Monday, February 28, 2011

Scans Tomorrow, Prayers Today (and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next...)

I go for CT scans tomorrow morning. I already have my big bottle of barium sulfate waiting for me in the fridge, Mochacchino Smoothie (I am not making that up). Jealous much?

I think I'll drink it in a cute little mug and sprinkle a little cinnamon on top, just like the picture on the side. Or maybe not.

There will be three different scans, including chest, abdomen, and pelvic area. I hope this is enough. I'd also like a bone scan (not that I enjoy the idea of being irradiated), especially with this right hip, lower back, and now left knee pain I keep dealing with. Maybe the CT scans will show enough. Let's hope....but I still will ask.

Anyway, please pray for everything to be clear, that these scans look normal, and that whoever reads the scans does not miss something. I've had too many mistakenly hopeful readings, so my trust level for anyone who reads medical tests is pretty low (granted, it's been my pathology reports that have been unreliable - as in wrong...radiology reports have all been right on the money). Pray they read these scans as if they were their own.

If you want specifics, I drink my smoothie at 8:15 and scans are at 9:15.

I'll update as soon as I get results, which should take several days. Knowing me, happy results will mean a quicker update. Bad results will take some processing, as you can imagine.

Thanks to so many of you who keep telling me that you are continuing to remember me in your prayers, many daily! Wow! I am humbled by your steadfastness and diligence. Love and blessings to you all.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Walking it Off

Things are looking up as I begin to find myself again. The residual effects of the marathon chemo treatment from nearly two weeks ago are finally fading. I'm pretty sure they're getting worse, though, since it has taken longer to get to this point. This past week's "easy" chemo (gemcitabine only) made me sick, which it hasn't really done yet. Not sure what the difference was, other than I've become more of a wimp than I used to be. (One side effect of chemo: markedly increased wimpiness)

So I am catching up on all those things I've things like laundry, scrubbing tubs, dusting, vacuuming, mopping, and clutter control, not to mention cooking, shopping (grocery - not the fun kind), visiting my dad and taking more substantial walks with Cleo. She appreciates that, and so do I.

Walking is one of those things I have tried to keep consistent, even when I am at my wimpiest. I feel like it is one of the best things I can do to help eliminate these chemicals from my body. No matter how horrible I feel when I first begin a walk, I always feel so much better upon my return, both mentally and physically. David has been good to encourage me, or at least accompany me when I am at my weakest. He goes along to make sure I don't collapse...kinda like walking with a 90 year old woman.

For some reason my preferred walking time seems to be around 9:00 in the evening. I have discovered the fun of walking in the dark. It seems to be the perfect time to, almost literally, air out my head. The darkness and cold do wonders for a brain and body recovering from chemical poisoning.

Plus, and best of all, it's the perfect opportunity to talk (out loud) with God. With His stars and moon shining above and darkness covering my route, I can chat, praise, gripe, exalt, and even plead and beg without looking like I've totally lost my mind. I get some excellent devotional time in when it's cold and dark.

Cleo is the perfect partner for these outings. She has no problem with me chatting up God and never says a word about it. For years she has been my canine accountability partner, always encouraging me to get out and walk, and making me feel guilty if I didn't.

Now, even on my cruddiest days, she has proven to be excellent at following me around the house each evening and pleading for a walk (she knows how to give me "the look"). I cannot resist her; she seems to know what I need more than yours truly (although, I'll not kid myself - I do realize she does not do this for me).

She's a great dog to walk...very low maintenance. Requiring no leash, she follows my verbal commands well enough to make Cesar Millan proud. She's a Border Collie - that's what they do. She typically has a grand old time investigating the smells along the way. (The night before trash day is her favorite time. Apparently our neighborhood has some very fragrant recycling.)

So if you live in my neighborhood and have noticed a late night wanderer bundled in a big white parka, accompanied by a large black and white dog, do not be alarmed. It's just me, doing what I can to keep from falling completely apart. And if things are falling apart for you, or you've just had one of those days, I highly recommend it...physical and mental therapy at an unbeatable price. Get out that door and walk; I promise you'll feel better.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Sunny Thoughts and the Cancer Shadow

I know I seem to keep dropping off the face of Blogland, but I am still here, ticking along. It's much like how I've dealt with that infinite number of unsent thank you notes; I find that I have so very much going through my mind and so very much to say that I end up writing nothing at all. That is definitely the easiest way to deal with my myriad of crazy thoughts...just ignore them. Sadly, that doesn't make them go away, and so here I am, back at the ol' blog, typing them out for the world to see.

Currently I am recovering from my third round of Cisplatin and Gemcitabine. Nasty, nasty, nasty stuff, especially the Cisplatin. How do I know the Cisplatin is the worst? Because I have one week with only the Gemcitabine and that week is actually tolerable. The week following the Cis/Gem infusion, however, is one long, queasy, foul tasting, weak week. It's not called Sickplatin for nothing.

Of course, if it does its job, then bring it on...if not, then I've seriously wasted some precious time in the worst possible way. And that, of course, is the double edged sword of chemotherapy.

I'm still struggling with the emotional side of all of this. There are days when I feel fabulous and hopeful and those days are beautiful.

For example, about a week and a half ago a small miracle occurred here in Northwest Arkansas. Within about a six hour time span we received 2 feet of the most perfect snow I think I've ever seen. I felt like I'd gone back in time, and thus proceeded to wallow in some wonderful flashbacks of my days in Colorado, when I was young and vibrant and my life was in front of me. Endless possibilities (which did NOT include cancer, or any other debilitating illness, for that matter).

I LOVED that snow. I inhaled it, touched it, walked in it, listened to it, gazed at it, photographed it, and shoveled it as often as I could. I felt like it was a gift from God sent just for me. All those others who complained about sorry.  It was MY gift. One last big snow! (Not meaning to be morbid here - cancer or not, the chances of me seeing another snow like that are pretty slim.) I even enjoyed the 15 below morning temp and managed a (very brief) walk during that early hour. (I don't know which was the bigger miracle - the snow and flash freeze temps, or the fact that it reached the 70s the following week.)  

Our pool in the midst of the storm.
Notice the dog's potty path to the right? That came in handy in this deep stuff.

Day 1: The snow stopped so we headed out. My girl's always game for a w-a-l-k.

Day 2:  7:00 am and 15 below. And no, I don't live in Wisconsin.
Sunrise and still 15 below.

Cold and early on Carley Road

For some reason she thought she should walk on the sidewalk.

I found another walking buddy.

Obviously, some kiddos in my neighborhood
could use more practice at this. 

I was immensely grateful that the miracle snow occurred during one of my good weeks. If it had come this week, I may not have noticed.

This past week is night compared to the prior week's day. That happy snow seems ages ago. As I type this, I must say I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. This week I have had two big choices in my life: the sofa or the bed. At the moment, I'm upright on the sofa. Whoop to that.

Now, I know that this will come to an end. If all goes as the last two rounds, in a couple of days I should be up and around and feeling more like myself.  So, yes, this will come to another end and I will have an all too brief reprieve when I can play catch-up on life.

But, as bad as all that seems, there is something that is concerning me even more.

As is the case with many women who have been diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer (at least according to the TNBC forums I've been reading), we tend to be Queens of False Alarm and somewhat hypochondriatic. Since TNBC, more often than hormone positive breast cancers, tends to quickly metastasize to other areas of the body, this is understandable. If you knew that your chances of developing bone, liver, lung, or brain cancer in the next few months were extremely high, wouldn't you be a bit nervous about those odd everyday aches and pains?

Well that's been me for the past few days. On top of feeling like I've had the life sucked out of me, I've been fighting one heckuva pain in my right hip. Since I have scoliosis, back pain is not an uncommon occurrence for me, but this is something new and different and, yes, painful. I am praying it's nothing...brought on by too much sitting or something equally dull. I'd happily take arthritis or bursitis or something that won't kill me, please. But each time I sit or stand or roll over in bed and feel that shooting pain, I am frightened.

So please pray that this pain is nothing. Pray that I am slightly crazy and am overreacting.

I will visit the oncologist this Tuesday and, of course, will mention this to him. I am already scheduled for chest, abdominal, and pelvic CT scans on March 1, so I guess we will find out after that. It would make me happier than 2 feet of snow to know I have been the Queen of False Alarms.