Monday, November 30, 2009

I Needed Something Cheery ...

... and maybe you do, too. I miss having flowers in the backyard to photograph. So when I saw these cheerful colours while I was at the grocery store, I had to have them! They are just the ticket for today.

I had my radiation treatment at 8:30 this morning and will be going back to sleep right away. I'm feeling SUPER tired even though I went to bed pretty early.

Radiation Treatment Status: 11 done. 19 to go.

My stomach felt slightly queazy while I was on the table this time. This is about the third time my stomach has become a little upset, but usually it happens a little while after a treatment. I'm a little swollen under my armpit and tender, of course, in the whole area but not too bad really. Things are better than I had expected after feeling some discomfort after the very first radiation treatment, so that's a good thing.

I finished my last lasix pill yesterday. My ankles are still good this morning. I have a call in to my doctor to discuss the whole lasix business.
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Sunday, November 29, 2009


Was that disappointing or what??!! I wouldn't have been SO sad about losing that game except for the way it was lost. What a heart-breaker ... on a stupid penalty call.

Oh well, we had a great time anyway at the Kelly's. We ate. We drank. We laughed. We cried.

Here's all of us including Gus and Ellie. And here's Eddie, too. Aren't his green eyes eerie? I didn't photoshop them. Honest!

Laurel made pompoms for us, but we forgot to hold them for the picture ... busy trying to get dogs to look at the camera. Laurel also made Rider wear for the pups. She sewed a ruffle on the bottom of Ellie's shirt for obvious reasons and, for Gus, she altered his so that he wouldn't pee on it!

CFL done for the year. Sad ending. Now what? It might have to be NFL (if I can get enthused) until Luke's lacrosse starts at the end of January and then, of course, there will be the Olympics. It's always good to have teams to cheer for.

Here are the BC Rider fans ... at half time when things we still looking VERY sweet! I haven't received a post game photo.
Thanks, Syl, for the Rider cupcakes!



Some of you will know how much this means to me. I absolutely LOVE Christmas lights. I L-O-V-E LOVE them!! Many of you know what a sad joke it is, then, that we never have Christmas lights on our own house. I won't even repeat the sad stories about a couple of previous reluctant attempts that lacked any enthusiasm at all.

This year, though, WE DO have lights!! REAL lights! Here's proof. Here is Kevin putting up lights on OUR HOUSE! I stood outside briefly last night to admire them in the dark. SO pretty!

Thanks, Kev!

*wink wink* to my SARCAN pals!



Sorry for not posting a "green photo". I'm sure to have on later.

Quilt Status: 6 squares done. 14 to go.

A day without radiation is always a nice little break.

I missed a party I would really like to have gone to last night. Kevin went and had a very good time. Next year. Next year.

But today we'll watch the Grey Cup game with the Peters and Kellys! I can't wait!



Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Latest Book Read

I finally finished Last Night at Twisted River by John Irving. It took me a long time to get through this one for a couple of reasons, one being that I haven't able to read in bed very much lately because I keep falling asleep and two, the story didn't grab me as much as I would have hoped.

I was actually disappointed in the book and I'm a long time John Irving fan, which isn't to say I've loved all of his books but the ones I've loved, I've REALLY loved.

This one endeared itself to me only in that it repeats a lot of familiar "John Irving Themes", so it's more of a nostalgic warm-fuzziness I feel toward it. There are bears, wrestling, New Hampshire, dogs, tattoos, a troublesome left hand ... and many more things John Irving readers are familiar with.

Every now and then, for me, it also seemed to step outside of fiction and seemed more autobiographical, especially when the book turned to the characters commenting on Canadian and American politics and recent major events. It seemed to me that Irving really wanted to put his personal views out there and was using the story to do it and yet, to me, those parts took on what I imagine to be his own voice instead of those of the characters. I don't know enough about John Irving personally to know if that might be true. It was more of a feeling. It just happened naturally when reading the book that commentary seemed to step outside the story.

It's not a book that I'll remember fondly except, perhaps, for the nostalgia.


Trying Not to Walk This Way

Quilt Status: 5 squares done. 15 to go.

Two weeks of radiation done. 10 treatments. I was told that I would mostly start feeling the effects after about the 10th treatment. Reall, though, I don't feel too bad. Definite tenderness in the radiated area but very tolerable. Fatigue for sure, which just requires giving in to the feeling. I keep applying lotion.

One thing I haven't talked much about, probably because I keep expecting it to subside and because I don't understand it, is my difficulty walking sometimes.

It started with the edema and so I've associated it with that and, in my mind, the edema explained it. My ankles and legs were so tight with puffiness, of course they didn't bend properly and the veins were probably constricted, explaining the pains and stiffness. So, I thought that would subside when the edema diminished. Not so. And then I thought it was because I wasn't getting enough exercise and my calf muscles had tightened up, so I was very diligent about doing exercises to stretch and limber those muscles. No difference. In fact, it seemed to make it worse. I tried walking more and what I've found (and this seems inexplicable to me) is that the more active I am (and I'm not talking about pushing myself at a gym ... I mean more active in a "getting groceries, walking back and forth through parking lots, doing laundry, sweeping floors kind of way), the more likely my muscles are to seize up by the end of the day. If I take a day and sleep it away (like I did a couple of days ago), I can walk so much better at the end of the day. It's so strange. I don't understand it at all.

Let's say I've had a moderate amount of exercise engaged in nothing more than normal, moderate daily activity. At the end of the day, if I stand up after having been sitting for a short time, I have to stand there for a while before I can even hazard a step forward and then, when I do, I can hardly move at first. It really takes some shuffling and effort to move myself along. I look like I need a walker. No kidding! And it's worse the more active I've been.

Today, I'm wondering if it isn't to do with the neuropathy from the chemo. My feet and fingers are still as numb as they've ever been and I recently read that neuropathy can also include pains in the legs, which I have sometimes and which causes some of my problems with walking. Maybe the problem is neuropathy and maybe it will just take a lot longer for it to subside.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Work Appropriate Rider Wear

You saw it here!

An example of how to incorporate your Rider spirit into office appropriate wear.

You GOTTA love Rider fans!

Radiation Treatment Status: 10 done. 20 to go. I'm a third of that way done! That's worth celebrating! I'm tender but not too bad. Today I could feel tingling during treatment and some distinct pin prickly sensations. The whole radiation department was decked out in Roughrider decorations. The festive atmosphere certainly does make an otherwise lousy experience worth smiling about. And now I get a weekend off treatments but have my next one at around 8:00 a.m. Monday morning. Ouch!

Last night I slept like a rock. I was shocked when I woke up this morning and Kevin was gone. I hadn't heard a thing! I don't feel as tired this afternoon as I did yesterday but I can feel myself slowing down right about now.

A little shout out to Auria and Tarah. I've been thinking of them this week while remembering Tanya.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Green Giant of Rider Fans!

You've heard me talk about my crazy Uncle Norm before. He's been keeping me in stitches by sending me Rider Fan photos of himself and he's given me permission to share them with you. Even though he's lived on Vancouver Island for years He's been a Rider fan FOREVER and his devotion is such that he has some very interesting and old memorabilia. It's the look on his face that totally gives me the giggles.

About the bobblehead, Uncle Norm writes, "PS...It says "SASKATCHEWAN" on the base but the flash covered it up...also, it says "RAIDERS" cuz the Japanese didn't quite get the accent right when they put it together back in the 60's. What a HOOT! Priceless."


Dog Tired

This card from Lynne says it all! This was me today except not as hairy and not as cute! Thanks for the card, Lynne and for your sense of humour!

I slept almost all afternoon and now, for the first time today, feel wide awake. I had plans for today but those went by the wayside. Once I was home from my treatment about all I accomplished was to slip in and out of consciousness to catch bits of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the National Dog Show. That was it. This must be the "fatigue" associated with radiation that they've been talking about. I hope it's not an every day thing.


Sleepy Hollow

It feels like I accidentally stumbled into Sleepy Hollow and can't get out! Just call me Rip Van Winkle. I could hardly wake myself up to get to my radiation appointment today at 10:10. I got up at the last possible moment, threw myself together and got there just in time, with crumpled bedding impressions still evident on my face and body. I ate an apple on the way and then got home to put on aloe vera gel, get some breakfast, and take a handfull of pills.

I'm sooo sleepy, still.

Mom and Gary stopped in briefly yesterday. They had to hurry back for a meeting, though.

Last night I finished another quilt square and here it is. I'm getting faster as I get used to using my numbed fingers. Of course, speed also means more finger pricks. I haven't drawn blood yet but a couple of times I've actually stitched through the surface skin of my finger and didn't know it until I tried to pull the thread tight and my finger came with it.

Quilt Status: 4 squares done. 16 to go.
Radiation Treatment Status: 9 done. 21 to go. Tender armpit, chest and back.
Ankle Status: Thin enough but probably only because of the lasix
Rider Nation Status: VERY GREEN!!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Great Expectations and Seeking Normal

I finished a 3rd quilt square last night.

Radiation Treatments: 8 done. 22 to go!

I'm told that my skin is looking good so far. I'm taking curcumin (the basis for curry powder, recommended by my naturopath) that is supposed to help my skin better endure radiation treatments. The staff at the Champion Centre remind me to continue applying lotion 3 times a day and to let the skin "air" when I can, especially if it's feeling hot. Hmmmm ... perhaps I should be getting drapes for my front window! I don't want to freak out the neighbours!

I'm finding my mental game the toughest part at this point and not the mental difficulties regarding radiation this time ... I mean in terms of moving on to AFTER cancer treatment is over. It's about being eager to return to "normal" but I'm not even sure I remember what normal is. It's wondering when to push myself and when to listen to my body. On those days when I feel remarkably well, it's easy to get caught up in the feeling and think, "THIS IS IT!" and expect things to continue improving. But that has never been the case so far. So far, those days have been like shooting stars - random and short-lived. I'm s0 eager for a time when feeling good really does become progressive. Even last Sunday when I felt so good, I was done in by 8:30 and then didn't feel so great the next day. By then, at least, I was familiar with the scenario so the disappointment wasn't so bad.

If it's hard for me to know when I can or cannot do "normal things", then it's hard for others to know, too. Part of it is that, on the surface, sometimes it's easy to fool even myself about how "normal" I'm feeling, especially if I'm feeling good at the moment. If I put on a wig, draw on some eyes, cover all the scars, I can look "normal" (for me). People who don't know my situation wouldn't know my health is compromised. People who know my situation might think I'm pretty much back to my old self. I might even think it myself ... temporarily. And then, when I'm on that high, it comes as a surprise to me when I suddenly feel overwhelmed or tired or drained or conscious of the little aches and pains that I don't always understand.

I guess that's the big question for me now. How long after radiation until I start feeling progressively better? I've heard that it takes about a year to really get back to pre-cancer energy levels and mental acuity, but I hope that long before that I'll feel normal enough to be able to fully engage in my life again. I can't wait for that day and I want it NOW! Or, at least, I want it the week after radiation is finished. Is that too much to expect?
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I didn't Earn Any Wisdom, Weapons, or Gold ... yet.

I'm just home from my radiation treatment. I didn't see my radiation oncologist after all. Apparently, I have not earned any additional superior wisdom, weapons or gold. Maybe next week.

I got home as quickly as possible and applied aloe vera lotion as far as I can reach. I'll get Kevin to apply it on my back (where the radiation beams exit my body) as soon as he gets hom. I can feel the sunburn effect today. I felt it almost immediately. My throat is also slightly sore, which is to be expected eventually because of the radiation near the throat (where some lymph nodes are).

I really have found the trick (for me) for zoning out during radiation treatments. As long as the music is turned up loudly, I go on a complete mental vacation. In fact, it almost startles me when the technologists come back into the room and tell me I can relax my arms.

I also feel suddenly very tired.

7 treatments done. 23 to go!

Quilting Progress

Last night I finished a second quilt square. Each handkerchief is different. After they're all appliqued, I'll play with them and try to decide how best to design them into a quilt, working with a variety of coordinating fabrics that I have. I'm open to suggestions. If, when the time comes, anyone wants to come and play "quilt design planning" with me, by all means DO!

Last night I started feeling very mild effects of the radiation again. Just a little "heat". I applied lotion.

My ankles were puffier by the end of the day. This reminds me that they're being mostly thin is probably only because of the lasix and not because the edema has really gone away. It reminds me to expect the puffiness to increase when the lasix is finished at the end of this week. Maybe my doctor will prescribe more.

Today's radiation appointment is at 2:00. I also see my radiation oncologist today. I don't have anything to ask him. Maybe he will reveal some insight that's been withheld until now. Maybe it's like playing World of Warcraft or some other mysterious game where you only get clues after you reach a certain level. I'll wait with anticipation and hope for new wisdom or a new magic weapon ... an elixir ... or an invisibility cloak ... or lots of gold.

Otherwise I feel okay today. Not great ... just okay. I slept better and longer. Getting lots of sleep is good. Maybe early morning radiation treatments aren't best for me. Yesterday, I generally felt BLAH all day. I never really got to good and I attributed it to being tired and the earlier upset stomach. Today I've been up for over an hour and I don't feel much perkier. I'll start moving around and see if that helps. I see the sun now peeking out. Maybe that will help.

Kevin is feeling much better and is back at work. In the past he rarely missed work when he had a cold ... he just kept going to the office and working through it. This time he stayed home. Mostly, I think, because one now becomes a pariah when one goes to work sick. I think he recovered much more quickly than he has in the past and I think it's because he stayed home and got lots of sleep. I think he learned something.

I had a nice chat with Hannah yesterday. That's always good for making me smile. It was another crazy rainy day there and she was off to make cookies with some friends. A perfect rainy day activity.

Today: 7 radiation treatments DONE. 23 to GO!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Seeing Green!

What a great day yesterday was! Not only did I feel amazingly good, we watched the Rider game with friends and ... bonus ... the Riders won!! SUPER!! Here we are, Gail and Ron, Rex and Erin, and Kevin and myself ... and Cocoa, Gainer, and all the bobbleheads!

As you can see, things got a little crazy, as things should in Riderville! If the Riders won, Ron promised to show us his Rider underwear and I know he won't mind if all of you see it, too! Erin and Ron both had Rider socks and I got such a laugh from Gail's Rider earrings when I saw that their base is a beer can tab! Cocoa had on her Rider shirt, too. The photo of Cocoa and me below is during the first quarter. Cocoa was, evidently, a little depressed at the time. By the end of the game, she was so excited, she had ripped her shirt right off, as you can see in the group photo.

Whether it was to be expected or whether it was the two beers I drank, I was pretty much toast by 8:30. Kevin was, too, so we headed home early and were goners. I didn't sleep especially well last night, though. My stomach was a little upset in the night and then, this morning when I parked at RUH, I suddenly felt my stomach turn and I was afraid for a moment that I might lose it, but I held on and ate a banana that I had packed with me and everything settled very nicely. I got my radiation treatment out of the way (rocking out to Dido on the radio) and then stopped by the office. It was WONDERFUL to see everyone there and to get used to walking into the building again. I hadn't been there even to visit for a long time.

I'm feeling very tired today so after I apply some aloe vera gel, I think I'll rest my eyes for a spell.

Radiation Report: 6 treatments done. 24 to go! No particular discomforts today.
Ankle Report: Not as thin as previous days but not bad either.

See, Rhonda? Here I am in my Rider hoodie. Where's that promised photo of you in your Rider wear? I think the Riders won just for me, so I would be distracted all week with the excitement and anticipation for next weekend's Grey Cup game.



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quilts and Game Day

I'm so happy to say that I feel good today! Dare I even say I feel GREAT? Well, maybe I have a ways to go to get to GREAT, but really, I do feel very good.

Truthfully, I feel VERY little discomfort under my left arm today. Maybe the 2 day break from radiation treatments makes the difference. Whatever it is, I'm both surprised and happy!! I'm also less nervous about heading into week 2 of radiation.

My vaccination arm is only slightly tender. No big deal. No pain on the top of my head ... my eye, just a little. And my ankles ... pretty near normal!! I still walk like someone who is on the verge of needing a walker (only when I first stand up and start moving), but hopefully that, too, will change for the better.

What a difference!

I've been looking forward to the football game all week and am so glad to feel good on game day. I SO want the Riders to win and get to the Grey Cup game ... mostly for my own selfish reasons.

Last night I got out my quilting project and started working on it again. I had put it away when my feet and fingers became numb. They're still as numb as they've ever been and I know there's a chance they always will be so I decided I'd better figure out how to work with them as they are. And so I did. I finished the hand applique on the square I had started earlier. That's it in its completed state above. I stitched along the inner square and then stitched the lacy perimeter. I'll start another square tonight or tomorrow.

I got myself a needle threader, which makes things a lot easier. I see that Lee Valley has one in their Christmas catalogue, though it looks quite different than this one that I got at the quilt shop. While sometimes it takes me a few tries to get it to thread the needle, it's still easier than before.

I really notice that my eyesight has gone further downhill since I started cancer treatments. After this is all over, I expect my optometrist will be recommending glasses at last. I've always thought that librarians SHOULD have glasses, if only for fun!



Saturday, November 21, 2009

Some Things Suck!

Such as this plecostomus! Sorry for the flash in the photo. This one turned out better than the photo taken without flash. He's about a foot long and lives in a tank in our basement.

By supper time last night, I was feeling the effects of things. In fact, it felt like I was in about the third day of recovery from a back alley rumble ... or at least how I imagine that could feel! It felt like someone or a gang had three days prior kicked me in the armpit and breast, stomped on the tender skin between my shoulder and elbow, punched me in the right shoulder, poked me in the eye and then gave me a swift elbow in the top of the head. And I was very tired and shivery cold. So I took some tylenol, fought fatigue for a while and curled up under a blanket to watch "Twilight" (the movie). Then I slept like a log. This meant that, regrettably, I missed my splurge club party! RATS!! But, I thought it best.

I feel pretty much the same this morning but, after a good night's sleep, am a little tougher for dealing with the collective discomforts. It's not that any one of them is really awful, it's just that when I'm feeling tired, it seems like more than it is.

Last night Kevin ran out and got us Kentucky Fried for dinner. We haven't had KFC since we took Luke to Kentucky two summers ago. Kevin had been thinking about my Dad and when he thinks of my Dad, naturally he thinks of KFC! Kevin remembers early in our relationship when my parents came to town and Mom and Dad come to my place with a BUCKET OF KFC!! He was awed!! He said their family NEVER got a bucket. They only ever got individual boxes. I remember one day when we were first married Kevin came home with a bucket just for the two of us, just because he wanted SO BADLY to buy a WHOLE BUCKET!! We ate KFC for days! Anyway, homage to my Dad yesterday was a chat with Mom in the morning and KFC for dinner (though not a bucket ... this time the 11 secret spices was enough).


Friday, November 20, 2009

My Knight in Angel Armour

This knight stands in our living room. Kevin found him at a garage sale years ago. Last year I was looking for a place to put Hannah's angel wings and decided to hang them on the knight and there they've stayed. I kind of like the effect. Luke's lacrosse team is the Bellarmine Knights, so this represents Luke as my knight and Hannah as my angel. It makes me smile.

Last night I slept for almost 11 hours! I must have been tired! I had my H1N1 vaccination today and, a little later, my radiation treatment. They cranked the music for me, making the experience more enjoyable. And everyone was in their Rider gear, except for one brave ... or stupid ... Calgary fan dressed in red (and proud of it). Yikes! I'm glad to have a couple days free of radiation treatments though, if I had a choice, I'd plough throw them and be done BEFORE Christmas.

I'm increasingly sore under my arm. It's more mildly sore than tender now but still easy to tolerate. And my vaccination arm is not yet sore, though I expect it will be. It seems to be the way it works. That should pass by Monday when I have next radiation treatment. I'm in good spirits about everything, so that helps. I'm over my short-lived despair and I hope it stays banished.

Kevin is feeling slightly better today. Yeah!

Radiation Countdown: 5 done - 25 to go!
Ankle Report: Today is the slimmest they've been for months!

Happy Birthday, Dad. I miss you.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Music Helps!

Kevin has SUCH a nasty cold! I'm trying so hard to avoid it.

Kevin drove me to my radiation appointment today and just waited for me in the car outside the Champion Centre. Not having to park takes the hassle out of radiation treatments. Today's treatment was special in that during the session, the music was quite loud ... and it was good. I didn't know the song playing but I liked it. When the technicians came back into the room they immediately commented that the music was loud so I let them know how much I liked it. In fact, louder would have been better. They said they would try to remember or that I should ask them to turn it up if they forget. Loud music distracts me from the whirring and buzzing of the machines and besides, I like loud music any way. I came out of today's treatment smiling and dancing.

These are the lotions I use every day to care for my skin. I use the aloe vera gel immediately after each treatment and whenever I feel a burning sensation. I use the other lotion after baths and before bed. Hopefully, they'll help my skin handle these treatments.

I booked my H1N1 vaccination for tomorrow at 1:45. They provide them at the Champion Centre for cancer patients. I thought it would be best to get it on a Friday so I won't have to worry about any particular discomfort in my arm during treatment because you have to lift your arm over your head. Hopefully, I won't feel any flu symptoms either. I want to be ship-shape for the Rider game on Sunday.

Tomorrow's radiation treatment is at 3:00. I prefer mornings but I take what they give me knowing that they try to book me for mornings when they can.

Radiation Report: 4 treatments done - 26 to go!

Ankle Report: Again, slimmer. Another pound lost.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We're Never Too Old To Be Mothered

So, thanks to all of you for mothering me. Even my own Mom stopped in today to do some mothering. She brought me some food for our freezer, some sweets and a cabbage salad (to get my cruciferous vegetables in). Thanks, Mom! Sadly, my Mom and Gary had to hurry off and weren't able to stay for dinner. They wanted to get on the highway before dark so as to avoid smashing into deer. They'll be back next week.

I had such a nice lunch today with a great big bunch of current and X awful law firm people! I hadn't thought I'd be up for going but, after I got today's radiation treatment under my belt with relative ease, I knew I could do it, which is great because I was so looking forward to it. It was fabulous to see everyone who could make it! I worked with some super marvelous and fun people at that otherwise awful place.

Kevin has developed a nasty cold, which is making things complicated here. Imagine both of us chasing around with antiseptic wipes cleaning everything he touches ... the phone ... the compute mouse ... the remote ... door knobs and handles everywhere ... the backs of chairs ... lamps ... it's hard to remember everything all the time.

My armpit is a little swollen and uncomfortable and I'm a little bit sore in that whole area. I may be right handed but, oddly, I'm left armed. Except for writing and computer mousing, I almost always favour my left hand. I automatically open and close doors with my left hand even when it turns out to be awkward. Now I have to make a conscious effort to switch to my right hand. Using my left arm for heavier doors already makes it hurt more. Good thing I got that hands free sling purse because I typically carry a purse with my right hand or sling it over my right shoulder and then use my left hand for everything else. See how complicated things get? ROFL!!

Kevin and I have rented a couple of movies and will stay put for the evening. Hopefully he's feeling better soon!

Back on Track ... Ohmmmmm ...

After a couple of days of shock, panic, tears, rage and all that demoralizing, energy-sapping stuff, I'm back on track. I can't say I'm in a "happy place" but I'm able to laugh again and embrace silliness. The only tears I feel compelled to shed right now are tears of gratitude for your love and support. I feel like I have my feet back on the ground again.

I am so impressed with my friends and grateful for all of you. You really helped me through this rough patch. I've had some other difficult times but they were mostly times I expected. This one caught me off guard and so threw me for more of a loop perhaps. Thanks so much to all of you for picking me up when I was down, for dusting me off, giving me a big hug and then lifting me over this very big hurdle, setting me gently down on the ground again, and giving me an encouraging nudge toward the finish line. You really did and I so needed that. Thank God for my team.

Velma reminded me that it's important to focus on what radiation is doing FOR me and less on what it's doing TO me. She is so right. Yesterday I was thinking to myself how best to mentally get through this time and it occurred to me that for one reason or another, I've stopped reminding myself that these treatments are meant to save my life. That's a good thing. As Velma says, "Thank God for radiation!". She calls it an "attitude of gratitude". Velma's been there. She knows. She suggests imagining those radiation beams zapping evil cancer cells.

And all of you have given me such encouragement and useful images to help me find my courage and strength again ... from your gentle, supportive notes to your enthusiastic pep talks. It's all been so helpful. You're all my angels and I really felt you lifting and carrying me. Thanks so much.

So ... this morning ... 3 down - 27 to go!

Ankle Report: Slimmer! Near Normal.

Radiation Report: Intermittent aching in my left breast and consistent tenderness under my arm. I think it's a bit swollen there, causing some discomfort.

Keep Calm and Carry On!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This Time I Took A Friend

Yes, Kevin got back from Regina just in time to wheel up to the door and take me to my appointment. He came with me and I'm glad he did. Today, before my radiation treatment, we met with my radiation oncologist and I felt better being able to ask a few questions and get some reassurances (or not). I wasn't supposed to see him until next Tuesday (Tuesdays being his appointment days) but I requested an appointment today just because I had a few specific questions that had come to mind before things got underway yesterday and now I'm VERY glad I asked for an appointment. I feel a little better about it, though it doesn't change anything.

It was nice having Kevin come along. He was in the room while they were positioning me and it was a welcome distraction to hear the technicians explaining everything to him. He then went with them to the viewing station where he could see me on screen getting my radiation and also see the other screen that show all the technical details ... x-rays, coordinates, yadayadayada.

So ... TWO DONE ... only 28 left!!

After my appointment, I cried for a while. I'm okay, I just need a little time to wrap my head around this. Parts of it have been unexpected and, just in general, I didn't think I'd have this tough a time with it mentally and emotionally. I just need a little time, that's all. I'll figure that out. Already some excellent suggestions from my team have helped. I see "Charlie" suggested I take just take the penalty and then carry on. Good idea, Charlie! Or, like this popular suggests ... "Keep Calm and Carry On". That's a good reminder to just take a deep breath and keep moving forward.

After I was finished at the Champion Centre, Kevin and I went to Walmart where I bought a particular aloe vera gel that was recommended and a black, cotton undershirt that I won't care if it gets lotion and black marks (the marks they put on my skin that rub off on my clothes). We also got a couple of cotton camisoles with some light support and I'll see how those work for me. We got those at the Adidas store and at Mark's Work Wearhouse.

And now home. Today, I didn't feel all the effects I'd been feeling last night. My throat wasn't sore this morning and my nipple didn't hurt. Mostly I just felt a general tenderness under my arm and the remnants of a light sun burn on my back, side and breast. Nothing I couldn't handle now that I've accepted that I'll feel these effects before next week. I did have a big, old melt down today. It was a bit long and drawn on and I wailed and wailed and wailed. Eventually, I began to marvel at my own ability to sob so loudly and for so long and I had to laugh at myself eventually. I got out of the tub, a red-faced, teary mess and when I saw how ridiculous I looked in the mirror, I had to laugh. Besides, I kept trying to put lotion on my face and the tears kept washing it off. I had to quit crying. And I did. It was better to just do it and get it over with, though. I don't think I'll need to sob like that for a while now. I sure hope not.

Thanks, everyone, for your emails, comments and calls. I so appreciate that you are all there for me and bolstering me for this new, grim experience.

Thanks, Syl and Don, for the pretty rose. And thanks, Auntie Eileen for the soft, pillowy thing that might just be a great support for my tender boob when I go to bed.

I Need a New Game Plan

Okay, team. We need a new game plan. I have only just figured out that Radiation is a very different game than Chemo. It requires a different mental approach. In some ways it seems harder, though maybe if I can figure out a game plan, it won't be so daunting.

The difference is this: With chemo, I had to face 6 chemo treatments and then deal with the fall-out. It was shitty and required stamina and a supportive team to deal with the results of each of those 6 treatments. With radiation, I have to face 30 treatments, one day after the other (except for weekends). It's like inviting someone to kick you in the shin and having it hurt but then going back to that same person day after day after day and asking them to kick you in the same place again each time. WHO WOULD DO THAT??!! I'm feeling about radiation much the way I felt about those Heprin needles I had to have in the hospital where I finally put my foot down and refused them. In that case, I don't believe I was being reckless. I believe I made an informed and reasonable decision but only because I had such a hard time with those needles. I sense some similarities with the radiation treatments except I don't think it would be prudent of me to refuse treatment. So, I have to find a way to wrap my head around these treatments. This is where I imagine Kevin jumping in with his rendition of "Jesus Take the Wheel".

I had a bit of a teary night last night ... while I gently cupped my tender left breast. I had a nice chat with Hannah and that cheered me up. I was only mildly restless during the night. I know I had some very strange dreams but I don't really remember them. There was something about me removing some of my limbs and putting them back on incorrectly in the morning and I was semi-dreaming about that while I was awake enough at the time to be confused by it. Yikes!

This morning, still a little tender. I definitely need to go bra and t-shirt shopping today and/or tomorrow. Soft cottons ... non-binding anything. And I think I'll pick up some aloe vera gel (without alcohol) and I'll look at calendula lotion. I did quite a bit of reading last night about people's experiences with radiation and it's all over the map. Some people sail through it with very little trouble while others have much discomfort and difficulties and some people can't handle it at all and quit part way through. I don't want to be one of those people, so I have to find my strength for this.

One a positive note ... gotta find the positives ...

My edema has come down considerably! I think the increased dosage of lasix is working. I peed so much yesterday and so frequently, it can only have been because of the lasix. By last night, I'd lost 7 pounds since the day before. I even notice that the skin on my hands is looser and my wrists are thinner. I hadn't even thought they were effected at all until I noticed the difference in them yesterday. I also noticed my abdomen feeling smaller. In fact, it made me feel like I should be eating. I felt empty. I tried to resist the urge. My ankles are so much slimmer, though they still have a little way to go to get to normal. Still ... a very welcome improvement.

Of course, yesterday was the day I felt the best I've felt for ages ... and then I had to have my first radiation treatment. It just doesn't seem fair (as if cancer has ever been fair). I wish I could have had some days of feeling normal before starting radiation. It's what I thought would happen. But not. So, I'll have to wait even longer for "near normal".

My inclination is to throw myself on the floor and thrash about, kicking and screaming and raging and crying ... a big, old tantrum. I'll bet I'd feel better after. Maybe I'll try it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Phantom Bra and Other Oddities

Already I'm disillusioned. Besides some fatigue and, perhaps, some tingling, I hadn't expected to feel any effects from the radiation already. I thought I'd have at least a week before starting to feel it, but already I do.

I fell asleep on the couch after I last posted and when I awoke a couple of hours later, the first thing I wanted to do was get my bra off. But wait a minute. I wasn't wearing a bra. Even though I eventually figured that out, it still felt like I had one on. I won't even tell you how many times I reached under my shirt to check again just to make sure I really wasn't wearing one! Then I thought maybe I was just positioned in such a way that some muscles were pulling but no ... even when I sat up, it still felt like I was wearing a bra. My phantom bra. Uncomfortable AND no support. How bad is that? Okay ... ultimately not that bad but definitely odd.

My breast and the skin on my side and on my back does feel slightly burned. That's the part I hadn't expected yet. I spent the last couple of hours holding my left breast just because it felt like it needed babying. I find it alarming to feel this way already. Twenty-nine treatments left to go. SHIT! Still, I keep telling myself it can't possibly be as bad as chemo. When the radiation technologist told me that some women only experience a little pinkness, I understand now that she was giving me the best case scenario. Nobody has elaborated on the worst case scenario. Not that I would expect that, but I do prefer to have complete information so I can realistically prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. I need to do a little more research now that I have some inklings.

My left nipple feels quite uncomfortable. That's sad. And I have little stabbing pains (minor ones) in my arm pit. My throat is a little sore and there's a skin-tag/mole on my neck that is suddenly bothering me this afternoon. I'm not even sure how far the radiation extends. They didn't make marking around my neck or talk about the radiation going there but I remember the radiation oncologist telling us the first time we met with him that they would be bringing out "the big guns" for me and would be radiating my breast, nodes (arm pit) and neck. Maybe that's why my throat and skin tag/mole are suddenly bothering me? DANG!!

When I was shopping for a winter hat a few weeks ago, I had to discretely (?!!) remove my wig to try the hats on properly. A woman working in the store commiserated with me. She hadn't had chemo but when I told her I would be having radiation next, she told me that while undergoing radiation she was so cold all the time. I found that really surprising. You would think you would be the opposite, wouldn't you? Anyway, that conversation came to mind shortly after I woke up and I had some chills. Then again, maybe it was just because I'd gotten out from under a cozy blanket. Maybe that was it.

Cancer sure isn't for everyone. I wish it wasn't for me.

Three Hours Post Radiation ... I Feel Something

I'm starting to feel the radiation three hours after it happened. My arm pit feels slightly swollen and I feel a hard-to-describe, but not painful, sensation on my left side. I put lotion on the radiated area (Thanks, Nora, for the special lotion) and must remember to keep downing lots of H2O. I'm supposed to put lotion on my back, too, where the radiation exits my body. That will have to be Kevin's job.

I also feel suddenly inclined to recline. I got up earlier than usual today so it's hard to tell if I'm already feeling the fatigue that can come with radiation therapy or whether I just didn't get enough sleep in the first place.

First Radiation Treatment Done. Twenty-Nine to Go!

I had my bone scan this morning and my first radiation treatment this afternoon.

This isn't me and my "galaxy" machine, but this is similar. The radiation technologists and staff are so very nice, which helps. I lie down, clutch the handles that are over my head and rest my elbows on the supports. They line me up ... draw a few markings on me and again, marvel at how quick it is to get me lined up. The radiology technician said I must have been very relaxed at all of my measuring appointments because I line up exactly the same each time. Once they're satisfied with my positioning, I'm left alone in the big room (I think it would be great if they decorated it more like the Galaxy Theatre. If you're going to feel like you're in a star wars type torture chamber, it might as well look like one, too). Once I'm alone in the room, the machine starts whirring and moving about. It gets much closer than it shows in this picture. I see red lights shining here and there (I'm a little nervous when they're shining on my nose) and, in about 10 minutes, it's all over. I didn't feel a thing. Not even a tingle ... not yet. Of course, that didn't stop me from crying like a baby when I walked into the room. Yikes! I wasn't afraid and I knew it wouldn't hurt and I wasn't particularly nervous so the tears could only be from the sadness of starting a whole new medical procedure that I'll have to recover from. I cried through the whole treatment, trying very hard not to sob so my chest wouldn't heave. Once you're lined up, you have to stay very still. My tears tickled my face as they ran down to my ears and neck, but I couldn't lift a hand to wipe them away or to scratch, so good thing it didn't last very long. I was very disciplined except for the crying part. Wuss. I'm sure it will only have been the first treatment that I cry at. I did the same thing with chemo.

Note that parking at the hospital is HELL!! And they now have greeters when you walk into the building who make sure everyone gets some hand sanitizer before they go any further. I saw several people with masks on and I did my best to sit as far as possible from any other people. I was only in the main part of the hospital for the bone scan. From now on I'll go directly to the Champion Centre and will be able to avoid the main part of the hospital altogether.

One down. Twenty-nine to go.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Washed ALL of My Hairs Today

I washed these hairs today. They've since dried and I've combed them out so they're ready to make me look human tomorrow. I'm getting better at twisting the scarves I got at my hat and scarf party into turbans! It surprises me that I've been able to coordinate my fingers to manage it, but sometimes I do a pretty good job. Today, for example, I've admired my turban twisting skills several times in the mirror. It's not hair, but it's interesting. I'm sorry to say that I can't remember who gave me this scarf. If someone could refresh my memory, I'd be grateful.

I also washed the little real hairs that are growing on my head. Do you think it will make any difference if I use a volumizing shampoo? It can't hurt. I took a picture of my little hairs growing but they didn't show up on camera as clearly as they appear in real so you'll have to wait to see hair growth until it's a little thicker, I guess.

Interesting that there are no signs of hair yet on my legs, under my arms ... or anywhere else for that matter. No new eyelashes or eyebrow hairs. Why is that I wonder? Why just on my head?

The ear drops have made such a difference! What a relief! The stuff is called Cerumol Ear Wax Remover. It's how I spell relief.

Ankles ... same old. Nothing new, though I wish I could say they were thin ... or, at least, thinner.

I made a lentil and chickpea soup for dinner. It's a recipe from the cookbook Lynne lent me. The recipe was called a "stew" even though it was in the "soup" section. That it turned out to actually be a soup, then, didn't come as a surprise. I wasn't disappointed. It was good and filling.

Kevin and I have never eaten moose before and now, twice in two days, we have. Last night we cooked marinated moose bits on the raclette at Kelly and Chantelle's and today we tried the moose sausage that Gail gave us. Both were good and didn't taste "wild" at all. Very lean. The sausage was so good, it was more like candy ... good in a mustard kind of dip.

Today was a football kind of day. Now we're even watching American football. Yikes! Mom phoned so we're caught up with each other. Kevin got his H1N1 vaccination today. I go next week.


Aden Bowman Bears Football Team Wins Provincials

We just caught the tail end of the news story last night about the 4A provincial football game in Regina. We saw the part where the officials were questioning Riley Lander's touchdown before agreeing that it did, in fact, count. And then they won ... by 1 point. A real nail biter I imagine!

Congratulations, Bowman Football Team! That's twice in three years after a 3 decade dry spell. WOW!

Carol. She's a Laugh a Minute!

Carol has been SO busy, I haven't seen her for ages. She stopped by briefly this morning on her way to a rehearsal and she brought with her this card for me. She is so funny! Inside she wrote, "Hope this doesn't happen to you!! Sure would help the swelling in your ankles, though!! Very slim ankles on that bird!"

This kills me and is so appropriate, thinking of my first radiation treatment on Monday. Maybe I should ask them if they could shrivel my ankles a bit.

If you have trouble reading the card or if you find the photo a little fuzzy, just click on the photo and it will open in a large, format and all will be clear.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yummy Food Day

Today Kevin and I finally got ourselves some Roughrider wear. Until now on game days I've only ever worn the one non-descript green t-shirt I have. While in the store we ran into Rhonda and her family doing exactly the same thing. What a busy store that is!

We stopped at the drug store and consulted with a pharmacist who recommended some oily drops for my ears. One treatment later and they feel less itchy already. YEAH!!

Tonight we went to Kelly and Chantelle's for dinner. I wish I'd remembered to get out my camera for the main course, which was served a la raclette. I'd never racletted (I'm sure that's not a word) before, but it was fun and delish!

Chantelle made a desert and then, just in case it bombed, she had a back-up desert ready ... so we ate them both. They were both fabulous, but since I'm more of a chocolate fan than a caramel fan, the chocolate, fruit and cream crepes were my favourite ... BIG TIME! They were sooooo good! See how pretty the deserts were. The presentation was wonderful. Don't the apples and hot dipping caramel look pretty?

Chantelle also made very pretty drinks.

This is Chantelle and Barb in the kitchen. Chantelle isn't usually this pale ... my flash did a number on her! Other dinner party guests were Roger and Val. It was such a good time and so delicious! Thanks, Chantelle and Kelly!

Friday, November 13, 2009

What I Know Today

Today I know a little more than I knew yesterday.

I know that my radiation will last for 30 treatments (6 weeks) and will start on Monday, November 16 at 1:00 pm and go until December 29, provided I don't have to miss any treatments. I will go every day except weekends and stat holidays. I guess I won't be done by Christmas, but I'll be done by the new year.

When I got to the Champion Centre's Radiation department today, I met with a radiation therapist who discussed my treatment plan, showed me my x-rays with all the lines indicating where the radiation beams will go. She talked to me about side effects and said that even since she started working there 7 years ago, things have improved so much that some women have very minimal tissue damage (some get only pinkish). I can hope I'm one of those. She said to expect discomfort after about the 10th treatment and, of course, fatigue. She recommends keeping my skin well lotioned to minimize damage.

Then they took me to my machine ... The Galaxy, which makes it sound kind of cosmic fun. I was disappointed that there weren't any astronomy mobiles in the room or glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. They positioned me on the narrow board (you can't really call it a bed), with my arms well over my head, chest exposed. Then they measured and marked and machines whirred and moved around me, taking pictures and determining measurements. The radiation technologists called out numbers to each other and, leaning over me, made comments like ... "great" ... "lovely" ... "beautiful" ... "perfect". It's the prettiest I've felt in months ... maybe years! It went quicker than they expected because everything aligned so perfectly (which is what they were referring to with all their flattering comments) and they didn't have to make any adjustments from the measurements made at my previous appointment. I also got another tattoo.

Then I went to my Doctor's office and had my stitches removed. All's well in that department. We also talked about this lingering edema and he's a little baffled by it, too. It's not liver, kidneys, or heart, he says. It must be related to the chemo. He's put me back on lasix (40 mg once a day for two weeks). I told him that I didn't think the lasix made any difference last time but he felt that maybe I hadn't been on it long enough. So we'll try it again. I asked him whether I should be more active or less active and he hmmmed and hawwwed and finally we determined that there's no good answer to that. I should keep my feet up often, he said, but I should also keep moving as much as is comfortable, too. Not so much to cause pains in my knees and legs, but enough to keep my circulation going. I think I get it.

So there you have it. You know what I know.

After such a momentous day, it was wonderful to enjoy a dinner out with Ron and Patty! And yes, I had a drink. We're all excited about our boys coming home from Kentucky for Christmas.