Friday, July 27, 2012

Moving Right Along...Thankfully

Chemo #2 was definitely a success.  Well, I think it was from my perspective.  I admit to actually letting the thought "If I don't feel as bad as last time, maybe it wasn't the right dose or it isn't working" cross my mind at least once or twice.  But I've tried to just enjoy the fact that it has been less difficult though very exhausting.  The fatigue side of it has been so hard to describe.  I get bursts of energy and then suddenly I feel like I can't stay awake a minute longer and have to go rest.  I am learning to pay attention and actually listen to what my body is telling me.

I have just begun to have trouble with the acne on my almost-bare scalp.  This is just plain gross.  The doctor called in a prescription for a topical lotion (antibiotic, I think) and I'm really hoping this alleviates some of this issue.  I've read a blog and a Caring Bridge page for two other women experiencing acne while undergoing chemotherapy and there is another woman close to my age locally who is having the same trouble.  Unfortunately, at the doctor's office, it seems like our reaction is a little unusual.  I'm just not sure if it is a reaction to chemo, my body trying to process the toxins from chemo, a result of the hormonal changes from chemo (as my body slips into menopause as a result) or maybe even heat/fabric- issues as my poor, sensitive scalp adjusts to life without hair to provide a buffer.  But there are certainly better things to discuss.

Lately, this great team of "chemo angels" started sending me cards and small gifts in the mail.  These are people who have survived cancer and are now giving back.  One woman is my "card angel" and she has sent me some beautiful notes already.  The other woman lives in TX and her first gift was a package of all sorts of TX travel information (maps, brochures, etc) as well as a cowboy bandana that the kids love.  Later she sent something with an umbrella, drink cup (again confiscated by the small people in the house) and a book.  And another package (Troy's favorite so far) had all sorts of TX "heat" (hot tamales candy, two bottles of hot sauce, Big Red gum).  These people are so sweet and I love that they have been through this journey before and are now connecting with people currently in treatment.  I am already considering participating in this once I am out of treatment because it is such an amazing ministry.

Recently, I've gone back to a church I attended in the 90s (though I've still remained as an inactive member despite attending other churches).  My parents originally went there and I eventually followed (somewhat reluctantly because I wanted to find my "own" church).  I spent a number of years at this church and was pretty involved so lately, it feels like "home" to me in some strange way.  I feel connected to my parents again.  And I've also run into some people who were important to me so I feel like it is where I need to be for now.

I've had friends bring me smoothies and milkshakes.  My sister made me my favorite egg salad and potato salad (our mom's recipe) and sought out tuna fish that I loved (the kind from Jason's Deli is the best, in my opinion).  My sis-in-law sent a super cool Cookie Bouquet this week of all pink cookies which have been delish!  And a friend from college sent me a box of all sorts of "pink" things and an iTunes gift card so that I can make my own "mix tape."  This week I also got a call from someone offering to let me join her at the gym a few days a week (free pass for guest) which sounds like a great way to burn off some of those shakes and smoothies!  We've also been blessed with so many wonderful meals during the last few months, but it has been nice to start getting back into the kitchen and actually looking up recipes again.  Generous co-workers even donated some of their hard-earned PTO (paid time off) hours in order to help ease some financial burden and the stress of leaving my job to get well.

I still haven't been focused and diligent enough to get thank you notes completed.  Please know that I do intend to try to personally thank everyone who has supported us during this time.  We've been overwhelmed by the kindness of so many friends and family members as well as people we have never met.  I know that people tend to see me and probably think that they don't want cancer.  I didn't want cancer.  But I also feel like I have been blessed in so many ways because of my diagnosis and treatment that I am thankful for it too.  I have met some amazing people, many of them are women who have already traveled down this road and others who are navigating it just ahead of me.  Without breast cancer, I wouldn't have met these people and I feel an amazing connection to them already.  Sure.  I wish it hadn't happened to me.  But at the same time, I do feel thankful that it happened to me.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chemo Round #2: Because Triplet-Mommy Brain Just Wasn't Enough

I'm thinking that chemo-brain is already making it's debut.  Tonight I was getting ready to take my meds before bed.  I've started this little diary app where I write up my chemo meds, other meds, side effects, treatments and how things went.  It's just the best way for me to be able to keep track for future reference and to help me get through subsequent chemotherapy treatments.

So, here I was typing away about Day 2 in my Chemo #2 and when I clicked "done" I could NOT remember whether I had already taken the medicine or whether I still needed to get it all out and take it.  Ugh.  Two of the medicines are just once per 24-hour period, so I'm wary of assuming I had not ingested said drugs and taking them.  Now I sit and try to recreate the moments but...nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Can't remember.  And here, I thought that triplet-mommy brain was going to take away all of the brain cells I had, but now I can thank the chemo for making this even more dramatic.  I stumble through words and thoughts and try to be sure to write anything down (like something to buy or to do or to research) in case I can't pull it out of those cobwebs up there.

Moving along, I must say that Chemo #2 went VERY smoothly yesterday.  I enjoyed some time with my sister, Karen, and Lisa C who was kind enough to bring me Chick-Fil-A for lunch (and then had to watch me inhale it).  She stayed and suffered through the bad television choices made by another patient (CBS soap operas, Fox News and then Cartoon Network).  Obviously that particular patient was enjoying the TV time, but none were high on my list to watch and it was a little distracting.  But we all have our own preferences and she seemed content with her choices.  And my sister brought a new John Grisham book to read but never even cracked it open.  There is just too much socializing to do in the chemo room. :)

Today was my friendly Neulasta shot.  The last one lead to quite a bit of discomfort, but I'm hoping for an easier run this time.  We shall see.  I feel confident that I'm going into this round armed with more knowledge and experience that I pray will make it easier to manage the possible side effects that might drop by for a visit.  And I also know that by this time next week, I should be feeling much better (per my first round) and that is also a source of comfort.  Plus, I have felt pretty darn good for the last four days, so I know that all of this will be a distant memory at this time next year.  I was even discussing how my last treatment is scheduled for October 8th which means that I should be feeling up to enjoying the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and feeling all of the joy that comes with such a special time of year.

I continue to appreciate the strong women I have met through my support group at the Cancer Support Community of East TN.  I cannot say enough good things about their organization and I encourage my readers to keep them in mind if you know anyone else going through a cancer  journey.  They are such an amazing resource and offer so many wonderful FREE programs, groups and activities for cancer survivors and their caregivers and families (yoga, wellness exercise, art, nutrition and cooking classes as well as so many other informational sessions).

I've managed to get quite a bit done in the last four days as I prepared for this round of breast cancer booty kicking.  I've tended to lots of laundry, ran errands, made a trip to SAM'S Club for some of the essentials (that will last a little longer) and I was even able to get my ballot cast for early voting here in K'town.  Whew.  Now I'm hoping to get to take a few days to rest and let the chemo do it's job.

One more silver lining of this cancer thing?  Tomorrow I have two people coming from Two Maids and a Mop (as part of the Cleaning for a Reason program that helps people who are in active cancer treatment) for two hours of CLEANING!  Woo hoo.  I am excited about what they might be able to accomplish in just two hours.  How lucky am I????

That's all I can muster up for the evening.  I continue to feel so thankful and blessed by all of the love, support and, of course, the prayers from so many wonderful people.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Prayers and Help Needed for the Shelby Family in LA

I do not know this family personally, but heard of them via another blogger and felt that I needed to post something about their situation.  The father in this family, Pastor Rob Shelby, was injured after diving into the pool on 7/3/12.  He is paralyzed from the chest down (at this point).  They have nine children and his wife is pregnant with their tenth child.  I can't even BEGIN TO IMAGINE what they are going through right now and I just wanted to share the link to their blog and also a site where people can donate to help them.

Their blog can be found HERE.

And the site where you can get information if you are able to help them is HERE.

There was also a wonderful post written by a close friend of theirs HERE that reminds me AGAIN, how God is in control of all of the trials we face and that He can use these trials for good.

There can never be too many people praying for this man, Pastor Rob Shelby.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Whole New World (cue Ariel to sing please)

Today is a new day.  Monday was a BAD day.  My chemo nurse sent me a message later that evening reminding me not to let cancer take away my joy.  I heard what she was saying, but I was zapped.  I hit what felt like rock bottom Monday night and prayed that the new medicines and a night of rest would make a difference.
When I woke up Tuesday, I was still unsure about how I was feeling but I wanted to find the joy in the day.  I still felt like someone had pulled the "positive rug" right out from under me and I wasn't sure how to get it back.  But, miraculously, by Tuesday afternoon, I was beginning to feel like things were improving.  My sweet friend brought me a smoothie and visited with me.  And I was able to get in some rest before the kids and our amazing sitter and her awesome hubby came over to eat dinner at our house.  We had lasagna and spaghetti (two of my favorite comfort foods) and my medicine allowed me to be able to tolerate it and actually enjoy it.
Troy had a later work day, but once he was home, we all hung out together in the front yard, visited with neighbors who were out walking and it just felt normal again.  I wasn't ready to run a marathon, but I was outside and communicating with people and not in misery.  My body was finally giving me a break.
So today, I wanted to publish my not-so-happy post from Monday and then immediately follow it up with this one to tell you that I'm on the other side of that chemo #1 and beginning to get my "groove" back.

Today I found my joy again.  Nanny Barb and I took the kids to see a parade this morning and it was their first, so it was a memory that I was able to participate in despite cancer.  Pfffffttttttthhhh.  I refuse to let cancer win.  I am going to kick some cancer booty.  Just remind me of this little post next time I get to losing my umph.

Happy Fourth of July!  God bless America.  We are so lucky to live in this country and I'm thankful to all those who have served in the armed forces.


Monday, July 2, 2012

My Life as a Weenie-Chemo-Participant

I am a big weenie when it comes to medicines.  It almost always takes the "smaller" dose (except in the case of Benedryl causing sleep).  And if there is a side effect, I hate even contemplating it because I don't want to get it.  But throw in a cancer diagnosis and a bunch of toxic sludge, aka chemotherapy, and I am a big hot mess!  There was actually a little workshop just prior to the start of my chemo that was intended to help people manage the chemo side effects.  While I did want to be aware of what MIGHT happen, I was also very confident that everyone has a different response/reaction and I prayed that I just might be a lucky one.

Yeah, well, not so lucky.  I hate whining about it because I know that there are people enduring much worse treatments right now.  There are children going through cancer treatment and they don't even understand why.  But I guess I am thinking that I need to get this out there in order to be up-front, honest and also to just document my journey for myself (because some day I might want to remember how crappy I am feeling?!?!?).

Anyway, after big chemo on Monday, I went back for a Neulasta shot on Tuesday.  This shot helps me fight infections while undergoing chemotherapy.  My link (see above) will give you more information just in case you like to learn about such things.  I was also told to take Claritin for a week beginning on Tuesday in an effort to reduce the negative side effects from the shot, specifically bone pain.  Bone pain?  What the heck?!?!  Yes.  B.O.N.E. P.A.I.N.  This was a completely unique experience and boy am I dreading another one of those little babies.  Whew.  That pain kicked in on Wednesday and continued through Thursday (maybe Friday?). It's all a blur.

Just when I thought it was "safe to go back in the water" because the bone pain had finally subsided, a whole new round of side effects became part of my own experience.  I was dealing with a pretty big headache early on (which continued with little relief through the entire week) and the dr did suggest that I discontinue taking Zofran.  I had only taken two doses in order to "stay ahead" of the nausea.  Nausea hadn't really felt like a big problem.  But now something was happening that caused me stomach distress.  Additionally, muscle pain kicked in.  And mouth sores began to make their presence known.  Heartburn like nothing I had known (I've only had heartburn when pregnant and never have any trouble with it otherwise). Food and drinks tasted terrible and also caused more pain because of the sores in my mouth and throat.  And fatigue.  Did I mention FATIGUE????  Seriously, you cannot rest enough at this point in the journey.  In fact, I didn't WANT to rest anymore.  I wanted to sit up and participate in life and the rest of the world.  But my body was saying "no way".

I took the advice of a fellow cancer survivor and got a prescription for phenergan (a generic actually) tablets and decided that the best way to attack these side effects was to just sleep it off.  So I did that on Friday night and most of Saturday, with additional naps in between.  Normally the phenergan is an anti-nausea, but I have had it after surgery before and I slept like a rock for 2 solid days.  I decided that anti-nausea was a plus but the sleep aspect was just what I needed.

I also texted a new cancer-survivor (and oncology nurse) friend about how I was feeling and she was very helpful.  She even called me on Saturday morning to discuss what was going on.  She had explained via text that at first I had been dealing with the effects from the Neulasta injection, but now the Taxotere (chemo drug) was kicking in and causing it's own issues.  This made sense, but sucked.  A lot.  And then she prayed for me.  With me.  While I was on the phone with her, she asked my God/Daddy/Father to wrap me up and comfort me.  It was precious and helpful and I can't begin to tell you how much that meant when I was starting to reach the end of my rope.

Today I have returned from a mini-chemo session of just Herceptin (with a Benedryl and Tylenol appetizer) and came home with 3 more prescriptions.  I've got something for reflux-type issues because the sores are all down the esophagus.  Plus an antibiotic for a bacterial thing causing a rash on my back, chest, upper arms and my scalp (yes, the balding scalp isn't going to be pretty at this point).  And a "magic mouthwash" to help with the mouth and throat sores as well.  I'm doing my best to keep a chart of medicine I have to take or might need to take depending on a side effect, so keeping track of that is quite interesting.  I've even searched for Apps that help cancer patients track side effects and medications, but the ones out there don't seem to have what I am looking for at the moment.

Again, I know that my family hears me whine (as did the nurse) and I really want to be positive and upbeat when I can, but today, I'm feeling pretty defeated.  I just want to get through this and still try to find some time when I feel good and able to participate in fun things with the kids.  I want to share moments with them and I miss them.  But when I feel like this, I just want to crawl into bed and wait for it to all pass.  The box of prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines is overflowing which makes me feel older than my 42 years.  The combination of different problems is confusing and overwhelming since there are so many things going on all at once.  I can't tell what is brought on by chemo, extra drugs or maybe even because I'm not eating the right foods or getting any physical activity.

So, I selfishly needed to post in order to ask for prayers to get me through this.

*That the side effects would be manageable by the means I have been given.
*That the sores in my mouth and throat would heal quickly so that I could find relief. Again, I know that others suffer more than I am suffering right now and so it feels terrible to even ask for the prayers, but I need to be honest, I am a mess.  Emotionally I feel like I'm slipping.  Physically I am worn down.  I need to stay strong.  I need to be positive for my friends and family and for my own well-being.  But right now?  I'm thinking a big cry and a giant tub of ice cream would be nice.

Praying for peace.