Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hannah, Kayla and Gillian!

The girls! They stopped by tonight before walking down to check out the jazz festival! They are such a good time! We talked and laughed. We love it when they come around.

This is a photo from high school. They don't look any different now.

Oh, Brother!

When you're hanging out in the hospital unable to sleep and feeling especially vulnerable and weak and a little scared, you have a lot of time and incentive to think. Deep and not so deep thoughts.

Example of "not so deep thoughts": I spent some time contemplating the fact that whenever I eat a saltine cracker, I always eat it right side up. Even in the dark, I can tell by the ever so slight upward curvature of the cracker which side is up. I also thought that it makes more sense to eat them upside down because then the salted top would be on your tongue, which seems more appealing. But no, I have to eat mine right side up. For some reason, it matters. When I told Darrel about this, he thought I was nuts. Hannah understood, of course.

Example of "deep thoughts": I thought about my brothers and how much it matters to me that I feel them "standing guard for me". As a girl, and whether it's true or not, I always felt watched over and protected by my older brothers. Reading this, they might think, "Say what??!!" Maybe they weren't paying attention to me at all. But I think they were. Not that I needed a lot of protecting, but my sense at the time was that they were watching out for me and would be there in a flash if I were to need them. And now I do feel I need them and it's a great comfort for me to feel them watching over me and even to hear their voices is very calming. Even Jack, who is younger, now feels like a capable guardian.

One of the reasons for the comfort I feel in their voices is that right now I miss my Dad very much. I have to imagine his big, warm hand over mine and his deep, soothing voice in my ear ... and his gentle, reassuring smile. And that's where my brothers come in. I see and hear our Dad somehow in all three of them.

I've always said that if there was any kind of disaster that were to threaten our lives here on earth, our best chance for survival would be with my parents. They are those resourceful, resilient people of that generation where necessity was the mother of invention. Dad and Mom are the type who, as Erin would say, could walk into the woods with a pocket knife and a q-tip and build a shopping mall. They have always been the most resourceful, creative, and capable people I know and what I realize is that all three of my brothers have those skills, too. That's comforting. Something as simple as Darrel suggesting ice to get me through the stress and discomfort of those Heprin shots made all the difference. And I know my other brothers are just as brilliant that way. Dad was. It just makes me feel safer knowing my brothers are nearby and seeing me through this. I know they have those skills even if they don't fully realize it themselves. You don't do the things any of them do without having those skills. And they're passing that way of thinking on to their kids, too. You only have to see Josh, Kathy, Graham and Allan in action to know they have some innate technical skills and the kind of nimble minds that lead to real creativity. I see it coming to life in Meghan and Dawson, too. They're a wonderful legacy to their Grandpa and Grandma Kerr.

Thanks brothers three. I'm glad Mom and Dad had all of you ... even if I had to put up with all the fat jokes and even if you did tell me I had legs like George Reed ... even if you did sit on me forever making me say "uncle" ... even if you did say the cookies I made were gross ... even if you did snoop in my room ... and even if you did hide my Partridge Family album. Even then, I always knew that you would be there if I ever really needed help. I was right.

A Nice, Long Nap

After getting home from this morning's appointment, I had a nice, long nap on the couch. I was sooooo tired!

When I woke up, Hannah made me eggs and toast and, shortly after that, Kevin's Mom stopped by. It's the first time I've seen her for so long. Both she and Don have had a "bug" so they've been staying away but Sylvia is now feeling well enough to come by. It was great to see her.

Ramping Up for Chemo Treatment #2 on Thursday

I was at the Champion Centre for bloodwork today and to meet with my Oncologist. My white blood cell counts are up to 4.4 but my red blood cell counts are a bit low at 1.8. Steak for dinner tonight! My potassium is okay but after we left the Centre, the oncologist phoned us to say that he doesn't know why for sure but my liver enzymes are high so I'm supposed to stop taking any antibiotics I'd been prescribed and not to have any green tea or flax oil, which I wasn't taking anyway. I'm to go a half hour ealier on Thursday so I can have my bloodwork redone and, based on my liver enzymes, they'll decide then if I can go ahead with chemo. Liver Enzymes. That's a new one for me to consider. I didn't read anything about it in the side effects. I have to remind myself that this is a new adventure every day!

The best part about my morning was, after finishing up at the Champion Centre and since I was in the neighbourhood, I couldn't resist stopping by the office to see my colleagues at work! That was my treat to myself. And it was wonderful to see all their smiling faces. I missed seeing Roger, though, which is a shame. And Lou wasn't there but at least I saw Lou last week. It was great to see them.

Now we're home and I'm tired so I'm going to sleep for a while.

Thanks to all of you for your kind comments about my "new look"! It's all a bit weird for me, as I'm sure you can imagine, but I might as well have fun with it, right? Weirrrrd!!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Me ... But Better Than Me!

Van worked his magic on my scalp and then my wig.
Welcome to my new "public look".
I know I don't look the same girl who was in the hospital!
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My Adored Niece, Princess Meghan!

I have a niece, Meghan, with whom I have a special bond. She's Jack and Jodi's daughter and I've always felt a special connection with her and I always look forward to being able to spend some time with her in the summer.

Look what I found in my mail when I got back from the hospital yesterday. It sure made me smile. I love you, Meghan! Thanks so much for your letter and for the bookmark. I'll use it to mark my place in my book and it will make me smile every time I see it!

ps: Meghan and I are both princesses, by the way, just in case you didn't know that already.

Home and Feeling VERY GOOD!

Sorry I didn't post earlier but I woke up feeling so good and energetic, I wanted to take advantage of that energy spurt to get some things done around here. So, after Hannah made us both a very healthy and iron and nutrition rich breakfast, I got moving. It feels good to be able to do stuff. Every now and then, though, I go to reach for my "Polish Friend" and then remember that I'm FREE again!!

When we got home yesterday I slept right away for a couple of hours. I was pretty tired all day. I was told before I left the hosptial that my red blood cell counts were low as was my potassium (they gave me a potassium pill before I left). That's probably why I've done little else but sleep for the past two days. I slept really well last night ... the best I've slept in a week. It's great to back in my own bed and not hooked up to an IV. And it's great to feel rested and energetic. YEAH!!

I phoned Van (at Crimpers) last night and left a message for him explaining my hair (or lack thereof) situation. He very kindly phoned this morning and he's going to meet me at Crimpers this afternoon to help me out. His shop is closed on Mondays, so Van is going out of his way to accommodate me. He's so sensitive, too, which I appreciate. He suggested it would be best to meet at the shop when nobody else would be there. That's so thoughtful of him and I appreciate it. So today my head will be shaved and my wig will be trimmed. That Van! What a guy!! I can't think of anyone else I would feel so comfortable with in this circumstance (not that I don't think you could pull it off in a pinch, Carol!).

Sunday, June 28, 2009


The oncologist says I can go home provided I take oral antibiotics!! YESSIREEBOB!! Whatever you say!! I'M GOING HOME!!

My neutrophils are at .9. My white blood cell counts are good (he didn't say what they were exactly). My red blood cell counts are a little low so he said I might find I'm especially tired (that explains things). But I can go home!

I'm phoning Kevin RIGHT NOW!

Say "NO" to big, honking needles!

I'm certainly well-rested! I can't believe how much I've slept. I even accepted my Heprin injection last night and, I'm happy to report, that I haven't even shed a single tear for either of the last two heprin injections. My brother, Darrel, brilliantly gave a practical suggestion that has made all the difference. He suggested ice. Now I make them ice the area on my belly before the injection and then I ice it after. The result is no pain during the injection and no pain or bruising after! How brilliant is that?!! I also learned something new last night from my nurse. They had previously been using BIG needles to give my Heprin injections and that's why they hurt and why they would bleed. He used a teeny needle ... no pain ... no bleeding! Why wouldn't they have used little needles before?!! I learn something new from every medical professional I meet!


A Lot A Lot A Lot of Sleeping

What did I do all day after getting myself all dolled up? Well, after Kevin and the kids visited, I slept. And then I slept some more. And some more. And some more. In fact, I slept almost all day. Every 2 or 3 hours I would wake up but not usually for any longer than half an hour. It felt like I'd taken something that would have said "may cause drowsiness - do not drive or operate machinery". I finally woke up just after 11:00 and felt somewhat rested and didn't feel so "drugged". I got myself some toast and have been watching tv ... mostly Michael Jackson videos. And now I'm going back to sleep. I don't want to end up with my days and nights switched.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

White Blood Cell Counts Rising!

My white blood cell counts are at 2.8 now. That's a real jump from 1.78 yesterday. No word yet on my neutrophils but they must have increased, too.

Kevin, Hannah and Luke were just here for a visit. They took me on a date to the mall (on the main floor of the hospital)! Big adventure! It was great but I did start to fade pretty quickly. It was either the wig being a little tight on my brain or the fact that I felt like I wasn't getting enough oxygen with that mask on or it was the active enzymes in the juice Hannah juiced for me ... or a combination of everything. I need to have a nap. NOW!!

Thanks, fam!

Would Someone Please Take This Hottie Out On The Town?!!

Oh yeah! I'm so working it today!

I got through the night with NO FEVER!! I slept a couple of 3 hour stretches plus a couple of short sleeps on either side of those. I probably got 7 hours of sleep and though I still feel slightly tired, I feel LIKE A MILLION BUCKS!! AND I LOOK LIKE IT, TOO!!

I woke at 7:00 - time for vitals, blood work, etc. and then couldn't get back to sleep even though I really wanted to. I think it was partly because I was so excited to have had a good night.

So I got up, walked down the hall and got myself fresh towels. I bathed. Lotioned (I smell so good). I have a fresh purple long-sleeved T on. I washed my scalp. It looks pretty funny. The little hairs left are a maximum 3/4 inch long and even those sad little suckers are still trying to curl, so I have these little wings sticking out all over my head. I got cleaned up and then tackled make-up. Make-up is going to be important, I can tell. I'm not so good at make-up. I played around with the bit of stuff Hannah brought me from home and ... well ... pretty good if I do say so myself. And then. THEN ... I put on my wig and ... HUBBA HUBBA!! Really. I mean it. Someone oughtta be taking me out on the town somewhere. The races? Yachting? A gallery reception? A small, intimate concert? A garden party? Oh yeah! I look THAT GOOD!! If I had my camera, I'd post a picture for you.

That's enough gloating for now, I think. I know you'll forgive me given the circumstances. I'm not normally so full of myself, right? But I needed this moment. Maybe you did, too.

Today is a real about-face from yesterday. You can tell, can't you? When those oncologists visit me today, they're going to say, "What are you doing here? Get outta here!" Now, I know it will depend on how long I have to be fever-free before they can release me and I know it will depend on where my white blood cell counts and neutrophils are at, but I KNOW I feel well enough to go home.

I do have a bit of a cough. I had two doses of codeine to get me through the night. A nurse told me this morning that a lot of people in the hospital get this cough. In fact, they call it "hospital cough". I'm calling it "kennel cough". It might actually be turning into a cold, but if my immune system is working again, I should be able to go home with a cold. Besides, some poor soul is probably in agony in Emergency waiting for my bed. They need it more than I do today.

By the way, I got a little fiesty today and I even REFUSED my Heprin shot. I mean, REALLY! I'm walking around, doing all kinds of things for myself. I have no swollen limbs. No swollen anything! I AM SO FINE. I DO NOT NEED HEPRIN! It was very empowering to refuse it and to feel confident that it as okay to do that.

God, yesterday morning was awful!! I can't thank Hannah enough for seeing me through that part of this. It was great that finally Kevin was able to come up and see me, too. I needed that. And Luke. I needed Luke. Thanks Carol and Pat for getting me over the hump of a horrible experience, too. Jim and Lynne ... thanks for coming and sorry I didn't properly get to say good-bye what with the timing of medical visits. So nice to see some people from the office, all of whom I miss a lot. Lou and Nora came by ... they're so calm and relaxed ... I can't help but pick up on their good vibrations. Bob and Jo (and a quilting magazine ... yessssss), thanks for stopping in. Happy retirement, Jo!

And thanks to all of those who emailed or commented and who wanted to visit but chose to wait knowing it was a crazy day for me.

I'm also happy to report that some fine people from the Infectious Diseases department did an assessment and determined that there is nothing like that causing my fever. The Doctor explained that sometimes they never find out a cause for the fever. Sometimes it's just because of being neutropenic (low neutrophils). He explained that if you look at the correlation between the pattern of my fevers and my white blood cell counts, I really am improving and he suspected that I would now be over the fevers and ready to go home. He was RIGHT!!

So ... I'm sitting here twiddling my thumbs ... hoping they take one look at me and spring me!!

Have a happy Saturday everyone! It looks fabulous outside. I miss outside. Seeing it is not quite the same as being out there!

Man, I look GOOD!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Morning of Tears and Laughter

Hi everyone!

What a roller coaster this day has been already! Man, oh MAN!!

I was in a total "curl up in a fetal position and cry" state this morning. Then Hannah came. We went through a lot of trauma together in a very short period of time but Hannah, being Hannah, is ever soothing, calm, gentle, pragmatic and encouraging. I feel like the child and she seems like the Mom. It's not supposed to switch like this already. She's only 21. That she's always been an old soul is such a help to me now but it shouldn't be this way.

When Hannah got here, I had a bath and then I washed my hair. I was absolutely correct when I said earlier that I thought sweat was acting like glue and was keeping my loose hairs attached to my head. I lost quite a bit during the washing phase and then Hannah combed ... and combed ... and combed. There is a lot of hair in that waste basket! Hannah gently suggested that she should round up some scissors and cut the rest. I grabbed my pole and ran to the washroom to look in the mirror first and was pretty horrified. All the mental preparation in the world doesn't really prepare you for this. Hannah hugged me as we both looked in the mirror and I cried and cried and cried. Hannah was right. Time to cut. She got some scissors and she cut my remaining hair so that it's now ready for shaving. I'm crying and laughing the whole time as Hannah gently and jovially talks me through it. I was really quite calm ... but still, I had to cry for my lost hair ... and I sure did. A lot! Hannah made a turban for me out of my blue and red pashmina and, I must say ... not too bad. I had a little make-up here so I put on some foundation and some of Hannah's lipstick and the effect was ... okay. Eye make-up will help and Hannah will bring that from home later today.

Hannah, always on the ball, phoned Sylvia who had already been on a "wig mission". Syl (who has a cold and so is avoiding me) picked up one of the wigs I had previously considered and dropped it off with Hannah at the hospital doors. Thanks so much, Sylvia!

Carol and Patio arrived at lunch time while Hannah was picking up the wig and so they were here for the big "TA-DA"! And, what do I think? Well ... not so bad. Not bad at all. One day soon I'll post a photo and you can see for yourself. Carol and Pat, of course, are a laugh a minute on any given day and today was no different, so we all laughed a lot. Pat brought a nice floral hat for my "Polish friend" who goes everywhere with me. He's wearing it right now and looks quite dashing. I took him for a spin around the ward a while ago and I could see that everyone was envious.

When I get sprung from this joint, I hope to be able to stop by Crimpers to see my friend, Van. I think he'll be a great one to shave my head and give my wig a little trim. The bangs are a little long for my particular face, so a little trim is required.

As for medical stuff ... they still don't know what's causing the fever. My blood tests aren't giving them any clues. The oncologist laughed when he finally figured out who I was referring to when I asked him if we might call in Dr. House. An infectious disease specialist is going to be looking at my blood work for clues, in the meantime. They'll run some different tests, I imagine.

My white blood cell counts are up to 1.78 and my neutrophils (I still don't remember if I'm spelling it correctly) are .6. My potassium and electrolytes were low so I've been given an IV boost of that. No fever yet today.

I have cried myself to exhaustion today ... not that I wasn't exhausted enough already. But now. Now. NOW ... I feel at peace. Calm. Today has been a very emotional day already and it's good to have this bridge crossed. I've taken a deep breath, have found a balance inside myself again, and am ready to rest a bit and get ready for whatever happens next.

I want to go home.

Thanks, everyone, for your emails and calls and for crying, grieving and laughing right along with me. That's what being a team is all about. I'm lucky to have each and every one of you and I appreciate you all so much. You make all of this bearable somehow and each in your own, special way. It means a lot to me. Know that.

Big sigh. Deep breath. Ohhhmmmmmm ...

Massive Fall Out

Hannah here. At the hospital with my mom. Looking at her in her turban all piled atop her, now nearly bald, head. We combed out the majority of her remaining hair this morning and after staring at what remained in the mirror for a moment decided to chop the rest off. She looks quite incredible. Her eyes pop out of her face, her neck looks very long. She put on lipstick. It is hard to imagine that the calm, beautiful, regal looking figure I am sitting across from just endured such a traumatic event. Granny is en route to deliver a wig, so we are listening to Neil Young, peacefully experiencing this small window of unaided baldness. I'm very glad I could be here.

Paging Dr. House. Paging Dr. House.

What I had expected to be a good night, wasn't. I was so tired in the evening that after I said goodnight to my family on the phone, I closed my drapes, got everything as ready as possible to contribute to a peaceful sleep and, by 9:00 pm, I was hunkered under the covers. But then I started to cough. And then I had to pee every half hour to an hour. And then I started feeling cold. I called for help at 11:00 and they gave me another blanket and a dose of codeine for my throat. Yesssss! Codeine. That should knock me out cold. Sure enough, within 20 minutes I could feel that druggy pull into lala land, but it was not to be. My face started feeling really hot. At midnight the nurse took my temp and it was up to 38.3 again. Bummer. She gave me Tylenol and a cold washcloth for my face. Still having to pee every half hour or so. Then they had to take more blood from my PICC-line and then, an hour later, they took blood from my hand. More pokes. I'm pretty brave about those ones. I've learned to explain my tiny and rolly veins, which seems to help. At least it helps me. Last time I looked at the clock it was 3:00 a.m. and then I did sleep until 5. And then again until 6:30 after which things get busy around here ... house-keeping ... vitals ... water jug refills ... antibiotic switches ... and now breakfast has arrived. I have a nasty headache and just want to sleep some more but can't. Plus, someone left my door open so I'm getting all the noise from the ward. I don't have the energy to get up and close it but I'll be doing that soon since I have to pee anyway.

Cancer isn't for everyone, you know.

I wish Dr. House would stop by and figure out why I can't shake this fever. It's been going on since Friday and I'm feeling a little wasted. A little frustrated.

I hope to be able to make up some lost sleep during the day today. I hope to get another Tylenol right away for the headache. Actually, I think I'm feeling a little warm again, too.

I'll save the story about last night's unanticipated Heprin shot for later. Up until yesterday I was getting one a day so it was a real shocker when the nurse told me I had to have two a day now. I tried to beg and reason my way out of it. Anyway, it's a story for later. Must go pee.

My pillow isn't hairy, by the way. Still, I was so sweaty in the night and these pillows are encased in some kind of plastic so you can imagine that my hair has been wet with sweat during the night and is now plastered like glue to my head, which is probably all that's holding it in. The conundrum is ... should I leave it like this? Or should I wash it again and be prepared for the impending "fall-out". I think I'm going for the "fall-out" but I'm going to wait until Hannah gets here to help me with the hairy mess.

You can't imagine how much I wish I had more upbeat news to tell. Sorry about that.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Farrah. Gone, too. How sad.


Thursday Looking Sunnier Every Minute

Today has been better. I haven't had a fever yet today though I did develop a really nasty headache in the afternoon. Eventually some tylenol took care of that.

I want to thank everyone who stopped by today: Darrel, Eileen, Hannah, Kayla, Carol, Pat, Lynne, Cheryl, Richard, Laurel, Norma, and Auntie Anne. It made my day pass so quickly. Thanks, too, to those who didn't stop by because you felt you might be too germy to visit. I know you're cheering me on from a safe distance. Don and Syl both have colds and are feeling helpless, though Sylvia is always doing things behind the scenes. Kevin is most distressed that he's unable to see me but he's just not well enough. It's most important that he just concentrate on getting better so he won't have to move out of the house when I get home.

I have a good feeling about tonight. I'm anticipating a better night with no fever. I'm also anticipating a hairy pillow! EEEEEEK!!!

So Sad ...

... to hear that Michael Jackson has died! Not terribly surprised but very sad. I was just going to have a nap but no sooner had I reclined the bed when my dinner tray arrived so I got back up to eat, turned on the tv and it's the first thing I heard. Within 10 minutes of my quietly grieving, the phone rang and it was Hannah. She knew how sad I would be and she phoned so we could grieve together over the phone. I feel I should be standing in the window with a lit candle. So sad.

Another Day - Another Heprin Injection

I hate heprin injections. Heprin is to prevent blood clots for people spending a lot of time in bed. I'm pretty mobile in that I get up a lot to go to the bathroom, I get up to do things like adjust the blinds, plug in my intravenous machine when the battery is low, and so forth so I tried to get out my heprin injection today. But no, they came back and said that some of the drugs I'm on can cause little blood clots so I need it anyway so another heprin shot it was. I hate them. Darrel was here to see me through this one and, in fact, he suggested I ice it afterwards, which was BRILLIANT! Darrel got me some ice and I think it made a great difference. Thanks, Darrel. If you've ever had a Heprin shot, you're probably thinking, "what's the big deal?", and I understand why you would feel that way but for some reason I dread them.

Well, that was the worst thing of my morning and it's done. Done. Done.

Darrel visited before he left the city to get home and see how things are after the wonderful rain he got. I hope his crops are looking happy and green!

Eileen stopped by briefly, too, which was wonderful. She told me her Mom went through this exact thing. I'm sorry her Mom went through it, too, but it is a comfort to know that others experience this.

My oncologist was by and he said that my white blood cells are up a little more. Still 1.?. He couldn't remember what exactly. He was even more happy about my neutrofils (forgive me if I've spelled it wrong - these are new terms for me). My neutrofils were almost at zero when I came in and now they're at .44. He thought that was good. I need to do a little research to better understand what the terms and numbers mean. More good news is that the blister/boil on my arm is looking much better. The infection is much diminished. YEAH! If it's what's causing the fevers, those should diminish now, too, I would expect. I was told that I can expect to be here for a couple of more days at least. That means 2 more Heprin injections. Steel yourself, Heather. Steel yourself.

My night was a little restless. Headaches and fever. My fever wasn't as high as other nights, though, so progress is being made. It only got to 37.4 (36.6 being my normal) before we knocked it down with some tylenol. I didn't actually sleep much until about 3:00 a.m. but I was able to sleep after that until 8:00 with few minor interruptions.

I opted for a bath today instead of a shower. I couldn't deal with that mess of wet hair all over the place again. It falls out steadily enough dry. It's pretty thin right now. I got cleaned up and went for a little walk around the ward with my companion, the intravenous pole (it should have a hat when it accompanies me). I can't say we got a lot of exercise but we moved. And now I'm sitting in a chair instead of a bed. Those are all good signs of improved well-being, I think.

One other side effect I'm starting to notice is hardened, brittle nails, with increasing vertical ridges.

It looks like a beautiful day out there. I'm enjoying the view from my room.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 1 in a real Hosptal Room

I'm looking out over the river and the city. It's beautiful and looks like a beautiful day.

After getting cleaned up and settled and updated, I started to feel a little under the weather. Headaches usually start before my fever and sure enough, I got a nasty headache and before they gave me tylenol they took my temperature and it was 38.8 (from under my arm because I'd just had some ice water to drink). The nurse told me that the under arm temp is usually .5 more than one taken by mouth.

Hannah came by with some beautifully prepared food ... a salad with home-made healthy dressing, a fruit salad, corn cakes with almond butter and a banana to go with it. It was beautiful but I had no appetite and had to send it all home with her. Normally, I would have loved that. I was very chilled from the fever so I hunkered under my blankets, closed my eyes and Hannah read to me from the book she brought me (In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje). It was so nice to be read to. Heavenly. After about 20 pages I could feel myself drifting so I sent Hannah on her way and curled up for a sleep. I think it was a combination of things, but I just cried, for the first time since getting here. It was feeling comfortable for the first time since arriving. I felt like a cat curled up on a little cloud in this bed. My bones are in heaven. It was being clean for the first time. I cried for my hair. I cried for relief of being in this room at last and for having a bathroom. I cried for getting out of that damn bra! I cried with gratitude for the kind and helpful medical staff here. I cried with appreciation for all my family and friends who are here for me. I just cried for a while and it felt good to just do that and get it out of my system. And then I slept SOOOOO comfortably!

I woke up a couple of hours later feeling much better. What woke me up is having to pee. I have to pee a lot with all of these fluids they pump into me. It's a little annoying because I always have to take my IV pole with me and even if I'm feeling weak and feverish, I still have to go to the trouble. ARGHH!!

I woke up with an appetite so I thoroughly enjoyed the banana Hannah left for me. No sooner had I done that and Erin arrived, followed shortly by Darrel. I had a very nice visit with both of them and then was able to eat and enjoy what was actually a very good and appetizing hospital meal. I kid you not. Good.

Now I feel a little better and definitely less feverish. Now that I'm less feverish, my blister/boil thingie on my arm looks a little less severe, too. I would be very happy to see all these antibiotics finally kicking that little infection's butt!!

Brenda just stopped by for a visit during her break and a nurse just took my vitals. I'm happy to report that my fever is down to normal range again at 36.8. My headache is gone. The sunshine is beaming into my room.

Ahhhhhhh ...

Finally! Out of Emerg and into a Room!

I didn't know how really awful staying in emergency was until I finally got moved, an hour ago, to a room! OMG!! This feels like the Hilton. I have a bed and not just a gurney with a chunk of cardboard for a mattress. My hips will be in lala land when I sleep tonight! I have a bathroom! I just had a shower for the first time since at home on Monday morning. I feel clean again. I can brush my teeth without an ordeal. I can wash my face. I got out of my clothes for the first time since Monday. Man, I was stinky! Sorry for that odour-image.

I have a window. A view over the river much like the view from the building where I work. In fact it's right next door. I also get real food instead of some generic and unappetizing boxed lunches (mercifully doctored and supplemented by Hannah). Hospital food doesn't have the best reputation in the first place but today's lunch was a vast improvement over what I'd been receiving to date. Too bad my appetite is a little off.

Comfort is massively improved. My white blood cell counts showed signs of rising today. They were 1.5 (or close to that) as opposed to .02 (or whatever that measly number was. I'm having trouble remembering all the details. Chemo-brain or Heather-brain. I'm not sure yet. I know that last night I tried reading a book and I read the first sentence several times. I kept forgetting the first part of the sentence by the time I got to the end and so had trouble grasping the meaning. And it wasn't a tricky sentence. I got better as I went. Good sign.

Last night I had continued problems with fever. Late afternoon, about an hour after taking tylenol for my headache, my fever went up to 38.7. They gave me more tylenol 3 hours later which brought my fever down to almost normal. And then in the night it spiked again to 38.3. They still don't have an explanation for the fever. They keep looking at the infected blister on the soft under-belly of my left arm and haven't been able to say what it is. Nobody has said "shingles" yet so I'm hoping it's not that. They wonder if it isn't a boil or a rogue hair folicle thingie.

Today was a big hair loss day. It's been coming out in little bits and pieces since yesterday but after today's shower, I had a big, hairy mess on my hands. Can you imagine if Carol hadn't cut it?! The nurse helped me after my shower and she filled the garbage can with hair. FILLED! I don't look bald (I have pretty thick hair) but believe me, there's a lot of hair in that garbage can. I'd show you a photo if I had my camera. You would be amazed.

I know I have to be here at least one more day. Someone said they think my white blood cell counts have to be over 2.5 before I can go home and, of course, this fever has to be under control. I'm having a lot of headaches, too. Maybe it's the antibiotics and all the fluids they keep pumping through me.

Darrel spent the morning with me and helped me get moved to my room at noon. It was nice to have that time to chat with my bro. Brenda was here at work today, so she stopped by. Thanks, Brenda. And Patio stopped in for a moment just now. Gum! I didn't know I needed gum or I would have asked for some. Cuzin Dave came by yesterday with some reading materials for me. Thanks, Dave.

Last night Hannah, Luke, Kevin and Darrel all came by. Hannah's been spending lots of time with me and I appreciate that and all she thinks to bring for me ... good food ... good music ... good literature ... good conversation.

And thanks to everyone for cheering for me and for your comments and emails. I'm very grateful for my team.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Update from the Hospital

Hi Everyone! I'm feeling quite a bit better today. My fever has come down. They keep pumping me full of various antibiotics. Under the circumstances, I'm glad to be here instead of at home where I was becoming a bit frantic over my rising temperature. Nice to have medical professional taking charge.

Big thanks to my neighbour, Brenda, who was available yesterday to drive me to the hospital and to sit with me while I waited for "processing". My oncologist said "be there in 15 minutes", so I'm lucky and grateful that she was so handy.

Thanks got Cheryl and Alexa for picking up Hannah at the airport.

How nice to have Hannah home. She just arrived here a while ago with a lovely picnic, complete with music to play on a portable iPod player. We're listening to Icelandic easy listening music. Some songs I even know but they're in Icelandic, such as "Tammy". Cool! I feel like I'm staying in a fancy hotel. Best of all, Hannah brought herself.

White blood cell counts are low. They drew blood again a while ago. Maybe they've started going up again. I'm still in a room in Emergency because they don't have another room available yet.

Anyway, I'm where I should be for the time being. Thanks for all your well-wishes.

If there was a ref in this game, Chemo would be getting a major roughing penalty.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hannah and Luke here

No need to worry. Mom is just getting some blood work done and they are running a few tests at the hospital. She may have to stay the night, but we dont quite know yet. I am sure she will fill you in as soon as she finds a computer.

gone to emergency


Not good ...

... temperature now somewhere between 38.1 and 39.1. I don't trust these thermometers so I have 3 and they each give a different reading. 38.1, 38.5, 39.1. I think I can safely ascertain that it's over 38 degrees. I'm waiting for a call from the Champion Centre as to what I should do. Meanwhile, I'm drinking water.

Temperature Rising

My temperature is sneaking up again. It's at 37.5. I heard back from Marg at the Champion Centre and she's going to talk to my oncologist and get back to me. She asked where I'd be able to pick up a prescription for an antibiotic. That sounds encouraging to me. I just want this fever to go away. I'd also like to know what's causing it. That little infected blister on my arm doesn't look exactly like a hive. It looks like a single, little blister with a postage stamp-sized square of painful redness around it. I wonder if it could be shingles? I hope not. I hope not. I hope not. Imagination gone wild. Or ... erudite analysis? ... Wahhhhh ... I hope it's imagination gone wild.

I have to post pretty pictures even with the unhappy posts. Maybe it will counter them a little.

Rain. Beautiful Rain.

Yesterday's rain was lovely! I haven't looked in the garden yet but I'm sure the effects will be evident. All the watering in the world doesn't replace rain.

I'm having a better day today.

Last night, after the first tylenol wore off, my fever went up again and even tylenol didn't bring it back down. I was pretty miserable. My temp hovered around 37.7 for most of the evening. Kevin called the emergency oncologist one more time and he suggested only one more dose of tylenol before bed and that sleep would be good for me. So, worry free, I slept. I woke at 1:30 a.m. and my temp is just slightly above normal, which made me very happy. I didn't wake again until 7:00 and my temp was up a bit at 37.2. That seems to be where it's holding. I still feel tired but have had breakfast and will, perhaps, try to sleep for a while again. There are a few things I want to do before Hannah gets here at 4:45! How exciting is that??!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 12 - The Worst

Well, that was the worst 12 hours I've had yet. Crap. Crap. Crap.

I feel a little better now, though. We talked to the emergency oncologist and he said I could take tylenol for the fever, benedryl for the hives and he recommended something for the YI. My fever is approaching normal, my ribs don't hurt so bad, I'm not as itchy and I'm freshly washed and lotioned. I feel much better. Just tired because I haven't really slept since 3:30 this morning. We've been strongly cautioned to NOT take Tylenol without permission from an oncologist for fear of masking a fever. We're not sure what's causing the fever but if he says I can take tylenol, that's what I'll do.

All's on track now. Not much of a Father's Day for Kevin, though. Luke is on a mission for that, though, so ... all in good time.

Happy Father's Day all you Dads out there ... those both here and not.

Side Effects Du Jour

Nope. Can't ever expect 2 good days in a row. Despite a few discomforts, yesterday was a pretty good day. I should have been suspicious, though, after I didn't get a little window of energy after dinner. Instead, I hit my mid-afternoon wall and kind of stayed there. I was exhausted!

I never did get a call back from the Champion Centre yesterday. I think that's because they're closed over the weekend but I thought the message on the answering machine would have said so. It didn't. I guessed that I could wait until Monday rather than call emergency, which is the only other option on a weekend or evening. The YI is tolerable. The hives/blisters ... minimal and scattered and also tolerable. The spot where my picc-line stitches are ... mildly painful but tolerable. I think I over-used the muscles in that arm picking weeds yesterday, though I really didn't do much.

Last night my scalp started feeling prickly signaling the beginning of the end for my hair. I wait in rapt anticipation for more signs. My gums and teeth ... also a little sensitive. I've stepped up my oral hygiene to keep mouth sores at bay. My nose is pretty dry inside and I had a couple of minor nose bleeds yesterday but that's easily taken care of with a good slathering of vaseline. I had to get up three times in the night to spray bactine on a particulary itchy new hive that appeared on the softest flesh of my arm. Damn, it's itchy! My rib cage and sternum ached through the night and still do. I can't take tylenol, though, because I'm now spiking a slight fever, which I'm watching like a hawk. It was 37.3 at 3:30 a.m. It's gone as high as 37.7 at 7:30 and, now that I'm up it's down to 37.2. 38 is the magic number when I have to go to emergency. Normally, my body temp has been hanging around 36.6. I feel exhausted but can't sleep with this low-grade fever. And my stomach feels a little weak.

I don't feel very good this morning. It might as well rain.

Do I sound whiny? I'll post a quote from Cindy later that's appropriate for today, I think. And I'll keep you posted about the fever and other annoying side effects. Pardon my French.

On the bright side ... well ... on the BRIGHT side ... hmmmmm ... HANNAH COMES HOME TOMORROW! See? I knew there was a bright side!

I don't remember the name of this little crawly plant above but I love it! I love the colour.

What the ... ?

Something obviously happened during the night! Any ideas?


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Some People Have Wondered ...

... if I mind them sharing the link to my blog with others.

No, I don't mind. If there are people who know me or don't know me who are interested in watching this game or joining my team, I'm fine with that. I welcome all the help I can get and the bigger my cheering section, the better.

Besides that, maybe my experience will be useful to someone else out there. Already I've been experiencing side-effects that weren't in my documentation from the Champion Centre and maybe my talking about them will help somebody else figure out what's happening with their body. I've always believed that sharing information is a good thing.

I only plan on maintaining this blog for the duration of my treatment, which will probably last until early 2010. After that, I will have much better things to do ... such as working and enjoying life. In the meantime, I'm finding this blog helpful to me in ways I hadn't even anticipated. One being that when friends and family do phone or stop by and if they've been keeping up with my blog, it means I don't have to tell my story repeatedly, thereby freeing us up to talk about much more interesting things that aren't related to me and my treatment. Refreshing. It's also serving as good documentation for me. Chemo-brain could kick in any minute and so it's good to have things written down.

So, if you want to pass this link on to someone whether they know me or not, by all means ... DO!

Elaine's Baby Robin Photo

Another bird photo from Elaine.
This time a baby robin that she spotted
while on a deck-building mission in Wainright.
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Wieghty Issues

Peculiar. I've read the warnings about chemo and weight gain. Most women gain an average of 15 pounds on chemo for various reasons. Susan, who had a "sister-tumour" to mine, gained 25 pounds during the course of her chemo (though she lost it within the year after). I've tried to mentally prepare myself for that reality even though it's a bit of a kick in the backside considering the weight gain I've struggled with over the past 5 years.

Knowing that and knowing that it's also important to eat well to keep blood counts high and immune system fighting, I've resigned myself to gaining that weight and I haven't restricted my diet at all. All that said, I'm happy to report that I've lost 8 pounds since the start of my chemo. I'm amazed because aside from a few days, my appetite has been very good and I've been eating well and heartily. I don't know if it's the extra water I've been drinking, the inclusion of freshly ground flax seed, extra fruit and vegetables ... I don't know. Whatever it is, I'm very glad of it. If I can eat a very healthy diet and not count calories AND lose weight, YEAH!!! I would patent it if I understoond.

On a cautionary note, maybe it's the last three chemo injections that are the ones that will cause weight gain. Still, if I gain later on that drug after having lost on this one, maybe I can break even.

Another Day - Another Side Effect

Such a beautiful day today. I sat in the shade on the deck this morning and read the paper. Kevin, finally, has a day at home and he's starting to putz in the garden. There's always an endless amount of things to be done in the garden and, hopefully, today we (WE ... haha) can get lots done. I can do a bit, of course, but we all know that Kevin will be the gardening muscle.

I slept well last night. Thank you someone for that! I have some new side effects and I'm waiting for a call back from a chemo nurse as to what to do about them. Two words. "Yeast". "Infection". Ick. I also have some hives. They're very scattered and only about a dozen of them that I can identify. Some are itchy. Some are tender. One looks like a blister (it was the first one that appeared suddenly on my upper thigh yesterday morning). Some I can't feel at all. Some are raised. Some are flat. Little red marks. I felt and watched one emerge on my finger last night. Weird stuff. "YI's" aren't listed in my side-effect information but further research assures me that they are not uncommon while on chemo and advises calling the Champion Centre. One of my drugs can, as a less common side effect, cause hives so I'm sure that's what I'm experiencing. If they bother me, I'm to contact the Champion Centre. They're tolerable, though a couple of them are pretty itchy, especially that blistery one on my thigh.

Last night I finally got out for a walk. It was so nice in the evening and no sun to avoid. Kevin had seen Laurel at the lacrosse game last night and she suggested we walk to her place and get a tour of their new home. It was exactly the right walking distance there and back. What a cool home! The arts and crafts style wood in it is gorgeous and the dining room is the most beautiful and regal I've ever seen. I would feel I would have to have a formal Christmas-style dress-up dinner in there at least once a month just to pay tribute to such a room. Dave arrived just as we were leaving so we visited a while longer before walking home. Note to self: More walking.

Above is a lone Godetia bloom. Pretty.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Milo for the Cause

This is Carol's dog, Milo! Carol writes:
How do you feel about going blond? I gave Milo a "comb" and I have enough hair for your wig!!! By the way he LOVES to be combed. Doesn't it look like he went through doggie-chemo?!
Now, that's FUNNY! Thanks, Milo, for doing your part!
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Inspirational Quote #2

Just remember a year from now this will be behind you and you will be sitting at your computer looking like Victoria Beckham with a very swanky hair cut!!! -- Susan Weber (from Shanghaii)
I wish! Carol, you have a year to learn Victoria Beckham's cut!


Dessert for One!

Yummy! Such flavour!

My day was better than I had expected. Mild discomforts. Some napping. Watched a movie. Finished appliqueing one of the hankie squares.

Rex and Erin popped by for a short visit. Erin had noticed a coupon for a discount on wigs at Lots of Looks, which is GREAT, and they dropped that off for me! I hope to get my wig next week after Hannah gets home and the four of us can go together and make a family event of it.

Luke and Kevin are at Luke's box lacrosse game tonight. When Kevin gets home, we plan on going for a walk. I haven't been walking enough. I know that. Earlier this week, I just wasn't up to it and I also have to time my walks so they're not during the hottest part of the day. Even with a hat and long sleeves and sunscreen, it's best for me not to be in the sun for long. Evenings or early mornings are better times to walk provided my energy is good at those times. My heart goes out to all women having to go through similar experiences but especially so to the women who have go through this in the winter. Do you think, this winter, that I would have chosen to bundle up and go out for a walk in the evening? NOT!! Thank you whoever you are for scheduling my chemo during summer!
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Funny Cancer Quote No. 2

Every day is a new normal! -- Nora
You're telling me!!

Organic Strawberries!

Look what I'm going to be eating later today!  My first strawberry from my first strawberry crop.  I can't wait!

It's turned out to be a hot day and it's also turned out to be not such a bad day all round.  I don't feel nearly as peppy as yesterday but, still, not awful.  A little headachy.  Nothing I'd reach for a tylenol for.  Mouth and lips are a little tender.  More rinsing required.

Kevin and Sean stopped by for lunch, which was a nice interruption of my day.  We sat on the deck for a while and soaked up the sun ... or, in my case, the shade.  

I had a nice chat with Nora.  I miss my colleagues at the office.  They're such a great bunch.  

Time for a nap.  That strawberry isn't going to ripen any faster if I sit and watch it.

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Chemo - A New Adventure Every Day!

Great day. Not so great day. Even if this became the rhythm of life for the next 4 months, I would be glad. Then again, I don't think chemo has much rhythm and is not willing to be led.

Last night, just before heading up to bed, Kevin and I were laughing at the link I gave you to the Charlie the dog photo story. It's great. If you haven't looked at it, find the link in my "Pioneer Woman" post. I stretched and then kind of unconsciously rubbed my hand against my rib cage. YOUCH! Instant deep pain. Fortunately it only lasted about 5 minutes. It was a bit of a shocker considering I wasn't aware of even the teeniest possibility that my ribs could feel like that. And things just got stranger from there.

I woke up at about 1:30 a.m. and didn't get back to sleep until around 5:00. I felt itchy so I got up and had a soak in baking soda and lotioned up. My bones ached here and there. My scalp got a little prickly and the back of my neck ached. It felt like I had a bruise in one spot on the back of my head. I could feel it against my feather pillow. I had little muscle spasms from time to time ... tingles in my fingers and toes ... some nausea ... a very dry mouth ... just brushing the back of my leg against a stair hurt, too. Unsettling. This morning, unable to sleep even though I feel tired, I got up and while reading the paper, I experienced a sudden sharp pain on my upper thigh. A little, very itchy blister just emerged out of nowhere. I put a bandaid over it just to prevent myself from scratching at it because I don't think that would be a good idea.

Not a great start to my day. I hope it rains. That would be good for all growing things. It might be the day to curl up on the couch, turn on some tv and hope for sleep.

Don't you think it's strange that three days ago I had such tender and achy skin and tissues and that I could feel so good yesterday only to be bumped back into aches and pains today? Chemo. Not only can't he dance, he has no rhyme or reason. Good thing he has such good other skills or I'd have to consider negotiating a trade. That's acting like I'm the boss or something. Riiiiggghhht!

By the way. Don't worry. I'm not wallowing in self-pity or anything even remotely close to that. It's just annoying. I've prepared myself a little, I think, to expect a mix of goods and bad days.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

This is SOOOOO funny!!

Before I go to bed, I have to tell you about "The Pioneer Woman". Hers is the only personal blog I subscribe to (via RSS) simply because she makes me laugh. A lot! She's just some crazy woman who grew up in New York, met and fell in love with a cattle rancher, married him, had four punks, home schools them, takes a lot of photos and ... well ... I think she's hilarious. After reading her blog for more than 2 years, I know I would feel right at home in her kitchen.

Time magazine selected Confessions of a Pioneer Woman as one of the 25 Best Blogs of 2009.

She describes herself on her blog like this:
The Pioneer Woman: Plowing through life in the country ... one calf nut at a time. My Name is Ree. I'm a desperate housewife. I live in the country. I channel Lucille Ball and Ethel Merman. Welcome to my Frontier.
Learn more about her here. It's a good place to get started if you're into this kind of thing.

Here is a recent post by The Pioneer Woman that I think is particularly hilarious and delightful. It's a funny series of photos about one of their family dogs, Charlie. If you love dogs, you will love this. Take a look here. I dare you not to laugh. I dare you not to go out and get yourself a dog! If you don't look at anything else, just look at this. It is soooooo amusing!

Day 9 Winds Down

All in all, a very good day today. Kevin feels considerably better this evening but will still need a killer sleep tonight.

I hit "the boards" this afternoon around 2:30. That's the way it seems to work on a good day (on a bad day, I just feel less than stellar all day but mostly things have been going very well, I think). I wound down for a while in the afternoon and then we had a quiet left-overs dinner with Luke. Brenda stopped by for a short visit and a sit on the deck. Patty and Ron came by in the evening with a care package that both Ron and Matty had a hard time parting with, I think. Patty included her BEST recommended chapstick to get me through my dry lips stage. Thanks, guys!

Hi cousin Carol. Thanks for your call. It was nice to play catch-up with you.
Nice to hear from you, Cheryl. Good luck to the kids on their final exams tomorrow!

Good night, everyone!

More cow bells!!

Not really, but I've always wanted to say that.

Actually, this message is for Elaine. Ross (Carol's husband) is smitten with your bird photos. He would love you to send me more. And, if you're taking requests, he would love to see one of a meadowlark, his favourite bird.

Meanwhile I'm posting this one of goldfinches taken by Elaine.

The Haircut! After

FINALLY!! Carol was able to come to my rescue and cut my hair!! Why Carol? Well, because she volunteered. Has Carol ever cut anyone's hair before? No. But I trust her implicitly even though I once let her try to put lip liner on me and we know what happened then! While it might seem unlikely to let someone who has never cut hair before cut my hair, you'll understand if you know Carol. Carol has always been the maestro of hair even though she's never cut any. You could do a pictorial blog of nothing but the "doos" of Carol and her daughters over the years. She has amazing fingers for hair and why she isn't a hairdresser is a topic for some deep delving one day. Well, her talents are many. That's probably why.

Not only have I needed a haircut for some time, it is also recommended that I get my hair cut short before it falls out, which should be in the next 7 to 17 days. Now I'm ready, though it will be sadder to lose my hair now that it's cut than when it was nothing but a limp rat's nest.

Anyway, I feel GREAT! Thanks, Carol! Maestro of hair. (I'm channeling Leonard, I think).

Ist Chemo Book

Here's what I'm reading. It' a mystery. I've never been a "mystery reader" per se, but I can't say why. This one has very rich writing about reading and all things bookish, which suits me to a tea.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Quotes from the book so far:
"Silence is not a natural environment for stories ... they need words. Without them they grow pale, sicken and die. And then they haunt you."
"The hours between eight in the evening and one or two in the morning have always been my magic hours. Against the blue candle-wick bedspread the white pages of my book open, illuminated by a circle of lamplight, were the gateway to another world."

"Reading had never let me down before. It had always been the one sure thing."
... and I'm only on page 33.

Inspirational Quote #1

At this point in my life, I seem to believe in God, Buddha, positive energy and the immense spirit power created between caring friends. -- Eileen


The Rhubarb Fairy!

Earlier I thanked Roger for dropping off a bag of rhubarb at my door and I coined him the "rhubarb fairy", which is a visual that still makes me laugh out loud!

It turns out it was KAREN, who dropped off the rhubarb from ROGER'S garden! The image of Karen as a "rhubarb fairy" is priceless, too, but in a sweet way. Thanks, Karen!


What a beautiful morning! I ate my oatmeal/fruit/flax combo on the deck and read the paper, listened to the birds and then surveyed the garden.

Mom is heading home today after taking care of all our laundering needs. My undies have never been so nicely folded since I was a kid! Thanks, Mom, for coming in and giving us a hand this past week even though there are lots of things you needed to get done at your own place. Your garden ... or what's left of it ... will be glad to have you home. People at the Lake will wonder what's happened to you. Now is the time to be there.

Kevin's stomach is settled this morning and even though he still feels ravaged between the food poisoning and his cold, he thinks he will go in to work ... if he can get off the phone with work, that is.

I had another good sleep last night. The fatigue part of chemo is turning out to be a blessing I hadn't anticipated. I was prepared for a lousy night just because my chest was bugging me so much. Just irritating. Like an itch you can't scratch. Not exactly painful, but uncomfortable. I had trouble settling so, for the first time in a long time, I reached for a book. I have several "wannareads" beside my bed but I just haven't been able to read during all of this. Well, not exactly true, I was really able to enjoy reading while we were on vacation in Kentucky but that's because I was in place of relief. Surgery was over and went well, I knew I had to wait to start chemo anyway, so there was no worry and no urgency. At that time I didn't know I'd have more surgery down the road either.

So, I started reading and was actually able to get into it ... for a little while. I didn't last long before I had to put the book away. But it's encouraging for me that I didn't WANT to put the book down. Reading has always been my pleasure and my refuge. I'd like to keep it that way. And then I slept. Of course, I get up a few times in the night but, so far, I always fall back to sleep easily.

This morning, I feel pretty good. My chest annoyance is still there but it's easy to ignore, I think. Hopefully it will stay that way or just go away altogether. It really drove me bonkers yesterday.

Thanks, Jack, for calling last night. I needed that.

See Norma? Tiger Lilies! In our yard! You have such good karma!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kevin is on the Mend

Kevin's Doctor thinks he's had, on top of his awful cold, some food poisoning! We thought it must be the flu. Anyway, Kevin slept most of the day but I think he's feeling a bit better this evening. He had a bison burger for supper and ... so far so good! I think he's getting over his cold, too! BONUS! Meanwhile, disinfectant wipes are at our fingertips.

PICC-Line Blues

The PICC-line Flush went just fine at the CHAMPION CENTRE (thanks, Ron). It's flushed, cleaned up and redressed all fancy in it's white lacey, slinky sheath.

It's driving me a little crazy, though. Today I can feel it in my chest. I asked the nurse if that's where the PICC line goes ... almost to the centre of my chest ... and she said "yes". It doesn't exactly hurt but it does feel very uncomfortable. I might have to phone and inquire. It's giving me the PICC-line blues. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I hate having it but I would rather have it than go through all the pokes and chemo injections (with my teeny, troublesome veins). Right now it kind of burns. I think I'm going to call them about it. It makes me what to reach into my chest and just rip it out. I just phoned about it and they'll call me back. (Update: They think it might be just part of the bones in my sternum catching on that white blood cells are disappearing and my bone marrow is reacting. That's also why I'm feeling achy and tender all over. That my PICC-line is in the same area as my sternum might be why there's some irritation there that I should just monitor and make sure I don't get a fever. They'll call me again tomorrow. If the problem worsens or persists, they have to do a chest x-ray to check the PICC-line and make sure it's in place. She guessed correctly that I was on the FEC mix of drugs by my side-effects and she explained that they like to use the PICC-line for that one because of the "E", which can really burn veins. She seemed surprised, though, by my describing a "burning sensation" in my chest at this point. Most likely, though, this is just part of how my body is responding to chemo. Great. Lucky me! Woo hooo!!)

I also asked about the tender skin and tissues I had yesterday and I was told that it was very common ... "normal". Funny, though, that I can't find anything about it in the literature except for the "tender scalp before losing hair" part. The list of side effects given to me by my oncologist lists all the usual ... nausea/vomiting ... hair loss ... mouth sores ... and then, at the end, there's "Pain". Just "Pain". I doesn't describe where or what kind ... just "Pain", so I guess that's what tender skin and tissue falls under. Peculiar.

"Cancer isn't for everyone, you know". I don't think it's for me either.

Hannah Comes Home on Monday!


Kevin's Home from Minneapolis ...

... we broke out a new bottle of disinfectant wipes!

He's pretty sick but I think he had a pretty good sleep and, hopefully, has turned the corner. He'll see the doc and get checked over this afternoon.

I also had a good sleep last night, remarkably. I thought the tender skin would keep me awake but ... maybe ... when chemo dishes out an unpleasant side effect such as "tender tissue", it also mercifully gives you fatigue. How thoughtful. I slept quite well. When I went to bed my skin even hurt where my pillow touched so I had been a little skeptical.

Now, I must get cleaned up and go to that place (I don't like calling it "The Cancer Centre". Surely there's something more pleasant or amusing. Help me out here, please!) and get my PICC-line flushed. It has to be flushed every week to prevent infection. What I find most inconvenient is that, in order to get cleaned up, I need to securely enclose my arm and the PICC-line in protective plastic all taped in place because the PICC-line parts CAN NOT GET WET! I still haven't figured out how to do this on my own and I wasn't offered some handly little device to slip over it to make washing easier. What was recommended ... and this is what I've been doing ... is slitting the end of a sandwich bag, sliding it over my arm and having someone tape both ends securely to my arm. I know there's a better way. I just haven't thought of it. If Dad were here, he would have thought of something by now. I just know it. If anyone has any tips or ideas, please share!

Another beautiful day out there! I read the paper on the deck with my bowl of oatmeal, blueberries and banana. Stomach is A-okay! Heartburn ... no biggie. Even my skin is less tender this morning. Maybe I'll feel normal after a good cleaning. Of course, a haircut would help ... Carol!

By the way, thanks Roger (I'm guessing it was Roger) who left a bag of rhubarb at my door. By the way, did you know that 1 cup of cooked rhubarb contains twice the amount of calcium as milk?!! It's also high in potassium and contains a fair amount of iron. There you go. Rhubarb. Good stuff.

Enjoy this morning's garden photo. I don't know what this flower is but it is one of the first spring bloomers in our garden and I love it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Time for Tylenol!

I didn't think I'd need to reach for the tylenol but my skin (and the tissue just beneath it) really does hurt! Especially across my chest right now. Even without touching it, it just aches. It even hurt to wash my face today. Very strange.

I hope I'll be able to "applique myself to distraction" ... and that the tylenol will take the edge off!

Time to Start Hannah's Quilt

This project is long overdue and it's going to be my healing creative outlet during treatment. This is the first square of what will be Hannah's antique handkerchief quilt. I have 20 prepared for applique. Mom helped me prepare the black fabric and she has collected, laundered and ironed almost all of the hankies. She's gathered quite an amazing collection of beauties.

If I can get through this quilt, maybe I'll be able to make Luke's quilt during treatment, too. The planning part is done and I have a lot of the fabric I need already. He didn't want antique hankies ... or at least I don't imagine he does. Maybe I should ask?
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Thanks, Luke!

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Funny Cancer Quote No. 1

All those women in the articles look great in their wigs and fancy, funky scarves and I always felt like an ugly dork! Cancer isn't for everyone I guess! (what the hell does that mean?) -- Anne
I laugh every time I think of this ... "Cancer isn't for everyone I guess!". And I think of this often!

A Sunny, Beautiful, Well-Rested Morning!

Well! I certainly had enough sleep!

Mom and I went for a walk in the cool of the evening last night and then I fell asleep on the sofa watching tv. I woke up and went straight to bed at 11:30 and slept until 8:30 (minus a couple of excursions after which I went immediately back to sleep). I'm surprised I slept so well because I had trouble getting comfortable in bed last night. My PICC-line arm seemed tender, my surgery side arm seemed a little puffy and tender. My shoulder bugged me. My mouth was really dry and I felt on the verge of the dreaded "mouth sores". I expected a troublesome night but I really slept like a log and I'm glad to have had that sleep.

I feel oddly achy, though. The skin on my thighs aches to touch and the skin over my jaws and cheek bones. In fact, now that I start poking around, my skin kind of aches a little anywhere I prod it. Very strange. Maybe this is the kind of "discomfort" they say I can expect on my scalp before my hair starts to fall out. I'm told my scalp will likely become quite tender. Maybe this is "tender skin" starting. But chemo is being enough of a team player to at least let me face discomfort well-rested and with a settled stomach. That part's good and my heartburn wasn't as bad last night either. So far, this morning, I'm off all meds except for my heartburn pill.

Kevin phoned from Minneapolis last night. He was on a 38 ft yacht on a big river and trying very hard to soak it all up even though he felt really awful! He'll be home late tonight.

Thanks, friends and family, for the calls, cards, emails, visits and for all the background wishes and cheering thoughts. Happy, Happy to both Don and Jim!

Now I have to (want to) go outside and check on the flowers (above is a poppy from our garden). I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Gary Visited Today

Gary, on his way to Calgary to help his son with a building project, stopped in for a visit. Happy Birthday on the 17th, Gary, and Happy Father's Day, too.

I had a slow day today. A great day. A slow day. As long as there are really great days between the slow or icky days, that should be manageable. Mom ran errands today and I did sweet F-A really! What a princess!!
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Little Wobbly and Shaky Today ...

... I think I'll try to sleep.

Chapstick and Lawyers. Oddly Related?

A beautiful morning. AGAIN!! We haven't had so many of those in a row so full appreciation here!

Kevin left for Minneapolis around 4:00 this morning ... cold in hand (or, more correctly, cold in head). Maybe they'll turn him away at the airport.

I was up at 6:30 since I couldn't get back to sleep anyway and I could tell it was going to be a beautiful day and since I wasn't feeling too badly and since I thought I could get outside and examine and deadhead flowers before the sun flooded the yard ... all in my gorgeous new robe!! ... that's what I did. Even though I could probably have benefited from some more sleep, I just couldn't, so I believe the rule is to get up and do something and sleep later. Just me and the birds out this morning and the flowers and deck are tidied. I I lounged out and read the paper. Mom must have heard me up so she got up at 7:00. We cleaned out the fridge (because it was becoming a mess), I broke a full bottle of soya sauce and we spent a while cleaning that up.

I'm now off dexamethadone and the dom perignon (that's what we're calling it anyway). I'm off all anti-nausea drugs now though I have reserves in case I need them. Just heartburn medicine for now.

Now ... where was I? Oh, yeah. Chapstick and Lawyers. You're wondering, aren't you?

So, I got to bed earlier last night and was so tired I turned off the light right away. Kevin slept downstairs on the sofa (2 meter germ free rule in place). As soon as my head hit the pillow, my mind filled with a nightmare of the few faces of the evil lawyers I know (no offense intended to those of my lawyer friends who are not evil spawn of Satan, but since I know a few, they do uninvited and unwelcome creep into my mind from time to time). The last thing I want to do at any time is revisit evil lawyers and since a couple of immediate tactics didn't rid them, I turned on the light and turned to Sudoku. But all I had left in my book were "easies" and "challengers". "Challengers" are, so far, over my head even when I'm feeling bright so I turned to "easies". They don't work. It turns out I can easily do easy Sudoku and have my mind infiltrated with spawn of Satan lawyers at the same time. I tried hard. I did 8 easy Sudoku. Still, evil lawyers lurked.

Then, I found the answer to erradicating thoughts of evil lawyers. I started thinking of the funny things that my team ... family and friends ... have said or written that make me laugh out loud. There's been a lot! Throughout this treatment, I'm going to be posting some of them from time to time so you can laugh with me. I only wish my memory was good enough to recall the many verbal funnies. All of those funny thoughts (that really do chase evil lawyers back to the hell they belong) led to some other funny memories that seemed appropriate at 1:00 a.m. And that's where chapstick comes in. Ahhhh ...

Chapstick. I noticed last night, while trying to chase away lawyer nightmares that my lips were feeling tingly. Chemo can cause mouth and lip sores so I've been on high alert. Can't become too complacent. I reached immediately for the handy chapstick on my bedside table and slathered away. I have chapsticks on almost every available surface in the house ... hand lotion, too, for chemo-skin.

Now when I think "chapstick", I have to think of Patty and Dalene. Before I ever knew I would have breast cancer, I've had opportune chapstick coaching from those two warriors. I will try to relay this story but if you don't find it funny, it's because I'm not able to really get across what really would have been better captured on video. Dalene and Patty are two of the most "we-can-win-this" Moms I know. In a good way. They're not those obnoxious parent fans we hate to believe still exist but who we've all seen. But they are two of the most competitively-minded women I know. In a great way. And I'm so glad to have them as the chapstick/lipgloss specialists on my coaching staff.

Imagine. Last summer. A large contingent of Sask parents at a SWAT (indoor lacrosse game) in Calgary. The game is rough and intense. Moms are all leaning forward in the bleachers. Dad's, arms crossed, standing at the back ... an odd pacer. At a particularly intense moment, Dalene (channelling Clint Eastwood, if you can imagine it) ... elbows on her knees, head leaning out over the bleachers below us ... "When the going gets tough, the tough put on lip gloss", she says. Without taking an eye off the play, she slowly, steadily, reaches into the purse at her feet and pulls out a lipgloss and glosses up. Beside her, Patty, like an robot ... intent on the game ... reaches into her front pocket, pulls out her chapstick and does the same. I just lose it.

Hilarity ensued. I don't know if you're getting the visual or the funny or if you really need to know these two warrior women to get it but, trust me, we laughed until we cried and have laughed about it ever since. Between periods, Dalene brought out her collection of 5 (FIVE! IN HER PURSE! AT THE SAME TIME!) of slightly varying shades of lipgloss. The LipGloss Queen. And Patty ... if you were to have to do a charade of "Patty", it would be the easiest thing ever. You would only have to mimic reaching into your pocket and chapsticking your lips and anyone who knows Patty would guess immediatly! She even has a faded imprint of her chapstick in her jeans pockets the way guys have wallet marks. Patty is the ChapStick Queen.

Now, if someone wants to get into the psychology between colour and non-colour lip stuff, I'll leave that to you. I'm not going there.

Anyway, the point is that, fortuitously, chapstick can act like "Lawyer-Be-Gone". Easy Sudoku: not so good for that.

Thanks for the funny stories and I hope we all have a good day!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Do You Think I'm Missing Having a Fur Child?

This is Daisy. She lives next door and she's always so excited to see us when we're in our backyard. She's a delight! I'd say that the bedding plants our neighbours have planted in that stretch of soil along the fence don't have a hope with Daisy around.
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Great Day Today!

Today was a real treat! I felt pretty much normal ... almost a little mini-vacation from cancer! After Mom got up and we both got moving, we went for a nice walk while it was still nicely overcast. We admired more gardens and houses, walked down Broadway, stopped for an energy-boosting booster juice, and sat on a bench for a while before hiking back home. Positively lovely. And then, just as the heat of the day was picking up (and no, I'm not complaining ... I LOVE summer!!), we went to Luke's Stealer's box lacrosse game which happened to be inside a nicely cool rink! It was great to watch Luke and the team play as they kicked some serious Moose Jaw butt with very little effort. Nothing against the Moose Jaw team. It wasn't an ugly game on either side. It was great to have Lynn and Darrel join us for the game and to see Don there as well.

I could feel myself slipping a bit around mid-game so was glad to get home and curl up on sofa for a while. Fatigue hits quickly when it does hit and heartburn (another chemo bonus) is also starting to bother me a bit, too. I'm on medication for it, which I take twice a day but now, just as my appetite is improving and even though I'm basically still eating small portions and bland meals, it's weasling its way in. While I was snoozing, Syl dropped by during her busy time with some very thoughtful treats. Thanks, Syl. Darrel and Lynn came by for a visit with the boys (who I'm tempted to keep, they are so nice. By "boys" I mean their two border collies, Porter and Otto). It was nice to hear about Josh's trip to South Africa, Josh being Darrel and Lynn's "human son".

Then, surprise, surprise, Auntie Anne - the kitchen fairy - came by with a full-blown meal and herself. Her timing was excellent. She said she had wanted to do this a few days earlier but I know I wouldn't have been able to properly enjoy it as much as I did tonight. With just getting my appetite back, the meal was spectacular. Thanks so much, Auntie Anne! It was wonderful and Kevin, Luke, Mom and I all appreciate it very much. Kevin and Luke had such a busy lacrosse day and to come home at the end of it to your hearty meal was great for all of us. And best of all, you were here with us and we had a chance to visit after not seeing you for quite some time.

A little bit about Auntie Anne. Auntie Anne is my aunt who has lived in Saskatoon as long as I can remember. Our whole family would descend upon Uncle Keith (Mom's oldest brother) and Auntie Anne, who was working full time. She would not only come home from work and put on a big, wonderful meal for everyone, she would also extend the dinner invitation to every other family member and friend who was around. As we got older and we kids all moved to Saskatoon, she would invite all of us and our various boyfriends and girlfriends to dinner whenever my parents came to town ... along with, of course, her own 4 sons, their significant others and some of their various friends as well. There was always room and plenty to eat whether we sat at the table, on the sofa, on the floor ... Good times! But now, as I'm older and wiser, I positively marvel at how Auntie Anne did that!! How DID she do that? And still play cards late into the night and then get up and go to work in the morning tip-toeing around a house full of people? And always made everyone feel welcome and relaxed. Amazing lady, my Auntie Anne. That's her with my Mom in this photo op from tonight. I hope all of you grew up with an "Auntie Anne", too.

Such a nice day and now it's time to kick back (keeping my distance from Kevin still) and see if either one of us can stay awake for a movie.

I hope everyone had a fabulous day! Thanks for your calls, emails, comments and for cheering me on during the course of your day!

Another amazing bird photo from Elaine!

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Feeling Really Very Well! Yessiree Bob!

I woke up to the sound of rain! How nice, except for Luke who was already out at the lacrosse field getting ready to coach a Stinger's game. I feel really very good this morning!! I had a great sleep! Kevin set up a fan in my room which, along with delivering a gentle, cooling breeze, acted as white noise to buffer the birds. Even when I got up in the night, I was able to get back to sleep easily. If it wasn't for the minor discomfort of this PICC-line, I wouldn't have even known I was in a game at all right now! How nice to forget about it for a while.

So, I'm medicated, had a hearty oatmeal and banana breakfast and am ready to do something constructive while the getting's good!

What a nice morning to have Darrel and "the boys" (as pictured in an earlier post) pop in for coffee and a visit. I was just up when he arrived and Kevin with his nasty cold is up and getting ready to head for the field because he's convening the lacrosse tournament. He's keeping our mandatory 2 meter distance.

Mom must have stayed up all night ironing Luke's boxer shorts. She's still fast asleep. Then again, we opened her window last night and maybe my country girl Mom had trouble with all the city sounds ... and the birds.

Darrel's in for the weekend. Lynn and her sister are walking in the Bridge City Boogie this morning and he dropped them off.

Have a super day everyone!