Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bad Playmates

Chemotherapy and bronchitis do not play well together. I was successful at repelling a whole swarm of germs that seemed to be everywhere through fifteen winter weeks of the chemo, so I shouldn't complain at finally catching a bug at the very end. But I will anyway. (Hack, Hack.)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Bell Clanged

When the nice nurse took out my IV drip for the last time (well, sort of the last time. I still have a full year of Herceptin by IV every three weeks, but I'm told that'll be a breeze) she presented me with a bottle of sparkling cider, and told me to clang the bell on the wall when I left. Me being me, I clanged the bell in the wrong direction, leaving a mark on the wall, which only seems fitting. I did finally get it right, while clutching my sparkling cider, and the nurses and staff members cheered and gave me a fitting goodbye. The fam toasted my finish at dinner (which happened to be an authentic Peruvian dish prepared by a dear lady.) Now I just have a few days of some icky symptoms, and I'll be home free!

In answer my most-asked question: How will we know if it worked? Well, they won't run any tests, they'll just take the wait and see approach. I'm supposed to call if I have any odd symptoms that last for at least three weeks. If I call before that they'll tell me to keep watching. The doc explained that running extra tests just causes extra anxiety and has them chasing after false leads. Plus I guess there won't be a big rush if it does come back, since they'll only being treating the symptoms. But that's all stuff I don't like to think about. If (when) I'm cancer-free in three years, I can celebrate.

Those three years happen to fall around my 50th birthday, so my family has been put on notice that I'm expecting a BIG celebration. All of you who have been cheering me on are invited. Details, obviously, to follow.

Out of Order?

I'm sitting here in the chemo room getting my very LAST ROUND OF CHEMO, and decided to finish and update a blog a entry that I started a few weeks back. But I didn't realize blog entries are posted for the date you start them, not the date you post them. (Seems a bit lame to me.) So there's a NEW entry dated (I think) the 4th of Feb. entitled 'Lymphedema and Me' that is written today, which makes the whole thing a little confusing, since I wasn't getting my VERY LAST ROUND OF CHEMO on the 4th of February. I'm sure there's a way to fix it, but I'm just not that sharp. Oh well, good things my friends are. Did I mention that this is my LAST ROUND OF CHEMO?!!!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tattooed Lady?

I pulled out my wallet today and caught a glance at the picture on my driver's license. It made me very sad. The lady in the mirror looks nothing like that.

Tomorrow marks another "I never thought I'd be doing that" event. I'll be preparing for radiation, the highlight of which will be the tattoos. Yes, you read that right. Tattoos. They'll consist of a blue ring of dots around the area to be radiated, ie. my chest. And yes, I asked the doctor all the questions you're thinking, "Do I HAVE to?" "Can't I...?" "What about...?" But there's no way around it. Tomorrow I'll not only be bald, but tattooed. Permanently. Kind of sounds like a circus side show. Sigh and sigh again. I seem to do that a lot lately.

It's been suggested I turn them into flowers. Hmmm. Maybe.

On the upside, I am soooo ready for my last round of chemo. Just two days! Not exactly my choice of parties, but I'll be so glad to be done and done with this part of my life. Six weeks from that is when the hair is scheduled to start coming in. Happy Days!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Good Day for My Daughter

So yesterday my Nat stopped at Coldstone on her way home from school and learned they're hiring. She was told she'd "probably" get the job if she could get a recommendation, which she can since one of her best friends works there. Then she stopped at at tutoring center, since that would be an even better job, and learned that they need someone who knows calculus, which is the one smarty-pants skill she's missing, but that they can "probably" use her this summer.

We called her brother--a mechanical engineering major-- with the news of a job for calculus smarties. He stopped by on his way home and believes he "probably" has the job.

To top it all off, when Nat got home she checked her email and learned that she's been accepted to BYU! If you're not in the know, that's one huge accomplishment. (She's still not totally decided. Another "probably".)

Assuming she does go, it will make us possibly the state's most non-loyal University parents. We've been Aggies through and through. Not only did both my Rob and I graduate from USU, but all four of our parents attended, with three graduating. And our oldest just got her masters there. But in the years since we've had one at UofU, one at UVU, and now one at BYU.

Our new motto is: Go ... Universities in the state of Utah!

Catchy, don't ya think?

Anyway, it's all good, and Congrats Nat!

Monday, February 15, 2010

When A Plan Comes Together...

As you probably know, I just have one round of chemo left (hoo-hoo-ray!) and then its on to radiation--which is daily for five weeks. Ug. I'm supposed to get a three-week break between the two, but the radiation oncologist suggested I might want to consider postponing it by a week in order to take a vacation.

I sighed. Then laughed. There are so many reasons not to take a vacation.

But on a whim I asked about the kids schedules (obstacle number one) and learned that my college boy has spring break the very week I'd be able to go. The other kids are all flexible.

Of course, that still leaves the question of what to do on a budget of close to zero.

I started noticing those commercials--you've probably seen them too--with Muppet characters helping to build a house in exchange for a day at Disneyland. Sounds great, but it's not like I'm in any position to help build a house.

But never one to let things die...I went to the website on another whim. And guess what? There are all kinds of things that qualify as a day of service. And I found the most fantasmic one of all--we purchased a bunch of baby wipes (7,000 to be exact) and took them to a charity co-op that is going to somehow deliver them to Haiti. I just got the email from Disney telling me that as a thank you, they'll be sending six of us to Disneyland for a day! How cool is that?

There were other opportunities that didn't take money, but most required some kind of physical labor, and this is money that goes to Haiti, which makes me feel great. So it feels like one great big happy circle.

So when this last round is done, as cheesy as it sounds, if anyone asks what I'm doing next, the answer's obvious: I'm going to Disneyland!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rough Feet and Other Good News

My heels are really rough. You know, the sandpaper kind that drives you nuts if happen to have satin sheets (Which I thought would be a good idea. Silly me.) I'm knocking on wood and crossing my fingers that I don't jinx anything, but right now that's my worst symptom. Rough heals. Can you believe it?

The doctor specifically said "Each treatment gets worse. The drugs build up in your system, making the last three especially hard." And I did get REALLY sick at the end of the very end of the last one, so there's still time. But so far (knocking on that wood) this one has been EASIER than that one!

Oh, and those brows and lashes are thin, but still hanging on for dear life.

So now I have a favor to ask. If you are reading this, and you came hear on purpose, will you make a comment of some kind? I'm really inept as a blogger, and I've had this weird phenomenon going on that I can't explain. I've been getting like 50 visits a day from people all over the world. But I don't think they mean to come. It's like they're looking for the party and I just happen to be one of the doors they look into before going in search of that nine-layer dip. So if you are here on purpose, please shout out some kind of a hello (Helloooo!!! Anybody out there?????) and know that I love you!

UPDATE: Just so you all know, I wasn't intentionally asking for a bunch of kudos, but I sure loved them. I feel like I've just had a big group hug, and it was SO NICE! (Being called a seven-layer dip is a first, I have to say.) But since every one of you answered in English, no accents even, I have to assume that the onslaught of foreign visitors to my site is some Internet fluke that's beyond my comprehension. Thanks, thanks, thanks...and I love you all too!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lymphedema and Me

I'm not big on self-pity. Never have been. I've always figured you just have to take what you're dealt with and make the best of it. Hopefully this blog has reflected that attitude.

Well, I'm having a hard time keeping that 'tude while blogging about my latest cancer adventure. And yet it wouldn't be complete without it. I actually wrote a blog entry several weeks ago, but it was too depressing, so I didn't post it. But while I'm sitting here in my LAST CHEMO SESSION!!! (Hoo-Ray!!!) I figured it's time to get to work on it. And meanwhile things have gone from icky to double-ick. So keeping up a positive attitude has gotten even harder.

Without further explanation, let the pity-party begin. Here's the deal: I've officially had a new diagnosis to add to my lovely medical regimen. It's called Lymphedema, and is fairly common after lymph nodes have been removed. Basically when the lymphatic system gets messed up, the lymphatic fluid in your body tries to find new pathways, and it ends up like a big traffic jam in your arms or legs and they swell up, like this:

Fortunately I don't look like that lady. My arm is only a couple centimeters bigger than it used to be. What's truly depressing is that I was told my good news is that the sooner it is discovered the better, so treatment can begin immediately. And I literally found it on the first day and called to make an appointment with a specialist. Well, the regimen is mind-blogging. I wear an ugly brown compression sleeve that goes from wrist to elbow, along with a "gauntlet" of the same color on my hand. Plus there is weekly "drainage" sessions with a therapist, and twice daily self-drainage sessions that I do on my own for about 20 minutes each. Plus deep breathing exercises and "pumping" my hand while holding it in the air several times a day. But despite all that the condition has gotten worse. It's moved into my torso, so now I also get to wear a lovely compression camisole, and all other treatment times have been upped. And even worse news is that the radiation I'll be starting next month focuses right on the damaged area, and is known to either trigger or worsen lymphedema.

When I first got the diagnosis I looked up the word and got this depressing little tidbit:

Lymphedema is a notoriously debilitating progressive condition with no known cure. The unfortunate patient faces a lifelong struggle of medical, and sometimes surgical, treatment fraught with potentially lethal complications.

I was sighing in an earlier post about my tattoos (there are six, the most noticeable of which is a nice blue dot right in the middle of my chest, by the way.) But this is where the real sigh comes from, if you'll allow me. Sigh. Sigh. Great Big Heavy Sigh.

There's only one upside I can find to this thing, and that is it beats being dead.

But I guess that's a pretty big upside.

A Visit With Ethan

I know everybody thinks their grandkids are great. Super great even. So it's kind of cliche to say it. But my little nine-month-old grandson Ethan has made "loveable" into an art form.

Here's what a visit from the little guy is like: his dad carries the car seat in and pulls him out of the convoluted contraption. He looks around the house, obviously expecting the rush of greeters that are always there for him. He puts out his arms to the first one (usually me), gives a hug, rests his head on your shoulder (in which your heart promptly melts), then pops the head up and looks for the next greeter. Once he's greeted everyone in the circle, he's ready to get down and explore the house from one end to the other.

I dropped by his house yesterday, and he was in his high chair being fed his goo that passes as food by his loving Mama. He began to fuss when I came in the room, and Mom asked if he was done. I stooped over to give him loves, and he hugged me as best he could, let me kiss his cheek, then turned his attention back to his food. I was ready to leave about the time he finished up and his mom pulled him out of the high chair. He began to fuss again, and again his mom asked what was wrong. I stepped close again to say goodbye, and he reached out for me. I took him into my arms, accepted his sweet little hug, kissed his little cheek, let him play with my keys, and after a few minutes he was ready to go back to his mom, as happy as can be.

How can you not fall seriously in love with that?

(Did I mention that we've determined he says 'Grandpa'? Really, Grandpa! And 'doggie' and 'hi'. And 'Da Da Da'. Mom is still anxiously waiting for a 'Ma Ma Ma'. And I wouldn't mind a 'Grandma', but 'Grandpa' at nine months is pretty darn impressive in my book.

Update: Ethan's Mom would like me to clarify that when I say "we've determined" I'm talking about my silly grandmotherly friends and I. She is NOT convinced he's saying DaDa, in any meaningful form, let alone Grandpa. But whatevs. We all know who has more experience with this kind of thing.

True Story

Last night Brandon went on a special field trip with his cub scout group. They had the opportunity of visiting the sheriff's station to learn about the emergency communication system. He called on his way home, about 9:00, to say that they'd had a little "unexpected" delay, but they would be home soon. Kind of late for a fifth-grader on a school night, but I've done outings like this and wasn't surprised there was a delay. I just told him I loved him and looked forward to seeing him.

Well, he busted through the front door over the top with excitement. The story that came out of his little excited mouth was pretty convoluted, and took a while to sort out, but here's the sorted version: their leader had just pulled off the freeway and was at a stoplight within view of the sheriff's station, when they were rear-ended. They didn't have to call 9-1-1 because three emergency vehicles saw the accident and immediately put on their lights and headed to them.

Once they determined that the six scouts and their leader were uninjured, they ushered them off to the sheriff's station. On the way there the boy's decided the two people in the other car looked awfully suspicious, and speculated at how cool it would be if the other car turned out to be criminals, ex-cons, drug dealers maybe, each boy topping the other. Ha! Ha! Yeah, wouldn't that be too funny?

Well, their tour guide had planned to play them some actual 9-1-1 calls, but instead let them listen to the radio of what was happening outside. And as it turns out, the car was stolen, and the driver bolted. Canines were called into the search. There was apparently a gun, but Brandon wasn't sure if it was in the car, on the running man, on somewhere in between. There were drugs in the car, however. And another passenger, who didn't run. He was hand-cuffed, but as of Brandon's report last night the driver hadn't been caught.

So how cool of a field trip is that? Of course the down side was that Brandon had a heck of a time getting to sleep. He was keyed up to begin with, then started to get nervous picturing the guy on the run with a gun. We assured him he would be caught quickly and had no interest in the little scouts in the car. And he knew that on a logical level, but still had a hard time getting it out of his mind.

I called this a true story, despite the fact that it didn't show up in the news this morning (and how could they miss a story of a group of cub scouts being rear-ended by drug dealers right in front of the sheriff's station?) If he made it up I'll let you know - right after I see about getting him nominated for an Emmy of some kind.

Round last.

Reporting from the lovely chemo room and pleased to report that icky stomach thing is behind me and I'm back on track. Have Pandora playing in my earphones, poison dripping in my veins, (swimming, swimming, find those last tough cancer cells please!) and plenty of blog entries to catch up on! Stay tuned....