Monday, May 30, 2011

Chemo and Quilts

Last week I sort of took a turn for the worst. I mean, my chemo caught up with me.

I was hoping I could run fast enough to stay out of its blasted reach!

I've had this awful, awful cough, all due to the fact that my body somehow has become this super-charged mucus-producing machine. Seriously, people. Come on, come all! See the cancer girl and her NOSE! The nurse said it is mucositis. Look it up your own self.

I overmedicated on Sudafed, Benadryl, Mucinex, cough medicine with codeine, cough drops. So I slept and slept and slept.

Then my absolute neutrophil count went into the toilet. Meaning I'm neutropenic--very few white blood cells. No more fresh fruits & veggies. And... daily neupogin shots.

And then... horror of horrors!

I got thrush. In my mouth.

My throat was raw and my mouth burned. I couldn't swallow very well. And my whole body ached from coughing. My stomach. Even my butt.

And then. My hair started falling out again. On my pillow in the morning. In the shower. Blast.

So, pumped up on antibiotics, I started feeling sorry for myself. Chemo is ripping my body apart. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and wait out the next four weeks.

But I didn't. I mean, I took naps and I slowed down considerably. And I pulled out some old quilt blocks from a quilt block exchange four years ago (I think. I can't do math with chemo brain). I had used many of the blocks I had originally received in two other quilts, but I had saved all the pink and brown ones. And it was time to put them together.

I had purchased extra fabrics to match some of the blocks (and boy, am I glad I did--this line has become obsolete!). So with the help of Katie, who figured out dimensions and made practice blocks, and Amy, who had this brilliant idea for my adjusted pattern, I got to work.

I ironed.

I measured.

I cut.

I sewed

Repeat. Several times. In the cool of my basement, while all the world was at the pool for Memorial Day weekend. (I love the pool. I cannot go to the pool because of chemo and antibiotics. Don't be bitter; be better.)

I figured quilting is like my body on chemo. Cut apart. Put back together. Cut apart. Put back together. I can't wait to see my finished product(s).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Goodbye, Doxorubicin

Yesterday I bid farewell to my last dose of doxorubicin, the red poison.

Six doses over seven months

A quick push-infusion

You prevent cell division by binding to my DNA to prevent cancer replication

And yet...

You kill my hair, you cause mouth sores, you make me oh so tired.

And you make me cough. A LOT. I can't stop.

Go in peace. And don't come back.

Here's to 17 more months of doxorubicin-free chemo treatments. And hair growing back. CURLY.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Put your Steroids to USE!

I know I've been complaining about all my drugs and premeds. And allergies. And on and on. I just hate them. I do.

But today I realized something. I've been pumped full of steroids, and while I don't like my puff face, or my huge appetite (all I can think about is FOOD!), or my weird sleeping patterns, and I have joked about wanting to use this opportunity to bulk my guns back up again (not a chance in all honesty), I have put my energy to use.

I have cleaned and organized (I wish you could see my room! my desk! my files!).

I have finished a conference paper and applied for a job.

I have monitored my blood work and tried to adjust my diet accordingly.

I have tracked bills.

I have caught up on some email (although I continue to have a mountain--and then people respond and I have even more!).

I have baked and visited people with baked goods.

I have planned how to finish a quilt started a couple of years ago.

I have gone on walks and worked in my garden.

And it feels so good. I feel like things are in order. I am where I need to be.

We'll see what this week brings!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Another Year... another future...

I'll be honest. Today is my birthday and I haven't really looked forward to it. For a lot of reasons.

Namely that I'm in the middle of an intense round of chemo. Sitting in a recliner on Mondays for three hours being pumped full of red poison tends to make me feel sorry for myself. That and puffy steroid cheeks. And heartburn. And occasional digestive distress. And worrying about blood levels. And upcoming shots that will kick my stomach lining. And bones.

Not cool.


I turned a corner. I made an important realization:

I have a birthday to celebrate. (yes, I feel like I've aged 20 years in the last year!)

I have a future. (with only 6 1/2 weeks of intense chemo left!)

There is hope. (and I have SO much I want to do!)

This morning I woke up and went on a walk, drinking in the misty humid spring day with all the green and flowers around my neighborhood: peonies! a few lingering azaeleas! columbine! begonias! impatience! I've been working on my own little garden, too. Yesterday I finally planted my bean hyacinth seeds--I can't wait for them to overtake my back fence, winding their tendrils through the ivy and bursting purple and proud.

Then I had a reflexology massage. New-age-y, right? Well, I am in mid-life! It was delightful. And perfect. And it soothed my tingling neuropathy feet and reminded me that I am alive! I need to care for this crazy body and remind it good it has been to me.

Then I went shopping! I'm in a baking mood, so first some mini-loaf pans. Then some 3/4-length shirts--no short sleeves for me this summer with my PICC line. Great colors! Comfy and fun!

Now I think I'll go take me a nap. Rest up. I've got a big year ahead. Just you wait.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Day One, Check!

This morning I started my fourth round of chemo.

Because I've felt relatively good over the last few weeks, and have ached for independence, I didn't ask anyone to give me a ride.

But on Sunday night my uncle, who's in town for the weekend with his wife at my cousin's house, and who can't stand to be alone himself, asked if he could come with me.

And then I realized... I was scared and a tiny bit discouraged and daunted at the start of a new round that may very well kick my butt.

So he came. and just sat there for two hours while I got pumped up with vincristine and danurubicin. And some serious steroids and zofran. We both mostly just worked away, reading the Post and working on our laptops. But just having him there with me meant the world. I wish I had a picture of the two of us.

Then I went and got the chest x-ray I was supposed to get last Friday. I have a nasty cough from my allergies that just sits there and worries me about bronchitis or infected fluid in my lungs. I guess chemo makes you a bit more susceptible. At any rate, I knew I had Diedra's wedding on Saturday and a crazy busy important day at church on Sunday, and I was so afraid they would want to admit me. So I took my cough medicine with codeine, did my nasal rinse, and prayed and prayed. And went in today. The tech had the radiologist send the results to my doctor, and I haven't heard anything from him, so... no news is good news, right?!? But Steve was there with me.

And I received such sweet texts of concern and offers to come with me today. I'm so grateful for my friends--and even a perfect stranger at church today who offered to come with and actually brought me chicken enchiladas and strawberry shortcake tonight. And we're backyard neighbors so we can be friends.

And tonight when I was just entering the "feeling sorry for myself" stage, I went on a walk with Marni, Lindi, and Noelle. It was just enough to keep my neuropathy feet moving and lungs burning and emotions at bay. How I love these women.


Friday, May 06, 2011

I'll Show You...

This morning I took a long, hot shower (keeping my cling wrap-wrapped arm as dry as possible), hoping to steam out my awful allergy cough (please don't let this turn into something worse). As I let the hot water dart over my body, I prayed and prayed that I would feel better and that I would make it through a very busy weekend.

And then I saw my old, trusty friend, the razor. I was told at the beginning of my cancer adventure I couldn't use a razor because of the danger of cutting myself (what am I, in 7th grade?). Friends, let me just tell you, if you didn't already know, that electric razors do not shave your legs well. At all. I've had stubbly legs since November, except for the time when I lost all hair on my legs. Stubbly hair isn't fun, especially when the weather is getting warmer and you have a wedding tomorrow.

So I defied them. I shaved. Long, delicious strokes, every single hair coming off. Oh boy do my legs feel smooth! Oh there is nothing like it!

It makes up for the stranger who the other day said to me, "Wow! You are brave to cut your hair that short! I would never dare do that!" To which I responded, "It's called chemo" and promptly started crying. She just turned around and walked away. I'll show you, too!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Cough, cough, sneeze, sneeze, BLOW

A view of the old Cape Henry lighthouse at Fort Story, near Virginia Beach

These allergies are kicking my trash! I had no idea I could blow my nose so many times in one day. I'm doing everything I can think of--sinus rinses a couple of times a day, saline spray ALL the time, allegra-d, mucinex, robitussen. I just don't want my persistent post-nasal cough to aggravate my lungs and turn into some kind of bronchitis, putting off my chemo.

Is that weird that I don't want to put off my chemo? I just want to GET 'ER DONE!

That's right. Let's move past this chapter of my memoir already, ok?

Last week I met with my oncologist. Everything looks great. Yahoo! My hair is growing back (I even went bare-headed to stake conference this weekend! Oh the freedom! liberty!) and my blood counts are looking good. I successfully convinced him to wait a week before I start Round 4, the late intensification--back to IVs and shots and pills but no spinal taps. Hooray again!

In the meanwhile, time to press forward with a conference paper, Relief Society reorganization, and Diedra's wedding! Please don't let me have to blow my nose in the middle of that!