(Really Sour Lemons)

Monday, April 30, 2012

One week into the rest of my life

Hi everyone! I thought I would give an update as to how this LAST round of chemo went. I am thrilled to tell you that I got through it pretty well! As you know I was really worried because Round 5 was hellish, very painful, and mentally challenging. And knowing chemo is cumulative, I was very worried. But... all is well. Tuesday marks a week post-chemo and I'm feeling very tired, but good.

I was down on the couch Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday, but they were more of a "take some Tylenol, snuggle in a blanket with the remote, and watch stupid TV and doze" types of days. No major pains, no fevers, few chills, and no descending mental darkness. For this I am grateful.

I've got the typical post chemo symptoms - ferret in the stomach, numb toes, dead taste buds, sore mouth, hot flashes... the next few days I know I will see GI issues and of course the fatigue and muscle aches. Some of my fingernails are separating a bit from the bed but it's nothing a little Formaldehyde-free nail polish from Whole Foods can't cure :-) But all those are tolerable. Because I know they will slowly subside and I don't have to put myself through it anymore.

I got a delicious night sleep Friday night, first time in about 3 months. I slept three hours, got up to pee, and slept another FIVE hours. Like, straight, no sweating or chilling, or bone aches, or anything. Just dreams. I felt so good on Saturday. I managed to shower and dress and take a trip to the grocery store (don't worry, with my little helper!) We came home and I napped a bit and then went cell phone shopping and out to Portillo's to dinner. It felt so good to get out of the house for a few hours like a normal person! I missed a family party on Saturday-I'm not sure I could have handled hours in a car and party food. But my family will forgive me, I know.

And it's only going to get better from here on out, isn't it?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Here we go again...

Tuesday (tomorrow) is my LAST chemotherapy treatment. I have a lot of emotions running through my head. I thought this day would never come. I'm excited to get this over with. I'm dreading feeling sick for the next weeks and the fatigue that comes with the healing of the cells that were killed. I'm excited to get some semblance of a life back. To feel good again. To go for walks and bike rides without hurting. I want to climb mountains this summer. Or at least big hills.

I do have to remind myself that I'm not quite done though. (Is a cancer survivor ever done?) The nurses will sing for me tomorrow. But I will see them Wednesday for my last Neulesta shot. And next Tuesday for another less invasive treatment. And the next Tuesday, and the next. Then every three weeks for this Herceptin treatment, until next January. So I will still have to go to the Cancer Center and get hooked up and all that. But this Herceptin treatment doesn't make me sick like the chemo. Doesn't make my bones and muscles hurt and doesn't kill the fast growing cells in my body. It'll be interesting to see what side effects it does have, by itself, without the nasty chemo. Good news is, I had a MUGA heart scan last Friday and my heart is still as healthy as it was when we started.

Best of all... is that my hair will grow back! I have a confession... I HATE being bald. I am sick and tired of wearing hats. Or scarves or head coverings. And it's not because of how I look bald. When I have makeup on (like eyebrows!) and earrings, I think I look okay. But for some reason I have not ventured in public as a bald chick. My head is COLD all the time. Even hanging around the house, it's cold. Except of course when it's HOT. It's one or the other. Never a comfortable in-between. I wear a hat or scarf. My head gets hot. I take the hat or scarf off. My head gets cold. My temperature regulator is broken. (I won't even talk about night time!)

If I could regulate my temperature and not have this issue, it wouldn't be bad at all. There are some definite advantages of being hairless: 

1. I can get ready in the morning in about 15 minutes and that includes showering and putting on makeup. 
2. Not having to blow dry my hair and making my scalp and dry and itchy. (No dry flaky scalp now!)
3. No one can blame me for clogging up the shower drain with hair! 
4. Save money on shampoo and conditioner (and frizz-ease, and other styling products)
5. It's impossible to have a bad hair day! 
6. I haven't had to shave my armpits in months! 
7. Or my legs! 
8. Or... well, we won't even go there!

That's all I can think of for now... if anyone has any other advantages, leave a comment.

I need to take my steroids before I turn out the light. I hate taking them. They wire my brain and cause insomnia. I can lay here with my eyes closed but my mind will be ticking and tomorrow I'll be tired and cranky. They will cause flushing and a red rash on my cheeks (like a sunburn that will flake and peel over the week.) They will cause water retention; a puffy moon face. They make me want to eat but the chemo will make me want to puke. But I'm a good girl. I take them because they're supposed to cut down on any allergic reactions to the chemo and help combat nausea and vomiting.

But this is the last time, right? I can do this.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Truth.

This is not a post to invoke sympathy or pity. Positive thoughts, prayers and comments are always appreciated but I'm not writing this for that purpose. I just want, no, need to tell it like it is.

I'm having a hard time writing this... I don't want to be negative, but my goodness, how can I not be if I want to tell the truth? I don't want to sound like I'm whining and I don't want to appear weak. I know others who are going through tougher regimens. But I would be doing myself an injustice if I skipped this part and sugar coated it into the background. My goal is not to scare anyone, but to be truthful.

The Truth is... chemo sucks. No surprise there, right?

This round of chemo, round 5 out of 6, really kicked my ass this time. I knew the side effects were cumulative, but still... Last Tuesday was a normal day of infusion, but the night time began the nightmare. Severe lack of sleep despite sleep aids. Wednesday I completed some work and went to get my Neulesta shot but was so out of it. I told myself I'd take Thursday off. I packed a few orders and parked on the couch watching bad daytime TV and Lifetime Movies. My bones began to ache. My heart started fluttering. My stomach felt like it had a brick in it. My muscles ached and started spasming. Restless legs and body. My fingers and toes were numb but at the same time sharp little pinpricks would stab them. My head was dizzy and my balance was off. That lasted all day and into the night and I thought I might just die on Friday and Saturday. My brain didn't really care. I think I left the couch about 4 times to pee. I'm grateful MrC and LilC were home from school because I was scared to be alone. (They probably don't know this.) I couldn't function. I couldn't get up. I drifted in and out sleep all day, trying to get comfortable with my aching bones and muscles. Hat on, hat off. Hat on, hat off. Etc. I ran a slight fever those two days. Not enough to call the doctor, it was only the mid 99's and I was told to call when it's 100.5. But it still made me feel like crap.

MrC took care of everything, setting up play dates for LilC, driving her, making dinner, going grocery shopping, packing orders, etc. I just lay there and didn't care. That's the part that scared me the most. My brain wasn't functioning like normal. I had no energy to even think. I just wanted to cry. And slip into an oblivion where everything goes away...

Today is Sunday. I feel a bit better today. Walking across the house exhausts me but I'm awake and vertical. I even sat at my desk for a few hours and worked on some art work. I read and answered some emails. My stomach feels like the Ferrets are playing toss with bricks, but I was able to eat a sweet potato for lunch and a chicken breast and rice for dinner. And some ice cream to cool my mouth. My mouth feels like my taste buds are burned off. This I expected. But I didn't expect my mouth and the sink to fill with blood when I brushed my teeth with my Winnie-the-Pooh toddler toothbrush! I can feel more mouth sores forming as I write...

I'm scared.

I'm scared about what the next cycle will be like. Every cycle has been worse than the one before. Exponentially worse, not just a "little worse." I am 5 days past my infusion and I am already feeling anxiety about the next one. I don't want to do it. I find it hard to breathe when I think about it. I have to keep telling myself that it's my last one. That's the ONLY thing that calms me down a little bit. But then I think, what if it kills me? Wouldn't that suck?

I just want this to be over. I know that tomorrow I will feel a little better. (My rational brain is coming back.) And the next day will be better. And so on. In a week I'll start forgetting how bad I actually felt. (Isn't the brain amazing?) In two weeks I'll feel good, normal even. And I will do what I can to recover my strength and repair my cells so I'm in the best shape I can be for next time. And soon it will all be over and I can start living a normal life again. Although that's a misnomer because I have a feeling things will never be normal again.

But for now I'll deal with the guilt of "cancelling Easter" for LilC... not a chocolate bunny nor a colorful Easter egg was to be found here :-( I'm so sorry.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Lisa-4, Cancer-0

Soooo. Round 4 is over. Tomorrow I go in for round 5. I dread it. Instead of enjoying the past few "feeling great" days, I felt anxiety about the next chemo cycle. I'm just tired and don't want to deal with it anymore. I don't have time to feel sick for a week. Or longer. I have too many things to do around here. It's spring! I want to go out and enjoy it. I want to work in the garden. Go for walks. Gah! I just want this whole chemo thing to be over. I want my hair back! Yes, I am even willing to start shaving armpits and legs again, just give me my head hair! 

Okay, I'm done whining. In three weeks and one day I will be done with chemo. I can do this. 

Change of subject... a few weeks ago my nephew Tyler had his head shaved for a St. Baldrick's fundraiser for Childhood cancer. He dedicated his shave to me and a family friend who both have/had breast cancer; his step-grandpa and his second cousin who both passed on from lung cancer, and his friend Nate who is in the middle of a really tough battle with an aggressive cancer. (I'm thinking an 18 year old shouldn't even know that many people with cancer!) We had a family party for his and Celia's birthday last weekend and I got my picture taken with him. I call it "Two Baldies." Although I was slightly jealous that in two weeks he had a nice layer of fuzz already! I think he looks handsome with Very Short Hair.
Oh yeah, I'm the one on the left, ha ha. This is the ONLY baldy picture of me you'll see. Because a) I don't like getting my picture taken; and b) I don't like being bald; and c) this is the ONLY picture that I don't mind too much. I want to thank my sister for taking it. 

I also want to thank my sister for being there for me throughout all these chemo sessions. At first I thought that I might want to be alone. After the first session I changed my mind. She makes it tolerable and dare I say... fun? Oh yeah, we manage to laugh. And talk. Yell at the TV. We eat lunch together. Sometimes we just sit in silence and work on schoolwork or artwork or work-work. But I never feel alone. Sometimes I even manage to forget that I'm hooked up to an IV being fed poisons. Well, except for that time I needed to go to the bathroom and she unplugged something (that obviously wasn't the IV) and a couple of nurses came running into the room in a near panic. I guess she unplugged the emergency button and the nurses thought I was dying or something. Oh yeah, we laugh about it now. I think we laughed about it then too. Let's not do it again though, 'kay Moni? LOL.

Wish me luck tomorrow... may the ferrets find another home (that's not in my stomach) and may the drugs not turn me into a blimp.