Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tired and a little on edge

It seems like I haven't gotten the rest I've needed over the past few weeks and it's starting to show. I feel myself getting rundown and fighting off a cold again. Over the weekend I felt energetic like I normally do going into my 3rd week post chemo. However, it's starting to change. Is it the cumulative chemo or is it just over doing it?

I've been lectured by several friends...okay, not lectured, but it's been highly suggested that I need to take care of myself, even if that means not taking care of Debra and/or Sofie. That's a pretty hard thing for me to do, even when I know it's true. It's just that I wasn't the one who almost died last week due to pulmonary emoboli! I was the one who took care of Sofie and made sure Debra had what she needed in the hospital. I spent time with her each day so she wouldn't be lonely in the hospital and enjoyed doing that.

I'm just really tired and starting to get cranky. I have an earache and it feels like my head is going to pop off. I'm staying at Debra's to help out until the weekend. Unfortunately, I'm feeling more in the way than anything else. I also had things scheduled 3 out of the 5 nights this week, so how helpful am I really? Just mulling it all over.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The question I've most dreaded

This morning Sofie woke up wanting to cuddle. I could see the pensive look on her face as she lay there sucking her thumb and stroking her face with her blankie. "Mommy, are all your bumps gone?" (Bumps is how we've been describing the Cancer to her) "Yes, honey. The surgery I had this past summer removed all of my bumps. The treatment I'm doing now is just extra to make sure all the bumps are gone." Silence that seemed like years, then the bombshell. "Mommy, will the bumps make Mama Debra die?" My mind was racing. Debra and I hadn't really discussed this yet. Well, we've discussed it, but we talked mostly about how Jane, Sofie's therapist, could help us explain this to her. So here it was and I had to make a split second decision. I mustered all the courage I could and said, "Well, if the bumps keep getting bigger, then yes, Mommy Debra might die. But that's why she's taking more medicine, to make sure the bumps don't get bigger." More thoughtful gazing from Sofie. I asked if anyone had said something like that to her? She said, no, she thought it up herself. I have no idea if I handled this correctly. What I do know is I didn't want to lie to her. This will be only the first of many discussions to come.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Emotional Wreck

Well, I can say I'm a total wreck right now. Mostly it's emotional, with a little physical thrown in for good measure. Debra was admitted to the hospital late last night. She's been having trouble breathing, so our primary care physician made the call yesterday of having Debra go to the Emergency Room. Debra was going to try to do this by herself, but Dr. Marum suggested otherwise. Our dear friend Tracey stepped in and took Debra to Duke's ER, while I was in my motherly role of taking care of Ms. Sofie. Another friend, Betty, stepped in when Tracey had to work and stayed the course until Debra was checked into the hospital.

Dr. Marum has become our hero of sorts. She's the one who initially found the mass on Debra's ovary. I applaud her tenacity, even when Debra tried to convince her it was just a urinary tract infection!! Once again she made the right call. Debra's shortness of breath was being caused by pulmonary emboli. They're currently giving her blood thinner's to allow the clots to reabsorb.

Personally, I'm having a hard time holding it together. It's all very scary for me. Last night, I was trying not to cry in front of Sofie. While she was cuddling with me, she noticed "sweat" on my face. I told her it wasn't sweat, but tears. I told her I had been crying because I was a little worried about Mama Debra. And in that very sweet, matter of fact way that only a 6 year old can be, she said, "Mama Debra will be okay and it's okay if you cry."

Against the advice of a few friends, I'm taking Sofie to see Debra in the hospital after school today. Debra and I feel in our guts that we need to de-stigmatize all that's going on for Sofie. It may be the wrong move, but my instinct tells me it's not. She has a lot of questions so we want to be as open as possible with her.

Monday, January 22, 2007

This is Chemo...

For those of you who've never seen it, this is chemo:

Looks pretty innocuous, eh?

Exhaustion...and pushing thru

It's been a long, hard week for me. As noted in my previous post, this round of chemo didn't go as smoothly as past treatments. Little did I know that chemo day would be the first of 3 visits to Clinic 2A this week.

All my blood counts were down last week, so visit 2 was so I could take a shot of Neulasta. This is a drug to make sure the WBC doesn't tank before my next treatment. Apparently, this will allow my body to create more white blood cells. Unfortunately, the side effects are bone pain and flu-like symptoms. Great. On top of the joint pain that goes along with chemo, now I get to experience bone pain and flu-like symptoms!! I don't have time for that this week.

Visit number 3 was with Debra. She had her port-o-cath put in on Friday, then immediately after that, she had a transfusion. The nurses in the clinic were surprised to see me again. It was interesting being in the other chair. I was glad Debra got to meet my favorite nurse and we got to smirk about the nurse that makes her skin crawl! We watched Oprah, listened to a 90 year old patient tell funny stories and socialized with the nurses in clinic 2A, all the while iron rich blood dripped through the newly placed port. I hope the effects of the transfusion work and Debra gets her energy back.

I'm feeling the effects this time. Still fighting off some sort of cold, my body aches more than usual. I may have overdone it this past week. I don't regret doing anything I did, I just know I probably should have taken things a bit slower. Normally, I'm back at work today. It will be a few days before I'm up for that. I woke up this morning feeling as if I'd been hit by a truck. (Must be that "bone pain" they mentioned!!)

My mind is a bit disjointed and writing this entry has been the most taxing thing I've done today. Just wanted to update this blog. I'll try to be back to my witty self soon. In the meanwhile, thanks to everyone for helping the family unit out.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Round 4, down...with a hitch or two!

Yesterday was round 4 of 6 for my chemotherapy. The day usually goes fairly uneventful. This treatment had *doom* written on it from the time I had results of my last blood draw!

First of all, a BIG "Shout Out" to Angela, for staying above and beyond any duty and to Sharon for coming in to relieve Angela from the most boring, longest day at Duke known to humans(well at least this human.)

Apparently Power Ports (the brand of port-o-cath I have) have some issues. One issue being that a clot of sorts can cause blood not to flow properly through the tube (or something like that.) Because of this situation with the Port, I was at Duke from 8a until 630p!! Loooooooooonnnnnnnnnggggggg day. Filled with frustrations. Fortunately there was one Nurse who was persistent and seemed to be a miracle worker with ports. After two injections of a clot buster, various body positions (one that included putting me on my head in my bed) and lots of coughing and head turning, Nurse Anita had one last trick up her sleeve. Sitting up, bending forward as far as I could seemed to be the thing that freed that damn clot! If that hadn't worked, chemo would have been delivered through an IV and I would have had to have radiology investigate the port. The IV would have made Jamie a very unhappy puppy.

Chemo finally went off without another hitch and I left with Sharon. We delivered some stuff to Debra's and hung out a bit checking up on her and Ms. Sofie. After that visit, Sharon and went to Satifactions for some good food. We amused ourselves by talking about Basketball! We joked that if the ACC women's teams weren't as good as they were this year, we'd be having meaningful conversation! It was nice to have a conversation that didn't involve Cancer, mortality or anything along that line.

Woke up today with a slight stomach ache. But all seems well. Thanks everyone for the love, support, prayers you're sending to me, Debra and Sofie. It's all very much appreciated...even if we forget to say so.

Love to everyone.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Taking Care

This week has been a challenge on so many levels. I've already written about what's going on with Debra, however, I haven't updated you all on my health. I'm exhausted. Mentally and physically.

Early this week I developed a cough that quickly moved to my chest. (Oh, the joys of a compromised immune system!!) I called my primary care physician and saw her on Thursday. I was a little concerned about this because I'm supposed to have chemo next week. If my white blood counts are too low, they will not do the chemo. My doc took no chances and she's treating me for bronchitis with an antibiotic. Glad she did because as I suspected, Friday I received a call from my nurse at Duke. She told me my white count, red count and ANC (absolute neutrophil count) are all low. Tuesday, they'll do another CBC and if my counts have rebounded(which I suspect will happen)I will receive chemotherapy #4. Otherwise, they'll push it back a week.

This weekend, I'm tasked with taking it easy and taking care of myself. That's hard to do sometimes. For instance today was the Women's Basketball rematch of the year. The Maryland Terrapins were playing the Duke Blue Devils. I've become quite fond of the Blue Devils while living here in Durham. I've been a season ticket holder for a couple of years. It's a joy to watch women athletes at their level. I had to go to the game!! So, I rested last night, slept in this morning and headed out to the game with friends. I coughed and sucked on Ricola's the entire game while enjoying the energy and excitement of Cameron Indoor Stadium. It was contagious. The game was excellent. I did overdo it a bit. Now, I'm home for the evening and plan to have a low key tomorrow, as well.

Taking care of myself is something I find hard to do. I'm kind of a "push on thru" kind of girl. Luckily, I have people watching my back and making sure I get enough rest and recharging.

Aloneness of Cancer

Below is part of something I want to expand on. Maybe submit for publication somewhere, maybe not. I wasn't going to put it on my blog, but I decided I would share some of what I write offline, away from this blog. I wrote this just after my last treatment, when the side effects were at their worst. It still needs much expansion and work.

In many ways, being treated for Cancer allows you to ask for help like you never have before, or create a community of friends you never thought you had. It can also feel like the absolute loneliest time in your life.

I've felt lonely before. I'm an only child, so I grew up understanding and accepting lonely. Loneliness is as comfortable as that blue worn sweatshirt with the greasy spots center chest. This feels different.

The world continues to whir about as the dripping of medical poison courses through your veins. Moods change, body parts hurt, nausea seeps in and vision is disturbed. Friends step in, loving and taking care of you. Intentions are pure and true. Aloneness still creeps past, creating a chasm the love and kindness leapt over.

Philosophically, I agree we all need time alone for growth, rejuvenation, regeneration and rest. However, past that analytical side of me, alone time can hurt. It's a pain, so numbing that the tingles aggravate the tapping on the keyboard as I write this piece.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Next Steps

Yesterday, I accompanied Debra to her appointment with our Oncologist and her first round of the next phase in treatment. We arrived at the appointment with fears beyond comparison to any other. While thinking about mortality and the next steps, we talked about family vacations to take within the next few years. We really want Sofie to see South Africa. A place that touched Debra and me in ways that is close to spiritual in nature. We'll tackle that trip next year, when Sofie's a little older and able to handle the long flights. We'll plan something for this summer. Just not sure what that is at this point.

Reality started washing over us once our Oncologist (Dr. Valea) and his wonderful nurse (Teri) stepped into the examination room. Debra asks the hard questions. Bottom-line? Quality of Life? There are no set answers for those questions. However, Dr. Valea is a huge proponent of "quality of life" issues. That fact comforted me in some strange way.

What happened? Why did she have a recurrence? Well, Debra is in the 20% of the population that are "primary non-responders" to chemotherapy. So, the next step is to try to find a drug she WILL respond to! Doxil is *the* drug of choice in recurrent Ovarian Cancer. It has weird side effects, but nothing like the previous round. Fingers crossed tightly that she responds to this treatment. Unfortunately, we have to wait a few months to know that answer. This is a slow acting drug. Patience is a virtue.

What's come up for me in all of this isn't my own mortality (which most people think would be the issue for me.) I can't even think of dying! Actually the fact that I have to get and stay healthy weighs heavy on my mind. More exercise, better food, less stress and generally a positive outlook on life...no matter what. If you're a presence in my life, please gently (or not so gently) remind me to Move more, eat less (and better.) I need all the encouragement you can muster.

For the time being, please remember our little "family" in your prayers (or whatever you do.) We accept all modes of healing thoughts.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Facing an Uncertain Future

This week has been challenging. For me, I'm still battling nausea. The drug that worked best, also caused very blurry vision. If this were the worst of life, that would be okay. Unfortunately, life has thrown another curve ball.

I'll cut straight to the point...Debra's Cancer is back. She has lesions on her liver. She'll post on her own blog, which I link to under the "Of Interest to the Complex One" heading over in the left column of this blog. I'll write about it from my perspective only.

To be honest, I'm freaking out a little. I've run a gamut of emotions. I've cried buckets this week. While visiting the darkest corners of my mind, I realize if anyone can beat this, it's Debra. Currently, I'm sitting in my numb place. Sofie's with me this weekend, so I need that numbness to keep pushing through.

I'm sure I'll write more about this in the coming weeks, months and hopefully years. In the meanwhile, if you pray, please include Debra in those prayers.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy? New Year

I don't even remember where I was last New Year's Day. (Well, actually I do, but I choose to completely block that chapter of my life.) Would I switch places today? Not on your life. It's been a long strange trip this year, but not one I'd ever trade in for something better or different.

I had a fun day with friends. Saw "Charlotte's Web" and had a healthy dinner with Susan, Joy and the kids. Quiet evening at home, writing and listening to NPR. Bizarre dreams last night. Woke up cranky and still with vision problems. Feeling better though.

Just glad the New Year has begun. Hope it's everything you want it to be.