The Pleasant Surprise That Came With Week 2

Well who knew? I wrote “1 Week Down” on Sunday the 20th, which was the 6th day I was rolling along with Chemo Chemicals coursing through my life support system, aka veins, and I was feeling fairly washed out. I’d completely neglected to mention the “follow-up shot” of Neulasta that we chemo persons get 24 hours after each treatment, which I was introduced to on Wednesday, November 16, aka Day 2. And It occurs to me that it was a pretty big component of my physical experience, due to the fact that it affects your bones and joints. It is known. It makes movement feel awkward at the least, and lifting or even holding familiar objects becomes other-worldly in the sudden unfamiliarity of the process. It further occurs to me that I was not entirely forthright about an unpleasant, pesky aspect of the three day period in which I was most “not quite myself,” and I’d like to address that now.

Friday was the first day that I described the sensation of feeling like a hologram of myself, and most of that whole day I seemed to be noticing that odd sense. It was also my long day at work, and while my work load that day was blessedly light, that evening was the 1st time I felt both really wiped out, and a little blue. I was sad that I was given this journey. I did not want it, or a winter of discontent. I wanted cryogenic sleep. I wanted very much to just skip the whole treatment in front of me and be awoken when it was over.
I have a good imagination. Also, I can predict the future. I imagine I’ll have that exact same thought again, probable odds, 7 times. Note to future self: you will get passed the blues.
BUT day 7, Monday, wasn’t bad at all! And TUESDAY? Why, I felt as normal as can be. Perhaps that should be qualified by the fact the I would be hard pressed to define “normal” for any human, and, it is possible that no one who knows me would apply the adjective “normal” in referencing me. So . . . there’s that, which could be a flaw in my whole “normal” descriptive.
Tuesday morning however, I discovered that coffee tasted almost just like coffee. Although to be fair I must say that Chai tea is an acceptable substitute for coffee when I had “chemo-mouth,” it was simply delightful to find that I need not wholly banish coffee from my life for the duration of this process. Then too, I had enough energy to do a light version of my 20 Minute Workout. Well okay, now that that’s in print, it sounds just plain lame. I mean, who would brag about lightening a workout that is only 20 minutes to start with? Well, me that’s who. Even though I had gamely been doing a few sit-ups and 5 lb weight lifts through week one, along with a little walking, my heart had literally not been in it.
Still, Tuesday I was back to sustained movement. The value of my workout aside, (suspend your judgment) I was thoroughly engaged in my life and daily routine again with no sense of being someone who was watching herself do things. The idea of cryogenic sleep, on Tuesday, seemed like a senseless wish to shorten my life.
 Tuesday was a little exhilarating.
#ChemoGirl tip on attitude for good days: Everything on my schedule today is something I GET to do, even though I have cancer. Even though.
Then, Wednesday rocked. The thirteen year old and I went wig shopping. A picture paints a thousand words.

One Week Down (more or less)

Well, here we are, wrapping up week one. Here I am. I am here. So still here. I’m not actually different in any dramatic kind of way. Currently there is nothing that would make you say, “oh, poor thing.” Which is good. I will let you know when I want a little “oh, poor thing.” Feel free to store some of that up for me. 🙂
So Friday was day 3, and it was uniquely odd for me. I woke up distinctly aware that I still had all of my hair and it felt weird, and clumpy and a mess. I believe I’ll be obsessing about it till it’s gone, which I hope will be a relief, to stop–obsessing. The next thing I noticed was that I felt sort of 2-dimensional, flat and pale. As I got up and began doing things, it seemed I was not entirely in contact with what I touched or held, but I no longer felt flat. I felt like a hologram of myself. Which I thought of right then, but tried not to think about because it seemed peculiar and maybe pretentious. Later though, in a phone call to my sister Betsy, when I said I felt like a hologram, she said that was a good description, so I’m sticking with it. Other than that, all would be as you’ve heard it described a hundred times. I don’t feel bad, except for feeling really lazy, which makes me feel like a load. It isn’t zero energy, but close, and in what feels to me to be way low bar on the humorous scale, I am inordinately proud of every tiny thing I get done. So early! Week one for god’s sake and here I am, I achieved getting dressed! Making my bed! Cleaned my bathroom! On a weekend! Wow! . . . Kind of sad isn’t it? Like, what am I, Four? And while I don’t feel hungry, I have so far been able to eat when I’m supposed to. Coffee is terrible, which is so disappointing, but mild foods taste great. Jerry made me Jello, and I believe that this food substance is hugely under-rated, in general. Incredibly edible. Just sayin.’
I have more pictures of the unbelievable autumn we’re having. Brilliant, shinning colors on our shrubs and trees that have never lasted this long before. I mean, it IS Thanksgiving. Tree tenacity that serves as a reminder that our planet is in perhaps as much distress as me. I have a friend here in Cleveland who keeps saying, “Stop exclaiming over how nice the weather is, like this is a GOOD thing! We should be ALARMED!”
I think he has a point there.
Thursday (Day 3 of Chemo)      Nov 18                  Saturday (Day 4) Same red bush Nov 20
My next post will include pics of me and Rebecca wig shopping. We were going to go today, but the girl has such a busy schedule (Sunday school, Ice competition meeting, her twin cousin’s birthday party) I couldn’t squeeze it in.
We are all of us precious.

Day 1 on being Chemo-Girl

Yay! The day finally arrived, winter is coming, prepare yourself; those birds have flown! (I just always wanted to say that.) If you don’t do Game Of Thrones you’ll likely not appreciate it, so no more of those references. It is late autumn now though, and while winter is coming I think I will always remember how startlingly beautiful the day was here for my first chemo session.

These are pics from the road we drove out of Cleveland Heights, to Chagrin Highlands for my first session. The brisk, tangy, quality of the air can’t quite be captured.
 My husband Jerry baked a Pumpkin Spice Bread with a crumble topping for the nurses station, he’s the best cook ever and he thinks of everything. For the duration, the nurses couldn’t have been more accommodating.
I was edgy and distracted and skipped breakfast as I am wont to do, and drank my 3 or 4 cups of coffee. The appointment was at 12:30 and I was told to eat something before I came so I had a Turkey sandwich on Challah and some potato salad (with 4th coffee). I should have been thinking water, agua, H2-0, along those lines. There had been talk of a “port” at my collarbone for prolonged easy access, and while if that’s what we need to do, why that is what I will do, but I’m resisting this option due to the fact that I have so little in the way of accessories that would make an outfit say “I meant to have this look.” Not to mention the little loop of tubing at my neck is not going to do anything for the appeal of the wigs in my immediate future. However, we brought the regular I.V. home at the bottom of the ninth and were able to proceed with my first cocktail of anti-nausea (ad nausem, like seriously, there were no less than 4 drips of those) and Doxorubicin. Super Deluxe.
The bright side of this game of “chase the vein” that we played for an hour today is that all the nurses agreed that my veins looked great and if I could just bring myself to hydrate my body before I came in again, we could put off scheduling the installation of a not so fetching port. Another bright side actually, was that this was a breeze once we got started. Some of the stomach relaxers managed to relax me right into a nap — and who among you can schedule those with impunity on a week day. I’m seeing perq’s here. On the other hand, I’m feeling just a tiny bit disoriented and my stomach is questioning the wisdom of the order-out chinese I just delivered to it, so . . . we’ll see.
I mentioned the wigs right? I was trying on wigs over the weekend, and will certainly add more pics just as soon as I find better results, but here is one option that slayed me. Does this remind you of anyone?
No? Anyone?
For those of your not familiar with her, here is a photo of my mother.
God Bless.

What I’m Doing Here. Or, What Am I DOING Here? (you pick)

Hi! Welcome to my inspired cancer site. Funny story. I never thought this would be me (who does?) and I never thought I’d find an engaging topic in anyone’s mammogram, and I certainly never thought I’d want to discuss my own, so it just goes to show, you never know.

Cancer? Who talks about cancer? No one really. And that’s a problem when the actual big C finds you — or someone important in your life. So I’m going to do something about it. Let’s talk.

I bet scores of you have heard the term “Dense Tissue.” Frankly, when I first started casually using the term myself, to introduce my concerns about something in my own dense tissue, more than half of the women I spoke to said, “Oh! I have that too!” More. Than. Half. You may think you see where this is going, but DON’T PANIC! Dense tissue does not mean you will get cancer. Bottom line, it generally means you have finer, firmer breasts than average. Goddess like in many cases. Trust me, I breathe to find the positive. But dense tissue does create a bit of a technical difficulty in detecting cancer early, and early is when you want it detected. So pay attention.

Here’s how it goes. Some good General Practitioner, Family Doctor, or Ob/Gyn will likely have told you about your dense tissue (if you have it) by the time you’re 40 or so — that is, if you make it a habit to visit one of them. Can I just say something here? Make it a habit.

So now you know–and if you don’t know, for Pete’s sake, make an appointment and ask. You’ll thank me. If you have the dense tissue thing going on, self checking yourself is still really valuable if you check every month or two and can remember what always feels dense and so on.

I know, who thinks of self examination regularly? But if you DO think of it, it can go like this . . .”pressing with finger pads flat, press, slide, press, roll, what is THAT? oh just dense tissue, or is that something that moved away? no, it pressed out flat . . . or wait, that’s a lump, or, no, no, not really, no, okay, slide . . .” Let’s cut to the chase, get your mammograms on schedule. Just do it. I know, I know, it takes so much TIME, who has that kind of TIME. Let me point out the obvious. Early detection can make the difference between one month of daily radiation treatment, and four months of Chemo to be followed by one month of daily radiation treatment, or, six months of mixed treatment to be followed by 10 to 20 years of estrogen blockers, or, you could take an early retirement plan in oblivion, either just before or just after the, trust me not so fun, Chemo part. Think all those things slip right into your schedule? Got some time now?

#Valuable Chemo Girl Tip For Dense Tissue Goddesses: In a thoroughly unscientific survey I came to the conclusion that if you have dense tissue and you are over 40 you can ask any Doctor you may be seeing to write “at risk” in your file so you can remember (or not remember) to check yourself, and then be eligible for 2 mammograms a year on whatever health carrier you are using. See how that gets you right back to the mammogram thing?

Now (finally) we get to what I am doing here. I have been diagnosed with loebular-ductal carcinoma that nested long enough to start a family and send a few microcosms on an exploratory walk-about through my endoctrine system via lymph nodes. Surprise. Yay!

While this took more than a little time to process and accept personally, the crack health- care system (read-honestly, every healthcare system in our fine nation) was super helpful at letting me get used to the big picture, piece meal. Sort of like this: “Your mammogram showed an irregularity, please come back in at your earliest possible convenience.” “Thank you for your patience, I’m sorry dear, this image is inconclusive, can you wait here for an ultrasound?” “The ultrasound is telling me this is not liquid, like a cyst would be . . . can you raise your arm? We always like to check the lymph nodes while you’re here.” “Your lymph nodes are possibly questionable and therefore inconclusive . . . we’ll have our team leader review it and get back to you.” “Can you come back for a biopsy soon? Say two days?” See how helpful that was? They didn’t tell me it was definitely cancer until I came back and they were about to put the conveniently lengthy needle in me. So I had 7 days between the mammograms and then an 2 extra days after to take my brain from “This is nothing, it is nothing until it is something, it might actually be something, oh, yup, it IS something, it’s Cancer.”

For the record, I have 3 sisters, 2 brothers, a father a step-mother, a husband, and a 13 year old daughter. My husband has a close and lovely family who have thoroughly embraced me, and they include his mother, his sister, his brother, and, all of the siblings on both sides have nuclear families. On my side of the family we’ve lost a brother and our mother to different types of cancer. Now how does one go about sharing this sort of health up-date with loved ones? Well this is very simple really. I took a page from the healthcare method and did it piece meal. I began by warming them up with some bits and pieces of how many doctor’s appointments I’d been attending lately, and then some hints that surgery might be possible, and finally that a lumpectomy was right around the corner. And then I let them have The Plan. Here is a copy of the letter I sent by email to make sure they all got it at the same time.

Hi everyone, 

Okay, there is a plan. All previous news stands. Low-level Stage 2 carcinoma with no complications, and it responds the way you want it to, to hormone blockers. Chemo-therapy will take this situation from a low chance of return visits to almost zero chance of a replay, so . . . to chemo we go.
The plan: 8 cycles of intravenous treatments to start on November 15th, and continues every 2 weeks for a total of 4 months. Finish with the fun part by the end of February.
Follows 1 month of 5 x per week Radiation–I may not need a night-light for reading for a while. Bonus.
Follows a pill a day for 5 to 10 years to better thumb my nose at this nemesis, and, to better hang around and nag my one and only child, who will need nagging for a good long time as far as I can tell.
Through the winter, I get to play with wigs and scarves and hats and hoods to my hearts content (or ache, depending on the day I suppose). My oncologist is very pleased with my general health and outlook, and tacitly implied the good outcome of the plan and even used the term “cure” at several turns. Very sassy this doctor.
I’ve been obligatorily informed of the plenitudinous variety of anti-nausea drugs at my disposal, and their accompanying benefits and drawbacks ad nauseam. It’s been a great day.
But really, it has been a great day. I’ll actually be done by spring, and every winter after this will be just GREAT in comparison. So I get assigned this, my winter of discontent, and then I get my life back, all the better for having experienced a downside. I’ll earn a nice dramatic TA DAA. It’ll be beautiful.
Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when you can do something. Cross my heart.
Big Love,
Future posts are intended to engage the reader in conquering the unexplored, then throttling fear, and upholding humor as needed. Where it can be found.