Friday, March 29, 2013

The little things...

So I've been pretty gung-ho with my attitude to chemotherapy this time around. Was feeling pretty stoked to get it started and thinking that it will be easier to get through this time since I've been through it once already. No big deal, la di da. Apparently I didn't quite remember all the little crappy details about being on chemo. And although I made it to the other side of treatment the first time without too many lasting issues, it doesn't make this round a walk in the park. Experience does not relieve the tiredness, the "am I hungry or nauseous or both" moments, the lethargy, the tingling hands, and the general dull ache that accompanies two days on the pump. I have had to remind myself the last couple of days that it is okay to feel bad and not be on top of everything. Remind myself of how to get to that zen space that I occupied so well last summer.

I just know that the end is so near now. Two treatments down, which means only four more to go. One third of the way done. It's practically April, which means just under two months to the end. It feels so close, but I need to remember that it is most definitely not a "sprint to the end" sort of race. I can make it through it again, preferably with the same mental aplomb as before. But it doesn't mean it is going to be easy every day.

You would think that I'd be much better about being gentle and patient with myself. However, one of the problems with my new perspectives is that I see just how much stuff there is to see and do! And I want to do all of the things RIGHT NOW. There is an underlying sense of urgency that is now in competition with my new mindfulness. And I know I'll never get around to reading all the books on my ever-growing list, or see all the corners of the world, or finish every craft idea I come up with, or attend all the events/plays/music that are occurring on the same day. That's just the way life is for all of us. That's how it would be if I make it to 100 years old. And I never want to run out of interesting things to add to my Want and To-do lists.

To be frankly honest, there is also a sad, almost nostalgic, sensibility that thrums alongside this feeling of urgency. I am pretty sure it comes from a place of fear. Which is something I don't talk about much, or even allow myself the time to dwell within. I will not let fear be a loud voice in my mind or my life. But I am not immune to it, and occasionally I put on my gloves and have to fight it back into the shadows. It is an easy, simple emotion. Easier to slip into than the more complex and fulfilling emotions like hope and compassion. But I will not be lazy in the living of this life. And I continue my work to fully be in each moment and relish each day. Even if it is a tired, not at the top of my game day.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Back Online and LIVE!

 Got my stuff together this week. So live chemo blogging is back in action.

11:55 a.m.
Think I chose one of the biggest chairs in the place this week. I could easily fit another of me in it and we'd still have a little wiggle room. Kind of feels almost like a daybed, just doesn't lie all the way down like one. With my pillow and warm blanket it should make for a good, roomy nap spot a bit later when the meds start to kick in.

Had time for a only a quickie breakfast rolling out of the house this morning. Chinese delivery for lunch should be on its way. As always, eating while the eating is good. Didn't really have any appetite issues after my first treatment though. Was regularly hungry and able to eat well the day after. If this goes like last time, the appetite (and other) issues will gradually build with each treatment. But for now I'm still in pretty good shape.

I'm already plugged in to the collective and partway through the initial anti-nausea meds and fluids.

Brought forms and paperwork to fill out today. Applying to a fund that helps pay for cancer patient medical expenses. And also forms for getting my retirement fund set up so that I can start accessing that money for traveling. Going to spread those out and get to work.

12:29 p.m.
Second set of meds doing their thing. About forty minutes before the 'big guns' come in to play. Feeling strangely spry this round. Typically the Ativan affects me more strongly, making me mellow or spacey or apathetic. There's a teensy bit of mellow, but not noticeable unless I'm looking for it. Perhaps my body has built up a tolerance of sorts. See, it truly is an adventure every time. *wink*

Food is here! Less chatting, more nom-noming.

3:39 p.m.
All done. Wave of tiredness hit about an hour and a half ago. Succumbed to a long nap and then it was quick work to get my final med push and get hooked up to the lovely chemo pump. My ride is here and patiently waiting. So it's a quick "adios" to you all for this round. Be back in a day or two with a post-chemo update.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

All about the attitude

Back on the chemotherapy schedule. Which, in a way, isn't all that bad. At least I'm not in a waiting period. And there's something vaguely comforting about being 'active' in this fight. I know we are beating down the last cancer cells that may be floating around. And I'm very expectant and hopeful that my next PET scan following this three months will be clean. Then I can finally consider myself done with this first part. I can start making plans on my own time, rather than working around cancer's schedule.

I know how to work around this every other week chemo thing. Done it once before, so I know I can make it through it all again. Already noticing a tiny drop in energy, but that will ebb and flow with the on/off weeks.  The biggest key is just allowing myself to sleep as much as my body needs. Which is a lot more than usual. I have to remind myself that it isn't 'wasted time,' but is important and part of my work. Time to really listen to my body again and let it take the lead.

Other than the tiredness, which truly is the part I dislike the most, the other really annoying thing about the chemo is the pump I carry around for two days each treatment. I have recognized a change in my relationship with the chemo pump however. Last March I had to carry it around for five days at a time, and I tended to hang it around my waist and try to hide it and pretend it wasn't there. It was a constant weight and annoyance. In the summer when it was a two day carry around, I just slung it across one shoulder like a purse. Not only is it hard to hide with sundresses, but I didn't care as much. And in quiet times when I would hear it go off, I would say "thank you chemotherapy." It seemed to help me accept the process that much better. This first week I've already found myself whispering that often to my pump. Only this time around I found myself saying, "thank you chemotherapy for killing all the cancer." I've added to the mantra.

This is how the fight works. It isn't always easy and sometimes it sucks a little (sometimes more). But I have made it through everything so far in pretty good flying colors I'd say. I'll make it through this last part and then I win. I'm alive and actually pretty well all things considered. So I can learn to appreciate the pump and the process. A doctor friend of mine was just telling me last night that attitude can make a huge, clear difference in health and recovery. Maybe that has helped make all of this year plus go as well as it has. Whatever the reasons, I'm keeping my positive attitude in full gear through this last stretch. And I'd like to extend a big "thank you" to everyone for smiling along with me throughout this time.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Delayed Live Broadcast

Due to technical errors of the user, today's edition of Live Chemo Blogging will be presented as a delayed live update news story. Thank you for your understanding...

I forgot how the Ativan affects me. That is one of the early drugs they hook you up with during infusion. Specifically because it mellows you out. It was originally exclusively an anti-depressant medication. But when they realized the strong anti-nausea effect it also had, they began using it with chemo treatments. So my motivation went out the window, quickly followed down the side of the building by my caring about it. And they expect this drug to possibly hit people hard in the mental capacity side of things. Before they give it to you they ask to confirm that you have someone to drive you home. If you don't, they'll skip it. So I had my laptop set up and ready to go. And then I just didn't do it. Maybe next time I'll be better attuned to the regimen again and will be able to do the live blogging.

Home now (thanks Kim!) and likely firmly ensconced on the sofa for most of the rest of the night. I already felt the shadow of nausea and took some of my prescription meds to take care of it hopefully. Pretty tired now. Did a lot of short and micro-napping at the center. It's been almost six months from my last treatment and I remember how it felt, but not the little details of it all. This initial tired is encompassing. As soon as my mind or body disengage from something, my head is rolling forward and I don't realize it. It's kind of like that scary drive in the middle of the night when you really are too tired to be driving. You can pick your head up and focus, but you only get a few minutes before the body just tries to take over in to sleep again.

And for a hot moment I completely wasn't thinking about the neuropathy. Started to make some tea as soon as I got home, and decided I'd have a quick glass of water while I waited. (Keeping hydrated and flushing the system of the poisons.) Poured one out of the pitcher in the fridge, went to take a big drink and as soon as I felt the pricking on my tongue I spat it all out in the sink. Have since put the water pitcher on the counter when it will remain with lukewarm water for the next couple of months. At least it is still the season for hot drinks this time around. No wishing I could have a glass of iced tea and being denied for all of the summer.

One of the good shawarma restaurants in town delivers downtown. So I was able to have a very tasty lunch and, so far, keep it down. One of the patients across from me was getting his first chemo treatment. We and his caregiver chatted a bit about what he can expect and laughed a bit about the whole loopy process.

A pretty normal chemo experience for me today. I was hoping that since my system has been exposed to all of these drugs before, it would more readily adapt to the process again. The very first treatment last summer was one of the worst and I am glad that today was no sort of repeat.

Time to give in to the napping. I hope you are all having wonderful days out there.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In the A.M.

That's when I start the second half of my chemo treatment. So I'll be up bright and early in the morning to make myself a big, warm breakfast and snarf up as much food as I can beforehand. Very likely will end up nauseous or not hungry for the remainder of the day. I've been "front loading" the last few weeks in preparation for the weight I will lose in the chemo process. Put on about five pounds, which should be just the buffer I need. I won't have to be worried about getting underweight in the upcoming couple of months.

I will take the laptop with me tomorrow and hopefully feel up to another "thrilling" edition of live blogging from the chemo chair. So some of you may get two posts in one day, lucky you!

Chemo course, Take 2

Well, I have half the news for you. Met with my primary oncologist today and he is more than agreeable to finishing out the second half of the chemo treatment. He asked when I was thinking of starting it and I told him that ASAP is best. I've got a camping trip in July that I don't want to miss this year. And starting now will give me a full month of recovery before that trip. My doctor, however, does not make the schedule for the chemo infusion room. So I am still waiting to hear from the schedulers at the center. I left a voicemail later in the afternoon as I hadn't heard anything yet. I'll be getting up early to call them first thing in the morning again. My best hope is that I go in tomorrow (technically today, Tuesday), but I'm thinking that is not a highly likely probability. So my second hope is for Wednesday. Either way, I'd like to know when they've got me scheduled so I can make ride arrangements and the like.

So yes we are starting chemo again, another six treatments over three months time. Not sure exactly when though. You'll all get the update here when I figure it out.

Other than that, I'm in get-things-done mode at the moment. Want to get the little things around the house organized so it's all easy at hand for the first couple of days after treatment when I'm wiped out. I'm strangely excited for this to all begin again. The sooner I get started, the sooner I am done. And hopefully at the end of this three months there will be a beautiful, clean PET scan. And then we are DONE with all of this for a while. Fingers crossed, a very long while. There will, of course, be scans every few months for a few years. But the heavy shadow of this awful disease will be off me and I can start to really look forward to everything else. That is what I'm excited for. I really feel like the end may be in arm's length.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Alas, I have been remiss again in my updates. This year has been a busy one so far, and I'm happy to claim that most of it has had nothing to do with cancer. This is fantastic! I've been out of town practically every other week and have been all over in a triangular swath from west Michigan to northern Kentucky to Washington D.C. Just returned yesterday afternoon from my D.C. trip with two of my best girlfriends. We had such a great time, saw a lot of stuff, and left wanting more. This was my first time there and I was quite impressed. Rode a subway for the first time and I really enjoyed that mode of transportation around a city.

Found the time to see Mount Vernon, the National Cathedral, the Textile Museum, Embassy Row, Union Station, three Smithsonian museums (Air & Space, Natural History, and American History), the National Gallery, and a small portion of the Mall. Washington, dinosaurs and ruby slippers, oh my! We stayed in an apartment in the Petworth neighborhood north of the city. It was a wonderful alternative to a blah hotel, and no more expensive. It was also only a two and a half block walk to a metro station. It was a lovely one bedroom basement apartment with a full kitchen and plenty of space for additional guests to stay with us on Monday night. Our very well-balanced trio was expanded to a party of five for a day and a half and really was a highlight of the week. Despite heavy usage of the metro system, we did a LOT of walking around and about. The blocks are long and all the museums rather sizable. The last day was dreary, rainy and windy, and several things were closed due to the possibility of a major snowstorm which never arrived in the city. It also curtailed some of our wandering. Our feet were pretty beat by that day anyway, so we were content to head back to our apartment, curl up in the warmth and get some well needed rest. All in all it was a terrific trip. There were several things we didn't have the time to see. But that just means that I'll have to make another trip someday.

Looks like it might actually be time this year to slow down a bit. No trips more than a weekend long or a couple of hours away planned at the moment. I see my oncologist again on Monday and hope to have a start date for chemo at that point. Six treatments should be all that's left. That will take three months, and hopefully will be done before the heart of the summer is here. We've been through this once already though. So I know how it will go and know that I can get through it. And you all get to be privy once again to the live chemo blogging. Good times.

So I plan to be back with another update on Monday and will attempt to get back into the every 3ish days routine around here. Hope everyone has a perfectly lovely weekend.