Sunday, February 28, 2010



These last few weeks of being ill I have become quite the Olympics junkie. Since I don’t have the energy to do much else, I lie about and watch the Olympics all day. I have found the determination it takes to do cross country, the insanity of the half pipe and the beauty of curling. (Okay, maybe not the last one). And today, on the final day of the Olympics, the United States is going to take on Canada in Canada’s game…hockey. I can’t wait. We are having a party at mom’s house complete with superbowl worthy snacks. I don’t care if I am sick and nauseous. I’ll take extra pills; I want to enjoy the day.

Truly the beauty of this is, either way it goes, I’m okay. I want the USA to win, oh yeah, of course, go USA!! But…I also know what hockey means to the Canadian people. It is like a religion to them. So, if we get the silver and they get the gold, that’s okay too. But…I really want us to get the gold!!!

I am still working to find the balance of medications that allow me to function freely without grogginess or pain, and I actually had a few hours last night where I ate and it didn’t make me sick and I felt ok. Not great but ok. The feeling is gone and I’m back to my achy queasy self this morning, but I am writing down everything I take and when so that when I hit that perfect moment again, I can see exactly what combination of medications I took and at what time intervals so I can recreate it. I just know if I could feel better, I would look at the world through a clearer lens. Being sick takes its toll on ones attitude and fogs your vision.

Not to mention it was sun shiny yesterday and it looks as it is going to be another sun shiny day today. A little vitamin d from the sun goes a long way.

So I am focusing on the positive (Go USA) and working to find a balance again, which I just know I can, and enjoying the sunshine. It’s going to be a great day. Somehow, I’m going to make it a great day.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Struggle

It’s hard to be chronically ill. To live every day with a sickness that you don’t know if it will spare you or take your life. This new chemo is harder on me that the previous chemo. Before with the carbo/gemzar I still had some semblance of a life while going through treatment. While I may not have felt stellar, I could still go to work, the store, get around easily. Not so with ixempra. It takes everything out of me leaving a shell of a person that is just trying to survive one more day. I am in chronic pain from the shots to boost my white count. They leave my bones aching. Ache isn’t really the right word, because it implies something manageable and livable. This is an ache down to the core of my bones that threaten to bring me to a puddle of tears on a regular basis. I take pain pills to control the pain, but I have found that in order to adequately control the pain I have to take more pain pills that I want or can to live coherently. So, it’s either be pain free and in a drug induced fog, or live with the pain that never goes away.

The shortness of breath continues, although now that I know it is anxiety related I try to just relax through it and hope it will go away. They have given me ativan that helps with both nausea and shortness of breath, but it leaves me so tired that I can’t hardly function. So I am lying either in bed or on the couch, because it zaps all my strength. So again I am given the choice of living with the shortness of breath or surviving through a drug induced haze reminiscent of the sixties.

As I sit here, the darkness threatens to overwhelm me. I have lost so much in the last few weeks in addition to the difficult course that this treatment has taken that sometimes I wonder how I’ll make it through. I struggle with the decisions that must be made over working and benefits and wonder what the future holds. I try not to dwell on what happens next, but those thoughts sometimes overtake my mind and I dissolve into sobs. I try very hard to keep my focus on the positive and when I do, I can stave away the darkness for awhile, but it is always there, lurking around a corner, waiting to pounce at the first opportunity.

I pray that I’ll start feeling better soon which always helps my attitude and that I can get back to some normalcy in my life, although I don’t know for sure what “normal” is anymore. I await the next round on March 11th with great trepidation, for I know what this chemo brings, but have hope that the CT scan following that round will give a positive twist to my life that has been lacking in recent months.

For now I just persevere on through; one step, one moment at a time. For that is all I can handle. I tread with great care, waiting not for tomorrow, for I know the difficulties that it brings, but for that day in the future when I hear the words “all clear.” For me, that day can’t come soon enough.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Plugging Along

Well it’s been seven days since my chemo and I keep hoping that I will be feeling better soon, but I am still waiting. Compared to last time I feel much better, but on a relative scale of feeling good, well, it just doesn’t stack up. I feel miserable, sick, nauseous and achy like I have the flu. I was hoping that perhaps once I ended the neupogen shots I would feel better, but that isn’t happening anytime soon, I have been prescribed 10 more doses. So I have to find a way to just work around it. I’m tired and am having a hard time doing much more than sleeping or laying on the couch watching the Olympics. My mom is bringing over a treadmill so I can try to walk a little bit at a time. I am too weak (not to mention neutropenic) to go to the gym, but feel like I need to get my body moving, even a little, no matter how rotten I feel.

There comes a point during treatment where you begin to wonder if the cure is worse than the disease. I know if I leave this cancer unchecked it will take over and take my life, and that is the only reason I keep enduring this continued suffering. There are so many of you who help to keep me plugging forward. You encourage and inspire me, and even take me by the hand and guide me when I can’t get up anymore. Of course, not everyone can be like that and there are always those who will impose their own negativity upon you. Those are the people that I just have to let out of my life and focus instead on the good, the pure, the kind, the generous. There are so many of you that are genuinely concerned and pulling for my healing and success against this disease, how dare I let all you down by allowing negativity to affect me. I will extract the ultimate revenge; I will survive and persevere, despite any obstacles that stand in my way.

So I will keep on moving forward, as hard as it is, and as discouraging as the days may become. Because not only do I deserve to conquer this disease, all of you who are standing behind me have earned the celebration of my success. Your fortitude and encouragement make me strong and will help me to win.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feeling Better...I Thought

When I first woke up this morning, I thought, wow, I’m back to normal. I did a quick assessment of my body and didn’t feel too achy, throat a little sore, but not bad, today was the day I felt back to normal. Yup. That’s what I thought.

Then I got up.

Not so back to normal after all. My entire body aches, just as it did yesterday and when I rethink the whole sore throat thing, it is actually sorer than yesterday, and in addition, my ears are plugged. Remember the old adage that when you weren’t feeling well your mother would tell you to get up and around, and soon you’d feel better? Not so true with chemo. I tried to get around this morning, picking up the kitchen, feeding the dogs, making coffee (yes, I’m going to try to drink coffee, yea!) and all I could think about was going back to bed. But I am so sick of being in bed! Bed is getting pretty old; I’ve spent the better part of the last week there. I think the nausea has pretty much subsided, at least so far. I don’t think I’d probably better take on a Mexican buffet, but for regular food, I’m thinking I’m okay.

My counts weren’t very good yesterday. Even with the neupogen every day my white counts are still only 1.0 and I am severely neutropenic. So I’m pretty well confined to my home. Mike is going by the cancer center today to pick up another supply of shots and he will give me shots every day for the next four days then we will check again on Monday.

I do have to admit, this round has not been near as bad as the last one. I am still miserable, but on a relative scale, not near as awful as last time. I’m absolutely sure I’m going to survive to do this all over again. Oh joy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feeling Pretty Rotten

On a rotten scale from 1-10, 10 being how rotten I was last time I had this chemo I guess I would have moved up to a 5. I mean, I am not lying in bed just hoping the day will pass or I will die, whichever comes first, but I am spending a lot of time just lying in bed. I am so tired. Tired beyond belief. I could just sleep and sleep and sleep. I make myself get up and watch TV or eat, but truth be told, I could just stay in bed and sleep indefinitely. My body aches, particularly my legs and lately my neck and glands, sort of like you feel when you are coming down with the flu. My throat is sore and I generally just feel rotten. Puny. Awful. Terrible. There are many such adjectives that accurately describe how I feel. I have been keeping my log of how I feel and what medication I am taking and it is filled with mostly words like achy, tired, hurt, miserable.

I go to the cancer center today to have my labs checked and we will see how my white counts are doing. Mike has been coming over faithfully every day giving me a shot of neupogen, which does cause the achiness, but not the overwhelming pain like the neulasta did last time. So, if my whites are still low today, then they will send me home with another supply of shots, we’ll do 4 more and check again on Monday. As long as my whites are low, I will keep getting shots.

Given how this round is going, I would think that we will be adding the Xeloda next time which will hopefully give this healing a little added boost. It’s got some nasty side effects too, but I will deal with it, I always do.

So I am plugging on through. I feel miserable and exhausted, but it is better than last time. So that is an improvement. Keep me in your prayers.

Monday, February 22, 2010

So far so good!

I have to say this round is not near as awful as the last round. I am tired, achy, nauseous, but mostly I am exhausted. I can barely keep my eyes open. I am so incredibly tired. I went to bed last night at 8pm and didn’t get up until noon today. I just want to sleep and sleep and sleep. Last round I laid in bed and prayed for the day to be over in hopes the next day would be better. So, this is a far cry better!

I am taking it very easy. I don’t eat much since I’m so queasy, but am getting in a little food here and there. I make sure to stay well hydrated. I got up and showered while Peyton was here between work and school, so I would have someone in the house in the event I fell or slipped. I’m so weak I don’t want to do anything like that when I am in the house by myself.

Tonight is the Vienna Boys Choir. I bought the tickets way back in the fall and I told Mike that until I was puking, I was going. We’ll, I’m not puking, so I’m going! Like I said before, I’m weak and tired, but I can just put my head in Mike’s lap and enjoy the music. I can’t wait.

All things considered, I’m doing quite well. Say your prayers that I don’t get any worse than I am now, and this will be a piece of cake!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day Two

Well I survived day two with a moderate amount of discomfort. I am extremely fatigued and queasy most of the time, but don’t really feel like I’m going to throw up, just queasy, which is survivable. My limbs are incredibly heavy and I find it difficult to do much more than lay around and doze and watch TV. I tried to stay up and watch the Olympics last night, but instead recorded them and went to bed, where I slept soundly for the next 12 hours. My body is fairly achy, mostly in my legs, but again not as extreme as last time. I am overwhelmingly weak. I still get short of breath very easily but am taking the ativan to try to loosen up the chest, reminding myself that this it is all in my head. Sometimes it feels better. I try not to dwell on all the issues that are facing me, I try not to think of all that this cancer has taken away. That helps to keep the tears at bay, at least for awhile. I find that I spend most of my moments dangerously close to tears that threaten to break down the wall and leave me crumbling in a puddle of full blown sobs. The tears just want to come. I want to grieve all that I have lost, the tasks I can no longer accomplish and mourn the dreams that are quietly fading into the distance. The reality is that mere tears will not wash away this sadness, only time can heal the loss.

So I pray for strength. And I know I have it within me to get through this, I know I have the peace and the power that passes all understanding, I just have to tap into it and claim it as my own. I know God is with me and He is watching over me and that He will never leave me or forsake me. I am not alone, I have legions of friends praying for me and offering their hearts and hands and their loving arms. And I feel them stretching out their love to me and I feel the Lord orchestrating the dance which is my healing.

And heal I will. I know that there is healing in my future. I just have to find the strength to get to that finish line. Maybe just a few more rounds will find my body cancer free. Or only a few more after that. And until then, I have to keep my chin up, my attitude positive and keep plugging away towards the goal. I cannot allow the darkness that threatens to overtake me swallow me into his gut; for I fear if I go there I may never return. So I cling to the light. I cling to the promise of hope and a better day. I cleave to the hearts and the souls of my friends and hold stalwartly to the hands of God. For ultimately, He is my solace and my redemption and when the end comes, He shall walk with me to the other side. I just pray for an ending that is a long way from today. I would like to live long enough to grow old.

For Valentines Day I made Mike a “hopes and dreams” jar where I put in my hopes and dreams for our future. My daughter told me it was a hokey gift, but I did it anyway. It wasn’t filled with trips to exotic places (okay maybe a few trips) but mostly with everyday activities of growing old together. Remising of days gone by, creating memories, sharing laughter. That is what a life is built on, the simple things, the everyday exchanges. The smiles, the laughter, the shared tears of sorrow and joy. Building memory upon memory and looking back on them with tenderness and delight.

And so that is my dream, to keep building my life. I have a wonderful life that I look back on so far. It is full to the rim with love and laughter and friends and family, but I want to make it overflow. I want to live long enough to where there is so much wonderful in my life that the cup simply can’t contain it all and it flows down the sides and across the counters and on to the floor where it sloshes on everyone who comes in contact with it. I want a life filled to overfilling.

And so that is my prayer for today. That I get to live a life fulfilled. To make it through this darkness and back into the light, where the laughter abounds and smiles abide in all. I see it; it’s just around the corner. I am sure I can make it, just one step at a time. I may need your hands to steady me and keep me going, but I have faith they are there, reaching out to me.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Next Round Begins

Well the new round is in. The side effects are creeping up on me and we are going to work through this new regimen and hope it is better. I am on a much stronger anti-nausea medicine that I received IV yesterday and will take a pill today and one tomorrow. Also, rather than getting the super dose neulasta I will be getting four shots of neupogen and on the fifth shot go have it at the cancer center and check my white counts. If they are down, we do more neupogen. We can do neupogen every day if we need to. It just really puts a burden on Mike. I have to get it around the same time everyday, noonish, so he has to be available to give me the shot. I should probably learn to give them to myself so as to not be such an intrusion into his day. I have received so many of these, I am sure I could give it to myself; I’d just have to buck up and do it. He says he doesn’t mind, but I know how busy he is.

I am keeping a diary of the pills that I am taking, what time I am taking them and how I feel at that time so that I can remember better when I talk to Dr. Rado how I did this round. It’s probably something that I should have been doing all along, however, with this particular chemo being so arduous; it’s a very good idea. Then at the end of the three weeks we will know whether or not my body is able to handle adding in the new drug.

So, my friends, I plug on through. I sit and enjoy my fireplace and a cup of coffee. I am really enjoying the coffee since I don’t know for how many more days I’ll be able to drink coffee. Once the nausea seriously sets in, the coffee stops. That’s how you know that I am really sick; I quit drinking coffee in the morning!

I continue to do quite a bit of work from home and am glad that I have that ability to work from here. My hourly status starts Monday, so it’s going to be a new experience to clock in and clock out during my work day. If all goes well, my disability will pick up the hours that I don’t work and I should get a check for February’s non-worked hours in Mid March and March’s non-worked hours in Mid-April. Those will be the hardest months, but somehow I’ll make it through. Hopefully in March I’ll get a clear CT scan, this will all be for nothing and I’ll get to go back to work full time. And I will have worried for naught.

My group health and life insurance ends Feb. 28th. So in March I have to buy back my health and dental benefits and am working on converting part of my life insurance and cashing out the rest. Its really stressful wondering how it’s all going to work, can I afford it, knowing I must afford it. Then knowing that I am only eligible to buy my benefits for 18 months is even more frightening. So I have to either be well or on full-disability by that time. Like I have said, there is so much to be concerned about. It is truly overwhelming.

My son is living with friends and seems to be doing well. I am so grateful that they have opened up their hearts and home to him as well as providing him with a job. It is truly going to make all the difference in the world. He has worked with his fines and got them all down to the lowest possible payment and has hopefully found a way to get his license back. That would be a huge deal. I get to see him quite a bit. He stopped by yesterday to say hi and check on how I was doing. It’s nice to see him out of jail and free. I just hope he can take the lessons he learned and use them to improve his life. He is on the right path now; I hope he can stay there. My heart aches for him, as only a mothers heart could ache. I love him so much, despite anything and everything he has done, as only a mother can continue to love amidst so much controversy. Mother’s love is just endless and complete. We hurt when our children hurt, no matter how old they are, we ache for their mishaps and broken hearts. But I can only stand back and hope that he continues to walk the right path, I cannot force him to stay there.

I’ll check in with you all later and let you know how this round of chemo is progressing. I sure hope it goes better than last time. I don’t mind feeling a little puny, but sure don’t want to be sick in bed for days on end. Time will tell. But, if this is what I have to do to put this cancer in its place, then I will go through it. One day at a time, sometimes one moment at a time. But I’ll make it through.

Pray for strength and peace in my heart.

Friday, February 19, 2010

An Apology

I want to apologize for being a winey martyr last night. A good friend put in perspective for me today, that if this was happening to a friend, would I be calling her a wimp and criticizing her for not being able to deal with the challenges in her life? Absolutely not. I would be taking her in my arms and showing her love and compassion for all she is going through. I would be telling her it is okay, I understand how incredibly overwhelmed she is and assure her that it will get better, she will make it through. I would not chastise her for wasting valuable time from the doctors and nurses, I would be applauding her for letting her symptoms being known and taking the time to identify what was and was not causing the issues.

Most of all I would love her and encourage her. I would reach my hand and my heart to her, giving all I have of both.

But for some reason I am harder on myself and expect so much more from my own body and emotions. I have my moments of weakness and fear, but I try very hard to not let them show, to make sure that the “world” sees me with a smile on my face and the ultimate strength flowing through every move. A positive attitude that never leaves is the modus operandi that I operate under.

So forgive me for forgetting that I too have human weakness and human fears and for criticizing myself too harshly when those emotions come shining through. If I look at all that has been happening in the last few weeks I wonder if anyone else could have handled it any better. Stress is stress. No matter how easy one might deal with it, eventually it will get its claws in you and pull you down. The key, is to let go and get back up.

So that is what I am trying to do now. Pull myself together and get back up. I remain completely overwhelmed and frightened. Not so much for my health, but for all the periphery things that are happening at work regarding my job and my benefits, my relationship, my son. Then there are all the “little things”. The car needs washed, the bills need paid, the checkbook needs balanced, the house needs cleaned, the laundry needs done, I have 8 bags of “stuff” from my office that need to be sorted through, I have Christmas decorations that have not been put away…these are just to name a few. When you have cancer everything gets behind and it gets so overwhelming. How do you keep up on your daily tasks when you are barely making it through the day?

Yard work is just around the corner and my puppy has destroyed my yard. It breaks my heart and I don’t even know how to begin to fix it. So I hope to get out there in a few weeks and start repairs. She digs. A lot. I guess I can get grateful that she has given me an opportunity to be outside and to do a lot of redesigning of my flower beds.

So forgive me my friends if I let you down. My intention is to never be negative and self-loathing. I want to bring to the world a sense of hope and positivity. But sometimes, when I am lacking in those emotions, I need to be reminded of how to behave.

Thanks Heidi. I’m pulling it together. And I’ll be much kinder on myself. I promise.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Results Received

The results have been received and are wonderful news. All the tests came back clear, no pulmonary embolism, no tumors, no pneumonia. That is great news and I was certainly relieved to hear it.

But that brings it back to the “what” is causing the shortness of breath, which is very real. It leaves me with the diagnoses of anxiety. I guess all that has been going on in the last few weeks has been taking its toll on me in ways that I don’t understand. I know all these decisions are overwhelming and frightening. And as a single parent, I am the only one that can make these decisions for my family, it is on my shoulders and I just pray I am choosing correctly. My family depends on it. I am terrified of losing my benefits. However, I feel weak and stupid that I wasted so many people’s time, energy and spent all that money to find out that basically I’m a wimp. I need to buck up and deal with it. I am embarrassed that I had my caregivers so concerned over nothing. So what happens next time? Is this is like the boy who called wolf. I called wolf and it was nothing, next time why bother and why try to believe in it?

This balance is so hard. I don’t want to whine about every ache and pain, but I have to identify the ones that might be dangerous. Which ones are those? How do I discern which pain is the one to pay attention to? I was so scared, I couldn’t breathe and it ended up being nothing. But last time when my back hurt and they thought it was nothing, it was cancer. So it goes both ways. I will just have to learn to move past this.

So I will have chemo tomorrow. Again, I hope that the symptoms are managed better and I’m not too sick.


Waiting. That’s what I am sitting and doing right now. Waiting for the results of a CT scan. But let me back up for a moment.

I dressed in my fabulous shoes and went to the cancer center for my appointment with Dr. Rado which was to be followed by chemo. We got the results of my pulmonary function test which showed that I had a normal flow of oxygen in and out of my lungs. Good pulmonary function is not indicative of pulmonary fibrosis. It is possible I have some moderate pulmonary fibrosis, but it is not the cause of my shortness of breath. Listening to my lungs they sound good, and a walk around the office hooked up to a pulse-ox machine indicated continued good oxygenation of my blood, even if it left me short of breath. So, rather than go ahead with the chemo, Dr. Rado wanted to do a chest CT scan and rule out any pulmonary embolism. I was scheduled for my CT at noon and they indicated that the results would be called into Dr. Rado within the hour following the test.

I checked with Michelle, Dr. Rado’s nurse, about 2pm and she had not heard anything but indicated that the results would have been called in directly to Dr. Rado. She promised to catch up with him, obtain the results and call me back. It is almost 4pm and I have yet to hear anything. I suppose I could take this as good news. If it was bad, I am sure that they would have called me back by now, so I am going on the assumption that there is no pulmonary embolism, but looked forward to hearing that definitively.

So that still begs the question..why am I short of breath? I have been concerned that perhaps it is all in my head, but Mike said he definitely notices it when I am talking and I have to stop and take a breath in the middle of a sentence. So it may be in my head but manifesting itself in a very real way. The last two weeks have been incredibly stressful. I can’t even express how hard it has been to make the transition at work, but on top of that there are all the decisions that have to be made regarding my life insurance and health insurance benefits, not to mention the time frames involved, how long I am eligible, what happens under various scenarios. I am the only one who can make these decisions; no one can make them for me. It’s more than just moving out of my office, there is a whole host of stressors behind it that would throw any person for a loop under ordinary circumstances, but add in the daily stress of fighting cancer, as well as some personal challenges I have been facing…and we may have a recipe for disaster. Perhaps this is all anxiety driven. I would have thought it would have gone away at the coast when I was relaxed on the beach, but when that kind of stress is sitting there in the back recesses of your brain, they probably don’t go away with the simple roll of a wave. No matter how beautiful.

So I wait. The plan is to move forward with chemo tomorrow. I am praying that my breathing normalizes and that this round goes a little bit smoother than the last one. I’ll keep you posted.

Getting ready for the next round

Good morning my friends. Its chemo day and I have so much to catch you up on. I’ll try not to make it a novel!

Last time we talked I was headed out to the coast with a very heavy heart and a desire to let it all go and focus on what is great in my life and the things that matter. I wanted to spend quiet time with the man I love and find some peace in the decisions that I have had to make.

The weekend started out rocky, I was very emotional and was trying to deal with a lot of grief and sadness. Mike held me in his arms and gave me his strength, listened, and loved me through it. Finally I found a place where I could let go and let God take control and understand that this too shall pass. As painful as this all has been, God has a plan for me and He is in control of my life. What is happening is supposed to happen, and I just have to be brave and keep putting one foot in front of the other. We enjoyed our time together as we always do. Mike and I love being together; we genuinely enjoy each others company, no matter what we do. I tire easily so we spent a lot of time in our lawn chairs sitting on the beach listening to the surf, watching the dogs play, feeling the sun on our face. To us, the Oregon coast is a perfect place to be, rain or shine. We had a little of both. The Inn was beautiful, the food was excellent and we have already made reservations for Valentine’s Day next year.

I have been facing some additional health challenges with some shortness of breath. I noticed it about 10 days ago and it has continued to get a little bit worse every day. Sometimes it is hard to eat; you don’t realize how much you need to breathe while you are eating! I usually have to stop a few times during the meal to just breathe. Talking frequently leaves me short of breathe and walking, stairs and other physical activities really make me realize how hard it is to get a good breath. I called Dr. Rado’s office on Tuesday and relayed this information to them and we were all frightened that the cancer was back in my lungs. Dr. Rado wanted to start with a chest x-ray and go from there. So I went and had a chest x-ray and stopped by Dr. Gormley’s office to see if he could look at it real quick. He was so gracious, on his way to another activity, but stopped to look at my films. I was so relieved when he pulled it up on the computer and I didn’t see the tumors everywhere like I did 7 months ago. I was preparing myself for a complete recurrence, and wanted to cry with relief when it wasn’t. However, Dr. Gormley indicated that he could see some pulmonary fibrosis in my lungs, which is the hardening of the lung tissue, perhaps from the leftover scarring from the tumors. Dr. Gormley recommended a pulmonary function test to see if my lung capacity has been compromised. They got me in for that test yesterday and I am hoping to get the results at my appointment today. My blood oxygenation is still good, so I am getting enough oxygen in my blood; it’s just hard to get a good deep breath. I now have an incredible about of compassion for people with lung disease, it is truly terrifying to have a weight sitting on your chest that doesn’t allow to you breathe normally. I am confident that we can overcome this. Michelle, my chemo nurse, indicated that they could give me steroids that would help with the breathing, so I’ll probably be starting on those. So much for that 25 pounds I lost after going off the steroids last time. Oh well, if I have to choose between being fat and breathing, I choose breathing, no contest.

So today I have another round of Ixempra. Dr. Rado is doing what he can to better control the symptoms and we are hoping that I am not quite so sick this time. I have already indicated that I won’t be at work next week, but am hoping to be able to work the following week. We cleaned up my office and are getting rid of a bookshelf so that we can put a little desk in there for me to work at while I am able to work. It is hard to think that I no longer have the space that was mine, but I guess it just time to let go. I can still work, just not at my desk. I’ll probably do more from home than actually being in the office since it just feels so uncomfortable to be there where I have given up my space. I enjoy the people I work with and hope to continue to be able to see them on a regular basis, we will just see what happens.

If you remember, I had already embarked on my shoe shopping expedition for chemo today. I have a fabulous pair of pink and black heels, that will completely inspire me to fight hard against this cancer and gives me courage for this round. I need all the strength and bravery I can get, I am concerned about the side effects and how hard this chemo hits me and praying it will be easier this time.

I’ll keep you updated and let you know how the pulmonary function test came out. I think I’m probably still getting good air exchange and we are catching this early before it gets worse. Say your prayers that the side effects don’t put in down like they did last time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Off to the Coast

Just a quick update to let you all know I am off to my dream weekend on the coast. The weather calls for rainy and cold, which means Mike will just have to keep me warm.

It’s been an awful week. I can’t even express to all of you how many tears I have shed. My job has been my life, I have spent more time in that office than I have in my home over the last few years and to pack it up and take it all home was just about more than I could handle. I have a few more things to get out of there next week, and then Wendy moves in.

I hate cancer. I want my life back. The one I had before, the one where I could work as much as I pleased, walk until my legs gave out, climb stairs without losing my breath. The one before my life became a tragic Shakespearean play. I don’t ask “what else” because I am afraid of the answer.

Hopefully I will return home on Monday refreshed and with tears dried. I am tired of crying, tired of my heart breaking, tired of being sick, tired of the decisions that are being forced upon me, none of which have a good option.

Thank you for your prayers. Pray this is all over soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Decisions and Changes

It’s been an up and down week. Physically, I feel pretty good; I’m not too fatigued and have been able to work all day every day. It’s a great feeling to be back at work.

The difficult part of the week has been making decisions at work about my work status and my benefits. I am almost out of sick leave and I have to decide how to proceed, to continue working or go on full disability. Either way, my job changes and although I am no longer protected by family leave, my wonderful boss has continued to guarantee my position. However, I will no longer be the primary person handling my job. When I leave for chemo next week Wendy officially becomes the primary person in my position, and I support her. She will be moving into my office and I will work in the conference room or whatever space I can commandeer when I am at work. I am so appreciative of all that Kadlec has done for me and my boss is amazing, holding my job long after he is required to and allowing me to continue to work whenever I am able. But it is hard to step aside, to give up my office that I have called home for so many years. It has really hit me hard and has resulted in more than a few tears. I worked so hard creating that position, establishing myself, implementing the processes that make the boards run smoothly. Now because of this despicable cancer I have to step aside and let someone else do the job. I have become secondary.

I wonder if it wouldn’t be better if I just stepped aside completely and went on full disability. My continued work makes my benefits more complicated and costly, but working is such a part of me, I can’t imagine not continuing to work when I can. I can’t imagine just staying at home and being sick, resigning myself to this illness. I want to work as long as I possibly can.

So over the next few days I will begin taking all the personal belongings that I have accumulated home so that next Wednesday when I leave, Wendy can move in. It will be a sad and difficult day for me. I am staying focused on the positive which is the fact that I still have a job when I get well and I am still able to work when I can. Most people in my position aren’t as lucky.

I am ready to get away for a few days with Mike and just forget about all the stresses of regular life and all the decisions that have to be made. I want this to just be done, for this cancer to be over. I want my life back. The life that I had before, but I know that life is gone, never to be regained. The future is uncertain. I’ll try to just focus on getting through tomorrow. Better things have to await me.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Little About Tapteal

As always, Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumble put on an excellent show. Not only was the music great but they were on their game filled with their one of a kind humor and wit as well as their dedication to a great cause. The night benefitted the Tapteal Greenway Association and if you are local and are not aware of what this non-profit does, you should really check them out at They are responsible for preserving a lot of our open spaces and creating a trail system that encompasses all of the Tri-Cities with goals of connecting into West Richland and Benton City. I am a huge fan of Tapteal for their work down at Amon Creek Basin, which is only a few blocks from my house. Thanks to their efforts they have saved over 100 acres in the Amon Basin as a natural preserve and are now working to save another 125 from residential development that will encroach on the natural wilderness. This is the area where I walk my dogs and I would love to see it saved from future development. Tapteal is committed to preserving open spaces all around the area, saving it for future generations. Who couldn’t support that?! If you aren’t aware of what they do, check them out and I encourage you to get involved. Mike and I have gone on one of their workdays, and it was very rewarding. I plan on continued involvement as soon as my health allows!

I’m feeling better today than yesterday, so every day seems to be an improvement. I felt tired and achy yesterday, sort of weak, and today is a little better. I still woke up with my legs aching at about 4am so I had to take a pain pill in the middle of the night and again this morning, but the pills are managing the discomfort and keeping me going. The nausea is completely gone and my appetite is back and I’m ready for some superbowl munchies!!

Mike and I are planning on stopping by a friend’s house today where they are having a superbowl/retirement party for Dr. Bob Margulies. Bob has been a great friend of mine throughout the years and I look forward to seeing him. I am sad he is leaving our hospital but know he is going to continue to stay involved in the community through Camp Patriot and his work with disaster planning. He is a gem in this community, I’m glad he is staying around town! Then we will stop by my parents house to visit and rumor has it that mom is making sausage balls. I can’t miss that! Then I will get home in plenty of time to get ready for the week of working. I don’t really care about the superbowl or who wins. I am pulling for the Saints, just because I think New Orleans needs something good to happen to them. But mostly, I’m there to enjoy the company of my friends and family and watch the commercials.

I’m getting really excited about the upcoming trip to the coast. We are planning on going to Cannon Beach for pizza and then to the Coaster’s Theatre on Saturday night, which is always a great little show. Sunday night there is a romantic dinner at the Arch Cape Inn where we are staying. Somewhere during the weekend we will drive down to Oceanside and have lunch at our favorite little sandwich shop on the beach, Brewin in the Wind. Sometime we will hit Manzanita, which I love, but mostly just enjoy each others company. Mike and I don’t get enough alone time, between his busy schedule and my home, work and health, so I am looking forward to this uninterrupted time of just the two of us. If I don’t come back on Monday night…well you’ll know where I am…I just couldn’t leave!!

Enjoy the day, cherish the time with friends and family. Who cares who wins, its all about the journey anyway.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

More Good News

Is there a way to teach your dogs how to wipe their paws when they come in the door?

I have to say I’m getting sort of tired of this west-side weather, although it was nice to see the sun break through today. The constant rain has done a number on my floors with Sophie traipsing in and out with her giant muddy paws. I have permanent dirty paw prints from the doggy door in the basement, across the carpet and up the stairs. I think its time to put in a runner or something before she completely destroys my carpet. It’s not the highest quality carpet in the world, but I can’t afford to replace it right now, so it’s all it got! I think I might look into having it professionally cleaned and then purchasing runners that follow her path. The hard wood floors are a completely different beast, they require constant sweeping, but at least those monster paws of hers don’t cause permanent damage. Just continual dirt dirt dirt. It’s impossible to keep clean.

I saw Dr. Rado yesterday and we had a wonderful visit. I always enjoy seeing him; I just wish I was seeing him for personal rather than professional advice. There was a lot of good news yesterday…my platelets have doubled and while they are still not stellar, they are much better at 47. My white counts however have continued to drop and rather than being moderately neutropenic, I have become severely neutropenic. He believes they will rebound on their own, but I am going to the Tingstad and Rumble concert tonight, so he went ahead and prophylactically gave me a shot of neupogen to boost my white counts since I am going to be around people, elbow to elbow at the concert.

The really good news is that the drug that I didn’t make it into the clinical trial for is on the fast track for FDA approval. The clinical trials have gone so well that they are working to get the drug approved as soon as possible. Once approved, it will be the first drug specifically for triple negative breast cancer patients. I am really excited about this development, there is still so much to hope for!

The other good news is that we are not going to start the Xeloda this next round. He wants to try to make some changes managing the side effects to see if he can keep me from being so sick from the Ixempra before adding the Xeloda. So hopefully this next round, which starts Feb. 18th, will not put me in bed for a week. Hopefully the new plan will minimize the side effects. If so, then we will add in the Xeloda on the round that starts on March 11th.

I got to go see Houston today and he is out of jail in just over a week; his release date is Feb. 14th. I am struggling with whether or not to let him stay here until he can get into the housing program. He was going to stay with some friends of the family, but they have not confirmed him staying there, and I can’t bear the thought of him having no where to go. I wish I knew what to do to help him. I want to be there for him, but at the same time not do too much to where he cannot succeed on his own. I want to assist him without enabling him, and that is a very fine line. I’m praying and asking God to guide me to do the right thing, it’s so hard to know what the right thing is in this instance.

I am trusting in God, that is all I can do. Really, that’s all any of us can do.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Feeling Great!

Its been a pretty stellar week. I have been able to work every day putting in almost full days. I feel like I have a handle on my job again, which is a great feeling. Wendy is really getting the hang of the work that she is doing and is right there to back me up in the event that I have to step out again, which I will next round of chemo. I am already preparing for it, knowing that once I get that next round on Feb. 18th I can count myself out for 8-10 days. At least this time I’m prepared for it. Last time I didn’t know it would put me out like that, so I wasn’t ready. This time I’m ready.

We are also adding the Xeloda this time, which will make it doubly hard. The major side effect of that drug (other than the great flu-like symptoms which all of these seem to have) is that your hands and feet blister. Have I told you about that yet? If I have, sorry, my brain is going. Xeloda is another nasty drug. It is an oral, rather than an IV chemo, so people think it is not as harsh as other chemo drugs. That is a terrible misconception. This drug has just as many, if not worse, side effects as the IV therapies I have received. This one affects the red counts and cause anemia, which in turn causes fatigue, and I have been lucky this round to not suffer from too much fatigue once I got past the first 10 days. It also causes skin rashes, flushing and radiation recall, which is the weirdest phenomenon I have ever heard about. The skin that has been radiated reacts like it is being radiated again. Is that the craziest thing? My skin is still not healed from the radiation I just had, so I can’t wait to see what it does on Xeloda! Then there is the normal nausea and vomiting (all of them cause that) and then the best of them all…hand-foot syndrome. Apparently with hand-foot syndrome or PPE (which is an acronym for its medical name) it is “skin rash, swelling, redness, pain and/or peeling of the skin on the palms of hands and soles of feet.” Wow. I can’t even imagine this one. It is beyond my comprehension.

What happens with my heels? How do I wear fabulous shoes when the soles of my feet are blistered? This is a potential tragedy of biblical proportions! Okay, maybe not that bad, but in my world, pretty bad. I have a lot of fabulous shoes, and I enjoy wearing them, they are part of me, and now this frickin chemo is taking that away too!!!

God, I hate cancer.

Oh well, what do you do? You buck up and suffer through knowing this too shall pass. I see Dr. Rado today and we will hash out the details this battle of the war, but I believe I will be doing two more rounds (each 3 weeks apart) then have another CT and see where we are at. I am praying for a clear CT. I am ready to be done with this. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO ready.

I have had a few people ask me how I got through the last round when I was so sick, and I have to share; you just do it. Like Nike, just do it. You don’t have a choice. Everyone handles things differently, but I just closed my eyes and waited for the day to pass, having the faith that it would pass, and the next day would be better (sometime it wasn’t) and when it wasn’t, then close my eyes and wait for that day to pass too, having faith that it WILL get better, I just had to wait it out.

Some friends say they couldn’t do it. And though I would never wish this on anyone, not even my enemies (not that I actually have enemies, but you know what I mean) if this crisis struck you, you too would make it through. You would find the faith to persevere, the strength to keep walking. We all have it, we just have to tap into that power, the power of God deep within each of us. It’s the life force that keeps us going, even when going seems impossible.

So whatever you are going through in your life, and everyone has crisis that they are handling, no one is immune, rely on the power that is within you, have faith, you will make it through.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Shoes and No Hair

Well, so far my week is going pretty well. I’m feeling fairly good and have even had a successful shoe shopping expedition. I continue to feel a little achy but am down to a minimum of pain medication. The nausea comes and goes, but is mostly gone.

Peyton and I stopped by The Buckle yesterday because they were having a shoe sale and we wanted to ensure that I wasn’t caught without a new pair of shoes for my next chemo. That would be terrible, and God bless my daughter for making sure such a tragedy did not occur! Hard to believe, but we were successful in finding not only one, but TWO, yes count em, TWO new pairs of heels. One pair I am “allowed” to wear now and the other has been safely hidden away awaiting the next round of chemo. They are fabulous. Pink and black, too incredibly cute!

My hair started falling out on Monday. I tried to do my hair for work and while styling it I ended up with a handful of hair. I knew it was time to just cut to the chase and get rid of it. I could probably have held on for a few more days, maybe even weeks, gingerly handling my hair and ensuring that it didn’t fall out too fast and stayed on my head, but really, what’s the point? Just get rid of if. One less thing to worry about. I always said that hair was overrated anyway. Peyton had an appointment this morning to get some purple streaks put in her hair, so while she was processing, Reynel shaved my head. It looks pretty good, just like I have a butch cut. Now I look like a biker chick.

Everyday I feel better and better and even made it to the gym today! Can you believe it! I am having a hard time sleeping so I was thinking I’m probably not get enough (any) exercise. So I went to the gym and walked a mile on the treadmill. I figure if I could do that on a regular basis between now and the next chemo I’ll be stronger going into the treatment and hopefully handle it better.

I’m working to improve my diet and was thinking it might be time to go vegetarian again. The evidence is out there to certainly suggest that vegetarianism improves your cancer risk. It’s hard, because people are so kind to bring me food three days per week, so I hate to ask people to cook vegetarian when they aren’t used to it. Especially since my daughter is definitely NOT a vegetarian! So I’m going to just move as much in that direction on my own as I can. I won’t change what people bring but will modify the food I feed myself.

Life is good and I know it’s going to keep getting better and better.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Update on my counts.

Just thought I’d post a quick update on my counts. Certainly not stellar, I was hoping that they would hold up a little bit better.

White Blood Count: 2.2 (normal 4.0-11.0)
Hemoglobin: 11.1 (normal 11.6-15.5)
Hematocrit: 32.9 (normal 35.0-46.0)
Platelets: 25.0 (normal 150-400)
ANC: .09 (normal 1.5-8.0)

Of biggest concern is the white blood count, the ANC and the platelets. But for right now we will just wait and let them rebound on their own, unless they get worse. I have an appointment with Dr. Rado on Friday so we’ll check the counts again then. In the meantime I have to be careful to reduce or eliminate my exposure to people with any communicable disease (colds, flus, etc). With low platelets I want to be careful not to cut myself or hit anything hard (such as my head or a fall down the stairs). So I want to make sure not to be a klutz!

I was hoping this chemo would not be quite as hard on my platelets, but I guess I couldn't be that lucky. Glad I have a long rest period between my chemos this time.

So I will rest, watch my company and be careful!


“Anchors Aweigh my boys, anchors aweigh, farewell to college joys we sail at the break of day.”

That was the part of the suite of songs that were sung as we proudly honored my father and the other men and women who have served or are serving in our armed forces. Personally, I am so proud of our service men and women, it brings tears to my eyes to think of them. My good friend’s daughter, dear sweet Kami, is currently serving as a proud Marine and I pray for her safety everyday. It was a wonderful show yesterday, culminating in a revue of some of our countries most patriotic songs. It is amazing how the country was united back in the 1940’s, they all listened to the same music, danced to the same songs, were battling the same enemy. These days it seems the enemy is all among us and he wears various masks. We are a country divided not only among party lines, but by music and beliefs. The enemy is not just across the seas, but also the young man around the corner with a gun in his hands and drugs in his pocket. Our enemy is within our walls, and we better find a way to battle him, lest we all be lost.

The show warmed my heart and gave me hope that we again can unite our country. We will once again be a strong America. I am not sure how we are going to get there, and I have serious doubts about those currently in leadership, but I think the heart of the American people is strong and true, and we will overcome.

I keep feeling better and better. I have to be very careful what I eat. Not only do things continue to taste funny, but a lot of food does not agree with me very well. So I’m trying to stick with bland, easier to digest foods. I still get tired awful easy and want to sleep much later than I can. I find that at 7am when it is time to get up, my body is deep in sleep and is more than ready to continue her slumber!

I will get my blood tested today and we will know more about how this chemo is affecting me molecularly and what it is doing to my bone marrow. It is supposed to be hard on my white cells, but I noticed a weird bruise on my stomach yesterday and wondered if maybe my platelets aren’t going to be affected too. We will wait and see.

Off to get ready for work. Enjoy your day. It’s a day worth enjoying!