Monday, March 28, 2011

Chemo, done!

Chemo went very well today. It was longer than I expected, 5 hours! But I'm hoping to get it down to 2 hours soon. My beloved nurse, Rosemary, was assigned to me today and that was a huge comfort. She knows me so well! She was as relieved as me that I have a port now. She was not looking forward to finding a vein today!

The port access went fine. I've heard it can be really painful since they have to press really hard with the needle to puncture the surface. And I only had mine put in last Wednesday and it hasn't healed all the way. But all things considered, it was a breeze. I think I figured out that I can deal with acute, sharp pains like needle sticks. It's the internal general ill feelings that are torture to me - nausea, achiness, flu-like stuff. It's then that I just want someone to shoot me and put me out of my misery!

Oh, and I did used the cold caps. They weren't as uncomfortable as I have been reading online, which makes me worry that they aren't going to work. Maybe next time I'll wet my hair first and use dry ice to get them even colder. I'm also going to start using ice packs on my eyes to try and save my lashes and brows. I'm going to look like a total idiot, but ask me if I care?!! Better to look like an idiot for an hour or two than to be bald 24/7!

I got through both drugs with no reactions, which is awesome!! And this evening, I had a great appetite. For dinner, we did a fun meal. We used one of our restaurant gift cards and just ordered a bunch of appetizers that we all shared. It was like party food for our own little private party! And now, I'm going for the ice cream for dessert! Oh yeaahhh!!!

Thanks to everyone for the thoughts and prayers for today - they worked!!! Of course they did, God is amazing!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chemo tomorrow

Getting everything ready for chemo tomorrow - cold caps are in the freezer, gathering up blankets and coats to wear with them, changed bandages on port incisions, and giving myself a pep talk. I am so hoping I tolerate this chemo and don't have too many side effects. I want to be able to live my life as normally as possible for the next six months. But I want it to work!!

A friend loaned me some books on diet and how nutrition can heal diseases. They are a wealth of information and what's interesting is they go right along with the other anti-cancer books I've read. I really want to give it a try, but it can be so hard. Finding the foods is one thing and preparing them is another. One smoothie calls for the stem of an unripe pineapple, brazil nuts, and bee pollen, among other things. And you have to blend them in a 3-horse power blender. I wish I had my own personal nutritionist/chef to make my food. For now, I am just trying to eat more fresh fruits and veggies, not so much sugar, flour, and processed foods, and organic as much as possible. If anyone has any advice about diet, I am all ears! I really do believe that what we feed our bodies can act as much like medicine as prescriptions can.

I wish I could exercise (never thought I'd hear myself saying that!!), but I'm still dealing with the shortness of breath. Any exertion - walking up stairs, taking a shower, going to the mailbox, it makes me so out of breath. My heart beats like crazy and I huff and puff for a good five minutes. Yesterday, I was feeling really good and Caroline and I ran out to the store for a birthday present. When we came out, it was pouring rain. And we had no umbrella. So we took off for a quick jog to the car which was parked pretty close. I almost passed out when we got there! Lesson learned, no impromptu cardio for me! Any other time, I would love an excuse to skip exercising. Now, not so much.

Right now, I'm watching the girls play the Wii game "Just Dance 2" - HIGH-larious, by the way!!! But I want so bad to get up and do it with them. Probably a good thing I'd get out of breath. Knowing my kids, they would get out the video camera and I'd be on YouTube within the hour!

Okay, so I'll post tomorrow about how chemo went. The first treatment of Avastin takes an hour and a half, plus the Abraxane is 30 minutes. If I do well, then they speed it up and for the rest of the treatments the Avastin will just take 30 minutes, too. That will be wonderful - total of one hour each week! Really, really hoping this plan works out!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cancer is like a plague

I did get my port put in this morning. Everything went fine, John and I even went to eat lunch at O'Charley's afterward (thanks to a gift card!). I don't remember it very much since I was still sooooo sleepy. But the port has not bothered me too much, just a little sore. It's still bandaged so I don't have to look at it yet. Monday is my treatment day and they'll take off the bandage then to access it. I'm anticipating an easy day of it with the new port and new meds. I'm hoping to breeze right through it!

I've been trying really hard to take it easy so that my strength is built up enough to tolerate the chemo on Monday. I DO NOT WANT to end up in the hospital again!!! I'll have my blood drawn on Friday probably and they'll decide then if I'm good to go or not.

This weekend John is going to visit his older brother Bob, who also has cancer. I wanted to go with him, but since it is a 4-hour trip, I'd probably better stay home and keep resting up for Monday. Bob has stage 4 esophogeal cancer that has spread to several other organs. He has had a really hard time tolerating chemo, so they've decided to give him a break from it. He's in the very advanced stages and feels terrible. I've only had a taste of the misery cancer causes, Bob has been dealing with it for months now. I know how unending it can seem when you're in the midst of the pain. He just wants some relief. We would appreciate any positive thoughts and prayers for his peace and comfort. I have some incredible prayer warriors in all of you! I'd like to share with Uncle Bob!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Going for port placement tomorrow

I decided this time around with chemo, I'd better get a port put in. Finding veins for IV's has gotten to be torture. Even though it grosses me out to think of some little appliance remaining under my skin permanently (ewwwww!), I've heard it's alot easier. And since I'll be getting a treatment every week for 3 weeks in a row, I need easy!

I've been feeling pretty good lately. I still get really out of breath anytime I move around too much. I'm using Advair diskus and I think it might be helping. But I can just tell I am not my normal self, I can tell I've got cancer. Hopefully, this chemo will work and my breathing and energy will get back to normal. I'm doing everything I can to give it the best shot.

John has started back to work and Mom has been staying with me when he's not home. We've had some incredible meals brought to us and the mail continually delivers wonderful cards and gifts. Thank you to everyone who has helped us!!! We are so blessed!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's a go for chemo!

I never talked directly with Dr. S, but when Beth told him I was having doubts about the chemo drugs, he told her to reiterate to me that ALL the doctors in the council agreed this was the best course. Avastin works by cutting off the blood supply to the cancers. It's not a traditional chemo, it works on angiogenesis. And Abraxane will work differently combined with the Avastin, but it will still work on killing the existing chemo cells.

After hearing that he feels strongly about these drugs, I feel better about taking them. I just wanted to make sure another drug wouldn't work just as well. He is the cancer doctor, after all, and I do trust him.

So, I will go for my first treatment of this new protocol on Monday, March 28. I will go in monthly cycles - week one will be Abraxane and Avastin, week two will be Abraxane only, week three will be Abraxane and Avastin, and week four will be off. I'll do this for 6 months, I believe.

One thing I want to try this time is a hair-saving technique I've been reading about. It's called cold cap therapy. Basically, I'm going to try wearing a frozen gel-filled cap during my infusion. The cold will slow down blood flow to my scalp, thus reducing the amount of drug that gets to my hair follicles. I'll probably have to change the cap once during the infusion since each cap stays cold enough for only about 30 minutes. I found a place that sells the caps, not cheap, but I should be able to get 2 caps in time for my first treatment. Here is a news clip about this technique I figure it can't hurt to give it a try!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Recommendation, no like!

Beth, the nurse practioner for Dr. S, called me this morning with the recommendation from the tumor board. Dr. S met with all the other doctors this morning and they all agreed I should change chemos. The cisplatin is too much for me. She said he would like to switch me to 2 new drugs, Avastin and Abraxane. I have heard of both of them. In fact, Mom took Abraxane when her cancer came back in 2007. It is basically taxol in a different form.

Here's the thing . . . I don't want to take the Abraxane. First, it makes your hair fall out since it's taxol-based. And second, it causes neuropathy. Mom had to stop it when her hands became too numb. Already, my feet are getting worse. It used to just be numbness in my toes. Now it has creeped into my whole foot. And my fingers. I don't want to make the neuropathy worse. It is most likely permanent where it is already. And third, I have had taxol twice now already, back in '07 and this past summer, and I still have cancer!!! I'm kinda thinking it's not working, so why keep trying it?

I explained all this to Beth and she said I could talk to Dr. S about everything. He won't be available until Thursday, so I'm just going to wait for him to call then. I don't know if it will irk him that I'm having doubts, if he will think I'm being difficult . . . probably not. He's pretty open and understanding. I just need to be on board fully with whatever treatment I'm getting. If I don't have faith in it, then it's definitely not going to work. There are lots of drugs out there that I haven't tried yet. I just need him to explain to me that it this combo is the best route. If he can convince me, then I'll be okay with it.

The hair thing is not supposed to be a big deal. I mean, what's hair when we're talking about saving my life . . . but I have to admit, it is a big deal. It will be so much easier to take the chemo and live the lifestyle if I can be normal at least part of the time. Being bald is not normal. I am really enjoying having my hair come back in. Even if it is growing back into a mohawk!!! All the waves and cowlicks make it look crazy, but it's hair! I like having hair!

So for now I'm praying for guidance and acceptance. Lord, please show me the path you have chosen for me. Guide my doctors with wisdom and compassion. Please give me peace to accept whatever is meant to be and confidence to believe it will work. I trust your will and know that I am safe in your hands. Thank you for the blessings you have given me and for this day of feeling good!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Back home . . . feels great!!

I came home yesterday from my lovely stay at Northside Forsyth. I feel soooo much better just being out of that place!!! Not that the nurses and staff weren't wonderful, they were amazing! And the room was super nice. I just hate being in the hospital! The needles, the lumpy bed, the smells, the confinement . . . it's torture! I am vowing to do everything possible to stay out of there from now on!

The thinking is that the chemo combination I had was too much. I was already run-down and not feeling great when I had it, and I just went downhill from then. My blood counts got really low and I got dehydrated from not being able to eat or drink anything. In the hospital, they gave me fluids round the clock and medicines to bump up my blood counts. Then yesterday, they decided to give me 2 blood transfusions. The sweet nurse was so anxious to get me home, she rushed everything. And I appreciated it so much because we got home before 8pm and the girls got to bed at their regular bedtimes. I got a shower to wash away the hospital cooties and curled up on my couch to spend the rest of the evening in my own home! Ahhhhh!

Today I am feeling good. I was able to eat breakfast without much nausea which is huge!!! As much as I have been wanting to lose 20 pounds, this was not the way to do it! It can be scary to go days without eating anything. John went to the grocery store and stocked us up on healthy snacks, fresh fruit, and some Boost drinks. My goal is to eat SOMEthing at every meal.

I wish I could thank every single person individually for all the help and prayers and well wishes I've received. Maybe soon I will be able to. But for now, just know that I am grateful for each of you. It overwhelms me to know how many people are thinking of me and my family. We are so blessed.

Tomorrow Dr. S is going to discuss my case with the tumor council of doctors to decide what plan to take. He is thinking of changing my drug to a different chemo. So for now, I wait to hear from him. And enjoy this beautiful day. God is giving me a special homecoming!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Update on Melinda

Hello All,

This post is going to be a little bit different, as Melinda is currently not feeling her best. So I, John, am going to update you of what is going on.

As many of you know, Melinda had her first treatment of "Round number three" this past Friday. The combination of chemo drugs were administered and we knew fairly early on that she was having difficulty tolerating them. Melinda, however, was determined to complete the infusions, return home, and start feeling better. Unfortunately, Melinda began to feel progressively worse the days that followed and ultimately had to be admitted to the hospital today. Her oncologist made the decision this morning at her regularly scheduled appointment. We all agreed that this was best, and I am now happy to report that she is feeling much better.

Many are already attempting to contact us regarding where she is and how the meal calendar will continue. Melinda is at Northside Forsyth Hospital, Cumming GA in room #5065. Yes, we will continue with the meal calendar as scheduled as the girls, myself, and other caregivers will be at the home. The meals will be a help with all that is going on. Melinda will likely be hospitalized at least through the weekend. She is scheduled to have another treatment this Friday and will be monitored closely there after.

Finally, Melinda would like everyone to know that her spirits are high and she is determined more than ever to do what ever it takes to beat this. Our entire family is grateful for all of the support we have received. Whether it's a kind word, note, card, meal, or prayers we are grateful to all of you.

-The Young Family

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Meal calendar is up

My sister, Jan, has the meal calendar up and running. You can follow this link,, and login or create an account. There are dates highlighted where you can sign up to bring a meal. Back in the summer, when we did this before, I would leave a large cooler on my front porch. People would drop the food off in case I wasn't home or wasn't feeling up to answering the door. It worked really well. I couldn't believe all the delicous food we received!!! And it was a huge help not to have to cook.

Also, someone mentioned donating gift cards. Of course that is always appreciated! You can even mail them to my address. It's here posted on the blog to the right.

I appreciate all the offers to help. I will definitely be taking you all up on them at some point. John will be going back to work in NC next week and his time at home will be limited. My mom and sister are close, but Mom has her own cancer to deal with and my sister has her plate full with me and Mom! Oh yeah, and her job and two kids!! So I truly appreciate all of you!!!

I was able to get my first chemo treatment moved up to this Friday. So, instead of waiting until Tuesday, I get to start before the weekend. John is still able to go with me. I'm hoping it's uneventful and quick!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Healing is my job now!

Well, I finally made the difficult decision to stop teaching. It was not easy, but with the development of cancer in my lungs, it was like a wake-up call that I need to rethink my priorities. As much as I love my students, my co-workers, and teaching itself, working full-time is an added stressor. It had become more and more exhausting these past few weeks. And I felt like I wasn't able to give 100% of myself anymore. To be fair to everyone, it was best that I stopped.

So my little munchkins are now in the loving and capable hands of my assistant, Ms. Amanda. She is an amazing teacher and I feel so lucky that she is able to take over for me. She will be great!

Now my job is HEALING. I plan to focus all my energy on my health and giving this chemo a chance to work. I got the call today that I will go for my first treatment on this new regimen this coming Tuesday. I'll go in at 8:30 and should be there about 5 hours. John is going with me and will stay all day. Since one of the drugs is a new one I haven't had before, there is a chance of having a reaction to it. I've had a reaction before, and they can be pretty scary. I'll feel better knowing he is there with me.

I'm actually looking forward to this first treatment. I am hoping it will help with my breathing. I've never had asthma or breathing problems before and I know have more sympathy for those who do. Suffocating is a horrible sensation!!!

Some people have asked if I plan to start the meal calendar again. Probably, so. It just might be a while before it is up and running. I already appreciate all the offers to help! But really, the biggest way to help is to pray. God has the power to heal me and He will if only we ask him!