Wednesday, 18 April 2018

So funny!

I laughed so hard at this last night, that it felt like I popped a couple of stitches.  But the pain was worth it, because I constantly forget our grocery bags and always feel guilty when the cashier asks, "Do you need bags?"

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The eve of infusion 5

I've finished four rounds of chemo.  Tomorrow is round 5.  I have to say, I kind of got cocky about this whole chemo thing.  Rounds 1, 2, and 3 were no big deal and the side effects more amusing than uncomfortable.  So when round 4 knocked me on my butt, I had to admit, it's not so much fun!

Not sure if it was something I ate that disagreed with my new, super-efficient, digestive system or if it was the chemo, but after spending almost all day last Monday being a slug on the couch, I woke up to horrible stomach pain and incessant vomiting Tuesday morning.  And sleeping.  Seriously.  I woke up long enough to barf, and then I passed out on the couch again.  I have never slept so much in my life as I did last Tuesday.  So chemo nausea... we can now cross that off the "side effects to experience" list.  I ended up back up at the hospital getting 2 litres of fluids pumped back into me Tuesday night (which I pretty much slept through).  Then I had four days of what I can only describe as a chemo hangover with residual stomach pain. I could barely move by Thursday.  It tapered off by Saturday night, Sunday morning with the help of some lovely T3s.  So, I had two good days this cycle where I felt relatively normal.  One at the beginning, and yesterday.  I'm ready to kiss this cycle goodbye and see what Cycle 5 has in store for me.

On a completely related note, I no longer have a PICC line in my arm.  I am now sporting a "Power Port" (sounds like a superpower, hey? Where's my cape?) which I had surgically installed this morning.  No more allergic reaction to the PICC line and, once my sutures heal, the world is my oyster again. I can get my PORT as wet as I want in the shower without having to worry about infection.  Also I have full use of my right arm again; I can golf, do jumping jacks, and push ups (because we all know that I've been missing out on those activities) and I can lift heavy stuff and pack my purse full of bricks without worry about pulling out the line or clotting it, or whatever might happen. 

Getting the PORT in was actually a relatively easy experience that was done under light sedation.  I woke up when I as getting stitched up, but that didn't even feel all that bad. The worst part was the surgical tape that they ripped off my head at the end of the surgery.  (Why didn't I think to ask them why there was tape on my head for a procedure on my chest?)  And the nurses and doctors are just lovely at our tiny hospital; everyone was very kind and reassuring.  The doctor that did the procedure, was actually the doctor that admitted me to the hospital after sending me for the x-ray and ct-scan last December.  She saved my life.  I was happy to be able to tell her that this morning. 

So now I have this ugly lump of bloody dressings on my shoulder, hiding my new hardware, and I am a little uncomfortable with the sensation now that the freezing has completely worn off.  It feels like my neck (incision 1) is connected to my chest (incision 2) (I think it is, one incision has the port, the other is where they inserted the tube into the vein) and I am having a hard time moving my head separately from my neck and my shoulder.  Sleep might be a bit funky tonight.

Anyway, on to Cycle 5, with a little more trepadition than I had last time. 

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Chemo Hair

So, despite the handout that clearly states that hair loss is "not common" with Folfox chemotherapy, I have experienced some.  If you know me, you know that I can totally afford to experience hair loss.  I have a ton of hair.  So, I'm okay with a little thinning.   However, the thinning made my hair very dry and coarse and tangled.  Every morning for the last two weeks I would comb my hair and tug a knot out where the loosened hair was clinging on to the rest of my hair for dear life.

So... I have cut it.

And yes, of course I regretted it immediately.  It's way too short for my liking.  But as per usual, when you get it cut they spray it down, make it nice and wet, and then two hours after the cut, when it's completely dry, it's shrunk another couple of inches.

I do like it when it's wet, so I guess that's something.

Anyway, best case scenario, I just got rid of the dead, straw-like hair that I've developed.  Worst case scenario, I'm easing my way into hair loss a little at a time.  If it continues to fall out over the next four months, at least it wont' be such a shock to the system, as I've transitioned myself to short hair.

Here's my before and after photos of my new chemo do.
 BEFORE my impulsive "solution" to my brittle hair.
And AFTER - feeling softer and looking a little healthier, but geez, what was I thinking?

It's hair.  It'll grow back.  And I still have lots!

On to round 4 this Wednesday.  

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Treatment 3

This week felt busy!  Tuesday, anyway.  I had an appointment with the oncologist and bloodwork in the morning; a half day at school for the kids in, followed by an ultrasound at 1:00  (because my remaining ovary, let's call the damn thing "Leftie" has decided to grow a mass --- that was NOT there in December.)  So, the ultrasound is to determine whether it's a normal cyst or something more ominous that caused them to remove Rightie at Christmas.  I will get the results next week.  The positive thing is that if it's a third tumour, we're already battling it with this chemo, so Leftie can suck it, as far as I'm concerned. After the ultrasound I had to pick up Connor at Cubs and then take him home and head up to the Elementary School for Parent Teacher Interviews and then over to the High School for more P/T interviews.  And I did it all by myself! :) 

Wednesday was the third chemo infusion, so it was nice, actually, to sit back and read a book in a comfy armchair while forced to relax and let the medicine drip into my vein.  And I seemed to have tolerated the hydration well, I only had to use the bathroom three times in the 3 hours I was at the hospital, as opposed to the every 15 minutes that the first two infusions had me going.  So now I'm just going through the 46 hours of being hooked up to the pump, which comes off tomorrow morning.  Then my 12 days of freedom.   So far, I am counting myself among the lucky ones.  This chemotherapy seems to have been kind to me, so far.

The first treatment was easy peasy!  No nausea (my anti-nausea drugs work well), no bowel issues out of the ordinary (hey, I don't have an ordinary since I don't have a large intestine anymore) so it's really hard for me to answer the "any diarrhea" question.  Enough said about that.   Basically, other than some fatigue for a couple of days after disconnect (I'm blogging tonight because tomorrow I will crash), my only real symptoms were the neuropathy.

So, that's a weird one!  It affects my fingers mostly, but also my jaw and my throat and my lips.  Cold is not my friend.  I get pins and needles in my extremities the second I touch something cold, like frozen food or milk or chopping vegetables.  My lips and tongue go numb and I start to lisp when I go outside.  And taking a bite out of anything gives me about 30 seconds of pain in my jaw before I can continue eating.  Water has to be room temperature now to tolerate it, but I still get the stabbing in my throat sensation with room temperature, so I might need to start hydrating myself with warm water (ugh) or herbal teas all day.

Also, I seem to have 2 or 3 days of blurry vision after disconnect, but it goes away so I think it's related to the fatigue.

Second treatment, still easy.  A little more tired and a couple of queasy moments.  I took the Immodium a couple of times so that I could avoid the lecture the Oncologist gave me after the first week when she said, more than 5 BMs a day is a concern and I need to be using Immodium, but I argued that was a good day for me.  Anyway, it's a learning curve, this rapid digestive system. Vegetables are not my friends!

So, what I've noticed is that the symptoms have been coming on stronger this week (treatment 3) and more painfully, but I can still deal with it.  As long as I'm not vomiting, I consider myself lucky.  I woke up at 5:45 this morning, very queasy, so at 6 I dragged myself into the kitchen and took my meds and tried to go back to sleep but I failed.  So, no surprise that I fell asleep on the couch around 2:30.  Poor Connor needed to be picked up at the school at 4:00pm and I jumped off the couch at 4:06 and raced up to the school.  In record time, I might add.  I got there in about 4 minutes.  He wasn't too devastated.  Three teachers were kind enough to wait on the steps with him. SIGH.  Call it chemo neglect, then I get a pass on that one.  And my stomach has been off most of the day, but again, not anything I can't handle (although if you ask my supervisor - I confided in her way TMI last fall when I was working and in pain --- apparently I don't have a good reference point for what constitutes pain or what I should and shouldn't have to handle, because I didn't call in sick until I was, literally, on death's doorstep.)

But, so far, so good. I am becoming a bit paranoid that my hair is loosening, though.  There seems to be a lot more shedding than I'm accustomed to. But if you've seen my hair, you know I can afford it.  I usually pay to get it thinned, so let's call this a free bonus in the fashion department.  It's not enough for anyone but me to notice and it could just be my imagination. But when I run my hands through it, I pull out several strands throughout the day and even more when I comb it.  And it's getting tangled easily, which isn't something that usually happens.  Now I'm feeling more empathetic to my daughters who both have baby fine, easily tangled, hair.

Here's to freedom from the pump tomorrow, and a well deserved shower!  I've got the hang of showering around my picc line and keeping it dry, but not the pump. That one, I'll just wait out.

Anyway, almost 25% of the way through chemo... and I haven't vomited. I consider that a huge accomplishment! :)

Monday, 19 March 2018

Long live the maple leaf!

So, just after New Year's, when I was going through my "google everything there is to know about colon cancer, ovarian cancer, chemotherapy" etc. phase, I joined a Facebook group for people currently fighting colon cancer.  And it's been enlightening.  I've been able to learn all about what to expect from upcoming treatments, I've learned that most of us fall into the 30 to 40 age range (the colonscopy screening age really needs to come down from the current recommended 50), and I've met some pretty positive "warriors."

I've also learned a lot about the American medical system and insurance companies that hold your life, literally, in theirr hands.  Their insurance won't pay for their treatments or, if it does, pays only a small part.  People are losing their livelihoods, their homes, their credit, the shirts off their backs because they had the misfortune of getting cancer.  Some of them have been fired from their jobs for not being able to fulfill their duties.  Others have stoicly worked through their treatments because they have no other choice; they've run out of sick time.

It's disgusting.  And heartbreaking!  A lot of my counterparts have GoFundMe pages. Go Fund Me... you've seen them.  They're webpages designed to canvas your friends and family for donations to help you get through tough times.  They are relying on the kindness and generousity of their family, friends, and friends of friends, to pay for medical expenses that they have no control over.

Here's the thing.   I don't have a Go Fund Me page. And I won't.  I don't need one. I have a job to return too as soon as I'm on the other side of this illness.  I don't have to fight with insurance to get my chemo covered, I just show up at the hospital and take it for granted that they'll give it to me.  I didn't get a hefty bill in the mail after my hospital stay.  I did have to pay for my anti-nausea meds, but only a few bucks because 80% of it is covered by my plan.  They cut me open for free.  I didn't even see a bill for the ambulance ride. We're living on less income right now because I cannot work while undergoing chemotherapy, but because I have decent benefits at work, we are still able to pay our bills, buy groceries, and make ends meet.  My employer has been amazingly supportive which has given me the flexibilty to be on sick leave with pay, which will flip into long-term disability in three months time.  I've got no complaints!

I am heartbroken each time I read about someone who has been denied insurance, or lost their home, or their marriage broke down due to the stress of bankruptcy.  Or, they've decided not to pursue treatment because they cannot afford it.  I do not understand how a country can claim to be a world leader in freedom and human rights, but doesn't take care of it's citizens when they need it the most.

I live on the right side of the 49th parallel.  And for that, I am super grateful!

Long live the maple leaf!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Bald is beautiful

I spent 4.5 hours up at the hospital today. I was dreading (with a weird, "let's get this over with" anticipation) chemotherapy this morning, but it turns out that the small town friendly charm extends to the oncology room as well, and aside from the IV and the funky side effects that have started again, and will continue for the foreseeable next few days, I actually quite enjoyed myself today.  People come and go as treatments are staggered throughout the day since the room only accommodates four patients at a time.  So I got to chat with four different women and three different men during my own time frame.  Everyone was friendly and positive and radiated hope and healing. 

During the time I was there I had the pleasure of meeting three very different woman who were all very beautiful!  One was rocking a wig that I never would have known was a wig had she not told us.  The second woman was sporting an inch or so of lovely, soft grey hair that had recently started to grow back. The third woman, who I spent an hour chatting with after my treatment, was completely bald.  And she was beautiful! Each of these women has embraced this side effect with courage and grace and were rocking it!  They were friendly, encouraging, and happy to share their own stories.  It was sad to be surrounded by breast cancer warriors, but it was also inspirational to see the grace and humour with which each one was dealing with her journey and this particular side effect of their common cancer. 

Hair loss is not a given with my particular chemo cocktail. If it does happen, I hope that I can be an inspiration to others too.  Because from what I saw today, bald truly is beautiful.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Round Two tomorrow

I spent a couple of hours up at the hospital today in preparation for my second round of chemotherapy.  Everything was good.  My blood tests were perfect (white blood cell count, I think), my blood pressure, temperature, and O2 were perfect.  I had an ECG which apparently was normal, and I spent about 30 minutes talking to a very thorough GPO (General Practitioner Oncologist) about the side effects that I've experienced so far.  She gave me the green light for round two.

The only slight glitch is that I may be having an allergic reaction to either the bandage on my arm or the antiseptic that they use to keep it sterile.  I've had two dressing changes now (every seven days) and both times my arm has been very red underneath the dressing.  After the first one I developed a burn blister along the edge of the bandage, which has since gone away.  After the second one, my arm itched like crazy for a few days.  Today when she pulled off the dressing  she used one of the antiseptic cleansers instead of two, and washed it with saline afterwards to see if that helps eliminate the burning.   To rule out the bandage as the culprit, I'm wearing one on both arms to see if my other arm gets angry and red. 

So far, so good... not itchy under either bandage, so with any luck, it was the cleaner that she did not use today.  Other than that, today was easy peasy! I'm a model patient.

So...  on to round two tomorrow morning.