Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The end of treatment (A 41 year olds perspective)

Today, I had my very last round of chemotherapy. It was touch and go whether I'd have the treatment today because a few of my blood counts were too low. However, Dr. Valea said it was okay since it was my last treatment and he wanted to keep me on schedule. Whew, that was close.

I have to say that the period of time between treatment 5 and 6 were indeed the worst mentally and physically. It was as if my body decided she was tired of all the crap going in my body. The latest reaction was from my Procrit. Edema(swelling) in my hands and feet. I walked in today day and said I was just feeling "puffy." Dr. Valea agreed and said it was water retention from the Procrit and from any other chemotherapy related drug I might be taking!! Teri, my nurse asked today if there were any drugs I *didn't* have a reaction to. I laughed and then asked if there was any correlation between patients who have odd side effects and effectiveness of treatment. She thought it was a good question, but said it can go either way. I was satisfied with that answer...it was coming from a small spot of paranoia since Debras' recurrence!

Debra came to the Treatment room and hung out with me today. Actually, she watched a movie on my laptop, while I slept! (If you haven't rented it, please see Jesus Camp and be prepared to be pissed off at these people who are brainwashing kids.)

My nurses are so wonderful. The picture that will be below when I find the USB cord for my camera,is of my nurse today, Marcella(on the left) and then me in the middle, then my most favorite nurse, Kathy(on the right.) Sofie thinks she looks like Delma. I wonder if all Cancer nurses look alike!! They were very sweet. Kathy gave me a card...she calls me her Lamikins, so on the card she drew a lamb and wrote, "Bah Bah Bye Bye" and other lovely words! And the group gave me(and I suspect many others going through their final treatment and framed photo and quote..."In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. Albert Camus"

So, all in all my final treatment went well. I'm glad their over. Now I can feel better and really help out with Sofie AND Debra. And remember faithful readers, please keep Debra in your prayers.

Love you all for being wherever you are.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The end of treatment (a 6 year olds perspective)

Tomorrow, February 27th, 2007 marks what I expect to become the anniversary date for my last treatment for Cancer. I have to believe that is true. I especially have to believe because of the look on Sofie's face this morning when I told her that I have my last "treatment" tomorrow. She beamed...brighter than I've seen in a long time. Her posture changed, her eyes lit up and then, in typical 6 year old fashion, it became all about her! She gave me a high-five, then said "Yay, I get to stay at your house again!"

Since Debra's recurrence and my chemotherapy overlapped beginning in January, Sofie hasn't gotten as much time at my house as she'd like. For many reason's, it's been easier and more practical for me to help out Debra at her house. For Sofie, my house has become a weekend retreat of sorts. We do fun things because when she's with me, it's Friday night through Sunday afternoon after all! I'm certain she's differentiated the two homes in her mind. For example, she corrects Debra every time she mentions "Jamie's house"..."It's a CONDO mom!" she often exclaims. She even calls it a tree house because I live on the top floor and surrounded by trees where the squirrels frolic and raid the bird feeders. Frequent readers also know Santa brought Sofie her very own video game, so that's a draw. In her mind, the places are very different. However, Debra and I really strive to maintain consistency for her, so many of the basics of life are the same in both homes.

Before my diagnosis, Sofie stayed a bit longer and on a more consistent basis. She was here on school nights. That will all begin again after I get through the next few weeks. She'll start staying with me more, especially during the weeks that Debra has chemotherapy. During all of this, I remind her that the "fun" stuff we do and they way we do things now will be like it has been when she's stayed on school nights. I'm sure we'll have a little struggle but for me, consistency is more important than any struggle she and I will go through. I'm absolutely positive any battle we have now will pale in comparison to when she's 13 and I'm an annoyance just existing.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Hitting a Wall

Well, I've finally succumbed to chemo related fatigue. I've been fighting it for the past two or three treatments. Weekly, since mid January, my nurse calls and tells me my blood levels. A few weeks ago, I started getting shots for low white blood levels which has definitely helped with those levels. She also told me my hemoglobin and hematocrit were down too. However, she left the decision up to me whether I need a shot for that, too. I declined for a few weeks since I was feeling fine. Well, that suddenly changed this week. It was a simple task that pushed me over the edge...taking out my garbage!! I literally walked down 3 flights of stairs, across a parking lot and back again and realized I needed a nap and could barely catch my breath!! I immediately called my nurse, who scheduled my Procrit injection for today. It'll take a week or so before I experience the joys of more oxygen in my red blood cells, but that's fine. I anxiously await feeling better...soon!

I also made the decision to stay out of work until after my last treatment...which is Tuesday...can hear the cheering now?!?!?! Debra's accompanying me to my final appointment to hang out. I'll bring my laptop so she can watch a movie if I'm out of it. I've had such wonderful treatment at Duke, I'm going to miss the nurses but not the drugs coursing through my veins!!

As I've said before...thanks to EVERYone for their support and love and prayers and whatever else you've provided through this time. Please continue whatever you can while we continue with Debra on her journey. Love and hugs to everyone!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

One in Three

When you're diagnosed with Cancer your life changes forever. And anyone who challenges that who hasn't been diagnosed or touched by cancer, I beg to differ. Last night, I spent time researching support offerings for kids who have a parent with Cancer. I saw a segment on The View yesterday about a young woman who, as an adult, started a club for kids who have lost a parent to Cancer. Her story was inspiring and made me wonder about other types of support for kids with ill parents. We've already got the ball rolling for Sofie to attend Camp Kesem this summer. Fingers crossed that she gets selected. Camp Kesem is a sleep away camp for kids who have a parent with Cancer. Kesem, by the way, is the Hebrew word for "magic"...and it sounds like this camp is a magical experience for all the kids that attend. I just wonder if we're doing enough for her right now.

This morning, I read a book review in the New York Times Health Section about a book called One in Three. The author was inspired to write it after his father died from Cancer. The title refers to the fact that one in three of us will develop Cancer within our lifetime. I don't know where that fact comes, but it sounds correct to me. The book sounds like it has interesting historical and personal stories around this illness. However, I doubt I'll read it right now. Living it is enough for me at this point.

Oh school, do you forgive me?

When I picked Sofie up from school yesterday, I knew I had the task of undoing something Debra had told her earlier that day. Debra told her that Monday was a holiday(which before the snow day it was) and that there would be fun activities that day. We found out Friday afternoon that Monday was indeed a make-up day.

Sofie and I are driving along and it goes something like this:

Me: "Honey, did they tell you today that you have school on Monday?"

Sofie: Disgusted..."Yes!" "I thought it was a holiday."

Me: "Well, it is, but because of the snow last week, you guys have a make-up day. That's the downside of having snow days!"

Sofie: After pondering a bit..."So the school has to forgive the snow?"

In my chemo state of mind it took me a minute to even get what she had just said and how funny it was. Ah the American English language...I'll guess I'll spend the next several years explaining the nuances of certain words.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A light at the end of the tunnel of goo

As I'm ending week two post treatment, I'm starting to come out from the thick cloud of goo in my head. One of the joys of chemotherapy would be the compromised immune system that comes along with low blood counts. I've had more colds this winter than I've had in the past 5 years combined. I am SO over not being able to breathe through my nose!!

Debra was right, the recovery time from the final treatments takes longer than the initial treatments. Instead of going back to work in week two, I've been home sick with side effects and a head cold. I'm really looking forward to my body returning to it's normal self...well as normal as it will be post surgery/radiation/chemotherapy.

I'm looking forward to being able to really help Debra as well as being there for Sofie. Sofie is missing coming to my house...her video game is here. I think she sees my house as being the non-sick house, even though I'm going through treatments, too. She doesn't get to see me at my worst so I seem relatively healthy in her eyes. All of this is starting to wear thin for all of us. I'm just worried about things getting worse and how we'll all handle that.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

No Sharp Knives Allowed

Today, I woke up feeling quite achy. Similar to last time when I felt as if a truck had run over me. This must be the "fluish" side effects from the Neulasta. It sucks. I really wanted to go to ERUUF this morning, but there's not way I'm venturing out of the house feeling this loopy from the drugs. Safety first!!

I don't like how the drugs make me feel. I don't even seem together enough to cook dinner without wobbling all over the place. Don't worry, I try to avoid sharp knives!

I wish this headcold would leave my body. It's horrible. I can't sleep or breathe and I wake up every morning with what Sofie calls "drooly nose." I thought she was exaggerating but she's spot on with that description!

Still trying to work through things and get past the side effects. As Debra said, the bounceback time is longer each treatment. Oy. I just want to be normal again.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Rest, thanks and managing others

Thanks to Laurie being at Debra's taking care of Debra and making sure Sofie is doing well, I've gotten some great rest this week. (Also a big thanks to Maya, Laurie's daughter, for being around over the weekend and beginning of the week, giving Sofie some attention and fun she may not have gotten otherwise.)

I've had a realization this week. I'm in major control mode. Not sure what that's about, but I seem to need to control how other's are around me. I won't go into details, just know that I'm aware of it and trying to work on it.

Today is Debra's birthday. Going to a movie and back to her house for some mysterious cake. I hope it's a fun day for her...she deserves it.

Pain and nausea set in earlier this round. Trying to keep it under wraps. The rest is helping...as are the drugs.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

One more to go!!!

Today, I reached a milestone of sorts. I scheduled my last round of chemotherapy today. It was odd an feeling, knowing that I'd just scheduled my last routine visit to Morris Cancer Clinic at Duke...not that I won't be going there at least every three months for the next 3 years for checkups, CT scans, blood work and etc!! Don't get me wrong, I'm looking very forward to ending the poison coursing through my veins and getting back to a semi-normal life.

I arrived at my appointment in a kind of an internal state of panic. They gave me a questionnaire to fill out that I hadn't filled out before. It's given to patients going through chemo or radiation to track symptoms and side effects that are going on. As I perused the list, and checked the boxes, I realized I was kind of freaking out that my cancer might return. So, I spoke with Dr. Valea and Teri, the nurse about what's going on in the area of side effects. Every thing that I described was explained in a different way by Dr. V. The pain I was experiencing is the type of pain I'd have if Cancer recurred, it's normal healing pangs/twinges. He explained what he'd expect, where the pain or difficulties would occur. My blood pressure was high...again related to chemotherapy or actually the steroids I'm taking. We talked about a few other things and I left the appointment feeling much better.

Up to the chemotherapy lab I go. I get a great nurse this time, Bill. Still not as funny as my favorite nurse, Kathy, but he did great. I was in and out without a hitch. I slept soundly during the majority of my 3 hour Taxol treatment and according to Debra and Laurie who were just across the way while Debra got her treatment and another transfusion, I was snoring quite contently! :-)

Tracey arrived as I was finishing the Taxol and starting the Carboplatin (a much shorter drug delivery time!) We chatted and had a good time. We started heading home and I decided I didn't want to be home alone, rather I'd prefer to rest on their couch. Sharon was going to take me home after she got home from work. When she walked in the door, I knew this was going to be a problem and after she was sleeping soundly on the couch I knew it nearing impossible. I quietly crept into another room and called Val. She lives close to Sharon and Tracey. I explained was was going on. The more important issue was I was feeling nauseous and needed to eat. She agreed without hesitation to pick me up, take me to dinner and drop me at home. We had an odd outing at Elmo's...odd because we had weird, not very friendly waitress. It was fun catching up, so that was the good part of the evening.

I continue to be thankful for everyone's love and support for me and Debra and Sofie. We're basking in love, support, prayers and all that stuff. Just know it's greatly appreciated!

Monday, February 5, 2007

The awareness of a 6 year old

Life continues to be crazy, but it seems to be settling down a bit. This past Friday, I brought all my things back to my condo that had accumulated from my 2 plus week stay at Debra's. It's amazing how much you stuff builds up when you just pick up items here and there! Debra is feeling better, slowly.

Sofie continues to become more aware of what's happening. Just this past Saturday evening I went over to Debra's to help out before I drove to the airport to pick up Laurie and Maya (Debra's helpers for the week.) I walked in during the middle of a little tiff between Debra and Sofie. It's hard to walk in and be supportive of both of them, but I really try. I took Sofie into her room and we chatted about things. She gets very defensive about things so I try to be sensitive. I listened to her with open ears. As gently, yet firmly as possible, I start talking to her about trying to be a little less argumentative and more cooperative with Mama Debra. I continued to explain that Mama Debra gets tired and a little crabby because of the treatments and she's taking the treatments so she'll get better. Sofie's response, "Mama Debra's not going to get better." Gulp. I actually burst into tears trying to explain that's not necessarily true. Unfortunately, I don't remember what I told her. I'll just have to trust that whatever I said was the right thing. Trusting myself...I'm having to do that so much more these days.

I'm facing my next to last chemotherapy tomorrow. I'm SO looking forwarding to this ending. Returning to a normal life looks very appealing to me...although my life will never be the normal that existed prior to Cancer. Life will be whatever it is...I just want chemo to be done!