Saturday, July 31, 2010

There's a cricket in my ear

Or at least that's what it sounds like. This Cisplatin causes the side effect of ringing in the ears. Of course, I don't get the typical constant humming. I get the intermittent chirping! Very annoying. I think I'll name him "Tiny" cause he's gotta be small to fit down in there! I just hope he crawls out by morning . . .

I had treatment #6 today and I got Rosemary back as my nurse. She is so awesome, I just love her! She takes a lot of time with my arm to get a good vein. She puts on a tight tourniquet, wraps it in a warm blanket, and pats the veins several times to get them to plump up. Once again, she got it on the first try with hardly a pinch! No ports to fear when Rosemary is near! I told her about last time and the difficulty the nurse from the IV team had. I said she really should be on the IV team. I think I'll write her a letter of recommendation. As long as she can stay in the chemo department at least until I'm done!!

So now, I go back next week for the triple dose and then 2 weeks off! Woo Hoo!! I just wish the summer wasn't over so we could take off to the beach for a few days. I'm getting the guilt trip from the kids that we haven't done anything fun this summer. I try to remind them of all the full-day playdates they've had, the camps they've been to, the pool, the movies, . . . but without a beach trip they're not buying any of it. We had plans to go to the beach this summer, but then the uninvited Cancer guest came to overstay its welcome. I do feel horribly guilty about that. And about all the things I can no longer do with the kids. Every time they ask me to do something that I really don't have the energy for, I try to make a different excuse because "mommy doesn't feel good right now" is getting old! I am so angry with this disease for all its robbing me of!! My hair is very thin now, it's still relatively long, but the hairline is looking pretty scant. I know from my previous experience that once I get this triple dose, it should fall out all at once in about 2 weeks. I predict I will be buzzing it by August 27th.

At least I won't be teaching at that time. Not real happy about that, but I have to face reality. If I can't walk to the mailbox without stopping for a rest, there is no way I can endure a 6.5 hour school day with 4-year olds. I would be passed out after the first Music and Movement activity! My wonderful project director has offered to sub for me until I'm ready to come back. How lucky is that?! My best case scenario is that once I get on this every 3 weeks regimen, I'll have 2 good weeks where I can work and be off only 1 week. Then I'll be done in October and should be back to work full-time by November. It will be okay . . . but maybe I should start charging to read my blog for replacement income! How does $2 per post sound?? Ha! Ha! I'd better add some more Rachel Rose stories if I'm going to do that, her adventures are worth at least a buck!

And don't tell him I'm writing this, but please keep John in your thoughts and prayers. He's looking pretty haggard to me lately. I know he would never admit anything is bothering him, but it's completely understandable - he's got a lot on his plate!!! In addition to me dealing with "C", his older brother, Bob, who lives in Milledgeville is battling it, too. Bob was diagnosed just before me with stage 4 esophageal cancer. He is undergoing chemotherapy and having to deal with a large tumor on his esophagus. We would appreciate prayers for Bob and his family for comfort and healing. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I had my appt with Dr. Salmieri this morning and got some encouraging news. My CA125 blood test is coming down. 35 and below is considered "safe." When I began treatment in June, mine was 106. It is now 81! Still not as low as it was when I finished chemo the first time, it got as low as 7. But at least it's heading in the right direction.

And Dr. S told me I could switch to the every 3 weeks regimen of chemo treatments. Hallelujah! This is the way I had chemo the first time. I had one big dose, then 3 to 4 days of yuck, then 2 weeks of feeling normal! The weekly dose I've been taking was supposed to be easier than this. But in my case it has been just the same. What usually happens is I have my treatment on Thursday and I feel okay on Friday, but then miserable for Sat, Sun, and Mon. Tuesday is when I start coming out of the yuck, and then Wednesday is fairly normal. But then it's Thursday again and it all starts over. So it's been typically 3 to 4 days of yuck, and 2 to 3 days of normal . . . I want those 2 weeks of feeling good like I had before!

So Dr. S said it would be fine to switch. The downside is the new dose at each treatment will be 3 times the strength it is now. It will last for 3 weeks until my next dose. But it's the same protocol I did before, and I tolerated it. If I can have a longer break in between, I'd rather bite the bullet and take the stronger dose.

So this means I will have my same treatment this week. Then I will begin the every 3 weeks regimen. I'll only have 4 of those and should still finish up in late October. I am praying that this is the solution to how miserable I've been feeling.

Yesterday and today have been good days. I got up yesterday and was able to sweep the kitchen floor, vacuum the living room, and do some laundry. I did lie down for a nap afterward! Then today, the girls and I went shopping for some back to school clothes. Bless their hearts, I never realized how rarely we go out shopping, they were so excited! They had to try on everything and strike poses in the fitting room mirrors - Rachel Rose has a crazy tiger growl move! And Caroline could have been making music videos! I was laughing my head off!

Tomorrow is kindergarten roundup and RR and I get to ride the REAL school bus to it! I can't believe my baby is starting school . . . Mashburn Elementary will never be the same again!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Still not feeling great

Still not feeling great. Treatment was on Thursday and lasted a whopping 8 hours! Next to the allergic reaction, this was the worst treatment so far. My nurse didn't even want to attempt starting my IV, so she called in a more experienced nurse to do the job. After 2 sticks, she couldn't get a vein. So the "IV team" was called in. This specialized nurse tried once on the inside of my forearm, but wasn't happy with it. She then tried the back of my wrist and it worked. So after 4 sticks, they all suggested I talk to my dr about getting a port. Ick.

I do have an appointment with Dr. Salmieri on Wednesday. I have several things I plan to discuss with him. First and foremost, I want to know if there is any improvement. The radiation treatments are over and I understand that the effects can keep working for weeks afterward. But what concerns me is the lump in my neck is still there and actually feels larger than before. Can it be possible for a tumor to grow during radiation?? I don't have the neck/shoulder pain anymore. But my eye is not any better. I'm really beginning to wonder why they can't do surgery and just remove the lymph node altogether.

I also want to ask about changing the treatment regimen. This weekly schedule is killing me! In the beginning, my understanding was that the weekly treatments were supposed to be shorter and lighter. There was supposed to be little to no down time. As it is now, I have maybe 2 to 3 days a week when I feel decent. The rest of the week is either spent in the chemo chair or on my couch feeling exhausted, nauseous, and utterly sick! I am barely up and moving around before I have to go back for another dose. I am beginning to hate the infusion center, just the walk through the parking lot makes me ill now!

I have begun experiencing the neuropathy (numbness) in my hands and feet. And I've developed these small red bumps on my palms. These can develop into blisters and are just one of the side effects of chemo. My hair is falling out slowly, thank goodness. I haven't gotten to the point of wanting it buzzed yet. Also, I'm having random hot flashes and chills, don't know if that's from the chemo or the lack of hormones. I get thirsty, but the nausea makes me not want anything sweet. Unsweetened ice tea with lemon is about all I like to drink now. On a positive note, my throat is feeling some better. I'm able to eat almost anything now with just a little soreness. The burns on my neck and chest have now dried out and scabbed over. Sorry, gross, I know, but they don't hurt as bad now. But if I stretch my neck, the skin breaks and stings like crazy!

We'll see what happens after my appt on Wednesday. I did switch chemo to Friday this week, since Thursday is Rachel Rose's kindergarten orientation. At least, I should be feeling good by then. Maybe I can even get a week off of chemo this time, ahhhh . . . sounds wonderful!

Friday, July 23, 2010


I'm having a rough patch. Here is one of several things that has gotten me down . . .

Chloe passed away on Wednesday. We actually had to put her to sleep. I was soooo hoping it would never have to come that with her. I always imagined her death as finding her one afternoon curled up in a sunny spot and going to pet her and realizing she had died peacefully in her sleep. Wouldn't we all like to go like that! But no, Chloe got sick, very sick. When I took her to the vet, she was barely moving on her own. She stayed in a hunched position and would only stagger a few inches to a new spot where she would crouch again. I later learned that cats in pain will do this, show restlessness but remain hunched up. Her nose was stuffed and crusty with gook and her breathing was labored. She would meow every so often and it was the most pitiful, heartwrenching sound I've ever heard. When the vet was feeling her belly, she commented that her bladder was very full. Chloe had had kidney problems for a long time, which is common in older cats, but her symptoms were merely drinking and peeing more than usual, not a big deal. I guess she hadn't been able to go to her litterbox the past few days, so she'd been holding it. As the vet pressed harder, suddenly Chloe peed all over the table. It was a lot, and it was bloody. The vet mentioned that there might be something more serious going on with her, but she was going to start her on an antibiotic for the infections and see if it helped. They also gave her IV fluids while we were there. But her weight, which has always been low (she was so tiny, her normal weight was 7 pounds!), had now dropped to 4 pounds. She had nothing left to fight with.

I took her home and tried to get her to eat and drink, but no luck. She moved around the living room and foyer for about half an hour. It was then that I noticed blood drops on the carpet. I looked at her bottom and saw that she was bleeding from her urinary tract. I called the vet back and they told me it was normal for cats to dribble blood with a urinary tract infection. So I put a towel under her and kept an eye on her. As she moved from place to place, the bleeding seemed worse. I looked again and her entire back end - fur, tail, and back legs - were now covered in blood. There was no urine in it at all, it was bright red. This did not seem like "dribbling."

I decided then to take her to the emergency clinic since the normal vet was closed, it was 7:00. Mom had come over that afternoon so she stayed with the girls for me. I called John and he started on his way home. At the emergency clinic, the dr took Chloe to examine her. At first, he suggested keeping her overnight, giving her IV antibiotics, and doing an ultrasound in the morning to determine the source of the bleeding. The estimate for all that was $1000. I asked him what sort of treatment could be done if they found something like a tumor. He said that would be a problem since she was too old to tolerate surgery. I decided there was no sense in finding out she had something serious if there was no way to treat it. I was hoping it was just the urinary tract infection causing the bleeding. Maybe when the vet squeezed her belly, a blood vessel had burst in her bladder and it would soon stop bleeding. He said that could be possible. He suggested just keeping her overnight with the IV antibiotics and fluids and not doing the ultrasound. This estimate was $500.

John had not arrived yet and I was trying to figure out what to do on my own. My gut wanted them to save her no matter the cost! I just wanted her to get better and come back home and be Chloe again. But I knew in my head that she had already beat the odds by making it to 18 and she had to die at some point, we all do. I just didn't know if this was her time to die and I hated that I had to make that decision. I kept looking into her eyes and waiting for her to give me some sign that she was ready to go. She seemed to know I was there and would peacefully close her eyes when I petted her head. She didn't seem to have given up yet. I didn't know what to do.

Finally, John arrived. He was shocked at the state she was in. After a few minutes of talking it through, we decided to take her home. We would give her one more dose of antibiotic and see if she improved overnight. I know how well the girls feel after being on an antibiotic for 24 hours. I was hoping for the same with Chloe. Plus, I would feel much better having her at home near me and I know she would rest better there, too.

So we set her up in our bathroom. She doesn't like to be locked in there, even though the hard floor is easier to clean than her favorite carpet spots, but this time she didn't protest. I wrapped her in a towel to try and keep her warm since her temperature had dropped. She didn't move or make a noise, so I went to bed. Around 2am, I woke up to check on her. She had crawled out of the towel and moved into a corner under the counter. I went over to pet her, secretly hoping she had passed away already, but she lifted her head and meowed when I touched her. I could tell she had been moving around quite a bit because there was blood all over the floor and cabinets. I put the towel back over her with her still in the corner and went back to bed.

I prayed for God to take her soon. And I prayed for my dad in heaven to come get her. My dad, who died 12 years ago, was very fond of Chloe. And that is incredible since my dad was a huge redneck who raised hunting dogs! But I think he loved Chloe because I loved Chloe, and because he loved me. Chloe has always been tied in a special way to my dad. At my parents' house, my dad's recliner sat next to the outside door. When I would come home on weekends, Chloe would drive Daddy nuts wanting to go in and outside repeatedly. She would sit by the door and meow at him until he opened it for her. Then she would do the same from the outside. I wish I knew how many times Daddy opened that door for my silly cat! And then on Sunday nights, Chloe could sense that it was time to go back to my apartment and she did not like riding in the car. So, she would hide before I got ready to leave. Every Sunday, it became a ritual to load up my car and then go out looking for Chloe! A few times, we found her on top of the piano hiding behind the picture frames. But more often than not, she would be out in the woods behind our house. And Daddy would have to go traipsing off to get her. She would let him scoop her up and bring her back almost as if she enjoyed making him go through all that! And secretly, I don't think Daddy minded all that much.

I knew she would be happier and healthier with Daddy in heaven. Just like all of us will be one day. Since she was deaf and I couldn’t tell her I was okay for her to leave, I prayed to God to tell her for me. I just wanted her to let go.

The next morning, John and I got up to check on her. As I opened the door, I could see she was still crouching. But when I walked over to her and she saw me, she raised up on her front legs and began meowing. She still knew me. I checked her bottom and told John that I thought there was less blood and more urine, something hopeful, maybe. But then he noticed her mouth. She had begun bleeding there, too. Her meows were excruciating to hear and after a few times, she was too weak to even make a noise even though she kept trying. There was more blood all over the bathroom and her towel had deep stains. I couldn't believe she was still alive. I knew we had to help her at this point. She wasn't getting better, not ever. She was suffering.

I knew what we had to do, but that was a tough phone call to make! Actually saying the words to the vet just about killed me! They said we could bring her that morning. So John drove the girls to mom's house and I stayed with Chloe. I had about an hour with her, just her and I. I wrapped her in a clean towel and held her in my lap. I kept petting her head and trying to get her to keep her eyes closed, it seemed like she was peaceful then. A few times, she tried to struggle and I couldn't understand why she didn't just relax. Maybe the pain. I was anxious to get to the vet and just make her feel better.

The ladies at the vet were very nice. Of course I was a bawling mess. They gave me tissues. Chloe was very scared, I could tell. Her eyes were big and dilated and she became agitated on the table. The dr was giving us some time with her, but I asked John to call them in and go ahead and give her the shot. I wanted her out of pain as soon as possible. So they came with the pink medicine and injected it into her leg. I stayed at her head rubbing her ears and forehead, she always liked that. Finally, the dr said she was gone. I felt so much better knowing that she was no longer in pain. I really was truly happy that she was healthy again and happy in heaven, driving Daddy crazy again! But wow, did my heart hurt.

We brought her home in a nice little box. John found a shady place between four little trees in our nature area and dug a hole. The girls decorated the box with Chloe's name and drawings of her with a fish and a mouse! I took her upstairs and gave her a bath. I know that sounds pretty morbid and I can't believe I actually washed my dead cat! But she was normally such a beautiful cat with the whitest, softest fur. And now she was a mess with blood and bile all over her. I didn't want my last memory of her to be like that. So I bathed her, blew her dry, and brushed out her beautiful fur. She looked amazing. Her fur was softer than it has been in a long time. I sat and petted her for a while. That's the one thing I will miss the most, just touching her.

We had a little ceremony, complete with a Rachel Rose prayer! We'll probably add some gravel, plant some flowers, and put a little headstone. Make it a nice place to come and visit and remember her. She was, after all, a huge part of our lives for 18 years. I got her when I was 22 years old and she has been with me all this time. She and I were truly bonded and knew each other as well as we knew ourselves. She was like a part of me and now I feel like I've lost a body part. It's so weird not to see her lying in her favorite spots, or hear her padding around the floor. I never realized until now how often I would walk over and pet her or pick her up, it was just a routine. The house seems so strange now that she's not in it. I keep looking for her and envisioning her in her normal places. Maybe it will get better.

I have to say, I do feel a sense of relief. I've been dreading this for a long time and now it's done and I made it to the other side! Also, I'm not worried about her anymore. It can be nerve-wracking having a cat who is 18 years old and deaf. Wondering if she is going to get suddenly sick, or fall from somewhere high, or get outside and get hurt. At least I know she is happy now, much happier than she ever was here with me. And I will get to see her again one day. I can always look forward to that.

One thing I've done to help prepare myself for her death, is to collect her loose fur. There is a company that can spin pet fur into yarn and create keepsakes - scarves, hats, throws, etc. I'm not sure what I can get with the fur I've collected so far, but maybe at least something small. Something I can still touch and pet and feel a little piece of her. I know I'm a little over-the-top when it comes to Chloe, I always have been. But at least I didn't have her stuffed! That was a consideration for a while!! I just miss her. So much. So so much.

Oh well, I've written a novel here. But it was good to get it all out. Writing is therapeutic for me. Thanks for reading this far, and thanks for all the thoughts and prayers. I'm going to post pictures soon of Chloe through the years, more therapy for me! By the way, the photo of Chloe in the post below was taken just last month on June 25, healthy and beautiful!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chloe is sick

My cat Chloe is 18 years old. I have had her since she was a kitten. Her mother was a beautiful Himalayan who was probably abandoned and became feral. She had a litter of kittens in a drawer of a dresser in our backyard storage building. One day, my uncle came to get the dresser with the intention of refinishing it. He called once he got home to ask if we would come please get our cats out of the drawer! There were three kittens altogether, two of them were too wild to catch and ran off, the third was little Chlo-bug.

She lived with me in my first apartment when I began teaching. She "married" John with me and became our first "child". She tolerated Caroline being born and slowly warmed up to her by the time she was about 3. Then when Rachel Rose came, she knew the drill and warmed up even sooner. When we moved into our house now, Chloe turned 12. We noticed then that she was going deaf. But her activity level remained the same. She would dart around the house on a whim and bat at your feet from under the bed. She loved being outside and would jump onto the railing of our deck and nap. Anytime we were gone for a few days, she would welcome us back by forcing attention from us. Anyone sitting on the couch was fair game for a jump in their lap and licks on their hands.

I noticed a couple of nights ago, that she seemed to be feeling bad - very lethargic, not eating, sporadic vomiting. I took her to the vet this morning to get checked out. She has an upper respiratory infection and a urinary tract infection. She has had both of these before, but not at 18 years old. They gave her an antihistamine and an antibiotic which she takes without much fuss since her energy is so low. I hope they will help. Right now, she is in our master bath since her urinary tract is bleeding. She doesn't like being stuck in there and she protested with a few muffled meows. But she's mostly just lying still and not moving around.

I have tried to prepare myself for Chloe's death many times. I know she has surpassed most average cats with her age and health up until now. It's still hard. I'm hoping she pulls through this. She means the world to me.

Anyway, I am physically doing okay. This last chemo might not have been the worst in degree, but it has lingered longer. Today is Tuesday and I'm just now feeling like getting off the couch, treatment was Thursday. My chest and throat have been pretty bad, too. The radiation burns are at their worst right now, I was told. They will start to get better but it might take up to a month. The burns on my chest are visible and feel like the worst sunburn you can imagine with sores interspersed. It itches, but if I scratch it then the stinging comes. I try to keep Aquaphor on it at all times and wear low-cut shirts without collars. It still hurts. And I imagine the inside of my throat looks the same. Swallowing can feel like shards of glass going down sometimes. I am figuring out what foods and drinks are safe and easy to swallow, but some of them don't taste right or they make me more nauseous. My trusty lemons are like acid now. Watermelon is still good, and so are baked potatoes, saltine crackers, macaroni and cheese, ice cream, and lemon italian ice. So much for eating healthy!

My hair has begun to fall out a little. Just a few strands at a time. I'm thinking it's going to be slow this time since my dose is less. But if it trickles out like this for a long time, I might get fed up with it and end up shaving it soon. I can't stand hairs falling into everything! But then again, as long as it's sticking around, I'll probably keep it the way it is. Hang onto normal for as long as I can!

Big thanks to Julie for dinner the other night!! My kids loved it and the lemon squares were delicious - easy to swallow and lemon-y!! There is now a website for the dinner schedule I'm not exactly sure how it works, but it looks pretty easy - you just click on a calendar square and sign up. I appreciate everything being done for me and my family!!! And I deeply appreciate the prayers - keep 'em coming!!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

4 down, 14 to go!

Today was treatment #4 out of 18 total. It was my first time with the new drug, Cisplatin. The nice lady from the chemo pharmacy came to talk to me about it. She said she likes to group the chemo drugs into 3 categories - those that cause "mild" nausea, those that cause "medium" nausea, and those that cause "high" nausea. Guess which one the Cisplatin is in - Bingo! "HIGH" nausea!! She said the Carboplatin is in the "mild" nausea group (could've fooled me!) and she was disappointed they weren't going to try it one more time - a "challenge treatment" she called it, to make sure the reaction last week wasn't a fluke. I don't know, I'm not the doctor and I don't get paid the big bucks to know the risks. But I do know that typically second allergic reactions tend to be more severe than the first ones and anaphylaxis is a possibility with Carboplatin. I REALLY wasn't too excited about suffocating and passing out, especially since I was in the same cubicle as last week - creeped me out a little bit!

I have read that they can infuse the carbo much slower to reduce the risk of reaction, but I really think I'd just rather try the cisplatin if it's just as good. Even though everyone I've talked with has told me to expect "a significant change in the amount of stomach upset" with the cisplatin - but hey, maybe I will feel even better afterward! What? Don't laugh, anything is possible! I know, I know . . . even when I told the nice pharmacy lady this optimistic prediction, she just gave me a patronizing smile as if saying, "oh little child, what a lollipop and rainbow world you must live in!"

But I did get new anti-nausea drugs. One is a patch that works like the Zofran but in continual doses. I'm supposed to put it on my upper arm the night before chemo and leave it on for the week. The only problem was I couldn't get it until this morning. Yesterday, CVS and Ingles didn't have it since it's very new. Lakeside did have it, but they were closed by the time it got called in. So I went in early this morning to get it and put it on just before the chemo started. It may have been too late to work this time, but a little late is better than never at all!!

The other drug is a pill, actually 3 pills, called Emend. It was made to work specifically with Cisplatin and is supposed to be pretty good. I took one the morning of chemo and the other two for the next two mornings. We'll see how it goes . . . I have plenty of lemons (thanks, Melissa and Bart!) and ginger ale, just in case!

I have to add this . . . when the pharmacist handed me the bag which was oh, maybe the size of a ziploc sandwich bag, he said I didn't have a copay at this time. But, the bag was holding about $1000 worth of medicine. Shut Up!! So glad I have insurance. But you know, lots of insurance have a lifetime cap on the amount they will pay. I need to call and find out if mine does and what that cap is . . . and how close I am getting to it!

The treatment went by without a hitch, Thank You God! I had the VIP cubicle again, extra big with a window and next door to the bathroom. But I didn't have my same nurse, Rosemary. Instead I had a super cute Russian redhead named Lucy who had a great accent and sense of humor. Rosemary came by to say hello and chat for a minute. And when I would see her walking by she would give me a sad little wave. I felt like a cheating spouse! I thought about explaining to her that it wasn't my fault, that these things happen beyond our powers, that I still preferred her but I was just exploring some other options. I wasn't ready for a complete separation and if she was willing, we could try it again next time. We'll see what happens . . . maybe I should bring flowers and candy just in case, what do you think?

This new treatment with the Cisplatin does take longer. They have to give me an extra bag of fluids with potassium and magnesium since the drug can cause kidney damage. So that adds an extra 2 hours, ugh! But the time does end up going by faster because I am constantly getting up to pee every 5 minutes! Good thing I'm in the VIP room! The only glitch is when they put in the floor for the infusion center, they used thresholds in the doorways that are raised a little. So getting the IV pole over that little bump can be a challenge. Especially, when you are loopy from Benadryl, like I was. Today, Lucy caught my pole just as it was nosediving into the toilet! I was busy concentrating on my own feet that I didn't notice all of the 6 wheels weren't all the way inside the door. What a mess that would've been, might have even pulled out my IV, eewww!

I was so thankful today that the Benadryl worked beautifully! Not much restlessness, but lots of sleepiness. I was able to take a lovely nap for an hour or two. Lucy brought me a pillow and warm blanket and off to lalaland I went. Which was very good considering the steroids were going to keep me up all night. Time check - 12:25am and not even sleepy. Guess I'll keep writing . . .

My biggest complaint lately has been my throat, it's killing me. The girls both went to the dr yesterday, and although the rapid strep test came back negative for both, the dr was convinced when she looked at each one's throat. Caroline's is horrible!! She can't eat hardly anything without it hurting. I let them both get their own quart of ice cream and eat it whenever they want, at least they'll be keeping up their calories. But they hate it that I'm making them brush their teeth extra, hee! hee! hee! (evil mom laugh).

So I keep panicking that my throat is hurting with strep. I keep looking with a flashlight and I can't see the telltale red polka dots, so I figure it's just the radiation effects. It hurts way down in my throat near my collarbone and that's where they "beamed" me. I actually have pretty bad radiation burn across my chest. It itches, but burns if I scratch it, a lot like a sunburn with sores. I have a cream to use and it's getting better. Just the sore throat is my biggest problem. I can eat a few bites of something, but then it starts hurting too bad and I have to stop. I've been eating quick little snacks throughout the day and taking Advil/Motrin religiously!

In fact, this afternoon I came home from treatment AT 5:15!!! I love my sister! She kept the girls all day for me not realizing it was going to be so long!! Anyway, after I came home, I took a nap. When I woke up, my throat was hurting worse so I went to get the Motrin and found only 2 left! Yikes, how was I going to make it through the night with only 2?! I did NOT feel like driving to the store, so I called our angels, the Maiello's, up the street. They had a bottle, so I sent Caroline to go borrow some. After changing into a brand new outfit complete with matching hat (gosh, I dread the teen years!), she set off. As I was watching her from the window, I noticed two little dogs running loose in someone's yard. I thought, what a coincidence! Someone else in the neighborhood has a little brown dog and a little white dog just like us! Wait a second . . . those ARE OUR DOGS!!! Penny!!! Cisco!!! Get your BEE-hinds back in the fence, NOW!!! I still have no idea how they got out, or rather how Penny got out. She's always the instigator and Cisco just follows along. I know how to teach 4- and 5-years old how to think for themselves and make the right choices, but what about puppies?! Can't really ask them to "use your words!" Woof, woof!!

Okay, time check - 12:48am, need to wrap this up. Before I do, I want to say a huge THANKS to Melissa and Bart! My yard looks amazing!! And dinner was delicious!! Thank you for all the extras, that was really sweet!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


So - Caroline and Rachel Rose both have strep throat! Not confirmed, but just by looking I can see the telltale signs. Caroline has been running a fever, Rachel Rose not yet. Tomorrow I plan to take them both to the doc before I have my blood drawn. And John, who is still in NC, is now thinking his sore throat and headache may be related. If I get sick from them, then it will be no chemo for me on Thursday. The blood tests will decide.

I heard back from Dr. S today and he has decided to change my chemo from the Carboplatin (which I reacted to) to Cisplatin. The nurse told me it's just as good, except it has more side effects. She said to expect more nausea. Super. She prescribed an anti-nausea patch that I will wear for a week. It's supposed to be stronger than the Zofran I was taking. Let's hope so!

I want to say a huge thanks to everyone who offered to help with the yardwork. We have it covered - thank you, Bart and Melissa!!! And a yummy thank you to Elizabeth. Dinner was delicious and so were the 31 bags!!! You really shouldn't have, but I do LOVE them!

Monday, July 12, 2010

I wish I could fly

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to fly? The particular reason I am contemplating this superpower is that I have begun to dread my stairs. The chemo exhaustion is at its peak. I can barely walk through the house without taking breaks. The stairs are like Mount Everest. If a need arises that requires me to ascend them, for example, taking a shower, I first weigh the absolute necessity of the task - take a whiff of myself. Then I consider how long it could be put off - have the houseplants begun to wilt. If it truly is urgent, I then sit for a minute and collect all the other reasons I have to go upstairs - bring a daughter some toilet paper (she's only been sitting there for half an hour), turn off the alarm clock that's been buzzing, feed the hamster, and maybe throw down some laundry. Multi-tasking at its best.

So then I'm off, hoping I can reach the summit without oxygen. The first steps aren't too bad and thankfully, we have 2 landings that break up the climb. I take advantage of each one by flopping face down when I reach them to catch my breath. The last leg is achieved by crawling on hands and knees, but finally, I make it to the top! I pull myself over the last step and collapse in a huffing and puffing fit. Victory is sweet and I only wish I had a flag to stick to the handrail.

After a few minutes, I finally catch my breath or I fall asleep which happens too often. I'm able to stand up and complete my tasks. Mission accomplished!

Then the doorbell rings - dangit!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My church

I hate to say it, but honestly, we are not regular church-goers. It's not that I don't want to be. I actually get a lot of inspiration from the messages and soak up the atmosphere of a beautiful sanctuary. I really can't give any good excuses for not going to church regularly, except to say that I get as much, if not more, inspiration and peace from a quiet Sunday morning in my backyard. I love my backyard, my deck particularly. Sitting outside with my flowers, the birds, my dogs, the occasional daughter that wanders out with me - it's church to me. I can look out at the lake through the trees or the blue sky above and feel the strongest connection with God and all His glory. When there's a breeze I feel like He's reaching out to me. I talk with Him while I'm out here. I pour out my worries and we work on the best way for me to handle them. I also pour out my thanks for all the good He has done in my life. It is my sanctuary, my haven, my favorite place to be - it's my own personal church. And I'm so glad it's in the shade! :-)

This weekend has been good. The extra dose of steroid I received on Thursday to counteract the allergic reaction put me on a high that lasted until Saturday! I went for 36 hours with 3 hours sleep. My last radiation treatment was Friday morning (woo hoo!) and afterward the girls and I celebrated by going to the movies and then shopping. I gotta say, 3D animated kids movies are so much more entertaining when you're tripping on drugs! Not that I'm recommending that!!

The nausea has been practically nil this time (again, thank you extra drugs!), but I've had a twinge here and there just enough to keep me from having the raging appetite that normally comes with the steroids. I was expecting my hair to begin coming out this weekend based on my first experience. But nope, not yet. What if it magically doesn't fall out this time?! What if I am the rare case that loses all of it the first time, but none at all during the second? Not likely, but one can hope . . . I've got a couple headcovers ready and waiting.

So John is going to be gone all week most likely. Big week at the club - "Member Guest Tournament"!! I remember early in our marriage, when we first began experiencing the "Member Guest" phenomenon. I had no idea what I had signed up for. It's like the Master's on steroids! Busy, stressful, busy, exhausting, and busy! But it always ends with a big, fancy dinner where I get to wear a pretty dress and have a date with my sweetie. Small price to pay for time alone with my hottie husband! The bad thing is the dinner is on Saturday and that's usually my "yucky day" after my Thursday treatment, so I probably won't be able to make it this year. Makes me sad, especially since it's a great opportunity to spend an evening with our amazing Cullasaja family who have been so wonderful to us. I guess I'll send my best regards to them through John and we'll have a date night some other time. Or, I could ask for extra steroids during my treatment again and go anyway flying high as a kite!!!

But this brings me to the yardwork. Since John is not available this week, I would like to ask if anyone can refer us to a lawn company that could do a one-time mow and trim? Just the basics, nothing fancy, we just want to keep the grass below the dogs' nose levels! Thanks!

Hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Friday, July 9, 2010

3rd treatment

Third treatment was today. And I'm sorry to say it was bad, reeeaal BAD! I woke up this morning feeling great, had the girls taken care of for the day, got all my favorite things packed (thank you, Alecia, the fruit plate was perfect for chemo snacking!), I was not dreading anything. I got there and Rosemary was my nurse again, we got to chatting while she hooked up all my poisons. The Benadryl hit me pretty hard. I could NOT be still. I had ice bags on my fingers and toes and I didn't want to move them. Oh, I haven't explained about the ice, have I? Okay, quick tangent -
I learned recently that this weekly regimen of Taxol can cause your nails to fall out as well as your hair. I know, gross! Actually, it causes the nail to separate from the skin and then it gets caught on stuff and rips off. I know, double gross!! Well, I read from another chemo patient's message board post that icing your fingers and toes during the infusion helps keep them from coming off. Apparently, the cold slows the blood flow to them and the Taxol going in doesn't affect them as much. Now, I'm thinking if you had cancer in your fingers or toes, icing would not be a smart thing. But seeing as my fingers and toes are healthy, I thought I'd give it a shot. I even considered wearing ice in a hat for my hair and a cold gel mask for my eyelashes and eyebrows! Maybe next time . . .
So for my second treatment last week, I brought frozen peas. They would stay cold longer than ice. When I got there and explained to Rosemary what my plans were, she said they have ice bags there she could get for me. Again, lap of luxury! So she put the peas in their freezer, which I left behind, of course! Today, when I went in, Rosemary winked and said she had some peas for me!
Anyway, back to today . . . there I am with ice bags on my toes and fingers trying not to squirm. Finally, I couldn't stand it and got up to take a tour of the bathrooms. They have three and I'd only visited one up until that point. So off I go, well, after unplugging my IV pump and pulling it along with me. Do you know how bad I want to skateboard on that thing?! It has 6 wheels!! Anyway, after visiting a couple new potties, I came back to my recliner and was able to watch TV a little. I just hoped the ice was on long enough for today.
When the Taxol finished, Rosemary came to start the other drug, Carboplatin (insert dramatic horror music here). I was feeling less jittery and lay back to relax for this last leg. But about halfway through, I started coughing. Now the radiation has made my throat hurt like a bugger. Swallowing has been torture if I don't basically puree the food with my teeth. It has been like the worst case of strep throat EVAH! I did figure out a certain way of swallowing tiny bits with my tongue pressed against the roof of my mouth, and it doesn't hurt as much. But this coughing was new, it was like a tickle that wouldn't go away. Rosemary found a lifesaver for me since sipping water wasn't helping. But it didn't help either.
By now my chest was hurting, I thought it was just the coughing. Then my nose completely stuffed up. That was when I wondered if I could be having an allergic reaction. The next part happened pretty quickly. My face and neck flushed and I got really hot. My neck and throat started feeling tight and I couldn't get a good breath. Rosemary took my vitals and saw that my blood pressure was low. She went to call the doctor and quickly came back and said she was stopping the meds.
I could barely talk, but I knew I needed to call someone in case I passed out. I called Jan who called Mom. Jan had the girls and I didn't want them to know what was going on, so Mom came down to the hospital. I also called John who left work and started driving home from the mountains.
In the meantime, Rosemary brought a steroid to counteract the reaction. I was starting to feel sick like I might vomit and my chest and head were killing me. I still was having trouble breathing, but I tried to stay calm and relax and let the steroid work. But I had the same feeling as when I hemorrhaged with Caroline's birth - total helplessness and being at the mercy of medical professionals. At least I was at a hospital! I want to mention here that I have an aunt who died from a reaction to the dye during a CT scan and of course, my mind went there. But I trusted Rosemary and I hadn't passed out yet. I just felt HORRIBLE!! Can I say that again, HORRRRIBLE!!!
But there is a happy ending, or else I wouldn't feel like writing this entry tonight. After the steroid, I began to feel a little better - breathing was easier and I wasn't nauseous anymore. Mom arrived and was able to drive me home. Rosemary told me it's common to have a reaction to Carboplatin when you take it again after initial treatment. And I read online tonight that reactions commonly occur during treatments 7-11. Essentially, I've had 9 treatments of Taxol/Carbo, 6 in '07 plus these 3. She said my body has just had enough and can't take it anymore. More than likely, Dr. S will switch me to another drug, Cisplatin, which is a sister drug to Carboplatin. But I've heard it has even worse side effects or else they would start with it - yay.
So it's been an eventful day. Thank you sooooo much to my sister, Jan, who kept the girls until John and I got ready to come get them. And to my mom who came to my rescue! I'm not sure I want to go to any more chemo treatments alone now, it's definitely no longer the "chemo spa", more like the "chemo nightmare"!! We'll see . . .
By the way, Lanie makes THE best chicken quesadillas and chocolate trifle, Beth makes THE best spaghetti casserole and caesar salad (you've actually started me on a caesar salad kick!), and Alecia makes THE best chicken in wine sauce (is that "coq au vin," Alecia? delicious!). At dinner the other night, Caroline said the blessing saying, "I'm sorry Mommy has cancer, but I'm glad we get all this food!" - mouths of babes!
Well, I'm going to try to go to bed now. I doubt I'll be sleeping much tonight with a double dose of steroids (they give you energy, and an appetite). At least I'm not raiding the fridge! Yet!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Had a great 4th!

Back from the mountains last night. Do you love the 4th of July makeover I got while I was there? Rachel Rose does wonders!!

We had a great time, here are some photos The fireworks in Highlands were amazing as usual. I have to thank all the people at Cullasaja who helped out with the girls all week long. And for all the other things they have done for us these past few weeks - the cards, the gifts, the prayers, all the thoughtful gestures. We truly have an extended family up there!

And then when we got home, we found an immaculate house! And dinner waiting in the fridge! Thanks to my dear friends here at home. I have never felt so blessed. Except for this cancer thing, life is good!

Quick update on the cancer thing - nausea was much better this time. I stayed ahead of it with pills round the clock. Saturday and Sunday were the worst, but they were by far better than last time! My biggest complaint now is my throat. The radiation is making it sore and hard to swallow. You know how you feel when you're trying not to cry and you get that lump in your throat? I have that feeling. It's so annoying! Hopefully, this is my last week for rads (that's the cool way we cancer people abbreviate!) and my throat will be able to get better.

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

2nd chemo down, 16 more to go

First, I just want to let y'all know I did not glow last night when the lights went out. I know y'all were worried! :)
So today was Chemo #2 and I did not get a window seat. But that's okay, I can't be the princess every time. I did get the same nurse, Rosemary, who is the sweetest lady. Every time she came to do something, she would ask, "Can I get you anything? A warm blanket, something to drink?" Around noon, she came to see if I would like a box lunch. Sure! So there I sat, no reclined, with a cozy warm blanket on my lap, 2 different drinks, my remote control to my own TV, and a lovely turkey on wheat with chips and cookies. Ahhhh . . . wonder if they have massage around anywhere, maybe a pedicure?
The treatment was fine. My blood counts are still good. She got a vein right away for the IV. And drugs went in like normal. The man in the cubicle next to me had a reaction to one of his drugs and broke out in hives. I felt so bad for him and so lucky for me. At least chemo is manageable for me, other people have fewer options.
The Benadryl hit me pretty hard today. I got real woozy and sleepy, but if I dozed off, I would jerk awake with the jittery/antsy/"restless leg syndrome" wiggles. It was a battle of involuntary reflexes.
It took a long time again. I got there at 9:40 and left at 2:20. I went straight over to radiation and they said my "color looked off". I looked at the mirror in the changing room and I looked gray, grayish-yellow, and I had dark circles under my eyes. Fabulous! Can't wait for the hair to fall out! Gray, dark circles, bald, no eyebrows - I'm sure that's what all the celebrities will be looking like this fall, right?!
I thought about going ahead and cutting and coloring my hair for fun. But you know, I like my hair as it is because right now it is totally natural. I'm going to miss my hair. I haven't even gotten it grown out to the point I want it yet. Still won't make a proper ponytail. But I have been looking at hats and the little cadet caps out in stores are really cute, I even saw a plaid one! I like hats.
We're going up to NC to spend the Fourth with John at his club. Gonna be tons'o'fun! And no nauseau, I forbid it! Have a great holiday everybody!