Friday, January 29, 2010

9 Days Post Chemo

Yesterday I went to a staff meeting at work (MAJOR budget cuts in our school district!). It was only a few degrees above zero at the time, and I probably should have stayed home! The school is only a 1/2 mile from my house, but since I was going to start the car up I thought I'd run up to the post office first. BAD IDEA! The car never really had time to warm up. By the time I got to the school my fingers and toes were tingling pretty bad from the cold. I had a scarf over my mouth to protect my throat, and that was a BIG help. Its -4 right now....I don't think I'll be going out today! Rich has been taking the dog out before work, and either Alyssa or Shonna take her out in the afternoon for me. I am so thankful for such a thoughtful family.
It was so nice to see my co-workers again and get some much needed hugs! I work with great people!
My cold sensitivity seems just a little worse this time, and the neuropathy in my finger tips and bottom of my feet seems a little worse too. My hair has started thinning more again--it had slowed down the last 2 weeks.
When I was getting ready for the meeting yesterday(you know, trying to do something with the hair and putting on a little make up), I thought I looked a little haggard. Everyone said I looked great, which was very nice to hear, but I knew that I wasn't looking my best. I had bags under my eyes, and for some reason, around this time in my chemo cycle, my "age spots" get darker brown on my face and hands, and lines are brownish too. This usually fades in a few days. Hopefully next time I see everyone at work I'll look even better! I plan on going back on Feb. 16th.
I've been thinking alot about how I'm going to keep the weight off (I'm still down 22 pounds!), and how I'm going to get my strength back for work. I'm a little worried about working with chemo brain, and still being weak. Monday I hope to start some type of exercise routine--either the treadmill or a pilates or aerobics dvd. I will start very slow, but I have to get moving somehow. My legs are so weak. I also like to lift weights, so I might do a little of that too.
So here's a chemo brain story: last night we were in a rush to go out to eat so Rich could make it to his class at church. Alyssa, Jaren, and Shonna were going with us. My sister stopped by and gave me a hug and said something about seeing me after her vacation (my mom, sis, and sis-in-law are on their way to Mexico right now!), and she wanted to talk to Shonna about taking care of her dogs. I kind of brushed her off, cuz we were on our way out the door. I couldn't figure out what the hurry was--they had a day or 2 before they left, right? Well, later Dee (my sis) called about moving cars around and such, and after the call I starting thinking--what day is it? Is it possible its TOMORROW morning they are leaving? I asked Alyssa what day it was and then I realized that it WAS tomorrow (Friday at 4 am!) that they were leaving and THAT was why Dee came to give me a hug and was in such a hurry to get everything done! It never once occurred to me during the day, so I never said good-bye to my mom. By the time I figured it all out she was already in bed. So I wrote her a note and put it on her suitcase. And I called Dee to apologize and wish her a wonderful trip. She laughed at me and said if she had known my chemo brain was that bad she would have played a trick on me--like telling me I owed her $400, and I just forgot that I agreed to pay it! Jeez, I hope somebody doesn't really play a trick on me like that--I'd probably fall for it! I've heard people say chemo brain can last for a year, and some have even had to change the way they learn something new. I may have to ask my special ed para/teacher friends for tips on how to learn new things! lol! My family laughs at me, but they are really supportive and helpful, thank goodness! Oh, btw, I got my steak and salad at Applebee's that I had been craving--yummy!
Ok, I always say "a little update" , and we all know that's not usually the case, so better end here! Maybe I'll have some more chemo brain stories for you next time :D

God is Good!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Things That Helped Me Through the Tough Days

If anyone noticed the other day that I put up a new post with a video of Shonna, I had the wrong video. The one I wanted was too big and after waiting several hours it still didn't finish loading, so I deleted the post. For my facebook friends--the video is on my page. Its Shonna singing "Lead me to the Cross", and it is an awesome song--listen to the words!
Ok--on to the main reason I wanted to blog today!
As many of you know (and certainly those who have been through chemo know what I'm talking about!), things get pretty tough for a few days during each chemo cycle. There have been days where it was REALLY hard to keep a positive attitude--some days were downright depressing!
After one of my worst cycles, I made 2 lists to help me when things got bad. When I was so out of it, I didn't care about food or finding things to help me, and my brain didn't work well enough to think of things, so I made the lists. The lists helped me and others in the house know what I might want to eat, or what I could do to take my mind off how bad I felt.
My first list is titled "Things to Help Me Through". Here are a few of things on my list:
Music-->choose cds ahead of time and have them ready
Rich read to me--> I like listening to people talk, but carrying on a conversation is REALLY difficult.
Girls talk to me (for a short while!)--> Just wanted them to tell me about their day, school, baby, etc. Again, I mostly could only listen, not talk back.
Books and magazines-->Pick them out ahead of time and have them ready.
Tv-->I am blessed that I was able to buy a 22" tv for my bedroom. I also have family that helped with the cost when they found out I wanted one. Pick out dvds ahead of time. My sister bought me some funny ones!
Prayer time-->I put this on my list so I would remember how much better I felt if I took time to talk to God and give Him praise! Keep a prayer journal or notebook handy.
Ipod-->I have the New Testament on it--again, something to listen to.
Books on tape.
The important thing is to have everything ready and nearby your comfy spot (mine is my bed!) so you don't have to think about anything or make any decisions. If I had to think about it I would just give up and lay there feeling miserable.
My 2nd list is "Foods to Eat". I have had a hard time finding things that taste good, and since I can't have anything cold that makes it even harder. I would think of things I could've had, but forget about them when I wasn't feeling good. Here are a few food items:
Fried egg sandwich
Ham and Cheese sandwich
Mac and Cheese
Ramen noodles
Instant mashed potatoes
oranges and clementines (lifesavers for me!)
Soft pretzels
Oyster crackers
Tomato soup
Cheese and Crackers
I also have a basket on the counter with pudding and applesauce cups, tho I am pretty tired of both right now! Also, for breakfast I have been eating oatmeal, Malto Meal, and instant oatmeal. Can't wait to be able to have cold cereal again!!
I've developed a real sweet tooth--hopefully it goes away!! I've been eating cinn. rolls, orange slice candy, little Snicker's bars, and lots of other junk food. Today I threw away what was left of the Fritos--No excuse to have them around anymore. Its time to start finding healthier snacks again. I've been craving salads--I think its my body's way of telling me its time for more healthy stuff. :)
Don't feel bad about eating junk food during chemo! Just do what you have to to get you through it!! You'll have enough your mind w/o feeling guilty about your diet! By planning ahead for the bad days, you can make sure to have some healthy stuff around too.
Love and Blessings!
My son-in-law Jaren is finally back in MN!! His deployment is over!! He's very happy to be back, but says he feels like he's just on leave--hasn't sunk in yet that he's here to stay, for awhile at least! He loves the apartment and furniture Alyssa got, and everything she's done with it. So proud of them both!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Here's to Many "Lasts"

2 recent pictures of my grandson!

Friday I had my 5FU chemo pump removed for the last time, and took my last shower where I had to tape up my port with Glad Press N Seal! Yesterday I happily removed the hook from the wall near the shower where I hung my pump. I hated toting that thing around. I was always getting the tubing stuck on the kitchen drawer handles and such.
Saturday I did my last Neupogen shot. I had one left, so the doc said I may as well use it. We know that my wbc will drop, so this one shot will help keep them up a little and protect me from illness. My platelets were still low too, so they will be dropping lower after this last chemo. I'll have to remember to be careful the next week or 2 until they start coming back up.
It will be a long time (4 months!) before I get my blood checked again. I wish I could get it checked sooner, just so I would know that all my levels went back up.
Today is a crappy day. Woke up with nausea--I think I forgot to take my Zofran last night. Finally managed to have some oatmeal, warm oj, and coffee. Now I'm starting to feel yucky again--I'll probably take an Ativan soon. After eating and some coffee, I had just enough energy to take a quick shower, but it really tired me out!
I feel bad that I couldn't go to church--Shonna is singing with the worship team, and also doing the offering song. Rich and Alyssa are recording it for me on my new camcorder Rich gave me for Christmas. I hope all is going well! She gets nervous sometimes, but always does great once she starts singing. I don't know if I've said this before, but next Fall she is going to a music school run by The International House of Prayer (aka IHOP) in Kansas City. She wants to see what God has in store for her, and has no idea where it will take her. I find it very exciting, and am very proud of her for stepping out in faith like that.
Rachel's hubby left on a business trip today, so she will be taking care of Brennan on her own for a few days. Of course she knows she can always bring the little guy over here if she needs a break or a nap! Brennan still doesn't sleep much, he eats often. But he is 11 pounds now! A little chunker! :)
Alyssa's hubby should be home sometime this week!! We are so excited! He's in the US, but had to do some Sargent training before he came home. I think he's back in Fort Lewis, WA. He was in Utah for the training. We all want to see him right away, but we are going to let him decide when he's ready to see everyone. He may need some time to adjust to being home..and he and Alyssa probably need some time alone together! We haven't seen him since June. Speaking of "lasts" hopefully this will be Jaren's last deployment!
Even tho today is a yucky day, it makes it easier to handle knowing that I only have a few more days of this, and then I'll start feeling better for good! Not for just a week, then back to sick again!
I just hope I can get my strength back in the next few weeks for work. So much to do....
I hope this makes some sort of sense, and there are not too many errors! I'm too tired to proof read it again.
Take care everyone!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mild Nausea

I've been having mild nausea off and on all day. This is unusual for the day after chemo. Its not too bad, but kept me awake early this morning. I finally got up around 5 am to eat some applesauce, then took an Ativan. Stayed awake for awhile and went back to bed about 6:30. Got back up about 8:30. The nausea didn't stay away too long. I've taken my Zofran, Decadron, Emend, and compazine. Now its time to take my Zofran and Decadron again.
I also took a hour nap this afternoon, but am really tired again. I think I'll go back to bed and read for awhile, til I can't keep my eyes open any longer! Rich should be home soon from a class at church, and he'll probably want to get to bed pretty early too.
I should get my pump removed around noon tomorrow--can't wait! It's so nice to know that I may never have to have it again!
I have one more Emend to take tomorrow. I'm hoping the nausea will go away. I can handle the extreme fatigue so much better without the nausea.
I doubt I'll be able to make it to church on Sunday, which makes me sad. Not only is Shonna singing with the worship team, but she told me she is doing the offering song as well. I'll have Rich record it for me, but I'll be there myself it at all possible. Everyone is welcome to come to Bridgewood!
But, I have to keep in mind that in less than a week I'll be feeling better, and won't ever have to go through this again (God willing!). Its an awesome thought, and I will be clinging to that the next few days!
Take care everyone!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'm DONE!!!!!!!!!!!

The top picture is the certificate that the chemo nurses gave me for being done. The 2nd picture is the angels that have cared for me all these months. From left to right: Carol, Cheryl (my nurse for the first several rounds), me, Andrea (my main nurse for the last few months), and Sheryl. I've gotten to know all the nurses, as they all help each other out when one is at lunch or busy with another patient. They are all wonderful, as are the receptionists, and of course the doctors. Not a crabby one in the whole place. I highly recommend Regions Cancer Care Center!
I will have to go in every 4-6 weeks to get my port flushed. Andrea told me to make sure I bring in pictures of Baby Brennan! I'll keep the port at least until I have my ct scan (in 4 months), then I'll probably have it removed. What have others done? I'll have ct scans every 6months for awhile. Is it worth it to keep it in?
A few days before my scan, I'll see the doc and get blood tests done. He saw me in the infusion room today and said he didn't want to see me again for several weeks! I said "I don't want to see you either!", and we both laughed. I will miss all of them.
The end of Feb. I'll have my colonoscopy. The doc said depending on what things look like then, I would have one done every 1-3 years. I'm sort of glad to be having one done ( I know, I'm weird!), because I'm so curious to see what things look like after having 18" of my colon removed. My insides have been rearranged and I want to know what's going on in there! I'm hoping it won't hurt. I think sometimes it does after surgery because there might be scar tissue, or it might be narrower. The first one didn't hurt at all--but I'll never forget what that tumor looked like!
24 hours after I have the pump removed, Sat. afternoon, I'll do my last Neupogen shot. It will help keep my wbc from getting too low, and help me to stay healthy.
I've been warned several times that my neuropathy might take 6months or longer to go away. I'm hoping the cold sensitivity goes away enough in 4 weeks so I can stand outside for an hour doing recess at work. I'm supposed to go back to work on Tues. Feb. 16th--4 weeks from yesterday. I'm nervous about going back! I hope I'm not too tired after work, and I hope my chemo brain isn't too bad--I've forgotten alot of the kids' names! Plus I'll have to learn all new ones in Kindergarten. Thankfully the teachers and staff I work with are very kind and understanding!
Well, I've got about a week of yuckiness to get through, then when I start to feel better, I'll keep feeling better...and better, and better!
Here's to the rest of my life!! I'm praying that I'll be around for a long, long time!!
Love and Blessings to All!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rachel Wants To Know How I'm Doing....

So I will update my blog just for her! Because, gosh, I haven't seen her in 2 whole days and she lives a whole 5 minutes away! (Love you Rachel!)
There really isn't a whole lot to say. I've been feeling better and better each day. It'll be 3 weeks tomorrow since my last chemo, and the only side effects I have are tingling fingers and toes (my fingers tingle with each tap on the keyboard!), and my legs are still weak. Shopping still wears me out!
I've been sleeping well--making it all night with no trips to the bathroom, or staring at the ceiling with my mind racing. I do notice that I fall asleep much faster than I ever did before. Rich and I listen to old time radio shows on the Ipod at bedtime each night, and I hardly ever make it to the end of the show, even though they are only 25-30 minutes long. That rarely happened pre-cancer.
I am able to enjoy cold things now, but my teeth seem extra sensitive to cold, esp. my molars. Eating an orange from the fridge hurts my teeth, as does rinsing my mouth with cold water.
Last week I didn't care too much about chemo being delayed, but now I'm REALLY hoping I can get it tomorrow. So please pray that all my blood counts are ok so I can have my final round! Its so hard to go back to feeling sick after feeling so good. I just want it done so I NEVER have to experience those awful days again!
Tonight I'll get my bag ready for chemo tomorrow. My pump, a notepad, and a hot choc. packet are already in there, and I'll put in some magazines, a book, an applesauce cup, a pudding cup, and then Rich will add his books too. Oh, can't forget my scarf! I have to keep my nose and mouth covered when I leave, and I also drink the hot chocolate to keep my throat warm. I'll never forget that feeling of not being able to swallow and how awful that felt. It was after my 4th round last Spring, and my throat froze up from the a/c in the hosp. Regions has a new underground parking ramp (opened just in time for winter!), and Rich usually parks in the 2nd level because its warmer down there. I don't like being underground, but it is much warmer than the other ramp!
Shonna is singing with the worship team next Sunday at church. She hasn't done it in a while because she's been too busy. I'm a little bummed because I don't usually feel well enough to make it to church the Sunday after chemo. We have a new camcorder, so if I absolutely can't make it, I'll have Rich record it for me. Hopefully she'll have a solo--she usually does, but not always. Bridgewood Community church is a great church if anyone wants to come! Contemporary worship, relevant messages, Bible based and VERY friendly! Its on Lexington, just north of 109th, in Blaine.
Well, Rachel, if you want to know anymore, you and Brennan should come for a visit!! :)
To all my blog friends, I want you to know that you are all on my prayer list and I pray for you often! God is listening and He loves you all!
Take care!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Low Platelets!

Yep, my platelets are low, just as the doc and I thought they would be. They were 96 last time, and that was almost too low, and this time they were 85. My wbc were high due to the shots. We will wait a week and try again! In the meantime, I will be enjoying feeling good! :)
I asked the doc today about my tumor. I reminded him that it was "moderately differentiated" (sp?), and asked him how long he thought it took to grow. He said it probably took about 5 years to grow and was moderately aggressive--sort of middle of the road. It started as a polyp, and that is why I will have a colonoscopy every 1-3 years, so if another polyp starts they will find it and remove it before it gets cancerous. As for the cancer spreading, the fact that it only made it to 2 lymph nodes is a good thing, and the doc said all the treatment I had should have gotten any remaining cancer cells. My prognosis looks pretty good. Just off the top of his head, he thinks I have at least a 75% chance of it NOT returning. He doesn't expect it to spread. So that was all good to hear!
We also talked about my neuropathy. Its there, but doesn't hurt, just tingles. Dr. J said it would be alot worse if I didn't have that break from Oxaliplatin over the summer during radiation. He checked to make sure I still had feeling in my fingers, and told me I should call him if it gets "bothersome". There are trials going on now to find something that works better. Apparently there is a hand cream they are trying out.
I'll have a colonoscopy the end of Feb., then I'll see the doc and have labs done in about 4 months. After that I'll have a ct scan. I asked about pet scans and he said its harder to see details on the pet scan and the ct works better for the colon. I'll continue to see the doc every 3 months after that, and ct scans every 6 months. Not sure how long that will go on. It was an interesting office visit!
I couldn't help thinking how weird it will be after my last chemo--when I start feeling good, I'll KEEP feeling good. It won't only be a few days of feeling good. And then I'll be able to put ice in all my drinks again, and eat sherbet...ahhh that'll be soooo good!
My plan is to start using the treadmill and eat healthier so I can regain my strength (I can hardly make it up a short flight of steps these days. My legs are really weak!), AND keep the weight off (and hopefully lose more!!) I should start this week!
I've also got to make a better plan for Bible reading. I've always struggled with having a set time, but I really should be reading it daily. So I've got some ideas to make that work.
So much to think about--no wonder I can't sleep some nights!
Oh--I took an Ativan before my appt. this morning, and didn't have any trouble with feeling nauseous after having my port wiped with alcohol, or getting the saline flush. I'll have to remember that before every port draw!
Speaking of ports, I will leave mine in at least until I have my ct scan. I don't know if I'll want to leave it in longer than that--we'll see.
That's all for now!
Thanks for all the well wishes and prayers!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Will Tomorrow be The Day??

I'm hoping tomorrow will be my last chemo. We have to wait and see if my platelets are ok; the doc and I think they might be too low. I did my 2 shots of Neupogen, so I'm sure my wbc will be ok. If chemo has to be delayed, that's ok too.
I have alot of back pain from the shots this time, so my wbc must have been low. I've said before that alternating ibuprofen and Tylenol really helps with the pain, but this time I can't take ibuprofen due to my low platelets. I woke up with alot of pain and ate some applesauce so I could take Tylenol, but it hasn't helped much. Soon I'm going to take one of my Percosets, but since it has Tylenol in it I have to wait at least 4 hours from when I took it this morning. I was hoping to go shopping with Shonna today, but had to cancel that :( . Oh well, such is life with cancer--you never know if you can follow through with your plans or not!
Boy, I had so much energy last Thurs. and Fri.--but it seems to have disappeared! I guess I just need to go with the flow and not feel guilty. :)
I've read that others are having trouble with their finger and toenails, from the chemo. While my chemo isn't as harsh as some have had, I've lost my little toenails and my fingernails have ridges and some are peeling from the bottom up. But they aren't too bad. My hands also look awful. Any age spots or freckles have gotten darker, and there are dark lines too. The spots on my face have gotten darker too. I'm hoping this all goes away once the chemo gets out of my system.
I have definitely been colder lately. I'm wondering if my hemoglobin has gotten lower. It seems stores and restaurants just aren't heating their buildings much! Yesterday at Target the bottom of my feet were tingling from being cold! That doesn't usually happen when I'm walking around a store! At night I really pile on the blankets too, and have a hard time warming up when I first get into bed. I think we'll have to start using the little heater that Shonna has in her room (she's REALLY a freeze-baby!). I'll just use it to heat up our room before bedtime.
Well, hope everyone else around the country is staying warm! Hopefully this little heat wave we are having will last awhile! Its supposed to be 34 here tomorrow! (for those of you in warmer climes--34 is really good!)
Love and blessings!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Life is Good!

Been feeling much better the last few days. I've had the urge to clean and organize! Unfortunately I can't do as much as I would like--I take frequent breaks! When you go through several days of awful fatigue, life seems so good and exciting when you come out of it.
Can't wait til next Monday or Tuesday, when my cold sensitivity goes away enough for me to have a "melted" smoothie. Didn't get one last round, and I'm craving that yummy berry flavor.
My last round of chemo is scheduled for Wed., but it might be delayed due to blood counts--specifically low platelets. My wbc should be fine because I did 4 shots over the weekend, and I will do a shot on both Sunday and Monday. The first 4 didn't cause me any back pain, I think because my counts weren't low yet. We'll see if the next 2 hurt. They seem to only hurt bad if my counts are really low. Then the shots cause a lot of activity in my bone marrow/spine.
My neuropathy is getting more noticeable in my fingers and toes. It doesn't hurt, but with each tap on the keyboard my fingers tingle. My slippers brushing against my big toes make them tingle. I'm glad I'm almost done with chemo, because if the neuropathy gets bad enough the doc would have to discontinue the Oxaliplatin. Hopefully the mild tingling I have won't take too long to go away. Sometimes it can take a year to go away, and sometimes its permanent.
From reading the blogs of others, and talking to my doc, I know that there may be side effects from the chemo and especially the radiation for a long time to come. I'm glad I know this ahead of time. But I feel like I'll be so happy to be declared "cancer free" that anything else won't matter!
Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Some Tough Days

Top picture is Shonna and Brennan on Christmas Eve. He was so cute in his little Santa suit! The 2nd picture is Alyssa and Brennan on New Year's Day, which was Alyssa's 22nd birthday.
Saturday the tiredness started really setting in, but I was able to help a little with moving stuff going on. Alyssa moved into her new apartment. When Jaren comes home near the end of Jan. it will be all ready for him. Shonna is going to stay with her most of the month too, so Alyssa doesn't have to be alone. I've been very excited for Alyssa, but now I sure am missing her! (even tho she'll still be around a lot!) I've really enjoyed her being around so much, and she's been a very good caretaker for me! Its really odd having both girls leave at the same time, but at least Shonna will only be out of the house for a few weeks. And she'll be here alot too. I've been looking forward to the "empty nest", but I think I underestimated how hard it would be! I have to remind myself how nice it will be to have an extra room, and extra storage space! :)
Yesterday was a tough, long day. Not really too horrible, but worse than the last round. I've had a bit more nausea, and just an upset stomach in general. Also, I'm needing some mild laxatives, and drinking Citrucel at least once a day to keep things moving. My Onc. says I should drink Citrucel or Metamucil every day, whether I think I need it or not. Remember that I'm missing about 18" of my colon--yeah, enough about that. :)
The mornings are about the only time I have enough energy to do anything. Sometimes when I nap, like yesterday, I never really fully wake up again. I try, but I keep drifting off. And I was surprised last night I actually slept through the night too. I'm hoping I'll be able to stay awake a little longer today!
As yucky as I feel some days, I'm doing better at coping with it. I know the bad stuff only lasts a few days, AND I only have ONE more round of this to go through! 2 months ago I was getting a little depressed because the end seemed so far away, but now its almost here!!
I have so many thoughts going through my head now. Like, what do I really want to do with my life? Do I have any options? Most things I want to do I wouldn't get paid for--that's not really an option now with Shonna going to college next Fall. And we need to buld our retirement money back up too. I'm praying God will give me some answers, and show me what He wants me to do. I would like to live more radically for Him. I hope I have enough energy to do everything I want to!
Some really good news--> Jaren is back in the United States!!! We are so grateful God brought him safely back. He has to do some training in Utah before he comes home, but at least he is out of Iraq, and will be home in just a few weeks! Thank you to those that have been praying for him!
I'm hoping tomorrow the girls (and Brennan!) come over to help take down some Christmas stuff. They can at least get it started, and then I can finish later in the week when I feel better (I should start feeling a bit better by Wed.)
We are trying to stay warm with these awful below 0 temps. Poor Sadie (my dog) gets very cold little feet when we take her out--she's learning to hurry tho! I hope it warms up a little so I can get out of the house later in the week.
Thank you, Dee, for the wonderful meals! You do too much for me--I'm so grateful. My whole life you've been there taking care of me. I wish everyone could be blessed with a big sister like you!!
Well, hope everyone else here in the northland is keeping warm!
Take care everyone!