Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday is quiet ...

Yesterday I took the last of my steriods associated with the chemo. I expected a terrible sleep last night ... withdrawals ... but to my surprise, I just woke up and stayed awake for an hour or so. I fell asleep and woke up feeling pretty normal. Wow I must be getting used to the drugs. As the day goes by, I am feeling more tired and the taste buds are gone. I am constantly looking to the kitchen for food. Not sure if it is because nothing is satisfying my taste, or that I'm looking for energy via food or what. I really hate the idea of gaining weight but just can't seem to control myself. I'm definately at a weak point in my will power. Hopefully next week will give me more be better.

My husband spends Sundays watching car racing so that takes the pressure of me doing anything at all. I plan to do lots of surfying the net, television watching, and resting. I sure wish I could pick up the reading bug because I do have some good books to read. Also, I do knitting and crotcheting when I have the time, but I just don't seem to have an interest in it right now.

When you are taking chemo, it seems it takes the interest out of everything. You just don't seem to have the energy to do anything. Not sure how much of that is physical and how much is psychological. Anyways, I have to remember, that I'm feeling a bit down because I'm coming off some of the drugs. It is important I remind myself because it doesn't take long for thing to appear larger than they are.

Thank goodness the course I'm taking keeps me a bit focused. I attend a class weekly so it forces me to have some sort of schedule. Going back to work is always on my mind. Would it give me more structure? Would it tire me out too much? Is it healthy for me at this time? At my last visit with my doctor, I said I needed more time. I just want to see a few more positive scans before I commit to work.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Treatment Schedule for 2008

Below is my 2008 treatment schedule assuming all goes as per normal. I refer to each chemotherapy treatment as one cycle.

I was asked if I wanted to partake in a 'study' ... and I said yes. In this particular study, I may receive one of two treatments. I will be 'randomized' to receive one of Treatment A which is Docetaxel and an another chemo drug (no name given) - once every 3 weeks or Treatment B which is Docetaxel followed by Placebo. Docetaxel and placebo are administered intravenously (into a vein), each over and hour or so. I do take oral mediation 3 days starting the night before docetaxel to prevent hypersensitivity reaction (allergy).

Docetaxel is also known as Taxotere. It is a drug used in the treatment of cancer. It interferes with the growth and spread of tumor cells.

Dexamethasone is also known as Decadron, Dexasone, Hexadrol, and Deronil. Dexamethasone is used in the treatment of some types of cancer. It may also be used to reduce symptoms of the cancer or the side effects of cancer treatments, such as pain, inflammation, fluid retention, and nausea. Dexamethasone is taken by mouth in the form of tablets.

Ondansetron is also know a Zofran. This medication is used to prevent or control nausea (feeling of stomach sickness) and vomiting which may occur as a result of cancer chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Ondansedtron is taken by mouth or given by injection.

Metoclopramide is also know as Maxeran, Reglan, Apo-Mectoclop and others. Metoclopramide is a drug used to prevent or control nausea (feeling of stomach sickness) and vomiting which may occur as a result of chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Metoclopramide is taken by mouth or given by injection.

My 2008 treatment schedule is:

Cycle 1: August 12
Cycle 2: September 3
Cycle 3: September 23
Cycle 4: October 15
Cycle 5: November 4
Cycle 7: November 25
Cycle 8: December 16

Friday, September 26, 2008

Postitive Attitude

This morning I was at the Cross Cancer at the Patient Support Group. One of the ladies from the support group had said that I had a very positive attitude. We are also in another support group and she has visited this site.

I thought about what she said. I do have a positive attitude but don't get me wrong ... I have negative thoughts. When the news of my re-occurrence came, I was 'paralyzed' with negative thoughts. I didn't know how I was going to go on but as time went on and one foot in front of the other, I was able to bring myself out of that hole and find that positive attitude.

So why the positive attitude? As I was growing up, I realized I got to choose my attitude on how I see things. The struggle has been long and hard. Outwardly, I find life goes better if you have or appear to have a positive attitude. It is like if you create it, you will be it. I believed that if I came across with a good attitude, the world would mirror it. Yes this did work most times but not always. Inwardly, my positive attitude might be more motivated by trying to avoid issues and not really deal with them. It is like creating a new reality. Even though you may think the worst or feel the worst about something, just pretend it will be O.K. and hopefully it will be.

Do I hide behind my positive attitude ... absolutely yes. It makes me feel like I am strong and in control and most importantly it keeps a lot of the emotions at bay. The emotions I'm talking about are other peoples emotions. When people show their emotions, the weight of the emotions transfer to my shoulders. I have difficultly dealing with all the drama.

I have rambled here a bit but it is something I wanted to talk about. My positive attitude has helped me cope with the struggles and tribulations of life and now this disease.

I feel I have not been clear with my thoughts. I may have to revisit this subject once again when my thoughts are more organized.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Support Group - Poetry

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Cross Cancer to a support group that runs about 9 weeks. The idea is to find support through poetry in a group environment. We write and discuss our poetry. Most poetry tends to be around cancer but sometimes we move away to other topics or subjects. One of the ladies from the group suggested I post my poetry on the blog. I warn you ... I am not a poet by no means. My poetry is very amateur but it is my poetry. The following poem was to be written about how we receive news ... good or bad. I chose to write about getting the news of the cancer re-occurrence.

the news ...

the news of my re-occurrence came but two months ago
the news precipitated a 'shock' that was overwhelming
it took four weeks of sifting through the information
over and over again to discover my new reality
it ended up being more positive than I first expected
i found hope and a new future to look forward to
i found life at the end of the tunnel

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chemo yesterday ...

I received my chemo yesterday afternoon. Thanks to my husband for taking me to and picking me up from the treatment. I brought my portable DVD player ... which I mentioned before ... but I can't emphasis enough how a good movie or two takes your mind away from what is happening to you. I totally zone out and don't even feel the chemo going into me. I look at the other people in the chemo rooms and they look like zombies ... they try and read, they try and sleep, they try and look at magazines. I know everyone is different but for me, the movie is a great distraction.

Long story short, the treatment lasted about 3.5 hours.

I came home and worked on my course ... financial accounting. I felt pretty good. For the next few days I'm on anti-nausea drugs and steroids. The steroids make you hyper while you are on them but they have a withdrawal that is tough. I asked the oncologist if we could cut back on the steroids and she said ... no. Without the steroids, the chemo could have some side effects that could be detrimental to my health.

Today I feel really good. Last month I created a detailed spreadsheet to track my symptoms ... things like, mood, energy level, constipation, insomnia, headaches, muscle and joint aches, plus about 11 other symptoms. I feel this empowers me because I know exactly what to expect and when to expect it. I realize now that there are only 2 terrible days and nights in the 21 day cycle. There are about 3 or 4 more days where I am quite tired. The remainder of the days are pretty good. I don't work right now so I lay down when I need to and make sure I don't get too tired. Usually there are few days that I end up sleeping during the day just to catch up on the fatigue.

One thing I'd like to remind myself and others who read this is that I am writing this when I'm hyped on steroids and one of the side effects is that I feel like I can do anything. For example, at the first cycle, the nurse reminded me that while you are on the steroids, you may feel like you could clean the whole house. She suggested I not do that. I know that I have had the feeling and end up doing more house work than normal. I'm on the steroids for 3 more days.

This afternoon I go to a support group at the Cross Cancer. I enjoy connecting with others going through what I am going through.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Scan Results

Today I met with my oncologist and we discussed the results of the CT scans from last week. The tumors have shrunk a bit. This is extremely good news indicating the chemo is working. I am cautiously optimistic ... cancer has a way of getting in 'the last word'. I asked my oncologist that now that we have positive result ... does that mean we can expect positive results next time? She qualified her answer by saying there is a chance there may be no change or a growth in the tumor ... however, she expected more positive results.

My way of dealing with cancer is not to ask too many questions. Unfortunately, the more questions I ask, it seems, the more negative are the answers. I am also not the type that researches all about the cancer or the chemo drugs ... once again because the reality of it is usually pretty negative.

I have been thinking of going back to work on a part-time basis. I was thinking it might be good for me because it would normalize my life. It has been weighting heavily on my mind. I have been feeling like I should be making a decision one way or another. My gut feeling was to delay the decision but the longer I delay it, the harder it might be to go back. This has been a struggle for me. Today I met with my psychologist and decided to ask her opinion once again. Her opinion is that it is too soon. I don't even know if the chemo works (my appointment with the psychologist was before my appointment with the oncologist). She says she has been doing this work for 20 years and says in her opinion, the patients that held off working during the beginning of chemo were more successful that those that went to work too soon. She says it is critical to focus on healing as it is most important right now. Her suggestion was that if I was at all on the fence about this decision, I should delay the decision for 3 months. At that time revisit it. If I am still on the fence about whether work would support my healing, I should delay once again for 3 months. This took a weight off my shoulders as I am not ready to go back to work. I need to do a bit more healing before I go back to work. Don't get me wrong, I do have a strong work ethic and would love nothing more then to be working full time, however, that is just not my reality today. I am very sick and need to put priority on myself. These days ... 'I'm playing for all the marbles'.

Cycle 3 starts tomorrow ...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Almost normal ...

The last few days, I've almost felt normal. I am coughing a bit, which concerns me. Tomorrow, I go see my oncologist for the regular blood work and exam before the next cycle. I have questions to ask her such as ... when is the best time to see the dentist? can/should I consider going back to work part-time? can I cut down on the anti-nausea drugs ... either the dosage or the number of pills? I tend to be on a 'high' right after chemo for about 4 days and then I go into a 'low' for a couple of days. The 'low' days really suck.

I had some scans done last week. It has only been a couple of chemo treatments since the previous scans. I don't know if we will see any change. I sure hope it isn't worse.

I also see the psychologist once a month. I need someone to keep my mind focused and clear. It would be so easy to 'fall apart' and I need to be careful. She knows how to offer words of encouragement.

One of the things that I did to give me something to focus on is ... I registered for a course that is part of the HR diploma program that I started a few years ago. I wasn't sure I could focus enough so that I could study. I'm glad to say, I can. In fact it has given me confidence in my abilities to focus during these times. Of course, there are days I will not open my books however, on the good days, I feel like I'm able to do something productive. It gives me something to look forward to ... assignments, exams, the next course, etc. At a time when the future is fussy, it feels good to look ahead.

Back to my studies ... Financial Accounting.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Arts in Medicine

Yesterday I joined a poetry writing class at the Cross Cancer. They have a great Arts in Medicine program that I took advantage of when I was first diagnosed in 2000. I'm not that 'poetic' but felt the time spent with others going through cancer would be good for me. I was able to create a couple of poems in a very short amount of time. I'm sort of on fence about whether I really like writing poetry or not. Maybe I need to attend a couple more sessions before a have an opinion.

On Friday afternoons, I also go to a Patient Support group at the Cross where once again, I get to discuss my disease openly and honestly. You get to share frustrations, fears, anger and just about anything you want in a safe and supportive environment.

Unfortunately, talking with personal friends just doesn't feel good. They are generally healthy and doing well, I am not healthy and not doing well. Not too much common ground there.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bladder Infection

I woke up this morning with a bladder/urinary infection. I came home from the Medi Centre with a prescription for antibiotic.

I'm sort of glad I had this bladder/urinary infection because it may explain my slow recovery. I felt it taking me too long to recover from this cycle. Hopefully that is it.

This week coming up should be my best week of the cycle. I don't want to waste it, so I'm going to be out and about a lot. I'm going to visit some antique stores, some bargain stores and who knows what.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Over the hump ...

The worst is over for this treatment. I'm hoping anyways. The chemo and drugs appear to have worked their way out of me. I keep detailed spreadsheets of the symptoms so that I can track my progress with each cycle. It helps me with what to expect and what I can do to improve the experience by monitoring ... water, food, exercise, drugs, sleep and what ever else may comes up. Chemo cycles are just that -- cycles and the symptoms change with each day of the cycle. Right now I am tracking 13 symptoms.

I have repeated mentioned to my husband ... my decision making is influenced by the drugs. Generally, the cycle starts with a 'high', goes to a 'low' and then 'normal'. I should not be making any decisions during the first 10 days or so of the cycle as they are not me. In fact, I'm going to mark in my day timer the days the I am making solid decisions because when I am in it, I don't feel like you are being influenced.

Thank god the worst is over for this round.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mood Swings

Wow ... today was a moody day for me. I assumed the reason cycle 1 with chemo didn't go so well was because of my lack of attention to the symptoms, but in fact, I feel that coming off the medication causes some serious mood swings. Today I have felt anger, frustration, depression ... wondering if all this was worth it. I think I ate enough today to feed a small family ... total uncontrollable eating. By the way, twice today I couldn't control my shaking hand as I was eating. I was very agitated.

As I write this, I must warn you that my mood is better but not great. I just need to record my thoughts ... as often I wait too long to write something and forget the details. Based on last month, this mood lasted another day or two ... please give me the strength to deal with it and not gain 10 lbs.

Last Friday, my mood was as though I could do this and no questions asked. Today my mood is opposite ... can I continue to do this?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cycle 2

Well it has been a busy time for me ... family visiting and staying with me. I felt this was a great distraction from the reality of what I was going through. It kept me busy enough that I didn't have to think of what I was happening to me ... the medical news of my cancer returning and in such a bad way, the anxiety of chemo, the reality that my life was again, was out of my control.

The first cycle included a pretty rough first week -- which was due to the very hot weather we were experiencing and a lack of attention to myself. I wasn't on top of things as I should have been. The second week left me quite fatigued and the third week left me feeling pretty 'normal'.

Once the visiting family members left, I was faced with the cancer once again. While I was busy, I could avoid the reality of it, but once alone and with time on my hands, things changed. What am I to do now? How am I to live my life? What do I do tomorrow, next week, next month and so on? How do I cope with this? I think I spent a day and a half feeling sorry for myself and lost sleep trying to figure out how to deal with this. I needed to feel as 'normal' as possible otherwise I was afraid I would spin out of control into a depressive state.

With each cycle comes a visit with the oncologist. I don't ask many questions because quite frankly, "I'm afraid to." Not knowing all the details works for me. However, the oncologist does share news in bits and pieces ... some good, some not so good and I try to figure out what it all means. I will be on chemo for quite a while but there is opportunity to be off of it also. I don't think I will not focus on the long term because it is a moving target. I'm just going to live for each day and see how that works for me. In the next few weeks I'm going to try and 'normalize' my life as much as I can. I'm not exactly sure what that means but it sounds like something I need to be doing in order to survive this journey.