Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chemo log 7 hair, hair, every where

I am nearing the end of my second chemo cycle. Time has a way a going at warp speed. Blogging seems to be something I just fantasize about having time for. I am lucky my symptoms do not seem to be too severe at this point in my treatment. Sleepless nights and the need for naps seem to be the greatest side effects thus far, logic tells me these two go hand in hand. I will check with my doctor this week about being able to take natural sleep aids like melatonin or magnesium.

Adjusting to life without hair has been rather smooth. I have taken to going out with just my bald head, it is also way to hot. One benefit of no hair is never waking up with a bad hair day. The downsize to shaving my head is that a very short stubble remained, maybe around an 1/8 of an inch. Some how I reasoned in my brain that cutting it short might prevent me from losing this hair. What it actually prevented was me watching longer pieces of my hair making this mass exodus from my head. I guess for my psyche and plumbing that is a good thing. The fact remains that I had a full head of stubble falling out (currently 1/2 remains). This stubble has transformed into splinters of dark coarse Asian hair that I need to remove from my body and clothes with a lint brush. The ironic part is that my thinning hair feels like a Velcro patch, that's right folks anything I put on my head clings to my hair in a weird and uncomfortable way. This makes bandanas and hats feel strange too. If I lay on my pillow "against the grain" of my hair it tugs and pulls. I also have a new super power, it's like "spidey sense", my head is a giant cluster of nerve endings that have never really been exposed to a wide variety of sensations, maybe it's like my third eye. My first shampoo was down right erotic, every draft breeze, or heat pocket I sense immediately. Sunblock has been added to my morning routine, my newly exposed scalp gets a dose of 55 SPF, I can't begin to imagine how horrible a sunburn would be. According to Dr. Vu I should be avoiding the sun altogether, my chemo makes me susceptible to "very ugly brown spots" that can occur from the sun. He repeated this phrase to Jen and I multiple times at my last visit so he must be very serious about it, I will just have to take him at his word.

I went swimming for the first time since my surgery. I didn't really swim I just prepared my arms for the idea of swimming. The amount of changes my chest and shoulder muscles have gone through became very apparent. Not only do I have my own personal flotation devices, the muscles all around my expander's are SOOOO tight. Dr. Berardi put 100 cc into my right expander which makes us even, sort of. There is less tissue on this side so the implant sits higher. All I want is balance the only way I am going to achieve this is through some very painful massage. The recent fill left me in so much muscle pain I had to take a percocet just to be able to sleep. I could barely bend over to tie my shoes. Now knowing my body as intimately as I do I think some of the pain I had post-surgery was due to the expanders and reconstruction. This stretching of the pectoral muscle over my implant caused a lot of the pain I had getting in and out of bed. For me the pros still out way the cons of reconstruction directly after mastectomy. My breast mounds still have my skin (less the nipples) over them, I look down and see familiar moles some how they are comforting. I do however feel my physical recovery from the surgeries may have gone quicker had I not elected to have reconstruction. Emotionally the expanders have given me the freedom from mastectomy undergarments and prosthetics. This meant for me an easier time accepting all the changes in my body. There is a higher risk for complications due to infection with the expanders, all things one needs to think about when making a decision like this. I never thought about any of this when I made the decisions for my surgery. I wanted to streamline everything and figured my body would figure it out. I got lucky, my surgical team encouraged this route and it turned out to be the right path for me. The great news is my trips to Phoenix will be reduced, I am almost up to my desired "size" and will not need to expand much more.

Enough for now I need to get some sleep.............

catch up on some blogging, drink water and breathe.......

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chemo log 6 so much for my hair

I have a lot of hair, probably twice as much as the average person. If I only lost half of my hair through chemo, then I could theoretically have enough left over for what would be a reasonable head of hair. I am not however able to deal with the constant shedding and that shedding began Friday morning. I gave my hair an ever so gentle tug and about 20 strands were in my hand. I tried the other side 20 or so more strands. I hopped in the shower and gently washed it and my hands were just coated with hair.

I was faced with yet another step in this cancer journey. I was going to have to cut my hair off. Not until the afternoon though after my friend dropped off the clippers. I gently styled my hair and sprayed it with a ton of hairspray so that it would not fall out throughout the day. It was my last day with hair for a few months.

I didn't think I would mind to much, but it kind of bothered me a bit. My head has not seen daylight ever, I was born with a head of hair. What if I looked hideous? Just another initiation into this club called cancer. I am growing weary of all the steps.

My friends Dani and Matt came over to do the deed. I was nervous, but the thought of cleaning up all this hair that was falling out, made me realize there is no time like the present. So I held my head over a trash bag while my friend Matt did the honors. Dani took pictures and it was over in about 8 minutes. I was sure my head was going to look like Darth Vader's at the end of Return of the Jedi when Luke takes his fathers helmet off. My head is quite even, I kind of look monkish. It is quite liberating to have no hair. I have a lot of options for wigs, scarves and wraps. I may just go out with nothing. Here are some pictures for you all to see....
You will note Matt has a twisted grin on him face after shaving my head, Millie and Vanillie are always a nice look, and then of course there is "little cancer on the prarie".........
Drink water and breathe..........

Chemo log 5 hair today and gone tomorrow

Life has been BUSY..........My friend Diane has been here from Minnesota, the boys have had Dr.'s appointments, I have had Dr.'s Appointments, work of course at the restaurant it is non-stop fun.

The boys are healthy and fine Corbin is growing so much. He actually did a portion of his wellness check-up without me and totally chatted with Dr. Moyer like a big boy, I guess six is officially big.

The American Cancer Society sponsered a "look good, feel good class" that I attended last Wednesday. They gave out tons of awesome make-up. I met many women in various stages of cancer. We all did little make-overs with all our new product and then tried on wigs and hair wraps. Girly nights are fun even if the women all have cancer. When my treatment is complete I may try to volunteer, in some capacity to an organization like this. Feeling good about yourself is just another powerful tool in the fight against cancer.

Thursday morning I made a quick trip to Scottsdale to see Dr. Berardi. Diane was able to go down with me which made it so much more fun. She got to meet the famous Dr. Berardi. I am within 100cc of balance on the boob front. The stretching is getting to be more and more uncomfortable. I will probably max out around 500 cc. Once my new boobs are up to size I will just have to wait until after chemo to have my permanent implants put in. Until then I have to deal with these uncomfortable rock-hard balls on my chest. Diane and I rushed home after a quick bite to eat.

Diane and I hit every red light on the way home from Scottsdale. I don't mean most, I mean every. The universe was sending me a large message on patience. We got back so close to my appointment time I could not even take Diane back to her sister's house.

So I left Diane with my car to fend for herself. My friend Jen comes to pick me up to take me to my chemo appointment. We hit every red light on the way to Prescott Valley, imagine that???? the patience message continues.

We get to the Dr.'s office and it is just a little bit of chaos. I expect to get plugged in right away. Apparently they have to do labs. They tap into my port, 1st nurse can't get any blood, calls the other nurse over, she gets it to work. They draw my blood sllllooooooooooooooowly, that's right apparently it is a little thick today and doesn't want to come out quickly?? Are you kidding me even my blood isn't moving effiiciently. Then I have to see Dr. Vu, I just saw him a week ago, I can't imagine much has changed since then. This is however the order in which they want to do things. He checks me out, it is like the time before only a week later. Then clears me for getting plugged in, FINALLY. Then we sit and wait for a nurse to get to us, there must be at least 5 other patients in the chemo room. So we patiently wait until a nurse can get to us.

Then there is my dear friend Jen who has yet to come to chemo before and she doesn't really have her sheilds up if you know what I mean. I look over at Jen and I wonder if she is going to be able to handle this. It is intense, you walk into a room of pretty sick looking people. IV bags are hanging everywhere and then there is that smell.....I forgot to prep her. I know how I feel about places like this so I can sympathize with others. But Jen was awesome she settled right in, we read magazines, talked, laughed, and of course played scrabble. I am officially 2 -0 we won't mention the actual score.

Thank heavens patience was my lesson for the day because the chemo nurse apparently didn't check the IV bag. About an hour into my first solution she realized I was getting saline and not chemo, oh joy, this put us an hour or so behind schedule and I am totally hydrated and need to pee alot.

Can I just say drink water and breathe..................

Monday, June 14, 2010

chemo log 4 - hair still here

I am feeling pretty good, I guess. Perspective means so much, I have no other experience to compare this with. Fatigue is probably the worse culprit, I find myself wanting to take a nap in the afternoon. My appetite has returned and not in a healthy way I am craving all kinds of junk food. Occasionally I get a wave a nausea, it is a tiny little wave that gently lands up on a beach not the kind that will knock you over. Then of course there is my hair, the official flag of the cancer patient, it is all still here. I pull on it daily expecting clumps to fall out, none so far. About 1% of patients don't lose their hair, I don't anticipate that this will be me, but you never know though. I do have a little of what they call "chemo brain". They say it is an assault on your short term memory. I am not sure if it is your memory or the fact that you are scheduling so much more when you have cancer. Most cancer patients I have met, strip down their regular life to the bare minimum, and then add in all the Doctor appointments and of course healing time. For me that schedule is as full as my life before cancer. If I seem confused blame it on the treatment. My lack of blogging lately is due to my busy schedule.

I am off to work, I need to remember to drink water and breathe.......
today it is after my cup of coffee.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chemo log 3 - Insomnia my new pal

I actually started this post sometime last week but was unable to finish it.

Since my surgery in April I have not slept like myself. One could argue that I am no longer my "self". I have had major surgery, been diagnosed with a serious disease, and had natural hormones removed from my life. I could not be sleeping for a million reasons, and I guess it doesn't really matter what they are. To address this insomnia I am either faced with a serious commitment to meditation or throwing myself at the mercy of the pharmaceutical companies. My heart says "meditate Sarah, the way to sleep is through the calming of the energies within". My mind says "take a pill Sarah, it is the path of least resistance", yes that is my mind putting a zen spin on the pill thing, never doubt the power of your mind, very tricky indeed. I don't like taking pills and I have enough "medicine" running through my veins. So I did nothing. Friday and Saturday of last week I slept through the night, my body must have known I needed a little more shut eye.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Chemo log 2 - It's official this sucks

Saturday left me unable to do pretty much anything. I could make breakfast, and my bed and that was the extent of my abilities for the day. Return of the throbbing headache, followed by extreme fatigue, I am not sure if I experienced the bone pain that I mentioned in an earlier post. I felt so crummy I could barely sleep effectively.

My friend Kelly came by with a Bountiful Basket, for me and the boys. Lots of nice organic fruits and vegetables for the price. She also stayed, cleaned my refrigerator, and did my dishes. Another of my many reminders that the universe just has a way of providing the things I need.

I started to freak out on Saturday, 6 months of feeling as rotten as I did just seemed more then I could handle. This was the worse I had ever felt, and it didn't feel progressive it just felt rotten. Certainly more then the boys could handle and I wasn't even "sick" yet. What would happen if all the possible complications came about how would I manage? Hello, self take a deep breath and drink water and breathe. Food did not seem right in anyway but I forced myself to eat what I could, fortunately I was able to drink plenty of water.

To be honest some of this not wanting to eat and cook bit might have something to do with the fact that summer has come and it is a blazing inferno outside. Thankfully my friend Joe came to my rescue (for about the hundredth time) and installed a window air conditioner in my sanctuary. It effectively cools the upstairs for the boys and I. I am suppose to stay cool and out of the sun while receiving treatment. So comfort will be maintained the price will be some paltry sum to APS and of course learning how to sleep in a jet engine. If it sounds like I am whining I assure you that I am not. Life is full of miracles, usually created by the goodness of those around you.

Sunday I awoke a bit tentative. Dani came by and helped with the breakfast dishes and general upstart of the day. My goal was to go to CVS pharmacy, and the grocery store. It took until noon for me to pull myself and the boys together for this outing. The phone rang and my friend Mary offered to take the kids and I out to lunch. I was not interested in food but the kids needed to eat and I needed to get out of my house. I was still feeling pretty slow but I thought I would try. I told Mary I would pick her up. Some would wonder why Mary would not pick us up, in a addition to the car seat situation for the boys Mary is celebrating her 78th birthday, it is high time that she was picked up by whomever would come her way, and of course I have never ridden before with her, now was not the time to start my heart being in it's weakened state and all :) Happy Birthday Marnie, we love you.

So Mary tagged along with us to CVS and then took us to Prescott Brewing Company for lunch. Now normally I go to the pub and want a burger, the "Triple Threat" is my new favorite, it is a beef patty, battered and fried jalapenos and 2 slices of the best bacon in the world. I am not kidding this bacon is heavenly, I love most bacon, but this is in a class all it's own. Apparently they smoke it themselves at the pub with some special blend of wood chips and jalapenos. It creates this smokey, chewy, crispy, salty, spicy blend of pork goodness, I have NEVER tasted bacon this good. The pub also has great homemade rolls to choose from to have this ultimate in burgers created on. How quickly I forget I am a vegetarian, and though I love vegetables, my stomach is in no way going to endure a portabello mushroom burger or a "Triple Threat" for that matter. I end up ordering the fish, mashed potatoes and coleslaw. Yes, I know fish is not a vegetable. I need to eat whatever my body is willing to receive at this point, and it sounded like it might go down. I was wrong and fed the fish to the boys, but like with all my stories there is a silver lining. The mashed potatoes with porter gravy were quite possibly the perfect comfort food. Real red potatoes smashed with the skin on, with a deliciously rich porter gravy on top, you could taste a hint of the beer it was made with, kindling my fondness for things alcoholic in this dry time of my life. Pretty complex little side dish which may become a staple in my life. Being out with Mary was an absolute life saver, sometimes you just need to be around people to be reminded that life and the world outside goes on.

I have to get to work and still have so much more to share.............if I keep at this I will eventually type faster.

Today I still have a foggy headache, but have the ability to move.

Drink water and breathe............

Friday, June 4, 2010

Chemo log 1 - 32 hours and counting

One down and nine to go. The chemo office was not as bad as I remembered it. They got us right in as soon as we arrived. The greatest invention of modern medicine may be the port-o-cath that Dr. Bornstein put in. That's right all the pain that little device in my chest has caused me is worth every bit of it. This device has saved me from having to have and IV placed in my arm every time I go for treatment. I have to say it is pretty much a breeze to plug in, a quick blast of freeze spray on my skin and a slight jab and my IV is connected. The amount of information given to me about the drugs was overwhelming. I get a steroid drip for 20 minutes to help my body accept the chemo drugs followed by the C drug which drips for about and hour. Then I get the A drug in the form of a push, that means a giant syringe full of red medicine getting injected in my port. Really kind of creepy, and this is the hardcore drug, the one that makes my hair fall out, might damage my heart and possibly give my nausea that is worse then any hangover I can imagine. This is just stellar these are the drugs that tear down my immune system. The shot I got this morning the Neulasta is suppose to rebuild my white blood cells. It does so apparently by causing me great bone pain similar to the flu, a temperature of 101 is my sign to go to the emergency room, I am not sure exactly why.
All in all Kate and I were at the office for about 2 1/2 hours, just enought time to play a game of Scrabble. The time really flew by, we had a few snacks and chatted with the nurse. Apparently my reputation preceeds me. We were talking about my treatment with the nurse and I told her after the A/C I would be taking Taxol combined with something else to target my ovarian cancer. The nurse then blurts out that "oh your the double decker". I guess it doesn't matter what people are saying as long as they are talking about you.

So far the symptoms have been:

Very little sleep last night due to indigestion and nerves
I woke up today with a serious headache that went away with a couple of advil
I am very tired but was able to work a little today
Now I just wait to see how my body responds to treatment

While I am waiting to see what my body does the boys and I are having movie night. A little tradition we have of watching movies and camping out downstairs on the hide-a-bed. I haven't been well enough to sleep downstairs since before my surgery, this journey has been one of healing. Some things are getting back to normal.

The only thing that seems to help is drink water and breathe............

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Going to my first Happy Hour today...

Much like anesthesiologists, oncologists refer to their mixture of drugs as a cocktail. Thankfully this is a language that I can appreciate. My first cocktail will be administered at 2:00 today. Adriamycin and Cyclophophadmide are what Dr. Vu is mixing for me. I have been looking forward to this appointment with nervous anticipation. This is the next step in my healing, I am going into yet another unknown for me. The solace in chemotherapy is that I have spoken to many who have been down this road prior to myself. I won't know how it will be for me until this afternoon. I am also not alone love and prayers have surrounded me and my family since my diagnosis.

Some one told me long ago that your body regenerates the majority of it's cells roughly every 7 years. I don't know if this information is a fact or not. I thought that might be why people get a 7 year ache in relationships. The two major relationships in my life each ran about 7 years. I liked the idea of a fresh start, and the idea of renewal that came with the replacement of cells.
I look at chemotherapy as healing and renewal. I will be broken down on a cellular level only to be renewed with fresh cells. In this particular case it will be about 7 months though, not 7 years.

Today's Happy Hour will be my 1st of 10 treatments. My goal on this journey is to live in the present throughout these treatments and love and nurture my body along the way. Send your thoughts and love my way this afternoon, raise your glass for a toast to "new beginnings" drink water (out of a martini glass:) and breathe......