Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Having a Swell Time

Chemo treatment #8 went very well, although once I sleep off the Benedryl, the steroids kick in and I'm wide awake most of the night. We have a lot of good markers to be grateful for this week. Even the cellulitis is improving tremendously, but now the dreaded swelling and water retention are taking a turn. In spite of that I did lose a couple of pounds--inexplicable how that happens with all that water filling up my cells. Now I'm on Lasix to draw the water out. Its generic name is Furosemide, and its effects can be furious if you aren't close to a bathroom when the call comes. Not much swelling has gone down, but this is only day one.

A very nice side effect today is that I'm walking around the house very successfully without the walker that has been my constant companion since November--I've referred to it as "going steady." This past week I've had pain in my right leg, mirroring what was in my left leg before, but today it's gone. I haven't tried to leave the house and stroll through a grocery store or other public place (saving that for Friday--Sprouts has some deals on berries) but I'm liking the positive signs.

Monday we went to an accessories store (who knew they had those?!) and got some clip-on flowers and bows to frill up and soften the look of my hats (I have 12 now--hubby refers to me as Bartholomew Cubbins) and it seems to have worked. Hats soften the blow for onlookers, but I really need them to keep my head warm.

Utah Boy and Sweet Nurse are probably going to be moved to Utah Valley by May 11. They've leased their home with an option for purchase and have to vacate by then. So grateful for that. They looked at a rental home in our neighborhood last night and we're hoping it works out. He's having interviews and she has started her new job. Seeing Grandbaby C more often is a good thing. She's getting used to me, funny hats and all, and now I'm even getting smiles and kisses. She likes my house because I have lots of BOOKS and a chair that's just her size, so she's starting to warm up. Nice.

We are making plans for our vacation at the Oregon coast in July. It's going to be fabulous. Started the ball rolling to set up a book signing event while I'm there--hope it works out.

A few days ago I heard from a high school classmate who has been following my blog because she's just been through this same experience. It was great to read her email and get that encouragement. My friend Mindy and her home-schooled daughter Zion, whom I've been tutoring in writing for a couple of years, came by on Sunday with a basket full of berries and a "hug monster" they made for me. So many people showering me with love and kindness! Such a blessing! I can actually feel the prayers and positive vibes coming my way.

Sweet moment from chemo day: looking out the treatment room window and seeing the mini tulip festival in the flower beds by the front door of the hospital. Spring in Utah drops these little kindnesses on us, too, and we breathe deep sighs of appreciation.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Silence of the Blog

It's been a while since I've posted, but not because I haven't thought about it. Mainly I'm a gifted procrastinator, and not posting is a manifestation of that gift.

Speed. That's what I've been thinking about lately. Pouring molasses in January. Swimming through a vat of Jell-O. Wading knee-deep in applesauce. Striding through a puddle of ketchup. All of that is how I feel when I wake up in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep, even when I want to. I visit the bathroom first, automatically, sitting and staring, thinking I ought to get up and be finished now, ought to make myself move, ought not to sit there until my legs go to sleep. I think about the things I ought to be doing. But it's so easy just to keep sitting there. Eventually I talk myself into standing, pulling my pants up, washing my hands, and going on with my life. Sometimes it takes a lot of convincing because speed is highly overrated.

How do you pass the time at 2 a.m. when you'd rather be asleep? I have developed a few strategies for wearing myself out so I can go back to sleep. I go online and catch up on the news. I write emails. I index--New York marriage records are my current favorites. (Found a great name this morning--Fairybelle Hooker. Who names their kid that?) I work on a manuscript if my brain is functioning well enough. I try to clean off my desk, an impossible task since I'm creatively sloppy by nature.

This week I didn't have a chemotherapy treatment, but I did consult with the doctor. He's very personable and isn't afraid to get off topic for a few minutes because life events influence health events. We're undergoing a transition in the family with Utah Boy and his Sweet Nurse wife moving to Utah Valley, and she works in a hospital where my doctor might interact with her sometimes.

So far the treatment seems to be working. My left leg is pain free, and I walked into the doctor's office with the assistance of a cane. That's the first time since November I haven't used a walker to get around. Our plan right now is to reassess progress after the next set of three treatments. That means the second week of May I'll have another test--either PET scan or MRI probably--and be free of chemo side effects while Colorado Girl is visiting again for a few days. We'll have a birthday party for Utah Boy that week as well.

Sweet Nurse performed an act of mercy by trimming my toenails this week, and then she buzzed what's left of my hair. Doctor is surprised I haven't lost it all by now. Without a hat, I now look like the denizen of a concentration camp. Maybe I'm not going to be bald. That sometimes happens.

We started doing a TV exercise program called Sit and Be Fit, which is designed for seniors. I actually feel energized by it, but Hubby pulled a hamstring the second time out. Activity is good. It keeps the juices flowing. I've been having mini-massages, too, and that also helps. I can sit in a chair and the therapist can still do her thing.

Antibiotics are slowing down somewhat the cellulitis on my legs. It wasn't as bad this time when I went to get the wraps removed and replaced. We'll see how long that lasts. Those wraps are tight enough to act as the needed compression for the swelling and water retention that I'm now experiencing. In other news, my dermatologist and his assistant, who have been treating the cellulitis since January, both bought copies of both my books to give to their wives for Mothers Day.

And the second book, What Took You So Long, is being advertised in the Deseret Book spring catalog. So get it, read it, and put a review on Amazon, GoodReads, or Deseret Book.

Bottom line: six treatments down, six to go, feeling as well as can be expected. Life is good.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Halfway Point

Little markers along the way help me assess where I am with my cancer treatment, and every day is a new adventure.

Now that I've had six of the twelve chemotherapy treatments, it's becoming a familiar routine. Check in at the cancer clinic at the hospital, preliminaries with the nurse, get the tube inserted into the port implanted next to my collarbone, have blood drawn, visit with the doctor. We talk about how my week has gone, he looks at the blood test results, determines this week's "cocktail recipe," and infusions begin. It takes 20 or 30 minutes for the benedryl and other fluids to drip, and then the chemo itself takes about an hour.

This week I noticed a lot less pain in my groin area where a spot of cancer had been located. I'm even able to go short distances on my own without the walker that has kept me mobile since last November. I have a lot less arthritis pain in my joints, too.

Unfortunately, the cellulitis on my legs isn't responding to the antibiotics as quickly as I'd like, but my resistance is low. It's slow progress because I'm also experiencing swelling and water retention. This week I'm having issues with cancer-related neuropathy in my feet. That means my feet tingle and hurt and I can't get comfortable for very long when I'm sitting. So I learn to deal with it and tolerate it and feel grateful it's not one of the worse side effects I might be having.

We have started doing a TV exercise program for seniors, "Sit and Be Fit." It's exercises you can do sitting in a chair, or standing behind it while holding on, and it's surprising how many ways you can move your muscles while you're sitting down. It's half an hour that we do on days when we're at home and not otherwise active. Hubby pulled a hamstring muscle (!!!) but I've done well with it.

For my birthday, my kids gave me gift certificates for massages so for the past three weeks I've been taking advantage of that. It's a mini-massage--sitting up since it's so hard for me to move and turn otherwise--but I can actually feel movement in my left breast when my back is massaged, like it's opening pathways for the chemo. And I've noticed that the tightness in my breast is loosening, and the affected glands are softening. It's amazing to feel that difference.

Summary: six treatments down, six to go, and side effects still at a minimum. My hair is almost gone, and I sleep when I'm tired. I keep up with the rest of my normal activities and throw in the daily allowances for cancer. That's my life. It's all about coping.