Friday, April 30, 2010

Treatment Week 1

Well, I really didn't intend for it to take a whole week for me to enter another blog. I think the nausea medication, which I am extremely thankful for, really has caused quite a bit of exhaustion. I'll try to catch you up as best I can. Hopefully, the blogs won't be so far apart next time.

Before I had chemo, I didn't really know what to expect. I'm not sure I ever even tried to picture it. So, for those of you who don't know, I'll describe treatment 1A for you from Monday. If you already know, you may want to skip this paragraph. My treatments are received in a room that looks very much like a large hotel lobby. It's very comfortable, but cold. There are 14 red recliners, each with a colorful blanket draped over the back. There is a little coffee table beside each chair. The chairs are arranged in two circular settings with IV poles all around. The treatment room has lots of windows. The lighting is natural with calming apricot and aqua wall tones. Snacks are available...water, juice, crackers, cookies, chips, etc...The best part about the chemo room is the oncology nurses, Jerri and Jill. They rock! I can tell you without a doubt they have found their calling. I won't have my port until early May, so I received my first cycle of treatment through IV. It wasn't bad, but I hate to admit that I think having a port will make it easier for us all. Jerri took care of me Monday. She explained every little think she did. What chemicals I was receiving, how they would make me feel, what to watch for, how long it would take, when my hair would fall out, what to do about it. You name it...she was my "chemo mom." Kevin went with me Monday. If you know him at all, you know he NEVER sits still. He was free to come and go from the chemo room as he needed to make work calls and stretch his legs. I know he would love to do more, but he can't. I love him so much. We were gone from about 9am til 3:30pm Monday. Really no appetite at all that day. Forced myself to eat some cream potatoes with cheese for dinner, peanut butter and crackers earlier in the day. Grandma stopped by for a brief visit with surprises for Jack and me. Thanks, G'ma.

When you take chemo, it's important that you drink plenty of fluids to rid your body of the toxins, like 2-3 liters per day in my case. I focused so diligently on drinking the water that I forgot to drink any caffeine. My head was killing me by 7pm. I'm a Dt. Mtn Dew addict you know. It didn't really occur to me until later that night it was the lack of caffeine, not the chemo, that was causing such a horrendous headache. I got no rest. Tuesday, I was more watchful of my caffeine intake. Unfortunately, I don't like Dt. Mtn. Dew any more. Everything tastes like a melted fork when I eat it. 

Mom did a very special favor for me Monday night. I know it was hard for her. She shaved my head. It will need to be shaved closer, but this was a good start. We saved all my hair in a zip-lock bag. When my cancer is gone, I plan to celebrate by releasing my hair for the birds to use.  My sister and her family were able to watch via skype. Jack watched while we did it. I told Jack and Mallory that I wanted to cut my hair short like Jack and Uncle Tony's to see if it would grow back curly like Mallory's (Jack's 4 year old cousin). I'm glad I allowed them to watch. I think it was good for us all. My mom handled it very well I think, better than I would have. We videoed it. I'll see about posting it to the blog. Then, I read a book to Jack called Mommy without Hair? that Kevin checked out of the West Clinic library for me. Jack really liked it. I had put my wig on, yes I have two, but Jack made me take it off. (smile) The main character in the book is four-year-old Jack. His mom has cancer.

Tuesday was even longer. Mom took me to chemo on day 1B. Kevin was able to work and Grandma took care of the kids. It took five hours for the Taxol to infuse, which is expected. It starts slow to avoid reaction, then they speed it up. It's odd to sit and watch clear toxins drip into your body one at a time and know that it is actually going to save your life. Reminds me of an Alanis Morissette song..."Isn't it ironic..." I was especially tired Tuesday. I finally fell asleep 30 minutes before my infusion. It was a good nap though. Mom said I was smiling, talking to angels is what she calls it. I think it was comforting to her. It was also good for her to see what happens in chemo. I took a really long nap when we got back home. It was Jack's very first T-ball practice. I wanted to go see it so badly. I almost didn't make it, but in the end God gave me the strength. I was even able to go out on the field and help the lil sluggers wait for their time to bat from the tee with Kevin. Jack did well. I'm so proud of him. It's going to be so much fun to see him play. He is one of the two smallest kids out there; his birthday came in time by only 1 week. FYI...he no longer approves of being a "little boy." He is now a "biggun."

Wednesday finished out day three of my first chemo cycle. Eight more to go. Mom took me again so Kevin could work. I think he got a lot accomplished. Mom took me to lunch at Harvey's for lunch. I didn't want any food, but again, I'm forcing myself to get the protein down. I ordered the Grouper Almondine....YUMMY! This is the best meal I've had all week! Still thinking about it. I think I'll have potatoes with it next time, the rice pilaf was too strong for my taste buds.  It was fantastic! Definitely on my chemo week menu now. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, and were pleasantly surprised at the end to be told that there was no bill. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank some dear old friends of the Riley family. You know who you are. I was able to stay up late and catch up some email Wednesday night. Mom went home Wednesday afternoon, but plans to returns soon. It was really nice having her here. I love you, Mom!

I was happy to be able to do that. I hate feeling like I have something hanging over my head. I didn't eat dinner with Kevin or the kids. I know they missed me, but understood. Instead, the magnificent Luz Andrea warmed my dinner in the microwave. I was a little nervous about this, she is a novice chef, but my chicken and potatoes were just right. I am going to miss her so much. Luz is much more than an exchange student to our family, she is part of it. Sometimes she is my daughter, sometimes my friend, but always family. I'm going to miss her silly ways.

Thursday...I didn't hurt. I was slow and lethargic. My brain and body didn't cooperate well together. I could tell my brain was more sluggish, frustrating for a control freak. Nonetheless, we made it though another good day. I had to take a few naps to get through the day, though. Luz was MVP when it came to keeping Jack busy, as was her partner in crime from Germany, Marie. So, Thursday was mainly work, sleep, eat, work, eat, sleep. I expected back and leg pain that day, and thought I had gotten away without it. It's a side-effect of one of my drugs. No such luck...started this morning. It's not so bad though. I am managing it just fine.

Thank you all for your love and support, I do read all your replies, even when I am too tired to respond. :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chemo countdown...

Chemotherapy starts tomorrow. I am really not nervous about it. No fear.

We had a wonderful weekend, despite the storms that raged through Mississippi yesterday. We stayed in for pizza and a movie (The Blindside) Friday night. Seems like it rains every time we bring Vanelli's home for dinner. We went to the mall mid-morning Saturday, so Jack could burn some energy while playing inside. Kevin and Grandma watched Jack play on the mall playground, which I love, while Luz and I did some window shopping. Then we all went to the theater for a movie. Kev and I watched "How to Train a Dragon" in 3D with Jack. I like the 3D graphics, but am not a big fan of the movie. I thought it was too loud and a little long for the lack of content. Hiccup was a favorite, though. Grandma and Jack hung out together in the evening so Kevin and I could enjoy a special evening out to dinner at my favorite restaurant in town, Park Heights. I won't be able to eat salad for a while, or any raw fruit/veggies, during chemo. I love the endive/watercress salad with citrus dressing and pine nuts and their awesome crab cakes. YUMMY! We brought desert home for Luz...ok and me. :) Today was a beautiful, gorgeous day. Wanna know how I spent it? Napping for 2 1/2 hours after church. I really needed the nap, but I'm sure that's why I'm up so late tonight. Father Tom came over to visit. Kevin and I were truly grateful. He had called to check in before, but I never got around to calling him back. He prayed the sacrament of the sick with us. Grandma brought dinner over. Thanks, Grandma! Mom, Dad, and Amanda called to check in this afternoon. I'm looking forward to seeing Mom and Amanda this week. 

I'm sure this is one of the most boring blog entries you've ever read. I'm not sure why I felt the need to post it, other than maybe to share how "normal" everything felt this weekend with all that is going on in my life right now. I cherish every moment I have with family right now. Jack has been so good. I don't think he realizes anything different right now. If he does, he's taking it all in stride. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The War Within Me

It's amazing how life can change in an instant...just one small moment in time. One minute we're be-bopping along thinking we know exactly what we're doing, the next...wham! Life changes! Last Friday LIFE threw me another curve. 

You may already know that I am a cancer survivor. A year and a half ago, I had endometrial cancer. My doctors were able to rid my body of the cancer via surgery, which is much better than the alternative. I recovered fairly quickly thanks to new technology like robotic surgery. Since then, I've visited my oncologist, Dr. Reed, quite regularly for check-ups and lab work. My last clean bill of health was in November. 

Last Friday, I visited Dr. Reed again with CT images on cd and a little concern about some irregularities I had noticed. That is when one of those instant moments of change happened in my life. My cancer had returned. I have recurring endometrial cancer in my lung and one other place, not good news, but it could be worse. I cried a little, pulled myself together, and began the hour long drive home to tell my family. "I can handle this," I told myself. "We can handle this," I told my wonderful husband, Kevin. "I can handle this," I reassured the rest of my family and friends. "Help me handle this," I prayed to God. 

Dr. Reed gently told me to prepare myself for aggressive chemotherapy, three different toxins, lots of protein and water, weight gain, hair loss, nausea, pain, exhaustion, the whole bit. "OK. I can do this, one day at a time." Kevin and I are ready to fight this together, with the help of supportive friends and family. Pride will not be an obstacle in my recovery, our recovery. This is Kevin's cancer as much as it is mine. We are one, a perfect team. 

My body is at war with itself. I have decided to resume posting to this blog to help my friends stay abreast of what is going on in our struggle. Needless to say, the past week has been a whirlwind of doctor visits, phone calls, work preparations, home planning, you name it. I start chemo Monday. I have three days of chemo every three weeks until nine rounds are complete...6 months. I'll get a port to protect my skin from the strong chemicals: taxol, cisplatin, and adriamycin. 

Kevin's mom has taken me shopping for a wig and dress for my nephew, Sean's wedding in May. I don't mind going bald, but I don't want to scare the dickens out of Jack. It was fun to have something to look forward to. My mom is coming to take care of me and the kids Monday through Wednesday. My sister, Amanda, is coming to help at the end of the week. It's been an emotional roller-coaster for us all. Most people say, "Well, the least I can do is pray for you." That's not true. Prayer is the most you can do. Pray that we continue to be optimistic, faithful, and strong, that we will constantly be reminded of God's plan. If I have never told you before I love my life. God has given me more than I ever dreamed possible, my last request is to watch Jack grow up, with Kevin by my side.