Monday, August 31, 2009

Oncologist Visit/CT Results

Busy day ...

7:45 am – Hospital for blood work
8:40 am – Hospital for oncologist visit
10:30 am – Dental Appointment
2:00 pm – Hospital for tetanus shot and PICC line dressing change

I had an early appointment for blood work at the hospital and shortly afterwards an oncologist visit. My blood work looked good. I got my CT scan results back which showed the tumors are stable with no change from the previous CT scan. I have a bit more fluid on my lungs. The doctor also mentioned I have fluid in my belly which I already knew ... I call it my chemo belly. I mentioned to her that my environmental allergies were acting up and would I be able to take something for it. She said absolutely yes. I was surprised because it seemed to me last year she said no. I must have been delirious from the chemo and remembered it wrong because that is not the case. I’ll be picking up some Benadryl soon.

Normally I would be getting chemo tomorrow but today I had a dental appointment for a cleaning and an exam so chemo is delayed for a week. The dentist had prescribed antibiotics for me to be taken one hour before my appointment ... 500 mg of Novamoxin (Amoxicillin Trihyrate) ... which I did.

So after my doctors visit off I went to see the dentist. He examined my teeth and asked about any oral issues I might have ... usually associated with chemo. I said the only issues I have are that my gums seem to be receding a bit and they bleed easy. I came out with the usual goodie bag of floss, toothbrush and toothpaste and ... no cavities ... and that is a good thing.

My appointment was over at noon and I went home for something to eat as I hadn’t had a bite up to that point. After filling my belly back to the hospital for a tetanus shot. Why do I need a tetanus shot you ask ... well, a couple of weeks ago when I was getting my CT scan one of the nurses accidentally sniped my skin with a pair of scissors. She was trying to access my PICC line without disturbing the dressing too much. She cut the dressing and my arm too. The cut was very minimal but since it had been too many years since I had a tetanus shot the doctor thought I should get one. After my shot the nurse offered to change my PICC line dressing as opposed to coming back tomorrow. That sounded good to me.

All and all a pretty full day ... I am tired and glad to be home.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Brunch

This morning we and long-time friends B & D went out for a Sunday brunch at the downtown Sawmill Restaurant. I had a plateful and a half but I really wanted three. They have an outstanding smorg that is so delicious.

B & D celebrated their 30th anniversary on August 25th but we took them out on the 30th ... of course, we planned it like that.

We ended up talking in the parking lot for another half hour because it’s just such a beautiful day.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

How I Look Today

Thought I’d post a current picture of me ... my plans were to post one every three months but I was feeling and looking so bad, I just didn’t want to. The steroids/chemo had caused me to gain weight/retain water at an uncontrollable rate. I was just so swollen and puffy.

More recently, I’ve lost a few pounds and am looking better. I’m particularly happy with this picture because it tends to hide my turkey neck ... caused by the chemo/steroids.

You may notice a shadow on my head which indicates some hair growth. Yes since my chemo dosage was dropped, I have had some hair re-growth but unfortunately, it is too sparse and makes me look sicklier than if I had none, so I just mow it down. I have a bit of an eye brow and no eye lashes.

This picture is quite reflective of my day ... I like to lie on the couch ... one of my favorite blogging positions and of course my blogging buddy likes it too. Though it might not look like it ... she is most helpful and proofs all my blogs before final post.

I’ll post more pics in the coming months.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Motivating and Inspiring Videos

The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance put together a set of videos where cancer survivors share stories of hope. What I like about the videos is hearing other people's stories and how they deal with their cancer.

I copied this little bit off the website as it is a good description of what 'The Day I Found Out' is about:

At The Day I Found Out, we've built a community where cancer patients can hear directly from cancer survivors about what it was like the day they found out they had cancer, and how they found the strength to fight it.

Please click on this link: The Day I Found Out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gorgeous Day

Yesterday I met for coffee with the Breast Cancer Support group. All the ladies seem to be doing well. We always enjoy a nice visit.

On my way home I took a bit of a detour as I wanted to find a restaurant I was to meet someone for lunch today. I thought parking might be tricky in this busy area but it turned out there was pay-for-parking right next door ... excellent.

It was a gorgeous day so I decided to take the scenic River Road home ... windows down ... Huey Lewis on the radio and ... I ended up following a bright yellow Corvette with a dealer plate on it ... looked like someone was shopping for a new car. I wondered if he was listening to Huey Lewis too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Questions For The Oncologist

Next week I have a visit with my oncologist and I always have a list of questions going that need answering. This week I’ve really been struggling with environmental allergies … so things like watery eyes, stuffy nose and sinus headaches. When I started chemo a year ago, I asked if I could use some of the over-the-counter drugs for allergies and the answer was no ... can't remember why. I am going to revisit that again and see if I can get a different answer this time.

I also have to get another prescription for Dexamethasone a.k.a. steroids. I remember somewhere around February of this year, I asked for a refill and the research nurse came back with ten refills which meant ten more cycles. I had already had 10 chemos so when she handed this prescription to me … I was horrified and said, “Ten more?” and she said, “Oh, the doctor always just puts down ten, don’t worry about it.” Back then, I thought there is no way I could do ten more cycles and here I am, asking for another ten.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

International News About Me

Thank you Stephanie of Bah! to Cancer. She posted my name on a tribute wall at the Livestrong Global Cancer Summit that is going on right now in Dublin, Ireland. I don’t know how something so small can be so big in my mind. It just makes me feel so good.

Here is a video of Lance Armstrong giving his opening speech at the Livestrong Global Cancer Summit.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Quiet Weekend

The weekend was spend just relaxing doing nothing, I spent time scheduling lunches and suppers with girl friends as the next two weeks are good weeks for me. I plan to drive my car and get out as much as I can.

I got a new trick for getting my butt out of the chair. I set the stove timer for one hour that way it forces me to get up and walk over to the kitchen and reset it for another hour. The living room is starting to look a little cleaner because I refuse to go back to the kitchen empty handed. When I sit back down, I exercise and stretch my lymphedema arm ... lets me feel like I’m getting something done around here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chemotherapy Pack

When someone undergoes chemotherapy treatments there will likely be a few things that can make the trip a bit easier to take. With the help of an article from eHow and a few of my own ideas, I’ve compiled a list of things one could put together in the form of a “chemo pack”.

• A small light-weight tote bag with a pen and small notebook or journal.
• Soft items such as socks, gloves, scarves, comfy hat, PJs and a blanket.
• A variety of snacks such as cookies and crackers and bottled water … a special/travel mug.
• Tissue pocket pack, scent free lotion, lip balm, cuticle cream and any other hygiene products you may think of … try to find items with the least amount of fragrance.
• Fun things to do such as: a book, sudoku, crosswords, magazines, a stuffed toy, relaxing CD’s
• A pocket-size hand sanitizer or handi-wipes

Of course, there are so many more ideas that could be included with a gift pack … such as a portable DVD player and movies, CD or mp3 player.

I guess part of the fun is to individualize the pack for the person. Happy shopping!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lookin' Good

Yesterday, D and I went over to my sister A's for a visit. Her husband P came home early from work to join us. They just finished renovating their house and it looks beautiful. I was so nice to see new paint, baseboards, flooring, railings, and electrical fixtures ... just refreshing. We had some cool drinks outside and came in for some yummy treats.

We talked about family, politics, religion and the economy. No stone unturned.

Both my sister and her husband said ... I look good. I’ve actually been hearing that a bit more often these days, whether it’s friends and family or staff at the hospital. I don’t spend too much time looking in the mirror so I couldn’t even begin to guess what looks better about me. I know I lost a few pounds so I might be looking a bit more like my old self. I’m also wearing a nicer variety of clothes so that might be it too.

Whatever it is, I’ll take the compliments ...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Looking For New Challenges

Well Fall is fast approaching and the days are becoming noticeably shorter. I find this time of year really inspiring for me and I try and search out new projects and challenges to carry me through the colder months. This morning I received a copy of local community paper and was snooping through it. I would love to do some volunteer work or some fund-raising for cancer but it’s just not something that is doable at this time. I’m just not strong enough to take on such commitments.

One of the challenges I will be taking on for sure is my evening college course. It is the last one required for my Human Resources Diploma. The course is called Training and Development II and classes should begin the first part of September.

I know once my course begins, I’ll have something to occupy my mind and therefore feel better but in the mean time I’ll continue snooping around for something that I might be able to do.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

CT Scan Today

Today I had my CT scan. I will get the results of the scan when I see my oncologist next which is the first week in September.

Having a lovely day and hope you are too!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Don't Give Up

I’ve often spoken about the support and encouragement I get from blogging. Whether it’s the stories people tell, the comments people leave, the emails I get. I just can’t tell you how inspiring they are to me. Most recently, Whidbey Woman posted the following post at Ron’s Road 2 Recovery. Have a peak.

How encouraging and inspiring is that? I cannot tell you how good it felt to click on that blog and see that ‘Don’t Give Up’ sign and know that others are pulling for me and for other people struggling with cancer and its treatment.

Thank you so much for you encouragement! It warmed my heart.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sleep Was Good

Last night’s sleep was really quite good. I took an Ativan and poof out I went. D ended up going to another bedroom to sleep because he said I hogged his side of the bed and my breathing was all over the place. He bailed on me.

The last few days, I’ve been struggling with constipation but with the help of Senekot S I’ve shifted back to mild diarrhea.

Last night my mother and sister dropped by with a care package of food … love those care packages.

Today is what I consider the first day of recovery from the chemo. I start feeling better and just need to build up some strength. I’m extra excited because this cycle is going to be four weeks long instead of three weeks. Why? It’s time for a dental exam and cleaning and the best ways for this to happen is to have my blood work as per normal at week three. If my blood looks good, I’ll take a prescription of antibiotics that the dentist has prearranged. I’ll have the cleaning done and then I take one week off to ensure the antibiotics perform their magic should they need to.

I am so excited about having one more week break … WOOHOO!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Terrible Sleeps

Friday night's sleep was better than Thursday's but last night was horrid. Went to bed around 8:30 and woke up at 12:30 am and just about every hour till about 7:00 this morning. The night was filled with intense dreams and intense breathing. It's not like ... oh I can't sleep, I'll just get up ... it felt like I had run a marathon in my sleep.

Because of the awful sleep, I didn't want to do much of anything this morning but lay on the couch. I didn't want to move a muscle, I didn't want to talk to anyone ... every movement and sound was annoying. I ended up dozing off a couple of times. I just got up and took a couple of Tylenol for my head. Hopefully that will help.

I really think it's the withdrawal from Tuesday's chemo and steroids ... and I hate it. YUK!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Grumpy ... Grumpy ... Grumpy

Last night I had a real rough sleep and woke up pretty grumpy this morning. Those steroids play havoc with my sleep and I was so tempted to take an Altivan last night ... but didn't. Tonight I'll be smarter.

Anyways, I had a late breakfast, laid down on the couch and out I went. After almost two hours sleep, I felt much better than first thing this morning ... that is for sure. Besides the agitation and moodiness, I'm feeling OK ... just some watery eyes. Coffee is starting to loose it's taste and so is pretty much everything else.

My goal this weekend is to get through the next few days as quickly as possible and keep my grumpiness in check.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

One Year On Chemo

One year ago yesterday, I started chemo. It’s hard to believe but I’ve heard of others who’ve been doing it for over five years. Wow … where do they find the strength and courage?

The first nine months of my chemo were difficult. The side effects were intense. I wondered how much longer I could continue with that treatment. Thank goodness the oncologist monitored my symptoms as she eventually made the decision that it was time to cut the dosage back by 25%. At first I was angered by this decision but now I look back and realize it was the right one. I now have more energy, have a clearer mind and more quality of life. Overall, I’m still pretty weak in my legs and lower back and standing for any length of time or walking any distance is a challenge.

On a positive note, two of the largest tumors have had some shrinkage with all others being stable.

Throughout the year I’ve also experienced some setbacks … one of the same tumors that had previously shown shrinkage has also showed some growth. My central line catheter on my chest became infected and we had to have it removed. More recently I developed lymphedema in right arm likely due to the infection caused by my catheter. With that I have to wear a compression sleeve and glove. After having a PICC line inserted in my left arm, I had a chlorhexidine burn which required special care and attention. Chlorhexidine is a chemical antiseptic and it appears I’m allergic to it. On a really minor note, I acquired my first ever plantars wart likely caused by my weakened immune system.

The side effects I now experience that are more closely related to the chemo and meds include: indigestion, mild nausea and mild diarrhea, a stuffy, runny and sometimes bloody nose, and disturbed sleeps and fatigue.

Also I have an accumulation of fluid in my lungs. I think it is called pleural effusion. I have developed hand foot syndrome which affects my feet more than my hands. I feel sensitively and numbness on the bottom of my feet. My hands appear to be pretty good. On a separate note, chemo has caused some of my finger nails to discolor and start lifting. Some days they are sensitive and others not so much. I also have watery eyes that tend to give me grief. Oh yes, I almost forgot, I have … hair loss.

Overall I’m amazed at what the body can take.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blogspot Lost The Blogs I Follow

As of August 11, my dashboard has lost all the blogs I follow. It is a known issue with Blogspot and I’ve made them aware that I am experiencing this problem. I hope to get it resolved soon so that I can catch up on everyone’s news.

I can still see my followers. If you’ve never added yourself as a follower, please consider doing so. That way I can find you once again. Hope that makes sense.

Sorry to the bloggers I miss following.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chemotherapy Today

I just got back from chemotherapy. Things went well ... I had my DVD player but ended up not even watching one complete movie because I started chatting with an elderly gentlemen and his wife. She was receiving chemo and radiation. They traveled 600 kilometers (366 miles) from the North and were temporarily living in a van camper while she was getting cancer treatment. We talked about all sorts of interesting stuff and just this and that. The husband was very positive and fun to talk with. The wife was quieter as she seemed to be quite drowsy during chemo.

Everything was going well until we went to change the dressing on my PICC line. The PICC entrance to my skin is inflamed. The nurse said, "Oh that looks a bit red. Make sure and watch your temperature."

As usual, the nurses where outstanding. Mine hummed as she worked ... obviously enjoying what she did. All in all, a good chemo day.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Oncologist's Visit

Just got back from my blood work and oncologist visit. The doctor said my blood work looks good and really good considering I've been on chemo for a year.

Last visit, she mentioned I should try and increase my protein intake to help reduce some of the fluid retention. D purchased some whey protein powder two weeks ago and I've been taking it daily. Well it looks like it paid off as the albumin in my blood went up two points from 33 to 35. The oncologists would like to see it around 40.

We also talked about my plantar's wart and decided no treatment is best right now. After my weight in, I'm happy to report I've lost 1.5 kilos (3.3 lbs.) since my last visit. And ... I'm very excited to report that my CVC (catheter) hole is showing some signs of healing. We talked about how I'm feeling fatigue-wise and decided to continue as is with treatment.

So all in all a good visit. Tomorrow is chemo and I'm ready.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Weekend To End Breast Cancer

As per their website ...

Edmonton, AB - (August 8, 2009)


* Today, the Alberta Cancer Foundation announced that participants in this year’s Weekend to End Breast Cancer events raised $4.8 million.
* Thanks to the 750 participants in Edmonton and the 1200 in Calgary, this two-day event is the largest breast cancer fundraiser in Alberta.
* The fifth annual Weekend to End Breast Cancer in Edmonton is already planned for August 7-8, 2010.
* Weekend to End Breast Cancer funding totaling more than $21 million over the past four years, launched the Alberta Breast Cancer Research Initiative, purchased new digital technology and mobile facilities for the Breast Screening Initiative, provided bridge funding of herceptin for more than 180 women, and sponsored annual breast health education conferences in Edmonton and Calgary.
* For more information about the event, or to register as a participant for next year, contact (780) 424-WALK(9255), or sign up online at Visit Opening Ceremonies, Camp or Closing Ceremonies and register on-site for 2010!

The Alberta Cancer Foundation is the charitable foundation of the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton and 15 other cancer centres throughout Alberta. The Foundation supports world-class cancer research, province-wide prevention and screening initiatives and cancer programs that benefit all Albertans.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

This And That

Yesterday I went back to physiotherapy and exchanged my gantlet style mitt for a glove style as the gantlet was pushing fluid into my fingers and causing them to swell. I am seeing a difference already.

Last night we had friends over for a visit. They came with a yummy chocolate cake and a card with a gift certificate for Tim Horton’s. Life is good. This morning D made coffee and I couldn’t resist … I had a piece of chocolate cake. Yum!

We were up a bit later last night so I’m thinking an afternoon nap might be in order.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Contemplating Quality Of Life

Tuesday I have chemo again and I’m sitting here thinking about my oncologist visit on Monday. She will once again be asking me about whether I rest more than 50% of the day. She does this to ensure I have quality of life because if I’m resting more than half of the day, I’m not really having much of a life.

So ... right now ... out of the 21 day cycle, I nap during the day maybe 4 of the 21 days and there may be a couple or three nights I will sleep 12 hours. I don’t really rest much per se but I do sit around most of the day. I really enjoy my laptop and spend the majority of the day blogging or surfing the net. Then of course there is the TV. So should that be included in the 50% of resting? That is the tricky part.

I don’t do much cooking or cleaning at all or anything physical. I just have no interest in doing anything that requires me to move my body. It is so bazaar because I used to be one of those hyper people who had difficulty sitting for any length of time.

So what do I think? Mentally, I’m pretty good and don’t tire too easily but physically, I’m pretty weak. I worry about how with each cycle I do less and less. I used to be able to walk the grocery store with one rest and now I need numerous rests or have D take care of it. When I go out and about anywhere, my first thought is ... where are the chairs? I worry my legs will give out from under me if I’m not careful.

Truly, I probably should consider cutting back my chemo but I worry that the tumors will grow.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summer Garden Party

Yesterday afternoon, we, the Breast Cancer Support gals had our annual garden party at J’s lovely home and backyard. She hosts both the Christmas and summer parties and we sure do appreciate it. The weather was just right for us to sit outside.

As we were sitting down to eat, J lined up peanuts in the shell on the deck fence. She then proceeded to shake a plastic bag to call the birds. Well it didn’t take long before a couple of Blue Jays came by to grab the peanuts. Funny thing tho, they would pick up the peanut shells and put them down. I think they were choosing the best ones. They continued to come back over and over which made for great entertainment. J’s yard is filled with beautiful flowers and ornaments which made for a wonderful outing.

We decided to have coffee and dessert inside as the clouds moved in. IRM is an excellent dessert maker. She made a white layer cake with peaches and Grand Manier. I said it looked like it should be in Good House Keeping magazine and it tasted wonderful too.

We relaxed in the living room and chatted and laughed, what a great day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lymphedema Update

Yesterday I had my physiotherapy appointment for lymphedema in my right arm. The first thing the physiotherapist asked me, when I had my surgery, when I first noticed swelling in my arm and if I had ever had any infection in my right arm or right chest area. I said yes in fact I have ... back in April of this year, my CVC (central line catheter) did get infected. I whipped down my collar and showed her my CVC hole ... she said, “Oh, that isn’t healing is it?” and I said, “No.” So that is what likely sparked the lymphedema.

The next thing the physiotherapist did is measure the circumference of my left arm starting at the hand and ending at the elbow ... in two inch increments. She then did the same for the right arm but she measured the circumference all the way to my arm pit. She couldn’t do this with my left arm because I have a PICC line in the way. She then took these numbers and inputted them into a computer program that spit out some info. The measurements gave a total volume for the right arm which included everything from the hand to the armpit and secondly, it compared numbers for the two arms. Because I’m right handed, it is considered my preferred arm and should be three to four per cent larger than my left. What we found is that it is ten per cent larger which indicated edema.

Anyways, I walked out with a temporary compression sleeve and a half mitt and written instructions on how to maintain the sleeve and how to look after my arm. One of the things I did learn is that my arm is now prone to infection. Something as simple as an insect bit or scratch could become an issue.

My next appointment is in a month at which point we will re-evaluate the situation. I will turn in the temporary sleeve and mitt and purchase one of my own ... assuming this combination works out well. With the half mitt there is a chance that fluid will be pushed into the fingers. Should that become an problem we will turn to a glove where the fingers are all cut off.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Wellspring Edmonton

Edmonton is looking to open a Wellspring Cancer Support Center within the next three years.

As per their website ...

Who is Wellspring?

Wellspring is an innovative network of centers providing high-quality cancer support, education and coping skills to a growing number of individuals, family members and professional caregivers in Canada.

What does Wellspring do?

Wellspring helps people restore the dignity and control they so often lose when diagnosed with cancer. Wellspring is about helping people feel that they will be able to cope when cancer strikes them or one of their family members. Wellspring is about helping people live with cancer.

Wellspring programs are free of charge and open to individuals and caregivers who are coping with any type of cancer, at any stage. They include individual and group support, coping skills, expressive therapies, energy work and educational workshops and presentations and are housed at warm, non-institutional Wellspring centers.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Break From The City

We've been away for about five days visiting family in Southern Alberta. There were numerous severe weather watches and warnings throughout the province but fortunately we did not run into any bad weather.

In fact our drive back was quite lovely. It was awesome to see the mountains in the distance. Southern Alberta is cowboy country so there are horses and cattle everywhere. We saw some beautiful ranches that were fronted with long white fences with stone and red brick gates. And the crop fields were so nice and green and ready to go golden for harvest. Then in contrast you would see yellow fields filled with canola.

We'll have to do this again in the Fall.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Coffee Tastes Great

Slowly the taste buds are coming back and the mild nausea is subsiding. Coffee tasted OK yesterday and grrrrrrreat today!

Yesterday we went out for supper with D's mom and brother in their small Alberta town. I had half a hot turkey sandwich. Guess who had the other half?

Afterwards, we went for a car ride out in the countryside. We saw a fox, a hawk, a couple of donkeys, cattle and horses ... and lotsa swanky houses.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Who Would Of Thunk It?

We’ve been visiting for a few days and I’ve had to turn down some yummy foods due to mild nausea.

Here are some of the highlights...

I turned down dessert which included a choice of seven different homemade pies including blueberry, peach, strawberry/rhubarb, apple ... with ice cream may I add. I passed on carrot cake, pepperoni pizza and a Boston Brute from Boston Pizza. And oh my, I had to say no to coffee. These are all some of my most favorite foods. Who would have thunk it?

What I did say yes to was strawberry yogurt, bananas... yes lots of bananas, cantaloupe, toasted cheese sandwiches, chicken soup, homemade oatmeal cookies and a milk shake.

What I’ve found so far with this mild nausea is that the more I think about eating something the better chance I have of talking myself out of wanting to eat it.

I've definitely been eating light but the body doesn't seem to mind.