Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year in Review

This past year was a toughie. I continued my Taxotere treatments up until October. There were some very dark days and nights where I seriously considered stopping treatment all together. I was so serious about quitting; I even spoke with my psychologist about it. I just wanted to tell someone that this really sucked and I didn’t know if I was strong enough to continue. I was quite exhausted all the time and I used to sit most of the day and play on the computer and blog. Nothing else inspired me ... not even food. After that meeting I decided to just focus on completing one cycle at a time and that`s what I did.

In April, I spent a few days in the hospital due to my central line catheter infection. This was located on my right side of my chest. After the catheter was removed, I had a PICC line inserted to infuse the Taxotere. This caused a skin irritation... turns out I was allergic to chlorhexidine which is used to clean area.

In about June I noticed swelling in my right arm. It turned out to be lymphedema. Likely the infection from the catheter caused it. My right side is also my mastectomy side.

In October, a bone scan showed no evidence of disease in my bones; however a CT scan showed tumours on my liver had grown and there were more lesions. The Taxotere was no longer working and I needed to change chemotherapy to Xeloda pills. This meant the PICC line came out, it meant fewer trips to the clinic and best of all more gentle side effects. Even with liver issues, deep down I was thrilled because I was so sick of the side effects from the Taxotere and the steroids. I was just so glad to be changing treatments.

After a couple of months, I felt like getting out and doing a few more things but my body was stiff and sore from just sitting around for a year. I decided to enlist the help of a chiropractor who stretched out some of those muscles. This along with the active release therapy and the massaging the edema out of my legs has helped me so much to get around.

I am feeling more optimistic and alive. My body is recovering nicely ... I can now stand longer and walk further. It’s been quit the year. I’m really hoping improvements continue into 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Back Home Safe And Sound

We arrived home safe and sound after being away for a week visiting family in the foothills of beautiful Southern Alberta. It’s so nice to just look out the dining room window and see the mountains ... pretty cool. The roads were great and the scenery magnificent.

As we were all setting in for the 4 hour trip back, Daisy our dog sat on my lap. Then it must have been time for a nap ... she buried her head and front legs into my down filled vest ... her head right up into my shoulder. How cute is that. I think that all the excitement from the past week really had her tired. That only lasted a short time as she got too hot and moved onto her blanket in the back seat. She sure does travel well.

Today we are just catching on mail and stuff.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bonus Week Away From Xeloda

Normally I would be starting a new cycle of Xeloda but because of the holidays, the clinic pushed some of us back 7 days, so no Xeloda this week. That makes me a happy camper because I have an extra week to recover and get stronger. I notice my coughing is down a bit these last couple of days and my nose isn’t running like a tap anymore either. Everything is settling down nicely.

I’ve been extremely lucky too because D had a really bad cold just before Christmas. You should have seen me ... don’t touch this, don’t touch that and don’t even think about touching my laptop. Wash your hands I’d bark out at him. We have hand sanitizer jugs everywhere. I guess it all worked because D is over his cold and I’m symptom free. I’m oh so glad about that.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Enjoying the Moment

I started the day with an excellent sleep. Slept right through last night ... what a difference that makes. So today I feel like I’ve got energy to spare.

Yesterday afternoon, we went for a drive out in the country and 3 dear crossed the road right in front of us... so beautiful.

Other than that, we’re just relaxing and enjoying the moment.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Nap Happy

Just got up from an afternoon nap ... something I seem to have gotten in the habit of doing during this holiday season. I think it has something to do with all the good food and conversation we’ve all enjoyed. This really tires a girl out. The coffee is always on and oh so many desserts. Yummy!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holiday!

Yesterday I had coffee with C, from our Second Cup coffee group. We chatted for three hours ... wow. We hadn’t met in about 3 weeks so we needed extra time to catch up on things. Anyways, we got out of the coffee shop and everything looked so nice all covered in snow. Real Christmasy. We’ve had tons of the white stuff fall here lately which makes for very pretty scenery.

With Christmas in a couple of days, I’ll probably be posting videos only instead of blogging. I’m going to spend time enjoying family, the festive season and just relaxing.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Funky Self-Exam Video

This is a funky seasonal video 3:30 mins, about monthly breast self-exams ...

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Bit More Coughing

The last couple of days I’ve really been focusing on having my legs up on cushions... above my heart ... for hours at a time ... and I can honestly say I notice my feet are less swollen. I can see most of the veins in my feet and that’s great. The only problem is that that I have a bit of crackling in my lungs and I’m coughing a bit more than usual.

Today I saw my chiropractor and I asked him if the fluid from my legs and feet was just moving to my lungs and he said it’s possible but not likely. He thinks the chemo is creating the havoc in my body and that is responsible for the extra coughing. I’ve noticed that my coughing goes up and down depending where I am in the cycle. So the Chiro said ... for today, we’ll skip the leg massage.

Anyways, today is the last day for this round of Xeloda and I have a two week break. I’m so looking fwd to be off that daily pill regimen for Christmas I can just enjoy the holidays. My thoughts are with all those who are not so fortunate and will be struggling with chemo and its side effects thru this holiday season.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chiropractor Appointment #4

Yesterday I had by fourth chiropractor appointment. He says things are moving along nicely and I agree. To strengthen my arms and hands, he wants me to start carrying around cans of soup around the house. That I can do.

I’ve been thinking about putting together some sort of exercise program but I’ve been waiting to start because I find I have sore muscles from just my increased everyday activities. As I walk more, my leg muscles are sorer ... the more I do my arm stretches, my arm muscles are sorer. It feels like I’ve gone to the gym the day before. I’m going to do all this slowly and carefully.

Other than that, I’m doing really well.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sears Coffee Group Christmas Party

In 2001, a bunch of us ladies met at a Breast Cancer Support group. We’ve been meeting every two weeks for coffee for nine years. We call it the Sears group because we used to meet at the Sears cafeteria.

Last night we had our annual Christmas get-together at J’s home. All six of the ladies are breast cancer survivors and were there and of course Ari, our mascot, who was all decked out in his Christmas attire. He sure is a handsome fella ... don’t you think?

We all brought a little something for the meal but to be honest we all waited anxiously for the ‘piest de resistance’ which is Erm’s dessert. Each year she does an amazing dessert and this year was no exception. She made a Yule Log ... oh so delicious. After stuffing ourselves, we moved to the living room to open the gifts we exchanged. I gotta tell ya ... the girls sure are creative in their giving.

What a pleasure it is to be a part of this great group of gals.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fat Calves

“Do these couch cushions make my calves look fat?”... I asked D the other day … long silence. I figure we may as well make fun of my fat calves. Yesterday and today, I’ve spent time with my legs elevated and resting on couch cushions and they look fat. It’s hard to say if keeping them up there is making a difference but I’m going to continue doing it and hopefully with time, this will help the fluid will drain out.

Last night I went out with some girl friends I used to work with. It is such a pleasure to go out with these gals and I really appreciate them taking the time to go out with me. I know how busy this time of year is when you are working. It didn’t take long for me to realize ... I was such a chatter box. I can be a bit of a talker and now that I’m feeling better ... that is coming out in me.

The restaurant is a great steak place which was right up my alley because due to my poor appetite I haven’t had steak in about a year but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about having one. So that worked out just great.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chiropractor Appointment #3

I had my third appointment with my chiro. First thing I mentioned to him is that I thought I was losing the battle with the edema. He said all we can keep doing it the ‘right stuff’ and see where it goes. I told him D was massaging my calves and that he always heated my calves up with a heating pad before doing the massage. The chiropractor said that he preferred to massage the legs cold because heat brings more blood into the area and that isn’t a good thing when you are trying to force fluid out. Makes sense to me ... no more heating of the legs before massaging and one less thing to be concerned about.

As he was working on my calves ... he said, when you are massaging, you should think of it as pushing the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube. I’ll take that to the bank.

I asked him about support socks/hosiery and he didn’t think they would be helpful in my case ... no support hose for me and one less thing to be concerned about.

I usually lay on my stomach so that he can work on my back and legs. After my first treatment, I had to slide off of the table and then down to my knees on the floor and pull myself up with my arms. Well yesterday, I was much more limber and was able to manoeuvre off of the table and stand up. We both felt good about that one.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Xeloda – Cycle 3 Week 2

Starting to experience more of the side effects associated with Xeloda. My fingers tips are becoming a bit more sensitive, a bit shiny so they have some swelling and they are once again slightly darkened. In the first two weeks on Xeloda, the toxins seem to build up and then on the third week off, they dissipate.

This same drill applies to the edema in my feet and legs as the amount of fluid has also increased... even with my twice daily massages. It’s a little frustrating but I’m not giving up on the pampering.

I’m still looking for other solutions and I’m going to investigate support socks/hose. D brought couch cushions up from the down stairs and stacked them in a pile on the upstairs couch. So instead of sitting on the couch, I’m lying down and keep my feet elevated up on the cushions. Hopefully that will allow for more drainage.

In comparison to Taxotere, the Xeloda side effects seem piddly.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Brunch on a Cold Day

Yesterday we went out for a Sunday brunch smorg with our friends B and D. We got to the restaurant and were greeted by the host who said they were having heating issues. Half of the restaurant had no heat. Thank goodness the seating area was nice and warm but where the food was all laid out, was cold. The burners under the food still kept the food hot and everyone just made the best of it.

We had a great time chatting and eating. B and D follow my blog so they are aware of what`s going on but it`s always nice to get together to talk about things a bit more intimately. Both B and D have been so supportive of me. For example, I haven`t even written my final exam at college and B and D have already given me a graduation gift ... a pretty necklace and earrings and an angel pin with a funny Snoopy card saying I Did It! What great friends.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Legs Are Getting Stronger

Yesterday we went to Walmart to pick up a few things. D said you better take the Zuca bag with wheels and I said, “No I think I will try going without it.” I knew where the chairs were and so if I got too tired, I’d rest. Well would you believe it, we shopped for about 45 minutes and I didn’t sit down once. I had a shopping cart that I leaned on but you know I felt really good, even today.

I’m very excited to say that last night I stood and washed the dishes. This is quite an accomplishment because just a couple of weeks earlier I wouldn’t have been able to stand that long. Our new dishwasher has connection issues... therefore the washing by hand.

I’m still doing stretches on my calves and legs ... and D and I massage my calves morning and night trying to get the edema out. Things are progressing nicely.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chemo Nails

I thought I’d give you an update on my Taxotere nails. I’ve included a picture of my nails today and you can see how my nails were back in June here.

They are definitely improving.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chiropractor Appointment #2

Today I had my second visit with the Chiropractor. He said he was going to be a bit harder on me today. He dug in deeper and we stretched those sore achy muscles. I knew it might hurt a bit more now but in the end, I’d be much happier for it. He asked if I could recruit D into massaging the edema out of my calves ... just to get things moving a bit faster. I said ... no problemo.

Last night as I was lying in bed, I massaged my calves trying to move the edema out of my feet. I said to D, feel this calf ... it was hard as a rock. I said I’ll be asking the chiro to spend some extra time on that one. Thanks to the treatments, the other leg muscles were much softer and flexible.

I can honestly say I feel a difference in my body ... I’m feeling more flexible and I can walk with more ease.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chiropractor Appointment

My oncologist said it would be OK to see a chiropractor to help loosen up some of my muscles. She also said that even tho there is no evidence of cancer in my bones, I shouldn’t have any bone manipulation. That’s ok because I only want to see him for the active release techniques that he does.

So when the chiropractor first came in, I said to him, “I’m a bit of a mess and need your help.” We talked a bit about my history with cancer and that I was looking for help with tightness in my calves and feet and in my chest area. So after examining me, he said, “I have very strong computing muscles.” ... imagine that! Then he had me lay down on my stomach and hooked me up to this machine that vibrated my muscles in two key areas ... my calves and just behind my shoulders. That ran for about 10 minutes and was quite stimulating. After that, he stretched some muscles in these areas.

He then suggested I try at home to massage the edema out of my calves. I am to put my fingers around my ankles and massage upwards. I told him about the stretches I recently started doing and he said that they were perfect. He gave me two other simple exercises to do as well.

At the end of the session, he said I could be doing most of this at home and I said to him ... “I know but sometimes I just need a bit of support to get going.” He said, “Don’t we all?” I like this guy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jury Duty

Yesterday I received a juror summons in the mail. I’m going to request to be excused because I’m on active cancer treatment. I just don’t think my mind or body has the stamina to serve on a jury. Would you believe the only other time I was summoned was in 2001 and guess what ... I was on active treatment for cancer then too. I would love to experience being a juror and deciding a case but it looks like luck is against me once again.

Some of my favourite shows have been Judge Judy, Joe Brown, Wapner and all the other judges on People’s Court. I’ve been watching these in the anticipation that one day I could put all that training to use ... like being on a jury ... Not!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Blood Work and Oncologist

My visit with the onc went really well today. Results from the blood work shows that my liver is stable. I showed her my fingers and she didn’t seem too concerned with them. She was more concerned with diarrhea ... whether or not I had experienced any. I said I only had it one day in the last cycle and I figure it was from a potato salad I had ... actually the cream in the potato salad. I’ve since cut out all dairy products and I have not experienced any problems. I told her that my energy level is increasing every day. She said that is a really good sign.

My next cycle will start in four weeks instead of three because of the way the stat holidays fall during Christmas. The doctor also mentioned that I will be booked for a CT scan after the fourth cycle to see how well the Xeloda is working ... so that should be somewhere at the end of January.

All in all, it looks like I am ending the year on a real positive note.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sensitive Fingers

I had this picture taken of my hands over a week ago. You can see the tips of the fingers are a bit darkened, as though I’d been working in the garden. They are also a bit dry looking and have become sensitive to pressure, heat and cold. The fingers themselves feel numb; they feel tight and a bit stiff too. The ends of my fingers kind of feel like I have a layer of on wax them.

This past Friday, I was munching on a bowl of cut fruit and when I went to pick a grape with my fork. I felt the real pressure of the fork on my fingers. It’s hard to describe it except that when I pressed down on the fork, if felt so tender and sore. Today when I was making breakfast, the handle of the frying pan felt hotter than normal and I had to use a pot holder... something I normally wouldn’t have. When opening the flip top lid on the ketchup bottle, my fingers tips sure felt tender.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Quest for Hand Cream

I received a hand cream sample called ‘Udder Cream’ in my Xeloda kit. I found it to be really the best stuff I’ve tried, ever. The only problem is finding more before it runs out.

Xeloda really does a drying number on my hands, feet and legs. It’s recommended they stay well moisturized to stop my skin from becoming dry and flaky. Also to stop cracks, peeling and sores developing.

Well, after scoring zero after five trips looking for the stuff, I was ready to give up. The stock boy at one store said they discontinued the product and took it off the shelves two days ago. I decided to give Wal-Mart a shot. Hero... I found the Udder Cream. It has just a bit of a scent, not anything heavy, which I can handle right now.

I’m so udderly happy. Here is their website ...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Getting Some of the Old Me Back

It’s been about six and a half weeks since my last cycle with Taxotere and I’m showing more signs of improvement just about every day. For example, I can walk up the stairs in one shot after a shower instead of resting at the base of the stairs; I can stand and brush my teeth ... instead of sitting on the side of the tub. When driving, I can turn the steering wheel ... no problem. My jaw doesn’t feel weak when I bite down on food and I’m slowly getting my taste buds back so things like fruit and raw veggies are becoming yummy again.

Yesterday, after the Breast Cancer Support Group coffee instead of going straight to my car, I stopped to look at some stuff in the mall ... it was just a few minutes but still that is something I’m so proud of. I’m really excited to be getting some of the old me back ... and just in time for Christmas. I couldn’t ask for a better gift.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shopping For Groceries

Yesterday D and I went grocery shopping which is quite an event because D has been doing it solo for a few months now. I just don’t have the energy to walk around. The reason yesterday was different is that as the days go by, I’m feeling a bit stronger and want to get and do stuff. This grocery store we went to has a bench at the entrance and seating at the pharmacy half way down. I walked around with D for a bit and then sat down. Once he got too far away, I walked to and from the cosmetic counter. There was some Bling over there that keep catching my eye and inviting me back. Anyways, I didn’t feel the exhaustion I usually do ... so I am thrilled. The old me is slowly but surely coming back.

I’m really excited about this new found energy. Now when I see things in stores, they appear brighter and more exciting than they did a few months ago. I don’t know how to properly describe it but when I was on Taxotere, everything appeared dull but now things are starting to sparkle again.