Monday, May 31, 2010

PICC Infection is Receding

Last night around 8:00 pm, D and I took a good look at my PICC arm and the infection had receded below the line drawn on by arm my Onc. And this morning it’s even further back of the line. Yippee.

Yesterday throughout the day, the whole PICC line area on my upper arm was itchy … really itchy. And it got itchier into the evening … symptoms of healing? I couldn’t resist massaging the area a little bit with the tips of my fingers for some relief. 

Hopefully I can get back on chemo this Friday. Fingers and toes are crossed.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Unscheduled Clinic Visit

Last night the redness from my infection crossed the line drawn in by the Onc. And it’s more painful. D wanted me to call the clinic immediately but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I really don’t want the PICC line pulled out of my arm just yet. 

This morning I finally gave in and called the clinic as instructed by my Onc. I asked if I could come in and have a nurse look at it. The triage nurse said we don’t normally take walk-in traffic but … if I wanted to come in, she’d come down and have a quick peek. Excellent …that is all I want. 

D and I headed straight over there. The nurse had a look and said … well, even tho the infection has crossed the line it doesn’t look too bad yet … besides it takes two or three days for the antibiotic to kick in and since I had only been taking them for just less than two days, we could probably wait a bit. “Keep a close eye on your temperature.” she said and off we went. 

Perfect … I could now enjoy the weekend. To celebrate, we went out for breakfast.

Friday, May 28, 2010

PICC Line Infection Update

Yesterday throughout the day and into the evening, the area above my PICC line became redder and redder. My arm became increasingly sore with the redness. I especially felt a weird throbbing sensation in the vein on up my shoulder where the PICC line is located.

Around 8:00pm D and I looked closely at my arm, we even took a picture of it and concluded that the redness had moved up to the go-no-go line that my Onc had drawn on my arm. But the redness had not crossed the line so I did not have to go to the clinic. And my temperature was still normal.

We took another picture this morning and compared the two. There’s a small color change for the better in the area. It is less red and the soreness is way down. The throbbing is gone too. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the antibiotic is now kicking in.

Here is the picture taken last night showing the infection and my PICC line.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

PICC Line Infection

This morning I went in for blood work to confirm I was OK for chemo tomorrow. When it came time to see the nurse, we discussed the side effects from last week’s infusion. I mentioned I had chills on Friday and Saturday, I had a sore acidic belly and a small dry cough up until a couple of days ago.

I also mentioned something else … this morning I noticed that my PICC line area was sore and my skin was reddish and warm to the touch. She looked at it asking if maybe I had a skin reaction to something. I said I didn’t think it was that because it was just too sore. I mentioned to her that the muscles in both arms and shoulders were usually weak and often sore but this is different. A second nurse had a look and thought it might be an infection.

The first nurse called my Onc in to have a look. He concluded that this was indeed an infection and rescheduled my chemo to next week Friday. He also put me on the antibiotic Cephalexin 500 mg for 7 days. Then he took out his pen and drew a line on my arm at the edge of the redness and said … if the redness goes beyond this line … to call the clinic immediately.

So now I’m back to checking my temperature 4 times a day for the next week at least. …Zaraza!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Renewal Retreat for Women with Breast Cancer

Our mission is to provide no-cost healing retreats to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The focus is on encouraging women to reclaim their sense of personal power and to strengthen them in their journey toward healing on all levels and living fully.

Image Reborn's Living Beyond Breast Cancer retreat program is designed and facilitated by a highly professional staff with backgrounds and experience in addressing the special concerns of women with breast cancer.

We offer weekend retreats in a serene mountain setting in Park City, Utah.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chemo Cycle One – Day Five

Here is an update on my side effects.

I’m now waking up nearly every morning with a headache above the sinus area. It sort of disappears after morning coffee but comes back in the afternoon a bit stronger. I’m going to start taking Benadryl today and see if that gives some relief.

I’m finding my stomach has become a bit finicky too, with some burning acid indigestion. So I’ve pulled out some medication I had when I was on Taxotere … it’s called Metoclopramide and works like a darn. I’ve also started coughing a bit again. Don’t know if that is fluid around my lungs or not.

Generally I’m just starting to feel low on energy.

On a positive note, my finger tips and toes aren’t peeling from the Xeloda anymore. The edema in my right arm is down too which means it isn’t bothering me as much. As far as the swelling in my feet goes, I have minimal if any left.

And finally, I need a hair cut… can you believe that? Tho my hair is still thin from the Taxotere … it’s long enough where it requires some super model shaping and style.

Monday, May 24, 2010

PICC Line Dressing Change

Last Saturday I went in to the clinic and had my PICC line inspected and redressed. It’s usually only a weekly event but because I had it inserted just the day before, the Doc just wanted to make sure everything was in order.

So while the nurse had the dressing off, I thought I’d take a snapshot of the PICC in my left arm.

Pretty cool huh? … NOT!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Video - William Li: Can We Eat To Starve Cancer?

William Li offers a new way of thinking about treating cancer and other diseases. Anti-angiogenesis uses drugs or substances to stop tumors from making new blood vessels. 

William Li speaks on eating cancer-fighting foods that cuts off the supply lines and beats cancer at its own game.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cycle One - Day Two

I had my Vinorelbine just before lunch yesterday and late in the afternoon I started getting a bit of a head ache … felt a bit of nausea too. Around supper time I got the chills. I just couldn’t warm up so I hopped into bed with a couple of comforters on top of me. By the time D came to bed, I had warmed up and ended up sleeping pretty well through the night.

This morning I woke up with a stuffy head … but overall I’m doing good.

Friday, May 21, 2010

PICC Procedure and Chemo Infusion

This morning I had my PICC line inserted. A doctor first attempted to use the same PICC vein used last year but after two attempts he said there was too much resistance and we needed to find another vein. So he moved to the cephatic vein which is located more to the front of my upper arm. That one went in like a breeze. Besides the needle for the freezing … I really didn’t feel a thing.

After changing back into my street clothes, the nurse wheeled me to Daycare for my Vinorelbine infusion. The actual infusion was only about ten minutes but between that, the flush and the liter of saline, I was outta there in just over an hour.

My chemo cycle is a little bit different this time too. It’s still a three week cycle but with treatments on two of the weeks and one week off... nothing like changing things up a bit.

Overall, I’m feeling fine … a bit woozy as I was getting the chemo but really nothing to complain about. I go in tomorrow for a dressing change on the PICC line just to make sure everything is fine … after that it will be weekly changes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Today’s Oncologist Visit

During last month’s visit my Onc said options were limited for treating the new growth on my liver. My choices were the study drug TK1258 or Vinorelbine (Naveltine). Because I don’t qualify for the study drug ... Vinorelbine is it.

Back then I didn’t have the courage to ask the Onc what he meant by… limited options.

Today I asked the question. How many options do I have left? He said if Vinorelbine fails, I will be put on compassionate care. 

I asked if I could try DCA and he said he would look into it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

PICC Line Cover Up in Public

Friday I get a PICC line inserted for my next round of chemo. D and I have been sitting here brainstorming on what I can use as a cover my PICC line up in public. With my last PICC line, I noticed some people staring at my left arm on warm days with a t-shirt on.

My PICC will be between my elbow and shoulder and I’m looking to cover up just the silicone tubing and colored IV part. 

Any ideas out there?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Relay For Life

From the their website ...

Join the biggest Cancer event to make the biggest difference

Canadian Cancer Society Relay For Life gives you and your community the opportunity to celebrate cancer survivors, remember and honor loved ones lost to cancer and fight back against all cancers.

Event Details:

Edmonton's Relay for Life 
May 29, 2010 
7 p.m. - 7 a.m.
University of Alberta Foote Field
Edmonton, Alberta

Monday, May 17, 2010

My New Camera

Well… now that the nice weather is here, I’m finding some relaxing moments by going to the various parks around town to just sit and take in whatever is going on. To give me something to do, I take my camera with me. I always try and look for some landmarks, nature or scenery to photograph.

What makes all this more interesting is my new camera. It’s got a through the lens viewfinder that allows me to easily see what I’m trying to shoot. Now I can take pictures in any type of light instead of me trying to shade the screen on my old camera. This feature is way cool. Now I just use the back screen for reviewing.

Then I head home and downloaded the pics on to my laptop. I must say, about one in 20 is actually a pretty good photo. I’m thinking about joining a camera club on the internet … we’ll see.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book Recommendation

About a year ago, my friend Arlene from The Journey blog told me of the book called; Cancer is a Word, Not a Sentence by Dr Robert Buckman. I really liked this book, and you might like it too.

It’s a practical guide written for folks that have just been diagnosed with cancer. The goal is to help those people and their families to make sense of what happens next and to plan a course of action. Dr. Buckman describes everything that comes after the diagnosis, including tests, the stages of the disease, treatment options and follow-up.

A bit about the author… Dr. Buckman is practicing medical oncology at the Princess Margaret Hospital (Toronto). He is a Professor at the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto and also holds an adjunct professorship at the M.D. Anderson Cancer.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Treatment Plan B

Yesterday I got the word from the research nurse that I will not be going on the study drug TK1258 as hoped. The study group requested a tumor sample. Believe it or not the Cross Cancer Institute had a sample from my original surgery back in 2000. They sent a slice off to Arizona, to be tested. Unfortunately this study is full for my type of breast cancer. Mine is very common.

So, on to plan B. Thursday I will have blood drawn for white blood cell count and see my Onc. Friday I get a PICC line; so no blood thinners the day before and no food two hours before the PICC. Then I’ll wait a bit to make sure I’m still feeling good and then off I go for my first round of Vinorelbine (Navelbine).

So how do I feel about all this? Well, I guess I’m ok with getting the PICC line; it’s just that it constantly reminds me of cancer and treatment. It was just so nice not having any attachments for the past six months.

This all means way more visits to the clinic… I’ve been down this road before, yuk…. And double yuk.

Friday, May 14, 2010

LBBC Conference Podcasts

The Living Beyond Breast Cancer organization is now offering podcasts of the 4th Annual Conference for Women Living with Advanced Breast Cancer. It was held at the Philadelphia Marriot on May first and second. If you were unable to attend, this is an excellent way to know what went on and may help you decide to go to the next conf.

If you attended the conf, you might want to review a session or two. They were all great. The audio quality is quite good even on my laptop using Windows Media Player. All of the topics discussed focused on Mets.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

DCA – Our Best Shot at Cancer?

Dichloroacetate or DCA is an inexpensive drug already being used to treat other conditions, is giving new hope to cancer patients. It works by not killing off cancer cells, but by simply reprogramming them. It shrinks the tumors until they are gone by altering a cancer cell's metabolism. I believe this is the real deal here for cancer treatment.

At the University of Alberta here in Edmonton after two years of lab work, the researchers conducted a small clinical DCA trial consisting of five patients with a deadly aggressive type of brain tumor called Glioblastoma. This cancer kills most patients within 15 months of their diagnosis. After 18 months on DCA, four patients are still living and one patient died three months into the study. It appears that this drug needs some time to get going.

The kicker here is that this drug can’t be patented, it’s decades old. No drug company wants to fund the research necessary to bring this drug to the approval stage and then on to regular cancer treatment. The team at the University of Alberta needs your money to keep going.

Please donate to help Dr. Michelakis and his research team at the University of Alberta put their research into high gear. The donation link:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

One Thing I’ve Learned From Neuropathy…

…is to take care of my feet. On my trip last week I inserted gel insoles into my fisherman sandals and decided to go bare-footed to try and stay cool. This only worked until the temperature got hot and my feet started swelling and burning up. 

I ended up going to my room and soaking my feet in cold water. Once I cooled my feet down, I figured I’d remove the gel insoles to allow for the swelling. Before you knew it … I was feeling refreshed and good for a couple more hours of sightseeing. 

By switching things up on my feet the pressure points vary which gives parts of my feet a break to carry on.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Lion King

Something I've always wanted to do was to see a Broadway show on Broadway in NYC. Well I did it. I saw The Lion King at the Minskoff Theater which was right across the street from the Marriott Marquis, where we were staying.

So why the Lion King of all the Broadway shows?

Well, somewhere back in 2000 when I was first diagnosed with my cancer I was looking for something, anything that would help me make sense of this cancer journey I was on. One day I heard the song, Circle of Life sung by Elton John and tears came to my eyes.

The lyrics helped me make some sense of it all. I think we're only on this earth a very short time and we need live life to the fullest as death comes far too soon ... because that is the circle of life.

Anyways, enough philosophy … here is a video sneak peak of the Broadway show Lion King. It was amazing and I would see it again tomorrow.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Times Square

I got into New York City on Sunday evening the day after the NYC car bomb incident. So there was a lot going on to say the least. Times Square was inundated with police, the media and of course tons of onlookers.

Every time we saw a gathering of people we raced to see what all the excitement was about. It was usually someone important being interviewed. I got some great shots … including Police Commissioner Kelly being interviewed , Katie Couric of CBS as she was filming a clip for the evening news plus a variety of other reporters doing live shots from Times Square.

I also got up close with Mario Lopez. He was shooting a clip for Extra.

There was also a huge police presence at Times Square.

Our hotel which was just a few feet from where the car bomb had been parked so it was under tight security. We had an explosive detection dog and handler in our lobby plus all vehicles coming through the hotel were checked. All trunks were opened and the underside of vehicles were looked at with a mirror. There was extra security everywhere.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Big Apple

While I was making my plans to go to Philadelphia for the conference, my sister who lives in the US asked if I’d like to meet her in New York for a couple of days. Well let me tell you … that was music to my ears. I’ve always wanted to visit the Big Apple and here was my big chance.

So Sunday after the conference, I jumped on an Amtrack train from Philly to New York. An hour and twenty minutes later, I arrived at Penn station in New York. The city was bustling with activity. My first order of business was to hail a cab. I looked left and saw a lineup of people waiting for cabs. I looked to the right and saw a young girl step onto the road and lift her right hand way up in the air. Seconds later, a cab pulls up and off she goes. I think to myself, when in Rome … I went to the exact spot she had been when she hailed her cab and I did exactly the same thing … lifted my right arm way up. It worked … I was now on my way to the Marriott Marquis on Times Square.

When I get there, I jump out of the cab, grab my luggage and into the hotel I went. I walk around and tried to find the front entrance to check in, looking a bit lost because I couldn’t find it … a gentleman in a red jacket asked if he could assist me. He directed me to the eighth floor. They contacted my sister and she came down to meet me. When I saw her tears started streaming down my face … not just a few tears … the big ugly cry as Oprah would say. I think It was a buildup of emotions … from the conference, from the fact I made it to New York after having gone through some pretty tough times … I was there … the Big Apple. I was crying so hard a complete stranger came and asked if everything was all right. Tho I was embarrassed I couldn’t stop the tears.

Anyways, I’ll post a few pics and share more over the next few days …


Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Conference in Philadelphia

The morning of the first day began with registration. There was a flurry of activity … people were chatting, looking at exhibits and enjoying a yummy continental breakfast. There was a lot of excitement in the air.

The day began with Judy E Garber, MD, MPH who spoke on treating advanced breast cancer including medical and research news. She only spoke a few sentences when she broke down in tears. It happened when she started to speak about a breast cancer patient she’d been treating for many many years. They had exhausted all treatment options and this ladies journey was coming to an end. 

In the afternoon, Judy E Garber spoke again. This time she focused on treatments and strategies of bone mets.

After a short break we had author Bruce Feiler speak on his experience with bone cancer and author Donna Deegan spoke on her experience with metastatic breast cancer. 

On the second day, I attended a session given by Linda T Vahdat, MD on the treatments and strategies of liver and lung mets. 

After that there was only one more session and that included a panel of five experts with expertise in metastatic breast cancer. The panel addressed a variety of concerns including medical and complimentary therapies, symptom and side-effect management and emotional and legal issues. 

There were many other sessions offered but we picked and chose what interested us most. To be honest, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information offered. The Living Beyond Breast Cancer organizers said they’d be offering podcasts of the sessions but I checked today and nothing is on the website as of yet. I’ll continue checking and let you know when they appear. Here is a link to their blog where they give an overview of the conference.

Friday, May 7, 2010

How My Conference Trip Came About

About a month or so ago, I was so fortunate to receive an email from Lisa Rendall. I had not known Lisa prior to this email but I was very happy to meet her. Not only is she a fellow mets gal but she also introduced me to the idea of going to a metastatic breast conference in West Conshohocken, just outside Philadelphia. 

The conference was put on by Living Beyond Breast Cancer. After reading her email, I quickly went to the website and was immediately interested. What held me back was fear because I would be going alone. I thought I was physically strong enough but mentally ... I’ll be honest, I was afraid. It took me some time to make the decision and when it was made, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I sent my registration in and wasn’t looking back.

Now I needed to book a flight. I only had a few short weeks before the conference so I knew all the good flights would already be gone. Well it turned out to be a good thing because I received an email from my friend Arlene and she said Air Canada was having a seat sale. I jumped on the phone and booked my flight. I ended up making a few stops but saved a bundle.

Once I booked my flight I then decided to mention the conference on the blog. That is when I got a couple of emails from some mets gals in Calgary saying they were also attending. In fact we ended up connecting in Calgary as we were all on the same flight to Toronto. It was nice to have some company along the way.

I now needed a place to stay so I booked a couple of nights at the Philadelphia Marriott West. I wanted a roommate to help share the costs. It was suggested I go to the discussion board on the Living Beyond Breast Cancer website. That is where I connected with Vilma. She and I became roommates and friends. Since then Vilma started a blog entitled … Not Just Sadness, where she shares her cancer story.

While I was making plans for the trip, I received an email from Chris Lynds from The Edge of Light blog. She said she was also going to the conference.

And finally, one gal from a support group here in Edmonton made a last minute decision to come to this conference. What a great time it was meeting these gals.

I have to thank Lisa for sending me the email that started this whole process.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I’m Back Blogging

I arrived back in Edmonton last night … safe and sound tho I must say I’m suffering from a bit of jet lag.

Almost a week ago, I flew to Philadelphia for the 4th Annual Conference for Women Living with Advanced Breast Cancer: Enhancing Your Health and Quality of Life. There were about 250 of us from 30 states and provinces including: Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. It was very moving to be in a room with so many women sharing their stories and experiences.

This whole trip has been one big wow for me. Over the next few days, I’ll share some of it with you including my side trip to New York City. I just need some time to unpack and collect my thoughts.

I’m so glad to be back blogging again …