Midlife necessities

Midlife necessities
Midlife necessities

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Resolution Time

Hope everyone had a beautiful Christmas. Mine was different and fantastic, filled with family, a few easy errands, baking, some of our traditional movies (Little Women, The Holiday, White Christmas), great gifts, yummy food and fun games. I felt better last week, not as tired and more energy, of course because of the excitement of the holiday and having one of my kids home.

Chemo #10 December 29

Sylvia, my sweet friend from church, actually took the day off work to take me to my morning appointment, breakfast, and chemo! On her day off, she spent the whole day with me, and I'm sure grateful. She brought me a necklace that a friend of hers made and a blingy travel cup, both perfect for my "situation". I love them both.

I can fight like a girl because the Lord is my strength!

The pharmacist was worried about my low blood pressure. The staff is always worried about my low blood pressure! I guess it's my normal, and better than high blood pressure. I gained a few Christmas cookie pounds. My nurse, Berta, was happy with my blood flow through the Broviac. Apparently not everyone takes good care of their catheter or port. Of course I follow directions, and have never missed a flushing. She tried to give me Benadryl again, saying it would prevent a bad reaction from the Paclitaxel but I told her I didn't have a reaction without it last week so I didn't need it, so I just got Zyrtec, Pepcid and Dexamethasone for premeds. Learned something new again. In the infusion room where I get my treatments there are many different types of patients, not just chemo patients. There's a blood disorder that causes a person's body to make too much blood, so they have to remove some of the person's blood because it will become the consistency of sludge. What? Our bodies do some weird things sometimes.

Chemo went quickly with no issues, only felt a bit lightheaded at the beginning and then fine. The older woman next to me was having her last treatment. Her daughter had brought her two little kids and since they don't allow children under 12, the daughter had to leave. It didn't seem like it was the woman's last day, no happy signs or balloons or anything special. But I'm sure the fact that it was her last treatment was special to her!

This is the only moment Sylvia and I stopped talking!

I felt good when I got home. The dogs seemed to have a lot of energy so I thought I'd play a game of hide and seek with them. I tried to covertly go up the stairs to hide but they kept following me. The third time I tried I made it up without them seeing me, and hid behind the bathroom door. However, I was breathing so hard that I couldn't wait for them to find me, and had to come out while they were still looking. I had a hard time catching my breath just from that short burst of activity - that's what chemo does to you.

I was tired early and probably should have gone to bed before I did. I woke up thinking it was later than it was - the darn clock said 1:48am. I stayed in bed and read "I am Malala" until around 4am, and then I think I was able to take a few cat naps until around 6, when I read some more until coming downstairs at 7 to light the fire and a candle and get my first cup of coffee. Corona is having a cold snap and it's supposed to rain today. So nice.

At some point during my night of insomnia I started thinking about new year's resolutions. I seem to always have the same ones, and this year is no different, except this year getting healthy takes on a whole new meaning. So often in our daily lives we focus too much on what we can't do. It's too hard, I don't have time, I don't have enough money, I'm too (name it), I'm not (name it), other people continue to hurt me/stifle me/prevent me from/cause me to, etc. When you have the kind of wake up calls that I had this year, you better heed the call to change. I am determined to do what I can do right now. And friends, why wait until you have these kinds of wake-up calls? You don't need to lose your job, get divorced, or have a cancer diagnosis to make a change. Have that hard conversation with yourself, have it with the loved one in the important relationship you are struggling with.  Life is short, and you seriously NEVER know what's going to happen to mess up your carefully laid plans. Don't wait. Take steps, whether baby steps or a giant leap, to create your happiness NOW. Not when you retire or when your spouse retires, not when your kids are older or when your parents are no longer around. We fool ourselves into thinking it will be easier sometime down the road. We avoid confrontation, both with others and with ourselves. We avoid going to the doctor when we know we should because we are afraid of what we might hear. But you know what, it doesn't get easier, no matter how long we wait. And maybe we end up wasting a lot of time when we could have been happy, and helped others to be happy, too.

I'm a big advocate of counseling, and would recommend it to anyone. If you are having marriage issues and your spouse won't go, go by yourself. If there are any challenges, questions, decisions you are hung up on, working through them with a counselor is a great option. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having a professional help you to move forward to create the life you deserve. And when you feel good about yourself, and have hope for the future, you can experience joy in your present circumstances regardless of what they are and you'll be enough and have enough to give and receive the love God wants for you.

As 2015 quickly approaches, I resolve to put my health, relationships, and the creation of a new and fulfilling future as my priorities. And I will do this by putting God first. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may OVERFLOW with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ok, If We're Being Honest...

I was told there would be good days and bad days, and last week I met the bad days in person.

The fatigue hit me like never before. I had no energy, no motivation, and no desire to part ways with the couch. Luckily, I had a lot I could do from the couch. Paying bills, calling companies, researching options for my new health insurance situation, completing an online survey for the American Cancer Society. I got a movie I'd been wanting to see out of the bag of movies
Christie lent me and the best I could do was place it on the coffee table. I had no desire to even put it in the DVD player and watch it!

One day I slept in, got up and did my flushing, had coffee and a bowl of Cap'n Crunch, and went back to bed. Fortunately sweet Debra offered to buy me a few things at Stater's, and milk and the Cap'n Crunch were two of them. I got a new book on my Kindle, I Am Malala, and tried to read it, then got sidetracked and had to do some research on Sunni Islam, the history of Pakistan and the new report on Dr. Oz. I did run a few short errands - post office to mail Allie's box, shopping with Gus for my Rescue Mission child, a nice lunch with Theresa - but my mood was about as low as my energy (I'll go so far as to say I felt depressed) and I just couldn't shake it.

Besides all that, along with the side effects I've previously mentioned, some new ones have made themselves known. It appears that menopause wants me to join the ranks of women who flash. Day and night, with no warning, the heat comes on and my hat, scarf and sweatshirt come off. If I'm wearing all those clothes it's because I am seriously nearly completely bald now, and my head and neck get chilly. The downstairs of my house gets chilly, too, so I layer. I have several friends who have told me about their experiences with hot flashes - now I know firsthand what it's like and it's intense. I've had allergies since November 16, when we went to Ontario Mills in the big Santa Ana winds. I haven't had allergies like this for years, and have been taking the Walgreens brand of Zyrtec D every day since. AND my nurse may be wrong when she said if I hadn't already lost my brows and lashes then I wouldn't. One morning when I looked in the mirror I noticed those little hairs were a lot more sparse than the day before, and now it seems like I'm losing a few more each day. There's some other body things happening that I don't need to mention here, which makes a lot of body drama going on.

Add to all this some anger, sadness, bitterness and disappointment about some life issues and throw in a little bit of concern about the future and there you have it. The bad week I was warned about. Now I'm not writing this for sympathy or because I'm in any way inspirational. I'm including it in my blog because I am documenting my personal journey through breast cancer. I still know I'm very fortunate that my low days have been few and far between, and so many other patients have struggles far exceeding mine. I just want to be honest and transparent that I'm not always as strong as I appear.

By the weekend I felt a bit better, and was able to get dressed up with Gabby and attend Gus's lovely work party in Costa Mesa. There were Victorian carolers, fancy appetizers (no tuna tartare for me) and wine (did I have one glass???). The dinner was fantastic, and our table mates, Brenden & Sarah and Steve & Theresa, were a fun bunch. Gus and I also tried Seven Seas in Corona for Thai food, and that was delicious. It was also a nice surprise to run into Erika's friends Josh and Kaitlyn. 

Chemo #9 December 22

Blood draw and dressing change, as usual. Rafi does the best job with my dressing change. It was already a warm, spring-like day at 11am, so my hat came off and I rocked the bald look in my car, at Kaiser, Office Depot and McDonald's. I had another double cheeseburger craving, and this time ate two. Oops. Came back home to meet my parents who came out from Banning to be my chemo companions. They did a few chores for me while I ate and then we battled traffic to get to Kaiser.

Sharing the experience with Dad and Mom.

I had Doni, a nurse I've never had before. She was so sweet and caring, and did something wonderful for me. She changed my pre-meds from Benedryl to Zyrtec, and my quality of chemo life improved immensely! I continued to speak normally and stayed awake the entire time! I started treatment at 1:15, and after reading some magazines, talking with my mom, and playing a high-spirited game of War with her, I was finished by 3:30. As I always learn something new at each session, I thought I'd ask about my end-of-chemo party. As I suspected, I will need to wait a week (hopefully that's all but I'll have to follow up with my oncologist) before having the end-of-chemo party that I'm dreaming about. The one with adult beverages & a big salad bar, sushi & sashimi, eggs over-medium, fresh berries of all kinds, and brie with fresh pears and raw honey! There goes my birthday party, too! Oh well, if anything I'm practicing patience and restraint, and I can always have cupcakes! 

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 
2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Let There Be Light

All in all last week was a good one. My generous parents had my carpet cleaned for me - it's been so long I can't even remember the last time it was professionally done. Clean house, clean dogs and clean carpet for Christmas! It's so nice! I was able to do some shopping, a few dinners and breakfasts out, and even some yard work. Gus helped me with my Christmas tree and hung the house lights.  Since I have to rest and focus on my health, I'll enjoy my home while I'm doing it!

Chemo #8 December 15

Fourth treatment of Taxol out of 12 total. Gus was my chemo driver and partner, and I was really looking forward to introducing him to all my Filipino nurses! He got to see how the blood is drawn and the dressing is changed. We had a big lunch at the usual chemo day place, and were ready to start at 1:30.

The calm before the Benedryl storm!

I had my choice of chairs because it wasn't very busy so I sat at the end of the room by the window. Ben was my nurse, and we had a good time with him. The chemo experience is different than I thought it would be. Partly because of the room layout; most of the chairs, except for the the four at the end of the room, are next to each other with lots of space and machines in between making it difficult to talk to your neighbors. Plus, I never recognize any other patients there. I have treatments every week and it seems like that isn't very common, I guess most people go every three weeks. And it's so quiet! Many people seem to want to sleep or read while they are getting their treatments, and I want to laugh! I made Gus play Heads Up with me, and not only were we laughing, but so were Ben and the woman across from me. We were playing that game when my oncologist came out to talk with me.

He asked me how I was doing with treatments and I told him "great". He asked about the peripheral neuropathy, and he was surprised when I told him I haven't had any. Apparently as treatments progress I could develop this side effect but we shall have to wait and see. He reminded me that when chemo is finished I will start radiation and also begin taking Tamoxifen. I will take this drug because the type of breast cancer I had (past tense now, yay!) was hormone-receptor positive. Hormone-receptor positive breast cancers need estrogen and/or progesterone to grow, and tamoxifen blocks estrogen from attaching to the receptor. I will take Tamoxifen for at least five years and possibly up to ten, which will probably be a daily reminder that I've had breast cancer (and am beating it, too!)

The doctor then patiently answered all my questions from my list... Me: Can I play tennis? Dr: (surprised) Do you FEEL like playing tennis? I haven't played tennis in awhile because of tendonitis. Let's wait until you are finished with chemo. Me: Can I go to the dentist? Volunteer? Drink wine? (not surprised, he said he knew I'd ask him that one haha) Dr: Let's wait. Me: What about this pain in my arm, like it's pulling? It seems to be getting worse. I'm trying to stretch it out and do arm weights. Dr: That is common after lymph nodes are removed. Keep stretching and lifting, it will help prevent lymphodema. Me: When am I DONE? Dr: Your last cycle is on January 26 (Gus and I were surprised and excited until we clarified that the four Taxol cycles are three weeks' long, which makes my last chemo on February 9, which is still a few weeks' earlier than I thought and my birthday week! I'm half way through my total ACT chemo!) One last question, something that has been bothering me as I've been doing more research. Was I really Stage III? The doctor said according to him, I was Stage IIB (none of us could remember why the previous oncologist said I was Stage III). He also said it doesn't matter because it doesn't affect my treatment. But to me it DOES matter, and you can bet I'll take Stage IIB over Stage III! 

The Benedryl kicked in while I was talking with my oncologist and made it difficult to think and speak. I'm glad Gus could translate for me because 50 mgs of Benedryl directly into my bloodstream just isn't pretty! After the doctor visit, we played a few more rounds of Heads Up before I just had to close my eyes. I seriously could not stay awake! We were finished at 4:00, an hour and a half for premeds and only an hour for the Taxol. I crashed as soon as I got home, took a three hour nap, got up for dinner and The Voice, and went to bed around 11. I was very fortunate to get more sleep this Monday night, although I woke up often I was able to fall back asleep and didn't wake up for good until 5:30 this morning. 

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and in between is Christmas and New Years. Lots of light, both literally and figuratively! "My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises!" Psalm 57:7

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Early Morning Thoughts from a Chemo Insomniac

Yesterday was Chemo #7, and if I've slept an hour I'd be surprised.

The Tuesday after Chemo #5 (November 25), the first Taxol treatment, I had enough energy for seven people. I didn't sleep much that Monday night so thought I'd be exhausted on Tuesday and take a nap. Nope. I had so many projects going, and stuff to do to get ready for my trip. Thanksgiving was fantastic! Being with my entire family is the joy of my life, and it was everything I had hoped it would be! I was still fighting the allergies, and even took cold meds for my symptoms. I rested more than I wanted, but I needed to. I wore my mask once, and drank "fine" (fake wine, and there's no point, it doesn't taste anything like wine unlike non-alcoholic beer, which tastes pretty good and closer to the real thing) with Thanksgiving dinner. Anyway, the long detour to Phoenix and the mega traffic back through Palm Springs was entirely worth the wonderful time I had with all my loves.

Chemo #6 went well on December 1, again with me taking myself to my blood draw and dressing change, and Sandy dropping me off at chemo and Mary bringing me a Miguel's burrito before taking me home. The Benedryl nearly put me out, and I thought maybe it was because I hadn't eaten, so I won't make that mistake again. First time I've ever eaten an entire bean, cheese and shredded beef burrito in one sitting! Came home and took a long nap, then couldn't sleep much that night.

Mary took the picture and wouldn't get in it.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we had rain in Southern California for the first time in forever. People here get crazy when it rains, the excitement is all over facebook haha. I turned my fireplace on, lit my pumpkin candle and fixed hot mochas (and later grilled cheese and tomato soup!) for my friend Estelle and I. She brought me homemade quiche, apple pie, and a beautiful hand-knitted hat and gloves made with soft yarn she bought in Europe.

I was very tired all week and didn't do a whole lot. On Thursday, Holly sent her housecleaner over to clean my house! Oh my, Maricela was a gem! My kitchen, bathrooms (including tubs/showers), and floors were spotless. She cleaned my blinds, changed my bed, and did my laundry. The house became dust-free and dog-hair free; even if just for a little while it looked and felt fantastic! I am so incredibly blessed by the generosity of the people God has placed in my life. Thank you so much Holly!

Friday I had both dogs groomed so they wouldn't stink up the nice, clean house. I normally bathe Kianne myself but haven't been up to it lately, she's big! I was blessed again when my parents came over, did my grocery shopping and we got my Christmas decorations down from the garage. We had Chinese take-out for dinner, and I remembered that I'm not supposed to have soy sauce (no soy of any kind) which changes everything about Chinese food! Saturday I decorated, and we had a lovely outing for really good mediterranean food and a trip to a couple of stores, thinking (correctly) that the late evening would be less crowded and I wouldn't need to wear a mask. Sunday I had a major allergy attack, and basically spent the day sneezing and blowing my nose, and yelling at the Chargers for letting the Patriots win.

And now the sun is coming up on a quiet Tuesday morning.

Yesterday, Chemo #7, I went to Kaiser for my usual pre-work, and then got the McDonald's double cheeseburger I'd been craving. I never eat McD's, but at least their cheeseburgers come without lettuce or tomato so I didn't feel like I was missing out. My friend and neighbor Debra took me to chemo and it was just like our coffee dates at Starbucks, except without the coffee and hipster tunes. I just love sharing the chemo experience with my friends and family! Again, I learned something new. When my nurse, Rowena, asked me how I felt the last two times after my new chemo, I told her about all my energy on the first Tuesday. She said it's the steroid in my infusion (dexamethasone) that causes it, as well as insomnia, for the first couple of days after treatment. Ah, I remember someone writing in a recent blog post about how important it is to understand one's disease and TREATMENT. During yesterday's chemo, the Benedryl got to me again, and while I was talking nonstop, I slurred my words in between yawns. Good thing I had a ride home!

Debra was impressed by the nurses who all seem to like their jobs!

I could have easily fallen asleep on the couch as soon as I walked in the door but I kept myself awake in the mistaken belief that maybe not taking a nap would help me to sleep through the night. HA! I couldn't go to sleep, maybe I took a cat nap, and turned my light on at 12:45 am so I could read. At 2:00 I finally just got up. I made some hot mocha, washed dishes, cleaned out some drawers and cupboards downstairs, shredded some stuff upstairs, and went up and down the stairs taking different things to different rooms to put away. The dogs followed me around the house for awhile, confused, and finally gave up and went back to bed where they currently remain. 

Along with the double edged sword of energy and insomnia, I've got more bald spots but still have some nubs on my head. The main spot of dark-haired nubs on the back of my head has started hurting, maybe that means they are going to fall out soon? My fingernail beds are grossly discolored and definitely need to be covered with nail polish. The tips of my fingers are dry and peeling a bit. Sometimes I have no appetite, neither feeling hungry nor full, or I have a metal taste when eating, or maybe I don't really taste the food at all. I've started lifting three pound hand weights and am being careful as I feel a slight "pull" in my left arm that must be from the surgery. If I don't have an abundance of energy, I'm fatigued. But you know what? I'm taking advantage of my feel good time to get stuff done around the house that was left for me to do! I am enjoying my decorations and getting into the holiday spirit! I am spending time with family and good friends! I am focusing on my health and healing! So in the words of Solomon, "When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other." (Ecclesiastes 7:14) Plus, I know that since this is only temporary, "Better is the end of a thing than the beginning of it, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit." (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

You know what else? I can choose to be happy while I am patient! Life is good!

Monday, November 24, 2014

T is for Take That, Cancer!

Today was Chemo #5.

I've been fighting something for the past week, pretty sure it's allergies but it got me down. The wind, and cleaning out the garage with all the dust, plus an interrupted sleep schedule and a compromised immune system equals problems.  Prayed that I'd feel better today and that the results from today's blood test would be good enough for chemo.

My prayers were answered. Slept well last night, and felt better when I awoke. Sandy B. and her granddaughter were my escorts this morning. My weight on the scale was a few pounds less and my blood pressure was low. We did a recheck of the blood pressure but not the weight haha. I love taking someone with me to experience my blood draws and dressing changes. They are so interested in the procedures and ask great questions. Today Sandy asked the nurse what the "circle thing" was that she stuck to my chest where the catheter tube enters my skin. The nurse said it slowly releases antibiotics for seven days to prevent infection. Oh! So that's why I need a dressing change every seven days. Makes sense.

Sandy treated us to a tasty breakfast at the usual place near Kaiser, then she dropped me off in time for my 1:00 chemo appointment. Today was a tag team effort. I read a magazine while Rowena prepped my pre-meds. Pre-meds included saline for hydration, Dexamethasone for nausea prevention and to inhibit allergic reactions, Benedryl to "make me drunk" (Rowena said since I can't drink alcohol on Thanksgiving, she would get me drunk today! Actually it was to relax me because I was getting a new drug and she wasn't sure how my body would react). Mary arrived at 2:00 with water and snacks, and got to witness the effects of the Benedryl. She and Rowena were laughing at me because I really couldn't speak, and I was laughing at myself as I tripped over my tongue and slurred my words!

Once I had all my pre-meds it was time for the real thing. The third part of my ACT regimen, Taxol. It comes from a plant and attacks the cancer cell when it tries to divide and replicate itself. Some good, very detailed information on Taxol can be found here Taxol info. Because it's a new drug being introduced to my body, Rowena spaced out the drip to give my body time to adjust. If I felt "different" or my face got flushed I was supposed to tell Rowena, but luckily I felt fine. Today's chemo session took four hours, and it will be the same next Monday. Then it should only be about an hour every Monday after that.

A woman waiting for her dressing change came up to me and asked me if there was anything I could eat with my nausea. I was initially confused, because I haven't been nauseated. This poor woman said she is losing weight because she can't eat anything, nothing sounds or smells good, and she's having a hard time keeping food down. I told her that my anti-nausea meds have worked wonderfully, and she told us that she hasn't been taking her meds. Aha! I've been taking my meds as prescribed, on schedule, never waiting until I actually felt bad but instead taking preventive measures. Mary and I told her to take her meds on schedule, and then she said something that indicated that she didn't quite understand her meds and their instructions, but was going to ask the pharmacist. Thank goodness. I hope they straightened things out so she can eat. It's so important to understand all aspects of your illness, treatment and medications.

The bad news today - no wine with my Thanksgiving dinner. Rowena again made it clear that it's not good for me, so I will bring my non-alcoholic wine from World Market. Also, one of the main side effects is peripheral neuropathy (hands and feet tingle and go numb), which may get better by dunking my hands and feet in very cold water (what?). The good news is really good - nausea is not a main side effect from this drug. I still have my pills just in case I need them, but maybe I won't. And...Rowena said if I haven't lost my eyelashes and eyebrows by now, I most likely won't!!! I can tell that I 've lost some of each, but if I can keep the rest, woohoo!

On Thanksgiving I'm going to wear Gabby, mascara and a bit of eyebrow pencil. Looks like I'm gonna be the fancy one in the family!!!

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good." Psalm 136:1 Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Identity Crisis

Last week I started feeling restless. Maybe because I finished the first four cycles of my chemo, or because I felt pretty good. Maybe I'm just getting comfortable with my routine of chemo, recovery, flushing weird body tubes, stomach shots, and being nearly bald. The reality of being in treatment hit again today when I discovered that energy level is a real thing. My little three hour outing tired me out! To Kaiser for my dressing change and to pick up two bags of flushing supplies, then to the 91 Express Lanes office, and finally to Stater's for a few groceries. Fast walking from my car to Oncology made me breathe so heavily that the receptionist made a comment to me. And walking to the car with my two large pharmacy bags completed the strenuous exercise I would do today (sorry dogs, no walk). Yesterday we braved Ontario Mills for about an hour and it was more than enough. I wore my mask on my doctor's orders ("Avoid crowds but if you can't, wear a mask"). Afterward my nap was longer than my outing! I guess for awhile my restless brain will have to accept my tired body.

Time (obviously) marches on. It's already been two and a half months since my surgery (almost fully healed) and I still have five or so months of treatments left. I can't help wondering what's next. At the moment I'm so excited for my entire family to be together for Thanksgiving! Family get-togethers are what I live for, and this will be one of the most special ones ever! There will be lots of firsts in one weekend. I'll be starting my new chemo drugs on the 24th, and traveling on the 26th. My nurse said that will be my "low" day, but since I'm a car passenger, I'm not too concerned. In fact, I'm confident that I will feel fantastic the entire trip and able to enjoy every last moment!

Along with happy new memories to make, there are old memories to deal with. Being somewhere you didn't expect to be in midlife is both scary and exhilarating. Figuring out who I am now and what I want from the next phase of my life will help me determine where I'm going. My current identity consists of being a divorced, unemployed chemo patient diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. However, as my loved ones are good at reminding me, being a chemo patient is temporary. I may have to take chemo drugs for the next five to ten years, but I will no longer be a chemo patient with a bald head and a tube in my chest! Right now, living in the present moment, I must focus on being a (temporary!) chemo patient, meaning that I must put all my energy toward healing and staying healthy. And once I'm finished with my treatment, I believe the rest will fall into place. I'll be able to pursue job opportunities and will feel confident to start something new. I'll move forward with plans for the future because I'll be spending this "down time" cleaning up my past (note to self: do not look at family photo albums or shred 30 years of tax documents while listening to The Fray). My life may not be proceeding according to my plan or at the pace I'd like it to, but at least it's proceeding! And I know that God has good things in the works for me.

The only thing that won't change is the fact that I had breast cancer. But "had" will be the operative word, and I will not let it be my identity.

Patience! "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12

Faith! "'For I know the plans I have for you', declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

Identity! "For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

You Can Take Care of Yourself AND Enjoy Life

Gabby and I went to our first event, and Gus accompanied us. We joined Chris and Holly at our dear family friends' wedding. Jeremy and Emily were married in a lovely and very personal ceremony on Saturday afternoon in San Clemente. The reception was super fun, with a delicious dinner, sweet and funny toasts, and as much dancing as I could handle (always love that cupid shuffle!). So blessed to be able to share in the Wise family's special day!

Holly, Gabby and I whooping it up!

Sunday was a recovery day. Happily I made it to church, though, and after hugging seven people without asking anyone if they were sick, I plopped myself down next to my two bodyguards, Penny and Sandy B., and they took care of me during the rest of the service! Several people told me that they pray for me daily, Shelly bought me a cute and yummy sugar cookie, Sylvia reminded me that the girls have my upcoming bunco food handled, Sandy got herself scheduled for my next chemo day, and Louise booked herself to bring me a meal. I think my church family is awesome!

Home for the rest of the day for football and Louise's homemade tortilla soup. She brought all the fixins to go with it, along with a chocolate silk pie and some  pumpkiny goodies. So sweet of her! Made me feel better after the Giants loss.

Monday November 10, Chemo #4. Holly picked me up and dropped off everything for a carne asada dinner! What a nice surprise! Plus homemade banana bread and a Starbucks PSL. Off to Kaiser for my blood draw and dressing change with Cora. My friends and family find the blood draw through Pixie, my catheter, facinating. Had omelets for brunch, then back to Kaiser for the last of the first chemo regimen! The AC part of the ACT is done! No more red devil! Woohoo!

Rowena was my nurse for the first time. All my nurses have been great, but she's my new favorite. She was really funny and fun, and also very informative, explaining all kinds of things about my treatment and how I need to take care of myself and how we are a team to get me well. Of course we had Kimmy with us, but the funny thing is, Holly and I never even looked in her! We didn't read one magazine, or play one game, we just enjoyed talking the entire time! And the two and a half hours flew by!

Holly and I at Kaiser, a bit more subdued!

And now for some advice for you women, and the women in your life (and any human actually). The healthier you are, the better. I feel like I was reasonably healthy going into this cancer thing. Sure I could have been healthier, I could have been in better shape, but I was not a couch potato and I ate a balanced, nutritious diet. And I believe it has helped. Walking is fantastic exercise, and brisk walking is best for cardio. I enjoy getting outside to do it, but if you like a treadmill, do that!  If you have a gym membership, use it! If you don't, dance around the house! Take the stairs! Anything you can do to add activity to your lifestyle. We also need to stretch our bodies (do yoga or just stretch) and build our strength (arm weights, a full workout or on the couch while watching tv). A healthy lifestyle may reduce your chances of getting breast cancer, and if you do get it, I believe you will handle it better.

Next, know your breast cancer risk. Learn about your family history, and also keep in mind that while family history is important, it isn't always an indicator (as I discovered). 

Know your normal. Familiarize yourself with what your breasts are like and pay attention to any signs of change. Look at yourself in the mirror, do regular self exams. And if you have any gut feelings that something isn't right, pay attention to your intuition and don't wait to have it checked out. I have dense breast tissue which makes it difficult to see in a normal mammogram. I had an ultrasound back in 2012 because they thought they saw something and they ended up clearing me. Then last year there was no additional screening recommended beyond my regular mammogram, even though I showed them my ultrasound films. But my surgeon said I had the tumor for five years! Maybe I should have insisted on a second mammo or ultrasound. I also noticed a change in my nipple early this past spring. I knew it was a change, but I didn't have health insurance at the time. I did bring it up to my primary doctor, who wasn't concerned, saying breast changes during menopause were common. After I was diagnosed, I asked my surgeon about it, and he said it could have been an indicator of the breast cancer or maybe not. But at least it was something to pay attention to.

Know when to get screened. You should start clinical breast exams at age 20, and mammograms at 40. If you have family history, tell your doctor. You need to know who had breast cancer, how old they were when diagnosed, and their age if they died from it. If you have a family history, ask your doctor when you should start having mammograms, and if you don't like the answer and want one, insist upon it. Early detection is key to fighting this disease if you get it, and I pray that none of you will.

For me, for now, through everything, life is good.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Side Effects are Overrated

Well chemo cycle #3 was the opposite of #2. I was really tired the first week, and had an abundance of energy the second week. I took advantage of it, too! I met various friends for coffee (Debra!), breakfast (Jessy!) and lunch (Shineah and Charles with Gus!). Two other friends brought me delicious home-cooked dinners (Claudia with a short visit and Mary with a long one!). I did some projects around the house, and took myself out for a couple long days of shopping, a mani-pedi, and errands (including voting). I had a GREAT week, and paid for it yesterday with a headache and needing a nap. Totally worth it!

Gus and I were talking about how well I'm doing. After the chemo orientation, learning about all the possible side effects and becoming overwhelmed by everything, all we could wonder was what would happen to me and when. I have indeed experienced side effects, but they have been surprisingly mild compared to what they could be. I've only been nauseated a few times and have never lost it. Sometimes my taste buds don't seem to work but that hasn't impacted my ability to eat, even when I can't tell if I'm hungry or full. My stomach issue has been cured with prune juice, and heartburn with over-the-counter antacids. I have never had bone pain with the stomach shots, and if I remember not to drink a lot in the evening, I won't wake up to use the bathroom more than a few times instead of three or four. Yes I'm tired. But that's just a reminder of how hard my body is working in conjunction with the chemo to make sure that the cancer is wiped out completely. It's hard to know if the headaches are treatment-related, weather-related, or menopause-related. I've only had a few mouth sores that weren't even that bad, and have fought off a few cold sores. My nail beds on both my fingers and toes are discolored, but I took care of that with a few coats of nail polish! 

Then there's the hair loss. Surprised it's taking so long, but every day I notice a little bit more bald than stubs on my head. No more need to shave as the hair on my legs and underarms is not growing back. So far I still have eyebrows and eyelashes, but must have lost some nose hair because my nose is running a lot haha!

I so appreciate the cards I get in the mail, the personal texts checking in to see how I'm doing, and the phone calls to chat. My friends and family who understand how isolating it is to be home alone have made this journey so much easier. The thoughtful acts mean a lot, like Sherri doing my grocery shopping, Sylvia dropping off a card with a little book called "God is Always Watching Over You", Jen bringing Starbucks, my parents with their generous Costco deliveries, and just everything Gus does for me. The gracious gifts are nice, too. Sweet Jessy brought me back some special things from "St. Lebanon". And Gus's nephew and niece, Nick and Jessica, sent over two cute hats. Yesterday mom gave me a cute necklace that says "Love" and the "L" is shaped like a pink ribbon. And I got the best homemade bracelet in the mail from Allie that says "God gave me you".

Blessed to be feeling well as I head into chemo #4 on Monday, and immensely grateful to God for giving me all the wonderful people in my life!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chemo Realities

Last week the fatigue set in. I don't even know what I did all week, I was so tired. Wondered what was wrong with me and discovered it's the chemo. I thought that since the first cycle went so well, all subsequent cycles would be the same! Ha! Apparently it gets harder, not easier! Great.

I got some nice gifts in the mail, cute beanies from Shineah (who sweetly thought of me on her trip to Oregon!) and Pat (who is going through her own struggles and thought of me). And I had a lovely visit from my old, dear friend Teresa. She brought lunch, and some herbal tea, and a beautiful royal purple blanket. It is literally the softest blanket I've ever felt, and she told me that whenever I use it, think of it as a hug from her. Ahhhh. So thoughtful. I immediately decided to use it during chemo, it's chilly in the chemo room and the blankets are ugly, standard hospital issue. 

The weekend was mellow with a few surprises. A drive down to Encinitas and Del Mar, ending in football, pizza and beer. Yes, I found a good non-alcoholic brew, St. Pauli Girl NA! I was so happy! A few errands, and a delicious dinner with new friends at a beautiful home in Dana Point. Nothing too strenuous.

And Monday, October 27 was Chemo #3.

I was running late because I decided to walk the dogs and take a shower with "hair" washing. For the first time my bandage did not get wet at all! There were lots of little hairs in the drain, it's all coming out slowly but surely. Penny picked me up and did a chore for me that I had been meaning to do for several weeks. It took her a couple of minutes!

Kaiser was running later than I was, eventually Rafi did my dressing change and blood draw. She put on a new kind of dressing, it's clear and pretty cool. The other bandage was starting to cause a rash. After that, Penny took me to lunch and I got fortified with catfish, french fries and cole slaw. She brought me a sweet gift from Edie, my pastor's wife, a cute white cap with a rhinestone pink ribbon on it and a nice journal. We were late getting back from lunch but they still didn't have the results from my blood work so we had to wait.

Finally got a chair and we settled in with all of our stuff. Kimmy, another bag, our big purses, drinks. We looked like we were staying awhile! I was now wearing the beanie Penny picked out from the basket of beanies in the front office. I would not have dug through that basket but Penny did, and found the cutest hat! I don't know who made it but I'm grateful to the mystery donor.

My blanket (and hug from Teresa) was so cozy I almost didn't notice the Red Devil push. Penny worked on a word search and I played a few rounds of Red Herring. Then we played a few rounds of Scattergories. A nurse walked by and said, "Are you really going to play that with chemo brain?" We did, and I think my chemo brain rubbed off on Penny!

Then Penny decided to champion a cause. "Why aren't there tv's in here? They should serve lunch! Massage chairs! With headphones like on an airplane!" She asked the patient across from me if he agreed and he said yes. She asked him how often he had treatments and he said every six weeks. She told him he needed to come back next week to support our cause so that's what he told his nurse! That's my Penny, causing trouble haha!

I didn't get a headache or sinus pain with the second drug but I did get lightheaded again so I got more saline before we left. It was a long day. There was a woman there earlier who seemed to be struggling with pain. As Penny was covering her up with blankets, she told us that her mother brought her but left because it takes too long. I felt sad for her and grateful for Penny. No matter how long the day was, she stuck it out with me and helped me through it with smiles and laughter!

Yesterday I didn't feel as well as I did the weeks' before. I guess each time will be different. My parents came over with cheerful fall-colored flowers, a pumpkin, and some groceries. They did some chores and cooked a delicioso Mexican dinner. I took a long nap, we had a nice visit and watched NCIS. Now if only I could sleep without getting up three (or four?) times because of all the fluid I need to drink! Oh well, that's what naps are for!

I have my twice-a-day flushing routine down, and my shots start again tonight. I will be honest and tell you that this past weekend, before chemo #3, I was already over it. I haven't even lost all my hair yet. When I told Gus, he asked me, "Over what?" I said tearfully, "Everything!"

Today I accept that I am being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that I may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully give thanks to the Father. (Colossians 1:11-12)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Pardon the pun, I couldn't resist.

Saturday, October 18, I got my crying out of the way early. Before Sherri came over with her electric razor, I looked in the mirror, brushed my hair, and told myself between sobs, "This is the last time I will brush my hair for a long time." Then I said, "Ow," because the brushing hurt! I took all of my hair products and tools and put them away. And that was that.

I wondered if there was a chance that my packages would arrive from Hats for You and The Breast Cancer Site. Earlier in the week I had ordered some scarves, a little cap to wear to bed, and some breast cancer merch. Well God sent me a sign that He was watching over me on hair shaving day because both packages arrived. Those tears were happy tears!

When Sherri came over in the late afternoon, I took an anti-nausea pill because I was a bit anxious, and some Tylenol in case the shaving would make my scalp hurt. We talked for a bit, and then we were ready. We went out to the backyard, I sat on a stool, Sherri plugged in the razor and asked, "What do I do? I've never done this before!" Well, I decided that prayer might help, because prayer always helps! So I prayed and we shared a few tears and then felt calm enough to proceed.

Sherri shaved and we talked and there were no more tears. Maddie watched me with those cocker spaniel eyes because she knows all about the razor! I looked down on the ground at my hair and almost felt more bummed at the amount of grey I saw instead of the amount of hair! We finished shaving upstairs in my bathroom, using the number zero setting. Andy told us that to get my head completely bald we'd have to use a razor and shaving cream, but I remembered that they don't even want you to shave anything with a razor and shaving cream because they don't want any chance of nicks. So I had to make do with a VERY short buzz cut! As I had hair all over my neck, I covered my catheter with a towel and stuck my head in the shower while my sweet and brave friend washed my nubs. We then pulled out all my hats and scarves and I tried them on and took pictures. I sent a photo of my new look, without a hat or scarf, to the girls and Gus, and they all responded with positive and supportive comments. Of course! I am so proud of my friend Sherri and grateful for her. The intimacy created by the entire experience is one that I don't think either of us will ever forget! 

I had more energy yesterday, and was able to enjoy a breakfast outing, a short dog walk, and lots of football. I wore my NY Giants cap all day, and then went bare at night. I really like to wear hats anyway, and now I can wear whatever I want whenever I want! I feel like I'm already used to the new "do", although it's weird to feel air instead of hair! Haha! I guess the tiny, remaining hairs will fall out soon enough, and then I'll have to get used to being completely bald.

Today is a trip to Kaiser for a dressing change and my last stomach shot in this series. I am looking forward to a visit from a good friend. And no matter what I look like on the outside, and what's going on with my body on the inside, I praise God because I am fearfully and wonderfully made! (Today's devotion verse, from Psalm 139:14)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Afternoon Thoughts From a Chemo Foggy Patient

It's always hard after being with my kids. Readjusting to a quiet house, all my bathroom supplies have been restored to my bathroom and life goes back to normal. Well, now it's the new normal. Although everyone is reminding me that it's temporary, to which I say temporary is relative. 

These past few days have been more challenging than the first days after chemo #2. There was no magic pill I could take to ward off the physical and emotional results of both the chemo and some unexpected news that hurt my heart. I love my daughters so much, and wish they didn't have to deal with what they're dealing with. Because my energy is already lacking, I now feel completely zapped. Holly asked me what the hardest thing about this is, and as much as I whine about not having wine, I told her it's the fatigue. I don't even feel like walking my dogs, and I don't even feel like myself.

Last night Holly picked me up and took me to Bunco. It was nice to get out, good to see everyone and have some fun, but man, rolling those dice really tired me out. My sweet friend Sandy gave me a Brighton breast cancer keychain, a heart that says "hope, faith, LOVE". Ahh.

Holly brought me a wonderful homecooked meal that I can't wait to eat later. Lasagne, one of my very favorites, and a chocolate pie! My taste buds better be working! And to top it off, she gave me my shot. A good friend is someone who is as good with a spatula as she is with a needle! Haha! 

I've gotten used to flushing my catheter but not taping it up for the shower. I am handling my stomach shots, as long as I don't have to shoot myself. I am eating despite the changing taste buds, and staying hydrated with water, coffee and Gatorade. And I am shedding as much as Kianne.

My hair is not coming out in clumps, which is fortunate. I have that "when you pet a dog that is shedding" scenario. I've been unable to style the cute pixie I got on Monday night because the hair sticks to my hands before falling to the counter. Everywhere I go my hair follows me. It was hard to sleep last night because my scalp hurt on the pillow. I read that once your hair is gone, your scalp won't hurt. Rather than go through another hair washing/drain cleaning/scalp hurting day, today will be Hair Shaving Day. And probably Cry My Eyes Out Day as well.

Somehow I forgot to mention some good news from the meeting with my new oncologist on Monday. My logical Erika wanted to know my status. I've been saying that I was diagnosed with Stage 3 IDC breast cancer. But do I still HAVE cancer? Didn't they take it out with my lumpectomy and those two lymph nodes? My oncologist said yes! I am currently IN REMISSION, as far as we know, and in treatment to kill off anything we can't see and prevent anything else. Now that's a status! Woohoo!

Erika has a beautifully simple tattoo on her arm that says "grace". Grace is the "free and unmerited favor of God". I'll take that one step further, because I continue to be amazed and blessed by the favor of the family and friends who are building me up when I am weak. It takes effort to be an encouragement for someone, and so many of the individuals on my "support team" are going through so much themselves. God's grace is flowing to me through these loving friends and family. I know they are seeking Him and following Him. For them, there is no such thing as "out of sight, out of mind", for their minds are on higher things, and more than themselves. One of my favorite quotes is, "The clueless do not know they are clueless." Even though it's not scriptural, it's a good explanation when comprehension of certain actions is difficult to impossible.

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." My sincere love and thanks to the humble, GRACEFUL people in my life!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Feeling Good, and Loved, and Blessed

Friday, October 10, I had another follow-up appointment with my surgeon. I continue to heal well, and will just have to wait, for months perhaps, for the hematoma to disappear. Dad joined me for my dressing change and the rest of my stitches removal from the Broviac. It stung a bit so was nice to be able to squeeze his hand. We had something to eat and made a Costco run, and I felt great! I had a three day window of feeling good, with decent blood counts, and planned to enjoy it!

Walked the dogs on our usual walk and I wasn't too tired! Had a fabulous dinner out with G, ate calamari and lobster ravioli! Made a Target run for a few things. A really nice day! I did experience some signs of chemo foggy brain, both times when I was ordering food. I seriously couldn't decide what to order. 

Saturday and another long/usual dog walk, Bible reading, cleaning and prepping for my daughter's arrival. And I noticed that my hair was starting to fall out. 

Erika came to see me! She's on fall break at her school, and came to visit and take care of me! G and I picked her up at Long Beach airport, then he took us out for a delicious Thai dinner. He even let us borrow a car so Erika could drive me to chemo since she can't drive my stick BMW. So nice of him! At the restaurant, Erika made me close my eyes and put out my hands for the present-giving tradition. She gave me a dog shaming calendar for my daily lol - have you seen dog shaming? If not, you MUST look it up on YouTube. So funny! - and an awesome Book of Lists for me to fill out (she knows me so well, it's perfect!). Erika and I stayed up late talking on Saturday night and slept in on Sunday, then had a lovely afternoon outing. We started at In-n-Out, where I had a cheeseburger with grilled onions and no lettuce or tomato. Then off to Dos Lagos to a few stores, including Trader Joe's for some tasty goodies, and Starbucks on the way home. The rest of the day was spent eating cheese and bread, watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, topped off with pumpkin pie and hot apple cider with whipped cream. So nice!

Monday the 13th was Chemo #2. We had a good breakfast of coffee, cheese and bread, then pumpkin oatmeal and pumpkin biscotti from Trader Joe's while watching a few more Gilmore Girls. Erika packed Kimmy and our cooler full of cold stuff, and then drove us to Kaiser. It was a busy day - luckily when we checked in at the kiosk, it printed out my itinery (that's literally what it was called haha). I had my blood draw at 1:00, which I think Erika found facinating since it's done through my Broviac. Then we met my new oncologist, who we liked very much. He was very patient with my list of many questions! I won't need to see him again for two months, but I can call with questions anytime! He did want me to get a flu AND a pneumonia vaccine, so that happened, too. Then we met with the oncology social worker, who pretty much told me everything I already knew, but that's her job. And after breaking into our snacks a bit early, it was time for chemo.

My nurse was Corazon, and just like the first time, she started me with a saline drip and five anti-nausea pills. Then an anti-nausea drip, then flushing and The Red Devil. Erika was intrigued by the color of it, which is actually kind of weird. Then the bag of my second chemo drug, and I was fortunate again not to have any sinus pain or headache. I did feel a bit woozy when it was done so Cora gave me more saline while Erika and I continued to play games. We played a really fun catagory game on her phone called Red Herring, and tried our best with several rounds of Scattergories. Being that I have chemo foggy brain I had an excuse for several sketchy answers. Erika on the other hand...hahaha.

We stopped at Chipotle for a quick dinner. I didn't think what I ordered would be too spicy but apparently I still need to get the after chemo dinner thing down. It did end up giving me heartburn all night and all day Tuesday. Then on to my scheduled/cancelled/rescheduled hair appointment.

I had reached out to Tamra, an old friend who owns Studio 700 in Corona, a few weeks ago to find out if she would shave my head when it was time. Christie and Erika thought I should cut it short, and Tamra said whatever I wanted to do in order to take charge would be fine with her, although she liked the cutting it short idea, too. So that's what we did. A cute Emma Watson pixie, shorter than I've ever had my hair, that gives me a good idea of what I'll have when my hair starts growing back. She spent a lot of time on me, because that's who she is and what she does, even though my hair is falling out. She also gifted me with a cute hat, handmade for me with Penn State colors by a friend of hers who makes hats for chemo patients. So thoughtful. And I didn't cry, except when she told me that she couldn't charge someone whose hair would be coming out in the next few days! She was so sweet and such a blessing, even making me promise to come see her when my hair starts growing back so she can give what little I'll have a bit of shape! 

It was great to have Erika with me when I got my hair cut, and we went home after our long day for pie, cider, master's homework and Gilmore Girls.

Tuesday was a rest day, with lots of good food prepared by Erika (such a delicious lunch of grilled cheese, tomato soup and Trader Joe's pickles!). And of course our Gilmore Girls marathon! She helped me pick out a few scarves which I ordered online, and we talked and laughed and enjoyed our time together until it was time for her to leave. Of course that's when my tears fell because I started missing her before she even left! But how happy and blessed I was by her short, sweet visit. She was an attentive and wonderful caregiver. She got to spend an hour with her grandparents when they took her to the airport while I stayed home to be weepy.

I felt pretty good yesterday, except for the heartburn, making sure to stay on schedule with my nausea meds. These meds are working great! Today, Wednesday, I still feel good, except for the anticipation of starting the stomach injections again tonight. Six in a row. Ugh. My parents spent the night last night, and went grocery shopping and did a few chores for me this morning before they left. More blessings! And no doctor appointments this week! Weee! Even though my hair is falling out on my laptop right now, Life is Good!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Difference a Week Makes

What a week.

My health, both physically and emotionally, has been up and down. 

Saturday my close friend Christie made me get out of the house for something other than a doctor appointment. She picked me up and took me out for a pedicure, and then we took a short trip to the mall. I hadn't really wanted to go - when you are feeling down leaving the house is such an effort. But I'm so thankful for her persistence, I had a great time with her and appreciate not having to do my own toes!

The rest of the day was hard with some mail that I received and emotions that were unexpected and finally the Big Cry on Saturday night. It didn't even feel good to finally have the Big Cry, just tiring.

Sunday I was down, had my last stomach shot, but at least my Giants won. Monday was my lowest point to date. I had to go to Kaiser for unexpected blood work to see how the Neupogen shots were doing, I felt tired, and several things happened to put me over the emotional edge. Another Big Cry along with a Big Prayer.

Tuesday I got a call from Kaiser saying that the shots hadn't worked as well as they'd hoped and I'd need to do one more. From now on, six shots after each chemo. I pulled my lab results and saw that my neutrophils and lymphocytes counts were low. Didn't know I had so many different kinds of white blood cells and that they are so important. I had a little headache that got better while visiting with my good friend and neighbor Sherri. Then I had a visit from a dear woman who just came back into my life from many years ago when our kids were in elementary school and Girl Scouts together. Claudia shared her testimony with me, encouraged me, prayed over me, and left me with a home-cooked meal. Such a blessing. The events of the weekend and Monday were worked out, and I went to sleep, even after another shot, with some peace in my heart.

Wednesday I woke up with another headache but thought it would get better with a nice dog walk around the neighborhood. I now wear gloves on our walks in case I accidentally miss the bag when I'm picking up the poop. It was a cooler morning, and we didn't go that fast, but when we got home I was spent. My headache was bad and I felt exhausted and even a bit queasy. I put Darlene on notice that it might not be a good day for a visit and I took Tylenol and rested for awhile until I felt a little better. Supposedly days 7 through 10 after chemo are when I am at my highest risk of infection because they are the lowest days for my white blood counts. They must be my most exhausting days, too. It's so strange to think that I was a reasonably healthy person and now can't even walk around the neighborhood like I used to.

I gave Darlene the ok to come over and she arrived with lots of treats - a PSL (if you don't know what that is, it's the most delicious sign of fall there is! Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks!!), some pumpkin biscotti and a pumpkin Greek yogurt from Trader Joes, and a deliciously scented gift from The Body Shop. So very thoughtful! We had a nice chat, and after she left, Penny dropped by with my hats. I tried them all on - SO CUTE! Of course they look different now than they will when I'm bald, but that doesn't change the fact that they are cute! I am grateful for all of these thoughtful, generous, caring friends.

I was really tired yesterday and ready for an early bedtime. I called Maddie onto my bed and was giving her a nice scratching when I discovered something on her head...A TICK! Well so much for an early bedtime. I put flea and tick meds on the dogs (with gloves), washed my sheets, comforter, and the dog bed covers, put their beds outside, vacuumed my room, and checked both dogs (with gloves) for ticks. Thank goodness I didn't find any more, and the one I did find hadn't yet started feasting on Maddie. Ay.

Today my shower tape was a fail. It's just not sticking well on my neck. My medical appointment was at the Corona Kaiser with a new gynocologist to check on the fibroid that was found with my CT scan. Nothing to worry about unless it bothers me. My pregnancy test was negative hahahahaha! (In case I was to have a biopsy of the fibroid, I had to pee in the cup.)

I came home, called a friend, and then opened my daily devotional that I'm supposed to read first thing in the morning. Let me tell you that it was like a cup of cold water thrown in my face! I laughed and then cried. I called the friend I had just spoken with and shared it with her. She was amazed! I was both humbled and strengthened. It began with, "You have been on a long, uphill journey, and your energy is almost spent," and ended with, "As you open up to Me, I will put My thoughts in your mind and My song in your heart."

The corresponding scripture is from Jeremiah 35:25, "I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint." I praise God today for this truth in my life.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Mini Meltdown

Just a quick post to let you know that I do have my moments.

Monday night after my first chemo was a little rough. I probably shouldn't have had KFC for dinner, and maybe the garlic fries for lunch weren't such a good idea either. Oops. I am so grateful that the anti-nausea meds have worked great but I did experience heartburn and headache all night and on Tuesday. I am able to take Tums so I popped those suckers, and now I am more careful about what I eat. No spicy or greasy. My bff and I made fish and rice on Tuesday night, and I made a creamy chicken, mushroom pasta dish on Wednesday. Much better. But I whined while I was cooking because I couldn't have wine. Sometimes I like to have a glass of wine while I cook a nice meal, and I was feeling sorry for myself that I won't be able to do that for MONTHS.

My second shower incident went much more smoothly. The Press'n Seal that my bff bought me worked SO MUCH better than regular plastic wrap. I still had to blow dry my bandage but it didn't get nearly as wet. No mad tears this time.

My wonderful parents were here doing projects around the house and in the yard. I felt a bit slow, but generally pretty darn good. But sometimes a bit grumpy. And then it was time for the first self-injection.

I had a fit. I didn't want to do it. I removed a syringe from the fridge a half hour before injection so it could come to room temperature, and I took some Tylenol. I had asked four people if they would give me the shot, and all said they would. I had back-ups for the back-ups. My bff was first in line, and asked me, "Are you ready?" I proceeded to burst into tears! Just the idea of an injection in the stomach made me cry. It was quick, and didn't really hurt until afterward. I was not expecting my reaction.

Yesterday, Injection #2. Same prep, same outcome. I started crying before anything even happened. This time the shot hurt going in. My bff felt really bad. I felt really bad. The whining started. "I have 18 more shots in the stomach to go! I haven't even had the Broviac for a week and I have to flush this stupid thing twice a day until it comes out in MARCH! I have to put this wrap on my chest every time I want to shower...until MARCH! Pretty soon I'll be BALD!!!!!" Yeah, it went from bad to worse. 

Today is a new day. I figured out how much tape to use on the Press'n Seal and my dressing stayed dry in the shower. I have not needed to take anti-nausea meds today. I feel good enough to drive myself to Kaiser for my dressing change. Verse for today, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances..." (1 Thess 5:16-18)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Kool-Aid and Kimmy

Friday night after the Broviac was inserted I didn't feel like doing much but I really wanted to get the weekend started! 

I had SUCH a fantastic Saturday, and it will be one of my favorite memories going forward with this. I spent the entire day with my bff, doing everything (well, eating and drinking everything) I enjoy. I got my eggs Benedict for breakfast, then we took a drive through Santiago Canyon where we stopped for wine tasting at Giracci Vineyards, then margaritas and ceviche at Rose Canyon Cantina and Grill, and finally sushi and beer at Wasabi. I was also gifted with a new outfit to wear on my first day of chemo (just discovered the comfort of leggings!) and some satin pillowcases for my soon-to-be bald head. It was a wonderful day!

Sunday was church and resting and football. Got to have one last outing to TGI Fridays for football and beer! It was another good day until THE SHOWER. I had to wait 48 hours after the Broviac, so Sunday night I fought with the plastic wrap and water-proof tape to cover half of my chest. It was a comedy of errors that made me cry. A mad cry, though, because it was so frustrating. I really needed to wash my hair but I was worried about any water leaking into my dressing. I ended up having to blow dry my hair AND my dressing but it didn't get too wet. I guess the positive spin is that hair washing will cease in a week or two so my showers will be shorter and there will be less chance for the dressing to get wet.

Monday September 29, first day of chemo. My friend Penny picked me up around 8:30 and took me to breakfast. I really enjoyed my french toast, fried eggs, bacon, sausage and coffee! Then off to Kaiser for my 10:15 check-in. I got a chair at 10:45. While waiting for them to make my drugs (it's more like In-N-Out than McDonald's, they make your drugs fresh for you!) I got to look through the HUGE chemo bag that Penny put together for me. She had lots of assorted magazines, word searches, card games, and a ton of candy that she put cute little play-on-words notes on to make me smile! Such a thoughtful gift! Penny said we had to rename the chemo bag, so it is now called "Kimmy". 

I got a saline drip first and took five anti-nausea pills. My nurse, Thelma, asked me if I was related to the radiology tech Poblete haha. The Red Devil was first. Doxorubicin, brand name Adriamycin. Thelma had three large syringes that she pushed into my central line one at a time. The drug really is red, like Kool-Aid, and Kool-Aid is a happy thing, right? It took about 15 minutes. After that, the chemo pharmacist came over to explain the procedure I would be doing at home. Oh great, another procedure. I've already got the flushing thing down, so now what? Oh, just a little self-injection. 

Um, no.

Because of the super drug combo of the first four chemo cycles, my white blood counts will apparently drop significantly between seven and ten days after chemo. I need injections of Neupogen for five consecutive days starting two days after chemo, and they should be given before bedtime because they cause bone pain. Great. The pharmacist attempted to show us how to squeeze the stomach where the injection would be given but he didn't have enough fat on him. Penny and I gave him a hard time about that. Thelma gave us a how-to video to watch and I waited until later to watch it. More creepiness and it isn't even Halloween. Ugh.

Next up, the Cyclophosphamide. This drug was in a bag and would take about a half hour to enter my body. I was told that if I got sinus pain or pressure, or developed a headache that they would slow it down to an hour, but I was fine. In between the two chemo drugs there was more flushing (why so much flushing?), and instructions from Thelma on nutrition and such. She told me I might lose my hair. I MIGHT? Everyone has told me I will for sure! "Ok," she said, "You WILL lose your hair. I didn't want to keep giving you bad news." Haha, thanks Thelma.

There was a pretty woman sitting next to me wearing a darling fedora/scarf combo. Penny asked her about it, and then proceeded to get busy on a hat website. We found three hats, all different, and Penny ordered them all for me! I was going to let her get me one but she's so bossy haha. So very kind of her.

I think we left around 3:00. The whole thing went by pretty quickly, probably because we were the loudest ones in there. We played bible trivia cards, and not very well either, even though they were the version for kids! We ate chocolate, and gave the nurses and pharmacist a hard time ("There's a kink in my line? Thelma is already trying to kill me!!") We had to stop at the pharmacy to get my Neupogen (ugh) and then decided that ice cream was definitely needed. At Farrell's we shared a french dip and ate our own sundaes, and joked and laughed with the hilariously enertaining servers. After a long, full day, Penny took me home and reminded me that she would drive over before bedtime to give me my shot if I needed her to. Now that's a good friend! She spoiled me rotten, and made my first day of chemo as good as it could be.