Monday, March 30, 2009

Prayers for the Sick

Week 21: I completed my first "cycle" of chemo, which is 3 weeks on, 1 week off. Only five more cycles to go. My week "off" was great. I had more energy, didn't feel nauseous, and the metallic taste in my mouth disappeared. So to me, feeling normal is now my equivalent of feeling fab! Still, it was a rough week in other respects. I've been crying a lot lately. I try hard to fend off gloomy thoughts, but sometimes I just can't help it. I don't want to die young, but the possibility is never far-off. That possibility hit home when a friend forwarded me an email about funeral arrangements for another friend of hers who lost her battle to a recurrence of cancer. I felt an immense sense of loss for her loved ones who were left behind and for some reason it really struck a nerve. I bawled over what such a ghostly email might say about me when my time comes because it will mean I'm not here to love and take care of Stephanie. A few days later, my sister-in-law told me that one of her fellow home-school teachers went to the doctor for a fever... and discovered it was from cancer that had spread all over her body. The woman is 38 years old and has eight children at home. I had to keep myself from breaking down and sobbing over such heart-wrenching news. I don't presume to know the emotional turmoil that she and her family might be going through, but for me, living with cancer runs the gamut of distress, confusion, fear, sadness, and a profound loss of direction. I don't expect anyone to understand but, ironically, it's these feelings that have gradually led and continue to lead me closer to experiencing "truth." I hope she finds the same gift. When Stephanie was little, probably around 3 years old, she and I made up our own little secret prayer to say every time we hear a siren. "God bless that family in their time of need. Keep them safe, and give them strength." It's so imprinted in my mind now that my response is automatic: it's the first thing I think of when people are in trouble. We're all connected, strangers or not, and I can't help but believe that somehow, somewhere, off in the distant cosmos, my little prayer will be delivered when it's needed most. It helps me forget my own tribulations and reminds me instead that life is good. Even when we have to lose. I trust that God will take care of the families I mentioned. I know He will bless them; He will keep them safe, and He will give them inner strength.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I've Still Got It!

Week 20: I've still got it, in case you're wondering. My hair, that is. On the one hand, I couldn't be more pleased. On the other hand, it looks terrible because I've put-off getting it cut [for what's turned into months now] since I thought it would be a waste of money. It's getting pretty long, so at this rate I could find myself in a position to donate my own hair to "Locks of Love" and have them make a wig for me! Naah, never mind. That'd be too weird. Besides, I'm kind of looking forward to playing a blonde one day and a redhead the next. This time, however, I promise to get a NEW red wig. I saw myself in a picture from our Grinch Party the year I went through this the first time (Christmas 2003). Only one word comes to mind: frightening! I looked like that clown from "The Simpsons." That's what I get for trusting my sister, Jennifer, with styling advice. My mother-in-law, Val, will be thrilled to hear that I'm ditching Old Red. She cringed every time she saw me wearing it, bless it her heart. Maybe I'll take her out and get her drunk. Then when she least expects it, I'll pull the wig right off my bad-ass bald head, in public, of course, right in the middle of the restaurant/bar. Next, I'll throw it on the floor and stomp all over it. Let's face it, the same look of shock and horror that came across her face the first time she saw me wearing Old Red should also be worn the last time she sees it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Take Me Home, Country Roads

Week 19: Not so lucky getting by without side-effects from chemo this week... but still, very mild comparatively speaking. By the end of the second day I felt like crap. I took some anti-nausea drugs, which in turn, knocked me out again. On Saturday, Mike and Stephanie decided to take one final ski trip to Snowshoe, WV. Depart at 5:30am? I think not. I drove up on my own later that afternoon. It was 70-plus degrees outside! I had the moon roof open, sunglasses on, and I hit the turns and curves like a magnet was holding me down. Not that my 540i is anything to complain about, but too bad I'm "not allowed" to drive the vette. It was the perfect day for it. Despite the constant feeling of illness in the background, it was a nice drive, full of those wonderful Spring sights and sounds I love so much: rushing mountain streams, deep green forests, rock cliffs, people out fishing, hiking, and folks on motorcycles waving at one another like they're exclusive members of a really cool club. And they are. Motorcycles are cool. They're fun and I wish I had one. Sunday we skied in 65-plus degree weather. Plenty of good base left on the mountain. I was tired, but the air and exercise did me good. Driving back wasn't nearly as much fun because the nausea was increasing and I couldn't take anything for it. The meds would've made me too tired to drive and it was a struggle as it was. We returned safely and by late Monday/Tuesday morning, I started feeling really good again.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What Week Are We On?   Oh Yes, My Inaugural Chemo Treatment

Week 18: Sorry, folks. I have some catching-up to do. Let me start with last week, my first official chemo session. I can't believe it, but I may be shrinking! Upon my arrival for chemo (and only after I forked-over my $30 co-pay of course), I was sent off to a "special" waiting room. But for the brief time I sat in the "gen pop" area, I noticed it was crowded and there wasn't much in the way of reading material. Being the Samaritan-type that I am, I grabbed a bunch of magazines from my special waiting room and walked back up to the front to hand them out. I thought it was the least I could do for people who might have bad news pending. I didn't see any baldies among them, so there was probably a good chance many were new to the oncology world. My world; again. Anyway, I was promptly hauled off to be given blood tests, measurements and questionnaires. It was at that time I was told that I was 5' 6-1/2" tall. To the best of my knowledge, I've been 5' 7-1/2" all of my adult life. I wondered, "what the...," but I wasn't there to debate. I had other things to worry about. What's an inch of shrink? I suppose it might matter to guys, especially in cold water, but I didn't care. I was set-up in a private room about the size of a one-bed area in a two-bed hospital room. I had windows, a barcalounger, a small flat-screen TV, guest chair, and pillow. What more could a gal ask for? They stuck a needle connector thing into my medi-port, which I can only describe as a disk beneath my skin that feels like a pencil eraser. I assume whatever it's made out of closes back up when the needle is removed. Anyway, they drew blood, tested it, gave me the green light, and then started my first fix. The initial IV was an anti-nauseous drip. Then came the platinum stuff, the Carboplatin, followed by a bag of the Taxotere. The whole thing took about 3-1/2 hours. Time that will be sucked out of my life for months to come. But the way I look at it, I'm willing to give up 3-1/2 hours for a potential 3-1/2 years return-on-investment. Or so one can hope. At the end of the day, there was no anaphylactic shock, no cardiac arrest or paramedic care. Thus I earned the respect and admiration of all the staff, and the right to drive myself to and from future treatments. Meanwhile, I was returned safely to my husband who had come to pick me up and take me back home to rest...and to see what happened next. Nothing all evening. Fabulous! T he following day? ...I wasn't conscious. I was feeling tired, so I laid down to take a little, mid-morning cat nap. I woke up five hours later. I couldn't believe I slept that long, especially when I noticed 4 phone messages and a fax. 'Hadn't heard a thing. I was utterly zonked. Over the weekend I started feeling nauseous, but fortunately, it was easily remedied with one of the prescriptions I was given. And that was it. Not too bad! If those side effects are any indication of how my body will respond to future treatments, I'll be loving life!