulative side effects of treatment find me tiring easily. I was bummed about missing it, but I felt I'd pay a high price, physically, if I pushed too far past the point that my body told me to stop.

Fortunately, I woke up feeling pretty darned great yesterday.  It was one of those few days when I nearly felt pre-cancer "normal." I was to have the girls at the dentist by 9, and decided to take advantage of the good day and run the roads with them afterwards, just having fun.

We went to a few thrift stores, which is one of Monica's favorite activities, but her mouth was sore as the numbness wore off, and her heart wasn't in it. As lunch time approached, her Advil was kicking in, and she was more like herself.  We stopped at 54th Street and invited Brett to join us.  It was nice to laugh and have a good time with all three of them.  Jon was missing, but Kevin is down South, visiting him, so I guess it was "divide and conquer." LOL

After lunch, we went to Deals, dropped Brett off at his house, and then went to WalMart. That's where we were when I hit the wall.  I needed a nap ASAP.  We got out of there, grabbed a happy hour drink at Sonic, and got home. My kids are hilarious, though, and I had laughed more yesterday than I have in a long time. I probably needed a nap to recover from laughing!

Later last night, Monica woke from her nap feeling awful.  I hope it's just a bad bout of allergies, since I was in close quarters with her all day.  She didn't have a fever, so maybe that's it. She sneezed no fewer than 100 times, and I say that with no exaggeration. I sure hope she feels better today.

I slept later than usual this morning, but already have a good jump on the housework. I am getting the full benefit of feeling good, since my final chemo is coming up on Wednesday.  Final chemo. What a great thing to type. I may feel like a leftover crap sandwich next weekend, but I'm using every inch of the runway THIS weekend.  And I still have half of the weekend to go.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Doctor's Appointment

I had my appointment today. The closer it gets to the end of chemo, the more I can't wait to get on with things. Next Wednesday is my last infusion. I may have had a chip on my shoulder when I got there, anticipating answers that would not be welcomed, but I tried really hard not to let it show. I think I succeeded.

First, I waited 30 minutes from the time my vitals were taken until the doctor came in. I know things can get off schedule, but this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. Don't tell me the various reasons that can cause it. I won't accept them. It is EVERY doctor in EVERY field that I have EVER seen.  I think it is rude and indicates that they think their time is more important than mine.  If it happened SOME of the time, or even MOST of the time, maybe, but it's ALWAYS. Thus ends that particular rant.

I asked when the port would be removed, and she said they will leave it in through radiation. This is in case anything happens that requires access. That situation has never happened to any of her patients, but they'll leave it in just in case.  (avoiding another rant, here.) After radiation, it will be removed, often in the office.

She kept talking about during radiation and after radiation, so I finally asked, "So am I having radiation? Because before we started, you said it would be decided later." She agreed that the appointment with the radiology oncologist was to make that determination, but then listed off the reasons I need it. So much for me and the other doctor deciding.

Finally, she was shocked by the amount of pain I'm having on Taxol. She thinks that the culprit is the Neulasta shot. I explained that I had 1/3 the severity of pain for 1/4 the duration from the Neulasta during all four cycles of A/C, and it got this much worse since switching to Taxol. She insisted that it must be the shot, so we're going to skip it next week.

Skipping it is OK, since it's use is to boost white cells in time for the next infusion and I won't have a next infusion after that one. Fine.  In that way, it's worth a shot (no pun intended.) Let my white cells rebound on their own. I was agreeable about the plan. Maybe I won't lose an entire weekend next time.

Then she said, "You'll just have to be extra diligent about hand washing and avoiding anyone that might be sick. If you get a fever, we may have to call in an antibiotic for you or admit you to the hospital again." She said it so matter-of-factly. Oh. Cool. So I might go back into the hospital again. Sweet.

Finally, she told me FOUR times that I'm doing so well.  I'm doing great. I've handled it so well. I'M NOT DOING GREAT! I'M FEELING LIKE A BIG WHINEY BABY AND I WANT THIS TO BE OVER RIGHT NOW! (Insert foot stomp here)

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why you don't blog when you're crabby.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday in Bed with Thoughts and Questions

It was a busy week. Chemo week always is. Mom went with me for my infusion this time, which made the time go faster. We did a good job turning it into an excuse to eat out, too. We are the two best at that.

Friday went OK. My back and hips hurt, but it didn't move into my legs until today, so I made it nearly 8 hours at work before bailing on them. So far, it looks like I'll be in bed most of the weekend again. It sucks, but there's only one more after this. I have an appointment with my oncologist this coming Wednesday, and boy do I have questions this time!

When will they take my port out? When will I see the radiation oncologist to decide if I'm having radiation? If I don't have radiation (and I probably will,) how long do I have to wait for reconstruction? If I do have radiation, how much? 

That's just the tip of the iceberg.  I've only concentrated on chemo all this time. Now that chemo is nearly done, I'm ready to move forward, and I want answers! LOL For the next couple of days, though, I'll be in bed with pills and a heating pad. *sigh*

Monday, September 3, 2012

You Just Gotta Laugh

I have fewer "good days" on this drug, and they hit this weekend. Granted, my good days now feel a lot like days when I had the flu, pre-cancer, but I can function.  I got tickled about something on Saturday night and laughed so hard that the girls thought I was crying.

Sunday morning, it happened again. Both girls and I laughed so hard that I nearly hurt myself. I realized, after all had calmed down, that I hadn't laughed that hard in over a month.  Later yesterday, Kevin and the girls were gone, so I went to see Mom and Dad.  As is typical for visiting them, there were quite a few laughs.

The past few days have made me realize that uninhibited, hard, tear-inducing laughter is something that cancer/chemo has stolen from me, and I think I miss it more than I miss my hair. I have two more days before my next round of chemo, and I plan to laugh every chance I get.

Having only four good days out of 14 will wake a person up to what is lacking.  Laughter has been seriously lacking around here.  I'll have to see what I can do about that.  This goof ball usually helps in that department, even when demanding my attention that is being directed at blogging.



Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tired. You?

I don't want to sound ungrateful, hateful, or snippy for even a minute of this post, so if it comes across that way, I apologize in advance.  Several people a day ask me how I'm feeling.  The answer is always, "Tired."  The bone pain is gone and I haven't taken a pain pill since Monday.  I just can't bounce back from the fatigue this time.

I'm considering lying.  I could plaster on a fake smile and say, "I'm great!"  Nobody is making me feel like I need to do this, but I'm sick to death of hearing myself say I'm tired.  Almost as sick of saying I'm tired as I am of BEING tired.   Almost.

I am asleep, or at least horizontal, most every moment that I'm not at work.  That's why I'm not on Facebook much.  That's why I'm not blogging much.  I don't hurt right now and I'm not having any major issues.  I'm just tired, and I'm tired of being tired, and I'm tired of bitching about being tired of being tired.

How are you?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday Morning

I think I'm happy that my chemo schedule has my most painful two days landing on the weekend.  Sure, nobody would plan to spend their days off in a chair hurting, but at least it's not cutting into my paycheck!  I started the day with my pain meds, Claritin (which is supposed to help with the bone pain but doesn't seem to) and Prevacid.  Let's get this party goin'.

Kevin is working a half-day today.  Thank goodness for his OT right now.  Yesterday, it was $400 shelled out to fix the air conditioner.  Who knows what it will be tomorrow, but I'm thankful we were able to get it fixed.  As is typical, though, we got it fixed yesterday and do not need it today.  I have the windows open and need a lap blanket.  LOL  It'll be there next week when we're back in the high 80s, though.

Yesterday was the first high school football game here in our little town.  The girls are both playing in marching band, and I was hoping to make at least the first half, but couldn't do it.  The game hadn't been going very long when one of our players was seriously hurt (ankle, I believe) as reported by Monica via text message.  It makes me sick to my stomach and my family is praying for a speedy recovery for him.

I was asleep by the time the girls came home at half-time, and our Tigers were winning 42-0.  LOL  I haven't heard the final score, but sheesh.  Our offense must have been getting tired.  The next couple of games are away, I believe, so maybe I'll feel better in time for the next home game.  If so, I'll go grab Mom and take her with me.  Unless we can lure dad there with false promises of tractors.

I'm out of nonsense to bore you with, now.  Carry on with your weekend.  If you need me, I won't be hard to find.  Check the recliner.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tired

Well, unfortunately, I seem to be following the same pattern as last time.  That still doesn't mean it will be as bad, but if today is an indicator, things haven't changed much.

I started out fine.  It was actually a good day.  I felt fine and accomplished a lot.  Around 12:30, I started fading.  I had to stay at work until 2:30 because my appointment for my shot was at 3 and the Dr.'s office is between work and home.  I made it, but I was dragging butt by the time I left.

I got my shot (a 5 minute appointment) and headed home.  I got here, changed into shorts (oh yeah, have I mentioned our air conditioner isn't working?  Yay!) and collapsed int.he recliner.  I haven't moved since.  I am 100% out of energy.  This is day 2, which is the day that I fell asleep at 4:30 last time.  I've made it until 5, so that's an improvement.  LOL

My nurse advised me to take pain pills from the get-go tomorrow.  I'll have to start with Advil, so I can drive to work without the aid of narcotics.  We'll see if that helps head things off.  For now, I think I'll just sit here and see if a kid will bring me something to eat.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chemo Day 6 of 8

I had an appointment with my oncologist yesterday.  I always have lab work and an appointment with her the day before chemo.  I really like her, and I trust her completely.  She's never been anything but honest and open with me.   However, I was in a foul mood when I got there yesterday, and it caused me to leave there mad at her.

I posted on Facebook that I could tell her that there is battery acid dripping from my eye sockets and my arms have fallen off, and she would smile, nod, and say sweetly, "Yes, you're doing great."  Normally, her positive attitude is what I need.  She is gentle and sweet and understanding.  I think the big ol' chip on my shoulder wanted her to say, "Wow, you're having a rough time, aren't you?  Here's a cookie."  LOL

The truth is, she really does think I'm doing very well, considering the side effects.  She sounds amazed every time she asks if I'm still working and I tell her that I am.  I keep saying that, if my job had better short-term disability pay, I'd take off until this was over.  The truth is, though, I'd be in a worse place, emotionally, if I was home all day feeding my pity party.  At least when I'm at work I am solving other people's problems and not thinking about my own.

Today is the day that I could have slept later.  However, Kevin is trying to get some overtime, so he was up early and the light shines in our room, so I was up by 4.  So much for sleeping in.  I have an appointment with the plastic surgeon (it takes fewer than 5 minutes for a tissue expander fill) and then I double back to this side of the state line for chemo.

Chemo day is a relaxing day.  Any side effects don't kick in for a couple of days, so it's not an uncomfortable experience in any way.  I can play on my computer and relax.  I can take lunch there if I choose, and they have a basket of snacks for those who find themselves hungry and ill prepared.  The nurses are caring and sweet and chatty and genuine.  I don't mind chemo day at all.

Three times, others have gone with me.  It was fun to have someone to visit with, although I always worry they'll be bored.  Kevin took reading material when he went, and my friends Brooke and Tammy each took a turn, hiding any boredom they experienced.

Kevin has planned an outing to Red Lobster for Sunday afternoon.  We don't eat out very often, and he wanted to treat us with some of his OT.  That is my incentive to not hurt so bad this time.  LOL  If it's as bad as last time, it'll just be him and the girls.  If I can do it, I'll be going along.  I LOVE Red Lobster.  Maybe I'll start taking pain pills now to make sure it doesn't get too bad.  I'm kidding, but I DO love those cheddar bay biscuits.

Wow, that turned into a rambling post.  When you wander around that much in a blog post, it's time to stop.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Sense of Dread

Tomorrow is my blood work and Dr. appointment day.  Wednesday is my chemo day.  I noticed today that I am experiencing a sense of dread about this treatment.  That is new.  It's nagging at the back of my mind, and causing an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Nothing about this cancer trip has been fun.  Nothing has caused joy and celebration.  Still, each treatment has been a step toward completion.  It has just been something that I do...a part of my schedule...no big deal.  Every other Wednesday, I go for chemo.

After the last time (my first Taxol treatment) causing such intense pain, though, I don't wanna go.  It could be completely different and not be so bad this time.  I realize this.  The first two A/C treatments were as expected, the third was a cake walk, and the fourth put me in the hospital.  That means that the first Taxol putting me down for 4 days does NOT mean the second one will.

It's such a short time.  The chemo portion of my treatment will all be over in 4-6 weeks.  I can do anything for 4-6 weeks.  I just don't like the feeling that it's leaving in my stomach.  I bet I'll feel a lot better when Wednesday comes and goes.  Once it's done, it's done.

You can't dread something that's over, right?  (:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I'm Still Here

I've gotten ribbed a bit for letting so much time pass between blog posts.  In the past, that was reason for a sigh of relief.  Now, it leaves distant friends and relatives wondering if I'm OK.  I'm OK.  I'm here.  I don't want to do multiple "downer" posts in a row, so I just left the blog dormant this week.

Honestly, I started feeling better on Wednesday.   I called it "narcotic-free Wednesday" because it was the first day in five that I hadn't needed pain pills.  The debilitating pain was gone by then, but I was still so flipping exhausted.  When Kevin got home at 4:30 on Wednesday, I was already asleep.  I slept until 3.  On Thursday and Friday, I fought the urge to lie down by avoiding the bedroom.  LOL

Today, I feel all right.  I woke early and paid bills.  If you can do THAT and not become depressed, you're doing all right.  Not only are we having record-high electric bills, cancer treatment doesn't come cheap.  We've met our max out of pocket, but there are still payments being made from arrangements before we hit that max.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but to think this is going to start over at the first of the year is sort of depressing.  Let's not think about that.

I've missed enough work lately that my paycheck was the smallest it's been since I returned to work.  It was 2/3 the usual amount, actually.  Thanks to Kevin's pay increases (yes, plural!) over the last couple of weeks, we still had enough to pay all of our bills that are due.  That made me so happy.  When I sat down with the bills and my computer and checkbook, I figured I'd have to juggle.  Nope!

Back to me, I'm going to milk this weekend for all it's worth.  I have chemo again on Wednesday, and if it follows the same timing, the bone pain will settle in on Friday.  I'll enjoy not hurting until then, and try to stay awake until the sun goes down at night.

But no promises on that last part.  :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Brief Update (Complaint Warning)

When I finished the A/C portion of my chemo and started Taxol, I was under the impression that it would be easier.  I got my first infusion on Thursday, and felt pretty darned good.  Friday, I went to work, still feeling good and thought I had it made.

After work, I had to stop for my Neulasta shot (it brings up my white count and is always 24 hours after chemo) and noticed, by the time I got there, that I was VERY tired.  Oh well.  I felt enough better that I may have overdone things a bit, and the weekend was here for me to recover.
 
Saturday, I was shocked at how badly my bone hurt.  Traditionally, Neulasta causes bone pain, but it's been very predictable for me.  I get the shot on day 2, and have pretty rough bone pain for 1 or 1 1/2 days around day 6.  This was much worse, and much sooner, so I did some research and realized that Taxol causes bone and joint pain, too.  Great.

Sunday was even worse, and by the afternoon, a fever had joined the party.  WooFreakinHoo.  Kevin called the on-call doctor (why do I never get sick during office hours?) and she told him to give me Tylenol and see if that brings it down.  It was too early for me to be nutropenic (super-low whites, which hospitalized me last time) from the chemo, so she was willing to give it time to work itself out.

The Tylenol slowly brought down the fever, which had reached 101.8 at it's highest.  With the fever down, we avoided a trip to the ER and I was told to go get blood drawn this morning.  I woke feeling like I'd been drug behind a horse through the desert like in an old western, but showered and managed to get to the car.  It was one of the few times ever that I was sorry to drive a standard transmission.  My legs were screaming.

My blood counts were OK, but they drew a couple more vials to do some cultures on.  I was then told to go home and rest.  I did, which I will regret greatly on payday, but the four hour nap sided with the fact that I needed it.

The chemocare page on Taxol says that the pain duration should be "a few days."  I am truly hoping that means I'll be able to tell a marked difference in the morning.  I have pain pills, but I'd rather not take them at work unless I have to.  I'd also like to be able to walk without wincing (and sometimes crying.)  Mom made dinner for my family tonight, or it would have been ramen for sure.

Here's to a better tomorrow.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A 100% Complaint-Free Post (I Promise!)

Good news is always welcome, but sometimes the timing is perfect.  This time, the timing was absolutely spot-on, considering what has transpired over the last couple of weeks.

Kevin was due for a raise on August 1, and got it.  (I don't think I mention often enough how much I love his job, but I love his job.)  That was great news, since my checks are suffering.  I just can't get 40 hour weeks in very often.  The news of his raise made me breath a little bit easier.  He had also bid on a different position, but we were just sitting on that, waiting to see what happened.

Well, he got the other position, and figured it would be a couple of weeks before the trickle-down training would find him in that new spot.  Nope.  He found out this week that he starts Monday!  Here are some things that make him (us) smile:

  • The position means another (instant) raise, and a higher pay scale before topping out.
  • It is much less physical, therefore easier on his beaten and achy body.
  • The hours are 6:00-2:30.  These are Kevin's DREAM hours and made him nearly giddy.
  • There is already talk of OT, which will be easier to do with the (physically) easier job, and will take some pressure off me when I'm not feeling well at work.
  • In case you lost count, he has now received two raises in under two weeks.
The last few days, when something's going wrong or I feel crappy or emotionally down, I have the above list to make me feel better.  I am so thankful for a husband who works hard to keep us going.  Hell, I'm thankful for a husband willing to work, period!  And I am very thankful, every day, for Kevin's job.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Starting the Second Half

You know how, when you're watching a football game (I picture a high-school game here in our little town,) the team  heads to the locker room at half time?  If they have a rough first half, I imagine the coach tells them to pull it together and talks to them about the best way to turn it around.

If the team is winning when halftime gets here, they head to the locker room and talk about their strengths, how well they're doing, and how to keep the momentum rolling.  Of course, I've never been in a locker room during half-time of a football game, but this is what I expect.



Today, I start my "second half."  My body played a first half until the last couple of downs.  I had it pretty easy, looking like the star quarterback as I went through my first three treatments.  For my fourth treatment, though, cancer's team introduced some new players.  Big dudes from out of town.

My whites took a beating, leaving me in the hospital for three days.  My reds hit bottom, causing me to need a unit of blood.  I could do nothing more than come home from work and go straight to bed for over a week.  If my family wanted/needed something, they knew to come to my room.  It was a very depressing time.  Back to my football analogy, I was taking a beating and starting to feel like there was no way I could finish this game.

My whites bounced back over the weekend, though, and I felt better yesterday after receiving that unit of blood.  It's halftime, and I'm getting ready to start the second half.  Today is my first infusion of Taxol.  Most people who have had the Adriamycin/Cytoxan combo, and then had Taxol say that Taxol is the easier of the two.  I'm counting on that.  The coach is telling me that I'll get through this half with no problems, coming out the victor.

No matter what, the bell signalling the end of the game will ring on September 20.  Sure, I'll probably still need radiation, but chemo, as well as the assault on my white blood cells, will be over.  It feels good to say I'm halfway done.  Queue up the marching band and you guys go hit the concession stand and get a hot dog and a soda.  It's time for me to take the field for the second half.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Awake. Again.

This morning I will go get blood drawn to see if my counts are back to normal.  I went to work yesterday, acting like I suffer from  mysophobia and avoiding direct contact with everyone.  I hope I'm back in normal range or I'll be cancelling my plastic surgeon appointment and likely postponing chemo this week.

I feel OK, although very tired.  That makes me wonder if I'm still low.  The other troubling fact is that a lot of side effects that we'd gotten rid of have returned.  I've had a headache every day for a week, I cannot sleep through the night (with OR without medication,) and I'm moody as all get-out.  We've also now added night sweats to the mix, so I'm a real bundle of fun.

I woke this morning at 1:45 and tried for 45 minutes to go back to sleep.  I finally gave up, ate a bowl of cereal, showered, and paid some bills.  Even if my blood counts are back to normal, I don't see me making it 8 hours at work today.  I hate to be negative, but since I'll be leaving for 2 hours for my appointment, I'd have to stay until 3:30 or so, and I'm not sure how well that will mix with waking so early.

I do have enough built-in paranoia from the last Dr visit that I'm packing a small bag.  LOL  Poor Kevin had to log about 150 miles last Tuesday because I was admitted into the hospital with nothing other than what I had on.  I am sure they won't admit me this time, even if my counts are low, because I don't have a fever or any other symptoms.  If for some reason they do, however, my glasses, contact case, and phone charger will be in the car.

OK, 4:00.  That means Kevin will be waking soon and I can quit being so quiet.  I'm ready for work, so I only have to kill another half hour before leaving.  Phew.  It's already been a long day.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Home

They released me on Friday morning, and Kevin came to get me and bring me home.  The only thing that really concerns me is that I have NO idea if my whites are still climbing.  I just have to assume that they are.  I am pretty much on lock-down for the weekend, avoiding public places and close contact.

Monday morning, I'll go back to work, still avoiding close contact until Tuesday's blood work gets drawn.  I had accrued 28 hours of vacation time toward next year, and that will cover most of the 4 days I missed while in the hospital.  I'm thankful that those were available, but a bit scared to have my safety net gone.  This simply cannot happen again.  No problem.

The worst part so far is that it seems that all of the side effects from early on are back.  I have a nearly constant headache, I can't sleep, and I'm emotional as hell.  I had a really bad headache last night, so I took what felt like enough pills to drop an elephant, and was back up at 1:30.  *sigh*  I had been sleeping fine for a couple of weeks (without pills) before this setback.

Basically, I think the quarantine has afforded me too much time to think.  When I go to work tomorrow, I'll be busy, and that will help.  My blood work is set for 3 in the afternoon on  Tuesday, but I may see if I can go early so I can wait for the results.  If my whites aren't back in the normal range of 4.0 - 11.0, I have to cancel my plastic surgeon's appointment and my chemo on Thursday will likely be postponed.

I would think, after over a week on antibiotics, my counts will be fine.  However, I would have thought they'd climb higher than .7 after 4 days on IV antibiotics.  They were .6 on Tuesday .5 on Wednesday, .43 on Thursday, and .7 on Friday.  They can't tell if that was a "trend" toward upward numbers, or just a fluctuation.  They let me come home, though, because there was nothing they were doing there that I cannot do at home.

I'm home.  I figured the "I'm home" post would be happy and fun.  Call it lack of sleep, the headache, or the whiny state I'm in, but I missed that goal by a long shot.  My feelings are hurt by the slightest little thing, I'm exhausted, but need to expend energy in order to get more sleep.  For the first time in my life, I'm in the middle of a weekend that seems to be going on too long.  Sorry, my working friends.  I know that comes as a betrayal to you all.  I promise to be crabby about Monday like the rest of you.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Staying Another Day? Picture Time!

Since I'm here for another day, we'll explore my little corner of this fine establishment. (click on any image to make it larger.)  The first thing I noticed was that the ceiling tile right in the middle of the room was painted.  Not painted with an uplifting message like your OB/GYN office.  Nope.  Not like that at all:


What the heck, you ask?  I have no idea, but those not-drawn-to-scale animals have been keeping me company.

That first night I was here, Monica came with Kevin when he brought me the necessities for my unplanned stay.  She looked at the wall and said, "Is this a Catholic hospital?"  I told her that it was, and asked what made her ask.  She said, "Because of that cross, and that looks like an old clock from a church."


They are neither centered on the wall, nor are they hanging straight.  And bless Monica's heart, I still don't see what is "Catholic" about that clock.

Another thing to consider, if you wonder what amazing things abound in this room, is this:


I have, at my disposal, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, a VCR!  Don't go hatin'.  You can't all be me.

This is my view, which reveals another section of this enormous hospital:


There is nothing wrong with this.  The problem is that pterodactyls keep flying by the window, scaring the CRAP out of me.  OK, maybe they're pigeons, but they look HUGE out of the corner of my eye.  One actually hit the window earlier, and I nearly soiled the bed.  TMI?  Too late.  You can't un-read something.

Finally, the giant gift bag that was dropped off by a mystery delivery lady yesterday.  Kevin stopped by after work and added to the bounty.  Even after I indulged in a bit of sweet/salty last night (potato chips and chocolate could join forces to rule the world,) all of this is still left:


It has been quite handy to have these items at my disposal, since a few of my meal choices have been questionable at best.  Mmmm.  Junk food.

OK, here's to going home tomorrow.  Here's to higher white cell counts.  Here's to a decent night's sleep.  Here's to potato chips and chocolate!  Oops.  How'd that one get in there?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The First 24

The first 24 hours in the hospital has been interesting.  They are all very nice here.  I'm not used to being in the hospital, so it's weird, but fine.  The doctor offered me a sleeping pill last night, and I refused.  I've been sleeping fine lately.  Apparently that doesn't transfer to a hospital room.  LOL  She asked today if I regretted refusing it, and I admitted that I did.  I'll take one tonight.

The nighttime nurses are sweet and good at what they do.  I call them Nighttime Ninja Nurses.  The NNNs come in, work by only the light coming in from the hallway, and are back out within five minutes.  I barely knew what was going on before they were gone.

My bed has a problem that causes it to lock sometimes.  The buttons won't do ANYTHING.  The day nurse yesterday knew how to fix it, so she showed Kevin.  I didn't pay attention.  Guess how much good it did me?  This morning, a maintenance guy came in and asked about it.  He said that the beds are getting older and need new chips inside.  They've been ordered but aren't here yet.  Then, he took his fist and hit the control panel!  It fixed it right up.  I laughed and told him that I remember fixing our TV that way when I was a kid.  He said, "So do I.  That's what made me try it the first time."

I slept from 9:30ish until 11:30, 12ish until the NNNs came in at 2, and 2:30 until 3:45.  I called Kevin at 4 (he was already on his way to work, making up time that he missed yesterday, poor guy) and then I tried to go back to sleep.  I was finally successful around 5...and then my cell phone alarm went off at 5:30!  What an idiot!  I forgot that I have it set to go off each weekday at 5:30.  It has been turned off now, for sure!

I told a couple of friends, via Skype, that I wish I had some chips and chocolate.  This afternoon, the nurses aid came in carrying a bag with three small bags of chips and 4 kinds of chocolate in it!  It turns out that my friends do not know this delivery person, and neither do I.  It's a friend of a friend who happens to work here and hooked me up.  It's not who you know, it's who is known by whom you know.  Or something like that.

I've found that some of the food is quite good, and some is not great.  Most of it has been edible, though.  Except the tomato soup.  Ick.  Still, it's overall better than most people describe hospital food, so I'll not complain.  I can't imagine feeding this many people.  Plus, I'm a lot less picky than most.

At one point today, two doctors came in with two shadows.  Students, maybe?  Anyway, as the oncologist was telling me that my white cells had dropped again overnight (I know, I know.  *sigh*) and I'd be here at least through tomorrow, and possibly Friday, she said, "The good news is, you've been afebrile for 24 hours."  My hearing isn't great.  I hear things wrong a LOT.  What I *heard* is, "You've been senile for 24 hours."  Before I could process that enough to be offended, she added, "So as long as the fever doesn't come back..."  That's when I realized what she had said.  PHEW!

My final story is about how I'm introduced as shifts change.  Each nurse is telling the incoming nurse that I'm an ideal patient, or the best patient on the floor, etc, and that I never ring my call button.  That's true, I haven't needed to.  However, do you know what kind of pressure that puts on me?  Holy moly!  What if I need something?  I'll damage my reputation!  LOL   Yes.  I'll push the button if I need something, but I'm ambulatory, so there isn't much that I could need that I cannot get for myself.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Change of Plans

I expected bone pain on Monday.  It's one of the joys of my chemo plan.  I get a Neulasta shot on the day after infusion, which helps my bones produce white cells more quickly.  The drawback is that I get bad bone pain (lower back, hips and legs) 3-4 days after the shot.  At least I can plan for it, which means that I knew Monday would be tough.

I made it until about 11 at work and decided to go home and try to get some work done from there.  On the way home, I started feeling overall yucky.  I wasn't even logged in to work before deciding that work wasn't going to happen just yet.  I needed a nap.  I felt like CRAP.  I told the girls that I was going to grab a nap, and went to bed around 1:30.

The next thing I remember, it was nearly 5 and Kevin was home from work.  I was chilling, had a splitting headache, and was overall miserable.  I took my temperature and it was 101.6.  We are to call the on-call doctor if it reaches 100.5, so I asked Kevin to call.  I could barely think, so I knew I wouldn't be able to make a coherent phone call.

She called in an antibiotic, which Kevin went to pick up for me.  She also told me to go in for blood work first thing this morning.  I woke with a temp under 100, so I figured I'd get blood drawn and then go in to work.  Wrong.

They drew blood from my port, drew blood from my arm, took a urine sample and took a chest X-ray.  I waited about an hour for the results, and knew they weren't good when my oncologist came in to deliver the news, instead of the nurse.  She told me that she doesn't like to see white counts under 2000, and mine were 700.  Paired with my fever the night before, she wanted to admit me.  *sigh*

A new problem developed when they found out that there were no beds at the hospital where I was.  I would have to go to the Kansas City location.  I called Kevin, who left work to come get me.  I was exhausted, still had a headache, and didn't feel up to the drive.   Plus, by this point, I was a little bit scared.  We finally headed out around noon, grabbed a bite to eat, and got to "the big hospital."  Seriously, one can easily get lost here.

By the time I was in a room, it was 2:00.  Kevin had to go home to get some necessities for me (I had no phone charger or computer or toothbrush, for heaven's sake!)  They accessed my port again, finally gave me some Tylenol for my headache, and I settled in.

From what they say, I'll be here a couple of days.  I have no fever, and my headache is down to a dull roar when on Tylenol.  I can count on one hand the number of times I've been in the hospital, so I'm not quite sure what to do here.  I guess I'll just do as they say, lie here, and build white blood cells.  Thank goodness for in-room internet.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Family, Kami, and the Bi-Weekly Crash

I surprised Kevin and the girls Friday night by nabbing Kami for the weekend.  We haven't had her in over a month!  I'm scared to keep her when I'm home alone because of the medications that I take (in case she tries to wake me up or something,) and we have had several weekends of company.  This weekend found my family at home and no scheduled company, so I jumped at the chance.

Being day 3 of a chemo cycle, I was having trouble functioning Friday night when I stopped by mom's, but my brother is in town and I wanted to see what was going on over there.  Slowly, the rest of my clan showed up to be surprised by Kameron running to them.  At that point, I headed home to my trusty recliner.

Kevin and I went to the grocery store yesterday, leaving Kami with the girls.  I made it through the store OK, although still running out of breath easily.  I think that is all due to steroids, and I shouldn't have to take those any more, now that my chemo regimen had changed.  After getting groceries all put away, we headed to Mom's for the afternoon.

My appetite was starting to come back, but fruit is all that sounded good, so I ate a ton of fruit.  LOL  Kevin, my brother Jim, and the others all spent HOURS shooting skeet and targets in the back, while I hung at the house with Kami, Mom, and the other non-shooters.  It was nice to spend a whole afternoon over there, although I feel like such a slug when I barely move from the chair.

By last night, I ate part of a cardboard pizza (am I the only one who calls them that?) and it seems that my appetite is back.  This morning's cereal tasted amazing.  Today is crash day, but hopefully my last crash day. If it's true that I no longer need the steroids, then it should be my last.  I'm hoping that Kami wakes up soon so we can play before I melt into a pile of goo in this chair for the rest of the day.

My brother and his family will head home this morning.  I didn't get to see a ton of them, but it was nice to see them as much as I did.  It's been a long time.  I hate that cancer chemo robbed me of being able to take part in the festivities more, but I'm thankful that it exists.  I hope they get home safely and come back sooner next time.  I'll be ready to hang with the gang by then!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Weird Sleep Schedule

Thursday darn near kicked my butt.  I was so tired when I left work and headed in for my Neulasta shot.  When I got home, I thought I'd just take a short nap so I could watch Big Brother at 8:00.  I was asleep by 3:30.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up and it was 10:30.  Oops.  Big Brother was recorded, so I still got to watch it.  I realized, too, that I'd only had about 10 saltines to eat all day.  Probably not a great plan, so I heated up a can of soup and watched my show.

After that, it was time to catch up online.  That being done, I need to see if I can squeeze in a couple more hours of sleep.  Somehow, I doubt it'll happen, but I have to give it a shot.  If not, I only have to get through one more day before the weekend.  I'm also thankful that I'm sleeping now, so I'll take it when I can get it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Halfway There, and Weird Thoughts

I'm sitting in "the chair," getting chemo treatment 4 of 8.  I'll be halfway done with this part of the journey in about 2 hours.  The drug that I start in 2 weeks is supposed to be much easier.  I'll take easier.  Although, once she got my headaches and sleeplessness under control, I can't say I have all that much to complain about on THIS set of drugs.

I also went to the plastic surgeon today for a tissue expander fill.  He only did 60 cc again because it's been a month and it would have hurt me too much to do more than that.  It hurts pretty dang bad, anyway.  This may be a day that I leave the infusion center, go home, pop a Valium and a pain pill and go to sleep.  Anyway, he says that if I go more often, it shouldn't hurt as bad, so we're only waiting two weeks this time.

I said this on Facebook, but I'm really laughing at myself about this.  Any time I go to ANY doctor, the nurse takes me back, takes my vitals, and says, "change into this gown, the doctor will be with you shortly."  I KNOW that I'm going to sit in that cold room for at least 20 minutes, yet I scramble to change as quickly as I possibly can.  Why?  What's the hurry?  I'm just going to sit there, feeling vulnerable, legs dangling from that paper covered table/bench/bed thing for what feels like DAYS.

I think I'm worried he'll walk in and see something.  See what?  You know, the same thing he's going to make me show him anyway!  What's the point of the speedy-change freak out?  I've been going to doctor appointments by myself for 25 years.  I have NEVER been walked in on, or even ALMOST been walked in on while changing.  How many more years will it take for me to slow down and take my time?

I wonder if they have a set amount of time that they wait, in case someone is a slow changer?  Does the nurse make a note of the time she walked out, so the doctor can wait the appropriate amount of time before coming in?  How long could even the slowest mover take to remove her shirt, remove her bra, put on a gown, and climb up on a paper covered table/bench/bed thing?  Two minutes?  Hmmm.  The things I ponder from the chemo chair.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Reason Number 472 that Cancer Sucks

I've made a lot of friends online who are going through breast cancer at the same time as I am.  Many are on the same chemo drugs I am, and nearly the same schedule.  It is a fantastic place to learn about treatments, side effects, research, etc.  These women have been great for me, even when we're all just complaining to each other.  I feel a lot less guilt when I complain about a side effect to someone else going through it, instead of to the people who have to live with me.

While having a discussion with these ladies recently, I revealed another one of the 10,000 things that I hate about cancer.  Now that I've lost my hair, I've lost my anonymity.  Before the hair went, I could go out in public and blend in as just another woman in the store.  Now, I'm the sick woman.  Yesterday, during lunch, I told my friend that I hated looking sick.  She said that I didn't look sick to her.  What I meant, though, was the obvious lack of hair.

I just can't bring myself to wear a wig.  That is my choice, and I get that.  I am much more comfortable in a hat, buff or a bandanna, although they make it obvious that I have no hair underneath.  Everywhere I go, it's apparent that I have no hair, and the assumption is made that I am going through chemotherapy.  That brings one of two reactions:  I get the "pity look," or the instant gaze aversion.

I'm doing fine.  I'm getting through it.  I'll be halfway through chemo after Wednesday.  Having no hair has cut my shower time by more than half.  There are little silver linings everywhere.  I just miss blending in.  I miss being just another mom, shopping for toilet paper.

Although I cannot wait until a year from now when I have the reconstructive surgery and this is all behind me, I mostly want chemo to end so my hair can come back, so I can be just another face in the crowd.  When the pity looks and averted looks stop.  Yup.  Give me back my anonymity.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Easiest Cycle Yet

I made the mistake of taking my last steroid too late, which pushed my crash to a work day which overlapped with my bone pain day.  I even whined about it here.  However, this third cycle has been the easiest one yet.

I have had a headache only two out of the 11 days that have passed on cycle three.  This is on the heels of 4 weeks of daily headaches, so it's a BIG deal.  I have been getting eight hours of sleep without the aid of medication.  I was able to work nine hours, two days straight, to make up for the crash day shortage.

Yup.  I may have complained about Monday, but I'm very pleased with chemo cycle three.  I have one more dose of A/C, which happens on Wednesday.  I hope to sail through it as easily as this one.  After that, I start another chemo drug.  I've heard that Taxol is easier than the A/C combo for most people.  Isn't THAT good news???

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Feeling Better and a New Granddaughter

Yesterday and today have been better, and I even worked enough hours to make up what I shorted myself on Monday.  Not bad for only Wednesday.  I'm doing fine at work, and wiped out when I get home, so not much gets done by me.

More important news is that Jon and Kristin had baby Zoey Ann yesterday!  This is Jon's first, and he is so proud.  Of course, so are we.  How did I wind up with so many grandbabies at 43?  Wanna see the proud papa?

Wanna see what he's so proud of?


Yup.  I think she'll do.  I think she'll do JUST fine.