Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Half-Way Mark!

Today was the mid-point for my chemo regime - fortunately, no major sickness yet.....nor will there be since, I have affirmed there will not be. The only thing that plagues me is my homesickness and I suppose I must start thinking more positively about that as well. Who in their right mind would trade Redwood City weather in February for Birmingham, Michigan? Yeah, I gotta re-think this state of mind!

I am enjoying a most lovely time having my two daughters from NYC with me these past few days - one leaves Friday afternoon, the other early Saturday morning, so not much longer. After they leave, I will tell you about the best birthday celebration I can remember this past Saturday, but right now I am unable to sleep because of the chemo and can think of nothing else quiet to do in this little cottage which will not disturb at this time of the morning, except typing in the dark.

Tomorrow we are supposed to walk with my fitness group for 3 miles at 7AM, if I get to sleep before then. The girls are making Thanksgiving dinner - Mama has been delegated the kale salad only which is just fine with me. I taught them well (along with a little help from Cordon Bleu Paris) and lots of major parties over the years at home, all prepared by me with their help. Thanksgiving has always been our favorite holiday and this year we are altogether and have so much more to be thankful for.

My best holiday wishes to all of you!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sicky Poo

Well, I guess it's been a few days....I have not been feeling so well, mostly just really tired, but my eyes watered constantly for about two days and then a gigantic cold sore popped up on my lower lip, my belly has been killing me, but tonight I am feeling again more or less "normal".

Saturday again we had our weekly outing into the City. One of my cousin's favorite restaurants in "Yank Sing", the #1 choice of dim sum in the "Best of" category. I didn't feel much like eating, but I did enjoy the pea pods and my favorite, their perfectly dressed cole slaw.....YUM!

The day was perfect, a cloudless 82 degrees. Views of the City from Ft. Baker were magnificent; however, this weekend I suffered some of the worst homesickness I have ever felt - I don't miss cold, dreary weather, but I do miss Papa Joe's, Plum, Pita Cafe, Whistle Stop, my cute little house and all of my dear friends. Despite this beauty, March cannot come soon enough......I want to get on with my life.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The idea of calm exists in a sitting cat. -- Jules Renard

And this is what I will think about today.......

Round # Three!

Good Morning, Everyone!

Fall has arrived in Redwood City. It's chilly here this morning - no sun yet, maybe later, but there are still roses blooming. A beautiful yellow one is spreading its petals outside my bedroom window with more buds on the way. I must say, this environment sure helps the medicine go down a lot easier.

Today is round #3 of the adriamycin and cytoxan and I have already drunk one liter of water and hope to get another down before I go. Last time my veins were playing hide and seek which was not a fun game. This time I decided to increase my fluid intake, go for a walk which I am nearly ready to do and repeat over and over in my head, positive affirmations.....I do NOT want a port! The nurse assured me last time that my veins would make it through this, but I have decided to do everything I can to make sure that is realized.

I look forward to completing this round and to being that much closed to going home. Rolling and stretching this evening....Birmingham here I come!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Little More Info, plus a Bit of a Rant......

A good day for the most part yesterday, afebrile. I researched chemo and fever and came up with something I had not heard of before - chemo itself can illicit flu-like symptoms without a white cell drop (neutropenia) and of those chemo patients experiencing fever, a definite source of infection is found in only about half.

This is interesting for several reasons: (1) Even before I researched this, I told my cousin yesterday that I felt the fever was somehow directly related to the chemo, because ordinarily if I have ever in my life had even the slightest fever, I remember always feeling miserable - with this fever I didn't feel sick at all and that made no sense to me. My skin hurt a little, but 102 fever and no feeling of sickness? Weird. (2) Again, no information from any of my docs that this could happen....and in fact, not even one word about the possibility of neutropenia and its consequences. I only knew because of the experience I had years ago with my mother.

Before anyone gets huffy about my comparison of California vs. Michigan medicine, let me make one point perfectly clear, unfortunately, they all have one thing in common, they keep the patient in the dark most of the time. I have had to do all my own research on chemotherapy, diet and exercise, and now the possible side effects of chemo.

Not one doc has yet told me anything about my left arm being at risk for lymphedema. If I weren't a lymphatic therapist, I would have no idea. The most said, and only by my surgeon in MI and also my surgeon here, is that they didn't want me to do "too many" exercise repetitions with my left arm - that's it, nothing more...shocking! I have not probed deeper on this topic, because for my own "research" purposes, I want to know what information is given the typical patient. (None of them know my background - that I have worked for years with cancer patients, that I am a CancerGuide, a lymphatic therapist and have developed my own movement and laughter program for cancer survivors.)

I also found it sad and pathetic that I had to bat lab techs and nurses away from my left arm the other night at Stanford - they were determined to draw blood, start IV's or take BP's from it. I feel like having "DO NOT EVEN THINK OF TOUCHING THIS ARM" tattooed on it (of course, I will leave the tattooing only for my eyebrow which also are falling out fast!)

I can only say working with cancers survivors and being one are two completely different things. Perhaps this is what I needed in order to be truly effective and therapeutic in my approach.

Reality Check

I have been having chills, usually in the evening after I take off my wig, for the past couple of days. I have also been pushing myself to walk further and further every day. Last evening as I undressed, I noticed my skin hurt - my eyes had also been watering all day, my nose dripping. Since I am never sick, it didn't even occur to me that maybe I had a fever. So I went back to my cousin's, asked for a thermometer and sure enough, 100.4. I know about the neutropenia possibilities, so rang up the doc who sent me to Standford ER - it spiked to about 102 there. Everything else was negative, so they put me on two antibiotics and we await culture results. I think they will be negative.....I guess I'm just one hot mama, hahahaha!

I feel great this morning and think we will more than like have our weekly trip into the City which is always a great thing to look forward to.

In the meantime, I had planned to "escape" to Michigan the second weekend of December to put some things in order, a plan which changed last night. It's hard for me to accept that I cannot live as I have been accustomed to - "normal" is not my normal for the time being, but for those of you who know me, I never was very "normal" anyway! Being shut up in a plane for hours with lots of bacteria floating around is not something I can manage right now, boohoo!

I have to tell you about California and its medical system......VERY different from Michigan. You would NEVER walk into University of Michigan clinics or hospital and see things "junked" up nor would you see that at Beaumont in Royal Oak and most certainly not at Kettering Hospital in Dayton; however, that's all I have seen here.

The ER at Standford was just a tiny step above third world, junk everywhere. The portable x-ray machine looked like it was out of the Ark, BUT the service was topnotch - the staff everywhere have been incredible, competent, caring, intelligent, never better. They even faxed my Rx to Walgreen's last night without me asking.

My oncologist keeps her King George puppy in her office and was holding and petting it as I talked to her when I left last time. We Michiganders apparently are focusing on appearances more than on service - we are uptight and anal. It's too bad the medical community back home can't experience this. I must admit my first impression was not so favorable and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Not to say that appearances are not important, they are, but that should not be the primary goal. We need to lighten up...hmmmmmmm, maybe it's the weather....or is it something in the water?

Discussion to be continued.........!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Life delivers Roses.....

My first "rose"....a call from my surgeon Friday saying my genetic testing was negative! I have always felt my mother's cancer was a result of her polio and all of the ensuing medical interventions. Even though I am at the high end of the risk chart, genetics did not have a hand in it. I was overjoyed to pass the good news on to my girls and their father.

The second "rose" haircut early Saturday. Even the "bad" stuff seems to make me feel better, like I am getting that much closer to being finished with all of this. I didn't want to watch, although my cousin took photos I have not yet looked at. My wig which looks very much like my own hair was immediately placed on my head and I didn't remove it until about 12 hours later.

Brrrrrrrr, I had no idea how cold a bare head could be. I was glad I had purchased a little beret, but today I realized that a tight-fitting hand knit cap sent by a good friend in Michigan kept me much warmer. Scarves are okay, the wig will have it's place, but I think I am about to embark on a knitting and crocheting frenzy. There are so many great patterns out there....caps are more comfortable and less trouble than anything else. What do I care if people realize I am bald or if they wonder whether I have cancer? I am more than happy to talk to anyone about what needs to be done to stay healthy.

And the last "rose" of the most beautiful full rainbows I have ever seen greeted me as I rounded the corner on my way for juice this morning. From now on, I will take my camera with me. Not a tear was shed over the loss of my hair, but I must say the rainbow brought a few. It felt like a promise from God that this will never again happen to me.....and if I believe, it will be so.

Yes, I am having difficulty sleeping tonight, but all is well!

PS These beauties are some I can see from my bedroom window. Nice, huh? The camellias will be blooming soon.