Monday, June 15, 2009

Positive Progress/ Unexpected News- Staying focused on the Positive

My visit with the doctor last week provided some good news and some undetermined news. I choose to focus on the good news that my tumor did shrink and the PET scan shows no evidence of lymph node involvement now. This information is definitely cause for celebration and I am very pleased. The unexpected news that we got last Tuesday was that there is an area in the mediastinum (the area between the lungs) that is now showing hypermetabolic activity on a PET scan. Due to this activity, I had to have an additional CT scan of the chest. I am having an outpatient procedure tomorrow, June 16th to determine what this activity in my chest is and what the next step will be. The procedure will be done by a gastroenterologist and is a trans-esophageal ultrasound with a biopsy. I am told that it is pretty routine and I should be out of the hospital in about 4 hours.
Thank you for your continued support through positive thoughts and prayers. The power of prayer is amazing and I feel comforted by it and positive energy.
The past several days have left me anxious and uncertain but I am blessed in a lot of ways and need to remind myself that I only need to take things day by day or hour by hour.
To occupy my thoughts and keep me as positive as possible, I spent the past few days surrounded by family doing the things that I love: shopping the farmers market, visiting the botanical gardens, taking in my nephew's baseball game, playing with my niece and nephews, and being with family, friends and people that I've met since my diagnosis for the Cancer Survivor's Day at the Children's Zoo.
We shared some tender moments and had a lot of fun watching the kids play together-all of it was good medicine.
I am going to prepare for tomorrow by getting in a good state of mind and thinking positive thoughts. Yoga has been great for relaxation, so I will do that tonight before bed. Ryan has a business trip tomorrow and will be out of town for the next 3 days. This, of course was planned a long time ago and he is troubled by not being here for tomorrow's procedure. I am in good hands and have a few good people caring for me and helping me. We will enjoy this evening together and this whole thing will be done and over before we know it.
Sometimes events in life are too big for you to handle and you have to trust that God will take care of things. I am comforted by this in these uncertain times. 2009 has opened my eyes to a lot of things. I see that there is a purpose to all of this chaos. I would not call cancer a "gift" as you may have heard people say it is but I will say that I appreciate what it has done for me as far as awakening my soul. As another survivor I know and admire said: "If cancer is a gift, then you cannot come to my party!" We agree that nothing that causes so much fear, anxiety, pain, discomfort and disruption should ever be called a gift but that it does bring to light the bigger life issues and reminds you that there is purpose.
So, with my mind clear of anxiety, my soul awakened, my yoga techniques ready, my stomach empty, and my body prepared, I am ready for the procedure tomorrow. I will pray for strength, courage and healing and trust that God will take care of things.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Moving On

I have completed 6 rounds of chemotherapy and am ready to move forward with surgery- tentatively scheduled for the end of June. Surgery will be followed by radiation. I will know more when I have a repeat PET scan next week and a visit with the surgeon. The last chemo was pretty unforgiving. I have been sick constantly since last Tuesday but am optimistic that I will not need any more chemo. Those toxins build in your body and there is a point where your body says NO MORE! Ryan commented one evening that my breath smelled like poison. How attractive! I have been spending my days reading and laying on the hammock enjoying beautiful spring weather and trying to keep a positive outlook. I struggle with low hemoglobin so I do not have any energy. The Neulasta shot they gave me after chemo to boost my white blood cells has left me with fevers every evening. Being so ill this past week really affected my attitude and I struggled with some dark days and nights. The final chemo session brought a sense of relief but also for some reason some trepidation and uncertainty of what lies ahead. My only focus for the past few months was just taking it day by day and getting through the next chemo. That has changed now to worries about the uncertainty that every person living with cancer has of the disease returning. I have made friends at my LifeSpring class and have shared survivor stories with them while we exercise. It is unbelievable how many people are affected by cancer. It seems every time you talk to someone, they comment how they have a friend or relative going through the same thing. I have met so many survivors that are a great inspiration to me.
My family surprised me by being at my last chemo session to show support with posters that Max, Mia and Will made. Chris, Deb and Garrett were in town for the weekend and they stayed an extra day ( a total surprise to me as we said our goodbyes the night before!) to show their love and support. The kids gave me flowers and lots of tears were shed. It was the most beautiful and touching thing that anyone has done for me! I was totally surprised and it was so uplifting to have them there. All of the nurses at the cancer center commented on how neat it was to see my family there for me. I am grateful for each and every person who has supported me!
The events that I will be enjoying the next several weeks that are not related to my treatment include: Ryan's mom's retirement party and a visit with his brother Chris, his wife Kim and their 5 year old daughter Logan; a camping/kayaking trip to the sandhills when I am healed from surgery; spending lots of time with my niece and nephews and family; a possible trip to D.C. to accompany Ryan on a business trip; and just taking in each day with the attitude that every day is a gift to be thankful for.

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Favorite Holiday

I love Easter because it is all about renewal. I have always enjoyed the traditions of Easter- decorating eggs, cutting spring blossoms, eating fresh asparagus and other wonderful spring harvests, watching kids on the Easter egg hunt and everything else! It is a wonderful time of year that rejuvenates me. It is powerful knowing that there is the promise of God, forgiveness and renewal.
I will certainly be part of the renewal theme next week when I start my LifeSpring class. This is a 12 week cancer recovery course that offers exercise and education to people living with cancer. I had my assessment yesterday by a nurse practitioner and am good to go. I am eager to participate in this because of the focus on all around well being. I was impressed by the program's staff- they are genuine and very in tune to the needs of the participants. It is so cool that our local hospital offers this program free through a grant! How lucky I am to take part in this.
This week has been good to me. I am feeling better, finally, after a longer than expected period of sickness after the April 1st chemo. Other than a cold that I somehow acquired (probably due to my record low white blood cell counts on Wednesday) I cannot complain. I say cannot complain when I should say should not complain!
Ryan and I enjoyed visiting with his Aunt Lea and Uncle Jim. They were in from California and Oregon to visit Ryan's grandma Emma for her 96th birthday in Scottsbluff and made the drive to Lincoln to visit us. It was great seeing them. Ryan and I plan on taking a trip westward to Scottsbluff to see Gma. Emma next week. It will be wonderful to see her. We are amazed that at 96, she continues to live independently at home and remains sharp. We also plan to take in some sandhill sights via scenic, non-interstate routes. Our trip will be very short as we have to plan it around my LifeSpring class and my next chemo which is coming up all too soon. It will still be refreshing to get away and enjoy the beauty of the state's river valleys, sandhills and western bluffs.
Have a joyous Easter everyone. May you delight in all of spring's wonderful blessings.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

This Is No April Fool's Day Joke- Here's Your Cytotoxin Cocktail!

My April 1st chemo session went well- no reactions and it seemed to go a little faster this time. The infusion lasted from 9 am til 12:30. Sara was a great chemo buddy and made sure the entire event was smooth for me. She unplugged my i.v. pole for each pee break I needed (which amounted to a surprising number! Have you ever had several bags of fluids forced in you all at once?!) She inquired about all of the drugs and listed them in my book for me which was very cool because sometimes the nurses just administer away without telling me what they are putting in my body. I never knew what about half of the pre-treatment drugs did until Sara asked the nurse yesterday. The nurse took it all in stride with humor and stated that there would be a quiz at the end of the treatment!
After my cyctotoxin delight, we ventured downtown to one of my favorite restaurants for some Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese food. We of course did not eat all 3 types of cuisine but it is a great little place that offers all 3 and does them all well. Makes it hard to decide which route you will go each time. Dave was in between cases at work so he was able to join us. We had a nice visit and then Sara and I headed to Urban Trail Gardens for some plant therapy. The warmth of the greenhouses, the visual eye candy and the visit with my friend Ron were all very therapeutic. I wanted to take home lots of plants but the reality of lingering cold weather and my lack of energy sunk in and I was able to resist and walk out of there with only one special purchase. This spring will be especially tough because my full energy days are limited so I have to indulge by just looking or being excited about other people's garden plans. If anyone out there wants some help with garden plans I would love to pour over books and ideas with them!
It was a good day- one that left me tuckered out by about 6 p.m. but I was glad to get out and enjoy my time with family and friends. I slept well last night and feel pretty good so far today so for that I am ever thankful. I do count my blessings every chance I get.

Monday, March 30, 2009

3 Down- 3 more to go!

I am finally updating this blog! I have completed 3 chemo sessions and have 3 more to go. It is a good feeling to be at the halfway mark. I think that the next step after chemo will be surgery and then radiation. It is possible that more chemo will be necessary but I will not know until more scans are done post surgery and radiation. My March chemo went OK. I was quite sick the weekend after that infusion. Ryan was so sweet and stayed up with me one night from 3 a.m until 6:30 a.m while I alternated between chills, sweats, waves of bad abdominal pain, puking and dry heaves. He was the official puke bucket holder and blanket controller for my chills and sweating- an art he mastered well! This was my third chemo session and it surprised me that I was that sick. It seems that chemo may have an accumulative effect on me and that each treatment gets a little worse. At least I did not have a reaction to the Taxotere this time. I continue to remind myself that the treatments are a good thing and to be thankful for the days that I feel well. My tumor is shrinking so it is working! My next session is this Wednesday- April 1st. Sara will be joining me for the April Fool's Day festivities! It will be great having her there as I'm sure we will talk the entire time and it will go by fast.
I have continued to read up on all of my cancer books. Our ' Cancer Library ' is really growing. It may soon need its own room! I stopped by the local American Cancer Society last week and picked up a couple more good reads. When the serious ones get to be too doom and gloom, I reach for my 'Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips' book by Kris Carr. It is a light read that offers humorous bits of advice and is a good diversion when I get overwhelmed by the sad stuff. Here is an excerpt: "Mass e-mails are an amazing way to avoid the exhaustion of telling the same story a zillion times...However, when writing, don't capitalize cancer. My friend Beth pointed out that I'd do that when I wrote her e-mails, and I realized that giving it so much importance is a no-no. So does saying 'My cancer.' Screw that. It's the cancer. In fact, spell it wrong: canser. It gives you power over that stupid little two-syllable word." Another cancer tip: "Cancer should come with a warning: DO NOT GOOGLE ME. Ever the dependable informant, Google will present you with a ton of information about cancer but beware: Some of it is sure to be overwhelming, confusing, and downright scary, especially for a cancer newbie." So true! This book provides me with a laugh when I need it.
On the days I feel good I have enjoyed: spending time with my niece and nephews, doing yard work, going for long walks with my dogs, spending time with Ryan at parks and area lakes, and visiting my friend's greenhouse for a little plant therapy. It's the simple things that I find pleasure and beauty in. I love getting cards and notes from people so thanks to everyone for sending me their encouraging and comforting words. I started a scrapbook for all of the cards and like to flip through it from time to time.
My family and friends are so supportive and wonderful and I don't know how Ryan and I would manage without their help. My nephew Max collected donations for the American Cancer Society in lieu of gifts for his 7th birthday party this past week. He did this in my honor and included a little note of thanks to all of his party guests. The donations amounted to $275.00! What an amazing impact this will have on people in our own community! Max is such a thoughtful, sincere, incredible boy. Not many 7 year olds would decline gifts and organize something like this for the greater good. Max and Mia (his older sister) have done many great acts of kindness and are always thinking of others. My nieces and nephews are so very special to me!
I will start a 12 week cancer recovery program in 2 weeks that I am excited about. This is a free program provided by a grant through one of our local hospitals that includes exercise and education. It will include nutrition, strength training, relaxation, stress management, healing arts, yoga, pilates, swimming and many more activities. All of the participants are in some stage of cancer treatment so I won't have to be embarrassed with my bald head in the swimming pool or with my first ever attempt at yoga or pilates! It will be cool to learn some of these new things and they will undoubtedly be a huge benefit in my healing process. I hope I can meet people closer to my age going through the same thing because I have not had success with this yet. I went to one support group last month and all of the people were older women who were fixated on their disease to the point that it was a real drag and was counter-productive. I don't know if I am a sit-in-a-circle-share-your-emotions-and-wear-a-nametag-kind of person! I probably should not judge the entire thing by just one visit but I'm thinking there will be other sources of support and strength for me.
I have 2 more days before chemo and I intend to cram in as much as possible because I know that the following several days will leave me lounging around in my pajamas feeling (and looking) bad. My fuzzy blanket, hot tea, chicken noodle soup, books, and milk of magnesia will get me through it all once more! Until next time...

Friday, February 20, 2009

February 18th- Dave's Birthday- spent in chemo with me!

Today was my second chemo infusion. My big brother Dave was kind enough to join me for the full 5 1/2 hours even though today is his birthday! I am sure he had other things he could have done on his birthday- ride his bike, be with the kids and Sara, sleep in, the list can go on and on. This is truly the man he is- giving so selflessly and always doing for others. I was glad he joined me today. We had a nice visit and as it turned out it was good to have his cardiovascular expertise...
Dave asked the nurse if there was a reason that Taxotere was the first chemo drug given and her reply was that out of all of the chemo drugs, this is the one that a person would most likely have a reaction to so they like to administer it first. The nurse reassured us by stating that this was my second treatment and a reaction would be very unlikely. Just as the drip started, I felt my face turn a burning red, my heartbeat sped up and blood pressure increase. Dave alerted the nurse very calmly and she stopped the Taxotere drip. Well, the 'very unlikely' reaction did happen. It made me nervous because it happened so fast and I don't think I have ever had a blood pressure and heart rate that high. I was worried that my treatment would need a change. After waiting about 45 minutes and with the added boost of a steroid, we proceeded with the Taxotere and all went well. I need to remind myself that there is usually a remedy and that these nurses have experienced this many other times. Of course my mind wants to jump to worst case scenario and think 'Oh great, now we have to change therapy and I will be back tracking'. No problem and no harm done. I was in great hands and the remedy is simple- next time the steroid will be given.
Oh and by the way, I have very little hair now. My Happy Valentine's Day was to lose my hair! I got frustrated after a few days of gobs of hair falling out that on Sunday, February 15th Ryan and I whacked my hair short. The sad part of it is that we didn't use haircutting scissors. We used the orange-handled-craft variety! It seemed to do the job. My short haircut is pretty silly but it won't matter for long as it continues to fall out. I guess I'll be shaving it soon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thanks to all for the encouragement and kind words

Thank you to all who have brightened each day with cards, flowers, children's artwork, beautiful scarves that I look forward to wearing and phone calls checking in on us. My network of family, friends and neighbors is so strong and for that I am thankful.