Friday, October 30, 2009

Xeloda – Day 4

Well I’m glad to say I don’t have much to report when it comes to Xeloda side effects. The odd time I have a gurgle in my stomach but really that is all. I’m careful to eat small non-dairy meals and so far so good.

My biggest challenge has been to eat as soon as I wake so that I can take my chemo pills shortly afterwards. Prior to this week I’d probably have my first bit of food around 10:00 in the morning and even that might just be a fruit or a bit of yogurt. The pharmacist said I should take Xeloda within 30 minutes after a meal … and a fruit just doesn’t cut it as a meal.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Xeloda – Day 3

When I brushed my teeth last night I had a little blood on my toothbrush so the gums are getting a bit sensitive. My eyes are still watering from the Taxotere and may continue to water from the Xeloda.

Today I had an appointment at the clinic to finish off the study I was on. The only concern I brought to the oncologist is that the top of my left foot was a bit swollen and sore. She looked at it and said ... let’s just watch it for now. It might just be a build-up of fluid from a pair of tighter shoes I’d been wearing, as my legs are still retaining quite a bit of water. On a positive note, since I’m no longer on Taxotere or the steroids, that swelling should go down. And that pouch of fluid under my chin should start disappearing too. My face will start returning to normal as opposed to the round faced I developed... and my chemo belly should also go down. I can’t even tell you how good that makes me feel.

My next appointment is almost three weeks away. Hooray!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Xeloda - Day 2

Last night I had a light supper and 20 minutes later I took my Xeloda pills. I went to class and really felt no ill effects of the chemo. This morning I had some toast for breakfast and then shortly afterwards, my chemo pills. It’s almost four hours later and I feel pretty good. I know this is only day two  and I'm probably celebrating prematurely but I can’t help being excited about how well it’s going. I can only hope it continues.

Some of the side effects of the Taxotere are slowly clearing up ... for example; my nose isn’t all stuffed up and runny all the time ... and I’m thinking nose bleeds are a thing of the past. I have three boxes of Kleenex in the living room so that no matter where I sit, there is always tissue within arms reach. I might be able to get rid of a couple of boxes now. My watery eyes aren’t as watery. I’m not coughing near as much as I was say a week ago. And the absolutely best part is that I don’t have to take steroids ... so no nightmares this weekend. Yippee!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Xeloda – Day One

This morning I started my new chemo pills and about two and half hours later I felt a bit flushed and lite headed. Something was kicking in but I don’t quite know what. I’m being extra careful of what I eat and drink. I’m going to stay away from dairy products for a bit till I figure this thing out. My stomach gurgles every once in a while but not too bad. The only prescription I have to help with nausea and or stomach issues is Metoclopramide. I found it helpful when I was on Taxotere and I’ve been OK`d to go on this drug with Xeloda.

Last night I slept on my stomach for the first time in about a year. The reason I avoided sleeping on my stomach is because I had either a CVC on my chest or a PICC line on my arm and I was afraid I’d pull it out in my sleep. It felt really good sleeping on my stomach and very liberating not having any attachments.

This morning I went to the ‘living with cancer’ support group. At the end of it all, I asked if anyone would like to get together for coffee sometimes. Everyone jumped at the idea so I offered to take emails and organize it. Now to find a nice central location … with parking.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A New Regimen

Today I had my appointment with my oncologist to decide on my next course of action. We are going to go with XELODA® Capecitabine tablets. I will take five pills in the morning and five pills in the evening for two weeks straight with one week off making it a three-week cycle.

So here are pluses from today's’ visit …
  • My PICC line was removed. No more weekly visit to the clinic for dressing changes.
  • There will be fewer visits to the clinic. I only come in once every three weeks for blood work and a doctor’s visit. CT scans will now be once every three months instead of every six weeks.
  • The fluid around my lungs will go down because it was likely caused by the Taxotere.
  • The bone scan taken last Thursday indicates that cancer on my ribs is no longer visible.
  • The pharmacist said that the Xeloda was a popular prescription and that there were many patients on it. I thought that was encouraging. I also asked her about side effects as compared to Taxotere and she said Taxotere is one of the tougher chemos. She did not say this one would be easier but I just feel it might be. 

The clinic gave me this handy dandy pill organizer to make sure everything goes smoothly. I start first thing tomorrow morning.

Over all I’m feeling pretty excited with this new plan.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bone Scan

Yesterday I had a bone scan done at the clinic. For a bone scan, a radioactive tracer substance is injected into a vein in the arm. The tracer then travels through the bloodstream and into the bones.

Two different people made a total of four attempts to get this tracer into my veins. The problem was that after so many years of being poked and prodded, my veins have become so very fragile and kept exploding every time they stuck a needle in. Ouch! Never the less, they got enough in my veins so that they could see my bones.

While I was at the clinic I became really chilled. I think it was from the flu shot I got the night before. When I got home I wrapped myself up in blankets, head to toe. I ended up having a short nap and feeling better.

Last night I woke up at 4:00 am with a bout of diarrhea ... likely from the radioactive tracer that was making its way out of my system.

I'm glad this week is over.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chemo School

On Monday when I saw the oncologist she figured I should go to chemo school because I had never gone and with a new chemo treatment starting next week, it might be helpful. So yesterday along with getting my PICC redressed, I went to class.

What did I learn?

  • That I should be aware of people who have shingles. The nurse said shingles could be infectious when the person is experiencing blisters. If the blisters are crusted over, I should be OK.
  • That I shouldn’t gulp down a drink of water or juice because it will stimulate diarrhea. That occasionally happens after I guzzle down my daily protein shake. Who knew that?
  • That when using alcohol-based hand sanitizing gels, have enough of it in my hands so that they are completely wet for 15 seconds. The RN said, do not use antibacterial wipes because they remove the good bacteria from your hands. Her preference is the baby wipes.
  • That I should stay two meters away from someone who has flu symptoms... to minimize my risk.

Otherwise it was just a good review of a lot I already knew.

On a side note, we also discussed flu shots at which point I realized I was on an extra week off from my chemo. I talked to the research nurse and she said I was good to go for the seasonal flu shot. So last night I zipped over to the health clinic and got it ... plus they ok`d me for a bonus pneumococcal vaccine for pneumonia.

I still have to deal with H1N1 flu shot when it becomes available.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Support Group

Yesterday I meet with our breast cancer support group. It was especially nice to see the ladies this time because I felt I needed to be with people who really understood what I am going through. And meeting them meant I had to share my bad news. Sharing bad news is difficult because I know that my fear will instil fear in them. I know that the first thing I think of when I hear anyone’s bad cancer news is ... wow that could be me. But this time it is me. All the ladies were very understanding and supportive. They just have ‘the look’ and know what to say to make it easier.

And when it comes to support, I would like to thank everyone who reads this blog and has left comments. I know I am not alone. So many others have walked a similar path and truly understand what it feels like. The comments are so inspiring and give me support. They also make me feel so hopeful. I don’t know where I’d be without you.

So thank you very much ... I look forward everyday to reading everyone’s comments to my blog.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Class Last Night

Class went well last night. I’m excited to say I got an A- on last week’s assignment. That is better than what I expected ... that is for sure. My next assignment, due in December, is a group project. It’s a training needs analysis for an organization. The truth is that I’d rather not be doing this right now but on the other hand it might just be the distraction I need.

Speaking of distractions ... I think I’m going to get busy with a few other things too. There are some Arts & Medicine support groups through the Cancer Institute. Yesterday a couple of the ladies were talking about a knitting group starting up this month and a watercolor painting group starting in November. I might just sign up for both.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Few Deep Breaths

Well I must admit, yesterday I had to take a moment here and there and remember to just ‘breath’. That is what we’re taught to do when dealing with cancer and the roller coaster ride it takes you on. Just stop and take a few deep breaths. As much as you try and prepare for the worst news with these CT scans ... negative news stills hits you like a ton of bricks.

I woke up at 4:00 am trying to wrap my head around how I’m going to cope with the latest news. After about an hour or so, I fell asleep and woke up feeling a bit more in control. I figure I’m going to cope with this like I do most everything else ... I’m going to jump in both feet and do what I have to. I’ll decide on a course of treatment and deal with it.

I was so happy this morning that I had my support group meeting. There were other folks there with advanced cancer who offered me the hope and support I need right now.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blood Work/CT Scan Results

Today I had my blood work and visit with the oncologist. Blood work looks good but the CT scan results ... not so good. My lungs and bones are stable but my liver is not. The liver is showing new lesions with growth of the existing tumours. One of the smaller tumours grew almost a centimetre ... which is substantial. So the oncologist recommends we change chemotherapy as Taxotere and the possible study drug I was on are no longer effective.

Our next step is to choose between Xeloda and another study drug. I have been given a bunch of reading material from which I will be making my decision. Then we will start the new chemo next week. The reason we start the new treatment next week and not this week is to allow more time for my body to get rid of any toxins associated with the old chemo.

Good news is ... I’m done with the steroids. I don’t need to take them with the new chemo. Yippee!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Love My Sleep

My sleeps continue to go well. I find Winter makes for better sleeps because of the darkness and the cooler nights. If you haven’t noticed, I’m all about a good night’s sleep. I’ve always needed oodles of sleep ... eight or nine hours a night. Ever since I was a child, my life seemed to revolve around a good night's sleep. I would rather go to bed early than stay up and watch TV or do whatever.

Because of that it seemed like I was constantly being razed by my friends for being tired and wanting to go home to bed ... from parties and such. People would often try and convince me that I didn’t need all that sleep. Well I did.

I often wondered whether that was a sign that my body was weaker than most other peoples and perhaps pointing to why I have cancer today.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sleep

The beginning of this week, I was struggling with sleep. Waking up in the middle of the night and then up for hours. I really wondered what was causing this ... maybe too much coffee during the day, my allergies or the fact that maybe I was a bit agitated and wound up from the day.

Well a couple of days ago, the sleep issue switched for the better ... I had an afternoon nap then a great sleep during the night and another nap the following afternoon and again a great sleep last night. I’m glad to say that my sleep seems to be under control once again. And the good news is that I didn’t use any meds to make it happen. Trying to make sense of what is causing some of these issues can be mind boggling sometimes.

I just know that I want to be well rested for chemo next week.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Benadryl - My Buddy


The side effects from my chemo are flu like symptoms … so things like water eyes, stuffy nose and sinuses, hoarse throat, sneezing and coughing, sinus headache are all regular occurrences. Some weeks are worse than others.

I also struggle with environmental allergies which seem to have intensified since I started chemo. We’ve had quite a bit of wet snow here … so I figured no more dust and pollen in the air and no more allergies. Not! maybe changes in temperature and humidity also trigger allergies.

For about a week now, I’ve been struggling with really itchy watery eyes … so yesterday I finally pulled out the Benadryl. To be honest, I got relief pretty quick, way better than Visine.

I don’t really like to take medications … even over-the-counter stuff but I’m slowly changing my ways. Benadryl is my buddy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lymphedema Glove


Yesterday I picked up my new custom lymphedema glove. You’ll notice it flares at my wrist. It was specially designed that way so that I wouldn’t have a double compression at the wrist ... from the sleeve and the glove. The glove is made from a very thin nylon/spandex fabric which makes it really comfortable.

So how do I feel about wearing the sleeve and glove? I’d have to say it’s not too bad so far. Once it’s on, I sort of forget about it. I do notice it is warm in the summer tho.

So is it working? I notice that the swelling in my arm goes up and down during the cycle so as long as I’m on chemo, I can’t really say it is getting better but I do think it is under control.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Few Busy Days

It was a great long weekend with turkey dinner at my sisters. Spending time with family was so very nice. The nieces and nephews are always a colourful bunch. And the food was outstanding ... both sisters are amazing cooks. I don`t cook at home anymore so I thoroughly enjoy a home cooked meal.

My brother-in-law P asked how my appetite was and I said it was down. Food wasn’t as pleasurable as it once was. I told him I wanted seconds of food but my belly said no. Then my sister who is a nurse said ... “You now probably ‘eat to live’ whereas you used to ‘live to eat’" ... that is so true. I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed food and the eating experience. Now, I eat because my belly growls and needs food.

Tuesday, I was at the clinic and attended a support group. There were about seven of us there and the majority were living with metastases. The first session is always emotional as everyone shares their stories.

After that, I zipped over to another clinic location for a PICC line dressing change. The usual nurse was there. She said, "You look stylin` today." I said, I`m feeling better these days ... enough so that I started caring about what I wear. I said for the first eight or ten months of chemo, I was so affected by side effects that I could care less about how I looked. I would only wear a couple of different outfits because firstly I had put on so much weight from the steroids and that was all that would fit and secondly, I didn`t have much energy for lots of laundry, so washing and wearing the same clothes was easier. The reason I’m feeling better these days is that we cut my dosage of chemo in the spring. It has taken a few months for me to start feeling better.

Later on, I worked on my paper that was due for class last night. It was a full day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day

October is Breast Cancer awareness month and October 13th is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

My journey with breast cancer started in 2000 when I was first diagnosed. After treatment I went into remission that year. In 2008 I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

For information on Breast Cancer, please visit the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

For information on Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, please visit the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network.

Here is a very short video explaining what metastases are …



Saturday, October 10, 2009

Shopping For A New Cell Phone

Thursday, D and I went to a local mall to look at new cell phones and plans. My cell phone is 3 years old and starting to show its age. I`m trying to decide if I want a `candy bar` style phone as opposed to the `clam style` which I`ve always had in the past. The new phones have so many new gadgets to play with. I figure it will give me something to do while I`m waiting on doctor’s appointments. I watched people in the mall to see what type of cell phones they had. I think the majority of phones out there are candy style ... likely because they are easier for texting.

We ended up spending a couple of hours walking around ... well not really walking ... I would sit down just about every opportunity I could. Still, it was a couple of hours in the mall where I was more active than say if I was at home. Thank goodness there were a ton of cell phone provider stores and electronic stores to keep D occupied while I hobbled along.

During one of my rest stops, there was a gentleman sitting there and I could see from the corner of my eye he kept looking at me. I kind of wondered what I had out of place that kept him staring at me. Well he finally came over to talk to D and I. He had cancer and was in remission. He wanted to come by and share his cancer experience and wish me well. That was really nice.

We ended up stopping and having supper at the food court. I had some Chinese that went down pretty good. D had Italian.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Shout Out To Stand By Her: A Breast Cancer Guide For Men


I've been asked to do a shout out to Stand by Her: A Breast Cancer Guide for Men.



John W. Anderson had four women in his life go through breast cancer – his wife, his mom, his sister, and his mom’s best friend. . He realized that all his experiences, combined with other men’s journeys through “Cancer Land” could be of help to other men facing their own journeys.

So he wrote STAND BY HER: A Breast Cancer Guide for Men.


For more information please visit the website at: www.standbyher.org.



Thursday, October 8, 2009

BC Support Group Coffee Meeting

Yesterday afternoon we had our Breast Cancer support group coffee meeting. There was five of the six of us there ... S was vacationing in BC. J’s lymphedema was acting up and she had her arm wrapped in five tensors bandages, no sleeve. It looked heavy and bulky and uncomfortable. A, just came back from a mini vacation in Jasper and brought us all a bear-pin souvenir. That was very thoughtful. C, mentioned she was just over the H1N1 flu. In fact she had seen her doctor the day before and verified that it was OK to meet with me. We were talking about Google and Irm asked if I’ve ever been to Google ... we all laughed ... we are a diverse group.

I ordered a small OJ and sandwich. After eating half of the sandwich, I decided to put the remainder away because I was afraid of provoking diarrhea.

When we first arrived we all hugged each other as usual but after talking about the approaching flu season, we decided we’ll do the ‘elbow bump‘ when we meet in a couple of weeks.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Beelined For The Door

Last night’s class was a bit exciting. About half an hour into it ... I felt major gurglings coming from my stomach. I needed to go find a washroom fast but I didn’t want to disturb the class by getting up and leaving. I hate doing that, but its diarrhea. I waited just long enough for our guest speaker to wind up her presentation and I made a beeline for the washroom. I get to the washroom and a cleaning lady comes out and says her cleaning partner will only be a couple more minutes cleaning the washroom.

I knew it was too risky to try and find another washroom so I tried to calm myself and stood at the door. It was only a few minutes before the other cleaning person came out ... and just in a nick of time. I had visions of calling D asking him to bring clean pants to the ladies washroom on the main floor of the college.

My stomach settled down to a dull roar for the remainder of the class. However, as I was waiting for D to pick me up ... I had to race back into the washroom.  Can I tell you ... when diarrhea strikes ... it strikes fast and furious.

Yesterday I was reminded of how vulnerable outings can be.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Week Since Chemo

Thanks to Ativan, I had another great sleep. I didn’t even wake up feeling groggy as I have in the past. Anyways, I won’t be taking anymore this cycle. I try to keep the usage to about two or three pills per three week cycle. I don’t want to get used to them and render them ineffective.

One of the other side effects of chemo that I’ve always experienced is these little white pimples on my nose and “T” area of my face. I usually get about 10 or more of them and boy are they ever itchy. Sometimes they are so itchy; I’ve woken up in the middle of the night. When I squeeze them ... they bleed like crazy. This time, I only had three and they didn’t really bleed too badly at all. Speaking of bleeding, I have had only had one nose bleed, tho when I blow my nose ... there is always some blood in the mucus. That should taper off in a few days.

This cycle has been one of the easiest to date. I’m not quite sure why but the side effects from the chemo can vary so much. I just wish I could figure out what I did right in this cycle to ensure that all future ones are like this one.

In a short while, I’m off to the clinic for my PICC dressing change and later this evening to my class at the college. Next week I have a 10-12 page paper due ... I’m more than half done so far.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Slept Really Well

I had a great sleep last night. Took an Ativan about 9:00pm and fell asleep about an hour later. I woke up at about 5:30 in the morning for a short time and then slept till 8:30am. The sleep was great but the best part was ... no nightmares. Looks like all the chemo drugs are out of me. Whewwwww!

Its noon and I still haven’t had breakfast. Just don’t have an interest in eating. I’m not really nauseous ... I’m just not interested. Today I’m going to go looking for something that might look tasty to me. Between the poor taste buds and the heighten sense of smell, things aren’t the same.

For example, yesterday, my mom and sister D brought over chicken and ribs from Tony Romas. Boyoboy,  I bet that is going to be tasty when I finally have some ... not ... it was disappointing to say the least ... nothing to do with the food and all to do with me.

Anyways, coffee doesn’t taste too bad and that keeps me going. I know it’s not the best thing to drink but it’s my little pleasure in life ... and I’m not giving it up either.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Getting Through The Worst Of It

Today is generally the worst day of the cycle and I’m not feeling too too bad. I’m not as agitated, frustrated and moody as I usually am. I am however quite sensitive to light and sound. It feels like D is talking much loader than necessary and the TV well ... it’s definitely too loud. It’s like the senses are all amplified. Quiet and dark seems to be the most soothing for me right now.

I always struggle with stuffiness, tho I don’t have the intense nasal headaches this time. I’ve had only one nose bleed so far.

The sleeps are a different story ... intense dreams Thursday night and nightmares last night. I woke up this morning feeling like I’ve been hit by a freight truck. I expect at least one more rough sleep tonight and then things should start improving. Fingers crossed!

I had a banana, coffee and yogurt for breakfast. That combination gave me intense stomach pains ... indigestion. I took a Metoclopramide which works like a charm, relief came pretty quick.

My goal as usual during this time is to get through the weekend.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Early Chemo Side Effects

Last night’s sleep was not too bad ... I woke up at 1:30am feeling really hot from the steroids. My cheeks were burning up. I got up and read blogs for about an hour where I cooled off really well. I jumped back into bed and fell asleep pretty quickly.

My chemo symptoms aren’t too bad yet. My vision is a bit blurred with watery eyes. My breathing is a bit laboured and I’m a bit weaker.

This cycle is the first cycle where I have not and plan not to take any Zofran, the anti-nausea drug. I have continually cut back on the pills because I do not seem to experience serious nausea but I do experience serious constipation. Today I had a regular bowel movement which is a small victory. My last cycle, I took one pill of the six prescribed pills. This cycle I plan on taking none, I may be so done with those things.

Oh yes, coffee still tastes pretty good too.