Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The End

Fitting post title for New Year's Eve, don't you think? And I have several endings to write about today, not just the end of 2013....so let's get started.

The End Of A Life
November 7th I found out that my first husband, Douglas Rankin, the father of my two oldest children, had passed away in his sleep. He and I had been divorced since 1991, and had really not had much contact since our youngest turned 18 in 2008. The last time I saw him was in April, 2012, when he came to drop off Samantha and Micheal to spend the weekend here with us. During that visit, I was able to get this shot of Micheal and his PopPop:

With PopPop Rankin photo 319772_10150647534536288_1037878780_n.jpg

Doug's passing also brought about another end....the end of my on again/off again friendship with his "wife," Mary. They had been separated for almost four years, and she is living with another man, but as soon as Doug died, she jumped in to take charge of things, and did several things that upset my children--including taking things of their father's which should have gone to them, some of which have resulted in legal steps having to be taken. Even though she had once been my best friend, and I was the one who played matchmaker for them, messing with my kids at such an emotional time for them was the last straw for me, and I have stopped all contact with her after that week. I have a feeling my life will have less stress in it for having made that choice.

The End Of A Journey
As of December 24th, I am DONE with my radiation treatments (Merry Christmas to me!!). Hopefully that will be the end of treatments altogether, but I haven't had any testing yet to see where we stand, so at this point it's just the end for now. I see my oncologist again on January 14th, so I presume at that point we'll schedule a PET scan or something, and once we get those results we'll know how to proceed. The next big thing after that will be healing and getting my body ready to deal with reconstruction. Right now the right side of my chest looks like I got a REALLY bad sunburn, and is starting to peel and itch a lot....not much fun, let me tell you!  And I'm still suffering the side effect of having little to no energy....every time I do something around the house, I have to go sit down for a while and rest, plus I'm still taking two hour naps every afternoon.  I will be glad when that passes and I can get back to a more "normal" routine.

I do have some hair on my head again, though...enough that I don't even feel like I have to wear a scarf/hat when I go out in public. You can see from this pic that it's still short, but it's growing.  It's VERY soft, and it has a little bit of a wave to it so far, too.  For those who aren't aware, the other folks in the picture are my three wonderful children, Samantha, Amy and Brian....they gave me what I asked for as my Christmas present this year, which was to have all of them home.  :)
 photo kids_zps90452720.jpg

The End Of A Year
This has been a tough year, and I can't say that I'll be sorry to see it go. It's had some good moments, but way too many unpleasant ones for my liking. One thing about my illness, though, is that it has given me the opportunity to see who my true friends are...and who they aren't. So, to all of you who have continued to be there for me this year, in large or small ways, THANK YOU....you have no idea how much you've meant to me on some of my roughest days.  And to anyone who may be reading this who has no longer been there....it's okay, I forgive you---but just know that I'll no longer be calling, emailing, etc., trying to chase after a friendship that has obviously meant more to me than to you. Life goes on!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

When Snow Begins To Fall

When snow begins to fall here in Ohio, it's a sure sign that my time outdoors is going to begin to diminish for the next several months. Instead of spending time walking the neighborhood, or sitting on the porch, reading in my glider, I will be found inside, usually on the couch, snuggled under a blanket or three.

As you may have guessed, I am not a fan of cold weather. Anything below 50 degrees, and I'm bundling up. I have never quite figured out how someone who suffers so much in cold weather has managed to live her entire life in places with frigid winters.

For me, the perfect winter snowfall would be as follows: it would fall on December 24th, while I am sleeping, so that we could have a white Christmas, and then it would all melt by the morning of the 26th, never to be seen again until the next Christmas Eve. If only!!!

Don't get me wrong, I haven't always been a snow hater. When I was a kid, snow was my friend...it could get me out of school, sometimes for DAYS.  But even then, I spent as little time out in it as possible. I preferred to be in my room with a good book on snow days rather than sledding, making snowmen, and freezing my fingers and toes off.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How Time Flies

I didn't realize till just now that it's been nearly two months since my last post here. Things went at such a whirlwind pace from September 15th till now, and days have just flown by.

I had my surgery on September 27th, thanks to a cancellation I learned about on September 23rd. I went to the hospital bright and early that morning, and had to wait around for several hours before I got taken into the OR, which was around 10 am. I remember getting a shot in pre-op and being wheeled down the hall toward the OR...I don't remember anything else until I woke up in a room on the surgical ward, with my mother and husband walking in, around 2 pm.  By 5 pm, when dinner arrived, I was ready to sit up in a chair and eat, and I managed to eat pretty much everything on my tray. I did so well that I was released at 9 am the following morning.

The worst part of the early days after surgery was going home with two drains in my side, and having to empty them twice a day. When I went back to see the surgeon ten days later, the drains were removed, and the surgeon was impressed with the movement I had in my right arm. When I went back a week later, he said he didn't need to see me again for six months. He also gave me a prescription for a prosthesis to wear until we start the reconstruction phase. (All I can say is thank goodness for insurance....the prosthesis and two bras cost $425!!!)

When I met with my oncologist after surgery, I was put on a daily regimen of Tamoxifen, which is a hormone blocker. That means I'm back to hot flashes and night sweats...and I'm extra crabby at times, as well. I know it's necessary, since my cancer is hormone receptive, but it's still annoying!!!

Yesterday I started my 30 days of radiation...two down, 28 to go. Because of construction work being done at the base hospital, we have to make a 25 minute drive (each way) to the Dayton VA Hospital for my treatments. On top of that, I don't yet have a set appointment time: yesterday it was 3:15 pm, today it was 2:30 pm, and tomorrow it's 12:45 pm.  And both days so far, I've had to sit in the waiting room for half an hour past my scheduled appointment time. All of that is going to get on my nerves if it continues for the whole six weeks.  :(

Now that I'm posting again, I'll try to be more consistent and not leave 2 months of nothing.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Round Eight, Weeks One and Two

Week One started on Tuesday, Sept. 3rd, with an appointment with Dr. Cutler. We talked more about what comes after this last round of chemo: meeting with the surgeon, having the surgery, coming back to Dr. Cutler two weeks post-op, starting the hormone therapy. Keeping our fingers crossed that there won't be any need for radiation or for further chemo. Dr. Cutler also did an exam, and said that he couldn't feel the tumor there at all...YAY!!! Then I had some blood drawn and went home, feeling very positive.

Wednesday I spent the morning in the Cancer Center getting my LAST chemo session (at least for now). Found out my hemoglobin was low yesterday, so they needed to do another blood draw on Thursday when I came in for the Neulasta shot. If it's still low, I'll have to spend four hours in the Center again on Friday, getting two units of blood. Not the best news, but not as bad as having to be admitted to the hospital, for sure.

Wednesday night was girls night. I spent it with a few friends....facials, chocolates, sparkling lemonade, and lots of girl talk. It was great to get out of the house and be somewhere other than the hospital, and it was a fun way to celebrate the last chemo session as well.

Thursday morning, my oldest daughter and my son in law were at the courthouse again, for mediation for their divorce. At least both of them showed up this time...and they agreed to everything that has been set up so far. Now hopefully they'll stick to that when they go in front of the judge!

Thursday afternoon I went back to the hospital....got my Neulasta shot and had my blood drawn. Got a call with the blood results, and my hemoglobin was back up to normal levels. No transfusion necessary on Friday!!!

Friday and Saturday were pretty easy days. Got a few things done around the house, which made me feel a little better about myself. Started feeling achy Saturday night , which meant taking some Motrin before bed.

Sunday I was aching all over, and the Motrin wasn't helping all that much. Couldn't find a comfortable position all afternoon. And I was still ravenous....eating everything I could get my hands on!  LOL  At dinner time, I sat at the table and started to eat, but out of nowhere got lightheaded and felt myself slipping out of consciousness. Spent about half an hour trying to solve the issue, which included passing out momentarily two different times, but couldn't make it go away. Realized that my blood pressure was ridiculously low (somewhere around 70/40), so off to the hospital we went.

In the ER, the attending told me that he thought I was suffering from a UTI (urinary tract infection), so he gave me an antibiotic pill to go ahead and start treatment. The residents from internal medicine who came to examine me after it was determined I was going to be admitted ruled that out and decided I was dehydrated and probably had a low red blood count. So, I stayed in the hospital overnight and most of the day Monday, getting IV fluids and two units of blood.

Came home Monday evening and just relaxed. Tuesday I was feeling pain in my lower back and abdomen which seemed to get progressively worse. I had a feeling that meant I actually DID have a UTI, so I started drinking a lot of cranberry juice to see if that would help me any, and decided to wait it out until Wednesday morning when I had an appointment with my primary care provider.

Wednesday was a very interesting appointment. I found out that I had actually tested positive for the UTI while I was in the hospital over the weekend but, for whatever reason, the internal medicine residents and attending chose not to treat me for it. My primary wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic, and I started feeling better by that afternoon.

Continued to feel better the rest of Wednesday and into Thursday....but by Thursday night I had a fever of 101, so it was back to the hospital one more time. Got admitted again, and they started pumping me full of IV antibiotics to see if that would get rid of the infection that much faster. The fever stayed up most of Thursday night/early Friday morning, but when the internal medicine residents and attending came around Friday morning, they were talking about sending me home with a course of antibiotics. I balked at that, since the fever was still over 100 and we hadn't gotten any test results back yet, so we agreed I would stay till Saturday morning.

The fever stayed down after that, and we got test results back saying the UTI was gone as of Friday afternoon, so I was confident I'd get to leave on Saturday.  But NO.....when the attending came in on Saturday around noon, he said that since I'd have a fever at 12:30 Saturday morning, I had to stay till I'd been fever free for 24 hours.  I still don't know what changed between Friday and Saturday, but whatever it was, I didn't like it much!  I spent the rest of Saturday, and until around 1 pm Sunday, bored to death!!

I finally got to come home this afternoon, though, and I've been relaxing in the comfort of my own home ever since. Tomorrow morning I have an appointment with the surgeon, and that will start the second part of this journey.








Monday, September 2, 2013

Round Seven, Weeks One And Two

Week two of the last several rounds has been so uneventful that it just makes sense to combine both weeks into one post at this point.

Any of you who know me very well know that I'm a creature of schedule and habit. For the first six rounds, I got into the routine of going to the hospital the first week on Tuesday (doctor and blood work), Wednesday (chemo) and Thursday (Neulasta shot). So this time around, when my doctor appointment and blood work were scheduled for Monday, it threw my whole week out of kilter in some sense---and I didn't like it!  :)

On the other hand, the appointment with Dr. Cutler was a very good one, no matter what day it was on. We actually talked about what is going to happen AFTER chemo....we're close enough to the end to start talking about the next stages of things now. I've had days when I never thought we'd get here, so that was amazing.

The next step, of course, will be the surgery. I called the surgeon's office on Monday afternoon to schedule an appointment, and that will be on September 16th. I can hardly wait for that day to get here, as we should set an actual surgery date at that point, and we'll finally be back to where I thought we were going to be in May--for those who've forgotten, I had surgery scheduled for May 10th, till the MRI found enlarged lymph nodes in the chest, which led us down the chemo path.

After the surgery, I'll have to meet with the radiation oncologist and discuss whether or not radiation will be necessary. Until we do the surgery and find out what things look like on the inside, we don't have any idea on that one way or the other. However, Dr. Cutler is cautiously optimistic that it won't be necessary.

If it's not, the next step, aside from the reconstruction, will be to start hormone therapy, which I will be on for the next five to ten years. Because my cancer was determined to be ER/PR positive, which means that estrogen helped promote its growth, we need to block the effect of estrogen and lower my estrogen levels. The only thing I'm not looking forward to is that the meds will throw me back into all the menopausal symptoms which the chemo has managed to take away temporarily:  mood swings, hot flashes and night sweats. Just when I thought I'd gotten rid of them, darn it!

And while we were talking, Dr. Cutler also gave me a prescription for some heavy duty Motrin, for the leg pain I get during the second week. Hopefully that will at least make it easier to sleep for those three or four nights.

Wednesday it was back to the normal schedule, and spending the entire morning getting chemo. This time around the Benadryl really knocked me out, and I slept most of the time away, except for the couple of times I woke up and had to go to the bathroom. Good thing Barry always brings a book with him, because I was definitely NOT much company at all.  On the bright side, the Benadryl worked, and I had no rash on my forehead, upper lip or chest this time.

Thursday it was back again, for the Neulasta shot.  I know it serves a helpful purpose, in that it boosts the white blood cell production, but I also know that it causes pain and discomfort, which I dread.

Made it until Sunday before the pain really started to bother me this time around, which was a small blessing.  It lasted for about four days, and the Motrin DID help me get more sleep than usual. All of the second week contained yet another problem, however. My temperature decided that it was going to do weird things to me. I spiked a fever over 100.4 at least once a day every single day. It never STAYED that high, so I didn't ever have to go to the hospital, but it has been a concern, for sure.

So here I am, two days away from my LAST chemo....the light at the end of the tunnel! Then it will be time to move on to the next leg of the journey, which I will also document as fully as possible.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Round Six, Weeks One and Two

(Very much behind, so combining both weeks of round six in one post.)

Tuesday morning, I met with Doctor Wood. He checked out the tumor, and says that it appears to be half the original size, which is GREAT news .He gave me a prescription for Benadryl to help with the rash I got from the chemo last time around. After the appointment with him, I went to have some blood work done, then came home, expecting to have a relaxing afternoon.  About an hour later, I got a call from one of the nurses, because my potassium level was very high, so they wanted to re-do the test. Made the trip back over to the hospital (glad it only takes about 5 minutes!), had more blood drawn, then sat in the waiting room reading my book for about an hour waiting for the results. First result was 6.8, and the second one was 3.6, which is normal. Guessing there was a glitch somewhere in the first test. :)

Wednesday was chemo day. Spent four hours at the hospital--reading, watching tv, drinking decaf sweet tea and eating Chicken in a Bisket crackers. Took my Benadryl, but not before the rash popped out...at least it was gone by dinner time. Still had my appetite all day as well.

Thursday I slept in a little, at least for me. Instead of getting up between 4 and 6, I woke up at 7. Watched some tv, talked to my mother for an hour. Ate like I was never going to see food again....LOL  Went in to the hospital to get my shot, came home and took a short walk down the street to see a friend, came back home and spent the afternoon on Facebook and watching NCIS reruns.

Friday evening the pain in my legs started, and it lasted until Tuesday of week two. Fortunately it comes and goes when I have it, so I don't suffer constantly. And sometimes, just to change things up, the pain is in my hands or my back instead of my legs.  :)

The last half of week two was pretty quiet.  I'm still keeping myself on "house arrest" for the most part until chemo is done, to avoid as many germs as possible, but at least I'm able to putter around the house and do a few things to feel useful, whenever the pain subsides or until I get tired. I'll be very glad when all the chemo is done, that's for sure!!!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Round Five, Week Two

First and foremost....NO HOSPITAL time this round!!!  That makes anything and everything else that I had to go through pale in comparison.

Tuesday I had a nice visit with my friend Martha Webber, who also brought me a card and some small gifts from our Sunday school class...a box of green tea, and a very pretty scarf. Then I spent a little while that afternoon in bed, trying to get comfortable and get some rest, as my bones were still aching a lot.

Most of the rest of the week was uneventful. Just stayed home, talked to people on the phone and online.

Monday night I got out and went to Bible study. We devoted the evening to packing up the supplies we collected from the church congregation for school back packs for needy children in the area. We were able to reach our goal of compiling 100 back packs...40 more than we filled last year.  God is SO good!!!

Tuesday started Round Six, and I'll post about that next week.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Currently

Reading: And Man Created God, by Selina O'Grady. It's a discussion of the various religions, philosophies and 'gods' in the world at the time of Jesus. Starting off a little dry, but I'll keep powering through and see if it gets any more interesting.

Thinking about: Same as last week....family issues that are giving me lots of sleepless, tear-filled nights. Just what I don't need is more stress right now!!!

Feeling thankful: That I got through round five of chemo without a stay in the hospital...things are starting to look up in that regard.

Eating: A big bowl of Lucky Charms--and enjoying the fact that I've had a good appetite for nearly two weeks now.

Looking forward to:  A quiet day at home doing nothing, especially since I've been awake all night.

Watching: Nothing....just enjoying the peace and quiet.

Working on: Not falling apart, and being the strong woman I have learned that I am.

Forgive Me In Advance

Before I even begin to type the actual body of this blog, I must ask forgiveness...this is going to be long, it's going to contain a lot of information, and it's probably going to offend a few people before it's done. However, it's something that has been weighing heavily on me for a while now, and has finally gotten to the point of stressing me out so much today that I just knew I wasn't going to be able to sleep until I got back up and put it all out there, just to get it off my chest.

First and foremost, anyone who knows me is well aware that I love all three of my children, sometimes to a fault (or to the point of being able to overlook THEIRS). Nothing will ever change the fact that they mean the world to me, or that I will love them unconditionally. Sometimes, however, there comes a point in life where you have to realize that, no matter how much you love someone, you simply cannot condone the choices they are making.

That is where I have found myself this year, time and again, with my middle child and oldest daughter, Samantha. I have watched her get further and further off the path where she needs to be walking, and seen her burn bridge after bridge when people have tried their best to help her. I find myself crying for her almost every day, but I can no longer put myself in a position to be used and abused by her.

Let me back up to where this all started this year, which was in March. At that point, pretty much out of the blue, she announced she was leaving her husband, and that her best friend was going to Michigan to pick up her and her son and bring her back here to Ohio. She also led us to believe they would be moving in with this friend, although I asked her to stay with us for the weekend, just so we could keep them safe if her husband decided to follow her down here and try to make them go back.

The weekend turned into a week, then two, then a month, then six weeks, as she kept making excuses why she couldn't move in with the friend. During that time, she wasn't working, was barely doing anything to care for her son (expecting her sister and I to do it and "give her a break"). She was also getting involved with other men, and exposing her son to them, confusing him to the point he was referring to "his new daddy" by Easter weekend.

We finally gave her a date by which she had to move out, so a week prior to that she sent her son back to Michigan to be with his father, and just started to spend all of her time hanging out with her friends, rather than looking for a job and a place to live. When the move out date came and we enforced it, she tried tears and anger to get us, mostly me, to change our minds, but to no avail. She wound up moving from place to place around town for the next week or so, and then going back to Michigan to move in with her husband's sister and her family, at which point her son was also living there with her.

That situation worked well for the first month or so, as she helped out with her nieces and nephew and pitched in as part of the family....but then apparently that got old and she needed more excitement, so she started wanting to bring men around their house as well. She also decided to start sharing her son with his father every other week, and on the weeks he wasn't with her she would leave town with a guy, usually having him around all the children on the day they were leaving town.

In July, things really began to go wrong. After she came back from a week away, on a Friday night, she was out with three other different men in the course of the weekend. When she got her son back on Sunday, she was expected to go to her sister in law's with him for the coming week, but she never showed up, and no one knew where they were until Monday afternoon.  She had decided to move in with some guy she barely knew, and to take her three year old son with her.  :(

At the end of that week, my grandson went back to his father's house. That was nearly two weeks ago, and the entire two weeks has been filled with drama. The new boyfriend got arrested and has been sitting in jail (last I heard is that he should get out on Monday, August 5th). Then she went somewhere with some friends and called her husband at 4 am from 4 hrs away because the only person in the car with a license had gotten arrested for drunk driving and put in jail....so they all had to wait around till that person got out, as my son in law refused to call off work and go get her.

He has been buying things for my grandson, giving my daughter money, and spending $50 a month to keep her phone turned on. And yet she was ticked off that he wouldn't spend that day driving four hrs. each way to clean up HER mess....and that he wouldn't give her money to pay for calls from the jail every day from the boyfriend! (She managed to get her stepmother to send her some money for that, and then she overdrew her husband's bank account twice, till he froze it and then closed it).

Now it looks as though she's planning to run back to Ohio, as she has some guy down here saying the two of them are in a relationship, and that the two of them are soul mates who are going to be together forever. She's also been calling her husband wanting to know when he's going to bring their son back to her, so she obviously thinks she'll just run with him, as well.  Sorry, but she'd best think again.....the boy needs to have a stable home where he feels safe, and where all his needs are being met, and that's not with someone who has no visible means of support, no home, no nothing....

She's going to see this as me taking her husband's side against her, but this is not about EITHER of them. This is about the most adorable three year old boy, who deserves a better life than he's had for most of his life, and about which parent is willing to step up, GROW UP, and see that he has it.  One parent is currently living in a stinky, flea infested trailer with almost no furniture, including no beds, and has no money to buy food...while the other has a full time job, a fully furnished house including a bedroom for the child and plenty of food in the house. One parent is planning to pick up and move yet again, while the other has the child enrolled in Head Start for the year, has gotten him back into his regular dentist and doctor appts., and has him on a regular daily schedule.

While I hope that my daughter will realize that she needs to make changes in her life, and start taking care of herself so that she can eventually be a more active part in her son's life, right now I can't support him being with her, nor can I support the choices she is making for her own life. In my opinion, she needs to stay away from the men for a while and concentrate on HER....get her GED, get a job, get a place of her own, and be self-sufficient before she thinks about any sort of relationship. That's just my two cents, though, and I know that at this moment it means even less than that to her. She wants to surround herself with people who will tell her what she wants to hear, not what she needs to hear, so I'm not high on her list of favorite people.

I just hope she never forgets that I love her and will always want the best for her.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Round Five, Week One

Wrapping up the week today, and it's been a pretty decent one.  Tuesday afternoon, Amy took me to my doctor's appointment, as Barry was still not feeling well.  I survived riding in her car that's older than she is, even with all its noises and shakes.  :)  (Love to tease her about it, but at least it runs and gets her where she needs to go!!)

Talked to Dr. Cutler about Barry's research into my anti-anxiety medication, Celexa---which has side effects of neutropenia and low blood pressure, BOTH of which are chemo issues as well, and both of which have been putting me in the hospital.  We tapered off my use of the Celexa, and I'm now off it entirely. Hoping that will improve my health issues and keep me out of the hospital for these last four rounds of chemo....fingers crossed!!!

Also discussed the new drug that I started with this round, which is less toxic than the one before--another helpful thing I hope!  It can sometimes cause an allergic reaction, however, so I get a Benadryl IV on chemo days before I get the actual chemo--and we altered my steroid dosages as well for these four rounds.

Wednesday morning it was off to chemo at 9 am, with a bag of snacks and books, since this new drug, along with the Benadryl, keeps me at the hospital for around 4 hours. I thought the Benadryl might make me fall asleep, since it usually does, but it just made me tired...I couldn't get comfortable enough in the recliner to sleep. So I just drank peach soda and ate Chicken in a Biskit crackers all morning, while reading and watching television.

Speaking of eating, my appetite was up all last week, and I gained some serious weight back. On Tuesday i weighed 116, and by Thursday afternoon I weighed almost 121...I was THRILLED!!!!! Who would have thought that, at my age, weight gain would be a good thing? LOL

Anyhow, came home Wednesday afternoon and KEPT eating like I was starving. Wound up with a bit of a rash on my chest Wednesday night/Thursday morning, but that was the entire extent of this round's side effects...no nausea, no queasiness. That was a relief.

Back to the hospital Thursday afternoon to get my Neulasta shot, to stimulate my white blood cells.  Without the Celexa, I've noticed that I'm feeling more bone pain as the cells grow....been having to use my heating pad on my legs most evenings since then. It's uncomfortable, but it's not unbearable, so I'm dealing with it.

Other than that, the rest of the week has been pretty quiet. I'm still on self-imposed "house arrest," so I'm doing a lot of reading and spending a lot of time on Facebook. Thankful for all the friends and family who offer me support and encouragement online and in real life---makes the days a bit easier to bear.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Round Four, Week Two

Last week was yet another busy week. Tuesday morning I had a visit from a good friend--an hour where I didn't have to feel totally isolated, and could think about something other than being sick. Unfortunately, that was the best part of the whole day. By Tuesday afternoon, I was feeling crummy again, and by Tuesday evening I was running a fever of 100.6---so it was back to the ER once again.

At least my stay this time around was shorter than the last few times. I went in Tuesday night, and I got to come home Friday afternoon. In the meantime, I had the same reactions to the antibiotics--diarrhea, vomiting, rash--and pretty much no appetite. By the time I left the hospital, I was done to 116 lbs (I was between 135 and 140 when I was diagnosed).

The weekend was pretty quiet, as I continued my "house arrest" just to make sure the white blood cell count had time to fully get back to normal. Monday evening I decided to take advantage of my last day before the routine started all over again, and went to my Bible study group. It was SO nice to be around friends and feel the love and support. Hopefully I'll be able to continue to show up there every other week during the remainder of my chemo sessions.

Also on Monday, Barry was feeling sick, and spent most of the day in our bedroom, sleeping and just trying to keep his germs away from me. Because of how he was feeling, I slept on the couch Monday night...or tried to--it's as tough to sleep just a few rooms away from him as it is to sleep in the hospital. :)

Tuesday was the beginning of round five, week one....which will be the subject of a post early next week.

Currently

Reading: NYPD Red, by James Patterson. Just getting started on it, so no real thoughts on it, other than the fact that I LOVE his books!

Thinking about: Some family issues that are coming to a head over the next few days. Tough love is kicking in big time, and I just worry what's going to come of it.

Feeling thankful: That I'm on the fifth round of chemo, with only three more to go. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Eating: Anything and everything I can get my hands on these days. I was done to 116 lbs. after my last hospital stay, and today I weighed in at 120, which is great.

Looking forward to: The end of chemo and possibly getting to meet my nephew in September while I'm resting my body before the surgery.

Watching: My soap opera right now, and looking forward to the Sneiderman trial starting next week.

Working on: Keeping my blog updated, and not much else this week.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Currently

Reading: Proof Of Heaven, by Eben Alexander. The author is a neurosurgeon who had no faith, no belief in the soul or the afterlife. He became deathly ill, was in a coma for seven days, and came back with a story of a totally different world and a totally different understanding of both this life and the next.

Thinking about: The Zimmerman trial verdict and the discussions it has spawned. So much discussion about race, and I'm not sure that's where we really need to be focused. And let's not forget safety in general. If one group of people in this country feels unsafe, then we should ALL feel unsafe--and I have to admit that, especially for children, I don't think we have the level of safety that we used to have. It's not even safe for a child in their own yard, fenced in or not...

Feeling thankful: For the support and encouragement of friends and family, and for not being in the hospital yet this round of chemo.

Eating: Apple butter sandwiches, cottage cheese, and fruit cups. Trying to find things that my taste buds can enjoy, and that don't turn my stomach. It's becoming a little more difficult all the time, unfortunately.

Looking forward to: Getting off "house arrest" and being able to be around people again...although that may have to wait two months if this two week "Sentence' actually keeps me out of the hospital.

Watching: Lots of TV movies since I don't have much energy these days and spend most of my day on the couch.

Working on: Genealogy when I have the occasional burst of energy that I can focus.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Round Four, Week One

Went to see Dr. Cutler and to get my blood work done on Tuesday morning. Discussed the recent hospitalization--agreed to lessen the dose of chemo this time around by 15%, to see if that makes any difference...and he "grounded" me for the next two weeks as well. I can't go anywhere till my next appt. with him on the 23rd now that all my appts. are over this week.

Wednesday morning was the chemo treatment. It went pretty well, as it usually does, but when we left I felt a little "weird"...not really lightheaded, but close to it. It only lasted a few seconds, though, so I didn't mention it to anyone.

Today I just went to get my Neulasta shot, and to get a refill of the nausea meds I take at bedtime just as a precaution. Still feeling pretty good, other than being tired and napping through the afternoon.  Just waiting to see what happens over the next few days.

Round Three, Part Two

Meant to update this a lot sooner, but real life took precedence over blogging yet again.

I had round three of my chemo on Wednesday, June 26th. As usual, everything went smoothly at the hospital, and for the next several days...no queasiness, nausea or vomiting, just the usual tiredness and a lot of napping. I started the at home antibiotics on Saturday, and went to church on Sunday, and to Bible study on Monday.

By Tuesday afternoon, I was starting to feel as if the fever might be coming on again. Tuesday at bedtime,it was running around 99 degrees, so I took a couple of Tylenol trying to fight it back before it got to the 100.5 mark that requires a trip to the ER.

Wednesday morning, everything all went crazy. I woke up and headed to the bathroom, and wound up on the floor beside the door of the bedroom, thanks to my lightheadedness. Once I got to the bathroom, I took my temperature and it was 101.7 degrees. I didn't take any more Tylenol. but I took my antibiotic, to see if that would have any effect.

Unfortunately, the lightheaded feeling continued any time I stood up, and got progressively worse. The temperature didn't go down, either, so I called in to the Cancer Center, to fill them in, and then got ready to head to the ER.

That's when the lightheaded feeling/weakness really kicked my butt. I took both my husband, Barry, and my daughter, Amy, to get me from the living room to the car...and we had to stop several times along the way so I didn't pass out/fall down.

Once I got in the car, sitting down again, I started to feel a little better again. At the ER, Barry got a wheelchair to get me inside, to triage, and back to the treatment room, where I went on a stretcher. At this point, I started to shiver, so I was given two warm blankets while I had blood work done. Then I had to go have a chest x-ray done (which I got to sit on a stool for, instead of standing).

Eventually I made it upstairs to a room, in the middle of the afternoon. Turns out the dizziness/weakness/shivering was due to my low hemoglobin level, so the first course of treatment was a blood transfusion. That took several hours, and lots of vital checks, so I didn't get a lot of rest on Wednesday evening/night. 

Once the blood was in, the antibiotics got started. We tried a different one this time around, in hopes of avoiding the side effects of the last two times in the hospital. It lessened it, but we still didn't avoid it. :(

I spent the 4th of July, and my birthday (the 5th) in the hospital, which was depressing, but at least I had visitors to keep me company There was also a second blood transfusion in there somewhere (all the days sort of ran together for me). It was Monday, July 8th, in the midafternoon, before I got to come home...just in time to start over again on Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Round Three Begins

Today was the beginning of Round 3 of chemo....the visit with my oncologist, and my blood work.

We talked about the repeated hospital stays, and decided to get pro-active this time around. Dr. Wood prescribed a 7 day course of Leviquin, to be taken from Saturday to Saturday, the typical "low point" for my immune system and white blood cells. If it keeps me at home this time around, it will become standard operating procedure for the rest of the chemo as well. If it doesn't, then we'll be back to square one.

Tomorrow...Round 3, part two...the actual administration of the chemo drugs.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Deja Vu

Sorry I haven't updated for a while, but once again, I was back in the hospital, dealing with a fever of basically unknown origins.  Here's what I do know, as sketchy as it is.

Last Tuesday, June 18th, I woke up knowing it was going to be an allergy day---my eyes were runny and itchy, my nose was running, and  my throat was sore. I didn't want to take anything for it, as my medicine options are very limited while I'm on chemo, so I decided I'd just wait till this Tuesday (tomorrow) to ask Dr. Wood for a recommendation on how to deal with them this summer. Sounded good at the time, but as the day went on and I felt worse and worse, I wasn't so sure.

By around 6 pm., I KNEW I had a fever, even without checking it, and I knew I was going to wind up admitted again. Sure enough, the thermometer delivered the bad news...so while Barry and Amy ate dinner, I packed up a bag of all the stuff I had to have Barry bring me at the hospital last time, so I'd be prepared. Then I threw on a nice comfy sweatsuit, in hopes that would keep me from having to wear the dreaded hospital gown (thankfully it worked!).

Got to the ER around 7, and went into a room almost immediately. Had to have blood work and a chest x-ray, same routine as last time. Spent a lot more time just sitting around waiting this time around, though. It was nearly midnight by the time I was taken up to the third floor to my room.

Spent Wednesday,Thursday and Friday just hanging around the hospital. Did a lot of reading, watching tv, and working crossword puzzles. My temperature kept going up and down on Wednesday and Thursday, and the staff kept pumping me with antibiotics. Unfortunately, that also meant that I suffered the same side effects as last time--diarrhea and a rash. 

By Saturday morning, my blood counts had taken a big jump, and it was time to go home. By noon, we were on our way out the door!  I spent the rest of the day, as well as yesterday, just relaxing and taking it easy.

Today's plan is pretty much more of the same. I'm currently doing laundry, then I'll spend the rest of the day watching TV kicked back on the couch. Amy and I are having dinner with a friend tonight, but that's probably the only contact I'll have outside the house all week.

Tomorrow is my appointment with the oncologist, and my lab work. Wednesday morning is chemo, round three, and Thursday afternoon is my Neulasta shot to boost my white blood cells. 

Because of that shot, and the fact that it takes 6 to 9 days to actual kick in and boost anything, my plan for this two week cycle is to live like a hermit until next weekend, and see if that keeps me out of the hospital this time. If it does, then it will become my routine from here on out....if not, then I'm back to square one. Wish me luck!!!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Paula Deen "Scandal"

First of all, anyone who knows me well knows that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a racist. I had black friends in high school and college, I have three mixed grandsons, I was one of the few people who supported  my cousin's marriage to a black man, and I have a wonderful young nephew who was adopted from Ethiopia.  I do not use racial slurs, and I don't allow those close to me to use them around me.

All of that being said, I believe that the Paula Deen situation has been totally blown out of proportion.  Yes, she admitted to using the "N"word"....once in a conversation with her husband, and once in a conversation with her brother about his wedding. Two private conversations, which should never have had to be made public, IMO. Is the word offensive? Yes, it is....but are there any of us who haven't used a potentially offensive word at some point in our life, when we're with our family members or our closest friends?

And let's not forget the era in which Paula grew up. She's a 66 year old Southern woman. That means she grew up, and became an adult, in a time before civil rights, before integration, before white people began to realize they were doing something wrong in the way they treated black people. My husband told me today that, when he lived in South Carolina in the late 70s, long after the Civil Rights Act, blacks would still step off the sidewalk to let whites pass them by---so it's not just white people of a certain age who kept that mindset long after the era had passed.

Paula has apologized, and people should just let it go....especially now that she's lost her contract with The Food Network.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Another Milestone

Today, with so much hair loss, I decided it was time to go ahead and shave my head. It was nowhere near as traumatic as I thought it was going to be. I'm actually happy with how it looks, too. I just keep reminding myself, when I get down, that it's hair and it WILL grow back.

Here's a before pic, prior to starting to lose any hair.


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And here's the after pic, once it was all cut and shaved tonight
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.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chemotherapy, Round Two

Went back to chemo this morning at 9 am. Spent the entire time there talking to some of the other folks in the room.  We're all about the same age, and we have a lot of life experiences in common. It definitely made the time pass much quicker than the last time.

Two weeks ago, I came home and almost immediately went to sleep, which was how I spent most of the next three days. Today, I came home and ate lunch, and kept eating and drinking small things all afternoon. I took a one hour nap, but other than that I've been awake all day, on the computer or doing little things around the house.

I'm not going to presume how the rest of the cycle will go, but I'm going to enjoy the rest of this day, and take tomorrow as it comes. With all the prayers going up for me, nothing is going to surprise me when it happens. I'm just going to be grateful for what comes, and the ability to experience it.

Will write more in a day or two.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Minor Setback and The Next Step Forward

When last I left off, I was going to be getting my Neulasta shot on Thursday, May 30th. That day, as well as the next two, I had frequent bouts of nausea, but the medications they gave me kept it strictly queasiness, with no vomiting. I also spent most of the 30th and 31st sleeping, or at least lying down. By Sunday, June 2nd, I was feeling a little more energy, and I even went with Barry and Amy to a garage sale, and bought a few things.

By Monday morning, the 3rd, I woke up feeling like "me" again, and I had a fairly normal three days, with at least one trip out somewhere each day. On Thursday, the 6th, my mother came up for a visit. We went out shopping, brought home a pizza for lunch, and just sat around talking for a while. When she left, I was feeling really tired and wrung out.

Shortly after she left, I took my temperature (something I've been keeping track of on a regular basis, because if it gets to 100.5 I'm supposed to go to the ER right away). At that point, totally out of nowhere, my temp was 101.7, so off to the hospital we went.

We got there around 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon, and after blood draws and a chest x-ray I was admitted and got to my room between 5:30 and 6 pm. I didn't really find out much until Friday morning, when we started to get test results back. All of the blood cultures came back negative for infection, which led us to conclude that the culprit was most likely the bacteria from all the fresh fruit I'd been eating, thinking I was doing myself and my health a big favor. Turns out fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and even fresh flowers are taboo during my chemotherapy.

The fever was gone by Friday, and has stayed gone ever since, as long as I remember to keep myself well hydrated. Unfortunately, we still had to work to get the white blood cell count back up to normal, and that took until Sunday morning. That meant several antibiotic IVs a day, as well as heparin shots in the stomach once a day---LOTS of fun!!!

TMI warning--if you don't want to read about my bodily functions, go on to the next paragraph!! Just to throw a little more drama into the mix, Saturday morning I started to have some diarrhea. We figured from the get go that it was just a reaction to all the antibiotics, but we still had to test for this really nasty bacteria, "C. diff" (I'll spare you the full name!)  Until the results for that test came back late that night, everyone who came to visit had to wear gowns and gloves. Poor Barry did not enjoy that at all--I felt bad for him, but NOT bad enough to prevent me from snapping  a picture of him!

Continuing on the drama rollercoaster, about the same time I got the c. diff results back, I broke out in a rash on both legs and my right arm. It was the itchiest rash I had ever felt in my life. Thank goodness on of the internal medicine students on call was able to prescribe some cream for me that took care of it in no time at all.

Yesterday morning, all of my blood cell counts were back to normal. Around noon, they finally kicked me out the front door. I came home, made a few phone calls, and hit the couch with my laptop, where I spent the rest of the day relaxing.  I went to bed early, and LOVED getting a full night's sleep in my own comfy bed again.

Today, I did some more unpacking and putting away of things. Then I went in to get a shower before Bible study, and the bad news showed its ugly head again. As I washed my hair, it was coming out in handfuls. I knew this moment was going to come at some point, but I had hoped it wouldn't come quite so soon. It is what it is, though, and I'm NOT going to let it get me down. It's just hair, and it will eventually grow back.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with my oncologist, and then have to get some lab work done to make sure I'm healthy enough to do round two of the chemo on Wednesday. Considering all my levels were back to normal yesterday, I'm not really concerned about that this time around.

So,now it's time to see what adventures round two will bring us.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Long Update

Been a while since the last post, but things are still moving along. I saw Doctor Cutler, the medical oncologist (chemo doctor) on the 22nd. We couldn't get me in to have the port implanted until the 28th, so that moved the first round of chemo to the 29th.  In the meantime, we finished our cross town move, and got internet service at the new house, which is why I'm just now getting around to blogging again.

Tuesday morning I had to be at the hospital, in radiology, by 8 am. After talking with the nurse and the doctor, I got my IV started, got settled in on the table, endured the lidocaine shots (OW!!!) and then spent the next hour or so chatting away with the folks in the room, as I had to be only partially sedated so that I could take deep breaths as needed during the implantation.

I was home before noon, and then spent most of the rest of the day drifting in and out of sleep. When I woke up around dinnertime, I realized the bandage over the implantation site was blood soaked, so it was off to the ER for me and hubby. By the time I was seen, the bleeding had stopped, so they replaced the dressing and sent me home. We also discovered I was allergic to the Tegaderm tape they had used on the dressing as well, which may have irritated the site and increased the oozing of the blood. I never did get dinner, and just went to bed early!

Yesterday was the first chemo treatment. Since the port just went in the day before, using it was a little painful, but we expected that, and also expect it not to be true in two weeks. I started out with a saline flush of the port, then a dose of five anti nausea pills, a bag of antibiotic IV, a bag of chemo drugs (cytoxan), an infusion of the second chemo drug (adriamycin)----then another saline flush, and a heparin flush.

This all took about 2 hours, during which time I was reading, watching television, and sipping on a bottle of water, while relaxing in a nice comfy recliner. Then we made a run to Walgreens for some fruit juice and some munchies, and after that I was home for the day.

I've been feeling nausea off and on ever since, but I've been able to fight it back with small meals/snacks and lots of liquids. This morning I took both of my regular nausea meds, and my first steroid (2 a day for three days after chemo)--which is supposed to give me the munchies, and which my daughter Amy already plans to blame for any moodiness ("roid rage").

This afternoon, I go back to the hospital for a shot of Neulasta, which is to stimulate white blood cell growth. That brings us up to date, and I'll try to post as often as possible.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Detour

Sorry I haven't written in a while--but did I mention that we're also moving this month? It's been crazy hectic around here, and it's gonna get worse as this week goes on, as we're finishing up and moving all our furniture on Friday and Saturday. THEN we have all the fun of unpacking and organizing the new place!

So, anyhow, here's where we are now. We received the MRI and PET scan results last week, which were mostly good news. None of the areas of concern actually showed any signs of cancer. All that was there was the original mass in the right breast, some lymph nodes in the right armpit, and some lymph nodes in the chest wall. That last part is the catch, though: because of where they are in the chest wall, my surgeon isn't confident that he would be able to remove them completely.

So, our new plan is to start chemotherapy next week. We're looking at eight treatments, every other week. After that, we'll do another scan, and then schedule the surgery.

A little later this morning, I have another appointment with Dr. Cutler, my chemo doctor, to work out all the details for next week, and to see about getting my port in before next Tuesday.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Bump In The Road

I expected to be in the hospital this evening, recuperating from my mastectomy. However, I got a call from my surgeon on Tuesday morning: last week's CT scan was troubling, so he wanted an MRI and a PET scan as soon as possible. If they show any spread of the cancer to other parts of the body, then we'll have to put off the surgery until after I have chemo (which means about six months).

Yesterday was the day I had both the MRI and the PET scan. I'd never had either one before, so it was a learning experience for me. Let's just say that it's a good thing I don't suffer from claustrophobia..I spent a lot of time enclosed in machines, not moving. If it hadn't been for all the noise, I probably would have been able to drift off to sleep---well, the noise and the hunger pains (since I didn't eat anything until 6 pm last night!)

Other news on the journey is encouraging, however. My estrogen and progesterone receptors are positive, which makes me a good candidate for hormone therapy if we have to go the chemo route. I'm still trying to stay positive, no matter what comes along, so I look for as many good things as I can.

Not much else to tell you until I see my doctor on Wednesday. Check back then!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Starting Another Journey

At this point in my life, I wasn't really expecting to be starting anything new, but God has other plans for me, as usual.  This new journey is one that no one ever wants to take, but I hope that by blogging about it, and sharing it with the world, I'll be able to help others who may find themselves on the same road.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on April 18, 2013. That was actually just the official acknowledgment of something I had suspected for a little while on my own, thanks to some changes. I saw my primary doctor in March, and then got a mammogram scheduled for April 10th. Because of what they saw there, I went immediately for an ultrasound. After that, the radiologist came in to see me about having a biopsy....which we scheduled for April 12th.  That was also done in the ultrasound exam room, with the benefit of a couple of Valium and some Lidocaine. 

My next trip to the hospital was on April 18th, when I had my first appointment with Dr. Bryce Nattier, my general surgeon. He broke the news that I have invasive ductal carcinoma...which means the cancer started in one of the ducts, but has spread beyond that, creating a tumor that is approximate 3 cm by 2 cm in the right breast. Until we do the mastectomy, which will be on May 10th, we won't know much more about what we're fighting, or whether any of the lymph nodes are involved.

This past week, I had two more trips to the hospital, to meet two more members of my treatment team. On Tuesday, the 23rd, I met with a plastic surgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Tran. Before that appointment, I was leaning toward NOT have any reconstruction. I just didn't want to think about it, deal with it...I just didn't care, honestly.  After hearing her explain the procedure, and just getting to know her, I'm all in, and actually looking forward to the results and the "after" pictures.   :)

On Wednesday, the 24th, I met with my radiation oncologist, Dr. Borislav Hristoff. For the third time, I was impressed with his friendliness and openness. We discussed the radiation process, even though we don't know yet if it's something I'll be doing. We won't know anything about a treatment plan, beyond the surgery, until AFTER the surgery, which is a little unsettling for someone like me who likes to plan ahead as much as possible.

Should radiation be necessary, when it happens depends on whether or not chemo is necessary. (I meet with the medical oncologist, Dr. Brandon Cutler, next week, to go over all that stuff.).  If I need chemo, that will be first, and that will take 6 to 7 months, after which we will have a six week round of radiation, for five days a week. If there's no chemo, we'll go right to the radiation first thing, if needed.  At this point, there is still a possibility they will be able to just remove the tumor and be done, except for the reconstruction. That's the outcome I'm praying for, and claiming!!!

So far, I'm keeping a very positive attitude, and feeling really good about things. I hope I'll be able to keep that up, but it's good to know that I'm surrounded by people who care and will encourage and support me at every turn. I have at least three different church congregations holding me in prayer, family members, and friends both near and far. I am blessed, and I realize it more each day.

Will continue to update as the journey continues, with doctor appointments, treatment decisions, highs and lows....whatever comes to mind.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you'll stick with me on this wild ride!!



Saturday, March 2, 2013

Mountain Out Of A Molehill, or Racism Rearing Its Ugly Head?



A Facebook page where I comment frequently shared this picture and story recently. 16 yr old white model, Ondria Hardin, recently posed for a pictorial entitled "African Queen", after being covered in a very deep bronze makeup. Yes, both pictures above are the same girl!! Here is a link to an article telling the full story.

When some of us on the page stated that we felt it was racist to hire a white model for that particular shoot, we were told that we were being ridiculous. Apparently color/race are now nothing more than an accessory to put on and take off at will. Why bother to hire an actual black, Asian, Indian, etc. woman for the shoot, when you can just "paint" a white girl to look that way?

My first thought at seeing this was of when people used to perform in "black face," and how offensive that was to black people...and to some white people as well. I do not see how this is any different at all. If someone does, could you please explain it to me?

I hope that, in the near future, we get to hear the voices of some minority models speaking out on the situation, giving us their thoughts.

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