chemo #5

July 3rd, 2009

I should be feeling so gung-ho – after all it is my next to last treatment. but instead I feel depressed. Not this again, my body seems to be saying. At the Oncologist’s office I made a joke about how, while waiting for my appt, I went out to the ladies room in the hall by the elevators. but my body turned towards the elevators and was about to push the button. I could chalk it up to the so-called “chemo brain”, that I was just feeling spacey. This phenomenon was also responsible for me not remenbering how old I am, I mean really not remembering, not even able to do the math from 1974.

But I think it was more like an escape mechanism. Evey part of my being didn’t want to go through the nausea, the pain, the exhaustion again, only to feel better for a short time (maybe a week if I’m lucky) and then do it all over again. Messages of support welcome.

Look Good … Feel Better

June 3rd, 2009

You have hear the sarcasm dripping from my voice when you hear me say the title of this program from the American Cancer Society “Look Good, Feel Better.” Or at least the sarcasm I used to feel… I generally hold at arms length anything so “ra-ra” as this program. It is a joint venture by the Cancer Society and the American Cosmetics Assn (or something like that), and you sit in a room with other cancer patients and have a makeup professional show you how to fix your face. But it is more than that… they teach you how to put in eyebrows if they are gone, techniques for keeping skin healthy during treatment, etc. And I looked fabulous afterwards, and got to take home the makeup! More makeup than I have ever put on in my life, but if there was anytime that I needed it, it is now. So maybe I won’t do it much, but once in a while, it is nice to look great.

I’m feeling much better this round of chemo (had my 3rd treatment 2 weeks ago, have another week to go before the next). The 2nd round was much worse than my last blog post let on. I was fine for a few days, and then I got the unexplained intense stomach pains. Basically I wasn’t eating enough, and once it hurt, I ate less (saltines and chicken soup). And on and on down the spiral of hell. But then I figured out how to eat again (just one toke!), and it got better from there. So this last time of chemo, I tried really hard not to stop eating, and had soluble fiber powder in my drinks. My oncologist does not like the idea of unregulated medications, and prescribed Marinol (the medical version of marijuana) in a pill. It worked too, but much stronger, one pill put me out of commission for 6 hours! So now I have more tools for dealing with chemo, and hopefully I’ve got it figured out, until the next unexplained symptoms!

Chemo #2 update

May 7th, 2009

Well, everyone was right that the second chemo session was easier than the first…after feeling overwhelmed, and like I’d been hit by a truck, 4-5 days later I was much better. Now I’ve almost got an appetite and haven’t needed anti-nausea medication for a couple days. So I’ve got 2 weeks of “freedom” until my next one. Hoping that #3 is OK too.

Shaving My Head

April 25th, 2009

The first thing I noticed is that I have a pretty good skull structure! The second thing I noticed was that it looked like I had some sort of pernicious rash, as my hair has not all fallen out yet, and apparently my hair color was quite variable, in patches. Some patches, as big as an inch or so, were all dark brown. Not noticable when mixed with blond, light brown and reddish hair, but very noticable on a bald head.

Let me back up a couple of days. First, I got my “boy” cut on Monday. I liked the cut, it felt free and light. It also gave me confidence that when my hair grows back I won’t hate having short hair. I kept running my fingers through my hair and enjoying the sensation.

On Tuesday and Wed I started feeling the tingling/lightly painful sensation that my surgeon described to me as “when you have a ponytail in too tight and you take it out.” That was exactly what it felt like, but more intense in different parts of my head. Caused me to run my fingers through my hair even more, which on Wed night started yielding more and more strands to come out in my fingers. By Friday it was more like clumps, if I pulled on a section of hair, it would mostly come out. Saturday I wore a hat to the concert we attended at the Laughing Goat Coffeehouse on Pearl Street (our neighbor Mohammed Alidu was playing with some performers from the Congo who were finishing up the Playing for Change tour) . It was wonderful, loud, energetic, and helped me to forget the pain I was in from a battle between my uterus and the chemotherapy (short story: uterus wants to have normal menstrual cycle, chemo wants to put me into menapause, results in horrific cramping requiring Percocet and Advil and Ativan all at once).

When we got home, I was compulsively pulling chunks out of my hair, I don’t know why. Maybe because if my hair “falls” out, I wanted to be the one in control of the process. Or maybe because I never can leave things alone, I pick at scabs, callouses, etc. So by the time Jeremy got Evan to sleep for the 2nd time (he has a chest cold and isn’t sleeping well), I was taking a “relaxing” bath and had pulled more than half my hair out. I looked like an old woman with really thin hair, or, well, a cancer patient. I said “Get out the clippers” and he buzzed my head to the scalp. Then we did a bit of shaving with a men’s electric shaver, but really, that doesn’t feel great and I think the chemo will take care of the last bits of hair when I rub my head to wash my “hair.” If not, we have to talk.

I did hear of a woman who said she lost all her body hair except for under her arms. Is there no justice! For the record, some of my other, more, ahem, personal body hair is leaving, but my legs and armpits seem to be just as furry. Ack. I have no sensation in the right armpit, so my surgeon recommended not shaving it until I can actually feel what I’m doing. Good suggestion!

Photos of my cue ball head are not forthcoming, I’m waiting until all the hair is gone and this weird splotchy look is gone. Probably won’t be long.

Treatment update

April 25th, 2009

Next Friday (May 1) I’ll be getting a port put in my arm so that chemo can be done directly into a vein into my chest (the arm port has a tube threaded through a vein into a larger vein in my chest) to avoid the burning pain that accompanies putting chemo (especially Adriamiacyn) into a peripheral, smaller, vein. Then immediately after that it is time to get back on the chemo train.

I’m just sort of getting things figured out, and most of what I have (hopefully) figured out is that it shouldn’t be this bad next time. Much of the doubling over in pain that happened this week was I now believe the result of my unfortunately timed period and the fight between my uterus and the chemo for possession of my body. At least that is my hope. Tonight, after taking much pain pills, I did eat a normal meal (the yummy, yummy pasta with chicken, green beans, and lots of cheese) and even a few bites of Jeremy’s birthday cake – I always want chocolate with my period. And no stomach pain or diarrhea! Hooray! So perhaps without the battle in my mid-section, I’ll experience the more normal progression of chemo, 2-4 days of bone pain and congestion and moderate nausea, and then a few more days of minor nausea, and then some semblance of a normal life with fatigue until the next chemo.

I’ll keep you posted! BTW, when I had my blood test (CBC) on day 10 of my chemo cycle, which was this past Monday, everything looked normal, my white blood cells were fine. So this cycle at least, I’m not in imminent danger of illness/infection or anything too yucky. In fact, except for this intestinal/uterine cramping, I feel pretty good, if more tired than usual.